This is the story of how I was reminded that I do not miss the DSLR days, and how I am very happy mirrorless has arrived in full. A childhood friend of my companion got married last weekend and I found myself photographing her wedding, a little against my will. That story needs a bit of context first. My girlfriend was invited to a wedding. She could bring a +1 and, being the boyfriend, that ended up being me. Nothing special. During cocktails, the wedding photographer came down with some sort of food poisoning. She turned red and could barely stand on her feet. After a little bit of panic, my girlfriend had the great idea to remind everyone that her +1 happens to be a wedding photographer who can help out while the hired photographer rested in the back room.
This is when the wedding couple looked at me with relief in their eyes. Having spent the day drinking their champagne, I did not have it in me to say no. Things could not be that simple, as there was a catch: their photographer shoots with a Nikon D850.
I have been a Canon shooter my entire professional life. Worse than that, I have not touched a DSLR in almost four years, since before the original EOS R was introduced. I do not know about you, but I do not carry my heavy and expensive wedding kit with me unless I am paid to. I would definitely not recommend leaving gear sitting in the trunk of your car “just in case.” So being handed a D850 on somebody’s special day was a little terrifying. The potential of bad publicity was real; they assumed that being a professional, this should come as second nature to me.
Hear me when I say this: I do not miss my DSLR days.
First, let me emphasize that the D850 is a great DSLR. The files I got that day were matching what I came to expect from my Canon EOS R5 whether we are talking about details, ISO, or shadow recovery. It took me only 20 minutes to figure out how to use the beast, so I would say the controls and ergonomics are adequate. But, this is where I stop the praise, as I had an awful experience shooting that wedding.
Size of the DSLR
I like to call myself a candid photographer. Wedding formals aside, I do not pose people. I tend to be a little sneaky, going around unnoticed, hoping to capture genuine moments as they unfold. In order to do so, I need to attract as little attention to myself as possible. A 70-200mm f2.8 mounted on a D850 did not help me do that. More often than not, people noticed me pointing my massive lens in their direction. More often than not, my being around disrupted the moments I was trying to document. I will not pretend this never happens with mirrorless, but it does not happen as often.
“Focusing used to be part of the craft, it used to be difficult to get critical focus on anything shallower than f2.8. Some would even say this is what makes them “real professionals”–that mirrorless is making it way too easy. But I feel like I can use a lot more brainpower worrying about my creativity, the moments, the lighting, and composition when I do not need to do something like focus and recompose from a center point.”
At 35, I consider myself pretty young. But as I am writing these lines, my right shoulder is still sore from that wedding (and I only shot half of the day). The body and lens were already flirting with six pounds, and when I added a Speedlight on top I could tell I was not in my prime anymore. I should go to the gym more often.
Focusing with a DSLR vs Mirrorless Cameras
If I had only one point to make it would definitely be the focusing experience. We have been spoiled by the latest releases. Focusing used to be part of the craft. It used to be difficult to get critical focus on anything shallower than f2.8. Some would even say this is what makes them “real professionals”–that mirrorless is making it way too easy. But I feel like I can use a lot more brainpower worrying about my creativity, the moments, the lighting, and composition when I do not need to do something like focus and recompose from a center point.
On that same note, I also feel mirrorless can focus much better in the dark. Yes, I still need accurate focus on the dancefloor before my Speedlight kicks in.
This is also one of the reasons why The Phoblographer’s Review Editor Hillary Grigonis also moved to mirrorless.
My typical wedding day can last from 10 to 14 hours. Because I get tired, I will have micro jitters at the end of the day. I will see motion blur on stationary subjects even at 1/200 shutter speed. Maybe this is another sign of me not working out enough. But I feel it is increasingly difficult to firmly hold whatever body and lens I am using after a long day on my feet running around a wedding venue, even more so when I add a 19oz Godox v860 on top of my kit. Sensor stabilization has helped mitigate that when not available in the lens.
The wedding is over, the couple is happy and yes, the D850 pictures look great. I probably even gained a business relationship with the original photographer, but I honestly do not see a single benefit of holding on to a DSLR nowadays. If equivalent mirrorless setups might appear more expensive, the benefits are gigantic. As a working professional, the ability to carry less and move around more is priceless. The better focusing and increased keeper rate is time gained both during the wedding day and in the culling process. This all ultimately benefits my brand and what I am able to deliver to my clients. To those who claim that gear does not matter, let us discuss this after consecutive 14-hours days where you do not get the chance to sit.