Why Did I Buy a Mirrorless Camera?

I’ve been interested for a while in getting a second full frame digital camera body to give me focal lengths from very wide to medium telephoto without having to change lenses.

My current camera is a 4 year old Nikon D600. It might seem natural to get a newer Nikon, but I was interested in lighter weight options offered by mirrorless technology.

I added several other requirements to my list as I looked around. A five shot bracket capability and ISO to 100,000 or more would improve my image capture for my medieval church project. I also discovered that some mirrorless cameras have adapters that would allow me to use my manual Leica M lenses left over from the days of film.

Leica, of course makes such cameras, but they are very expensive. I saw an ad for the Sony A9 which has ISO to 400,000. The manual for this camera is available on line, so I read it, looking for the features I wanted. I found it only offers 3 shot bracketing. I concluded that it’s really an action camera and more money than I cared to spend.

I settled on the Sony AR7 II with a 16-35mm f4 Zeiss lens. It has everything I wanted, saves 14 ounces in weight over the equivalent Nikon kit. It has some bonus features I had not previously considered that turned out to be very handy. The image below shows how compact this is with a 35mm prime lens.

First some comments on operability. Some online reviews complain about the complexity of the Sony menus. I did not find the menus any more complex than my Nikon, just different. Additionally there is a quick menu activated by a function button that can be tailored to the dozen functions I adjust most often. There are also 4 customizable buttons for quickest access to you favorites. My recommendation for anyone with a new camera is to read the fascinating manual, pick out the few items you will really use and put them in the custom menus that all cameras offer.

I did some comparison shots against my Nikon. After adjusting for the difference in resolution (24MP vs 42MP), I found the Sony, with it’s Zeiss lens to be every bit as sharp with less noise at high ISO. And my old Leica M lenses still beat Nikon’s best. Although I would have bought something with less than 42MP, the extra resolution gives me more crop options and more room to adjust for perspective distortion.

In camera motion compensation is very useful for handheld shooting. The Sony compensation is quick. I notice no jitter in the viewfinder. They advertise 4 stops of compensation. However, in my tests, I only get good sharpness with one stop slower shutter speed (e.g. 1/30 sec at 50mm vs 1/60). That’s about what I get with motion compensation lenses on the Nikon. So, maybe I’m just getting unsteady as I get older.

The Sony has both an electronic viewfinder and an LCD. Earlier mirrorless cameras have suffered from delay in the finder. I did not notice any delay with this camera. The finder has a light detector build in, so when you put your eye to the finder, it automatically switches on and the LCD screed turns off, saving a lot of electrons.

The LCD screen tilts either up or down. This allows you to shoot straight up or over heads without having to hyperextend your neck.

I have a quiet mode on my Nikon, but it’s still pretty noisy when shooting in a quiet place. The Sony silent mode is truly undetectable. If the green processing light didn’t go on, I wouldn’t know that the shutter had released at all. This was important when shooting in churches where I did not want to disturb the faithful.

One feature that is very helpful is the visual focus assist. The area in focus is highlighted with colored borders. You can adjust the color and intensity to your own taste. This makes manual focussing a lot easier for us with aging eyes. The image below on the left is a shot of the LCD screen with a MF lens set at F2: only a middle band of the image is in focus The image on the right is at F16: almost everything is in focus. The F stop does not display because the manual lens does not have an electronic interface.

So, bottom line: The Sony AR7 II will be my wide angle zoom option to complement the Nikon, and when I want a lightweight walk around camera, I’ll mount one of the Leica primes.

2 thoughts on “Why Did I Buy a Mirrorless Camera?”

  1. Great post.
    I learned this from Don Dymer. The little window that turns off the LCD when you put your eye to the viewfinder gets dirty. When it gets dirty it thinks your eye is to the viewfinder and your LCD goes dark.
    If you don’t know to clean the little window you will go crazy trying to fix this “little” quirk.
    Don found out from the Sony repair people. I found out from Don and now you. . .

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