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Technology Trends: Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Digital Cameras
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Technology Trends: Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Digital Cameras - Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Digital Cameras

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Digital Cameras

Mirrorless digital photography isn’t new. Almost every digital camera you’ve owned has been mirrorless—all your phone cameras, point-and-shoot cameras, webcams, and security cams. But until fairly recently there’s been a divide between functional, good-enough digital photography, and “serious” photography, the sort practiced by avid hobbyists and professionals. For a long time, it seemed that serious photography required a DSLR, a digital single-lens reflex camera, the modern version of those 35-millimeter cameras all the shutterbugs and pros used in the pre-digital era.

Those DSLR cameras are essentially electronic adaptations of an old, familiar design that doesn’t need to be employed anymore. There’s something existentially meaningful about the fact that in the early years of digital photography, the pacesetter was Sony, an electronics company, not a camera company. While the traditional camera companies were slow to adapt, when they finally did, they knew what their market needed, and serious photographers for very good reasons preferred Nikon and Canon products. Now that photography by default means digital photography, the advantages camera companies might have had over electronics companies are pretty blurry, and now all the serious photographers who’ve planted themselves firmly in one camera company’s camp or the other are reconsidering a few things.

SLR cameras from the days of yore presented one frame of unexposed film at a time, waiting in a dark camera body for light to pass through a lens and expose an image. The frame of film couldn’t be exposed until a mirror placed in front of it was lifted for a tiny fraction of a second. Why the mirror? Because in order for the photographer to see the image she was about to put on film, she wanted to see exactly the image coming through the lens. The image bounced off the mirror, up into a prism in the upper part of the camera (above the lens) and out of the viewfinder. The photographer adjusted focus, lighting, and other variables, then pressed the button, allowing the mirror to flip up, the image to hit the film, and the mirror to flip back down before too much light hit the frame.

Digital SLR cameras work essentially the same way. Instead of film, an electronic sensor is exposed and the image on the sensor is saved to a storage medium. Today, some high-end cameras eliminate the mirror and prism, and an electronic viewfinder receives its image from the sensor itself, meaning that what you see through the viewfinder isn’t an optically exact representation of what’s coming through the lens, but it may be a better representation of the image that’s saved on the storage card. For most of us, the difference is negligible, but to an artist, there’s a philosophical difference that might need to be negotiated, the way a musician might have difficulty coming to terms with synthesized electronic drums in place of real drums.

For an increasing number of serious photographers, however, going mirrorless is the trend, and it means lighter, smaller cameras no longer restricted physically by the speed of a physical mirror. Without the mechanism of a mirror flipping up and down, they also make no noise at all when button is pressed. Technological advances in the past year or so have compensated for some of the tradeoffs, among them the ability of a sensor to adjust its focus from one shot to the next, which means more possible frames shot per second. Other drawbacks are market-driven self-corrections, as more and more pros make the switch: more peripherals, more selection with interchangeable lenses, and better compatibility with older gear. More and more, serious photographers are giving up their old gear and embracing fully electronic, mirrorless options. Mirrorless cameras account for 23% of the interchangeable lens market, and their market share has doubled in the past two years. The question nowadays seems to be not if, but when every serious photographer is going mirrorless.

 

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Technology Trends: Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Digital Cameras - Executive Leadership Articles

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