If the latest enthusiast and pro-level mirrorless cameras from Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm and Panasonic are an indication of things to come, then Twenty-sixteen may well herald a coming of age for mirrorless cameras. This is the year when consumers may well stop comparing mirrorless to DSLRs, but rather the other way round, wondering if their DSLRs measure up to the new mirrorless and whether it is time to switch.
With the introduction of new mirrorless cameras, many manufacturers will also claim their cameras to be mirrorless, hoping to ride the popularity wave. But don’t be fooled: though all mirrorless cameras are Interchangeable Lens Cameras (ILCs), not all ILCs are mirrorless cameras.
As their name implies, Interchangeable Lens Cameras (ILCs) are cameras that accept interchangeable lenses. They include DSLRs (and DSLTs), mirrorless cameras, rangefinder-style cameras and any other cameras that accept interchangeable lenses.
So, as you consider a mirrorless camera (and new ones are just around the corner), just what are mirrorless cameras?
We need to go back to the intention of the manufacturers (in this case, Panasonic and Olympus) when they introduced the first mirrorless: to build a DSLR-level camera that performed at a DSLR-level but without the bulk of the mirror (and accompanying viewfinder prism). This allowed them to build smaller and lighter cameras and lenses, as well as take full advantage of digital technology.
Of course, the first mirrorless cameras themselves at first struggled to meet this criteria, but it was just a technological challenge that has now been comfortably met and even surpassed.
Other terms used to refer to mirrorless cameras are:
– Compact System Cameras (CSCs). Because mirrorless cameras are system cameras and usually smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts, the term compact system cameras suit them well. However, though all mirrorless cameras are CSCs, not all CSCs are mirrorless cameras. Some CSCs have very tiny image sensors that are unable to perform at a DSLR-level and so do not qualify as mirrorless.
– Digital Single Lens Mirrorless (DSLM). A very smart name because it replaces the “R”eflex in DSLR with “M”irrorless in DSLM.
– EVIL. A popular name way back but not used anymore. It stands for Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens, and put the emphasis on the electronic viewfinder (EVF) that replaced the mirror/optical viewfinder(OVF). However, a mirrorless may lack an EVF altogether, relying instead on its high resolution LCD for viewing and composition.
What type of mirrorless cameras are there? Full-frame mirrorless, APS-C mirrorless and Micro Four Thirds (M43) mirrorless all indicate the image sensor size within each type of cameras. The bigger the sensor size, the better the image quality but the larger (and heavier) the camera and lenses. You won’t find much difference between the APS-C and the M43 sensors, and most mirrorless cameras currently use one or the other sensor, and they also make some of the most compact mirrorless cameras. Full-frame mirrorless are new and expensive. The smallest sensor size you’d want to go down to is 1-inch sensors that allow faster performance but not better image quality.