I was out making pictures with three other photographers, yesterday–just a random assortment of friends–and all of us were using mirrorless cameras and that’s the first time I’ve been out with a group and no one had a DSLR. We took a short hike to a waterfall and as we walked everyone remarked once that they loved how much lighter their mirrorless systems are, which is always a big selling point. But I think getting into mirrorless because it’s lighter would be a mistake.

It’s Not About Weight

We’re photographers, not adventure racers trying to reduce our equipment weight. We don’t cut the handles off our tripod heads to make them weigh less like backpackers do with their toothbrushes. We make pictures, and we all want to make the best picture possible. William Henry Jackson made pictures with large format cameras and wet processes that required an entire animal to carry his equipment to the top of mountains, but his efforts helped shape the world’s impressions of the American West at a time when one couldn’t even ride a train to go see it. We make pictures because we love doing it, and we use the right equipment to get it done.

Fortunately, mirrorless cameras are lighter and often cheaper than their DSLR counterparts. But there’s a whole lot of other features that make them worth buying–they’re at the cutting edge of imaging technology and they’re making it easier than ever to learn to make great photographs. I just got the new Lumix GH5, and it’s much bigger and heavier than my other GX8, but its new features make the greater mass absolutely worth it. Here are a few of the features I’ve heard other photographers remark that they love about their mirrorless cameras and I’d love to hear more from you in the comments.

  • What You See Is What You Get: you see the actual exposure in the viewfinder before making the picture
  • Seeing the picture in black and white or other picture styles in the viewfinder
  • Excellent lens quality, often better than is available for DSLR’s
  • Seeing a long exposure get brighter and brighter and stopping it when it’s done
  • Incredible low light performance
  • Sharper pictures in low light using both lens stabilization and in-body image stabilization (IBIS)
  • Marvelous film reproduction settings for picture styles
  • Form-follows-function designs that are easier to use and hold
  • Classic styling and really cool looks
  • Built-in Wifi communication for wireless tethering and instant picture sharing
  • Built-in GPS so you can record where your pictures were made
  • Fully articulating screens and viewfinders for shooting at any angle
  • Focus peaking for precise manual focus
  • 60-second shutter speeds and wireless bulb mode
  • Best video cameras in the world
  • Incredible autofocus
  • In-camera focus stacking
  • Shooting toward the sun without damaging eyes
  • Terrific time lapse controls
  • In-camera panoramas
  • Truly silent operation
  • Highest frames per second shooting
  • Face tracking autofocus
  • Terrific flash controls
  • Did I mention that they are lightweight? ;)

There are so many good reasons to explore mirrorless cameras, and this Maniac would love to hear what your favorites are, too. Please weigh in with a comment and go out and make some pictures!