Are mirrorless cameras better than dSLRs yet? That’s been my question for the past few years ever since I reviewed the Fujifilm X-Pro1. It was clear that mirrorless cameras were the future even then, and that the companies involved were improving them faster than the traditional dSLR manufacturers.
But at the time, I thought that there weren’t better yet, and bought another Nikon. I wanted to see what the current mirrorless cameras were like. And from the 100,000+ views on the video I also put together on YouTube, it seems that interest in mirrorless cameras is pretty strong.
So this is about helping you decide whether mirrorless cameras can replace your dSLR, and to validate your choice if that last sentence isn’t applicable.
Fujifilm kindly lent me their excellent X-Pro2 camera with the 23mm, 56mm f1.2 and 90mm f2 lenses. I teamed up with world-travelling photographer Richard Hadley for the review and tried several of his Fuji lenses including the 35mm f1.4 too. Therefore, this review will also address the lenses available for the dSLR/ mirrorless systems; and which I preferred and recommend between the esteemed 56mm f1.2 and 90mm f2 lenses.The X-Pro 2 Viewfinder
The immediate difference between dSLRs and mirrorless cameras is, surprise surprise, the flappy mirror. The X-Pro 2 actually has a dual viewfinder with an evf and also an optical viewfinder that looks similar to a rangefinder. The latter wasn’t so useful with the longer lenses I was using so I didn’t use it much.
The benefit of the dSLR mirror and pentaprism viewfinder is that you’re literally looking through the lens. So of course there’s no lag and the colours are limited only by the glass and your eyes; and there’s no battery drain either.
These differences used to be enough to disqualify mirrorless cameras for everyday use. But when I looked through the X-Pro 2 camera’s electronic viewfinder (evf), I immediately saw that things had changed.
There was so little lag that I couldn’t notice any, and the colours were bright and clear. Where previous evfs has been dark and noisy in low light with blocked shadows, the X-Pro 2 was actually better than looking through my Nikon’s optical viewfinder.
And in good light, it was arguably better. Because you can see the images as they will actually look, which makes black and white photography a lot easier. You can also see the pictures you’ve taken clearly without having to find shade so you can actually see the screen.Manual Focussing and Lens Treasures
All of this talk about the viewfinder has brought back fond memories of manual focus with the Fuji Xpro2. Let me be clear that I usually hate focussing manually, mainly because even with the dioptre adjusted, I don’t find the viewfinders on most dSLRs good enough to achieve critically sharp focus at f1.2-f1.8.
But this changed with the Fuji camera. Focus peaking, which accentuates micro contrast (using a high pass filter I think), makes manual focus much easier. And that without sacrificing the brightness that focussing screens built for manual focus [...]
It’s in every camera manual and in thousands of photography tutorials online; so why mention it? Because so many photographers don’t know how much it will improve their photography.
In your camera’s green Auto (or Idiot…) Mode, the camera does everything for you. This is great, but it also means that you don’t have much control. Your photos might be too dark or too bright but your camera doesn’t give you the option to over-rule its thoughtless calculation. But with the other modes, you can take back control and make pictures that are closer to your artistic vision.What is Exposure Compensation?
Exposure compensation allows you to make your pictures brighter or darker.
Your Exposure is the combination of Aperture (size of the hole), Shutter Speed (how long the hole is open for) and ISO sensitivity (how much the camera amplifies the signal to brighten the picture) that determines how bright your picture is.
Photographers used to set the exposure manually by choosing a film with a marked sensitivity such as ISO400, then the aperture and the shutter speed to get the ‘right’ exposure for the brightness of the part of the scene they were photographing. You can still do this with many cameras in Manual Mode (M) but happily with digital cameras you can now change ISO sensitivity without changing films. Because you manually control the three things that determine exposure (aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity), the exposure compensation won’t adjust the brightness.
But when the camera calculates the exposure for you, you can use the Exposure Compensation button and dial to adjust it, making it brighter (+) or darker (-). In Program Mode (P), Aperture Priority Mode (A or Av) and Shutter Speed Priority Mode (S or Tv), the camera still chooses the aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity, but you now have the option to compensate for its calculation/guess, which makes the picture brighter or darker. This is Exposure Compensation.
For more info on the exposure modes, we recommend this article;
Digital Camera World: Exposure Modes