Why mirrorless cameras are taking over the world

Nikon’s introduction of its Z6 and Z7 cameras might make it the most recent company to hop on board the professional mirrorless-camera bandwagon, but the venerable Japanese firm is hardly the first to take a crack at cutting the flipping mirror of single-lens-reflex cameras out of the optical path.


Sony’s A7 III, a popular mirrorless camera of late

Olympus and Panasonic were some of the pioneers of the digital mirrorless camera with the Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds systems. Fujifilm’s X System and Sony’s Alpha family of cameras are some of the most popular mirror-free picture-takers available today. Why is the industry making the mirror persona non grata, though? Let’s take a little trip into the history books.

Nikon’s original F. Note the mirror inside the lens mount. Source: KEH.com

The vast majority of interchangeable-lens cameras made since 1959 have been single-lens reflex designs, or SLRs. SLRs include a mirror between the rear of the lens and the film or sensor to redirect light through a focusing screen and erecting pentaprism. That system meant that you could, well, focus, compose, and even preview the depth of field in your image at the aperture you chose, since you were looking directly through the lens.

That direct, one-to-one view was the major advance of 1959’s Nikon F and other, earlier SLRs over the Leica M and other rangefinder cameras without reflex mirrors: the image in an SLR’s viewfinder was always representative of what you would see in the final shot with practically any lens, from the widest possible wide-angles to the longest long lenses.


Leica’s M3, the seminal rangefinder camera. Note rangefinder window on the upper right of the body. Source: Rama on Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 2.0 fr

Rangefinders have endured among photo enthusiasts, however, in part because of the optical quality that’s possible when you don’t have to design lenses that account for a flipping mirror between the rear of the lens and the film or sensor plane. Rangefinders can be smaller, lighter, and quieter thanks to their less-complex designs, as well, but image quality is the primary reason they still have their adherents.

That advantage is especially true for rangefinders’ wide-angle lenses, the rear elements of which can be placed as close to the film or sensor as is practically possible. SLR lens designers have to artificially increase the distance between the rear of the lens and the film or sensor to make room for the mirror and its surrounding infrastructure.

As the article by Bruce Sirovich above notes, that design principle requires complex retrofocus lenses with many glass elements, and complex lens designs tend to be harder to keep sharp, all else being equal. Leica cameras and lenses—the most prominent rangefinder system still in use—have a deserved reputation for being among the sharpest in the world in part because of the inherent advantages the rangefinder camera design offers optical engineers.

A view through the Leica M3’s finder. Note the lens intruding in the lower right. Source: kiemchacsu on Flickr

Rangefinders have all sorts of inconveniences for practical photography, though. As I alluded to in the first paragraph, one inconvenience is parallax at close distances. By design, rangefinders make the photographer peer through a separate viewfinder with its own perspective, not directly through the lens, so the mismatch between your eye’s perspective and the lens’ perspective grows as you focus on closer subjects.

This mismatch makes macro (or extreme-close-up) photography practically impossible with rangefinders, barring the use of specialized focusing devices (e.g. Leica’s Visoflex). Rangefinders can also show more of the image than you’ll actually get in their viewfinders, so it can be difficult to achieve precise compositions at the edges of your frame. Rangefinder lenses can even intrude into the view offered through the finder, marking yet another way it can be more difficult to achieve the precise composition you want.

Leica’s Universal Wide Finder. Note hotshoe mount at lower left.

On top of those issues, rangefinders have a limited set of frame lines in their viewfinders that they can show to define the edges of your composition, so the handy zoom lenses common from SLR makers are practically unheard of in rangefinder systems. Rangefinders also can’t show the full view from wide-angle lenses, so you have to compose your wide-angle shots through another, auxiliary finder that’s different for every wide-angle lens you have in your bag before focusing using the limited view through the rangefinder window. That separate finder is in yet another position versus the lens itself, so precise composition remains difficult.

Finally, with long lenses (above 85 mm or so), rangefinder photographers have to cope with calibration issues between the focusing system and the lens itself (usually controlled by a mechanical coupling between lens and rangefinder). Rangefinders and lenses that are poorly matched make it hard to get sharp shots, and fixing that mismatch usually requires the purchase of a different lens or sending the camera and lens back to the manufacturer to get them in closer agreement. That’s one reason why you don’t generally see lenses longer than 90 mm in common use with today’s Leicas.

In short, even though rangefinder cameras don’t need flippy mirrors or pentaprisms to assist with composing or focusing, the fact that rangefinders can’t see through the lens attached to the camera makes them specialized tools, not the Swiss Army knives of photography. That mantle has, for many years, been claimed by the SLR.

 

Tolerances test the SLR’s limits

SLRs aren’t a perfect solution to the problems of the rangefinder, though. Since you’re relying on an agreement of mechanical alignments between light, a partially silvered mirror, the optical focusing system above the mirror, and an autofocus system underneath the mirror, you can end up with subtle focus problems that weren’t visible on film but are becoming more and more painfully evident with wide-aperture lenses and high-resolution, full-frame sensors.

Nikon’s D850, one of the most recent DSLRs

That’s because wide-aperture lenses offer so little depth-of-field, or the front-to-back “slice” of the image that’s in focus, at their maximum aperture. The full-35-mm-frame, high-resolution sensors popular with today’s professional cameras reduce the effective depth of field for a given focal length compared to smaller-sensor cameras (like Micro Four Thirds and APS-C), making any focusing errors with those lenses all the more obvious.

You can get around that problem by calibrating your SLR’s autofocus system to compensate with some lenses, but it’s not a cure-all by any stretch of the imagination. The focus errors between lenses and autofocus systems aren’t necessarily consistent, either, meaning that a compensation made at one end of the focusing range might not work well for another focus distance.

The AF Fine-Tune controls of my Nikon D810, showing a particularly egregious mismatch between lens and AF system

It’s probably fair to say that we are reaching a limit of what’s possible with the SLR design today, just because of the practical limits of mechanical tolerances of a moving mirror system versus sensor size and resolution.

Mirrorless digital cameras, then, are opening the next frontier of demanding photography by blending some of the virtues of rangefinders and SLRs with their own distinct set of advantages. Since mirrorless cameras acquire focus directly from the sensor plane, photographers are (in theory) assured of precise focus even with long, wide-aperture lenses on large, high-resolution sensors. The agreement between lens and focus system is theoretically no longer an issue, since the camera’s focus system is a closed loop and can compensate for any imprecision in the lens itself.

Nikon’s Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor module, which sits under the mirror in its DSLRs. Source: Nikon

Since mirrorless cameras’ phase-detection (read: fast) autofocus (AF) sensors are ideally just another functional element on a silicon substrate—a principle that Canon pioneered and is now used in practically every high-end smartphone nowadays—engineers can spread out those AF “pixels” over the whole sensor, rather than being limited by the practical size of a separate autofocus module that can be embedded under an SLR mirror. That limitation tends to result in a small cluster of AF sensors in the middle of the frame.

Since mirrorless cameras can spread out their AF sensors this way, subject tracking and autofocus over the entire frame is a real possibility now, as demonstrated by Sony’s A9 camera, among others.

Canon’s dual-pixel autofocus system, in principle. Source: Canon, via YouTube

Mirrorless digital cameras also take another page from rangefinders by allowing lens designers to put the rear element of the lens as close to the sensor as is practically possible, so it’s easier to make wide, fast, and sharp lenses that aren’t huge. You still get the direct view through the lens with mirrorless cameras that made SLRs so popular, thanks to the relatively high-resolution and high-refresh-rate electronic viewfinders that draw their video feed directly from the image sensor.

With all those advantages, though, why didn’t interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras take off much sooner, given that we’ve had practical digital SLRs since 1999’s Nikon D1? The answer likely comes down to lenses (as well as massive leaps and bounds in technology since, but I’m going to blame lenses). Professionals and amateurs alike can invest many thousands of dollars in glass, and those lenses can remain useful for decades, if not longer, even as camera technology advances. Camera makers who want to build enduring systems and loyalty among camera buyers avoid lens-mount changes like the plague.

Nikon Z7, showing the new Z mount

For example, the last major mount change in the Canon-Nikon duopoly was Canon’s introduction of the EF mount in 1987. All EF lenses still work perfectly with today’s Canon DSLRs, and even manual-focus Nikon F-mount lenses from 1959 will still work with the company’s latest semi-professional and professional cameras with some mechanical modifications for aperture readout. That reticence to change mounts means Nikon’s new Z mount is a rare event in the world of cameras, and it’s no surprise that the company is offering a bridge to photographers already invested in F-mount glass with its FTZ adapter.

All told, mirrorless cameras give engineers more flexibility to cope with the challenges of high-resolution sensors and optics now that film isn’t the primary medium on which we’re recording images, and it’s no shock that the industry is embracing them as the future of camera design. Nikon might have been the next domino to fall on the way to mirrorless cameras’ dominance of the high-end photography market, but it’s unlikely to be the last.

Comments closed
    • End User
    • 1 year ago

    Still rocking my D80. Time to upgrade.

    • Wonders
    • 1 year ago

    Love this article!

    • ronch
    • 1 year ago

    The domain name camerareport.com is still available.

    Just sayin’. 🙂

      • Captain Ned
      • 1 year ago

      If by available you mean being held for ransom.

      However, if you’re willing to go back to the dash, that one is completely unregistered.

        • drfish
        • 1 year ago

        So, you’re saying that there is no dash in camerareport.com?

          • Captain Ned
          • 1 year ago

          Dagnabbit.

    • dpaus
    • 1 year ago

    You kids are cute. Real photographers (like, ahem, moi) are still rockin’ their foldable autographic Kodak Brownie (although, truth be told, I’m a bit afraid to actually unfold it anymore – I think the bellows is dried out).

      • derFunkenstein
      • 1 year ago

      Damn you’re old.

        • dpaus
        • 1 year ago

        Get off my lawn!

        • BIF
        • 1 year ago

        And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!

          • K-L-Waster
          • 1 year ago

          Pffft. As if kids are interested in any camera that doesn’t post direct to Instagram….

      • drfish
      • 1 year ago

      LOL, don’t play that game with Jeff.

        • Chrispy_
        • 1 year ago

        Yeah, dpaus transferred his consciousness to machine before his frail old body turned to mush in the ’70s; Not only is his consciousness old but his artificial mind runs on reel-to-reel tape and tube valves.

    • Delphis
    • 1 year ago

    As someone kicking around the idea of what to move to next from my trusty Canon 40D that has served me faithfully for over 10 years now this was a good article to read.

    To mirror or not to mirror.. That is my question

      • BIF
      • 1 year ago

      I’m still worried about shutter lag.

        • Kretschmer
        • 1 year ago

        Go to a local Best Buy and try out a modern mirrorless camera.

          • BIF
          • 1 year ago

          I will, thank you. That’s a great suggestion.

        • TheEmrys
        • 1 year ago

        It really isn’t an issue. The Sony a7III is a gem. Same goes for the Fuji XT2. Both can be shot with no blackout at all,something no DSLR can do.

      • Voldenuit
      • 1 year ago

      I’ve been m43 (from Canon film SLR) since the GF1 came out (ca. 2009). A friend recently sold his D600 and went to a Fuji X-T2, and we recently convinced another to switch from her ancient Rebel XSi to a Fuji X-T100. Among our group of photography enthusiasts, those last two I mentioned were the sole holdouts on DLSR; everyone else had gone mirrorless ages ago.

      The question isn’t to mirror or not, it’s which mirrorless system. 😛

    • BIF
    • 1 year ago

    I used a Minolta XG-9 SLR to shoot sports in high school and college. I never had trouble missing the action. The shutter never lagged. Ever.

    Then I had an Olympus digital. I couldn’t get the shot to save my life. The shutter lag was just a fraction of a second, but it might as well have been a week.

    I now have an old Nikon D7000; a DSLR. No problems with catching action.

    Are we saying that today’s “mirrorless” cameras won’t have the same troubles shooting action that EVERY mirrorless camera had in the 2000’s? Don’t be playing with me now.

      • Lianna
      • 1 year ago

      Modern mirrorless camera is the same DSLR without a mirror (“Reflex”) – why would it have longer shutter lag, all else being equal? If anything, it would have less lag, not having a mirror to flip up before starting the shutter. (…or about same, if you use mechanical shutter and it has to be closed before opening).

      If it’s easier, think of modern mirrorless as a modern DSLR operating only in Live View mode.

      Old compact cameras, not “mirrorless” in today’s definition of FF/APSC/MFT matrix ones, often had very outdated (even for their times) processors (because of being cheap). In terms of processing it’s like 10y old, cheap for its time smartphone camera in comparison to modern high-end one.

        • Captain Ned
        • 1 year ago

        Oly 4/3s cameras (i used to have a E-500) had horrendous lag in their AF/aperture systems. Even pre-composing the shot by slightly pressing the shutter button to at least get the aperture set still didn’t fix this. Worst, the lag wasn’t a determinate interval; it varied based on how the AF sensor was performing that day.

          • Lianna
          • 1 year ago

          That’s why I said “all else being equal”. You cite bad example of shutter lag; there are examples of imprecise and unreliable/erratic AF even in current DSLRs – that does not mean all (or even most) DSLRs have this problem. Depending on technology used, shutter lag can be better than in best DSLRs (e.g. A9), but like always, it depends on the implementation.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 1 year ago

      I never have trouble missing the shot, either. Hey-ooo!

      • TheEmrys
      • 1 year ago

      They really don’t have trouble shooting action anymore. This last generation is simply amazing. Fuji’s XT2 and XH1, Olympus’ EM1-2, Sony’s a7III, a7rIII, and a9 are all pretty amazing on the af front. Sony’s a7III, an entry level full frame body, has better autofocus than any full frame dslr aside from the d5/1dx level pro bodies. But the a9 is in that class.

      The technology has really, really advanced. Canon’s will probably have amazing autofocus as they have moved their autofocus on to the sensor as well.

      • BIF
      • 1 year ago

      Thank you all, I will reconsider and I’ll try out a few cameras.

      I could even get excited if I find a Nikon that can accept my lenses; particularly my macro lens.

        • DancinJack
        • 1 year ago

        Your lenses should work just fine. A D5600 or D7500 would be great choices.

        • Voldenuit
        • 1 year ago

        Definitely try them out in person, but I have a few tips:

        1. Read up on which cameras interest you, and familiarize yourself with what to expect (control dials, menu-based controls, viewfinder/touchscreen options) before you handle them to get the most out of your limited time.

        2. If you have a reputable specialist camera store near you, they will be more knowledgeable and stock a wider variety of cameras and lenses than Best Buy.

      • Kretschmer
      • 1 year ago

      Also, motherboard sound can’t be trusted, because that was terrible 20 years ago, too. And uhh don’t try and browse on a phone.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 1 year ago

    This was fun. Thanks, Jeff. I’m glad you put this together. And it reminded me that I needed to re-subscribe to the TR (since my card had expired before my auto renewal, that never went through).

    Mirrorless cameras being smaller than SLRs make them an attractive alternative. I picked up a Sony [s<]A5100[/s<] A5000 from a long-time TR member a few months back and marveled at how much smaller it was than my Nikon D3300. It's an older camera and the image quality isn't quite as nice. Plus I only have the kit lens; no 35mm wide-aperture prime lens and no 200mm focus length like my two other Nikkor lenses. The upside is that its size makes it a good middle ground for when I'm out and about and just want to take some decent (better than my iPhone or Pixel 2) shots.

      • Kretschmer
      • 1 year ago

      The Sony kit is of middling quality. The A5100 actually has the same sensor as the A6000 and is quite nice!

        • derFunkenstein
        • 1 year ago

        Sorry I have the A5000. My memory didn’t sit well with me so I had to go look at the box.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 1 year ago

          I should note, it still takes nice photos. The megapixel count is “only” 20 but the images that come out look nice. She uses it on auto. I’m learning (slowly) how to shoot manual with my camera. The combination of ISO speed, aperture, and shutter speed isn’t difficult to figure out in most circumstances so I can at least get some proper exposure with a little patience. I stick with auto-focus, though.

          Composing photos is a whole other ballgame that I may never master. 😆

            • Kretschmer
            • 1 year ago

            I’m learning myself, and composition is tough!

            • DancinJack
            • 1 year ago

            Composition is easily the hardest part of photography for me. I get the science and physics of the rest, and pick things up pretty easily, but composing photos is just something that takes time for me.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 1 year ago

            I’ve adopted an attitude of sheer quantity. I’m bound to find something I like if I just take a lot of photos. 😆

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 1 year ago

            The problem with that strategy is that if you shoot 1000 photos per day, it will take you a couple of hours each night to sort through them and select the best ones for post processing and sharing.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 1 year ago

            It’s not a great strategy, I’ll give youth. It takes a while but I’m not carrying around my bulky dSLR everywhere I go. And I don’t think I’ve ever taken 1,000 photos.

            If I was doing that daily, then no contest, it’s a lot of work.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 1 year ago

            If I spend a day in a national park, I can easily take over 300 photographs.

            When I was using DancinJack’s strategy of AI Servo with high-speed continuous shooting while whale-watching, I topped 1000 in one day:
            [url<]http://i230.photobucket.com/albums/ee120/JustAnEngineer/Alaska/Juneau/IMG_8920.jpg[/url<] Mountains and oceans aren't as hard to capture: [url<]http://i230.photobucket.com/albums/ee120/JustAnEngineer/Alaska/Juneau/IMG_8415.jpg[/url<] [url<]http://i230.photobucket.com/albums/ee120/JustAnEngineer/Alaska/Juneau/IMG_9232.jpg[/url<]

            • DancinJack
            • 1 year ago

            Yeah, I’m just saying I use that scenario for when I’m shooting motion. Of course I’m not going to use that type of setup when shooting mountains or an ocean.

            But yeah, it adds up fast. 20 min of shooting a few weeks ago and I ended up with ~400 shots to sort through. But it’s worth it, for me personally.

            • Kretschmer
            • 1 year ago

            What jacks my photo count up is trying to take pictures of something moving like a flying bird with burst shooting (11 FPS?). You end up with a hundred shots that are all kind of similar and you have to sort through them alllllll to see which one is slightly more in focus.

            • DancinJack
            • 1 year ago

            This is exactly what i’m talking about 🙂

            • DancinJack
            • 1 year ago

            Dude, it’s not that bad of an idea. I shoot servo/continuous AF (just depends) and high speed continuous (~7fps on my camera) most the time unless I know exactly what I’m trying to get (like, a 1s shutter or something) and nothing is moving lol.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 1 year ago

            I’ve gone for the occasional weird artsy shot and do what I want to with those. This thing had a 10-second exposure in the dark of night, and I was just trying to capture headlights going by.

            [url<]https://imgur.com/a/CVmjcTN[/url<] But for the most part it's nothing that fancy.

            • DancinJack
            • 1 year ago

            Long exposures are cool. I’ve seen some really great photos from friends hiking around the world with 5-10s shutters and the pics are amazing.

    • Anonymous Coward
    • 1 year ago

    I have to say, thats a surprisingly good summary of the state of things (as I understand them), just out of nowhere.

    The other interesting topic in camera land IMO is the phones vs the pure cameras. I have a 7D, its just [i<]fast[/i<] in every way, focus, controls, whatever. But the phones, they are quite clever at using what they've got. Will the software side of these mirrorless beasts keep pace?

      • DancinJack
      • 1 year ago

      So, as much as phone cameras are really, really great now, there is just zero way a phone camera, which has a sensor size of ~5x4mm (or around there), can compete with full frame, and even APS-C cameras. It’s just not physically possible. I think that’s a good thing to be honest.

      I have a Pixel 2 XL, arguably the best phone camera on the market, and I love carrying it around to take pictures. I would not however love carrying my DSLR + 3 lenses + bag + batteries etc around all the time. I think there is a really logical separation between DSLR/Mirrorless APS-C/FF cameras, and modern phone cameras, and both are only going to get better. We’re pretty spoiled these days.

      I do suspect that Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, etc etc will continue to improve their image processors, sensors, and lenses especially when it comes to the mirrorless models. It’s definitely an exciting time to be a camera nerd.

        • Phr3dly
        • 1 year ago

        You’re right, of course, that physics dictates all else equal that the (much) larger sensor will win. But software goes a long ways.

        Smartphone sensor sizes haven’t changed appreciably in, well, forever. Yet compare your Pixel2 XL to the best phone camera of 5 years ago and you’re talking a different league in terms of quality. Some of that comes down to improved optics, larger aperture, etc… But much of it comes down to software.

        Now granted Pro photographers are more likely to want their raw images unmolested by Google’s or Apple’s camera software, but that software at the same time results in surprisingly good images 95% of the time. Images that are eating away at the areas in which semi-pro cameras reign supreme.

        This battle has already happened before, as full-frame cameras surpassed medium format, despite the latter’s obvious advantage in sensor size. This was in part because of lower cost of entry and more innovative features offered in the SLR cameras. They were simply cheaper and more convenient to use. It’s not out of the question to see the same happen again.

          • DancinJack
          • 1 year ago

          Oh yeah, I didn’t mean to de-emphasize the importance of software, and its future advances in camera tech, but there are literal physical limitations with what we’re talking about.

          Like I said, we’re fairly spoiled these days. Options galore.

        • brucethemoose
        • 1 year ago

        Bigger lenses help too.

        There’s only so much software can do to make up for less light gathering area, a higher f-stop, less ISO control… Even my ancient SLR blows my HTC out of the water with low-light shots.

          • DancinJack
          • 1 year ago

          Indeed.

      • DPete27
      • 1 year ago

      “Theoretically” I think the move to mirrorless allows dedicated cameras to use all the same tricks as smartphones, but with better optics, larger sensors, etc etc.

      That said, I’ve yet to see ANY smartphone that can compete with even a 1″ class sensor, even with all their software trickery. Smartphone pics look great when you’re viewing the entire photo on a 5″ screen, but as soon as you zoom in, you can see the clarity is still garbage.

        • DancinJack
        • 1 year ago

        I think it really depends on what you’re doing. There are cases where an iPhone X/Pixel 2 looks nearly, if not as, good as a Sony RX 100 (pick your mk). The biggest difference is that optical zoom on the RX. Smartphones just can’t emulate that without physical lenses and that’s OK by me.

        12MP is still really big, and can look OK on a big screen, but if you’re doing pro photo work it’s just not the tool you should be using. You’re right about the advantages of mirrorless though. Better sensors, lenses, new image processors. All gonna just keep getting better.

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 1 year ago

        Why would you zoom in? I don’t use a microscope when I pick up a photo album. I think photos for home use should be usable in nice print sizes, everything else is just people going nuts.

          • DancinJack
          • 1 year ago

          There is something to be said for having good clarity on fine details, which a non optical zoom camera on a ~12MP sensor just isn’t going to get you at times.

        • rhema83
        • 1 year ago

        Fair comment. But the best camera is the one you have with you, and most people always carry their smartphones. When “the moment” occurs, a so-so picture taken by a smartphone is better than no picture at all. So it pays to learn how to exploit the capabilities of your smartphone camera. Pay for a camera app with manual controls and RAW capture if you must.

        On the flip side, I’ve yet to see ANY mirrorless camera that can compete with the stock iOS or vanilla Andriod camera app in terms of user-friendliness. Most try to cramp too many features into their menu-based UI. (Olympus, I’m looking at you!) And somehow the camera industry still assumes that users will read a book like “Understanding Exposure” before switching out of Auto. Cryptic jargon abounds in the menus. Please hire someone from Apple or Google to staff your UI team!

        Disclaimer: I own both an Olympus E-M5 and an iPhone X, and I have read “Understanding Exposure” in my Canon DSLR days.

      • Kretschmer
      • 1 year ago

      Dedicated cameras offer the POTENTIAL for better pictures, if the user knows how to properly use the camera exposure options and develop the image in post-processing. However, smartphone pictures are generally going to be better if you just point and shoot, because their software automatically applies world-class post-processing. I can get way, way more out of my camera in RAW than a smartphone sensor will capture, but the smartphone polishes the data it has to perfection.

      As someone learning photography, there is nothing more depressing than taking your first shot with a fancy new camera and having it look worse than your Pixel 2. It takes time and effort to learn both the camera and computer sides of good images!

      • tipoo
      • 1 year ago

      I think the difference is that most people taking smartphone pictures want something presentable instantly, so it processes the picture heavily over what the tiny sensors produce.

      With a larger camera, you want all the image information you can get, and presented as neutrally as possible, because with pro gear you’re probably going to touch it up later, rather than instantly share it to facebook.

      So while combining smartphone compute with larger camera optics is an interesting proposition for a certain market, maybe it’s not being done because larger cameras want to capture a more true scene.

      Most do by the way already have adjustments for lens warp and such, so the most important bits from smartphone compute may already be there.

    • DancinJack
    • 1 year ago

    Dude, more articles like this. I know not everyone is a camera nerd here (though I am), but this was a nice reprieve from some of the RTX/Spectre/etc/etc news.

      • jihadjoe
      • 1 year ago

      I’m not opposed to this at all, but it would be pretty funny direction to take since Scott & Co. did leave Ars and found TR in order to focus more on PC hardware when Ars was expanding into covering more general tech and science.

      Throwback: Scott’s 1998 Damagebox build @Ars
      [url<]https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/1998/09/damagebox-1/[/url<]

      • Irascible
      • 1 year ago

      Agreed. I don’t care about photography, but enjoyed the article very much.

      TR widening its horizon a little might be good. PC hardware just isn’t as exciting as it once was.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 1 year ago

      Not being a camera nerd is exactly why I need this article.

    • davidbowser
    • 1 year ago

    Blame lenses is right. Being a lens whore is real and I am one. Although I am not anywhere close to a good photographer, I very quickly accumulated over 10 lenses for my Canon 6D and seriously ended up with 2 “upgrade” dupes. The dupes were new Image Stabilization versions of existing glass and I was fortunate enough to recognize it before it got REALLY out of hand. I sold the older versions of the dupes and put a self-imposed ban on new lenses.

      • DancinJack
      • 1 year ago

      Don’t worry, that’s just how it works. I only have 4 lenses for my Canon DSLR right now, but….there are like three or four more just sitting in my “saved for later” on Amazon.

      • Phr3dly
      • 1 year ago

      Same, though I’ve recently started to liquidate my embarrassingly large collection of Nikkor lenses. As an engineer I get a kick out of playing with gear. My garage houses a dozen bikes most of which I’ve built myself (well, frame + components). I’ll never be a pro cyclist, but I do like building a bike for every niche use case. I have also enjoyed spending weekends loading ammo. Not because I’m a hunter, but because it’s fun to see the difference different powder has, or adding a few more or less grains.

      And cameras/lenses satisfy the same curiosity. I learn by doing, and once I started to see the difference in optics between different lenses, that became more interesting than taking pictures. Thankfully good quality lenses can be resold for 80% – 90% of new price, so I’m now down to a handful of high quality lenses without losing too much along the way.

      • SecretSquirrel
      • 1 year ago

      Actually, I blame the viewfinder/display technology, and the processing capabilities needed for rapid autofocus. The lens investment just added inertia. Its only been recently that on sensor autofocus has been fast enough to be useful with any sort of movement in the picture (think kids running around, not a pro-sporting event). Likewise, display technology has made leaps and bounds in the last five years. A capable EVF is really a requirement in order to dethrone the SLR. And, fast and accurate autofocus is a requirement to dethrone the pro SLR.

      Now, to lenses. I said they added inertia. You could have EVF and in-sensor auto-focus on par with the average SLR and uptake would still be slow. As has been noted, people have a huge investment in glass, so it requires a substantial jump in features/performance of a new mirrorless system to overcome that inertia.

      Taking myself as a sample of 1, have finally reached the point where, if I have to replace my current DSLR body, I might consider going mirrorless — and it would be the Z6, unless I can make it till my daughter gets out of college, in which case I’d got full frame. Reading some of the early access reviews of the Z7, it looks like the EVF and autofocus are finally good enough. And (back to lenses), I don’t have a huge collection of glass. I don’t do enough shoots to justify the expense, so I just rent them when needed. But, it wasn’t the lenses (or lack thereof) that made it a viable decision. It was the features I need have finally caught up to a DSLR. The lens situation just makes the calculus simpler.

        • Phr3dly
        • 1 year ago

        “””
        if I have to replace my current DSLR body, I might consider going mirrorless — and it would be the Z6, unless I can make it till my daughter gets out of college, in which case I’d got full frame.
        “””

        You’re in luck, because the Z6 /is/ full frame.

          • SecretSquirrel
          • 1 year ago

          Interesting. On of the “pre” reviews I read implied that it was an APS-C camera. I wasn’t looking closely at the specs as I was more interested in usage impressions. The times I’ve shot with a full frame camera (D-800), I ended up cutting down the resolution to 20Mpx anyway, as I didn’t need the extra resolution and the size gets pretty unwieldy. So a 24Mpx FX camera would be right in my target space.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 1 year ago

      You just need to extend your gear acquisition syndrome to a higher level. 😉

      You can spend time planning/fantasizing how to migrate from your current collection of lenses to an upgraded set that covers all of your needs with minimal duplication. For added interest and complexity, figure out how to do it one component at a time or for a fixed amount of spending per year. Match your moves to the introduction of new and updated equipment or planned changes in your photography.

      I went through this process when I replaced an EOS 7D with an EOS 5D Mk. III, looking at all of my lenses, the type of photography that I enjoyed, etc.
      [url<]https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=115530[/url<] Since that big upgrade, I have resisted further purchases. Options that I've considered include the [url=https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/products/details/lenses/ef/standard-medium-telephoto/ef-85mm-f-1-4l-is-usm/ef-85mm-f1-4l-is-usm<]85/1.4L IS[/url<] in place of my old [url=https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/ef-85mm-f-18-usm-refurbished<]85/1.8[/url<] and a [url=https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/extender-14x-lll-refurbished<]1.4X extender[/url<] to pair with my first-generation 100-400L IS. Nevertheless, the piece of gear in my pack that is likely to get replaced first is my old ultrabook.

    • chuckula
    • 1 year ago

    From response to Chuckula question to article with slick photos in record time!

      • morphine
      • 1 year ago

      You could say Jeff was rippin’.

        • chuckula
        • 1 year ago

        ThreadRipper 2 doubles article writing speed….. CONFIRMED!

          • morphine
          • 1 year ago

          … now with Mirrorless Benchmarking (TM).

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