Why mirrorless will make you a better photographer faster

That might seem a bit odd – the claim that going to a mirrorless camera might make one a better photographer faster, but hear me out.

I’ve been using a dslr camera for 25 or so years, and I was initially pretty reticent about going mirrorless, especially when I saw valid critiques of mirrorless, both in MFT and full frame versions.

I then, however, tried a good full frame mirrorless, and now I can say that my 20+ years with Nikon are going to be coming to a conclusion. Want to become better?  Make yourself better and don’t worry about brands. Take what tools come along that actually give you results – smooth out your workflow, make it easier to grow creatively, or create a better end product. So, back to the original question – how can mirrorless cameras make you a better photographer faster?

Its pretty simple, actually, and has to do with the lack of optical preview and a digital viewfinder. What we take for granted is that dslrs show you an optical picture, with a fully open aperture. This is NOT what the photo will look like. Even the depth of field preview buttons on dslrs won’t show you the final exposure – only what the result of the selected aperture on the depth of field will be. Kind of a useless feature, really. I’ve owned five Nikon bodies, digital and old school, and I’ve never used the DOF preview once. Not once. How are mirrorless cameras different?

Well, for one thing, they don’t have any means for you to see an optical representation of the subject – they rely entirely on capturing the image on the sensor and playing it back for you on the screen or in the viewfinder. So what, you say?   This one little quirk of mirrorless cameras is the greatest gift to a photographer who wants to grow, that’s all! My habit in the past was to shoot in Aperture Priority mode, selecting the f-stop and ISO and letting the camera do some thinking for me. When I picked up a Sony A7Rii, though, I decided to expand my horizons and use the Manual mode for more than studio photography, when you are using strobes and where lighting will remain pretty much constant until you decide to change it. Set you camera for good exposure and shoot away. Using a dslr in any other kind of photography in Manual mode always seemed like an exercise in futility – set the camera, check the meter, decide on changes, snap a photo as a proof, change the settings. All this while the subject might be driving or walking or bouncing away. Not practical.

Enter the mirrorless Sony A7Rii – where you can look through the digital viewfinder and adjust the shutter speed and aperture without taking your eye from seeing what THE ACTUAL FINAL IMAGE WILL LOOK LIKE. )  This might seem trivial – but being able to do this allows a photographer to learn so much more about this seemingly simple artform and take greater control of his primary tool – the camera itself. I found myself on a shoot where a totally new thought came to me – what if I played around with aperture to see how depth of field changes may change the look. And one click of one wheel under my right thumb immediately gave me an answer – no chimping and no taking and zooming several photos to find out, all while a model is slowly freezing to death in the sub-freezing temperatures that are Utah in all its Sundance January finest! (I actually saw a temperature of 3F on the car thermometer.) And – no – this was not a shoot for fur coats or North Face outdoor gear – quite a few models were very scantily clad! But, more on that later. For now suffice it to say that I taught myself a lesson on how switching to a different platform can actually teach an old dog new tricks and can teach YOU something about our craft as well. As far as I am concerned – going to an A7Rii from my D800 is as big an evolution as going from a film slr to a dslr was 17 or so years ago. You owe it to yourself to try. Sure, there are shortcomings on every platform, but there are far more positives to offset it.

Take a look at Sony the body and lens that I am using, on Amazon:

Sony A7Rii

Sony 24-70mm f4 lens

 

Photo by kodomut

News Reporter

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