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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our Guide To Mirrorless Cameras

Combining compact size with the interchangeable lenses of a DSLR, mirrorless cameras offer the outdoor photographer a capable, lightweight option

Labels: D-SLRsGear
Interchangeable Lenses
Perhaps even more than image quality, interchangeable lenses are the DSLR's strong point. Whatever your outdoor need—a supertelephoto for distant wildlife, a super-wide-angle to take in a grand vista or a macro lens for life-sized shots of insects and flowers—DSLRs have it. Mirrorless cameras bring interchangeable lenses to the compact camera world.

DSLRs offer a wider range of lenses than the mirrorless cameras do—fisheyes to supertelephotos, true macro lenses, even tilt-shift lenses. Being relatively new products, there isn't such a wide range of lenses built just for mirrorless cameras, but through the use of adapters, you get a lot of options.

The Micro Four Thirds models from Olympus and Panasonic can use Micro Four Thirds lenses, and via adapter, regular Four Thirds System lenses, which expands the choices for those cameras considerably, although in some cases, you lose AF capability. Sony has introduced the LA-EA2 adapter for its NEX mirrorless cameras, which not only lets you mount Sony A-mount DSLR lenses and legacy Minolta Maxxum lenses on the NEX cameras, but also provides phase-detection AF with them—the adapter contains a phase-detection AF system based on the translucent-mirror technology introduced in Sony's SLT cameras—it's one of the most useful accessories we've seen in 2011.

Actually, because of their short flange-back distances—the distance between the lens mount and the image plane—mirrorless cameras can use any lens for which an adapter can be found, and indeed many users take advantage of this to mount Zeiss and Leica lenses, as well as lenses from their old SLR systems on their cameras. If you're a Canon or Nikon DSLR user, you likely can find an adapter that will let you use those lenses on your mirrorless cameras. Again, the adapters generally mean you must focus and adjust exposure manually, but you can use a wide range of lenses.

Advantage: DSLRs. Although you can get more lens options for a mirrorless, interchangeable-lens camera through the use of adapters, DSLRs still have a clear advantage here.

While few of them are really pocketable with lens attached, the mirrorless cameras are much smaller and lighter than even entry-level DSLRs. This means a mirrorless system will take up less space, which is ideal when traveling by air or even car. Smaller and lighter is especially nice when you're hiking with gear. And it's not just the camera. A mirrorless camera and lens combination is much smaller and lighter, so you're carrying a lighter system in much less space—and the more elements to your system, the greater the total savings in bulk and weight.

Advantage: Mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras. There are some small DSLRs, but portability belongs to the mirrorless category as a whole.


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