Why I sold mirrorless and went back to DSLR?

I have been and still am the strong supporter of mirrorless camera concept and systems from its very first days, yet recently I’ve made a transition that contradicts my own opinions. I’ve sold my Sony NEX mirrorless camera with a few lenses and got a traditional full frame DSLR. So what’s the catch?

Price

“Affordable” full-frame DSLR’s have become very attractive lately due to quite low prices. For comparison, Olympus E-M1 retails at around $1200 while Canon 6D will set you back at slightly more expensive $1600. E-M1 with three high quality zoom lenses two of which are still not even available (7-14 and 45-150) plus 12-45 would cost in a $5500 range. For that price you can get Canon 6D or Nikon D610 with three equally good lenses and still you get larger and better image sensor.

Battery life

Single battery in a semi-pro or pro level DSLR can provide around 1000 shots on a single charge on average. Mirrorless cameras top out at around 350 shots.

Lens choice

It is not that there are no lenses for mirrorless cameras; micro 4/3 system has around 40 lenses, NEX around 15 and Fuji also has some nice glass. The problem is those lenses must be bough new. Used market for these systems is almost non-existent. On the other side, Canon and Nikon glass can be bought at any time for a fistful of dollars.

Operation speed

Mirrorless cameras boast with high speed shooting yet they are slower in real life than DSLR. The problem is mainly in the way they work – constant live-view. Good DSLR can take a shot in less than half a second after you flick the power switch; mirrorless needs at least a second or two to wake up sensor and LCD/EVF and take a shot.

All settings are adjusted via LCD interface and some cameras have animated menu system or simply a slight but perceptible delay between pressing a button and menu appearing on LCD display. DSLR response in instant.

System compatibility (Sony rant)

When I spend $1500-$2000 on a nice F/2.8 zoom lens, I want to use it for the next 15-20 years. I want a camera that will be compatible with a flash unit that will come on the market in the year 2028. Only Canon and Nikon can guarantee you that at this point.

Olympus users got screwed over when the company gave up on 4/3 lens mount and went full mirrorless. Yes you can use 4/3 lenses with adapters but AF speed is not acceptable and it’s really awkward holding 35-100 F/2 on a small OMD.

Sony is number one when it comes to abandoning users and “reinventing the wheel” though. Alpha mount users were forced to switch to EVF since Sony decided not to produce OVF cameras. There is a lot of users who do not want to use EVF and this is simply theirs choice.

NEX (APS-C sensor) system was gradually developed and looked like it has future but now I’m not so sure. When A7, A7r and now A7s arrived it is obvious Sony will soon abandon advanced APS-C NEX bodies and will not develop higher quality crop lenses anymore but will try to force everyone except basic entry-level users to go full-frame. That means you will have to sell all your APS-C E-mount lenses at one point in the future (they are worthless on A7 since they do not cover full-frame) and buy everything new once again. Sony made four (4) different adapters so you could attach various Sony A-mount lenses to various Sony E-mount bodies, all of them with various downsides. This is not a system, this is a LEGO set.

And for the end, Sony abandoned Minolta hot-shoe flash mount and started using classic hot-shoe on all cameras (NEX and SLT). So if you bought two or three flash units for Minolta flash mount, you cannot connect them on any new Alpha on NEX body. Yes, there are adapters but they are actually not an option since they are easy too mislay and will probably develop loose electric contact over time. Can you imagine going to wedding session and realizing you cannot find you flash adapter in the bag? So after searching it manically for 5 minutes you find it and start shooting only to realize the sucker looses contact/communications between camera and flash when you tilt the camera to portrait position? Thank you, but no thank you Sony.

For comparison, Canon introduced EF lens mount in 1987. Any film camera, lens or flash unit produced in 1987 works with any digital camera, lens or flash produced in 2014. Sony stuff becomes incompatible in just a few years time.

So to summarize…

I still think mirrorless cameras are a good concept and will gradually gain more market share. Micro 4/3 is the best mirrorless system so far but I cannot afford to buy all the lenses brand new at retail prices. Sony has also some nice products but they are a big “NO” for me since Sony has a tendency to end product line and replace it with “the next big thing” or something more profitable (Play station related probably).

Therefore, I was left to choose between Canon and Nikon. Both companies have sold millions of cameras and lenses and cannot allow themselves to end product line or change a lens mount. A move like that would result in uproar from professional photography community as well as all the news agencies in the world.

So I bought a Canon 6D: excellent ergonomics, excellent photos, excellent videos, supreme high ISO and 25 years (100 million lenses) of AF lenses out in the street. I could have bought another Sony or Olympus or whatever: I would probably take equally good photographs but it just wasn’t worth the fuss.

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One thought on “Why I sold mirrorless and went back to DSLR?

  1. I see where you are coming from but you are hardly fair or accurate. With the exception of the Pentax *istD and the odd Fuji DSLR you can’t use the flash from your 35mm SLR on DSLRs except in manual mode (if the flash has it). Film flashes measure the light reflected off the film plane to control flash exposure while digital flashes use a pre-flash to calculate exposure. Also your example of backwards compatability is pretty poor, Canon abandoned all their existing users including a significant share of the professional market by dumping the FD lens mount to introduce the EF lens mount. Nikon still use a version of the F mount with almost any Nikon lens usable on their profile and semi-products bodies. Pentax go one better since all their DSLRs can use any K mount lens and even their predecessors the M42 screw mount lenses with an adaptor.

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