With the constant need to share a pic of avocado toast or a Boomerang of your cute friend jumping in front of a graffiti wall on a sunny day, we all feel like freaking photographers these days. If you don’t snap a pic, did it even happen? Take it to the next level with an actually gorgeous camera to match your gorgeous breakfast.
Maybe you’ve never heard of a mirrorless camera – but you are about to hear about them everywhere. From beautiful easy-to-shoot images, a super cool retro design, and a super simple way to download everything to your phone…you’re going to want one of these. And you’re going to want to leave your iPhone at home way more. Here’s why.
What’s so great About Mirrorless Cameras?
The mirrorless camera doesn’t have a mirror inside it (imagine, right?). That’s what gives many DSLR their bulk — the mirror transfers what the lens sees to the viewfinder, and there’s a mechanism that’s responsible for bringing it all up so that the sensor can then see the image when you press the shutter button. All of that adds a lot of weight. A mirrorless camera is extremely compact and light because it uses an electronic viewfinder instead.
Isn’t a Smartphone small enough?
Of course it is, and that’s why it’s so easy to carry around with you. But what you gain in convenience and lightness, you lose in quality. First, most smartphones have plastic lenses. They are also not designed to the same specifications that mirrorless camera lenses are made to. As a result, they are much more prone to odd optical effects and scratches, and it’s the minor distortions that can have an effect when you are trying to shoot art-like photos.
So, there’s a plate of food that you absolutely must take a photo of. With your smartphone, the camera does all the work, automatically selecting where it thinks the focus would be best and then deciding automatically whether to include flash and selecting the right ISO. Sometimes it gets all of this right, and it produces a fine photo. Often not, though, there’s something that’s just not quite right.
When you learn how to use the customizable settings on a mirrorless camera, you suddenly discover that the ordinary plate of food can look absolutely extraordinary with the right settings. Because you can select white balance, shutter speed, aperture and ISO, you can exert phenomenal control over what goes into the camera and what the sensor sees. The result is a superior photo and a great upload for your Instagram feed.
A bigger sensor equals better performance in most cases
So, going back to that plate of food, you can select the perfect angle, but you can also choose how much of the image is going to be in focus. And because the live view feed is an actual indication of the photo, you can see exactly how it will look. Choose different focal points to see how the image looks, and experiment with putting the focus on different areas and blurring out other bits. Oh, and don’t forget to play around with the shutter speeds and aperture settings to see how different forms of light look.
Customization is great, but what about lenses?
The lenses are the best bit. So, you’re out with your smartphone, and the cutest cat sits in a window 40 yards away. With your smartphone camera, the main options are to produce either a really badly cropped image or to make the bird so small that it is gets lost in the photo.
With a mirrorless camera, you simply change the lens to a longer one. Put a 70mm-300 mm lens on, and you can bring that cat into sharp focus without losing picture quality. And because most mirrorless cameras include some sort of image stabilization, you can get a sharp photo even when the light is a little lower. That cat is going to kill it with the likes on Facebook.
You also get a wide variety of other lenses. Wide-angle lenses let you see the more of the world, which makes them great for landscapes but also for somewhat unusual views.
Bet you can’t take a decent selfie, though
You’d be surprised! A number of mirrorless cameras have LCD screens that flip out and turn, making them perfect for selfies. In addition, it means you can get close to the ground without having to contort yourself to see through the viewfinder.
You can also connect them to a tripod quite easily, as there’s a tripod-compatible screw mount on the base. The result is that you get maximum stability. It also means that you can take long-exposure photos of various places that you visit. If you go to see the Eiffel Tower, for example, you can use a 30-second exposure to essentially eliminate all the people in the photo. There’s a wide range of tips and tricks you can use when playing around with longer exposures.
What About flash?
On-board flash is usually awful, mainly because the shadow that the lens casts gets in the way. However, off-camera flash can give you some impressive effects, especially if you use it as a fill flash. Turn the flash down to its minimum setting, and just use it to “fill” your subject for a smooth, even skin tone and to make your subject stand out slightly from the background. Alternatively, you can bounce the flash off the ceiling to create a beautifully lit room, or you can light up your subject from different angles to highlight different features.
You can’t do that with a smartphone.
Okay, but can you upload photos to social media?
While you have to be connected to a Wi-Fi signal, you can easily create that with your phone’s hotspot function — it’s not as though you’ll actually leave it behind. Alternatively, you can upload your photos to your phone for editing, or you can do it directly to a laptop. The choice is yours. Look for NFC functionality if you want to connect it to your phone, or look for Wi-Fi connectivity if you want to be able to connect it to your home network and potentially to social media.
If you really want to look the part, go for a retro-style mirrorless camera for that 1980s student journalist vibe.
So what should I get?
It entirely depends on what you want and your budget, but if you want a solid camera that produces great images, choose one of the major manufacturers, such as Sony, Nikon or Canon, and make sure the sensor inside is either an APS-C (sometimes called DX) or a full-frame (FF or FX) sensor. This will give you are huge range of lenses that you can choose from, and it’ll also ensure that the sensor is good enough to handle a wide range of situations. Also look for a camera that has full customizability (shutter, aperture and ISO), and if it comes with a hot shoe for flashes, you’re set.
Doesn’t really matter.
Megapixels don’t matter that much when it comes to uploading on Instagram, although high-resolution images can be cropped down more easily. Because the screens that’ll view your image are so small by comparison, the extra resolution will be lost in the vast majority of cases.
So get snapping, and enjoy taking advantage of new angles and plenty of options from your new mirrorless camera. Start shopping here.
Photos by Emily Kinsolving
All images shot with this Fuji mirrorless camera!
Information provided by CNET