Photography for the Rest of Us: Why Start With Mirrorless Cams - ryanp-photos

What Camera Should I Get? Mirrorless Ones


Before we proceed, let’s make sure we get a few things out of the way:

1.  This post is not intended for professional photographers out there. Y’all got crazy ass, specific requirements that are just not as relevant for the rest of us. (Ex: “I need 500 Megapixels so I have the option of printing billboard size photos”, “I need 765 focus points so I can get sharp corneal detail”, or “My camera needs to work in absolute zero Kelvin conditions and hyena-proof”). So park your pretentious comments below, and I shall ignore it.

2.  This is solely my opinion and based on my experiences alone. So anybody who’s going to comment below this post and argue otherwise, well too bad, have a lemonade and write your own blog.

Anybody who’s spent time learning the basics of photography, invested in some amount of photo equipment, takes pictures and posts them on their Facebook page have undoubtedly been approached by their relative or friends asking what kind of camera they should get. If I had a dime for every time somebody asks me that question in the past few years, I’d have $1.57 by now.

Photo: Hyena in the wild, just before it attacked me.  Thank goodness the camera was hyena-proofed and survived.

And, let’s be honest, as much as we are all aspiring Ansel Adams and Bressons, in reality the majority of our pictures will consists of:
1.  That amazing wagyu carpaccio with truffle oil, or latte with an almond croissant
2.  Overly zoomed pictures of your cousin’s wedding as you get in the way of the hired photographer
3.  Your offspring discovering the variety species of grass and rocks
4.  Your family / group picture in the front door of the restaurant where you just took picture of said carpaccio

Look ma! I'm a Food Photographer now!

And that being said, every time somebody asks for an advice on a camera, they’ll always say that they want:

a.) “a camera that’s really good for everything,” or
b.) “I like to take both landscapes and portraits.”

Which I then translate to the following specs:  You really don’t want to spend that much money, preferably <$600. And You don’t really know what you’re going to take pictures of.
Or sometimes, people already have a gear in mind and they’re just asking you to validate their choice. In which case, just buy the damn thing if it makes you happy.

Fact: 76.873%* of all pictures posted in Social Media are taken inside a hipster coffee shop.
*Based on previously non-scientific studies conducted by noone

As such, for the past few years or so I’ve been recommending mirrorless camera for anybody who are just about to learn photography or just want a better camera to take pictures with. And here’s why:

1.  It’s not a new technology and even pros are using it these days 
Mirrorless is now a proven technology, it’s been out for a few years.  I’ve been using one for the past 3-years and so far there hasn’t been any reason for me to even consider a DSLR. Even pros are using it now, particularly travel photographers. If you have any doubt, check out Elia Locardi or Zak Arias’ blog. Even National Geographic recommends mirrorless as their top choice for travel camera.

2. It’s smaller and easier to carry
 Mirrorless cameras are a lot more compact and this is important for people who travel. It’s a lot more discrete, fits in most regular bag (or even fanny packs for you hipsters), and a lot lighter.  Especially for those who have family, you’re already carrying your kid’s extra diapers, formula, organic pureed apple sauce, and Mr. Teddy; so why would you want to carry a big ass DSLR along.  You’d probably get tired of carrying it and ended up using your phone anyway. And that’s not even measuring the lenses, especially if you get Micro Four-Thirds models like the Olympus.

Sony A5100 vs Canon Rebel T5i.  Comparison courtesy of Camerasize.com

3. You don’t need an Optical Viewfinder
Anybody who’s about to argue how Optical VF are faster, less lag, brings you “closer to your subject,” just stop. Your argument is BS, and here’s why: Smartphones are the most popular camera now and they don’t come with a viewfinder, and most of us aren’t taking pictures of Steph Curry on a fastbreak.
We’re all so used to taking pictures with our camera now, and being able to see from a larger LCD screen is just much easier and now intuitive for most of us. Plus, the added advantage of being able to see EXACTLY how the picture is going to come out, live on the screen is just so convenient. Yes it does glare under sunlight, but that never stopped you with your phone before and you can always use your other hand to cover it.

4. A lot more features and easier to use
The amount of shit you can do directly on the mirrorless camera these days is just freaking amazing. Some have built in levelers to make sure your pics are straight, instagram-like filters, auto ISO, panorama/sweep mode, and countless other. Sony’s even have this thing called “Dynamic Range Optimizer” that even I get jealous of when shooting with my Fuji. Most of the new cameras even have built-in WiFi so you can transfer directly to your camera and post that beef carpaccio picture on Facebook before your pork belly risotto entree comes.

And some of us just prefer posting pictures of our cool camera on instagram, than actual photos we take

5.  It costs the same
In many cases, mirrorless costs about the same if not cheaper than entry level DSLRs. And you still get all the benefits I’ve mentioned above. Here’s some comparison that I pulled from B&H for entry level cameras with a kit lens:
[DLSR] Canon Rebel T6i - $749
[DSLR] Nikon D330 - $549
[Mirrorless] Sony A5100 - $598
[Mirrorless] Fuji X-A2 - $549
[Mirrorless] Olympus PEN E-PL7 - $399
And the price goes even lower if you get last-gen model that for the most part will also do the job just as well. Repeat after me: “I don’t have to buy the latest and greatest gear.” The damn thing works just fine last year, no reason why it wouldn’t this year.

6. Sensor size doesn’t matter
Most of us just don’t need full-frame sensors for most of the pictures that we take. “Yeah, but larger sensors can catch more light and performs better in low light.” That’s true, but I bet you most of our pictures are taken in daylight. Majority of us aren’t going to leave our spouse and kids behind to take milky way pictures at 3 freaking AM in the morning. At most, you’ll stay for fireworks at Disneyland and come home because your kid gets cranky when he’s sleepy. And also, high-ISO performance on mirrorless are so good these days that you don’t need that marginal extra amount of light from a larger sensor. 

Less money for camera, more money for uhh... tea leaves! Yeah that's right, sweet refreshing tea leaves...

“Okay fine, I get your point. But you still haven’t answered my question, what camera should I get?”

Based on my own personal biased opinion and stereotypes, I’ve tried bucketing your camera selection to the following (slightly offensive) categories:

- I still want a camera that’s just good at everything, and not spend over a $1000:
Sony Alpha A5100 / Sony Alpha A6000 / Olympus PEN E-PL7 / Fuji X-A2

- The Closeted Hipster / I want to look cool taking my pictures / My life is better than yours Instagrammer / I only eat glutten-free cookies / Takes pictures of my camera with my cup of coffee:
Fuji X-100T / Fuji X-A2 / Ricoh GR

- I’ll probably just shoot in auto: Sony RX-100 / Fuji X70

- No seriously, I’m prepared to spend thousands of dollars in the near future and strain my current relationship with my spouse / alienate my children other to learn about photography:
Fuji X-Pro2 / Fuji X-T2 / Sony Alpha A7 / Sony Alpha A6300 / Olympus OM-D E-M5

- I’m going to start advertising on Facebook that I have a side “photography business” or that "I also do family photos and small weddings" / I just have oodles of $$$ to blow:
Sony Alpha A7 / Fuji X-Pro2 / Fuji X-T2

- I want to shoot underwater on my next Hawaii vacation:
Get an iPhone case


I hope this helps answer some of your questions.  If not, plenty of smarter people than me and other photo blogs out there...


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