Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding mirrorless cameras, part of Introduction to Photography.
- In addition to SLRs, there's another category of camera that also offers interchangeable lenses and larger sensors than what you'll typically find in a point and shoot camera. People struggled for a while with what to call this category of camera, but the name mirrorless seems to have finally stuck. Now that you know what an SLR is, the term mirrorless should make some sense. A mirrorless camera does not have a mirror in front of the sensor. That means there's no need for a prism up above; there's no need for a mirror chamber inside.
The lack of prism and mirror means that the whole camera body can be made much smaller than an SLR; however, without a mirror and prism, there's no way to have a view finder that looks through the single lens that's on the camera. Instead a mirrorless camera has an electronic view finder, what is often called live view. This is the kind of view finder that you have on a camcorder and on some point and shoot cameras. Your cell phone camera has one, and live view is an option on many SLRs. A sensor is used to capture an image in real time and that's fed to the view finder or the screen on the back of the camera.
Now as I mentioned, because they don't need a mirror chamber in front of the sensor, or a pentaprism on top of the camera, mirrorless bodies can be made much smaller than an SLR body. Without the large mirror chamber inside the body, the lens doesn't need to project as big of an image circle so the lenses can also be made smaller than their SLR counterparts. All of this adds up to an overall system that can be dramatically lighter, smaller, and easier to carry than an SLR and a bag full of lenses. When choosing between an SLR and a mirrorless camera, your biggest concern will be the view finder.
The optical view finder of an SLR is great and bright light; it allows you to see the full range of highlights and shadows in a scene. Electronic view finders can be more difficult to see in bright light, but show much more in low light than an SLR view finder. But they also might obscure shadow details which can make composition a bit more complicated. On the other hand, they show a much more accurate view of what the final image will look like. Both SLRs and mirrorless cameras have their advantages and disadvantages, and both are capable of producing professional grade work. Before you choose, though, you might want to give a little thought to lenses.
Then it's time to take to the field and examine the rest of the factors that influence the quality of your photographs, including light metering, focus, composition, and flash. Ben also introduces techniques for shooting portraits and shows what you can do with an image editor in post. Last but not least, he'll provide a roadmap for learning more with the lynda.com extensive library of photography training. The path to becoming a better photographer begins with the first step. Start here!
- Exploring cameras and lenses
- Understanding media
- Controlling exposure
- Composing with autofocus
- Shooting portraits
- Understanding form and geometry
- Exporting and editing digital images