It's almost been 4 years since the release of the first Full frame mirrorless cameras. Sony has since implemented itself as a leading camera & sensor manufacturer with their cutting edge technology and no compromise policy on their cameras' feature set.
Yet still, lots of debate rages on within the photography scene whether those mirrorless cameras can or should be considered pro cameras & whether they meet the demands of professional photography ... with some seeing them as a hobbyists' tool.
I personally see the release of mirrorless technology as an evolutionary step, similar to that when digital was first introduced. Naturally, old school photographers rejected digital at first, before eventually adopting what would later be defined as the standard medium. This is all about 'change' and accepting it.
That said, mirrorless cameras aren't ideal / perfect yet, their pros and cons are still in balance, and until they mature, a margin of the photography industry will still look at them with skepticism and doubt.
In order to figure out if mirrorless technology works for you, let's look at the most significant pros & cons of some of the most recent models Sony has introduced.
* The Electronic View Finder (EVF) - This is what you'd find on the models within the A7 or A6000 series, instead of your standard mirror + prism + viewfinder, you get a tiny LCD screen that acts as a viewfinder.
It provides you with real time, almost lag free, sharp, contrasty rendition of the subject as well as images captured. Perfect for sunny bright day shooting, provides you extra features such as focus peaking (showing you what's in focus while in manual focus) & zebra pattern (highlighting blown out details), and eliminates chimping. In my humble opinion, once you've used EVF, it's difficult to go back.
* Size - Eliminating the mirror & prism from the body of a DSLR reduces the camera body's size significantly, as well as reduces the distance from lens to sensor. So, not only would you get a smaller lighter body, but also better & more efficient wide angle design with less lens distortion.
* Manual focusing - With EVFs, manual focusing becomes very efficient with the help of the aforementioned focus peaking. Product / macro photography are therefore elevated to a higher level.
* Adapting other manufacturer lenses - With the use of special adapters, any other manufacturer / format lens could be adapted to a mirrorless camera's body, which opens up lots of possibilities ... especially adapting vintage film glass or lenses you might already have from another system (e.g. Canon, Nikon, Leica).
That said, it is always recommended that you verify compatibility before attempting to purchase / adapt a lens.
* Sensor stabilization - Built in sensor stabilization on mirrorless cameras adds lots of value, and brings in stabilization to all lenses across the field; be it prime lenses or even vintage glass! In fact, with the use of specialized adapters, some vintage manual lenses could be given autofocus capabilities!!
Sensor stabilization also allows photographers the possibility of capturing sharp images at very slow shutter speeds handheld, something almost impossible on DSLRs.
* Fast / smart autofocus - With the introduction of Eye AF / Face recognition, auto focus is very hassle free on mirrorless systems (when using 1st party lenses). When shooting portraiture, fashion and weddings (both for still & videos), mirrorless systems' advanced autofocus features have been a game changer.
Mirrorless cameras now also boast the highest amount of autofocus points & widest spread on sensor, reaching all the way to the edges. This is ideal for perfect framing of subject, as well as tracking of moving objects.
* No blackout on burst shoot - With the introduction of Sony's flagship A9 system, such mirrorless cameras now have the upper hand within sports / action photography, providing ridiculous high burst shooting with zero blackout, keeping your eye on the action.
* Future proofing - Whether you like it or not, mirrorless is the obvious future of photography! :)
* Durability - As much as I enjoy using the 2 mirrorless cameras I own; the Sony A7r & the Sony A7r2, I have to admit I haven't been impressed by mirrorless cameras' durability. My Sony A7r has had some hiccups along the way; random freezes, unexpected shutdowns, camera buttons jamming, battery grip causing start up problems or completely unrecognizing a battery installed. While the Sony A7r2 has faced problems registering the SD card installed, at times forcing me to spend 10 mins or so ejecting / installing the SD card for it to register. I've used Canon DSLRs prior to switching to Sony & I don't recall ever being let down by them.
I blame most of the issues I experienced with Sony cameras on the 'fully electronic system embedded', as with conventional DSLRs, you'd still have mechanical parts working along with the electronic ones reducing the possibility of glitches / bugs.
* Lack of complete weather sealing - As a professional, aside from durability, weather sealing is my next major concern. A professional camera is expected to take on harsh climate, rough conditions, and extreme temperatures. So far, mirrorless cameras are yet to be fully weather sealed. Hopefully this is something that can be tackled in future releases.
* Battery life - yes, I am one of those who carry 4+ fully charged batteries when heading out to shoot. You simply never know how many of those tiny little batteries you'd need while out on assignment. :)
Now that we've covered the pros / cons, let's look at what the future holds for mirrorless.
With the release of the critically acclaimed A9, Sony is now going into professional territory.
As much as the A7 models were highly recommended & positively received by semi professionals & hobbyists, there were still fatal shortcomings ... mainly from relying on one single card slot, short battery life, and long startup time, but now that the A9 has addressed those issues, we can tell that Sony will now look to address all other flaws in order to appease further to professionals in the field. (yes, we're talking durability and weather sealing!!).
Who is it for?
In my humble opinion, mirrorless cameras within the A7 series are best suited for:
* Product / Studio photographers - Light weight, great autofocus features, focus peaking, zebra patterns are all features welcomed by professional photographers in the fields.
* Landscape / nature photographers - Improved wide angle performance at reduced costs, better low light focus & noise performance cater to photographers in this field.
* Travel photographers - Light weight, small sized, all around great performance in low light conditions make the mirrorless Sony A7 cameras a great companion on trips.
While the recently A9 model is best suited for:
* Action / Sports photographers - High burst 20 frames per second shooting, zero blackout on EVF, great low light performance, wide spread of focus points across the sensor for moving subjects, smart autofocus continuous mode make this camera a dream for photographers in the field. (durability & ruggedness still to be addressed though)
* Wedding photographers - Great autofocus features, silent shooting, EVF, high burst continuous mode, great low light performance, light weight, competent video performance make this camera an ideal camera for events / weddings.
Now that we've covered all topics, let me know your own thoughts on the topic! Have you jumped ship? or perhaps considering to do so soon? What are your main concerns towards mirrorless technology in general & Sony's models in specific.