Mirrorless cameras – shape of things to come

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SLR type cameras have firmly dominated the second part of the 20th century. They proved to be the best camera design for widest range of applications.

The ability to see what the lens sees in the viewfinder was the closest thing to final result (image) at the time. You could preview focus, DOF and exactly see what fits the frame (no parallax error like rangefinder style cameras). Yet, everything else remained a mystery. Is the exposition just right, how the scene will look like on black and white film and what if I missed the focus just a little bit but enough to ruin shallow DOF portrait…

At the advent of digital age, 35mm film was simply replaced with digital sensor, but the basic way of composing and taking the shot remained the same. Light and focus are still measured on a sensor separate than the one that will record final image.

Up to several years ago, I never thought that anything that could replace DSLR as my main camera. Sure, there were some nice compact cameras with good image quality, but nothing close to large sensor DSLR and still they all had fixed lenses.

But then, Panasonic made the first bold move with micro four-thirds DMC-G1 camera in the second half of 2008. It was the first true all-digital camera without mirror or any type of optical viewfinder. Instead, shots were framed using LCD or built in electronic viewfinder. The camera could be used only in live-view mode which previewed the final image before it was taken. That was a real step forward from outdated SLR styled way of composing shots. At the time, there were only two native lenses to be used on G1, but it was clear this concept might be the digital camera future.

Above: Cutaway diagram of DSLR and mirroless type cameras. Notice much simpler light path and construction of a mirrorless camera.

Four years later, market is crowded with mirrorless cameras. At this point every manufacturer has released its vision of mirrorless camera. Earlier this year, mirrorless cameras have even surpassed DSLRS market share in Japan, and the rest of the world is following.

Let’s go through pros and cons of mirrorless systems (next page).

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