A Primer on the Mirrorless Camera Craze

If you’ve been out of the loop when it comes to emergence of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILC, AKA EVIL), David Pogue over at the New York Times has an interesting article introducing them:

That’s why, for years, there were two kinds of cameras: pocket models, with tiny sensors that produce blurry or grainy photos in low light and S.L.R. cameras, those big-sensor, big-body, heavy black beasts used by professionals.

In the last couple of years, though, things have changed. There’s a new class of camera whose size (both body and sensor) falls in between those two time-honored extremes. They represent a rethinking of every single design element, a jettisoning of every nonessential component, in pursuit of a tiny, big-sensor camera. Because that, after all, is what the world really wants.

Do you think these cameras are “what the world really wants”?

The Holy Grail: Small Cameras, Big Sensors [NYTimes]

Image credit: Sony NEX-5 w/ Minolta 55mm f/1.7 by pabuk

  • Donovan Rekanize Fannon

    “the world?” maybe. Photographers? Doubtful. I’m down with the mirrorless technology and the new options it opens up, but to strip away certain function (or fast intuitive access to said function) is NOT on my list of desirable evolution.

  • Khürt Williams

    Why don’t most photographers shoots with medium to large format cameras? I think most of the world wants compact interchangeable lens cameras. What makes you think mirror less cameras have less functionality?

  • FG

    Ergonomy. Those small cameras are not ergonomic.

  • Cory Trese

    I would love something like this that accepted my huge collection of Nikon mount lens.

  • Josh Zytkiewicz

    Not necessarily less functionality but less easy access to those functions. My DSLR is big enough to provide separate dials, switches, and buttons for most every function I need without going into menus. The Sony camera pictured above only has 3 dedicated buttons. The rest change depending on what’s on the screen and what mode you’re in.

  • Aaron Stidwell

    I agree. If there were an EVIL camera that I could mount all my Canon glass to, I’d use it in a heartbeat.

    That being said, I’d still use it as a point-and-shoot, not for clients. Hell, you can’t mount a flash or fire a strobe with one of those. But, it would be a epic P&S.

  • Pieter

    I have a Hasselblad 500cM and a 24mp Sony A900, i recently bought a Nex-5. I do not use it with my normal lenses but with my Lensbaby and the standard 16mm with the wide-angle adapter. The fun is that its small and i can always carry it with me (with the interchangable lenses its more versitaile than a compactcam)Its great for shooting streetphotograpy. For quality etc i still use my other cameras.

  • BigTallGates

    I have big hands, even the small SLRs are too small for me to comfortably use.

    So I have a small point and shoot that fits in my pocket, and a large SLR. Anything in between is impractical.

  • Saul Molloy

    I’d love a camera that did what my DSLR can do in a smaller package…but let’s face it these aren’t it for a whole bunch of reasons. I want to look through a viewfinder at the actual photons I’m shooting, and I want to use my lenses to create nice shallow DOF. These cameras are cool…but they’re not ‘it’ yet.

  • Tarmo

    The world actually wants Sony A55 (with phase-detection AF), but even smaller version of it.

  • Richard Ford

    Ummm… been around for a while. I carry my Olympus XA with me all the time…smaller and larger image capture. I also have a Nikon EM (5 really) and then lets not forget all the FM and FE models? Or the CRF units?

    People don’t know what they want. Otherwise people would have stopped worrying about this crap 20 years ago and spent the last two decades just getting on and making nice images.


  • JohnnyM

    My hands are too big for these little cameras. I’ll pass.

  • fastactingrelief

    Well, actually a camera like the NEX 5 will give you the exact same depth of field as any APS-C DSLR. Even the Micro Four Thirds cameras are pretty good with a fast lens.

    I think the point is that these cameras are much smaller than DSLRs, and way way better than point and shoots. Sure, there is room for improvement, but this system has much more potential for becoming something that does “what my DSLR can do in a smaller package” than anything else at the moment.

  • bri

    regular consumers maybe, not the pros

  • Donovan Rekanize Fannon

    Yes, what Josh said. Compact isn’t a dirty word, I just think that trying to access everything from a menu tree is not the most desirable approach.

  • Andrey Serbovets

    Well… It still seems for me as a niche thing. Those will never get quality glass. And it seems too impractical. Big and fast lenses? No. Those with hand zoom and the heavy ones, especially. Manual lenses? No. One will have hard time focusing while using them. Replacement for P&S? Surely. But it is still doubtful whether it was worth the trouble at all…

  • Seven Bates

    I think the technology is important. As a photographer, I don’t want one YET. I will when they can make those biscuit lenses better and smaller. When they do, I’ll carry one.

  • Djsaunter

    Agree with the upgraded point and shoot idea. Facebook will now be filled with terrible out of focus, and blurry photos. But now they’ll be in high-res!!!!

    I will not get an micro camera because, 1. seriously, look at the lens on that thing!
    Can you still say that it fits in your pocket? 2. I use a tripod. Weight is not a primary concern of mine. 3. They feel like crap in your hand. I’m not sure who the ergonomic expert is a Sony or Olympus, but they were obviously on vacation while these were being designed.

    If I want a point and shoot, i’ll buy a point and shoot.


    If you consider the overall shape of a DSLR + lens + flash and look at it without the weight of history, it looks incredibly awkward. There’s no ergonomy in it at all, it’s just that we’re being used to it. And the weird part is: the shape is function of constraints originating from the location of the roll of film. There’s no imperative reason for DIGITAL SLR’s to keep that same shape anymore. I can’t wait for Nikon / Canon to come up with a really innovative body that will break free from its analog past, just like Nespresso eventually realized they could have much more efficient and beautiful machines if they ditched the canon design of ground coffee espresso machines.

  • Pat David

    E-P1, E-P2 from Olympus CAN use your legacy glass, and mount a flash/fire a strobe.