The last two years, mirrorless cameras have become all the rage, leading sales and rental charts amongst professional shooters, and enthusiasts alike. But should you really buy one? Well, maybe. But before you do, there’s nine things you should consider.
- DUAL MEDIA CARD SLOTS. Does Your Mirrorless Camera have Dual media card slots? Professionals really like having a dual media card slot feature for archival and backup purposes. This kind of redundancy guards against corrupted cards. But both the Nikon Z Series, and the Canon EOS R full frame mirrorless cameras have been designed with but a single card. This is something that Fro Knows Photo’s Jared Polin calls an unpardonable sin.
- MEMORY CARDS. This leads to memory card format. What memory card format does your camera support? Nikon is doubling down on XQD, now that they offer their own brand of media cards, and that Lexar and Sony are both making them. This may not be an issue for cameras that have a dual card system, since often the secondary card is SD, but for single card users, going mirrorless may require a media card change.
- USB CHARGING. Shooting out in the field, shooters either need to have multiple batteries, or the option to charge your camera on the go with a power brick via USB. Thanks to this feature, shooters can keep going when their on board battery begins to peter out. The Sony A7III, for instance, offers USB charging, which is why Sony doesn’t offer a battery charger with their cameras. You have to buy it separately.
- BATTERY LIFE. This leads to the issue of battery life. Just how good is the battery life of a mirrorless camera? Let’s take a look at the published specs of the leading cameras: Sony A7III – the NP-FZ100 battery has a lifespan of 710 shots between charges, which translates to 3-4 times longer than the previous model. Some are reporting about 5-6 hours per battery charge with solid 4K video use. That’s impressive. The Panasonic GH5s has a battery life of a little less than half that, with a maximum of 440 shots, about 2 1/2 hours. Sadly, Nikon’s bold new Z7 4K mirrorless has a paltry battery life rating of 330 shots or 85 minutes of video. The Canon EOS R is only slightly better at a max of 350 shots, which is about 90 minutes of video shooting. But you can get the optional grip to double your battery life.
- WEATHER PROOFING. When shooting outdoors, the weather can suddenly go south. So just how good is the weather sealing on that mirrorless camera? Both the Nikon Z series and Canon EOS R have weather sealing. But let’s be honest, if it starts to rain, any camera is going to need protection. It’s more the dust issue than anything else, and with the Canon EOS R, there’s a cool feature where the shutter drops when you’re charging the lens, to protect the sensor from dust. I like that.
- THIRD PARTY LENS SUPPORT. Both Canon’s EOS R and the Nikon Z series both have a new lens mount, and in doing so, both companies have opted not to support third party lenses. This will mean it’ll take some time for lens manufacturers like Sigma to back engineer the proper electronics connections in order to design and build a lens that will work with the camera’s circuitry.
- DSLR LENS SUPPORT. How does that mirrorless camera work with your current collection of glass? Will you need to buy all new lenses? Or can you just get an adapter to solve the problem? Both Nikon and Canon are offering adapters for DSLR support, so in my mind, this is less a factor than third party lens support, which both are forsaking. Both are also full frame cameras, so there won’t really be a crop issue (except when shooting 4K video on the EOS R). But with the micro four-thirds Panasonic GH5s, it’s something to be concerned with.
- EVF IMAGE QUALITY. How good is the resolution and color of your electronic viewfinder? Many EVFs have a resolution in the millions of dots thanks to an OLED design, but is the color accurate?
- IN-CAMERA IMAGE STABILIZATION. The biggest development in the Sony A7 is in camera five axis image stabilization. Panasonic and Nikon also have their own flavor of it. But Canon has opted for a lens based IS, with no IBIS. That may not be a big deal if you lock down the camera a lot, but if you’re running and gunning, this could be a deal breaker, unless you like tweaking warp stabilizer in post!
So those are some of the factors to consider, while you hear the siren song of the mirrorless hype machine. Mirrorless cameras are going to change the way we shoot, to be sure. And it’s pretty clear that both Nikon and Canon are all in. But let’s not rush to judgement on sacrificing your camera gear immediately to jump on the bandwagon. So the research, and find the best camera for you, even if it means standing pat on your DSLR. Moreover, you could benefit from the mirrorless revolution by doing nothing. Think of all the gear that’s going up on eBay!