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11-09-2010, 08:35 PM   #1
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Mirrorless Camera--Good or Bad?

I'm relatively a newcomer to digital SLR cameras and photography. I did have a film SLR (Minolta) a long time ago though. I have a basic question after reading a news item elsewhere that Pentax may introduce a mirrorless camera next year. What is good or bad about a mirrorless camera in the digital format? I'm just curious and wondering what more experienced DSLR users think. Thanks!

11-09-2010, 09:15 PM   #2
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The good is that they're more compact, the bad is that they have worse ergonomics and no optical viewfinder. If (and keep in mind that this is still a BIG if) Pentax releases a mirrorless camera, it'll more than likely use the K-mount for its lenses and the micro 4/3s format for the sensor. This format is arguably worse than, and certainly different from, the APS-C format used in Pentax DSLRs.

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11-09-2010, 09:20 PM   #3
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Well, mirrorless systems can basically be smaller. (Most of those that exist now have a limited selection of lenses because they're designed to maximize the smallness, or else add an adapter that'd make em as big as an SLR anyway. ) The biggest issue with electronic viewfinder cameras has historically been shutter and viewfinder lag, though presumably that's been improving over time.

With an SLR, you're seeing actual light, rather than basically a little TV screen, ...each sort of has its advantages. (The latter looks more like the end result, the former, more like what you're looking at.) Mirrorless cameras are going to be quieter, and can be more flexible in shape, and lighter, and also can be a little handier for video since there's no mechanism in the way.

I hold a wait and see attitude, ...unless I had a lot of extra money to throw around, I wouldn't really be seeing too much advantage over a compact camera for some jobs and a DSLR for others.

I tend to take notions of a Pentax mirrorless (or EVIL: Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) system with a big grain of salt: they won't get the sudden monopoly that Olympus/Lumix had by jumping from making DSLRs to those, and they don't have the massive resources to turn out a complete system and lens lineup just like that, like Canon and Nikon and Sony might. Instead, there'll be that much less competition in the DSLR market, and if they make a mirrorless interchangeable lens system, I bet they'll find a way to use the same lenses as the DSLRs anyway or do something otherwise different from most other companies. The technology could make a nice big full-frame sized viewfinder (or bigger) and still do cool things without trying to compete on Olympus' turf and be playing catchup with everyone else on the very same terms.

In general, I've got a 'wait and see' attitude about the technology, but I'm sort of an old film type and fairly set in my ways, about a lot of things, as well. All in all, though, I see no rush to play guessing and prognosticating games about a big investment in as-yet unrefined tech. I bet there'll be interesting things to come, though.
11-09-2010, 09:50 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
The good is that they're more compact, the bad is that they have worse ergonomics and no optical viewfinder. If (and keep in mind that this is still a BIG if) Pentax releases a mirrorless camera, it'll more than likely use the K-mount for its lenses and the micro 4/3s format for the sensor. This format is arguably worse than, and certainly different from, the APS-C format used in Pentax DSLRs.
Thanks for your answer. I'm considering getting either the Pentax K-x or the K-r so obviously I'm not thinking mirrorless. Right now I'm leaning towards the K-x because I like the AA batteries it uses and it's cheaper than the newer camera.

11-09-2010, 09:53 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ratmagiclady Quote
Well, mirrorless systems can basically be smaller. (Most of those that exist now have a limited selection of lenses because they're designed to maximize the smallness, or else add an adapter that'd make em as big as an SLR anyway. ) The biggest issue with electronic viewfinder cameras has historically been shutter and viewfinder lag, though presumably that's been improving over time.

With an SLR, you're seeing actual light, rather than basically a little TV screen, ...each sort of has its advantages. (The latter looks more like the end result, the former, more like what you're looking at.) Mirrorless cameras are going to be quieter, and can be more flexible in shape, and lighter, and also can be a little handier for video since there's no mechanism in the way.

I hold a wait and see attitude, ...unless I had a lot of extra money to throw around, I wouldn't really be seeing too much advantage over a compact camera for some jobs and a DSLR for others.

I tend to take notions of a Pentax mirrorless (or EVIL: Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) system with a big grain of salt: they won't get the sudden monopoly that Olympus/Lumix had by jumping from making DSLRs to those, and they don't have the massive resources to turn out a complete system and lens lineup just like that, like Canon and Nikon and Sony might. Instead, there'll be that much less competition in the DSLR market, and if they make a mirrorless interchangeable lens system, I bet they'll find a way to use the same lenses as the DSLRs anyway or do something otherwise different from most other companies. The technology could make a nice big full-frame sized viewfinder (or bigger) and still do cool things without trying to compete on Olympus' turf and be playing catchup with everyone else on the very same terms.

In general, I've got a 'wait and see' attitude about the technology, but I'm sort of an old film type and fairly set in my ways, about a lot of things, as well. All in all, though, I see no rush to play guessing and prognosticating games about a big investment in as-yet unrefined tech. I bet there'll be interesting things to come, though.
I appreciate your in-depth answer because I was just wondering after reading this news item. I like this forum so much for the insight I'm gaining slowly but surely (probably because I'm "over the hill" and still remember film cameras much more than digital). Right now I'm leaning towards getting a Pentax K-x with two lens because it's enough camera for me (and my college daughter) to use and it's not too expensive. The K-r looks good but probably not worth the extra cost for my needs.
11-10-2010, 03:15 AM   #6
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one of the biggest advantages of mirror-less cameras is the fact that because there isn't a mirror flapping around behind the lens they can bring the lens closer to the film plane, and what this does is cause a substantial reduction in the size the lens needs to be.

The Leica sumilux 35mm f/1.4 is half the size of the canon 35mm f/1.4.
11-10-2010, 03:34 AM   #7
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As others have noted, mirrorless lenses will greatly reduce the size of lenses, specifically wide angle lenses where the camera regestry didtance (mount to sensor plane) is longer than the focal length. this is because those lenses need complex optics to actually lengthen the light path while keeping the distance necessary to clear the mirror and mount on the camera..

the other advantage, and it is a big one, is that the mirror swing time is a substantial portion of the frame rate, and results in viewfinder black out during shooting.

removing the mirror would eliminate these issues, and also allow for autofocus tracking during shooting. frame rates could easiy be 10-20 FPS assuming the data streem is sufficient to manage.

the downside, is that either you switch to an electronic viewfinder, and suffer potentially poor resoluton, or go to an optical viewfinder and suffer the issues of zooming and parallax errors in framing
11-10-2010, 08:12 AM   #8
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The goal of mirror-less cameras is to offer high image quality with a reduction in size compared to DSLR.
Since they use very similar sensors, we can see that image quality is very comparable to that of entry-level DSLRs.

One catch is that there is no optical viewfinder, although some offer the addition of an electronic viewfinder instead (EVF).
Such a viewfinder is not equivalent but it is much more WYSIWIG in the sense that you can see the exposure you will get
and that is more similar to what you are used to coming from fixed-lens cameras. On the other hand, on most EVFs, the
resolution is too low to precisely set focus manually (although this is changing).

The other less obvious catch is that mirrorless cameras use a different autofocus system then DSLRs. At this time, the
system they use (called contrast-detect) is still slower than phase-detection (used by DSLRs). This means that while
you get quality close to a DSLR, you are still disadvantages when it comes to action photography.

But there is yet another compromise.... Sony has both mirrorless cameras (NEX) and translucent mirror cameras (SLT).
Translucent mirror cameras are yet another compromise but a more compelling one. You get the same sensor as a
DSLR, in a smaller package while maintaining quick phase-detection autofocus. They do that using a semi-transparent
mirror that directs light to the autofocus system but avoiding the bulk of a optical reflex viewfinder, instead using superb
EVFs with high-resolution, a large size and a true exposure-priority implementation.

- Itai

11-10-2010, 08:26 AM   #9
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Previous to my K-x, I used a Fuji S9100 for many years,
I would be very interrested in a 'EVIL' Pentax body to use
my K-mount lenses if the ergonomics/size was kept similar
to the K-x for these reasons:

-EVF, as mentionned above being able to verify exposure/focus
without having to continiously move camera away and look down at the LCD,
keeping the camera aimed at subject.

-better visibility while reviewing pics during bright daytime conditions

-higher flash sync speed, without a shutter I could take pics at 1/350 or so using my S9100/SB80,
with the K-x I'm stuck at 1/180, just not fast enough for my type of low-light action shots.

Michel
11-10-2010, 09:02 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
one of the biggest advantages of mirror-less cameras is the fact that because there isn't a mirror flapping around behind the lens they can bring the lens closer to the film plane, and what this does is cause a substantial reduction in the size the lens needs to be.

The Leica sumilux 35mm f/1.4 is half the size of the canon 35mm f/1.4.
Not really a fair comparison, the Leica lens isn't a ring motor AF. Compare the size of the Summilux to a Pentax A50/1.4 and the sizes are closer, with the Pentax lens somewhat bigger around (5mm) but substantially shorter.
The Pentax lens is also half the weight of the Leica lens.

For me, the big and fatal disadvantage of mirrorless cameras is that they either have no viewfinders or they have horrid electronic viewfinders that are poo to use.
11-10-2010, 09:06 AM   #11
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Without the mirror flapping around inside the camera, mirror-less cameras can be much quieter, as well.

I think that one of the biggest obstacles keeping Pentax out of the mirror-less camera market right now, is that they are hesitant to create a new camera that doesn't use the k-mount. And, I am one of those who think that Pentax will NOT produce an APS-C or 4/3 sensor camera, with a standard k-mount. While such a camera might be attractive to Pentax loyalists, it gives up one of the major advantages of eliminating the mirror; size.

That is, of course, unless Pentax builds a full-frame mirror-less camera that uses k-mount lenses. I"m not sure that such a camera would sell, and even then, without the mirror, the registration distance could be reduced. Look at Leica 35mm rangefinder cameras. They have a registration distance of, I think, 39mm, compared to the k-mount's 44.5mm.

Mirror-less cameras may never completely supplant dslrs, either. Put a 200mm or 300mm lens on a mirror-less camera and the size advantage is somewhat irrelevant. The lens is still eight inches long or more. Its just that you have a little, cigarette-pack sized camera hanging off the back of it instead of a dslr.
11-10-2010, 11:19 AM   #12
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i have a question about micro 4/3 and shutter speeds

so, everyone keeps saying that full frame is the 'low light king', but surely with the crop factor if you put a 5d side by side with a 4/3 camera, to keep the framing the same the 5d would be set to 100mm and the 4/3 50mm.

Now surely the minimum acceptable (handheld) shutter speed would be 1/100 on the 5d and 1/50 on the 4/3, i.e. 1 stop faster, meaning that the iso could be dropped 1 stop- and countering the 1 (maybe 2) stop advantage full frame has over smaller sensor cameras?


I may be totally wrong here.

depth of field on full frame is insanely shallow too, you basically can't shoot an f1.4 lens wide open, so you stop down to f2.8, which again counter balances the low light advantage of full frame (but of course delivering sharper images)
11-10-2010, 11:43 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by clark Quote
i have a question about micro 4/3 and shutter speeds

so, everyone keeps saying that full frame is the 'low light king', but surely with the crop factor if you put a 5d side by side with a 4/3 camera, to keep the framing the same the 5d would be set to 100mm and the 4/3 50mm.

Now surely the minimum acceptable (handheld) shutter speed would be 1/100 on the 5d and 1/50 on the 4/3, i.e. 1 stop faster, meaning that the iso could be dropped 1 stop- and countering the 1 (maybe 2) stop advantage full frame has over smaller sensor cameras?


I may be totally wrong here.

depth of field on full frame is insanely shallow too, you basically can't shoot an f1.4 lens wide open, so you stop down to f2.8, which again counter balances the low light advantage of full frame (but of course delivering sharper images)
You aren't taking subject movement into account, and also, the smaller format shows up shake faster, so in the absence of SR, you need to have two stops higher shutter speed with the 4/3 camera.
Also, while f/1.4 lenses aren't at their best wide open, saying they need to be stopped down 2 stops to be acceptable is not true. Generally stopping them down 1/2 stop takes them into the range of acceptable, one stop and they have gotten very good.
The DOF thing is a canard. At normal shooting distances of 10-15 feet, even f/1.4 on 135 format (this is the correct term for what you refer to as full frame) has sufficient DOF to turn out a decently sharp picture, enough so that you would need to go to at least f/4 to get a noticable improvement.

At the moment, the K5 is near the top of the heap for high ISO noise, I fully expect that new 135 format cameras from Nikon or Canon will use similar sensor technology to what the K5 is using, and will have hugely improved low light capabilities.
Whether or not this matters at this point is topic for another thread. At some point, one needs to look at the technology as it relates to what one does with it rather than comparing specs on paper to see who wins this weeks peeing match.
At this point, I am pretty content that APS-C is "good enough" WRT high ISO noise, I suspect that 4/3 would be as well.
11-10-2010, 05:38 PM   #14
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Clark

While 4/3 may give an advantage on focal length and therefore lens size compared to full frame at the tele end. Look what happens at the wide end. To get a 12-24 equivalent on 4/3 just does not exist

Having said that see my comment on a mirrorles camera. By removing the mirror and shortening the registry distance ultra wides are much easier to make
11-10-2010, 06:57 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by InStitches49 Quote
I appreciate your in-depth answer because I was just wondering after reading this news item. I like this forum so much for the insight I'm gaining slowly but surely (probably because I'm "over the hill" and still remember film cameras much more than digital). Right now I'm leaning towards getting a Pentax K-x with two lens because it's enough camera for me (and my college daughter) to use and it's not too expensive. The K-r looks good but probably not worth the extra cost for my needs.

Cool. As some even *more* in-depth posts from some folks who are really into the technical debates may show, there's a lot to all this.

Pentax's smaller cameras like the K-x are really pretty small: (Actually, even their 'big' models are quite trim, compared to the other brands, sometimes markedly-so. They just like to do that. ) if you were comfortable carrying like an x-700 or a Maxxuum, you'll probably be pleased, that way, and a few small, lovely prime lenses that autofocus are available, so if you're looking for something to do a similar job, you can have that. (There's such a thing as *too small,* depending on what you'd like to do: it's another reason I tend to doubt Pentax is necessarily going to go with a whole new lens mount just to shave some size and be maybe a little behind in the 'mirrorless compact' race, when, you want small, here's small, pop a DA limited on there, and you've got pretty darn small. If your desired system involves any lenses of any size... )

(You could check out some of these mirrorless ones and see if you like em, you really might: I think they mostly have appeal as either a 'second system' or for people who are used to photographing things with the camera at arm's length like with compacts at this point. I think they'll often be the ones to get the most happy out of these new Olympus Pens and stuff. )

K-x es are by all reports excellent, and a real good deal. Not that it doesn't seem the K-r is well worth the money: actually amid all the buzz here around the release of that model, I came to the conclusion that that'd be what I'd buy my little sister, (if I were someone that could go around buying people DSLRs. ) Though I can't remember just why at the moment, whether it was something about the general performance improvements or some special feature/gimmick they added that'd help her in particular.

Anyway, it seems so far that the K-r is a worthwhile upgrade, but the K-x is a nice safe bet for you.
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