Mirrorless Cameras

For those who know me, you may hear me talking about “Micro 4/3” or Mirrorless cameras a lot.

Over the past year I’ve been using these cameras almost exclusively.

So what’s the big deal with these cameras, how are they different than DSLR’s?


When you use a DSLR produced more than 2 years ago, you have to look through the viewfinder in order to frame your picture. A lot of people find this odd since most point and shoot cameras allow you to use the LCD to frame pictures.

This viewfinder system though, is comprised of a box with a bunch of mirrors that translates the image from the lens to the eye piece, we call it a pentaprism. Recent advances in technology have made it possible to do away with this pentaprism, and that allows us to make smaller, slimmer cameras. Which we now call “mirrorless cameras.”

Micro 4/3 is a standard, agreed upon various camera manufacturers, which is comprised of camera bodies and lenses. The key players in this format are Olympus and Panasonic. A Micro 4/3 camera is a type of mirrorless camera.

-Key differences between DSLR’s and Micro 4/3:

-DSLR’s offer:

ashley - night

  • Larger sensor
  • Better low light performance (high ISO performance)
  • Shallower Depth of field (focus blur)
  • Faster response time (power off -> on -> first shot)
  • Better standby battery life
  • Usually faster FPS (frames per second)
  • Better autofocus
  • Better ergonomics, buttons and dials that let you change settings very quickly, better control over autofocus points.
  • Faster / more accurate autofocus

-Mirrorless Cameras offer:


  • Small / Sleek form factor
  • Usually an electronic view finder (EVF) that gives very accurate feedback about the final image.
  • softer and more quiet shutter



It seems that DSLR’s have a lot more to offer a photographer. And I’d say yes they do, but the crucial part of having a camera is actually using it. A popular quote from Chase Jarvis is “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

I believe camera design is often a battle between image quality and form factor. It may be odd to say this, but form factor is very important to me. For 9/10 situations, I chose to bring my Olympus EPL2 mirrorless camera over my Canon 5D. 

I find that generally Micro 4/3 Cameras such as the Panasonic GF1 and Olympus Pen series offer fantastic image quality during the day time.

the pillows

And while they do have a harder time after sunset, they can deliver great results at night.

-Mirrorless gear

Gear is still a tricky issue. I’m just going to say that if I were to buy a Micro 4/3 kit today. I would go ahead and buy an Olympus EP3 which comes with a kit lens, and a 20mm f/1.7. That, in my opinion is all you need.

A perk of Micro 4/3 is that you can use virtually any lenses, even old film camera lenses, on them via an adapter. I would recommend maybe picking up an old ass Olympus 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 zuiko lens which could be around 30-80 bucks now. And then get an Olympus OM to micro 4/3 adapter.
I believe you could have a lot of fun finding old lenses and using them to produce unique results.

Micro 4/3 Bodies: Olympus EP3, Olympus EPL3, Olympus, EPM3, Panasonic GF3
Micro 4/3 Lenses: Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 (Must have lens), Olympus 12mm f/2, Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Panasonic 12mm f/2.5.

Other Bodies: Sony NEX3, NEX5, NEX 7
*I have not extensively used a Sony NEX camera. All I can say is that I see absolutely fantastic results from these cameras on flickr, but they seem to produced using older manual focus lenses, not the lenses that Sony produces for their NEX line. What this means is that, if you get a Sony NEX, you most likely will have a manual focus only set up.


-Next post: Traveling with the Olympus EPL2

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