That’s it – pack it all up! Our mirrorless dream is over ladies and gentlemen! We can go home – there’s nothing more to see here… in fact, we should hang our heads in shame, for we have been fooling ourselves! Had we applied just a little basic arithmetic, we’d have realised that we’ve become ensnared by a case of mass hysteria rivalled only by the Salem witch trials of 1692. Think of all those DSLRs that didn’t find good homes because of us. Well, that’s what the recent Photography Life article ‘Debunking The Mirrorless Hype‘ would have readers believe; however, thankfully for us, we’re not a flock of sheep following corporate shepherds and their marketing spin. Instead, in my opinion, it is the author who missed the mark and not by a small margin. There is a lot more to mirrorless cameras than weight, but if you aim to save weight, you certainly can (as I will show).
Let’s start by looking at the premise of the Photography Life article (the fact that the excitement surrounding mirrorless is described as ‘hype’ gives you fair warning of the conclusion it might reach): In its efforts to ‘debunk’ the hype (which is the title after all), the author focuses on one single facet of said ‘hype’, namely weight savings. For a moment, let’s ignore the fact that the growing mirrorless following is about a lot more than just weight savings (and therefore cannot be debunked on that premise alone) and instead concentrate on the author’s emphasis: weight.
This brings us to the equipment list used as the basis for weight comparison in the Photography Life article. At first I thought that the author was planning a Himalayan adventure with several Nepalese Sherpas to help carry it all, but on second thought, taking only one body and nine lenses (heavily overlapping) seems a bit strange. This approach offers no redundancy should a shutter fail somewhere up Everest, or should one of the sherpas fall down a crevasse, so no, that can’t be it. The most likely scenario I can come up for this bizarre kit list is some sort of biblical flood, where the author aims to save his entire lens collection from rising waters and cart it up to the top of a mountain before boarding a 21st century Noah’s Arc. After all, why would you cover 35mm five times, 50mm, 70mm and 90mm three times each and still only carry one body? Answer? You almost certainly wouldn’t.
It is also worth noting that the author recognises that one of the attractions of mirrorless is the ability to mount third party lenses, but only one is used in this comparison and it is the relatively large and heavy 14mm f2.8 Samyang for E-Mount (which was designed for DSLRs and to which Samyang added an E mount). What is wrong with the excellent, small and light CV 15mm Mk III, which produces superb results on FE cameras? Why no adapted Leica M lenses of 50mm and over, which perform superbly on the A7 and A7R? One of the major benefits of mirrorless is that you can chop and change across manufacturers to get the lightest rig possible, but you cannot do the same with most DSLRs (or would at least be restricted to other equally heavy DSLR lenses).
So, I am going to do my own weight comparisons, using the sort of combinations I might take into the field for various ‘mirrorless-appropriate’ applications and where my first thought is ‘reduce size and weight’. There will be no Formula One, Winter Olympics or wedding photography outfits, because these remain firmly in the DSLR camp (for most people), due to AF tracking and lens requirements. Of these, only weddings are seeing more photographers working with mirrorless, but they remain in the minority. However, for travel, for street photography, for combined photography and hiking, reportage, many documentary situations and many general landscape applications, I would rather take a Full-Frame mirrorless (or Leica M) than a DSLR. This is because my aim would be to save on weight and bulk, while retaining core performance parameters and because in these applications I do not personally need the benefits of superior DSLR AF or better battery capacity.
So let’s get started:
24MP Twin Zoom Lens
Profile: A common set-up for people who do not need speed and want zoom flexibility. Ideal for general scenic travel photos. I’ve thrown in batteries at the 4:1 ratio used by the Photography Life article, because it’s fair for general travel usage, where some people take a lot of frames (more than I do).
Sony A7, 4 batteries, 16-35 f4, 24-70 f4 (1532g)
Mk II version of above (1672g)
D750, one battery, 16-35 f4, 24-85 (1985g), with 24-70 f2.8 (2420g)
The lightest Nikon vs. the heaviest Sony outfit leaves the Nikon over 300g or 19% heavier, which would allow the Sony user to throw in a fast 50mm with weight to spare…. And this is based on carrying four batteries for the Sony. It gets lighter for anyone not expecting to shoot the 1300 frames that four Sony batteries will provide for. If you compare the pro-level Nikon zoom option with the Sony MK I, the Nikon outfit is 880g heavier (58%). That’s two pounds; however, the Sony has built in stabilisation with the mid range zoom, whereas the Nikon 24-70 does not.
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