What is the consensus about mirrorless camera technology?

Every time that I browse the internet, a small voice whispers check out the Z9. It is very tempting and has quite a few features that I wish that my current gear had. I do like subject tracking, no shutter vibration, and increased number of exposures per second. So, those of you that switched from standard Dslr’s to mirrorless rigs, has this type of technology increased the quality of your photos? Do you have any regrets about making the switch? I am thinking of selling my D500 which I rarely use and with the FTZ adapter, my legacy lenses will work fine with a mirrorless camera. Plese let me know what you think…Jim

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I’ve found mirrorless to have distinctly better tracking than dslrs, so for birds in flight, it has a distinct advantage. For birds buried in the vegetation, my old Canons had a very small single point AF that was excellent at getting on the bird. I don’t find my Sonys to be quite as good at that. I do love the silent shooting mode, though you can go through a lot of electrons without realizing it. I accidentally pushed the shutter on the vertical grip once and ended up with a couple of hundred blank frames.

I really like the ability to show the histogram in the electronic viewfinder.

The burst rate is not that much of an advantage to me. I almost never go to even 10 fps, let alone the 30 fps that’s available.

It may just be switching brands, but I find the menus cumbersome and the documentation atrocious for the Sony cameras. After market manuals are a must.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, except you might ping Hans and other z9 users directly.

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If I’m reading photography news correctly, most if not all of the major brands are killing off their DSLR lines in favor of mirrorless, so that might be your answer. Since I switched to mirrorless in 2013, hardly any of the things you mention were actually invented yet. Early adopter companies like Panasonic and Olympus really put in the heavy lifting with R&D and have come up with tech that I couldn’t live without now. Focus peaking, tracking, animal/eye detection, Pre-burst capture, focus bracketing, and silent shutter just to name a few. When I made the switch I was lucky that I didn’t have a lot of lenses to replace or adapt and it was painless since the simplicity of a mirrorless system back then meant it wasn’t such a learning curve, especially with my style of photography which didn’t include a lot of wildlife. And count your lucky stars 10 years has gone by and the EVFs have gotten so much better. I can barely stand to look into my GH3 these days.

That said, I think checking out Nikon-heavy user groups and fora could get you the answers you want. I see a lot of Z9 discussion over at Backcountry Gallery Forums (forums, how silly). One of the peeves seems to be firmware upgrades and how many features that could be added to older cameras aren’t and kept for new or flagship models only. That’s a thing I’ve come to appreciate about Panasonic with their Lumix bodies. After they developed a bunch of technology for their full-frame line of S cameras, a lot of that was adapted and put into firmware for other models including my G9.

Anyway, that’s my 2 cents.

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Oh and I forgot to mention lenses - a lot of internal camera tech is dependent on lenses and how new they are and able to be upgraded. My 100-400 is the newest (as in release date) lens I own and can still be upgraded for new focusing and stabilization software, but my 12-35 and 35-100 are first generation and have come as far as they can. Just FYI.

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I started shooting with mirrorless about 5 years ago with a mid range Olympus. It was really just a desire to have a smaller camera for those occasional times that it would be nice.

Since that time, I’ve made a complete switch to the Olympus system with a full range of lenses.

Has it increased the quality of my photos. No. I think anyone that chases technology thinking it will improve quality is chasing a dream. From the old film days, to the early digital days, to advanced DSLR’s to Mirrorless, there is no question that the single most important element to increase quality is standing about 12 inches behind the viewfinder.

Mirrorless has allowed me to capture some images that I probably wouldn’t have with my DSLR because of faster frame rates and better AF. But they aren’t any higher quality.

Things that are superior with mirrorless are the live view of the histogram an exposure in the EVF or the back LCD, improved AF, tracking and AF coverage of the sensor, silent or electronic shutter, no need for focus calibration since the focusing is directly on the sensor, computational photography, and for me size/weight.
Size/weight: of course the camera manufacturers would like to use that as a selling point, but unless you want to move to Olympus/Panasonic/Fuji, the size/weight argument is just nonsense. Full frame mirrorless doesn’t buy you much if anything for that facet. The Z9 is a big heavy camera. If that doesn’t bother you, then it is a non issue.

In the end it isn’t if you change to mirrorless, it is when. DSLR’s are a dead technology. That doesn’t mean existing DSLR’s are dead, they just won’t be updated in the future. None of the camera companies can afford to do the R&D for both DSLR and Mirrorless and manufacture 2 lines of lenses that are native to each system.

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Hi Jim
The only thing I miss on the Canon 7Dll, is the almost zero black-out time in the view-finder from turn or sleep mode. The R5 can be almost a sec. from turn or sleep mode. This has really only been a problem when photograph the city Eagles. ( They don’t give a heads-up when flying in from behind a building or leaving the nest and banking under the trees.)
I just watch Jan Wegener’s review on the Z9 and he cover the camera setup and older lens IS issues.
( no in-body IS only in lens IS).
If I were you, I’d find a dealer who really knows how to setup the Z9 and then rent one. At $5,495, it would be money well spent.
Peter

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Thank you @Dennis_Plank , @Kris_Smith , @Keith_Bauer and @peter for you thoughts on mirrorless cameras. The camera industry needed to update the Dslr technology and unfortunately, the mechanical shutter was slowing the technological progress of camera engineering. Good point Keith–Number of Keepers might be a better term over shot quality. I am not worried about weight and am used to lugging heavy equipment around. Dennis, menus and manuals are certainly problematic across all camera brands and Nikon has some cumbersome menus as well. Just getting used to the new settings, technological features, and autofocus takes some time. Peter, I rarely use image stabilization as 95% of my bird shots are tripod based. The 200-400mm f4 works well with it in the off position when I do hand-held bird photography. Kristen–most of my Nikon glass should work fine with the FTZ adapter. My 200mm F4 macro will only work with manual focus. And that is fine as the in lens autofocus motor is very slow so using manual focus for bug shots is my preferred method. I will check out those web sites and continue my research. Thank you for your help…Jim

I’m confused about the histogram comments. My Canon 5DIV dslr shows a histogram in Live View before the photo is taken, and also after. Do the mirrorless do something different?

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@Tony_Siciliano, my understanding is that the mirrorless cameras base the histograms on the actual sensor read, rather than the metering system, like the DSLRs do. I don’t know that it makes a lot of difference though.

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@Jim_Zablotny, I was a Canon fanatic for many years. I had all the Tilt Shift lenses, many of the primes, zooms, and even the 500mm and 600mm big guns. I kept it all even when I knew the Canon sensors were inferior DR-Wise to the Sony and Nikon offerings. When Fujifilm came along with a mirrorless medium format camera, I jumped ship, sold all of my Canon gear and bought the GFX 50S. It was a game changer for me. Not because it was mirrorless, but because of the medium format. Still, the mirrorless cameras offer many advantages including, no focus adjustment, metering directly on the sensor, good to great EVF, and terrific electronic/computational features. Are they better than DSLRs? That’s debatable. But as others have said, mirrorless is the future and once they nail down the global shutter technology, there will be no going back.

Today, however, I think you can be happy either way. Maybe wait till that global shutter thing is a real thing. It will be a game changer.

Cheers,
David

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Similar concept for sure, but with mirrorless you can see it on the back LCD or in the viewfinder. You can also see white balance.

Shooting wildlife, using the back LCD is a non-starter. Shooting for two weeks again this winter in Yellowstone, having perfect exposure information via the histogram in the viewfinder was invaluable. The snow reflectance changed all the time based on clouds/sun/clean snow/dirty snow. All I had to do was glance at the histogram, make any adjustments and keep shooting. I can honestly say I did not miss any exposures on the entire trip. I know that would not have been true with a DSLR and optical viewfinder.

All depends on the genre of photography how valuable that information is in the viewfinder.

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I don’t think it is the mechanical shutter, it is the mirror. As far as I know, the only mirrorless camera on the market today that does not have a mechanical shutter is the Z9. Just have options to shoot with the mechanical shutter, or the electronic shutter. Pros and cons to both. One of the most common “complaints” about electronic shutter is the rolling shutter effect. I shoot a lot of action photography and have never had any issues with it. Maybe if I were shooting 200mph Indy cars I might be more concerned. Another one of those internet things that people grab onto with no real life basis.

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I always forget about the mirror in single reflex cameras. That would be a limiting factor for sure. I always think about the mirror and shutter functioning as a single unit which is a flawed way of thinking about this. A dynamic histogram taking data right from the sensor is a wonderful advantage for getting the correct exposure. Everyone provided some fantastic information about the mirrorless camera systems. Thank you for your input…Jim

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Hi Jim
I think I’m I the same boat as you…debating when to get the Z9!

I hand held the Z9 for the first time earlier this week at a camera dealer. Yes it is heavier than my D500, but it still felt really really solid in my hands.

I tried it with the adapter on and a 200-500 lens, the lens I use for birds in flight. The adapter pushes the weight of the lens out from the camera body, so the result was a noticeably heavier rig. I know you use a tripod, as do I, but I also sometimes go handheld so if I do that a lot I might get a bit tired. There’s a 100-400 z-mount lens so in DX mode I could get close to 500mm with a well-balanced rig.

I really like the possibility of more keepers

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Jim, a couple of things that from my R5 that I don’t see mentioned…

  1. The live histogram is notably different from the final histogram, with the final result often showing more at the brightest end. (I’m guessing that the live histogram is a jpg interpretation while the final histogram is what the sensor recorded.)

  2. It goes through batteries about 2X faster than my 5D3.

  3. Its ability to shoot focus stacks is much improved over manual stacking. Since the camera knows where an autofocus lens is focused and the f-stop setting, it knows how much to adjust the focus as it stacks for good overlap.

  4. It doesn’t do a good job of showing color in the viewfinder. The final result often differs by quite a bit. That’s after multiple attempts to adjust the color settings for the viewfinder.

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@Mark_Seaver has some good points. The histogram on Sony is also based on a jpg, so you can safely push your exposure a fair bit higher than would be indicated. Related to this is a feature from video that lets you display live “zebra stripes” to indicate overexposed areas. This can be really handy if you’re going to be cropping that area out anyhow or even if it’s just in an area you’re willing to manipulate.

I second the battery issue. I keep the back display turned off most of the time and I’ve purchased vertical grips that hold two batteries. I got Vellos for 1/4 the Sony price and they’ve worked flawlessly. Though they add weight I like what that does to balance larger lenses.

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Those of you that use CF Express cards for storage in your cameras, have you found any issues with too much heat generated during photo capture? The Z9 is looking pretty good for me and should give me a better tacticall edge for fast moving critters.

I’m shooting the Z9 with the 100-400 and I am finding my keeper rate is massively better than with my DSLR. I am actually trying to train myself to take fewer shots.

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I have used the Z7 for quite a while after shooting Nikon SLR/DSLRs for decades. It feels very comfortable.

I had doubts about giving up the optical viewfinder. I not only don’t miss it, I could never go back to anything that doesn’t have a live histogram (no, live mode is not at all the same). When shooting, I’m completely unaware that it is an EVF. It eats batteries faster, but that hasn’t been a problem in practice.

The extender works very well for old lenses, but makes them more bulky. I don’t shoot long lenses so weight and length hasn’t been a real problem.

Not everything on the camera is perfect, for instance, slow wake up time, but on the whole, it is a great evolutionary step. I’m bought in.

Rent one for a while and see if you get comfortable.

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I recently added a Canon EOS R to my equipment lot. I did a significant amount of research before committing to a mirrorless body. I had to purchase the control ring as well as I am still using my EF lenses.

I currently use Tamron lenses as my primary lenses and granted I love the lenses try camera struggles with fast focus for bird photography. I like The idea of being able to switch between full frame and 1.6 crop. The camera also has the ability within the menu to set numerous favorites for compensation and custom settings.

Regarding the discussion about the histograms, and the EOS-R just as with some of the other DSLRs you do see that in the life view, but what I like about the mirrorless is that you actually can see it and set it up to be viewed through the view finder.

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