/ DSLR vs Mirrorless

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TomAlford - on 03 Jan 2018
Sorry in advance for another 'this is what I do what camera should I get' post

So after a few trips to the alps, I've begun to teach myself photography and editing. I've been shooting on a borrowed budget DSLR with a kit lens, and am looking to both get my own setup but also try and improve my images. Now, I'm very new to this, but it seems to me that a light DSLR that I won't break or freeze ends up being something very top-end. However, a mirrorless such as the Sony Alpha a7 or a6500, or even the Canon EOS M series can be kept in a chest pocket, and many now have interchangeable lenses.

I understand that many people swear by DSLRs, but I feel that now you can buy a light mirrorless with the ability to change lenses for less than a grand, buying mirrorless is a no brainer, especially when the hardest thing is actually having your camera in your hand when you need it.

So what are peoples' experiences? Do you find a DSLR no problem at all, or does mirrorless provide inferior image quality (especially in low light levels), making a cumbersome DSLR worth the effort? Also, any advice on lenses for shooting in the mountains would be very much appreciated, I am leaning towards a 35mm and something narrower for close-up climbing shots.

Thanks in advance!

balmybaldwin - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

Depend8ng on the morrorless option you choose, some are very restricted on available lenses (and some with an adapter take a normal slr lens) this will put off a lot of established photographers as the money mainly goes i to lenses and not camera bodies... and lenses take a lot longer (40yrs) to become obsolete.

Personally I wouldn't go for mirrorless unless I was sure the format was around to stay.

Having said all that if you can get what you want in mirrorless and aren't bothered that you may later want to change to dslrs and full frame they do look a good option for some purposes. Beware tho that battery consumption is Much higher on most mirrorless as they tend not to have viewfinder and you have to use live view. Shouldn't be a massive issue tho as batteries last well these days

My cheapest of the cheap Canon 350d lasted me 10 years of climbing in all sorts of conditions with no issues the only reason I don't use it now is it only takes 8mp images and 4gb cards
AndrewHuddart - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

Over the last couple of years I've gone from a semi-pro 3 body Canon-based photographer to a Fuji wielding hobby-ist. I'll still take a Canon full frame body out with a 600mm lens for wildlife or a 100-400 for ski photos when the auto focus is critical but for everything else, my Fujis work fine. I've used the X-E1, X-T10/20 and the X-Pro (own a XT-10) and they're amazing - I can't discern the different for landscape and climbing except that at the end of the day, I'm not carried around 2-3kg of extra weight, which is a Very Good Thing.

Try renting from Calumet or similar and then see what you want to do. I don't miss carrying the SLR in the hills; mirrorless is awesome. And the Fuji glass is stunning.
TomAlford - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to AndrewHuddart:

Cheers for your reply, it's good to hear that your Fujis don't give a marked drop in quality. And I think saving a few kilos might be what tips the balance for me, it feels like madness to spend so much money on making your alpine setup and rack as light as possible, only to whack a 3 kilo camera in your pack!
CliffPowys on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I agree with Andrew.

I use a Fuji XT-20 and there is little difference in quality between it and my Canon 550D.

My total carry weight, with case and various bits and pieces for an extended trip, is just under 1kg.
In reply to TomAlford:


and this:

Together, with a UV filter, fit in this:

and it doesn't really cause any bother clipped on the back of my harness. Must be about the smallest DSLR setup possible...?
richlan - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:
I went from DSLR to Mirrorless, the Olympus OMD EM-10 to be exact, more than happy, it’s M4/3 with IS in the body so loads of lens choice, with a pancake lens it will just about fit in a pocket. The only thing I miss from DSLR is the AF speed but I don’t do action stuff or wildlife so I can live with it.

The OMD EM-5 is weather sealed, pretty sure I have said this before but Jon Griffith uses the EM-5, have a read of his thoughts
Post edited at 20:36
Pursued by a bear - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

Two things.

Do try mirrorless cameras for yourself before committing. I've been having a think about my next gear step and whether to go for a Canon 6D mk II, or a 5D mk III, or change streams and go for mirrorless. What convinced me to stay with Canon was having a hold of some mirrorless cameras. Small may be beautiful but when you have hands like mine bigger is better, and the mirrorless camera bodies and controls were just too damn fiddly for me to countenance using in a shop, never mind outdoors in fickle weather with frozen fingers.

And don't get hung up on megapixels. Unless you're planning to print your images at A3 or larger, it's an irrelevance. If you just want to look at your images on a screen, whatever megapixels you have won't be your limiting factor. If you want to run off the odd A4 print for your wall, megapixels won't be a limiting factor. I can get extremely good A4 prints from an old Olympus E-500 (a DSLR, ten or eleven years old, about 8 MP). Knowing your equipment and how to use it, and having easy access to it when that perfect shot comes into view, matter a good deal more than megapixels.

Otherwise, happy shopping and I wish you contentment with your choice.

The Lemming - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I used to have a dSLR and now I have a mirrorless camera.

My observations are that both types of camera take excellent images. However the mirrorless camera setup is considerably lighter.

Just like apple and Microsoft ecosystems, there really is no difference. Both are as good as each other and this is the same with dSLR and mirrorless cameras, both are excellent tools.

Got to admit that I'm glad that I went mirrorless.
Robert Durran - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to Pursued by a bear:
> Small may be beautiful but when you have hands like mine bigger is better, and the mirrorless camera bodies and controls were just too damn fiddly for me to countenance using in a shop, never mind outdoors in fickle weather with frozen fingers.

I have big hands (XL gloves are usually on the small side for me), but I can use my Fuji X-T10 ok in reasonably warm gloves. The fact that the camera has loads of programmable buttons and dials means that you can set it up to make the things you use most accessible. Weight is such that when I carry the camera (anything other than technical climbing), I don't think twice about taking the 10-24, 18-55 and 50-230 lenses which covers a pretty good range.
Post edited at 21:45
Pursued by a bear - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:


But my issue isn't with the size of my hands; it's to do with the issues which having MS causes with grip, dexterity, feeling and much else.

mountain.martin - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:
The real advantage with mirrorless is the size/weight issue.

I currently have a canon DSLR, but often don't take it out if I am just going for a walk/climb as it has considerable weight and is not easy to carry accessibly. I also have a canon m, and am much more likely to take this in a small waist pouch unless going out specifically with the intention of doing photography.

Am considering a change to Sony a6000 series as this should give just as good, if not better, results than my canon (70d) for the majority of subjects but be half the size and weight with a pancake lens.
Post edited at 21:30
jethro kiernan - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I have recently moved up to Nikon full frame, I did however toy with the idea of a Fuji X-T2, I like the Olympus mirror less camera I also use as my "portable" snappy camera but I still prefer using the mirror view finder on the Nikon and find the controls more familiar.
Weight and portability is an issue with dslr's, I am thinking of going bike packing and may just get a zoom for the Olympus and use that rather than the dslr
I really would play around with different cameras and keep an open mind, as a Nikon user for thirty years I have a lot of muscle memory and lenses invested in the system. if your starting afresh there are lots of very good systems out there
Stuart en Écosse - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I've been using Canon full frame for several years and Fuji X for a bit less. For mountaineering use where you are using the camera to record the outing as opposed to going out specifically to take a photograph I'd opine that mirrorless is the way to go. It is possible to split hairs and point out where DSLRs are superior but for 99.999% or users and viewers it is of such a small degree to be irrelevant. Since I bought a XT2, my DSLR doesn't go in my rucksack. The DSLR is probably a little better in a number of ways, but it is so big and heavy that I often can't be bothered getting it out for opportunistic shots. I'm now enjoying outdoor photography in a way I haven't in years, and I'm producing some shots I'd be happy showing off and/or printing pretty big.

You could get a 2ndhand Fuji XT1 and a couple of the brilliant new F2 primes for around a grand, which would give you a weather sealed and robust outfit which could produce very high quality images and would not be onerous to carry even on long hard routes, on a bike or on a ski tour.
L RedTar - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I shoot with a D800 and wide variety of lenses. The biggest advantage to me is flexibility of kit and having most functions a button press away (vs a menu press away). It's also weather sealed which may be important depending on what you want to do. I took it with me winter mountaineering last year - it got covered in snow and dripping wet, but I'm generally not worried. Not many cameras can be treated like that.

With that said... it's heavy. With just one lens I'm at 2kg. If I carry 3 lenses, I'm up to 4kg.

Which leaves me looking at more compact system cameras. I'd be looking at less than half the weight and volume, which makes a massive difference on multi day hike. Most system / mirrorless aren't weather sealed though - that's something you'll want to consider.


Lens choice depends on your zensor crop size - the following are used with full frame. If I could only take one lightweight lens I'd go for 20mm f1/8 or 24mm f/1.8. If I can spare more weight, 24-70mm. If I'm taking a second lens it will either be a wide angle or 70-200mm.

One recommendation: I absolutely love my Peak Designs capture clip. It secures the slr to my shoulder strap, keeping the camera at hand for quick shots, but secure for scrambling and mountaineering.
Damo on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

> ... having a hold of some mirrorless cameras. Small may be beautiful but when you have hands like mine bigger is better, and the mirrorless camera bodies and controls were just too damn fiddly for me to countenance using in a shop, never mind outdoors in fickle weather with frozen fingers.

Exactly. I procrastinated for far too long and ended up getting a Nikon d5500 for a good price 2nd hand. I never found a mirrorless camera I liked, at a reasonable price. Most were surprisingly plasticky and felt cheap. I like the new deeper grip on the 5500/5600 and it makes it so much easier and nicer to shoot.

I mostly use the DSLR for situations where I'm not actually climbing - travelling, trekking, BC, easy plod routes and planned landscape type stuff. For harder actual climbing I've stuck with my old Canon S100, having found genuine replacement batteries very cheap in Kathmandu, plus some good (very cheap) generics. I had a few generics but they failed badly after a few years, especially in the cold.
ring ouzel on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I went from a Canon 600D (excellent for video) to a Fuji X-T2 and I love it. I have several lenses and all are stunning. Use it for shooting climbing and other outdoor sports. I know professional adventure photographers (such as Dan Bailey) and they have moved completely to Fuji. It makes me want to go out and do as much photography as I can!
greg_may_ - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

Sony a7 user here. Chose it due to its size, and ability to use my legacy Canon FD and Voigtlander M glass with adaptors. Kit lens is ok, and the Sony glass range available now is good.

Weight and pocket size is excellent, image quality is great, viewfinder was a must for me as I rarely shoot from a rear screen. The battery life has not been a huge problem as I carry a spare external cache battery to charge it via micro USB when I'm away for a few days.

With the newer Sony systems coming out you'd probably be able to get an a7 for quite cheap, I've not bothered looking at the a7II system as I'm happy with what I have.

As others have said, if you're not printing big, don't worry about the sensor too much. FWIW, images I've printed to A3 have been quite adequate.
ChrisBrooke - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to mountain.martin:

I have the older NEX-6 (preceded the a6000), which with the kit zoom, and the viewfinder cover removed, will fit in the tiny Lowe Dashpoint 20 bag. This clips comfortably to a harness or takes up very little room in a bag. The a6000 seems to have more MPs and is no doubt better in various ways. The lens choice is quite wide these days. I have the 50mm 1.8f (fantastic, stays on the camera most of the time, unless I'm climbing with it), the cheap 210mm zoom (crappy but OK for the money) and a Samyang 12mm 2.0 (great but fully manual).

My gallery for photo examples:

ChrisJD on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I've also gone from Canon FF DSLR to Cano-APC to mirrorless (settled on Fuji-X (got two), other systems available!).

Overall, don't miss the FF and a bigger DSLR body and love the Fuji ergonomics and the images, the fuji RAWs are amazingly robust. Do miss my Canon 70-200-L though.

Third party batteries for the X camera are cheap and reliable.
lucozade - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I'm far from being a pro although do some video work but I got a Panasonic G7 refurb with the 12-35mm lens for £380, got the 14-45mm Panasonic lens for £170 and a bunch of Hoya filters (just autospelled to 'fillets' which I don't find so useful on the camera...) For my limited purposes it's been fine - light, transportable, easy to change lenses and taken some great shots in the Lakes and Dartmoor (admittedly more to do with the scenery than my skills...)
stp - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I've been using a mirrorless for some years now and I really like it. The main attraction is the small size of both the camera and additional lenses. The lenses are fairly good value too. I'm using a Panasonic G3. There are numerous other advantages over a DSLR too, depending on the model you get.

The only drawback is the very slight shutter lag compared to DSLR. Depending on what you're shooting this may or may not be an issue. It's not much of a problem for climbing shots and depending on the model you get may not be an issue at all. The Sony SLT cameras are actually faster than most DSLR's.

The batteries don't last as long but for my camera it's cheap to get a spare and it's so small it doesn't add much weight so not really an issue.

The one thing I wouldn't mind would be a full frame sensor. The image quality would be better for low light. But more importantly a full frame sensor allows a more shallow depth of field so you can isolate the subject from the background. The downside though is bigger lenses which defeat the purpose of a light camera. But something to consider and dependent on what kind of shots you want to take.
James Mann - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

Having been a Nikon film and then digital user for many years I felt quite tied to the system in terms of glass. There were many occasions when I ended up not taking a camera due to not wanting to carry the weight. Just over a year ago I decided after quite a bit of thought to go mirrorless. My main motivation was a camera that I would be prepared to carry on days out, retaining image quality. This ruled out the Sony a7 as the lenses make the whole thing just as big as dslrs. The Olympus system was what I settled on. In body stabilisation, excellent autofocus, weather proofing and great natural image quality are just some of the selling points.

I am very pleased with results. It still feels like a proper camera and I think I will sell all of my Nikon stuff as I am not using it.

The Lemming - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

Guess which image was taken with a dSLR and which was taken with a mirrorless camera.

No cheating and looking at the specs. I know that its not very scientific.
fotoVUE - on 06 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

Hi Tom,

I use a full frame mirrorless A7r2, but also have two Sony A6000s.

I used the A6000s to take the photos for our Peak book

If you couple an 18-200mm Sony lens with an A6000 you would have an all-in-one set up for most types of photography from sport to people to wildlife to landscape.

Image quality is excellent, you get 11fps, and a relatively light set up - lighter if you went for a more compact lens.

Very portable as well for mountain adventures.

All the best,

andi turner - on 06 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

Having used both, I'm now a completely converted mirrorless user. I've got the Fuji XT1 and it goes everywhere with me. The lenses are brilliant, the raw files are excellent and I've had numerous large prints made. A fantastic, weatherproof and lightweight set-up.

However, there's no denying that a full frame DSLR are ultimately a "better" camera, they focus loads quicker and have a better depth of field, but, they do weigh loads more. When that stopped me taking my camera out, it made me realise it was time to go and I've not looked back (maybe 4 years now and still not interested in looking for anything else).
Toerag - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to richlan:

> The OMD EM-5 is weather sealed, pretty sure I have said this before but Jon Griffith uses the EM-5, have a read of his thoughts

+1 for the E-M5 - I've got one and have settled for the 12-40 Pro for my 'mountain' lens - wide enough for selfies and landscapes, fast enough subject isolation, and weathersealed (like the camera). I've just done 3 days snowshoeing in the Bavarian alps in temps between +10 in the sun and shelter and -5 and force 6 winds on the tops. The camera was simply slung over my shoulder the whole day and got liberally sprinkled with snow from trees on multiple occasions.
Newer versions offer more bells and whistles which may or may not be of interest, so picking up an original version can be a great bargain if it's all you need.

jethro kiernan - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Toerag:

+ for the E-m5
The Lemming - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to stp:

> The only drawback is the very slight shutter lag compared to DSLR.

This may be an issue with your older Panasonic camera as I have not noticed any lag at all with my Panasonic GH4.

I think that the tech advancement has make this no longer an issue.

Robert Durran - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to The Lemming:

> This may be an issue with your older Panasonic camera as I have not noticed any lag at all with my Panasonic GH4.

None with my Fuji either.
stp - on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to The Lemming:

It's very slight and much faster than many mirroless cameras - older ones at least. I think the G3 was the fastest contrast detection AF when it came out. As I understand it though phase detect AF used by DSLRs is generally faster.
ali_colquhoun - on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I own a couple of full frames and a Sony A7Sii. Doing it for job allows me the luxury of choice. And that represents my decision that neither is best all the time! Both are specific tools with advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps I might sum that up as:

Lighter camera unit- but is it for the task? weight of adaptors.. or for native lenses what they have taken from the body they put in the lens, so the lenses are heavier.
Poor battery life. You need to carry spares or a battery pack, again, what is lighter?
Fiddly controls. MUCH less durable/weather proof.
significant cost of bits and bobs: adaptors etc. £400 for an adaptor that carries electronic info...
Slower frame rate.
MUCH better video.
It is cool to be able use almost any lens ever made, you can buy cheap adaptors for all your oldest lenses. Great hobby stuff.

Full frame.
Bigger camera unit. But possibly less bits in the bag.
No faff with adaptors.
Batteries last forever.
Better dexterity, better access to menus etc. faster to use (for me).
Faster frame rate.
Video generally inferior.

Both take amazing photos you do not need to worry about that.

Lenses are totally your choice, zooms are mega useful in the mountains when you often cannot reposition to frame something but I often prefer a couple of light primes to keep weight down and still shoot at a wide range of apertures. Can get older ones cheap too.

Just my opinion.
Darren Jackson - on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to ali_colquhoun:

> Just my opinion.

And good to read!...

I'd also be interested to hear your thoughts on crop sensor cameras.

ali_colquhoun - on 11 Jan 2018
In reply to Darren Jackson:

Hi Darren, 

Crop sensor cameras are not inferior to full frame despite what magazines etc may have you believe. Again they have different advantages and disadvantages. 

For example: A cropped sensor gives you greater pixel density: if you want to expand a portion of the image, as is common in wildlife photography, then they are the way to go. 

The main advantages that a full frame give you are a larger image area at a given focal length and the ability to create a shallow depth of field more easily. You pay for this with more expensive and heavier kit! 

If you decide what kind of images you are going to be taking and then work backwards to what camera and lens you will need then I think you will make a good and informed decision. 


Toerag - on 11 Jan 2018
In reply to stp:

>  As I understand it though phase detect AF used by DSLRs is generally faster.

Phase detect is better (essential) for subjects moving towards or away from the camera, but contrast detect is fastest for static ones.


ChrisJD on 11 Jan 2018
In reply to stp:


The Fuji X-T2 uses Phase detect autofocus (as well as contrast detect), so phase detect is not an exclusive DSLR thing.

'the X-T2’s AF system offers 91 points in a 7×13-point formation at default, and this can be expanded to 325 points in a 13×25-point formation.'

'When set to the default 91-point mode there are 49 phase-detect AF points in the centre of the array. '

'This central area with the phase-detect points covers 40% of the frame, and with the contrast detect points the total coverage is 85%. You can easily see the extent of both types as the phase-detect AF points are larger than the contrast-detect AF ones'


Darren Jackson - on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to ali_colquhoun:

Thanks Ali... Food for thought.

colinakmc - on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

I've got both. My Pentax dSLR pre-dates any credible mirrorless cameras but I didn't enjoy lugging it up an Alp especially when not properly acclimatised. So when the wee 4/3 Lumix came along I bought one. I like 'em both, and use them both in different circumstances. But it's a huge advantage being able to stick the Lumix GF1 in a pocket for a long day.

Also I reckon on big hill days or hectic routes I don't reckon I've enough brain power left over so convenience is good. Shooting in RAW, using aperture priority or "Intelligent Auto" lets me fix the problems later.

I always promised Mrs Colin that I would sell the big camera...but hey, its not worth very much now anyway. I do like having a viewfinder.

L mrjamesdawson on 12 Jan 2018
In reply to TomAlford:

Echoing what others have said. Shot with Canon on/off for a decade (for a brief period I moved to the Nikon D800 for action, but went back to Canon) but I always travel minimal and light, and lugging 1kg body with 3-4kg of lenses with a dedicated backpack just made me leave it at home more often than not.

Even when I traveled with it, I would spend less time on my feet and cover less distance due to the weight taking it's toll, and I'd leave lenses, tripod or other gear at home to fit carry-on restrictions. My Canons were amazing for wildlife photography and action, but I missed more opportunities than I shot simply due to not having the camera with me, the hassle of unpacking my bag and changing lenses, or not being in the right place at the right time due to stamina.

I switched to the Fuji XT2 recently and the difference is huge. My regular kit is half the weight of the Canon gear, and I can put a prime lens in each hand-warmer pocket of my Atom AR or Fission SV and switch lenses on a few seconds. I take less frames (live EVF means you nail exposure on the first frame) but capture much more.

I can ski comfortably with an entire lens loadout and backcountry gear, I just use neoprene pouches and chuck the lenses in the top of my pack/bottle pockets (or loose in my jacket). Usually I'll clip the XT2 onto a BR sling and forget about it. It's like 800-900g with 35mm lens and battery grip vs ~2kg for the same Canon setup and half the bulk. The weather-sealing isn't as good as Canon's pro line but it's good enough. If you're out in conditions that would wreck the camera, you've likely got more things to worry about than getting off a few blurry shots.

Image quality isn't noticeable unless you're pixel peeping. Another huge thing I love about the Fujis is saving both RAW and JPG, but automatically processing the JPG with Fuji's internal and customisable film emulation (it's gorgeous) - then WIFI transferring it straight to my phone to post to Insta or Facebook. You can post a constant stream of professional quality shots and video live from the field  to Insta/Facebook/wherever (with mobile signal of course) which is awesome.

Sometimes I miss the sheer ruggedness of Canon and the full-frame sensor when up high in winter conditions,  but then I remember - either the camera would still be at home or I'd still be at the bottom.


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