Two Years Since Leaving DSLRs: the Editor’s Perspective on Mirrorless

It’s been more than two years since I completely gave up on DSLR cameras, and I honestly haven’t looked back.

A few years ago, I was incredibly frustrated with the entire photo industry in different ways than I am today. Though it was only a few years ago, I today see absolutely no reason for anyone to own a DSLR. But a mirrorless camera? I remember years ago when I started this site: I was waiting for the day when I wouldn’t need to carry around the giant Canon DSLRs I had been using. As time went on, I phased out lots of Canon gear until the Sony a7r III and a Metabones adapter made it almost totally obsolete for me. These days I instead reach for the Canon EOS R when testing anything Canon EF mount–but Sony and Fujifilm have stayed a constant in my mirrorless journey.

The Size and the Weight

Some of the biggest reasons for my switch to going totally mirrorless were the size and the weight. Quite frankly, I hate needing to bring heavy gear into a bag, onto a location, or through an airport to a gig. With Fujifilm and Sony, there’s a major size advantage if you go a specific route. At the moment, there is a lot of chatter on the web about this with the fact that Sony’s lenses are pretty small.

Oh really?

Here’s Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master lens.

Here is Sony’s 100mm f2.8 G Master.

And Sony’s 100-400mm G Master.

Then there is Sony’s 70-200mm f2.8 G Master.

We can’t forget about Sony’s 24-70mm f2.8 G Master.

And then the Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master–an absolute darling of a lens albeit huge.

Now here’s a confession: I’d never want to bring the zoom lenses with me. They’re monstrous, large, and take up a whole lot of space in a camera bag. But Sony’s 85mm f1.4 attached to a camera or their 24mm f1.4 attached to a camera? Sure. In the case of the 85mm, the quality is well worth the extra size. But this doesn’t only apply to Sony. For all the Sony fanboys out there who are very hurt, it’s time for me to sling it at Canon.

The Canon 24-105mm f4 L for the RF system is large and you feel it in every way. It’s perhaps their best rendition of the lens yet, but it’s large. I totally don’t like carrying it with me and I didn’t buy it.

Canon’s 50mm f1.2 L RF prime lens though? Oh this is the single lens that has brought me back to liking 50mm lenses. It’s big, but with an f1.2 aperture and with weather sealing arguably better than anything Sony has produced, I can’t go wrong with it. None of these companies can beat the Fujifilm X series products in size and weight though; the X series system is APS-C.

Yup, that’s a big Fujifilm 200m f2 lens. Big, but amazingly lightweight and easily portable in a camera backpack.

Fujifilm’s prime lenses are honestly the best there are when it comes to a combination of small size, weight, build quality, and image quality. I’ll stand by that statement strongly as I’ve brought their products out in some super torrential rains and they’ve survived. Sony’s gear sometimes gives me issues while Canon’s gear holds up well.

For me as a photographer, what I’ve always wanted and needed were camera systems with full weather sealing, reliable autofocus, exceptional image quality, great low ISO output, usable high ISO output, fast lenses, 4K video capabilities, and most of all size. I want to be able to stuff a camera, two or three primes, a flash, microphones, and a headset into a camera bag with ease. Doesn’t sound too difficult, right? Well, it was for many years. For Sony, it’s possible with their 35mm f2.8, 55mm f1.8, and 85mm f1.8. All of those lenses have weather resistance.

With Fujifilm, I need more fast aperture, weather sealed primes. Because it is an APS-C sensor, I’d love to see more f1.4 primes with sealing. But at the moment, there are only f2 primes and lots of photographers really love those options. With Fujifilm’s film simulations, I get colors and quality unlike anyone else’s products out there. The system also needs more cameras with image stabilization on the sensor.

With Canon, I’m using an adapter to use a Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens. But that doesn’t have weather sealing. Canon’s system is still under a year old at my publishing of this piece and it will need to mature with more small, weather sealed lenses (let alone image stabilization on the sensor for video). For photos, I should mention that I’ve been called a human tripod due to the fact that I can hand hold cameras steadily for absurdly long periods of time.

All of this is such a fantastic case for Micro Four Thirds–and indeed their systems do a whole lot right. But they also fail at higher ISOs (and I print a lot) and they require ultra fast prime lenses.

All the Other Things

In the long run, there have been other issues besides storage. While Sony gives me the best of most worlds, it took a little while for them to get support from the bigger manufacturers in the lighting world. Today I own a Profoto B10 monolight and I adore it. One can say, “Go Godox or Adorama’s Flashpoint or B&H’s Impact,” but all I’ll say to that is, “no.” I did just that and over the years I’ve ran into too many random reliability issues that I’ve never gotten with Profoto gear. If it isn’t a flash literally blowing up in my hand or radio sync not working then it’s often something breaking when I need it the most. The idea of, “Oh if it breaks then I’ll just buy a new one” doesn’t help when you and a model booked time for a gig and your equipment suddenly doesn’t work.

I’ve been debating this idea in my head for a long time too. No one can honestly tell the difference between a photo shot with Broncolor, Buff, Profoto, or those house brands from the retailers. But instead, there’s something to be said for holding onto a product that just consistently works time and time again. Mirrorless is finally there–all of it.

So would I go back to DSLRs? I don’t need to. There are great lenses, flashes, etc. There are honestly still some things DSLRs could do better because of years of development, such as the case with stabilization that I mentioned above. But mirrorless is honestly more than good enough.