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A simple guide to mirrorless cameras

Elias Plastiras | June 10, 2015
These relatively compact cameras harbour controls and features similar to bigger DSLRs.

Some things to look for when buying a mirrorless camera (lens selection aside) include a hinged screen so that you can either tilt it up or down (or swing it around to take 'selfies'), a decent handgrip size so that it will be comfortable to hold, and an adequate array of manual controls. For example, if you want to take complete control of the exposure, look for a camera that has two separate dials for the aperture and shutter.

Shooting in the dark

The ability of mirrorless cameras to take photos in dark situations has improved vastly over the years, with many cameras these days allowing you to take photos while using a high sensitivity setting -- some being capable of ISO 1600 or greater without noticeably hampering the image quality.

In the past, low-light shooting was an advantage that DSLR cameras had over their mirrorless counterparts, mainly due to having bigger sensors capable of capturing more light easier. The sensors in mirrorless cameras are small in some models (such as the Micro Four Thirds sensor that can be found in Panasonic and Olympus models) while others have APS C-sized sensors that are similar to mainstream DSLR cameras. Sensor density can be anything from 16 megapixels to 28 megapixels, with the higher density sensors allowing you to crop your photos a little more without losing too much detail.

Optical image stabilisation

Optical image stabilisation (OIS) is a technology that can help low-light shooting as well. This technology allows the camera to compensate for the slight shaking that can occur when a camera is used at a slow shutter speed while being held in the hands rather than sitting on a tripod. Cameras that have optical image stabilisation built in to the body are beneficial in that the stabilisation technology can work with any lens that is attached. Cameras that don't have stabilisation built in to the body must rely on the lens to have it instead.

Hold the camera before buying it

There is a temptation to buy technology online these days, but if you're in the market for a mirrorless camera, we recommend that you do make the journey to a camera store to check out various models -- if, of course, you live within cooee of a camera store and it's easy to make the journey. The feel of the camera is important, and you'll want one that sits comfortably in the hands, with good balance and weight.

You'll also be able to ask about lenses and see first hand how big the lenses are. While the camera bodies can be small, various lenses will make the camera bigger, and it's important to know this if your main aim is high mobility.

Mirrorless cameras were formerly known by names such as 'compact system cameras', 'mirrorless interchangeble lens cameras' (or MILC), and 'interchangeable lens cameras'.


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