Moving to Mirrorless

May 06, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Wow, it's been a while since my last blog post.  Busy, busy . . .

Might as well continue the theme from my last post: moving to mirrorless.  You can check my old posts to bring you up to speed.  Here's where things stand now.

As of my last post, I was primarily a wildlife photographer - that means (usually) long lenses and tripods, among other gear.  Since that time, I've branched into people photography, too.  Same cameras, different lenses and other gear (usually).

One of the things I loved about mirrorless was smaller cameras and fewer, lighter gear bags.  That's no longer particularly relevant.  For wildlife, I'm using Canon EF-mount lenses with adapters.  Big, heavy lenses.  I can (and do) put a Sony a6300 on a Canon 600mm f/4 with a Metabones adapter, but the small size of the camera is pretty irrelevant at that point.

But I'm also using native E mount lenses when I'm photographing people in and out of the studio.  Usually either a 55mm f/1.8 Sony Zeiss or an 85mm f/1.8 Zeiss Batis, sometimes with natural light, but more frequently with Speedlights or studio strobes.  That means flash and a modifier or a flash trigger is mounted to the camera, again, negating a lot of the small size advantage, right?

So why keep using mirrorless if there's no size advantage?  In no particular order:

The Good

  • The image quality is stunning.  I'm not saying better than DSLRs, I'm just saying, IQ is at least as good
  • Focus is spot on.  Using native E mount lenses, I never have to worry about focus.  Even better, I can specify faces for priority focus.  Group photo , I can specify that my wife's face is going to be in focus, above all others.  Even better, the focus can nail an eye for focus.  I can shoot wide open, and no matter how shallow the DOF, the eye will be in focus.  Bangs hanging over the eyes?  Not a problem; as long as the focus can find an eyeball, the eye will be in focus.  Not the tip of the nose, not the ear - the eyeball.
  • Silent shutter - great for wildlife.  How quiet?  So quiet I think there's something wrong with the camera, and I have to review images in the viewfinder to make sure the shutter fired.
  • I love the EVF.  The folks that complain that an EVF will never be as good as an OVF just aren't familiar with current models.  I see exactly what the sensor sees.  I have friends ask me to look through the view finders on their DSLRs; "Look through that big, bright optical viewfinder and tell me you still like electronic viewfinders," they proudly claim.  Yeah, I'm sticking with my EVF, thanks.  I keep the camera up to my eye, and I see exactly what any settings change does, I see clipped shadows and highlights, I see everything, and I don't have to put the camera down to see the results - I can review the images in the EVF.  No worry about it being in bright sun and conditions too bright to see the rear LCD, I just look through the EVF.  DOF?  There it is, I got the snout to the tips of the ears in focus, with the focus point right in the eye ball.  I'm shooting in the studio with a model, and I never have to take the camera away from my eye to review the image.  I have a live histogram in my EVF.  I have a live  feed on how level my camera is.  I'll keep my EVF, thanks.
  • Focus peaking - I freaking love focus peaking.  I do lots of macro, and the focus peaking allows me to absolutely nail the focus.  I know exactly what's in focus, exactly what's out of focus, no guessing.  I can also get automatic magnified views to make sure my focus is spot on.
  • Adapted lenses.  I can use practically any lens on my bodies.  If there's an adapter, I can use the lens.  And I love the Sigma MC-11 adapter.  Yeah, yeah, you can only use it with certain Sigma lenses.  I don't care, it makes those lenses work just like native E mount glass.  I have access to all my focus options.  I don't need to beg Sony to make long, fast glass, I can just use Sigma S (and A and even C) series lenses function just like native E mount glass.  I like it so much that I'm considering selling my Canon 600mm F/4 IS so I can get the new Sigma 500mm f/4 Sports lens.

The Meh

  • Battery life.  That's the complaint that I hear from DSLR users who don't shoot mirrorless, particularly Sony mirrorless.  It's really a non-issue.  I'm not going to rave about the battery life, but it's never caused any problems while shooting.  It seems to be a combination of time the camera is on plus the number of images, rather than just the number of images.  I'm shooting Momma Fox and 4 fox kits for an hour, and I walk away with 1500 images, and about 30% battery left on a single battery.  For most of my Sony cameras without a vertical grip, I take the battery door off.  And I carry extra batteries.  Switching them out takes all of 5 seconds.  It's really not a problem.  I would like to be able to buy extra battery sleds for the vertical grips, so I could slide out the expired batteries as a unit, and slide in a sled with fresh batteries.
  • SC cards.  I was kinda disappointed that  the new a9 didn't use the XQD card - eveb dual slots with an XQD card and an SD card would have been better.  I'll take a single XQD card slot (my needs are modest).

The Not So Good

  • Buffer size.  When I'm shooting people or macro, I'm in single shot mode, I take an image, I review it, and it's time for another shot.  Buffer size isn't an issue then.  When I'm shooting wildlife at maximum frame-rate, I hit the buffer limit pretty regularly, and when I do, it takes a painfully long time for the buffer to clear.  A. Painfully.  Long.  Time.  It does make me more mindful of waiting for the peak action, hitting the shutter for a few frames, and backing off.  I might miss a few things, but I also don't have a dozen identical frames, either.
  • Adapters with long glass.  If I photographed small birds moving really quickly, I don't think I'd use my current set up.  The AF struggles a little to keep up.  But I don't photograph small, fast birds, I photograph cute, furry mammals.

If you have questions about mirrorless, particularly Sony mirrorless, let me know.  I'm happy to answer questions.


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