Reason 4: Battery life.
4th reason why I prefer a DSLR has to be battery life. You get at least twice the amount of battery life using a DSLR as you do with a mirrorless system. And while I appreciate why this might be – and understand that they are getting better, it’s still nice to know that your camera is capable of taking 2000 shots before the batteries die – and not 200 (Ok, I exaggerate. But only just). Of course, you should always carry an extra battery no matter what system you shoot. But, I know of Sony shooters who need to take four or five spares with them to get through a days’ worth of shooting!
Reason 5: Autofocus Tracking Speed
The 5th reason I prefer DSLR’s to Micro Four Thirds would have to be autofocus – specifically tracking speed. Most mirrorless autofocus systems are still playing catch-up to the DSLR in terms of tracking and follow focus -especially at high speeds. This is, however, changing. Apparently the autofocus capabilities of the new OM-D E-M1 MkII are astonishing and equal the autofocus systems found in the pro-series DSLR’s. If that is true, then that’s fantastic news. At $2k USD for the body only (at the time of writing), you’d think that the EM-1 MkII should be something special in the autofocus department. Fortunately, it sounds like it is. But at the moment, you have to pay a lot of money to get that speed.
Reason 6: Image Quality
The 6th, and final reason I prefer a DSLR to Micro Four Thirds would be IQ (image quality). I’ve left this until last, because it is perhaps the most controversial. But I also think it is just basic, common sense. With some things in life, bigger is always going to be better and this is true with image sensors. I suppose you could argue about what “better” actually means, but when you compare a full frame sensor vs. APS-C vs. Micro Four Thirds sensors on the newest models, the full frame is always going to be “better” in low light, have more dynamic range and probably more resolving power than the APS-C, and then the Micro Four Thirds sensor. It’s not all about megapixels – I’ve said this often enough – but it is about the “quality” of those pixels and the density. At half the size of full frame, the sensors in Micro Four Thirds have plateaued at 20MP. Is 20MP bad? No, of course not. I’ve argued in the past that 10MP is more than enough for 90% of the world’s photographers. But what is the quality of those 20MP like? It’s a bit like the bokeh argument. If you want the absolute best IQ, then shoot with full frame sensors. Next level up is APS-C, and finally the Micro Four Thirds.
This is where the “good enough” argument comes in to play. What are you doing with your images? Are you printing 30 x 40” prints? Are you producing billboards for advertising? Or are you putting all your images online to only ever be seen on a computer screen? I suspect many of us are in that last category. And if that’s the case, then a Micro Four Thirds sensor at 16 to 20MP is plenty big enough. In fact, it’s overkill. Why should you have a 24MP DSLR then? There are two answers to that question; a: because that’s what the manufacturers sell us, and b: for cropping purposes. We can’t do anything about “a”, but if you are someone who crops into your images a lot, then you should seriously consider “b”. And again, that means the bigger the better.
A cautionary tale
A part of me will miss the compactness of mirrorless, despite all I’ve just said to the contrary. We all like to carry around less weight in our camera bags, so moving back to a bag full of DSLR gear will take some adjusting to. But even then, a D7100 body with 18-105mm lens isn’t that much weightier than some of the advanced amateur mirrorless offerings.
And as vain as it might sound, a part of me will also miss the retro-cool hipster look of the E-M5 Mark II. I fell for the whole ‘old-school’ charm of the E-M5 as much as anyone, although in the end it was also its undoing (for me at least). In terms of Nikon, the Df styling excites me as well, even if the Df may end up being a one-off for Nikon. Maybe it’s a possible upgrade path from my D7100, especially considering the Df is full frame.
I’m not trying to tell anyone what you should or shouldn’t buy. Use whatever works best for you. In the end, maybe this should be seen this as a cautionary tale? Don’t fall for the latest hype about camera gear just because such and such a celebrity/podcast talks about it. I spent two years using a camera system I “thought” I should be using, when in reality there was nothing wrong with what I had to begin with. Hopefully, others can learn from my stupidity.
Rather than being a veritable “dinosaur”, upon reflection (and a long sabbatical), I still believe the DSLR to be the superior system. Despite what the weight of “popular” opinion might claim otherwise. There’s plenty of life in the old dog yet.
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