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11-26-2013, 03:25 AM   #1
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Why mirrorless?

Why MILC? Which my friend Steve tells me is now called DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless)...

Looking at my K-01 today, found myself wondering why Pentax made it... what advantages the design actually has over regular DSLRs. It must have some, or they wouldn't have bothered... much easier to sell variants of the K-3/K-2 line.

Is the K-01 better for video? For regular photos, is its autofocus better? It certainly isn't for fast-moving targets like airplanes. And, unlike a rangefinder, you're still stuck with a slow shutter speed for flash.

I love the ergonomics, the way it 'just feels good'. The elegant simplicity. But they could have hired Marc Newson to work his design magic on a new DSLR. Why didn't they? Obviously, high-level management greenlighted the K-01 project... which would have involved a whole team of engineers... why?

There must be some VERY good technical reasons that the mirrorless K-01 concept was thought to be, well, better. Anybody know why?

11-26-2013, 03:43 AM   #2
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My thoughts as well. I think it is a demand from users who are used to point&shoots, but want the ability to have better lenses. The original premise is more compact than a SLR, but once the lens is on, there is not that much advantage.

But I am happy if they make them and they sell. There are spinoffs for DSLR's as well.
11-26-2013, 04:02 AM   #3
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Because it's the next evolution. A DSLR was designed so one could look through the lens and see what will be exposed onto the film. To show the user something as close to the raw results as possible. But it could not show the user the properties of the film in the vf. A "DSLM", as you call it, goes a step further and uses the advantages of the digital sensor to not only show what the lens "sees", but also what the sensor "sees". It makes it possible to record film whilst using the eye level VF. But also shows the true DOF, the WB, focus peeking, focus zooming and any other characteristic of the sensor in the eye level VF. So, a MILC actually takes the principle of the SLR and expands on that idea. All very depending on the quality of the screen or vf on which it is displayed of course. In that respect the whole mirror mechanism, box, prism, etc are just an analog remnant that our so-called DSLRs are still stuck with.

Last edited by Clavius; 11-26-2013 at 07:10 AM.
11-26-2013, 06:21 AM   #4
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Pro:
Less complex mechanical build (often cheaper to make and may be lighter)
Allows software enhanced viewing tech
Allows user to see how perimeters affects the image in real time before the shot
Makes it possible to design lenses that are closer to the sensor
No mirror-shake

Cons:
Dependent on electronics how good the user experience will be
AF-tech often still lagging behind
No optical view of the scene, only a digital
Way tougher on batteries
LCD tech may struggle under adverse conditions like extreme cold

And more things could be added.

11-26-2013, 07:57 AM   #5
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Some more pros:
- Apparently it takes less than half the components to make a mirrorless camera. Must a be a lot cheaper to build.
- No back/front focus problems since focus is judged at the imaging plane. Less frustration for users and makes assembly easier.
- Fewer moving parts. Should be more durable.
- Lighter. The mirror and prism must weigh something.
- Allows much more freedom of design. The viewfinder can be on the top, in the corner or eliminated altogether. It can tilt up or be removable. The mount can be placed more centrally, like on the OMD and Pentax Q, which seems to make cameras look more "cute" and classic. Or you can make it look like a yellow brick.

VisualDarkness explained the cons quite well, but I think the point about battery life is a bit overstated. The K-01 is the only mirrorless camera which has a DSLR-sized battery and it takes 500 images (50% flash). The K-5 takes 740 (50% flash) with the same battery and the K-3 takes only 560 (50% flash). With smaller mirrorless cameras it is the decision to make them smaller at all costs that hits the battery life more than anything.
11-26-2013, 08:03 AM   #6
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Well "what does K-01 do!" - it makes photos, better ones than the K-5 and K-30 and K-50, because it has no AA filter (or at least a very very weak one) and no mirror slap. And its a tiny, light, quiet package - when it was made it was among the smallest crop sensor cameras with interchangeable lenses available. It was also a breakthrough in design because it deviated from the typical black plastic shell or shiny metal look. And it brought focus peaking to Pentax, and a camera that is constantly in live view. Two pretty big steps. At the time it also had pretty good video capabilities. Of course, there were problems.. AF wasn't that great (but every update seems to improve it, even though it is still not on par with a good DSLR, at least with slower lenses). The peaking could still be improved. And it has some firmware limitations, like really slow burst mode.. It has no CiF, though a digital CiF would be intriguing.
Basically, it was a logical next step. Its not perfect, but it allowed Pentax to experiment with a lot of things that they put in their subsequent cameras, like focus peaking, missing AA filter, video capabilities, ..
Considering the prices that it was sold at towards the end of its era, it was an amazing deal. I hope they make a K-02 and improve some of the things on the K-01. We had "wishlist" threads about it on the forums, with some great suggestions.
11-26-2013, 08:16 AM   #7
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Na Horuk reminded me of a bid Pro!
Possible to make much much much more quiet cameras. Add to it that the new sensor generations are rumored to not needing a mechanical shutter and you can pissbly make a dead quiet camera.
11-26-2013, 08:29 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by VisualDarkness Quote
Na Horuk reminded me of a bid Pro!
Possible to make much much much more quiet cameras. Add to it that the new sensor generations are rumored to not needing a mechanical shutter and you can pissbly make a dead quiet camera.
That reminds me of the Sony A7, with its loud shutter. Missed chance there.

But you are right, that is the future: fully solid state, like most of our other devices. Noiseless, no vibrations and no mechanics to wear out. And imagine what that eventually will do to FPS speeds...


Last edited by Clavius; 11-26-2013 at 08:46 AM.
11-26-2013, 08:46 AM   #9
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The thing is that, with the current electronics design philosophy I don't see longevity in the durability section for the near future. As an empirical look at it, just check out what is the most common failure in modern cameras and I can almost promise you that the electronics are more affected than the mechanical parts. Electronics aren't generally made to outlive you, mechanics on the other hand might.

Also, often the the mechanics are often easier to repair for the skilled engineer if official spare parts is hard to get hold of at a decent price. Not that the repair part is really that big of a deal of the whole thing but still it affects the longevity of the durability section.

Maybe I'm pessimistic but I really don't see that solid state change the durability of consumer electronics, nor change the throw away rather than repair philosophy of the modern world.
11-26-2013, 09:30 AM   #10
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I like my K-01 for short lenses especially in places where it would be hard to bend over and look into the viewfinder. That's the only real advantage. The rest is six of one half dozen of the other. Once I get the flu card and can check images on my iPad, I'm not sure it will be the best solution for that problem either. I do enjoy it as a walk around camera with the 21 ltd on it.
11-26-2013, 10:55 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
Why MILC? Which my friend Steve tells me is now called DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless)...

Looking at my K-01 today, found myself wondering why Pentax made it... what advantages the design actually has over regular DSLRs. It must have some, or they wouldn't have bothered... much easier to sell variants of the K-3/K-2 line.

Is the K-01 better for video? For regular photos, is its autofocus better? It certainly isn't for fast-moving targets like airplanes. And, unlike a rangefinder, you're still stuck with a slow shutter speed for flash.

I love the ergonomics, the way it 'just feels good'. The elegant simplicity. But they could have hired Marc Newson to work his design magic on a new DSLR. Why didn't they? Obviously, high-level management greenlighted the K-01 project... which would have involved a whole team of engineers... why?

There must be some VERY good technical reasons that the mirrorless K-01 concept was thought to be, well, better. Anybody know why?
MIrrorless is supposed to be compact. The K-01 isn't, and that's why it failed.

Fewer mechanical parts also means better durability and the potential for higher framerates. But not having an optical viewfinder is a major turn-off for me...

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11-26-2013, 01:00 PM   #12
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Thanks for the comments. I'm seeing a mixture of good business (lower manufacturing cost) and good design... with the post about 'better pictures than the K-5, K-30 etc' VERY interesting... no mirror slap, and particularly the "no AA filter (or at least a very very weak one)" which I didn't know -- and which seems to be a major selling point for many new DSLRs.

Looks like we have a VERY interesting camera!

At my end, I use a K-01 for everyday photography. For almost everything. But I keep a K-30 in the car, with the 55-300mm lens, for fast-moving subjects, like airplanes. But the K-01 is VERY satisfying. I gaffer-taped a light Hoodman 3" loupe to the back, and that lets me see the screen perfectly. I use spot exposure with the AE/L button all the time ... and you can really see the effect of changing the exposure spot on the K-01's screen. As a post above says, it 'uses the advantages of the digital sensor to not only show what the lens "sees", but also what the sensor "sees".'

And this is where the K-30 -- and other DSLRs -- fall short. Of course, I could stick a loupe on the K-30, but then I wouldn't be able to easily use the optical viewfinder, which is ESSENTIAL for fast-moving subjects, coupled with the K-30 DSLR phase-detect VERY fast focus. And without a loupe, the K-30 Live View screen is useless for spot-exposure composition in bright sunlight... which gets me back to the K-01-with-loupe combination as my best solution for everyday use.

Aren't cameras interesting!
11-26-2013, 01:16 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
There must be some VERY good technical reasons that the mirrorless K-01 concept was thought to be, well, better. Anybody know why?
Take a look at this (machine-translated) interview with the design team around the time of launch. Through the Googlish, I get the impression that they were looking at the possibilities of a smaller, simplified body that still supported the whole K-mount lens lineup, and the possibilities of a camera optimized for LiveView.

Google Translate

We should throw in here that Pentax had shown a mock-up of a mirrorless K-mount camera years before Marc Newson came into the picture, so it was a "what if" they had been thinking about for some time.

Last edited by THoog; 11-26-2013 at 02:27 PM.
11-26-2013, 01:56 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by THoog Quote
Take a look at this (machine-translated) interview with the design team around the time of launch. Through the Googlish, I get the impression that they were looking at the possibilities of a smaller, simplified body that still supported the whole K-mount lens lineup, and the possibilities of a camera optimized for LiveView.

Google Translate

We should throw in here that Pentax had shown a mock-up of a mirrorless K-mount camera years before Marc Newsom came into the picture, so it was a "what if" they had been thinking about for some time.
Yes, the fact that they wanted to start producing special lenses that protruded into the K-01's empty mirrorbox supports that: http://photorumors.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Pentax-K-01-lens.jpg
A pity they didn't push through on that concept though.
11-26-2013, 02:25 PM   #15
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I bought the Nex 5n and later the Nex 6 as backups and walk around fun alternatives to my K5. I don't regret buying them either. The Nex 6 has the built-in EVF which is great on sunny days compared to the LCD-only variant of mirrorless cams. People seem to pay a lot less attention to me when i'm photographing on a sidewalk, then if i'm holding the K5, so there is that aspect to them. Plus they also have built-in tilting LCDs for low and high angles.

I think the expense of these cameras has been initially quite high compared to their usability because companies are still investing a lot of money, my guess, in trying to design them. But over time, i think these initial engineering attempts will be reduced for cheaper DSLMs.

Having said all that, when i need to to more serious shooting, say for the local playhouse rehearsals and headshots, or for my landscape pics that i sell occasionally, i almost always pick the K5. And my next camera will doubtless be the K3. I'm glad to have both kinds of cameras. And i'm very reluctant to advise newbies on the camera to choose, because personal taste and needs are so individualized.
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