Are professional photographers actually disadvantaged by not using Mirrorless Cameras?








From top down - Nikon V1, Panasonic GX7, Nikon V1 and Nokia 1020. 


It's still the case that whenever you see massed ranks of photographers at news or sporting events, it's wall to wall Nikon and Canon DSLR's and lenses. Wedding, Portrait, Advertising and Studio photographers are liable to be using the same. Some even going the medium-format route. But it struck me when I was shooting the teacher training session the other day, just what does this achieve? And in fact isn't the changing way we take, view and sell images as professionals show this allegiance to Nikon and Canon as a hangover from a different (and past) age?

My nephew Ben and I were shooting video and stills for websites and for training materials. All of this would be accessed via the internet and computers, tablets and mobile phones. So where do these big DSLR's fit into that and what advantages do they offer? Well many of my fellow professionals would offer as reasons for using cameras that are certainly inferior in terms of shooting video and in many other aspects of the current digital workflow as:-
reputation, reliability, repairing and service facilities, replacement availability, rugged build and speed. 

But are these things actually true? I've had Nikons and Canon break on me and never had a mirrorless camera do the same. For the price of a Canon 1DX or Nikon D4s, I can buy a LOT of spare mirrorless camera bodies. Most mirrorless manufacturers now have superb lens ranges, including Sony when you factor in the a-mount options, plus of course mirrorless gives access to literally 1000's of third party lenses. There are now mirrorless cameras that have weather sealing and in terms of AF speed and other functions many mirrorless cameras are significantly faster than those clunky DSLR's. 

And when you think about what mirrorless cameras offer us with their EVF's, great live view screens, superb video and connectivity options, I begin to wonder just why so many of my professional colleagues still persist with those chunky behemoths. Because what are we shooting for? What is our market? How will our work be published? Chances are it will be published electronically, wholly or in part. The days of film, darkrooms and prints are long gone. Print is still alive and kicking but as time passes the chances are that more and more of us will read newspapers, magazines and books on tablets, or our super smartphones rather than on paper. And smaller lighter modern cameras interface with that electronic media much better than cameras that were designed and built to work with film. 

I really do think I would be at a significant disadvantage if I went back to shooting with DSLR's. The Sony A7s shows what a mirrorless camera can do in low light and I don't see Nikon and Canon announcing some model with 4K video anytime soon. There is also the fact that people are suspicious these days of the big camera / big lens wielding photographer and the nature of photography is obviously changing. Chances are that a picture of a major news event splashed across the media will have taken by a passer by on a smartphone rather than a kitted out 'pro.'

Weddings, Portraits, News, Sport, Nature, Still Life, Landscape, Studio are all possible with mirrorless cameras and in fact it could be argued are better captured and published, because the cameras are designed to be quick and connectable with other media. And these days are certainly the equal and in many cases better in terms of final image quality. 

Photography is a conservative profession, as I will certainly admit to myself. I've certainly taken a bit of convincing about the benefits of some of the technology around these days and indeed some of is indeed little more than a gimmick. But lots of what we get is really useful and helps us do our job better and in a quicker, easier and more efficient way. 

But then of course there is the perception factor. Will our clients, our employers take us seriously if we get rid of the big bad boy Canons and Nikons? Well of course they will, because they are much more interested in the results than the gear we parade around with. Nobody actually batted an eyelid when I was shooting at weddings and various indoor events with small mirrorless cameras, admittedly not as my primary camera. And indeed nobody gave me a second look when I placed my Nokia 1020 phone on a tripod to record some scientific experiments a couple of days ago. The clients who buy my images via picture libraries have no idea what I shot the pictures with, since firstly all the metadata is stripped out and secondly they don't give a damn. If it's the right picture, it's the right picture and whether or not I took it on a big Nikon or my phone is irrelevant.

I can see a greater integration of these technologies coming in the years to come. Smartphones are already becoming media recording and communication devices in their own right and I can see these 'phones' becoming more 'camerfied' and cameras becoming more 'phoneified'. Incidentally I should mention that I have been using my Nokia 1020 to shoot pictures, record video, upload pictures and access the internet with. I've yet to make a phone call with it. 

So does this mean that Samsung, who have been on the case for some time, will take over the camera world? Well maybe they will and maybe others will catch up quick. But it comes as no great surprise to me that I'm much more interested in the Panasonic FZ1000 as my next camera rather than the Nikon D810. Others will of course think the opposite. But for me buying a camera like the Nikon D810 would feel like taking a step backwards and if I am to continue to prosper in my changing and updating profession, that is something I cannot afford to do.

  • All original material on this blog is © Please Respect That
  • N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) at the bottom of this post. 





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