A Tale of Two Systems: 6 reasons to stick with your DLSR
Keywords: mirrorless, dslr, comparison, micro_four_thirds, camera_system, wayne_lorimer
Mirrorless camera hype
I have a confession to make. For the last two years I have owned, and used almost exclusively, a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Olympus camera, specifically the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. No big deal, I hear you say. Why does that warrant a confession? Let me explain…
Prior to switching to the Olympus mirrorless system, I had been a very happy SLR shooter for 30 years. So why did I feel the need to the switch? Well, to be honest (and I’m almost ashamed to say this) I bought into the mirrorless “hype”. It seemed that every podcast I listened to, and every video I watched, was extoling the virtues of mirrorless cameras. Worse still, many of these “experts” were saying things like: “If you use a DSLR then you’re a dinosaur!”, “The DSLR is dead”, “Mirrorless is the wave of the future” and “I’ll never buy another DSLR”.
Many of the people making these claims were photographers I admired and I fell for the mirrorless argument 100%. I had utterly convinced myself that if I wasn’t shooting with a mirrorless camera, then I was somehow going to be creating inferior images. I weakened, sold all my DSLR gear and purchased the OM-D E-M5 MkII.
I’m not going to lie (this is a confession after all) – it’s a very good camera. Maybe even a great one. But after two years of using the E-M5 MkII, I’ve also come to realize that the initial “hype” surrounding the mirrorless wave was just that - hype. And that rather than being a “dinosaur”, a DLSR system is still the better option for me – and maybe for a lot of people?
6 reasons why a DSLR is better:
I’ve now made the switch back to a DSLR – a Nikon D7100, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve only had the camera for a couple of weeks, but even in this short amount of time I’ve been able to establish exactly why it is I find the DSLR more user-friendly. What follows are my top six reasons why I prefer the DLSR camera system to the Olympus mirrorless (and most other mirrorless systems by association). Hopefully some of this may resonate with you, and maybe save some of us from going down a path that may not suit our photography and objectives.
Reason 1: Form Factor
My number 1 reason for preferring a DSLR is its form factor and size. I just like it. I like the solid heft, the weight, the volume, the mass that you get with a mid-range DSLR and battery grip attached. They have evolved over the last thirty years into ergonomic masterpieces of design and engineering that fit the hand (mine at least) perfectly. I pick one up and it just feels “right”. It feels like coming home, all warm, snug and cozy. OK, maybe that last one was a bit too much – but it’s also pretty much exactly how I feel about it. The OM-D E-M5 MkII on the other hand…
I’m just going to come right out and say it; it’s too small. I don’t have very large hands, but even so, I found it “cramped” as a camera, sans battery grip. Attach the two-part grip and things do get better – but still nowhere near as comfortable and ergonomic as a DSLR. Having said that, the higher-end mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M1 has a much better handling than most other cameras, as do the mini-DSLR styled Panasonic DMC-GH3 and DMC-GH4. So it’s not necessarily a failing of all mirrorless cameras, just most of them.
Before I finish with the size, weight and ergonomics part of the equation, I want to clarify some things. My sense of “comfortable” when holding a camera may not equal yours. As I’ve said, I have 30+ years of using the molded polycarbonate style form factor of an SLR, so my muscle memory is geared up to respond to this type of camera design. If the new wave of “retro” styled cameras, like the OM-D E-M5, Fuji X series or the Panasonic rangefinder styled GX series of cameras is your first introduction to a serious camera, then you may not have any issue with the size, weight and ergonomics at all. In fact, what I consider being negative about them may very well be to your liking.
Photographers the world over are reveling in the experience of moving to mirrorless and drastically reducing the weight they carry with them. This is a good thing. But it also needs to be tempered with a touch of practicality. I do think that there is such a thing as “too small”.
Reason 2: Lenses
Number 2 in my preference for a DSLR is lens choice. No matter your allegiances to brand, there are way more choices for your lens arsenal with a DSLR. There just are. This may or may not get better in the future, depending on how many more lenses get rolled out for the different mirrorless systems. But as it stands, DSLR’s offer considerably more lens choice, no matter what your budget.
Reason 3: Bokeh
Keeping with the lens theme for a moment, my third reason is “bokeh”. For more information on the concept of creating beautiful backgrounds with bokeh, see the Nikonians articles “Bokeh revisited” and “What a lens can teach you”. If you are, like me, a fast aperture f1.8 or f2.8 guy (or gal), who likes to use those apertures to create a creamy, out-of-focus backgrounds, then you’re going to achieve this more easily with a DSLR. Again, you just are. Notice I said “more easily” with a DSLR. It’s not impossible to get a creamy, pleasing out-of-focus background with a Micro Four Thirds camera and lens combo, but it is more difficult. This is because the camera, in one sense, is working against you. The smaller sensor in the OM-D’s (and Panasonics) means that the depth of field is effectively doubled compared to the sensor of a full frame DLSR. An f2.8 lens on a full frame is really working like an f5.6 on Micro Four Thirds in terms of creating background bokeh. This is also true with an APS-C sized sensor, which is again smaller than a full frame sensor – giving you about one aperture in difference, so it’s not all roses there either. If bokeh is of prime (excuse the pun) importance to you, shoot full-frame, then APS-C, and then Micro Four Thirds.
Of course, what some see as a negative, others may see as a positive. If you are a landscape photographer, then you are going to get images with everything in crisp sharp focus, from edge to edge, very easily. Shooting at f4 with a Micro Four Thirds system is like f8 on full frame. Because of this, lenses on the OM-D are super sharp. The sharpness of a standard kit lens like the 40-150mm f4/5.6 on the OM-D is absolutely astounding. Even shot wide open, there’s just no image softness to speak of. A plus, or a minus depending on your wants and needs for your images.
Originally written on April 15, 2017
Last updated on July 7, 2017
More articles that might interest you
Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on December 2, 2019
@John: Please post any Nikon Speedlight related questions in our Speedlights forum: https://www.nikonians.org/forum/154/nikon-speedlights-lighting
John Labriola (Esquire8) on December 1, 2019
I was a serious amateur with a D2X and great Nikon glass when I had health problems a few years ago---forcing me to downgrade my activities. Now I am back---trying to decide between the D850 and the mirror-less Z7. Its not just the F-mount lenses, but the expensive, automatic infra-red Nikon flash units (2) that I have. They can provide perfect focus and lighting in a totally DARK ROOM. I am not an engineer, but I don't understand how these flash units could function with a mirror-less camera like the Z7. I've tried finding an article discussing this, but have not found one so far. Can anyone confirm that these flash units will focus and balance the light on a Nikon that has no mirror?
Richard Chapman (rtchapman) on March 23, 2019
I have an E-M1 Mk II and a D500. When I look at the Nikon bag loaded with a 200-500 f5.6 and the Olympus bag with a 300 (600mm full frame) f4, my hand reaches for the Olympus a lot of the time. Not only are the Olympus pro lenses smaller, lighter and completely weather sealed but they are extremely sharp and for the money they are excellent value. You can get an Olympus 40-150 (80-300 equivalent) with f2.8 constant aperture, weather sealed for $1,500. On top of that the image stabilization blows any DSLR out of the water. On the D500 side low light performance is quite a bit better and there is a bit of an advantage in dynamic range. D500 tracking is better as well. Nikon claims higher battery life for the D500 relative to the E-M1 but I haven't found that to be true. In fact, in my experience the D500 battery life is far worse. As for image quality I think you would have to make a rather large print before you noticed much of a difference between the two. The size and handling of the two cameras is subjective. I have smaller hands so the Olympus feels more comfortable to me. Other MFT advantages: totally silent shutter 18 fps with autofocus 60 fps with focus locked pro capture (up to 14 raw shots buffered before you press the shutter release all the way) 5.5 stops of IBIS (6.5 with a stabilized lens) Live Composite focus stacking What you see is what you get all settings/histogram clearly visible in the viewfinder There are times when the DSLR is what I want but most of the time I take out the E-M1. I strongly suspect that Mirrorless is the future. Check out this video of the Sony A9: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woOWyndDRlg
James Malone from DE (Oldmanjim) on December 26, 2018
Thanks for the perspective. I've been looking at smaller cameras (Sony, Olympus) for a little while and comparing them to my Nikons. As someone who really liked my F5, the smaller cameras seem more like toys to me and so far, I've resisted their siren call. I'm glad you detailed your reasons and while they may not apply to everyone, they do give one food for thought.
Hazim Aldujaili (Haz65) on March 4, 2018
I agree with all what you saying additional that the mirrorless camera became as a result of the economy pressures ..
David Sentell (Davidstn) on February 2, 2018
I have also struggle with using olympus mirrorless EM5 MKII just not the same, are still shooting with the Nikon D7100. Just wondering if it is worth updating to the D7200.
Vernon L Rogers (fotabugfotos) on September 5, 2017
Lots of hype about MFT, but mostly by media and advertisers concerned about selling. I have seen this repeated many times over through the life of film cameras. A new format or camera design would come out and photo mags and advertisers would proclaim doom and gloom for the SLR (now DSLR). But the great design and equipment developed over the years has hung in there. The SLR (DSLR) will always remain my most used and loved equipment, even though I have some MFT Nikons that are fun to use and get good results. I can see different photographers finding the MFT cameras to be practical and useful for them. Among those are older ones and those with disabilities who find the size and weight to fit their needs. Those who find the MFT more suitable should go with it. We want them to continue in photography. That said, I am now 81, as of July, and still carry my D3, D800 or D500, sometimes two of them, on my photo walks. And I use the D500 mostly with a Sigma 150-600 C, handheld a lot. Even now I am able to do my photo walks two or three days a week, sometimes for two or three hours. I recognize not everyone my age could do that, so far I am blessed with good health. Those who can't should go with what fits their needs. But my love affair with the SLR (DSLR) continues and likely will for as long as I can carry a camera. Fads do fade. The biggest rival to photography with a camera, including the DSLR, is not MFT but rather the smart phone. Most picture takers are not real photographers, and cell phones can take some nice pictures. Thanks for hearing me out. :)
Rohinton Mehta (Rohinton_Mehta) on July 6, 2017
Very well written. And I agree with all that's mentioned. I own FX as well as DX D-SLRs and own 3 MFT models (Panasonic GF1, G3 and Olympus EM-1). When shooting in good light, the MFT models are okay but when shooting in low light /high ISO, you cannot touch the FX or DX models. And again, as Wayne has mentioned, you could be perfectly happy with a MFT camera if you don't print large enough or view your images just on your monitor.
Irene McCullagh (substar) on July 1, 2017
I don't get it. I don't for the life of me understand the logic that dictates All or Nothing. I believe in Horses for Courses. I've been shooting Nikons since 1983. Yes I did add a Fuji X-T2 to my camera-bag in February this year - why? WEIGHT. When I fly to venues to cover airshows (I'm a freelance aviation photo-journalist), it is imperative that I carry the Nikon D810 plus battery grip with my longest current lens 200-500. This is my airshow arsenal and most basic kit. Apart from that I generally pack the 24-70, try to squeeze in the 70-200 and always have a backup body in the form of either my D4 or D610 and a small wide angle like my beloved 20mm. Although I also own a Df, I don't use it for airshows - I find it excellent for street photography. So by this count you can see that I own four Nikon camera bodies. Usually I end up taking the D610 as backup due to it sharing batteries and the charger with the D810. It's all about WEIGHT and as you will readily understand, this ensemble creates overweight and a fully stuffed bag which won't fit into the allocated baggage overhead compartment in aircraft and becomes very cumbersome to carry around over the course of an airshow weekend. The versatility of a Fuji's 18-55 kit lens covers the wide angle and static shots perfectly and I can leave the 20mm, 24-70 and even the 70-200 at home. Compare the weight. Don't for a moment think that I am considering jumping ship and dumping all my dSLR gear (like I see many blog posts and social media brags). I believe there are certain applications for which NOTHING can (currently) touch my Nikons (continuous tracking being the main one for me). Think of cars : a Ferrari, a pickup truck and a Fiat 500 all serve the purpose of getting you from point A to point B. Say no more.
James Malone from DE (Oldmanjim) on June 21, 2017
So, if the "hipsters" who point the way consider those who use DSLRs as dinosaurs, I guess they think those of us who use Medium or Large Format FILM must be pond scum.......
James Drake (jd1566bis) on June 12, 2017
Hi there, One item that jumped up at me was the lens choice issue. Mirrorless cameas have more choice as far as I'm concerned. Considering the 3rd party adapters that in some cases (for Sony for example) offer AF, VR and aperture control, you can buy a mirrorless camera and use just about any lens on it. This for me is a tremendous advantage as it allows you to "mix and match". Certainly, a Nikon body with it's own lens will focus faster and better, BUT the beauty of mirrorless is that you can experiment with so many different lenses while using the same smaller body than your DSLR. I believe though as many have comented that it's not an either/or argument. Mirrorless has it's advantages and disadvantages, as do DSLR's. Mirrorless simply gives us more choise and as it is a newer technology we can expect many advances and surprises. My advise is to wait a while before jumping in. Whereas DSLRS have matured and there are hardly any major leaps forward, with mirrorless there is, and buying a model today will see it eclipsed in a very short while, the same way earlier DSLR's were leapfrogged (D2H anyone?!)...
Steve Birtles (sabre) on May 27, 2017
I definitely don't buy into the either/or school of thinking on this one. I own and use both DSLR *and* Mirrorless. My D750 is amazing. When I am feeling most creative and have the energy to lug it around I am able to take full advantage of its FX capabilities, excellent bokeh (when paired with the right lenses), great autofocus tracking, etc. However, for me, my D750 just cannot compete with my Panasonic mirrorless CSC gear for some of the following: 1. Street photography - my Panasonic GX1 is much lighter to carry and less intrusive when pointing it at people. In 5 years of using it, absolutely nobody has ever objected to me aiming it at them. On my first day out with the D750 I was asked twice by subjects in the street not to photograph them - a situation that has occurred again a few times since. 2. Videography - the Panasonic GX80 beats anything Nikon currently produces when it comes to shooting 4K. I know this is an argument that probably gets discussed on a regular basis in pubs, bars and photography clubs, but Panasonic just seem to have 4K usability nailed so much better than their rivals (in my opinion). 3. I love Nikon lenses - such lovely glass - but I am afraid that even here on Nikonians I have to admit to a weakness for Leica glass, which I can satisfy with the Panasonic Lumix G Leica lenses. I know that Leica purists will moan about Lumix Leica lenses not being 'real Leica', but my Lumix Leica lenses compete admirably with my Nikon lenses when it comes down to image quality, so I have no doubts about being able to make my Panasonic mirrorless cameras perform out on a photography outing. 4. Some might cry 'gimmick', but many Panasonic mirrorless cameras have great 'special' features; e.g., the GX80 has Post Focus, which I quite like. The problem for me was that Nikon has the Nikon 1 system - and I am NOT criticising it - but they have not really developed the models/features to keep up with the latest photographic feature trends, not to mention the relatively higher costs to purchase Nikon 1 cameras compared to MFT mirrorless cameras with similar or better features. Then there was the Nikon DL range that was aborted before it even launched - oops, better not talk about that one, slightly embarrassing. I really would have liked to stay true to the Nikon brand, but while waiting for Nikon to get its act properly together with a world-leading mirrorless offering, I have been happily enjoying the fruits of Panasonic's offering for a few years now. Frankly, as a veteran of the band of brothers/sisters who earned full military honours in the campaign of 'let's wait to see if Nikon will produce a DX replacement for the D200/D300', only to have surrendered miserably to eventually swapping to the FX D750 with a swap of many of my Nikon lenses, only then to see Nikon fall in love with semi-pro DX again shortly afterwards (after a 7 year delay!), I am just not willing to wait around for Nikon to get its act together ever again. Do I love my Nikon DSLR gear? Yes. Do I love my D750? Yes. Do I regret my swap to Nikon FX DSLRs and lenses? No. Are there situations when my Nikon DSLR gear is superior to my Panasonic mirrorless gear? Yes. ...however, and this is why I use both types... Do I love my Panasonic mirrorless gear? Yes. Do I love my GX series cameras? Yes. Do I feel guilty about using another brand other than Nikon for a significant amount of my photography? No. Are there situations when my Panasonic mirrorless gear is superior to my Nikon DSLR gear? Yes.
Jeff Cameron (jeffcameron) on May 15, 2017
Why either/or? I think I have the best of both worlds (sort of). I use the Nikon D500 and love it. My wife wanted a smaller camera and not a mini-D500 (as she says) like the D5300 so I got her a Sony A6000 (older Alpha model but nice specs) and frankly she is happy. I know the D500 will give me years of good image taking and I hope the A6000 will do the same for her. Very good article BTW.
Derek Crunkhorn (N13DNC) on May 7, 2017
I agree with some f the points raised as I have been an owners of Olympus OM-D cameras. I was for many years an Olympus user. OM2, OM4, E-20P, E-500, E-510, E-3 then E-5. I bought the E-M1 as the upgrade to the E-5 or so we were led to believe. I shoot mainly motorsport and Aviation, and found the AF on the E-M1 struggled to focus. Many bird photographers have complained about the AF. In landscape the AF needs vertival lines to lock onto, which isn't always the case. Single colour rally cars could be a major problem. My other main issue was High ISO noise, I found ISO1600 was my limit. It is believed the Mk2 E-M1 has solved many of the issues but I could wait for the launch. I didn't find the handling an issue either holding or the Olympus menus. Although it did look odd attached to a 4/3rds 90-250 F2.8. For some size is a major advantage stand the Zuiko 75-300 next to Sigma 150-600 with the 2x crop of the 4/3rds the focal length is equivalent. You can put the Zuiko lens in your pocket. One area I found the Olympus superb was the dust reduction. I have never needed to have the sensor on any of my Olympus D-SLR or M4/3rds cameras cleaned. I have had to have the Nikon sensor cleaned. I sold 95% of my Olympus gear and now I use a D3s, D4 and Sigma 24-105, 120-300 and 150-600. I still have the E-M1 which I keep in my backpack when out walking.
Kelly McGrew (kmcgrew) on May 6, 2017
Wayne: Your piece is interesting and thought-provoking. Thank you! Like many others, I use both formats (D700 & D800 and Nikon 1 V2) for a couple of reasons. The first is because I travel frequently for work and lugging a bag full of camera gear is simply not possible. Take a look at your item #2: do YOU carry all of those lenses—or even half of them—when you go shooting? Probably not. The second reason is because I enjoy going to rock and country (“rock with a twang” to me) concerts where “professional cameras” are prohibited. Since no manufacturer prints “Professional camera” or “amateur camera” on their bodies the security guys typically look at the size of the camera and lens(es) and make their determination based on those characteristics. It would be difficult to pass off a D800 with a 200-400mm/f4 as an “amateur” rig, let alone try to explain Nikon’s numbering system and the “prosumer” role of the three-digit camera model numbers. I’m with you on #1: there is no question that the SLR—irrespective of whether film or digital—is designed for the size of hands most people have. I’ll argue with you about #2 only because I never take all of my lenses with my DSLR system. I will with my Nikon 1 V2 and my Wista DXII. The former because most are zoom lenses, they are small, and I have only a half dozen; the latter because I have only a few lenses for my large format gear. But I’ll concede that large and medium formats, while both outside of your comparison parameters, are typically used for more specialized photography. 3. Bokeh schmokeh! See the page for the 1 Nikkor VR 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 and take the links for “sample photos” and tell me the bokeh of ANY format is better than what a mirrorless system can deliver: http://www.nikonusa.com/en/nikon-products/product/nikon1-lenses/1-nikkor-vr-70-300-f%252f4.5-5.6.html#tab-ProductDetail-ProductTabs-Overview Battery life is an interesting category because most DSLRs have a “battery grip” which provides an extra battery while the mirrorless systems are intentionally compact and do not have that. Ahhh, but I can carry a dozen extra batteries for my Nikon 1 V2 in half the space of the battery grip. I’ll give you number 5. As for #6, forget either format you discussed: I’ll still take my Wista DXII or monorail view camera with either 4x5 film holders or a 6X9 roll-film holder for photos where I need rise/fall, tilt/swing, and/or on-axis/off-axis movements. Shucks, my Fuji GX680III beats either of those you compared when it comes to movements. In summary, while you’ve chosen a narrow comparison there are several times when the mirrorless is the exception because the camera I have the best camera to use. Other times the larger format film works best for me. And that’s the beauty of this endeavor: it is a personal endeavor so what works for me doesn’t mean it’s best for everyone—or even anyone—else.
Marcus Dotson (nboston) on April 28, 2017
Great article. Nice to read that someone else shares my thoughts. Been there done that.
User on April 25, 2017
You seemed to pick the smallest and lightest system out there and that surprises me since your a man that, "I like the solid heft, the weight, the volume, the mass that you get with a mid-range DSLR and battery grip attached", the heft. I will say you have stamina if it was me that felt the way you do I wouldn't have lasted 6 months. I bought an Olympus O-MD-E 1 as a second camera and after 7 or 8 months I sold it because the size was just too small for me and the menu system was imo awful. After a few months I went to a camera store and tried the Fuji X-T1. With and without the grip and the size was a lot better for me. I now own a Fuji X-T and enjoy shooting with it. I think we can agree to disagree that the "mirrorless hype" is not just hype. You wrote a very good article but Im seeing it as a comparison of the Nikon D7100 and the Olympus O-MD-E M5 MK ll and not all of the other mirrorless offerings on the market. I do think its great that you took the time to share your personal findings with us and Im sure it will be of use to some people that are looking at the Olympus System. Thanks, Mike
James Kuzman (jameskuzman) on April 25, 2017
Great article, Wayne. I too have made the round trip from DSLR to mirrorless and back. My first DSLR was an Olympus E-500. I liked it (and really liked the Zuiko lenses) but neither the resolution nor the very limited low light capabilities served me well for long, so I upgraded to a Nikon D7000 when it first came out. I really enjoyed that camera and had no complaints about it per se but eventually discovered a dilemma when traveling or simply out walking or hiking: I either brought it with me and bemoaned the bulk and weight, or left it behind and groused over missed pictures. I was in my local camera shop one day and wanted to see the the original Fuji X-Pro 1 but it was backordered. I did, however, get to try out an Olympus OM-D E-M5. The E-M1 had just come out so after some quick cost, size, and weight calculations I realized I could sell the D7000 and my two DX lenses (16-85mm and 35mm) to help fund the E-M5. Combined with the grip, the 12mm, 17mm, and 45mm primes, it all fit into one small bag and made the ideal travel kit. That camera made me want to go out and shoot. It got me out of a serious creative slump because it was so engaging. The lenses were stellar and the image stabilization was amazing. High ISO performance wasn't great, but the IBIS helped a lot there. AF performance was just fine for me as I don't typically shoot moving subjects. I never warmed up fully to the EVF, but it was ok. I was happy. And then I bought my daughter a D3100 kit for Christmas. Once I picked it up, I realized that even though it is a very compact camera for a DSLR, it felt much better in hand than my EM-5. I liked the bigger buttons. I liked how it felt. I loved the optical viewfinder and realized how much I missed it. And how much I missed having a DSLR. So I sold the Olympus gear and bought a D610. It felt just like my D7000 did and I loved having the FX sensor, especially for low-light work and the ability to use my wide angle lenses at their intended field of view. The downside of course is that my light travel kit was now gone and I was back to having to lug around lots of gear. Two steps forward, one step back. I remedied that by adding a Fuji X100s. It wasn't a fast camera in terms of handling or focus so it wasn't going to replace my D610, but the build quality and OOC JPG files were unparalleled and the fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent FOV) lens was great for travel and street work. And I loved the optical viewfinder option. I liked the optics and files so much that I convinced myself that I needed to go deeper into the Fuji system. I bought an XT-1, the incredible 16mm f/1.4 lens, and the wonderful 35mm f/1.4 to go with it. I stopped using the X100s and In fact I didn't use the D610 anymore either. Both languished in their bags in favor of the XT-1. It seemed silly to me to have all of these cameras and two complete systems at that and I realized the choices were actually stifling creativity in a way: Which body? Which lenses? Can I get away with just the X100s today? Plus I needed some cash for an unexpected expense, so I started thinking about paring down. I never really bonded with the D610 - no emotional attachment if you will - but I didn't want to let go of my Nikon glass. The X100s was nice, but slow and no good for action. I loved the lenses I had for the XT-1, but I got more out of focus shots from that camera than I ever did with any Nikon. What to do? And then the Df got to me. I'd borrowed one last year and considered getting it for both its sensor and its retro controls but didn't buy it then. The control implementation seemed quirky and the XT-1 convinced me that Fuji got retro right, but Nikon didn't quite. Up to ISO 3200, the D610 matched or exceeded it for image quality. And It was way over budget. A few months ago I found a nice deal of a refurbished one, and decided to try it again. I could always return it if I didn't like it, but I felt it was worthy of a second look. I sat it and my D610 on my desk side by side for three weeks. Every time I wanted to go out and shoot, I picked up the Df. It called to me in a way the D610 never did. I tried both in low light and the Df rendered better images every time. The "look" of the images from the Df were different than those from the D610. Ultimately, I sold the X100s, the XT-1 and the its lenses, and the D610 and bought a Df. One camera, one system. With a small prime it's plenty light enough to travel with - not much bigger or heavier than the XT-1 really - and I've gotten used to how to best use its controls for my style of shooting. I think I've found the perfect combination of overall image quality, reliable focus, low light performance, and size/weight. I will admit I was deeply attached to the two particular Fuji lenses I had and I miss focus peaking for manual focusing a lot, but other than that, I don't miss anything at all about shooting mirrorless.
Harry B Houchins (HarryBH) on April 25, 2017
So here's a question. Why does it have to be either or? I have & use both forms. A Nikon F4 (now there's a dinosaur!) and a Fuji X-E2. The F4 for obvious reasons - the film... The X-E2 because it does not have an anti-alias filter on the sensor. When shooting landscapes I put the camera on a tripod and take my shot. Then I place a #72 filter over the lens and bang off an infrared version. And Fuji lenses are every bit the glass as Nikon's old glass.
Michael Group (sonokin) on April 24, 2017
Good article!.. I find the MFT camera format interesting. But for me the choice is simple. If your subject is fast moving (birds or sports), or in low light, the DSLR is the only way to go. I got the D7100 when they first came out and love it for wildlife photography. Yeah it's a bit heavier and when I'm hiking I typically carry a little D3100 Nikon. The D3100 is "light and quick" to focus on bugs and birds or a running Fox. The D7100 is my serious camera. The extra 1.3 crop option along with the aps-c sensors 1.5 crop and with my 70-300mm weather resistant nikkor puts me into a 600mm class that is light and fast for hand holding bird shots. Using the auto iso and shooting shutter preferred I find this camera the greatest option for hummingbird shots. The auto focus lock is also a bit more handy than I had originally thought for these quick little birds. I,m getting older (66), but I don't think any of the MFT's would work for making great bird photos that I can sell. Mick
Michael G. Shorrock (Migeosho44) on April 23, 2017
Very good article! I have a friend and fellow photographer, actually a former 50 year professional, who also fell for the less-is-more hype...in his case I can sympathize because at 80 years old he has several major physical problems. I also know several female photographers to whom the "lighter weight" argument won out! Personally,I'm heading in the exact opposite direction; I've been using digital SLR's exclusively since the D70 (for a year or so prior to that I used a Coolpix something-or-other, can't recall the model number off-hand) after selling ALL my film equipment (F4's, RB67's etc). Yesterday I found and ordered an F5 !! And I can't wait to get it in my hands (I'm also searching for and (eventually!) going to acquire that smelly, out-dated, nasty darkroom stuff!) My current DSLR is the D7100 (I also use the P7100) both of which are fine cameras that I really like...but...call me crazy...I miss the "challenge" (if that's the right word?)...AND the commensurate satisfaction when that challenge is met and conquered...of creating a beautiful, prehistoric, smelly piece of cellulose acetate...! ...just call me a proud dinosaur!!
Radhakrishnan Rajagopalan (radkrishr) on April 23, 2017
Very interesting article. It will be interesting to see how this changes with the Sony A9. If we are to go by the specifications of A9, it appears they have pushed the bar significantly and atleast on paper no DSLR is a match for this speed daemon.
Lukas Werth (lukaswerth) on April 21, 2017
Others have pointed out before that micro four thirds does not cover all mirrorless| that's also my position. I have, and cherish, a d800e whose sensor continues to amaze me since 2012. But if I would be in a position to buy a new camera system today (thought about it, didn't go for it, I woud probably go for a Fuji xpro 2 which I woud use side-by-side with my Nikon - and which I might just buy if I would have to make a decision into which camera system to buy myself today.
George Reis (GeorgeReis) on April 20, 2017
Interesting article that should be helpful to many. I am curious as to why you sold your old gear before trying out the mirrorless camera and making sure that it was the best choice for your needs. I shoot both dSLR and mirrorless and love them both! Each has a different purpose, and each suits its purpose well. I have thought that I'd like to switch completely to mirrorless because the idea of designing a camera around a sensor makes so much sense. What would make it more possible is if the camera manufacturers who make the highest quality mirrorless cameras would also make the most intuitive user interfaces. Unfortunately, that isn't the case yet (for me).
User on April 19, 2017
Thanks Wayne's write-up. I am a retired electronic technological engineer and have problem in writing. I use Nikon's Photomic FTn 35 mm film camera starting in mid-60th. I agree with your reasons about DSLR and the mariorless. I have Fuji X100 recently use the xPro2 and 3 years ago bought the Sony's A6000. I still like the Nikon DSLR that I used D300, D300s, and recently I use the D500 for all the reasons that you Wayne have delineated. Sidney Yip
KENT M. WHITNEY (KMWHITNEY) on April 19, 2017
Frank, "Bravo" Well said, your comments fits me like a custom glove!! Your experience speaks volumes whereas mine has been limited to Nikon only for over 55 years... and Olympus with the E M1 and the remarkable E M1 MKII for the past 3 or 4 years. I too use only the Oly PRO Glass with these E M1's, with outstanding results! I also use my Oly 300mm f2.8 for long shots and sports indoors and out, it is a 35mm FF equivalent of a 600mm f2.8 lens (total WOW factor and fast for a 600mm!!). I hear what you are saying about hammers and camera gear are our tools and not family members (LOL) but must say without a doubt, being a Master Builder, I do have Pet hammers I like more over many of the others I own LOL!! Blessings and thank you... V/R Kent
Frank Kendralla (drFrank) on April 19, 2017
Interesting article but not 100% accurate. I have shot with Nikon gear professionally for years and added mirrorless bodies as a tool a few years ago and have gone through multiple mirrorless cameras. My current Mirrorless body is an Olympus OMD EM-1 Mark II - Not a cheap body but I will get to some of its features which include 100% weather sealed when used with their professional lenses. This is a big deal for many of us. To get this feature in Nikon or Canon, the cost is not the same. When you state mirrorless and bokeh - I am guessing that you didn't include Sony or Leica for a reason since they both offer mirrorless and have a beautiful 'look'. Sony offers an amazing option for low light performance in a full - frame setup. Leica speaks for itself but isn't cheap. Battery life - In the Olympus that I own, I am able to get 800+ images on one battery for many reasons but the main one, no need to chimp with the EVF. Lens choice - maybe, but how many lenses do you need. Olympus has a full range of lenses that go from macro, ultra wide and to telephoto with options in the f/1.2 to f/4. The Olympus 40-150 f/2.8 is amazing and gives the 'reach' of 80-300 in a size that is easily carried around. Also, check out the 300mm f/4 - with a 'reach' equal to 600 mm the results are amazing - add the 1.4 t/c and wow! IBIS wasn't mentioned which is a big deal for the Mirrorless world of cameras like Olympus, Sony, and Panasonic. Touch and fully articulating screen. This is great to get that image overhead of the crowd or when getting low to the ground. (Yes, my Nikon D750 has a flip up screen but not articulating.) Noise - What I refer to is the sound of the shutter. I can go into 'full' silent mode and shoot next to someone at an event and they don't hear the sound of the shutter slapping. - I recently covered an event and was standing next to the video guy for a few minutes. As I was starting to walk away, he stated "Did you get any images?" Yes, I took 15 or so. "Wow! when I use my Canon, the shutter is so loud that when the music dies down, I need to stop shooting." EVF - It has 'evolved' into a tremendous feature - what I see is what I get - Not all cameras are created equal but this is a big deal when covering events and there is no time to 'chimp' (images missed), constant light changes but AP mode doesn't work well due to back lighting, side lighting, etc. Noise in higher ISO - yes, you are correct - With my Nikon FF gear, I can go very high and get usable images - but in the mirrorless world as I mentioned is the Sony a7S II Mirrorless. I am sure some will state that it is only a 12.2 MP camera but we all know there are sacrifices. (One of my favorite cameras that I ever used was the Nikon D3s - 12.1 MP) Auto Focus and Tracking I suggest checking out the work of Bird Photographer - Scott Bourne http://scottbourne.com/ Check out some of the BIF images he captured with the Olympus https://photofocus.com/2017/03/29/alaska-eagle-photography-diary-2017-part-3/ I will close with this thought - Cameras are tools and not part of my family. I will change out cameras based on my current need. Currently, I shoot hybrid and unfortunately, Nikon doesn't have a great option. I can go on and on about cameras and computers as tools only. Just like hammers. I own many hammers for the rehab work we do as part of our investments. My hammers range from a small finish hammer for finish work to a drywall hammer to a 10-pound sledge. I wouldn't use the sledge hammer on finish work nor would I try to use my light weight finish hammer to knock down a wall. I use my Olympus where it fits best and my Nikon gear when it matches the need. However, as time goes on, the Nikon gear sits on the shelf more and more. As I walk out the door, I hear it cry out - "Coach, send me in, I can still serve you well!" It didn't work for you but as others stated, to classify all mirrorless in one group is not a correct assumption. Fuji, Olympus, Sony, and Panasonic make tremendous options that do satisfy the needs of many professional photographers.
Mark Farrington (drmarkf) on April 19, 2017
Yes, very fair, although I will make a few comments and additions. I agree with you over the size of the E-M5i and ii. This was just too small for me as well, and you do need a bit more real-estate as in the M1i and ii to allow more buttons and levers to give really fast and secure operation. This results in the M1ii being around the same size as the D750, of course, but in my view there is an irreducible size for this type of usage. For really compact needs I use the crop-sensor Fuji X70, which is absolutely tiny and slips in to a tuxedo pocket. You actually are talking about two issues entwined here: 1) sensor size, and 2) DSLR vs mirrorless, and this I know can lead to confusion. You don't mention the Sony A series full frame mirrorless cameras - the A7Rii has a higher signal-to-noise ratio than I believe any Nikon or Canon 35mm camera ( evidence: http://photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm#Nikon%20D810(DX),Sony%20ILCE-7RM2 ). New sensor technology, especially from Sony, is also blurring the difference between especially micro 4/3 and crop sensor cameras - for example, on that graph of ISO vs. signal-to-noise one can see that the Olympus E-M1ii and between 2/3 and 1 stop better performance than the Canon 7D mkii at all ISOs below around 18,000: http://photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm#Canon%20EOS%207D%20Mark%20II,Olympus%20OM-D%20E-M1%20Mark%20II Ultimately I'd say people are best off first deciding what ultimate image quality they actually need - there are other special determinants for some people's usage of course, like low noise in low light, or top notch AF tracking, but if you never produce a print above 10" x 8" you really don't need to carry round a full frame body with f2.8 glass these days unless you're doing it for a workout!
Richard Luse (DaddySS) on April 19, 2017
Thanks Wayne for the thoughtful and thorough write up. Being a "big handed" guy, the DSLRs just feel right for me and for the other reasons you stated I am inclined to continue to invest in my DSLR kit. I am looking for a lighter and smaller kit for business trips etc. and may look at mirrorless to upgrade my P7000, but for when I am photographing for pleasure it is one my DSLRs.
Olivier Rychner (olivierrychner) on April 19, 2017
Interesting! As a Nikon shooter myself, D750 to be exact, I sometimes do feel the same. I own and use a Panny LX100, which is a compact but with a Micro 4/3 sensor, as you know. If I had to go mirrorless, I would not take a Panasonic or an Olympus, precisely because of the bokeh isure you mention: what is strikingly good in a compact is not enough on a stand-alone system. I would opt for a Fuji. An XT-2 or XT-20. They are highly rated in the press I read, the system offers very good and very fast lenses (f/1.4 is not rare), and their sensor is APS-C sized. But battery life would be an issue, and maybe - maybe, let me insist - image quality. Thanks for sharing that! Olivier
Eric M Hilton (thephotomaker) on April 19, 2017
Hi Wayne, I was an industrial photographer for Lockheed Martin and mostly shot with 4x5 and Hasselblad for industrial/architectural work,and Nikon for candid work. when Digital came out, I stayed with Nikon DSLRs because I had so many lenses. I mostly shot with My D700 & 7000 , which produced nice images, but I hated going through digital menus,disillusioned at Nikons use of plastic on some of their lenses and filter threads, and missed the simple controls on the film cameras. I've shot products for Olympus and have to say their optics are superb, and love their retro designed bodies. But now, I have stopped using my Nikons and have switched to the Fuji X system (X-Pro1 (inferred) and the XT-2, as it reminds me of my Leica M-6. Their lenses, especially their primes are some of the finest optics and they are all metal and feel like pro quality. Even Hasselblad had Fuji make some of their lenses and bodies. But, I do agree with many of your comments about DSLRS for many subjects, especially for fast moving subjects, like sports, and to produce large prints. But since I shoot mostly Architectural, people and landscape on a tripod, I don't need the fast DSLRS. I truly feel (and see) the hi-end mirrorless cameras are improving at a very fast rate and will eventually take over. Now, Hasselblad and Fuji are creating mirrorless medium format cameras at almost an affordable rate (but not quite). Even thought I liked my Nikon D-700 and my friends 810, I truly have to say, that the Fuji X system has actually brought fun back into photography again.
Rohinton Mehta (Rohinton_Mehta) on April 19, 2017
I agree with your views. In the limited tests that I have done to compare the MFT format to APS-C and Full-Frame, here is what I have found: 1. MFT produces slightly sharper images than the other two formats (using top-end lenses). 2. As soon as the subject gets into shade or in low light, images with the MFT are noisier as compared to the other two formats since the ISO has to be increased. 3. MFT (currently) can not match the dynamic range of the APS-C and Full-Frame format. I have two Panasonic MFT bodies (GF1 and G3) and one Olympus MFT body (EM-1) and five Panasonic/Olympus lenses. I like the compactness and lesser weight of the MFT but when it comes to the total image quality, its my D7100, D500 and the D810 for me.
ronald dewar (ronaldnd) on April 19, 2017
I used Nikon since my first Nikon purchase, an F2A which I still remember with a lot of fondness. About a year back I read an article about the Olympus E M5 and decided that I would buy a used one and see what it was like. Since then I have two OMDs and two Pens and a bunch of glass. MY Nikon gear (3 DSLRs) are sitting in my bag waiting patiently for the day I need them. I do believe the Nikon, generally speaking, produces a superior image with the larger sensors, but I'm getting on in years and was looking for something that was lighter, more compact, and would still produce enjoyable images. So , as I said I was looking for some lighter gear for carrying around, but last year when we were on holidays - there were two cameras in my bag - a Nikon and an Olympus. I must be getting a bit addled with age.
KENT M. WHITNEY (KMWHITNEY) on April 19, 2017
Hi Wayne and of course Christopher (chroaz) My comment will be brief. Christopher, your comments are note worthy and well stated. I too jumped ship so to speak and have experienced Olympus MFT system starting off with two E M1's and (All) of the PRO lenses to date and in the past month the (OMG) E M1 MKII. I have been shooting Nikons from the early 60's , starting off with the Nikon F and ending with the F6 and to many Nikkor lenses to list here, over the years. Jumping into the digital age with the D700, D800, 2 Df's, D3, D3S, D4 etc etc and oh by the way, still have all the Nikkor lenses and bodies from the F on... OKAY, that said,,, everything Christopher stated before me is in fact true for me as well, and much more. For me and (IMHO) only, my passion for Nikon & Nikkor is not dead but sadly enough, Olympus now fills the gap and meets my needs.I have 5 very good Nikons now gathering dust and lost attention in their cases , My F6, D700, D800, (2) Df's and my (OMG) D4! They are my treasures and I break them out from time to time, charge the batteries and go on a nostalgic shoot!! 55 years with Nikon only is a bit of time (a lifetime) and I have no regrets! But, Olympus has stollen my heart and I must also say, "My Bucks!!" In looking back, I have no regrets because photography, seeing and the image capture still rules and the gear we use helps to fill that dream and vision. My NAS has now become OAS ...! Cheers Photogs, Photography is our blessing!!
Malcolm Berry (mexberry) on April 19, 2017
I also thought I should try a smaller rig to take on vacation. I ended up with a Panasonic with a fixed mount 24-400 lens. It was light weight and small and did what it was designed to do, take vacation snapshots. Like you ,it felt small in my hand, light weight and somehow insignificant. Like eating hamburger when you are accustomed to steak.So for my next trip I will again take my D750, plus 24-120 and 70-300. There really is no substitute for good, solid and often heavy glass if you want quality images. Malcolm.
James Keenan (Lomcevak) on April 19, 2017
Nice article. I shoot a lot of surfers and put them on a surfing-oriented website and there's a local guy shooting them as well with a mirrorless of some sort. He posts to the same website and if he ever puts up a tack sharp shot it will be his first. Don't know if it's the camera or the operator in his case, but I'm very happy banging away with my D500 and D5 dinosaurs.
Guerry Doolittle (Relaskop) on April 19, 2017
I have 1 Nikon FF body and 4 Nikon APS-C bodies with 9 Nikon lenses. Last year I bought an Olympus PEN-F and love it. In a broad sense it's not a replacement for my DSLR Nikons, but in another sense it is. I find that for many situations and applications I am much more likely to grab the Olympus and go even though the Nikons are right there. However, if I'm going out for a day of serious wildlife and nature photography (and some other applications) I load the Nikons and accessores and take advantag of their capabilities. Well ... some of their capabilities. I'll readily admit that I have never mastered a Nikon--even dating back to my D200--before moving on to another, newer model. Fact is, I think each of my cameras has greater capabilities than I have as a photographer. That includes the PEN-F. Probably not true for many of you. Regarding availability of lenses, all of the excellent cameras discussed in this thread have more than I need, want, and can afford. If I can have the few I really need, I don't care whether they offer 6 more or 26 more in their lineup. To each his own, but I'm happy alternating among my D610, D500, D7100, and PEN-F. Frankly, I don't even think much about the internal mechanisms any more. Oh ... but I really do love the M.Zuiko lenses I have for the PEN-F. If I had to decide on using only one system, I think I could do so and get by quite nicely. But I don't have to and haven't found a compelling reason to.
Robert Van Doren (Van5169) on April 19, 2017
Enjoyed your article. I too had been wrestling with camera size, but in the end upgraded by D700's to D810's for my pro work, and for vacationing and streetwalking photography got a D5500. I frequently use the D5500 with my Nikon 20mm f/1.8G FX lens - a nice, fast combination at one of my favorite focal lengths (30 mm on the D5500). I also do architectural photography, so a pc lens is a must for me - no problem with Nikon's lens selections. But in the end, all of these choices are specific to our own preferences and needs. How nice it is that we have such of broad range of options!
Holger Wahl (Holger) on April 18, 2017
Had you named the article "switching back from MTF to DSLR" or similar, I would have signed every single word of it. "Mirrorless" however is a different thing. I tried Olympus MTF cameras, and I did not like them: too small, horrible handling, and, most important, a way too small sensor. If you work a lot in churches as I do, size does matter. And MTF does NOT deliver. But: mirrorless is not just MTF. Mirrorless is Fujifilm as well, and here the one and only argument of the list of 6 is battery life. All the other points, from IQ to lens selection to shallow dof, or body handling are all in favour of a e.g. X-T2, if you compare it to APS-C DSLRs. I own and use my D750 for sports in low light, where mirror slap does not matter. I own and use a D5500 as well, with the kit zoom it's our family camera, whoever needs to take quick and not so dirty pictures grabs this nice little camera. But: all of my serious work is Fujifilm X-T2. Completely silent, if necessary, with a perfect set of lenses (14mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.4, 56mm f/1.2 and a X100F with the 23mm f/2.0 as backup camera), with a perfect handling (after years of DSLR from D70 to D200, D300, D800, D750 and most bodies inbetween). I have been an absolutely loyal Nikon fanboy for many many years, still love the FX-line and my old cameras (F3, FM2n), but to me, Nikon just missed the next big thing. You are right saying that many photographers just switch because it's some kind of hype. Right so. But others switch because Fuji created the APS-C lens lineup we have asked and been waiting for for decades and Nikon never delivered. Because mirrorless is something phantastic for people like me working in churches and ceremonies where absolut silence is mandatory. And because the X-T2 in my case is the camera the Df should have been, not just retro style, but combining perfect handling with perfect quality and material and very small dimensions. The digital F3 Nikon should have produced, not Fuji. Will I switch back? I don't think so. With my style of photography, my work, I will rather upgrade to MF one day. This could well be Nikon again (should they start a MF mirrorless series one day), or Fujifilm, or Hasselblad, who knows. Am I a bad Nikonian? Probably yes, as far as APS-C DSLRs are concerned. And no, as far as FX and my good old analog Nikons are concerned. Back to your article: 6 reasons to switch back from MTF to DSLR, or 5 reasons to work with Fujifilm APS-C, plus one reason to get some spare batteries when doing so. Thank you very much for your article, I have enjoyed it very much, even if I sound very critical in my comment :-)
Brian Sullivan (BrianS) on April 18, 2017
Thanks for the article. I too tried the mirrorless route (Fuji), alongside of my full frame Nikon's. It may just be that I am set in my ways, but I found the dslr to be a more functional, for me.. I agree with you on the styling of the retro looking mirrorless systems. They certainly are visually appealing, I'm just not sure I'm ready to make the switch... Perhaps one day.. Cheers! Brian
Mark P. Kilarjian (marksj) on April 18, 2017
Will all due respect to those who use mirrorless when they need something light to move around with, I must humbly disagree. I have the FX D810, the D7200, and yes, sometimes I want something smaller and lighter. I recall my favorite Nikon film camera, the FM3A, and how easy it was to travel with. After I picked up a D40 way back when, I found I can the best of both worlds ... light and compact, but capable of great images. I thought those days were over when I found out how good the IQ and speed had gotten in the D5000 series of cameras. I recently picked up the newest in the line, the D5600 and I am more than pleased. It is light, compact and easy to carry all day when traveling. I cannot tell the difference, either in RAW or JPEG, from similar images taken with the D7200. While not quite as fast or as versatile, the D5600 is always in my car so if the occasion arises, I have a camera with me which uses the same Nikon lens mount, to take excellent pictures anywhere. With the 18-55 kit lens, or the better yet, the 18-140, I can take it anywhere. I fully intend to keep the larger FX and DX cameras, but for the money, and with no need to buy into a new set of lenses, the D5600 easily fit the bill for a smaller and lighter camera. For anything smaller, I might as well use my older P300.
Hans Kuwert (nikonus) on April 18, 2017
I enjoy the mirrorless cameras for size and weight , high enough MP to be a real camera . I'm annoyed with micro control buttons on some models . They do shine for quiet shooting or one handed hail mary overhead photos . Growing up with all metal manual cameras / medium format stuff it seems strange . It ends up being a different tool to use , as long as I don't get too old to remember which cascade menu has shutter delay and AUTO iso off setting .
User on April 18, 2017
A very timely article for me. Over the last month or so I have been mulling over the urge to switch over to mirrorless, whether they be apsc or micro four third sensor type cameras. I came back into photography in 2011 after a very long lay-off, investing in a D5100, and I have had my D7100 since 2014. Full frame is non-affordable. I always try to have my D7100 within arm's reach. I have been getting up to speed on mirrorless going through write-ups, reviews and so on and I thought the micro four thirds are something worth getting into as maybe the technology and associated gear are quite in tandem. That aside, I was very attracted with the lesser weight and compactness of mirrorless cameras. I was actually seriously looking at OM-D E-M5 Mark II and the Fujifilm XT series. Reading Wayne's article and sub-consciously nodding my head in agreement with the six reasons, my love affair with my D7100 is re-ignited! Hooray! Thanks Wayne for sharing. And, as the present rate of currency exchange is not in my favour the whole exercise to justify my attempt to go mirrorless stopped. Oh well I am eyeing the D7500 and perhaps it will be affordable if it is going to be much better than what I can achieve with my D7100!
User on April 17, 2017
I share your opinion. I feel more "shooting pleasure" using my 9 year old D700 than I do with my sony or fuji mirrorless cameras. For any "serious" photography I reach for my D700 because I like shooting with it and the results. If I feel I need to go "light" I use the mirrorless cameras. So photography life is a compromise.
Tom Egel (tegel) on April 17, 2017
Thanks for taking the time to write this. While I agree with many of your points, I also think the mirrorless options out there are terrific and can be viable alternative to a DSLR in certain situations. My primary body is a Df, but I also have a V1 that I use to extend the reach of my telephoto lenses. It is very capable for slow moving subjects and gets me "closer" than I could ever afford if my only option was using the big/heavy/expensive glass. I also recently purchased a Fuji X-T1 which absolutely lives up the the hype you mention. It is a joy to shoot and I will take it places (long hikes, bicycle rides, business trips, etc...) where a DSLR is just not practical. I'm finding it to be fully capable system for just about any photographic situation. Sure, for serious photographic adventures (wide landscapes, astrophotography, fast moving sports/wildlife, etc...) the DSLR is still superior, but there are many situations where a mirrorless system provides a practical alternative and can also serve as a backup to the DSLR. There are some truly impressive systems out there and I encourage everyone to keep an open mind. I also look forward to the day when Nikon provides a serious offering that can truly compete with mirrorless "big boys".
Christopher Oldham (chroaz) on April 16, 2017
Hi Wayne - very insightful article. I have made the switch from being a long term DSLR user and have worked my way through the Nikon "system" over the last number years from a D90 up to a D800, and stopping off by the way with the fun and exceptional Df. But in the end I made the switch - not because of the hype, or by buying into any thoughts that the DSLR was a dinosaur and dead (it surely isn't!), but because of the type of photography I do, and because just about all of the "limitations" of the smaller sensor mirrorless systems that you cite do not have a major impact on my use of a camera. I went for the OMD E-M1, and have just "upgraded" to the Mark II version - an amazing camera! So, using your numbering.... (1) Form Factor: I have small hands and actually found the ergonomics to suit me well. I briefly tried the Fuji equivavlent, but didn't like how it felt in my hands. (I wrote about it on Nilonians). The Mark II has an improved - read bigger - grip and for me at least it is pretty much ideal. Now I should point out that weight and form factor were critical to me as I do a lot of travelling - I was leaving my DSLR behind too often because of it - and loosing out on a lot of opportunities. (2) Lenses: Not sure I agree with you here. The m 4/3 lense catalogue from Olympus and Panasonic is very comprehensive and covers just about everything. The "PRO" version lenses are superb, robust and as well built as many of their upper-end APS-C and full frame counterparts. And, again, size and weight is a huge advantage. For example the Lumix 35-100mm f/2-8 m/43 lens is a mere fraction of the size of the equivalent 70-200 Nikon lens, and the IQ is pretty impressive too. (3) Bokeh: A very legitimate comment. I shoot more Landscape than anything else and so this isn't the issue that it might be for others. But technique (ie: getting closer to your subject) and the new faster lenses go a long way to mitigate this. (4) Battery Life: I have never found this to be a problem. I always carry 3 with me, as they are so small, and I have yet to run into a situation that running out of juice caused me to miss a shot - I normally get around 400 or more shots per battery, and that is more than enough for ther type of shooting I do. (5) Auto-Focus: Yes tracking speed, especially approaching targets, is not the forte of the Olympus system. But here again, this is not normally the type of shot I am taking. On the occasions I have had to, I normally get around 70% as keepers ... which I can live with! But the on board IBIS stabilization system is just about the best there is, and can be used with any lens. (6) IQ: Well yes... but this is very subjective, and as you point out, it depends on what you are doing with your images. Cropping, as you also point out, is a very good reason for a larger sensor, and I do crop ... a lot. With the faster PRO lenses I have not seen a meaningful reduction in IQ that has impacted my work. But I do not print poster size images and of course that is where the IQ "defficiency" will really show. On other point that I don't think you mention is ISO - and this is where I find the most to quibble with. m/43 has a ways to go in this regard, and the potential for noise is just about the only thing I have to complain about since I made my switch! I still have the D800 and one "landscape lens, the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, a terrific combo ... but I find I reach for it less and less. Thanks for you insights Wayne, a great summary. Chris
Laslo Varadi (lvaradi) on April 16, 2017
Hi Wayne, I enjoyed reading your article. I'm a long time Nikon shooter and currently have the D750. I recently sold my D500 and replaced it with the Olympus E-M1II. My reason was, to get something smaller but that still had good ergonomics and autofocusing for action type photos. I used the Nikon 200-500 with the D500 and will keep the lens for now to use with the D750. Meanwhile I purchased the Leica 100-400 to use with the Olympus and it does result in a much smaller system that provides very good image quality that I could shoot with all day long because it's not heavy. Now if I wanted top IQ and low light capability, I would use my D750. So I think I have the best of both worlds.
John D. Roach (jdroach) on April 16, 2017
I use both Nikon equipment extensively as well as Fuji X Series. Take a look at the equipment listed in my profile to get a sense for the range of gear I use. I even use Nikon lenses with my Fuji X cameras with suitable adaptors. In my opinion, I find having the two systems is not an either/or argument regarding the 6 areas mentioned in this article. I see them rather as different tools for enjoying my photography. I can't say in absolute terms that one is better over the other. Rather it is about what I want, when and how I want to use and accomplish capturing the light in the context of my vision. I think, if I had the time (for I am in the process of selling a home, arranging a move, traveling a lot, etc. so that might have to wait a while before I write something in my blog), I could refute each point in detail made in this article in a very positive way that would show my Fuji can stand up "head and shoulders" alongside my Nikons (FX or DX). In short, for the time being, I will say (1) Form factor of my smaller Fuji X Series units is significantly different and perfect for travel for there is a big weight different; (2) Lens diversity and performance is awesome and very much up to par with many of my Nikon lenses albeit still evolving; (3) quality of bokeh or any variation of DOF is equally fine; (4) my Fuji X-Pro2 and Fuji X-T1 focus track very well, however, since I use my Nikon for bird photography, I concede that I will not argue that point, since that is not what I think the Fuji is designed for; (5) I am not sure what the issue of battery life is, since I have never had an issue with any camera (Nikon, Fuji or other) in that regard because I carry enough batteries to ensure I have what need when I need it; and finally, (6) Image quality is equal or better and I even get the joy of out of camera jpegs with options that far exceed my Nikon when I choose to use them vs. exclusively RAW captures and I have printed and sold "big" high quality resolutions images from both systems. For me, it is not an either/or discussion. I like my choices and the result and whole heartily refute any notion that one should only use a DSLR and sell that as a viable argument. Sorry, I just don't buy into it.
Willard C Kennedy (Bill Kennedy) on April 16, 2017
PHOTO BOOK aaaagggh!!!
Willard C Kennedy (Bill Kennedy) on April 16, 2017
In the comment below "phonebook" should be "phonebook"--sorry!!!
Willard C Kennedy (Bill Kennedy) on April 16, 2017
I use a variety of systems. For sports, wildlife, landscape and "serious" work I use a FF Nikon. I use a DX Nikon where portability is important, and for more "reach" with wildlife. But I also use Panasonic Lumix Micro 4/3 cameras and have the Panasonic "Holy Trinity". There are times small size is very important. For example, I am going to Sicily in a few weeks (traveling with carry-on only) and will do some "street photography" there--using a Lumix with a 35-70 f2.8 equivalent is very convenient and unobtrusive. I can also carry two bodies, the "Holy Trinity" and a 80-400mm equivalent in a small bag. But what do I give up? Besides the points mentioned in this article (all of which I agree with), the focus accuracy is not as good with the Lumix systems. My keeper rate is definitely lower--but still high and more than acceptable. Also, you cannot shoot sports with an acceptable keeper rate with a Micro 4/3 system--or at least I can't! Low light performance is another big issue. I shoot a lot of basketball and the low light capability of a FF Nikon just blows away Panasonic. Typically I shoot basketball with a 70-200mm at f2.8, 1/1000 sec and auto ISO limited to 51,200--results are outstanding when the images are converted with DxO Optics 11 with Prime noise reduction. I view cameras as tools--sometimes you need a sledge hammer (Nikon FF) and sometimes a tack hammer is important (Micro 4/3). Since most of my photos end up in phonebooks with the largest image page size, the smaller sensor is really not a huge deal. All of my "wall hangers" are Nikon FF!
KENNETH JACKSON (f5titan) on April 16, 2017
In the mid-seventies I went through a similar debate with myself when considering the Olympus OM versus the Nikon F2/Nikkormat film systems. The compact light-weight Olympus system was alluring but the robust (today we'd call it weighty) Nikon system won out. Today some of my camera club associates have moved over to the Sony Mirrorless system and they're quite pleased. My Nikon DSLR system can be configured to light weight by using a different body, prime lenses and leaving the grips at home or I'll just use my 1J1/1V1 system for a feather weight system. Forty years with the Nikon SLR/DSLR systems probably makes me a fossil but that's alright with me! (;-)
Rob Lipsey (Montag311) on April 16, 2017
Interesting that you did not mention the optical vs electronic viewfinder difference which is my main problem with mirrorless, although I admit that the newer EVFs are getting better. I still prefer a "real" viewfinder though.
Robert Maxwell (Rathvon) on April 15, 2017
Thanks for a great article. I have been considering a switch to mirrorless and this information is very helpful in my decision process.
Albrecht Granzow (GiantTristan) on April 15, 2017
This is an interesting write up. It indeed needs very careful consideration before one decides to change a photographic system. I have deliberated long and hard to find a mirror less camera (not system) to complement (not to replace) my Nikon D800. About a year ago, I acquired a Leica Q with a fixed 28/1.7 FX lens. The cost is about the same as for a D810 plus a first class prime lens and the DSLR setup weighs about twice as much as the Leica Q. I prefer the ergonomics and the fast AF tracking of the Nikon, 36 vs. 24MP, better DR and obviously the ability to change lenses. The IQ I get from both cameras/lenses is equally outstanding. I like the "smart" EVF of the Leica, the more logical menu system, silent vibration free operation, unobtrusiveness, and the much easier MF. In summary, it makes very little sens to abandon the Nikon system, especially if you have a substantial investment in F-mount lenses. Over the past year, use frequency for the two cameras was about equal.
Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on April 15, 2017
Thanks for sharing your personal experiences here, Wayne. We easily end up in traps and it is good to understand what drives our motives to make decisions. Often they are emotional.
Kathy Cavallaro (Cavy2) on April 15, 2017
Hi Wayne, I enjoyed your article. Before my last trip, I was contemplating the purchase of a Fuji X-T2. A friend of mine has one, and has been trying to convert me to the Fuji system for a few years. Weight being a big consideration for making the switch, if I added a few F/2.8 lenses, the weight wasn't much lighter than my D700 with the same lens equivalent. What really convinced me, I rented a D810 and took some images on a beautiful morning with a dramatic sky. My friend also took images the same morning and posted the results on FB. His sky appeared muddy, and not with the same dynamic range as my images taken with the D810. I ordered the D810.
JOHN CRUMP (shadowman371) on April 15, 2017
Nice article, I didn't make the switch but did purchase the PEN EPL1 and still use it but for different purposes. For me, the small form factor makes the mirrorless perfect for street festivals where arm room and large bulky carryalls can be limiting. For my typical shooting (architecture, street, seascapes, etc.) the DSLR is my go to system.