I strongly believe that there is way too much hype around mirrorless cameras. While they seem to be a marketing success, they are also way too overhyped. With YouTubers switching to mirrorless for seemingly no reason, it sometimes is hard to understand the motive of buying mirrorless beyond just owning a newer model.
I’m writing this from a commercial fashion photographer standpoint. I also work with stills only. I am not qualified to talk about video as much as I am to talk about stills. For video, I am told mirrorless cameras are better. They are the closest you can get to cinema quality. Many of my video friends are working exclusively on mirrorless cameras. But for stills, I think they are way too overhyped. Here’s why:
I don’t pay close attention to all the gear news and specs of all brands. I do pay attention to what Canon is doing, though, but that’s because it’s the brand I use. Should a client come to me with a weird request, I want to vaguely know what camera technology can do so that I can give an accurate estimate, treatment, etc.
The R5 was, of course, a camera that caught my attention. Why? Well, because it was everywhere. YouTube was full of it, so were all photography websites. Article after article praising the R5 as the new breakthrough in photographic technology. In reality, however, the R5 is a very overrated camera. Often that comes down to being misled by some information on the internet. While I am not a knight fighting with all the lies on the internet, I do believe that the amount of hype around mirrorless cameras leaves some people broke, while others obsess over what they don’t have and lose motivation to create with what they currently have.
I obsessed over gear
Let me get personal here. When I started, I had an EOS 300 film camera and a few rolls of Kodak Gold. No, I didn’t start in the ’90s, nor am I a photographer only shooting on film. I started in the digital age, but I couldn’t afford a digital camera. I was left devastated when I had to buy a lens for $40. On the one hand, that was awesome because I obsessed over each frame I took, knowing how much it costs me, but on the other hand, I also obsessed with the 1DX cameras. And who wouldn’t? I remember going to WEX in London and seeing one for the first time. You bet I was stuck there for quite some time. My gear obsession was started by nothing else but the internet. Seeing thousands upon thousands of pictures of people getting “bangers” with their 1DX cameras, I was obsessing about what I could do with a camera like that.
Hype or good?
Now, with the inadequate amount of hype around mirrorless, this is even worse as more and more photographers spend their time looking at camera spec sheets than improving themselves. To save you some time, I looked at spec sheets, which resulted in me genuinely thinking that mirrorless cameras are way too overrated. Let’s go one by one.
A common mirrorless camera is around 40-60 Megapixels. That captures a lot of detail and is a great benefit when printing. As someone who owns a Canon 5Ds (50 megapixels), I can say that if the glass is bad, or the photo is slightly soft, it will show. It just doesn’t make sense to use such high-resolution cameras without good lenses. If you’re shooting with flash, you need to have good lights. If the flash duration is short, it will show. Hence, for the ones starting out, a mirrorless camera capturing 60 megapixels is useless. For most applications, the high resolution could be a detrimental factor.
Dynamic range and color depth
This is another common reason mirrorless cameras are hyped a lot. However, they are all fairly close to their DSLR counterparts that were out 4 years ago. Sure there’s a bit more, as there ought to be, but does it really make a difference? Probably not. If you need dynamic range and color depth, and accuracy, you need to look at medium format camera systems (spoiler: you can have an amazing medium format camera for less than one EOS R5).
100% autofocus coverage with often over a thousand points to choose from is quite radical. Is that autofocus better than the one in DSLRs? Yes, I can’t deny that. And as certain YouTubers would claim:
“mirrorless autofocus helps with subjects in strange spaces such as corners of the image. The points squeezed in the center of the screen on the DSLR are just terrible. They miss and there is only 60 or so of them”
But does having more points help you? Yes, in some situations, it will, but you need to know Composition and probably have a lens with accurate autofocus to use them. An R5 with some amateur lens won’t have the best autofocus. There will always be the lens bottleneck.
A mirrorless camera often sells for above $1,000, if not $4,000. That is a significant amount of money. The same amount of money can pay you for quite a lot of education, test shoots, lenses, and travel to locations around your country. Although I don’t speak with 40 years of experience behind me, I strongly believe that there is always something new to discover, learn and explore. Photography, in one way, is just an exploration of different possibilities. What else is possible with your equipment? A friend of mine likes to say that there are infinite possibilities in photography. I agree with that.
Mirrorless or no mirrorless — the choice is yours. For me, they are a new technology that has a lot of potential and will be the future of camera technology. The only negative I see is the EVF, as my eyes do get tired after staring at it for 8 hours. However, at the moment, the hype surrounding them is inflating the specs by a lot. Why? Well, because camera brands need to make sales. Knowing how much some photographers obsess over gear, paired with the power of internet advertising, it is easy to make a ceratin camera popular. Buying into the hype around a new piece of technology is often a poor idea. So far, buying into the hype around technology has led me down the wrong path, as it did with many other photographers.