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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
I love shooting with my SLR. In fact, in general I just love shooting with SLRs. But boy, sometimes I hate carrying them around. They're really heavy and they make your neck and your shoulder hurt. That's why I have a point and shoot camera that I really like. But man, sometimes it makes me really miss my SLR. So is this it? I can either go into pain to get good photos or give up capability? No. That's not it. Hi, I'm Ben Long and on this week's Practicing Photographer we're going to look at a type of camera that sits between these two extremes. It may be a type of camera you've never seen before, but it's definitely something you should know about.
So why do I like my SLR? Well, first off, I like the image quality. That should always be the deciding factor in any camera choice. My SLR gives me incredible low light, high ISO performance. It gives me the ability to shoot very shallow depth of field. Having a nice, big sensor really can make all the difference. I also like that I can remove the lens. This gives me incredible flexibility, both creatively and for solving certain technical problems. And I like the experience of shooting with the SLR. I like the bright, clear view finder that really shows me what I'm going to get.
I like the performance, the ability to shoot quickly. And I like the control layout that gives me all of the control that I need very, very quickly. Nowadays I can get a lot of that in a point and shoot camera. This is a Sony RX100. It's got a fairly big image sensor. It does great in low light. ISO 1600 in the dark Is a completely practical thing with this camera. It's nosier than the SLR and in general image quality is a tiny bit lower. Well, maybe more than a tiny bit. The image quality is lower than on a SLR. But it's small, it's easy to carry, and it's very full-featured. I have a full set of manual controls.
I can shoot raw. I can get all of the things that I want. Except for the interchangeable lenses, the bright, clear view finder and some of the flexibility that I get with an SLR. There is a new class of camera that has come along in the last few years and that is something called a mirrorless camera. It started when Panasonic, Olympus and a couple of other companies got together and created the Micro Four Thirds consortium. This was a specification for a type of camera that lacks a mirror, an SLR of course has a mirror behind the lens that makes the viewfinder work, a Micro Four Thirds camera has interchangeable lenses just like an SLR but there is no mirror in here.
Because there's no mirror the camera can be made much, much smaller. And lenses can be made smaller as well. The downside is I no longer get that optical viewfinder. Instead, I have only live view or an electronic viewfinder. And apparently difficulty getting the lens on, that's me, that's not the camera. But, I've got a full range of features. I've got shooting modes, I've got a nice large sensor, not as big as what you'll find on an SLR but still plenty big, so I've got very good low light performance. I can shoot video, I've got a range of lenses to choose from.
In fact, if you have a Micro Four Thirds camera, you can use any micro four thirds lens no matter who makes it, so I can easily stick a. an Olympus lens on this Panasonic camera. There are also now, gobs of adapters for attaching any other kind of lens to your Micro Four Thirds camera. This, in fact, is an old Canon manual 50 millimeter lens, with an actual aperture ring on it, that has been fitted to work with this camera. That's really great for shooting video, having that aperture control. There are now a number of mirrorless camera standards that are being developed.
Here's another one. This is a Fuji. This is their X-E1. It's part of their X mount series of cameras. Again, it's got. Interchangeable lenses. This actually has a bigger sensor than Micro Four Thirds. This has a sensor that's the size of a piece of aps film. That's the same size that you would find in a Canon Rebel or one of the mid-range Nikon cameras. So a nice, big sensor, still all of my. Full manual controls, great image quality.
But check this out. It's much smaller than my SLR, and it's much lighter weight. Because the sensor is smaller, and because there is no mirror in there. Which means they can get the lens closer to the sensor. Lenses can be made very small. This is an 18 to 55. Millimeter lens so that's roughly 28 to 70 or so. Compare that to the 24 to 105 millimeter lens on my SLR. Yes this is a longer range, but still the difference in size is enormous.
I can pack a mess of these lenses in a bag along with the camera, and have a bag that weighs less. Than my SLR with just one or two lenses. So what am I giving up if I go to this? Is it really can I junk my SLR and stop going to the chiropractor because I have these lighter cameras? Yeah, depending on what you want to shoot. Image quality out of these cameras can be. Fantastic, every bit as good as an SLR. This camera shoots very well at 6400 ISO in low light. Image quality is spectacular. Because the sensor is smaller, I cannot get shallow depth or I cannot get depth of field that's as shallow as what I could get off of an SLR.
So if you're picky about that sort of thing. You are giving that up. When selection for certain systems is lower than you might have on your SLR right now, the Micro Four Thirds lens selection is vast, the Fuji X-System is still getting off the ground so it's pretty small. And finally, I don't have on this camera, an actual optical view finder. It's live view all the time. And if I'm not using the, the LCD screen on the back, then I'm using an electronic viewfinder here, like you used to have on a camcorder. And I definitely find that to be a lesser shooting experience than working with the bright clear viewfinder on an SLR.
Nevertheless, the size and weight savings are fantastic. I am shooting with this almost as much as with my SLR. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here, and perhaps make myself look stupid in the future, and give a little prediction. Point and shoot cameras are already on the way out. People are using their cell phones instead of their point and shoot cameras. And I think the dominance of the SLR is going to wane, because of this class of mirrorless cameras. And a lot of professional shooters are giving up their 5Ds, and other high end SLRs, and switching to high quality, smaller, mirrorless systems, because they're so light and easy to carry.
If you are interested in doing that, then I would recommend. The following exercises before you go camera shopping. Check the lens system or the lens selection that is available for the camera you are considering. Because the lens selection is smaller than what you might be used to on your SLR, then you need to make sure that the type of lens you're used to shooting with is available for the system that you want to. Buy. And you need to make sure that the quality that you're used to is available for those particular lenses. That's going to mean some research on the web. Downloading some images. But it's also going to mean some practice with your SLR.
It may be you can't get the exact focal length range in a zoom lens for a Fuji X-System camera that you've got on your SLR. It may be that you. can only get particular focal lengths as prime lenses. So, it's possible to kind of simulate that shooting experience on your SLR. Figure out what lenses are available. And try to simulate those focal length ranges on your SLR. Go out shooting for a day with that limitation in mind, and see if it works for you. If you feel like you can. Manage with the focal length ranges that, and the aperture ranges that are possible in the system that you're looking at.
Then it's time to get your hand on a camera and give it some practice. So check these out. If this is a new thing to you, this is an area that I really recommend exploring because this is a great alternative to both point and shoots and SLR's.
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