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The Death of DSLR

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The following is a preview from Steve Anchell’s forthcoming book, The Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera Sourcebook, scheduled for publication by Focal Press in 2018.

The Revolution Has Begun

There’s a revolution happening in photography. While not as earthshaking as the changeover from film to digital, it’s nonetheless every bit as important. The revolution is the change from digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras to mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILC).

By MILC I am referring to compact cameras that don’t have mirrors that flip out of the way when an exposure is made, figure 1. And though similar to compact cameras, the distinguishing feature is the ability of MILCs to interchange lenses.


Figure 1 SLR cameras have a mirror (2) that flips out of the way so that light can reach the sensor. Because MILCs don’t have a mirror mechanism or an optical viewfinder (3) they can be made smaller and lighter.

What is a Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera?

Mirrorless cameras have been around since the beginning of photography. In fact, all cameras were mirrorless until the introduction of the Zeiss Ikon VEB Contax S film camera in 1949. This camera featured an eye-level optical viewfinder that, with the aid of an internal mirror, allowed the photographer to see through the lens, figure 2.

Figure 2 The Zeiss Ikon VEB Contax S introduced in 1949 was the first camera to feature an eye-level optical viewfinder.

Prior to the Contax S, photographers either composed and focused with a magnifier on the back of a large format camera, or composed and focused through a viewing lens mounted above the taking lens on a twin lens reflex camera, figure 3, or composed and focused through a window to the side of the taking lens in a viewfinder camera, figure 4. By viewing through the lens of the Contax S the photographer could more accurately see what they would record.

The new style of handheld camera became known as a single lens reflex camera. The use of the word “reflex” in the name has nothing to do with the mirror flipping out of the way at the moment the shutter is released. Reflex is a physics term for reflecting light, so the word refers to the mirror, which is why it also appears in the name of TLRs, where the mirror doesn’t move.

MILC vs. DSLR

A MILC camera can do anything a DSLR can do, but a DSLR cannot do everything a mirrorless camera can. The only thing that holds mirrorless cameras back is the choices made by the camera makers. The lack of a feature or an inadequate function, such as slow autofocus (AF) has more to do with poor design than the lack of technology. This is one reason it’s always a good idea to check out current camera reviews on reputable web sites such as dpreview.com.

Both MILC and DSLR cameras have these things in common:

Image stabilization (IS) for low light and handheld photography. IS can be found in either the camera body or the lens, and sometimes both, depending on the system used. IS within the camera is usually better than in the lens, with the added advantage that it doesn’t make a sound that can be picked up while recording audio as does motor-driven lens-based IS. Most MILCs have IS in the body. DSLRs’ are mostly found in the lens.

In addition, higher end MILCs, such as the Sony A7R II and a6500, and the Olympus OM-D EM-10 II, have incorporated 5-axis stabilization in the body of the camera, further enhancement for low light and slow shutter speeds, a feature not found on DSLRs.

Auto focus (AF). There are two types of AF, phase detection and contrast detection. Phase detection is faster and more accurate, especially in low-light situations. When MILCs were first introduced they relied on slower and less accurate contrast detection. It didn’t take long for phase detection to be introduced into MILCs. Most MILCs, and some DSLRs, now have “hybrid” systems combining contrast autofocus with phase-detection pixels to further refine focus.

Because MILCs don’t have a mirror, the AF points can be located directly on the sensor, allowing continuous follow-focus, even while recording a video. With few exceptions, DSLR phase detection AF points are located on a separate sensor, making it difficult or impossible to follow focus when using video mode. This may change as DSLRs attempt to incorporate advances in MILC technology. In the meantime, MILCs can track subject motion during video and long exposures. I’ll discuss this feature further, and compare it with the advantages of manual focus, in the chapter on video.

Both systems can achieve excellent still image quality, it’s all in the size and quality of the sensor, micro lenses placed above photo sites, filters used over the sensor, and the number of megapixels, with more not necessarily being better, depending on the application, and the image processing system.

Video image quality is another matter. As with still image quality, both systems can produce high definition (HD) and 4K video. However, DSLR makers currently are only incorporating 4K into their high end pro-line cameras, whereas 4K is not only in top-of-the-line MILC, but is rapidly making its way into less expensive models. The result is that many professional videographers have already made the change from using DSLR for video to MILC.

In case you’re wondering, there’s no reason 4K can’t be used in any camera, it’s just that DSLR makers use 4K to differentiate their pro cameras from their mid-range enthusiast cameras.

When they were first introduced by Olympus in 2009, MILCs relied on Live View (LV) LCD screens on the back of the camera. When electronic viewfinders (EVF) were introduced to MILC they worked fine outdoors or in bright light, but were nearly impossible to use in low-light situations. This has changed. The current line of MILCs have EVF systems that are as good or better than the optical viewfinders found in DSLRs.

Image and video playback, along with image sharing, is roughly equivalent between DSLR and MILC. Both camera types can display images on their screens or using an HDMI output. Many now include Wi-Fi for sending images to smartphones for quick image sharing with clients and all your best friends on Facebook.

The advantage of MILC over DSLR cameras.

MILCs are still in the early stage of development. As already mentioned, any apparent lack has more to do with poor design than a fault in the system—unless you’re into conspiracy theory and believe that the major players are holding back technology to sell more cameras every six months.

Two examples of faulty design are the one mentioned above: poor AF performance in the original MILCs that relied entirely on contrast detection and slow fps and small buffers (burst speed).

Both issues have been successfully addressed. With the introduction of hybrid phase and contrast detection focusing systems AF is both faster and more accurate than most DSLRs. The second is a record setting frames per second, and increased buffering, as can be found in the Sony a6500.

EVFs allow for the inclusion of many features to enhance both exposure and focus that cannot be included in an optical viewfinder due to technical limitations. These include Peak focusing, advanced exposure modes, and live image histograms. EVFs can also simulate the exposure and white balance the camera will capture. I’ll tell you more about this in Beyond the Basics.

Because there’s no mirror to flip out of the way, MILCs can expose more frames per second (fps) than DSLRs. The 20MP Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II can expose an unprecedented 60 fps in Single AF mode, and 18 fps with continuous shooting. While other MILCs are not nearly as fast, it’s just a matter of time before they catch up, whereas DSLRs have about hit their ceiling at 12 fps.

If you’ve ever spent a day lugging a DSLR around, you’ll appreciate the compact size and light weight of mirrorless cameras. The body of a DSLR must be bigger so that the mirror can flip up without scraping the back of the lens. Losing the mirror and the mechanism that goes with it helps to significantly lighten the size and weight of the camera, figure 1.

For the pro with a lifetime investment in lenses perhaps the single most important feature of MILCs is their ability to accept lenses from virtually any known lens company. The reason they can do this is due to the lack of a mirror, which will be discussed in further detail later in the book.

Camera shake, due to the mirror, is eliminated entirely by MILC. Even without 5-point image stabilization, a MILC can be used handheld at slower shutter speeds than the most advanced DSLR. This is a definite plus for anyone photographing in low light or action, such as sports and wildlife. Just as important for the studio and portrait photographer, the lack of a mirror effectively eliminates the vibration caused by shutter speeds between ½ and 1/30 second when used on a tripod.

While both DSLRs and MILCs use histograms as an integral means for determining correct exposure, due to enhanced EVF technology MILCs have features, such as Zebra, both in the viewfinder and in LV mode to make exposure even faster and more accurate.

Figure 5 If your concern is battery life, carry more batteries. The three DSLR batteries, at top, are good for approximately 3,000 exposures, while the six MILC are only good for 2,100 exposures. Anyone who makes more than 2,100 exposures a day on a regular basis needs to seriously work on their technique.

Disadvantages of MILC

To discredit MILC, online forums and magazine articles, both print and online, make a lot of the limitations of MILC cameras. But in all the articles and reviews I have read, it all boils down to four things: battery life, lack of accessories, limited lens selection, and poor AF tracking performance.

Because of their smaller size, MILCs have smaller batteries. Not only that but the EVF and the LV LCD drain batteries faster than optical viewfinders. A great deal of nothing has been made about this by diehard DSLR users, and by Canon and Nikon, as it is the only area in which MILCs appear to be technically lacking. The reason it’s a non-issue is the same reason it’s a problem in the first place: the batteries are small. That means instead of carrying three spare large batteries for a DSLR in your pocket or camera bag you carry six small batteries, figure 4. I’ve been doing this since my first DSLR camera. In Beyond the Basics I’ll tell you how to get ten or more hours out of your MILC.

Some photographers decry the lack of accessories for MILC—though I have yet to see any of them list an accessory they’re lacking. Curious, I went online to find out exactly which accessories are missing. The first site I visited listed 25 essential accessories for DSLR cameras, http://list25.com/25-essential-dslr-camera-accessories/, in case you want to check it out for yourself. Among other things, the list includes white balance cards, reflectors, lens pen, microfiber cloth, extra batteries, and a, uh…Pocket Rocket. Obviously, that’s not the list I wanted.

Next I visited the Nikon site to see what accessories aren’t available for MILC. I found an impressive array of battery packs for different model cameras. Of course, if three batteries can deliver more than 3000 photos, why is a battery pack necessary?

Under “Brackets, Adapters, and Couplings” there are two listed; one of them is a hot shoe adapter. There are thirty-nine eyepieces shown, primarily eyecups for different cameras. There is, however, a rectangular right angle viewfinder. I used to have one I used with a Nikon F3 for copy work. But even though this is an accessory not made for a MILC, it’s something you don’t need as MILCs have a tilting screen. In fact, figures 2, 3, and 5 were made using a MILC mounted on a copy stand with the cameras and batteries lying flat on a white card. I used the tilting screen on a MILC to compose and focus.

There were also 12 miscellaneous accessories. For example, I found a UF-8 connector cover for stereo mini-plug cables. Not a clue what it does, but it’s good to know I can get one for my Nikon D750 should the need arise. Beyond that there are cables, cords, releases, microphones, and even “extended service coverage” offered as accessories.

So, where are the vaunted accessories only available for DSLRS I’ve read about in dpreview.com, techradar.com, tomsguide.com, and Digital PhotoPro Magazine?

The third criticism of MILC is the limited range of lenses currently available. This is the only criticism that may hold some validity—until you consider it more closely. DSLRs have been around for sixty-seven years. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lenses available from fisheyes to extreme telephotos. Not only that, but most pros own more than one lens, depending on their specialty. For example, both sport and wildlife photographers require extreme telephoto lenses, 600mm and longer. Architectural photographers often require wide-angle tilt/shift lenses.

But unless they have specific needs for their area of expertise, most professional photographers never use, much less own, more than three lenses in their entire career. These would include a wide-angle, normal, and medium telephoto, either fixed focal length or zoom. Throw in a macro, if you feel the need for one, and you’re good to go.

MILC has only been around for seven years. Already Olympus, Panasonic, and Fuji have begun to build an extensive line of dedicated full-featured lenses, with Sony not far behind. Tamron and Sigma are also moving rapidly ahead with high-quality lenses for MILC. Not only that, but there’s an impressive array of adapters available that will allow almost any Nikon, Canon, Minolta, or Pentax lens to be used on a MILC without loss of function. We’ll discuss this more in Beyond the Basics.

When one considers the many advantages of MILC, and the advances in technology and functionality Olympus, Fuji, Panasonic, and Sony have made, it becomes clear that the revolution in cameras has already begun. It’s only a matter of time.

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Industry Insiders

Report: Dramatic Drop in Sales Canon Cameras

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According to a report by Fstoppers, Canon recently announced that sales of their DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras have dropped by a staggering 20% in the first quarter of 2019. This dramatic drop in sales has caused Canon to reduce their sales forecast for the year by over 14%.

This story is developing…

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Industry Insiders

Finding and Writing Grants for Working Artists

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How can a photographer get a grant, and what kind of photographs do you have to take? This article will explain it and give you resources to finding and writing your first grant proposal.

The images for this page are from a young professional photographer who goes by the moniker, Shiva, for his art work. His images reflect some of the core issues in photography. Like most photographers, Shiva must decide whether to sell images or find funding for these images, photo excursions, materials and more. How does an artist-photographer create an income?

Believe it: a simple Google search can be incredibly helpful. Most grants come from non-profit organizations, so pay attention to the web address; while not a hard and fast rule, more likely than not, most foundations will have a “.org” website as opposed to a “.com.” If you are unsure about a site, do your due diligence before sending information or money.          

Another excellent resource for searching grants is The Foundation Center, nonprofit which advances awareness of philanthropies around the globe. From their homepage, you can search any topic you can think of to source pre-vetted grant foundations without worrying about their legitimacy. Another such resource, Praxis Center for Aesthetic Studies of which I am a founder, offers an extensive resource page where you can find open calls, residencies, and of course, grants. The page is curated regularly and I highlight a few opportunities each week.

Of course, it’s no secret that you will not get every grant you apply for, so while quality is key when submitting a grant, quantity also plays a significant role. The actual writing of a grant is an acquired skill, and over time you will become more comfortable with the process. That said, if there is one thing that can make or break your application before you are even out of the gate, it is failing to read through your grant and follow the instructions to the letter. If your grant asks for a 500-word statement explaining how your work relates to the mission statement of the foundation, do not under any circumstances fail to deliver exactly this. Be sure you know the grant inside and out and do not fail to submit exactly what you are being asked for in a timely manner. The fastest way to be out of the running is to fail to follow instructions, and every grant is different.

That being said, not every grant will be right for you. Perhaps your work simply doesn’t relate to the mission statement of the foundation offering a grant you may have found. That is okay, and it is better for you to move on than to try fitting a square peg into a round hole.

As a working artist, finding and writing grants must be part of your regular practice. You must give it some level of priority, because this is a true part of any artist’s bread and butter. Once you get started, and once you begin to feel more comfortable with the process, you will be finding and writing grants on your own, and won’t even remember why that ever seemed so overwhelming in the first place.

Brainard Carey is an artist, educator, and author. He has written three books for artists on developing their professional careers. He hosts a radio series on Yale University radio where he interviews artists, curators, and writers. He also founded Praxis Center for Aesthetic Studies, which offers classes for artists to develop their careers, from finding a gallery to writing a grant.

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Focus On Marketing

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The days of meeting clients face to face are dwindling, now that social media has taken over as the number one marketing platform for growing a successful photography business. So, if social media is so hugely important, why do so many photographers continually get it wrong?


All too often, photographers don’t fully understand the concept of social media. But when you begin to explore the concept, it’s not that hard to get your head around. The clue for a start is in the name—social media.
Advertising has changed dramatically; we must no longer be set on trying to sell to our prospects, and this is where social media differs from printed press advertising. To sell on social media, you must first earn the trust of your followers. Engage with them using informative and useful content that they will like and interact with. That, quite simply, is the “social” part of social media. First build a following by earning viewers’ trust, and in return they will develop an admiration for your brand and become your loyal community of prospective customers. Once you have a loyal following, they will buy from you, review you, recommend you, and share your content with their own following of social media friends.


Now that you understand the first rule (don’t oversell) you are ready for the second: be sure to post content that is relevant to your social media audience every single day. I find it a lot easier to do this by scheduling my posts on Facebook every Monday for the full week ahead. To some photographers, that may sound like a lot of posting, but don’t worry; it doesn’t have to be strictly your original content. In fact, far from it. Try sharing other content from the Internet, but always add a few lines of your own comments above the shared article. For instance, if you are a wedding photographer, you could share someone else’s post of the latest trends in wedding table decorations or amazing ideas for themed wedding cakes, adding a few of your own suggestions.


Another great way to enhance engagement is to start a good debate on your page by asking a question. I once uploaded an image of two wedding cakes and beneath it wrote, “I’m a traditionalist myself; you can’t beat a good fruitcake at a wedding. What do you prefer, fruit or sponge?” It was surprising how much interaction this comment caused. The brides on my page were certainly passionate about their preferred style of wedding cake!
Don’t give in to the temptation to upload too many images in each post. For maximum engagement, try uploading two or three images from, say, the bridal preparation on the wedding morning, and tell a story about those images. People love stories on social media, and by tagging the bride and her bridesmaids in the photos, you’ve created an immediate audience. Tag the venue in the post along with a compliment, and again you’re creating a second generation of audience. The following day, you can upload a few more images from the same wedding, perhaps this time from the ceremony, telling another story about that part of the day. As before, tag the guests in the photos. Feed your audience with small, bite-sized chunks, and at the end of each post, you can say, “more to come tomorrow, so be sure to keep following.”


To really boost your page and website with search engines, try adding a few keywords to the bottom of your post along with your website address. For example, “fine art wedding photography New York, www.yourwebsite.com.” This way, every time your post is shared, Google recognises that as a piece of authority for your website. The more authority you receive, the higher the search engines will rank your website and social media pages.


Earlier we discussed posting relevant content on your page. Never forget who your audience is, and write for them and them alone. The second biggest mistake photographers make on social media is not posting their entire content to just one audience. Use the “Insights” tab at the top of your Facebook fan page to gain an insight as to the demographic of your current audience. To do this, select “Insights” and then navigate to the “People” tab on the left-hand side bar. Here you can find useful information about the age, gender, and locality of your audience. For example, on my own wedding photography page, I know that my audience is 92% female aged between 22-34 with the majority living in the Northeast of England.
Over the years, I’ve grown to know my audience; for instance, because of my pricing bracket I find a lot of my followers will react to posts about fine dining, country getaway breaks, or romantic holiday destinations. They are also interested in fashion and designer brands, and I can always guarantee likes and shares if I post content about pets or newborn portraiture. In contrast, commercial photography would likely be of no interest to my audience whatsoever, so why would I post it?


Should you wish to showcase your commercial or fine art photography, LinkedIn is the ideal forum to do so. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to create one. The more niche you can make your profile and the more targeted your audience, the greater the results you’ll achieve.


I personally work with hundreds of different clients from many industries around the world, helping them turn their marketing around and grow a large and profitable following of clients via social media. However, on LinkedIn I market my marketing and mentoring services to photographers alone. In fact, because I choose to ignore everyone else and niche my profile and content solely to marketing photography, the results have been nothing short of amazing. Each month I receive hundreds of messages from photographers who are keen to turn their business around and want to learn about my services.


To really work your magic on LinkedIn, you must be totally niche as mentioned previously. This could be great if, say, you are a wedding photographer, but you also offer commercial photography service. Keep your wedding photography on your Facebook page and build your LinkedIn profile around your commercial photography only. But you can go even deeper than that.

LinkedIn works much better when you can target a market directly. For example, if you’ve a passion for cars or a good portfolio of work based around motor dealerships, then consider photography for the motor trade and base your entire profile around this niche, and become the “go-to person” for this kind of photography. Post only content and images based around the motor industry; classic cars, motorsports, enthusiast rallies and such, and connect with as many people as you can in this market. This could be dealerships, manufacturers, race teams and sponsors. Just make sure you connect with the decision-makers, such as the MDs, managers, and business owners. You can also target enthusiasts, private collectors, and owner clubs and groups on LinkedIn as well.


To be a real success with social media, your first step is to consistently post interesting and informative content that your audience will love, always go niche and write for your audience alone and no one else. Once you’ve built up a following, analyse your audience to allow you to further refine the content you choose to share. Be sure to post daily, and only ever post one sales post for every seven to ten info posts. Build trust before trying to sell to your audience, and encourage your followers to leave five-star reviews every time they use your services.

Jeff Brown is a professional photographer and marketing consultant living in the UK. For more than 15 years, he has helped others by combining his knowledge and experience into an information-packed Skype Success Mentoring and Marketing Masterclass for photographers who are serious about turning their hobby into a success story. For more information and to learn how Jeff can help you develop a winning marketing strategy, email at info@focusonmarketing.co.uk. And for more ideas, check his LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/jeffbrownphotographymarketing.

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