In today’s world of all-singing, all-dancing smartphones and their huge outdoor ads involving hipsters and exotic Andalusian mountains, the concept of a “dedicated” camera is almost anathema.
But when your hard-earned block leave rolls around and you’ve hunted down a great offer involving said mountains, think about it: attempting to use a smartphone, no matter how powerful, as your main travel camera might be like bringing a roll of film to an SD card fight.
Before we run out of cheap analogies, however, permit yours truly to explain why using a mirrorless camera is like having the best of all worlds when it comes to making magic memories.
No smoke and mirrorless
“The professional one”, the “big one” and “you know, the one with the hump”? We could throw our minds into the gutter with these phrases, except they’re also commonly used to describe “serious” cameras, which in turn leads most to think of a DSLR.
What we call “professional” or “serious” usually refers to a large image-sensor chip capable of bringing in more light and capturing a much wider range of tones, while retaining a high megapixel count.
It also speaks of interchangeable lenses, enabling all kinds of shooting possibilities, from beautiful portraits to stunning landscapes. Neither of these benefits are enjoyed by the itty-bitty sensors and limited-range lenses in smartphones and compact cameras.
Unfortunately, the price we’ve long paid for “serious” image quality has been the size of the camera body required by a large sensor. Chief among these traditions has been the “hump” atop all DSLRs, a result of the optical viewfinder and its accompanying mirrors which enable exactly what is seen through the lens to be reproduced in the viewfinder (hence the “reflex” in that term: “Digital Single-Lens Reflex”.)
Somewhere along the line, some bright spark realised that the optical viewfinder could be offed in favour of an electronic equivalent, far more compact and robust with no moving parts. The EVF, or electronic viewfinder, also packed a couple of advantages.
This includes the ability to have shooting data and cool things like levelling indicators and face detection squares superimposed directly on the viewfinder image, and also to zoom in to verify the correct zone of focus.
The original electronic viewfinders, or EVFs, were an 800-by-600-dot grain-fest, but these days two million dots is the norm rather than the exception.