Comparing the Design and Quality of Mirrorless Cameras with DSLRs

Bart Zoni of Leica Boss made this short video explaining the main differences between DSLR and mirrorless cameras. He discusses flange focal distance and sensor size, and how the cameras’ differences in those two things affect image quality.

(via Leica Boss via ISO 1200)

  • Fotogruia

    Well the big boss forgot to mention the fact that the size of the sensor afects the DOF and that is why all professional photographers use at least a 35 mm sensor in theyr full frame dslrs.

  • Spider- Man

    I want my 8 min back! This was like the guy at Target behind the ‘camera’ counter trying to explain cameras to me, only covered image quality and one is bigger then the other. Not the hundreds of other factors. Oh almost forgot since it was only touched on briefly (sarcasm) the real benefit is a cheap wide angle lens. Well Possibly according to his extensive research….

  • Dan

    Spider-man and Fotogruia hit the nail on the head. I would add that the 35mm Full Frame sensors have a larger pixel which better replicate color and provide better image quality.  As far as the mirror-less cameras being cheaper?  Doubt it will be “much” cheaper.  If the manufacturing cost is $1,000 less to make the mirror-less camera, are you (the author) really naive enough to think that the actual sale price of the camera will be $1,000 less than a comparable DSLR? 

  • Ononion

    sry man, you made a video, but you are wrong on many things. i dont want to get into detail, just show me a “real” 14mm 1.4 (that means you need a 7.5mm 1.4 lens on 4/3 sensors due the crop factor!!!!!!! you totaly forgot about this???) lens that can show of that canon beast of lens!

    are you kidding me???

  • jdm8

    “professional photographers use at least a 35 mm sensor in theyr full frame dslrs.”

    That’s handy, as full frame is generally accepted to mean as using a 35mm sensor.

  • jdm8

    In all fairness, the video was emphasizing how the lenses were supposed to be less costly to make.  The mirror & eyepiece isn’t necessarily so expensive.  That said, given his interest in Leica, which is a very expensive system to get into, often more than 2x the cost on the lenses vs the best Canon and Nikon lenses, it makes it a little harder to see his cost savings point.

    It’s really a complicated situation, there are a lot of things that go into the costs of camera gear.  That video only scratches the surface.

  • Raf Conan

    Mirrorless cameras ARE NOT cheaper. Usually price of them is higher than cost of amteur DSLR with good lenses…
    Another point is with short lenses… Lenses for mirrorless and DSLR costs similar. Usually they cost more because it is hard to get some used stuff.
    Another thing is SHUTTER. It is really important thing, you know?
    Show me full frame mirrorless camera with hi speed shutter;]
    O! I forgot! viewfinder: real time, full gamut, high clarity… Show me screen which is clear when day is sunny. Show me screen where I will see all details in darks/highlights.
    Mirrorless is good way only if you want earn some ekstra money: lower manufacturing cost – higher final coustomer cost…
    What do you think? Where those $$ are? ;]

  • Pat David

    You do realize that he doesn’t mention 4/3 in the video, right?  He did mention the Sony NEX, though.

  • Chris

    Show me the real benefit of super thin DOF wide open and I’ll buy into this myth.. Heck, show me a properly focused photo at 1/50sec or less without IS or a tripod at ƒ1.2. Bokeh is nice, good photography is better.

  • Ononion

     yap, right, multiply with 1.6 then.. show up a 8.75mm lens…
    common, that video is just…

  • Tyler Leeds

    I guess the biggest reason this is a bad video is because it’s outright wrong.

    It’s easier to design super wide angle lenses for smaller sensors because the angle of refraction required by the rear element isn’t as large. (The larger the sensor, the more the light needs to be “bent” by the rear lens element in order to hit the edge of the sensor).  That’s why there were severe colour shift issues with wide angle leica lenses on the M9. (Digital sensors are less forgiving of non perpendicular light rays than film.. they want the light to hit from directly in front of the sensor). The NEX7 experiences some of the same issues as the M9 when used with very wide angle leica glass even though it’s APS-C.

    Shortening the flange focal distance exaggerates this issue even more.  The shorter the flange focal distance, the higher the ray angle needs to be. The light in effect needs to be bent more severely in order to hit the edge of the sensor.  The design formula for a telephoto lens is much simpler than it is for a wide angle.

    If you need a practical demonstration, look a projector.  As you move the projector away from the screen, the projected image gets larger.  You’ll also notice that the edges sharpen up quite a bit as the projector moves back.  (Although the image gets dimmer)

    I say this as an owner (and lover) of a NEX-7. (And a full frame a900).   Regardless of how they’re priced to the consumer, the camera companies make a lot of money from the high-end mirror-less cameras. There’s simply *less* of everything. 

  • Lee Harris

    Mirrorless is the future. Also 35mm is hardly ideal format (it was chosen just because movie film was available to be cut into strips). Squarer formats make better use of the sweet spot in lenses. The obsession with DOF is akin to the obsession with the megahertz myth: most people need more of it not less most of the time, shooting on a 4/3 camera at f2 is pretty bloody difficult. Oh and I am pro shooter who grew up on 35mm and medium format, so if you really want your precious DOF don’t waste money on the latest overpriced pro Nikons or Canons  go buy a second hand medium format Pentax, Mamiya or whatever with a Phaseone back.  

  • Lee Harris

    I am a pro and I don’t use ‘full frame’ anymore, so there goes that argument.

  • jdm8

    What myth again?  I don’t understand how this is a response to my comment.

  • Janez

    i was hoping this was a troll video… but it saddens me how stupid the comments are =(

  • Guest

     The argument about the lenses is still true though, unfortunately it just ignores the medium. What makes for cheaper wide angle lenses in a mirrorless setup (the short flange distance) is what makes the sensor in the M9 such an expensive and bespoke element of the camera (it needs to address the angle of of the light near the edges of the sensor).

  • Khaled Noor

    Also i would like to add that SLT system will loss 1/3 to 1/2 Stop of light because of the translucent mirror, in the same time a lot of photographers upgrade there lenses for only one stop more and this cost them 1000$ 

  • Renato Murakami

    Summary, what this video is saying is that the future lies in mirrorless, though fatter than today, cheaper cameras?
    All good in my book.
    Lots of other things to consider while adding up to final prices, but you know.

  • Guest

    I think pro’s use full frame more for less noise at high ISO and because they want a 50 to behave like a 50, than for shallow DOF. Shallow DOF is more a flickr craze than a pro thing.

  • Lee Harris

    Exactly, if you ever used a fully manual SLR in the old days then ones with TTL and then Autofocus you will know that the optical viewfinder become less and less enjoyable to use, Mirrorless is in it infancy so expect huge improvements (night vision, etc??) Not to mention all the heads up info than can be incorporated. But most obvious is that all technology tends to remove moving parts from the equation and the SLR design is full of such stuff. Also does not mirrorless open up more useful sync speeds with flash etc, like with leaf shutters etc? I might be wrong but it seems logical

  • Mark N

    Not so sure the pricing point he makes holds up. A high quality viewfinder LCD and all the associated tech to run it has to have a cost too, yes?

  • Bart J Zoni

    Nothing rustles people’s jimmies like a good ol’ mention of mirrorless cameras. Bottom line is that the mirror in the SLR camera does nothing for image quality. It complicates wide-angle lens design – and, ultimately, there are fewer and fewer advantages to SLR camera design. Not to say zero – but certainly fewer. Now, as sensor technology improves (particularly microlens tech allowing larger and larger sensors to be crammed into mirrorless bodies) those SLR advantages will further narrow until some equilibrium is met. Mr Barnack would be proud.

  • Matic

    does anyone of you know anything about the history of cameras? Mirrorless/rangefinder cameras are so old, they haven’t done anything new. Mirroless cameras/rangfinders have their pro and cons and so do the slr cameras. There’s a reason why would someone want a optical viewfinder with the mirror. And personaly I can’t really see me using an lcd for composing a picture it has just to many flaws.

  • DeborahRoice

     What was the purpose of the mirror and prism in the first place? To eliminate parallax error wasn’t it? So how has mirror less addressed that? From what I’m understanding, this would be a step backwards!

  • mythbuster

    Big is not necessarily good. Now professional photographers are going mirrorless and a lot people is no longer impressed with heavy and chunky cameras.

  • Guest

     Compare equally priced slr and rangefinder lenses and in general I think the result will be that the rangefinder lenses perform better/less distortion. Leica stuff is handmade in Germany which adds a lot to the price. But the Cosina made Zeiss lenses (and some of the Voigtländers) should put up a tough fight against similarly priced Canon/Nikon lenses.

  • Guest

     And not to forget, in today’s market SLR lenses are mass-produced in China while rangefinder lenses have become a niche market. This also has a huge effect on the price.

  • Bart & Tara

    Good question. Systems like the Ricoh GXR, most m4/3 and NEX allow you to compose using the image as seen through the lens using a digital ‘LiveView’ feature – while systems like Fuji’s “X” cameras have either an electronic LiveView or optical viewfinder with a digital frame that “moves” to correct parallax.

  • Hwilliam

    Started my SLR voyage many years ago with a Canon Pellix. That was a mirrorless camera and I loved the fact that you could watch your subject all the way through the exposure. The only downside was that 30% of the light went to the viewfinder while 70% went to the film. But the built in meter was right on and took that into consideration.

  • Boby

    its funny to see how some people are defending their arguments by cameras they use. of course i am not better since i am absolutely not a professional but still use 6×6, 6×7  35mm and rangefinders film and for digital i use the canon 5dI and II. i would agree with the video on some aspects that yes SLR’s only advantage is being able to FOCUS easier, also in my experience there is less camera shake due to the mirror, especially on the 5D’s, and lets not get into the size of lenses and cameras!! anyways my point is that mirror less cameras might be the way of the future, just look at what fuji is doing, unless iPhone takes over that market. but also the person that made the video does not mention any price value!! i mean the lieca m9 is about 7000$ and each lens around 2000 so what price advantage is he talking about??

    sorry for my english, its not my first language.

  • ROB

    i meant mirror less cameras or rangefinders, have less camera shake than SLR

  • Lee Harris

    Well, except for a lot of pros a 50 behaving like a 50 means very wide angle, if you are using a 6×6, or 6×7 camera. When I worked with film and you were shooting for proper clients, 35mm would never have been acceptable, especially when using flash etc. 

  • Joe

    You missed a key point — focus system!

    With such mirror on DSLR, the focus is not actually on the imaging sensor. Instead, focus on other AF sensor down in the camera. The distance between AF sensor and reflect mirror needs to be calibrated to sync with the distance between imaging sensor and reflect mirror. In other words, one has to often calibrate the lenses with the camera (at least once or twice a year). Most of DSLR cameras do not offer such feature so one has to send to factory to calibrate against only one lens as wish. Some high-end cameras do offer such feature, but one has to keep in mind to do so for all the lenses (and then stored in the camera). One can download a factory test sheet and calibrate by eye, but will never actually be able to match an accuracy of mirror less camera can do. The ridiculousness is that very advanced multi-points phase-shift focus system developed in the past decades on the SLR film cameras now applied to DSLR, but it not even focus on the imaging plane (imaging sensor) instead, on a sided AF sensor. I can have such AF system within 0.01mm accuracy but still could be out of focus by 10mm if I did not calibrate right. My Nikon D90 was off by 20mm, I had to send it to Factory for calibration but I could not do so because I lost my receipt. My friend’s Nikon D300 was out of focus on most his lenses by 10 – 20mm, so he had to calibrate them one by one and stored (luckily the D300 has the fine-tune feature allowing one to calibrate by eye). I will stay away from those DSLR. Unless shooting for sport, in which phase shift AF system performs much faster than contrast AF system used on the mirror less camera, there is no advantage of DSLR over a mirror less camera.

  • Homer Lee

    hear hear!