Q. I know you are a proponent of the mirrorless camera systems in general, and the Micro Four Thirds camera system in particular. Why do you think the market tends to gravitate toward Canon and Nikon digital SLRs?
TOM HAMILTON, Pittsburgh
A. I think it is a matter of incumbency and what product came first, as well as the marketing clout of Canon and Nikon. I think if Micro Four Thirds products were sold next to the single lens reflex cameras in big-box stores and you had a competent salesperson there demonstrating them and showing samples of the image quality, you would see things change quickly.
If you are shooting sports, I think SLRs are the best tool, and wedding photographers benefit from full frame and its ultra-high resolution and low-light capability. But after living with both systems for years, I am confident that most consumers and photographers are best served with a mirrorless system.
I try to educate people about this the best I can. My favorite camera reviewer, Steve Huff, makes no bones about it himself. If this subject interests you, I suggest you check out his site at www.stevehuffphoto.com.
He prefers Micro Four Thirds over any APS-C digital SLR system and specifically names Olympus as his favorite camera company. He recently did a comparison test comparing the image quality of Olympus Micro Four Thirds to APS-C and full-frame cameras, and Olympus came out on top. He attributes it to superior optics and overall superior technology in the cameras.
To consider incumbency, let’s put the situation in reverse and say that mirrorless came first and then someone tried to introduce the SLR and its flapping mirror and optical viewfinder later. Consider the potential sales pitch:
“You know that mirrorless camera outfit you are using, the one designed as a digital camera system from the start? I’d like to introduce you to an alternative to replace it. It is called the digital SLR and it is designed around a film camera system and lens mount introduced in either 1959 or 1987. Because it is adapted from a film camera system, it is much bigger and heavier than what you are using now. The lenses, especially, are bigger, heavier and probably do not perform as well as the lenses you are using now.
“With this system you get a real-time optical viewfinder that is big and bright, though it probably shows only 95 percent of the captured image, unlike the exact 100 percent of a mirrorless camera. You can get a ‘full frame’ sensor as a big as a piece of 35mm film, but unfortunately most people will not buy that version and instead opt for a smaller APS-C sensor that changes the effective focal length of the lenses.
“With the APS-C sensor size your wide-angle lenses will function as normal lenses, though the optical designs are not optimized as such. Your normal lenses will act as short telephotos, and your telephotos as super telephotos. If you want that full-frame sensor, the camera will be very expensive and will need big, heavy and expensive professional optics to get the best results. Many of the system’s lenses won’t even work perfectly, if at all, on your full-frame camera.
“You will have to give up some things with this new system. Do you know how you can perfectly adjust exposure when looking through the viewfinder of your mirrorless camera, so you never get subjects that are too dark? That ability is gone now. So is the ability to preview digital filters, color balance and special effects in the viewfinder. You know how you can also look through the viewfinder while recording video, viewing the subject while holding the camera nice and steady? That ability is gone, too. The mirror is a moving part that can fail and it will need cleaning occasionally.
“Sounds great, doesn’t it? How would you like to pay for your bigger and heavier digital camera system based on a 25- to 50 year-old lens mount and form factor? The exercise lugging it around will do you good! Cash or charge?”
Read past columns and product reviews by Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com.