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02-28-2012, 11:03 AM   #1
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A Question About SLR Technology

Since Pentax announced the K-01, I've seen a lot of claims, some here, but also a few other places inhabited by hardcore shooter types, that it isn't or can't be a serious camera. These claims go further than the fact that it happens to be available in bright yellow as one color option or problems with the specs. The specs are comparable or better than many dSLRs currently on the market. The general problem seems to be that it is mirrorless, but yet is a full K-mount compatible camera with a full APS-C sensor, not a tiny palm-sized jobbie with its own set of specially-designed lenses.

(Bear with me here. This isn't about the K-01.)

Single-lens reflex technology itself has been around for over a hundred years, and in form usable by the masses since around World War II. It was clunky at first, then through the 60's, 70's and 80's it made great strides first to overtake rangefinders as the dominant 35mm vehicle and then to become the only real "serious" camera before a person wanted to invest thousands in a medium format or large format system. And when digital hit, the by-now ancient technology of that slapping mirror made the transfer to digital.

Now, we don't need it. We can have cameras that accept legacy lenses, that have the same size sensor as a digital SLR, and don't come with the baggage of antiquated technology that causes camera shake to the extent that we have to pay extra for cameras with the ability to have mirror lock-up - not to mention the noise the mirror causes. But I've seen, quite a few times now, people saying the likes of, "Hopefully those who buy this dumb camera will eventually upgrade to a real camera. A dSLR."

I own two film SLRs and a vintage rangefinder, and I've owned two dSLRs, and if I were to ever upgrade seriously, it would be to a Leica digital rangefinder.

But my big question is, why is that mirror needed, and why is it a necessary component of a "serious" camera, even if it can be demonstrated that a mirrorless camera can have all the features of a dSLR sans big honkin' slappin' quiverin' noisy mirror?

Thanks for your time.

02-28-2012, 11:12 AM   #2
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I personally think that mirrorless cameras will replace DSLRs in the advanced amateur market. EVF technology will continue improving, and manufacturers will eventually figure out how to improve the AF so that it's just as good as phase detect. The OVF can't be matched in some situations, though, so I think that for low-light photography or studio/pro use, the DSLR will prevail.

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02-28-2012, 11:34 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by ibkc Quote
Since Pentax announced the K-01, I've seen a lot of claims, some here, but also a few other places inhabited by hardcore shooter types, that it isn't or can't be a serious camera.
It isn't about mirros. Its about Pentax.



The objections seem to me to be grouped in four major areas:
  1. It doesn't have a viewfinder (usually expressed as an optical viewfinder) so it can't be a serious camera
  2. It doesn't have (pick a feature or mode currently on the K-5) so it can't be a serious camera
    1. TAv
    2. Dedicated AE-L button
    3. 4-Way controller Function positions
    4. ISO 51200
    5. CDAF (though the same person will complain about Pentax CDAF)
  3. It doesn't have a MFT sensor so it can't be a serious (compact) camera
  4. It has a 43mm riegister distance (K-mount) so it can't be a serious camera
    1. Related: It isn't pocketable so it can't be a serious (cpmpact) camera
Taken together these seem like a lot of objections. In reality they are the individual objections of individual reviewers (and members) stated at full-throated roar volume, and repeatedly. To summarize:
  • It isn't a dSLR, so I don't like it
  • It isn't a IL/MFT compact, so I don't like it
  • It isn't (Canon/Nikon/Sony/Fuji/Oly/Leica), so I don't like it
  • It isn't pretty, so I don't like it
So what. I like it. It doesn't have a mirror - a good first effort for Pentax and I submit, an experiment in mirrorless technology using the K-mount.

But I'm not a serious photographer. FFS I still use film cameras!

Last edited by monochrome; 02-28-2012 at 11:55 AM.
02-28-2012, 11:37 AM   #4
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In a number of years, we will wonder how we could live with a mirror in ANY dSLR Some things might not quite be there (my last experience with EVF was before I switched to Pentax so I'm not sure) but I'm sure the mirror will disappear totally.

Why a mirror? How else does one get an image in the optical viewfinder in (d)SLRs?

02-28-2012, 11:54 AM   #5
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I thought a big deal with dslrs compared to milcs is that the dslrs have phase detect AF instead of contrast detect AF, which (albeit less accurate) was much faster?
02-28-2012, 12:49 PM   #6
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So the complaint (re: mirrors in cameras) boils down to: it's necessary to have a mirror to have a certain type of viewfinder, and basically, a camera that doesn't have this kind of viewfinder isn't a serious camera?

I have a feeling that technology will, in fact, render the mirrors completely obsolete. Obviously, it hasn't happened yet, but I think it's going to happen sooner than a lot of people may think.
02-28-2012, 01:01 PM   #7
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There has always been serious mirrorless cameras. Even in MF (Mamiya 7). So why couldn't ther be some now?. Ok, the first that will not have the all the scene modes will help to achieve that (besides the Leica)
02-28-2012, 02:17 PM   #8
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I would purchase a mirrorless OM-D EM-5 as a serious camera...before buying my K-5 I considered getting an NEX-7.

Not about the mirror, for me it is having a quality VF, a quality build, a nice compact-ish size that can grow with grips etc., decent lens choices, and good user-interface functionality with lots of buttons(which IMO the NEX lacks).

The technologies are getting real close - just depends on how/IF they implement it. Right now the Olympus looks pretty good.

02-28-2012, 02:44 PM   #9
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There are no serious cameras, just serious photographers... who can and do use any camera seriously. I've published and sold photos shot with decidedly down-market cameras. All claims about cameras being serious or otherwise based on their architecture, are bogus. Ignore the arrogant twits.
02-28-2012, 02:59 PM   #10
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Mirror vs. no mirror.

Well when I was in college in the 1960's I live between 2 guy that had 35mm cameras of the day. On one side was a guy with a Richoh 35mm ranger finder
with a fixed lens and I think a built in light meter. On the other side of me was a guy with an Exacta---no light meter, all mechanical, I think it actually was a late enough model to have a penta prism on it--- instead of the traditional 'waist level finder' which required you to open a door and look at the image upside down and backwards on the fresnel screen, but alas---you could change lenses and what you saw was what you got.....---if you wound the camera because the mirror only lowered to the viewing position when the 'cocked' the camera.

Both were quite adamant that their system was the best. I became convinced that lens changing was a must if you were going to do all kinds of photography
I still think this is true but it doesn't mean that I am married to a mirror flopping and shaking and vibraiting my camera. To me I want to be able swap optics
ranging from a microscope to a Telesope, and be able to see what I'm looking at so I can make appropriate adjustments if needed.
02-28-2012, 03:00 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ibkc Quote
So the complaint (re: mirrors in cameras) boils down to: it's necessary to have a mirror to have a certain type of viewfinder, and basically, a camera that doesn't have this kind of viewfinder isn't a serious camera?

I have a feeling that technology will, in fact, render the mirrors completely obsolete. Obviously, it hasn't happened yet, but I think it's going to happen sooner than a lot of people may think.
The mirror is necessary for an "optical" view of what the lens sees. An EVF, in effect, is a tiny television screen inside the body Until it can render the ilight passing through the lens as well as a mirror people will object.
02-28-2012, 03:06 PM   #12
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The main drawbacks to "mirrorless" cameras today only affect people using manual focus much of the time. All electronic finders have to process and display the image, causing a lime lag on the display. When you focus rapidly this means you overshoot the desired focus. This doesn't happen with optical viewfinders.
However, the finders on dSLRs are pitiful for manual focus anyway, and they work best as autofocus - autoexposure tools. As us old manual-trained photographers die off, there won't be such demand for optical viewfinders.
But I'm still around, still prefer manual. That's why the Leica M9 is my main digital camera. The K-5 gives nice images, but not the way I prefer to shoot.
02-28-2012, 04:34 PM   #13
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I think what it comes down to is not when we will have mirrorless cameras, but when cameras with mirrors disappear.

As the technology of the viewing screen improves, the issue about wide open optical viewfinders will go away, my first EV camera was terrible as far as the viewfinder went in all but bright light. Until we can have the LCD image equal in clarity in dim light, then optical will stay.

The otter issue which needs to be addressed, (and I dont know if the K-01 does this) is shutter lag and frame rate. I bundle the two because they are both part of a mirror camera.

BUT I still may not elect to use a mirrorless camera for all things, because until we get a high resolution eye level viewfinder, the present concept of viewing through the LCD screen, while similar to point and shoot, is garbage for good camera holding technique, and aiming. sure it works fine for a short lens, but just put my 300/4 and 1.7x AF TC on this thing and try to hold and compose images, and do this in a stable manner.

So in my view, what we need to cover all the bases are

- equal or better shutter lag
- higher frame rate
- an eye level viewing system

The limit for point 1 is really a qestion of going from video mode (even if it is HD) to full megapixel mode for capture, this takes time
Point 2 should be a given, it must increase somewhat, although the iris must still close before the opening of the shutter
the last point is a ball breaker (pardon the metaphore)


Lets all remember one other thing.

Taking the mirror and prism out of a DSLR is a huuge cost reduction.

We need to see either equal cost reduction in the camera, or a huge performance improvement, to justify the outlay
02-28-2012, 05:19 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by ibkc Quote
So the complaint (re: mirrors in cameras) boils down to: it's necessary to have a mirror to have a certain type of viewfinder, and basically, a camera that doesn't have this kind of viewfinder isn't a serious camera?
No, it boils down to a camera that doesn't have a viewfinder is limited as far as some users are concerned.
QuoteOriginally posted by ibkc Quote
I have a feeling that technology will, in fact, render the mirrors completely obsolete. Obviously, it hasn't happened yet, but I think it's going to happen sooner than a lot of people may think.
Not obsolete, but it's a given that at some point, electronic viewfinders will be considered good enough to replace optical ones. This doesn't mean EVFs will be better than OVFs at that point. It's been very rare in photography when a new feature that supersedes a present feature represents a quality increase, it generally represents either a convenience for the user or a cost reduction for the manufacturer, at the expense of quality.
02-28-2012, 06:14 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
No, it boils down to a camera that doesn't have a viewfinder is limited as far as some users are concerned.
Sure. But I don't understand denigrating those who use such a camera as not being serious photographers. There are plenty of good reasons for many informed photographers to want such a thing. Why be so elitist about it? Change happens.

QuoteQuote:
Not obsolete, but it's a given that at some point, electronic viewfinders will be considered good enough to replace optical ones. This doesn't mean EVFs will be better than OVFs at that point.
However, it doesn't mean they will be worse, either.

QuoteQuote:
It's been very rare in photography when a new feature that supersedes a present feature represents a quality increase, it generally represents either a convenience for the user or a cost reduction for the manufacturer, at the expense of quality.
Looking at the entire history of photography from its beginning, I could disagree with you rather strongly about that. But I'll agree with you that this has been true for the past fifteen or twenty years.

I'm still trying to figure out why the major film manufacturers thought it was a good idea to introduce APS when they all knew digital was going to be the standard within five to ten years. Weirdest moment in photo history, IMO.
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