What is the photographic reason for the desire to have a mirrorless camera? I'm just curious as to what is the attraction. I'm looking at the photographic draw for these cameras.
Bob, I apologize for the rambling nature of this, but it's edited from many of my previous posts.
I used Canon and Nikon SLRs/dSLRs for 44 years. Then I switched from both to Panasonic. Here's why:
There is no *viewfinder blackout* at the moment of exposure. You have a choice of what happens at the moment of exposure — continuous live view, or image review.
The camera requires *no noisy mirror* that gets out of focus alignment. Fewer moving parts mean better reliability and less vibration/sharper images.
There is *no fan-like mirror to knock dust and goo onto your sensor.* (There is less air movement in a mirrorless camera during exposure. Mirrors blow bits of metal and lubricant and mirror-dampener foam dust all over the place. The sensor may be exposed when the lens is off, but a quick lens change is less likely to spot the sensor than the dSLR camera's own deteriorating mechanisms.)
There is *no flippy-floppy mirror to make noise.* Because there is no mirror, the shutter can be, but does not have to be, "electronic" — essentially, the camera makes a COMPLETELY SILENT video frame grab.
The removal of the mirror allows engineering a shorter lens flange to sensor distance. This improves wide angle lens designs and performance, and allows mirrorless bodies to mount lots of different dSLR and cine lenses, via adapters.
The EVF, lack of a mirror, and silent electronic shutter allow low light stills and video work in a theatre by not distracting others with noise or a dSLR's rear-of-camera live view LCD.
The EVF can show you the effects of manual exposure changes. It displays what a processed JPEG image will look like, so you can make menu adjustments on the fly and generate files for truly immediate use.
The EVF can be used for most or all of the tasks that the separate OLED or LCD screen on the camera is used for. It can display several different sets of information, including a live histogram, audio meters for video, full exposure data, a level, and much more than a dSLR can include.
You can see an image in the EVF in far dimmer light than with an optical viewfinder. The EVF is always clear and bright.
You can focus and meter with smaller maximum aperture lenses than are possible to focus and meter through with a dSLR. The EVF can compensate for the smaller aperture during composition.
"Pixel shift" schemes allow still life compositions with four times the resolution, by recording four images sequentially and combining them. 100MP raw hand-held, from the GH6?!?!
Some mirrorless cameras can *buffer a stream of continuous frame grabs.* When you trip the shutter, it saves the last 15 frames or so before the button press, plus a lot of frames after you press it. Then you may scroll through the buffered images and pick the one(s) you want to save to the memory card. That lets you pick peak action or peak expression.
Many of these things can be done *after exposure* on a dSLR, but the EVF allows feedback before, during, and after exposure.
Why I use Micro 4/3:
On a purely practical level, I make tests to determine whether any given piece of gear, and/or a given *system*, will meet my needs. (I tested before I bought.)
For most of what I do, for instance, Micro 4/3 absolutely suits me best. I record video with important, single-system, onboard audio, and I record lots of stills. The results are most likely to wind up on smartphones, tablets, computer screens, projection screens, TVs, and video monitors. Still photo results may also be viewed as PDF files, or printed to letter-size documents. I rarely print larger than 20x16 inches, but I've had two awesome 40x30 prints made from un-cropped Micro 4/3 files.
I don't use a full frame or APS-C dSLR, because there are not enough AV options available at a reasonable price. I *could* use a few other mirrorless cameras. Sony could work well, but it would mean spending twice as much and carrying a much heavier and bulkier kit that would yield an insignificant difference in the work I do. And I HATE Sony’s menus.
But... for LANDSCAPES, a full-frame or even a medium-format system would be much better than m4/3 or APS-C, especially for making large prints (30x20 or 60x40 inches). Even though the *standard* viewing distance for any print is 1x to 1.5x its diagonal dimension, more pixels and more details allow closer inspection. Joe Public probably won't notice, or care. But the format nazis at your local camera club probably will!
Panasonic Lumix Micro 4/3 high end:
The G9, G95, GH4, GH5, GH5 II, and GH5s series, and the new GH6, have a great "feel in hand."
The Leica lenses (8-18, 10-25, 12-60, 25-50, 50-200, 100-400, 9, 12, 15, 25, 42.5, 45 macro, 200 f/2.8…) are spectacular. So are the 12-35mm f/2.8, and 35-100mm f/2.8 weather-sealed Panasonic G X-Vario lenses, and the 30mm f/2.8 macro.
The menu and general working ergonomics are quite likable, especially among those coming from Sony and Olympus models. They are most familiar to Canon users.
That said, it's hard to find a bad camera these days. Six sigma quality is a given. The manufacturers have carefully carved out their individual niches in the market, with varying blends of features catering to different users' needs. Study reviews carefully and compare feature sets with your needs and wants.
A MAJOR advantage of Micro 4/3 is that it is the ONLY camera format (other than Nikon's now-defunct, much smaller, and electronically noisier 1 series) that saves you a lot of weight when you put a complete system together. You can save 2/3 to 3/4 the weight over an equivalent full frame system, and 1/3 to 1/2 the weight over an equivalent pure APS-C or DX system ("pure" means you don't buy full frame lenses for APS-C cameras).
The other MAJOR advantage, for me, is that Panasonic, in particular, has spectacular video. I use a Lumix GH4 for filmmaking. I plan to get a GH6, soon.
The Lumix G9 records even better video than my GH4, but because of its lesser audio features, it is aimed at still photographers. The G9 competes nicely with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and Mark III. Each has a few goodies the other doesn't have. Check out online reviews (http://www.dpreview.com
and YouTube are great places to start). Menus and ergonomics are entirely different.
The GH6 (like the GH3, GH4, GH5... before it) is made specifically to record a hybrid balance of video and stills.
The GH5s is filmmaker-centric. It is a low-light complement to the GH5, primarily for videography. It disappoints bloggers, because it does not have IBIS, but leaving out IBIS was intentional, because IBIS won't work in jarring run-and-gun situations (chase scenes, safari video from the back of a Jeep, etc.). It disappointed still photographers, too — The GH5s has HALF the MP count of the GH5. But that means it records much less noise in low light video… for performance comparable to full frame bodies. It also has Dual ISO (400 and 2500 are both considered 'native').
My GH4 (and most other models I mentioned) can be COMPLETELY silent, when used in electronic shutter mode. I used it in a dark theater one night to make over 300 exposures without disturbing other patrons.
Over 110 native Micro 4/3 lenses are available — https://alikgriffin.com/micro-43-lens-buying-guide/
On the downside, the best Micro 4/3 cameras (except for the GH5s) have about two f/stops less light-gathering ability than full frame cameras, and about one stop less light gathering ability than APS-C and DX cameras, when you compare cameras of the same age and similar megapixel counts. That's by the laws of physics.
ISO 3200 on Micro 4/3 is about as noisy as ISO 12,800 on an FX (full frame) Nikon, or ISO 6400 on a DX (APS-C) Nikon, which is to say all three are pretty useful up to those points.
For video, ISO 6400 is still usable on Micro 4/3, because motion hides some of the noise in most situations. (You can see this equivalence for yourself by comparing the test charts. Go to this review of a Nikon D5 (https://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikon-d5-pro-dslr-review/6
) and Compare raw at ISO 12,800, with raw at ISO 6400 on a Nikon D500, and raw at ISO 3200 on both a Lumix G9 and a Lumix GH6.)
If you are an extreme sports and wildlife photographer, I would *rent to try before you buy* (good advice for anyone in any situation, actually). But know that the Micro 4/3 system you build today will still be viable in the future. Each generation of camera body is more and more advanced, and brings with it a wave of new lenses to take advantage of it.
Panasonic frequently updates the computer firmware in its cameras and lenses — not just to fix bugs, but to add new features, improve performance, ensure compatibility, and match some features in its other new models. So the camera you buy today will get better over time, provided you download and install the new firmware updates.
There are two fisheyes at 8mm in the Micro 4/3 world. One is by Panasonic, while the other is by Olympus.
Leica engineered an 8-18mm f/2.8-f/4 zoom for Micro 4/3. If you need the rough equivalent of a Canon 16-35mm, that's it. Olympus has a 7-14mm f/2.8 zoom, and Panasonic has a 7-14mm f/4 zoom, too. None of these zooms is a fisheye.
So whether you come to Micro 4/3 from Canon or Nikon full frame gear, you can find an equivalent for most of your lenses. "35mm equivalent field of view" focal lengths exist from 14 to 800mm (7-400mm actual focal lengths on m43). Again... https://alikgriffin.com/micro-43-lens-buying-guide/
The one area where dSLR's and some mirrorless cameras' video features fall far short is AUDIO.
About 60% of what we perceive from most video is in the soundtrack. Yet most of these dSLR/MILC cameras have:
> truly awful microphones that pick up camera handling noises and aim upwards
> microphones that will almost never be close enough to the subject to yield a decent signal-to-noise ratio (i.e.; closer than three feet)
> no headphone jack
> automatic gain (record level) control that cannot be defeated
> no manual audio level controls
> no level meters
> no switchable peak limiters
> no line level input
> an unbalanced mic input that limits noise-free cabling to about six feet
> noisy mic preamps
Accordingly, to get around this, use an external digital recorder/mixer at 48KHz sample rate, along with external microphones. Then sync the sound in Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro (etc.), using (then muting) the reference track from the camera to match the good audio wave forms in the timeline.
What I DO, and how Video fits into it:
I am a training content developer. I use a Lumix GH4 for about equal amounts of still and video photography.
I used to use a Canon EOS 50D and a Canon GL2 SD video camcorder. Using both was sequential, confusing, and slow. Traveling with both was expensive and tiring! Excess baggage charges added up quickly. Security of the gear, and going through airport security, were always worrisome.
Now, everything I need is in one backpack that fits under an airplane seat. If I record 4K, I sometimes extract stills from the video to use in printed and PDF manuals. So now, much of what I do takes half the time.
Since I grew up with SLRs in my hands, I actually PREFER that form factor for video. I had six different video cameras or camcorders from 1982 to 2012. For the work I do, I don't miss the features or shape of any of them.
Maybe if I were making Hollywood movies, an ARRI Alexa, or a Red Epic, or even a Black Magic Cinema camera would make sense, but for simple storytelling, training, documentaries, and film festival entries, my GH4 is fine.
If you don't think professionals can do good work with cheap cameras, look up the film, *Sriracha*, by Griffin Hammond, free on Amazon Prime. It won several festival awards. It was filmed with the older Lumix GH3.
On my Panasonic Lumix GH4, I tend to use 1/24 or 1/48 second shutter speed for 24.000 fps cinematic video. Outdoors, I use an ND64 for six f/stops of light reduction. For late in the day or cloudy days, my ND8 (–3 stops) is good.
The slow shutter speed allows some motion blur from frame to frame, which is what makes film action look smooth. The wide aperture allows better isolation of a subject from the background. 1/24 is very dreamy looking; 1/48 is more realistic.
Yes, you can use higher shutter speeds, but the video will look jerky at 23.98 or true 24 fps.
Three formats, six manufacturers:
Canon and Nikon recently entered the professional and ADVANCED enthusiast full frame mirrorless world. They are about ten years later than pioneers, Panasonic and Olympus. The discontinued Nikon 1 System (1" class sensor) worked fine, but it was aimed at fashion-conscious travelers. The Canon M series (APS-C) got off to a rocky start, but its current models are fine.
Fujifilm is known for its medium format (larger than full frame!) and APS-C cameras. If you want spectacular JPEGs from your camera, look at Fujifilm's XT-4 first. Fujifilm lenses are mostly spectacular. The cameras are solid and reliable. Their 50MP medium format sensor is cleaner than Canon's 50MP full frame sensor, so if you need that...
Sony makes APS-C and full frame mirrorless bodies. Their menus can be complex, but they have quickly become a top supplier of cameras, period. Sony makes the sensors in many other cameras (Nikon Z9, for instance). Check out the A9II, A7rIII, A7III, a6500...
OMDS (Olympus) is known for excellent lenses and clever engineering. OM Systems' Olympus OM-1 is jam-packed with cool features that make it extremely useful in a wide variety of situations. Their E-M1X is for sports/wildlife.
Panasonic is known for excellent lenses, great ergonomics, intelligible menus, and video-centric engineering. I've noted why I use them above.
dSLRs will be with us for years to come. Their market share is fading rapidly, but they still have advantages for certain types of photography that, until matched by mirrorless bodies, will make them viable. At the current moment, only Sony (A9II) and Nikon (Z9) make models that challenge the top dSLRs for fast action, low light sports, and wildlife still photography.
I could go on, but that's enough to chew on for now. Do your research!