Mirrorless & DSLR Weight Comparison

Started Jul 9, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Lindsay D
Regular MemberPosts: 420
Re: Mirrorless & DSLR Weight Comparison
In reply to wombat661, Jul 10, 2014

What I am seeing time and time again in these debates is an over-reliance on charts and numbers. What is so often overlooked is the simple fact that in many shooting situations your Micro 4/3 settings can be quite different to full frame settings. This is an easy statement for me to make since I own a full repertoire of both and have had ample opportunity to review them in the field. Conversations like these very rarely arise from field testing and there is little nod to some key differences. I am speaking from the perspective of a professional portrait photographer who also photographs pets and wildlife, and in my spare time street, landscape, and fine art. In many ways, this is the reality of real-world usage (notwithstanding my acknowledgement that an amateur or hobbyist can simply shoot however they wish, and that is their right).

I'm often photographing in quite demanding situations and my clients are extremely exacting in their requirements. I also have a hard-won reputation to protect. Obviously I cannot speak for everyone, but I imagine most camera users will encounter a lot of the situations I come across myself. I will often be photographing more than one person at a time and I will be photographing animals which are irregular in shape, and depth of field must always be a consideration - yet all I seem to see on forums is an obsession with the shallowest depth of field possible. I might be photographing groups, or subjects in pairs. Most of my work uses natural light, but not all. When using full frame equipment I will almost always need to stop down a little to get enough of my subject in focus and to allow a small amount of leeway for any movement, even slight movement. I can't afford blurred on misfocused shots, not on somebody else's time. I will also say that my full frame lenses are sharper when stopped down slightly. This is significant in low light, because this is where we are most likely to see IQ differences between systems. In less than perfect light I will consequently have to increase the ISO of my full frame cameras, perhaps even more than I would like to to allow for non-stabilisation in the body and some of the lenses, and of course to gain adequate DOF. In these scenarios I will often get a better result from my micro thirds cameras, because I won't need to stop down and I can keep my ISO to reasonable levels, bolstered further by IBIS.

In most portrait situations our subjects can be controlled fairly well so subject movement is rarely a consequence. Fast-moving subjects, for me at least, are more likely to be outdoors where I'm not going to be worried about ISO, but depth of field is again important for things which move, so once again the focus/shutter speed equation can shift in favour of Micro 4/3. Then there are all the other benefits that a small lightweight system can offer such as discretion, quietness, and the fact I can transport a full complement of equipment to locations I could not have reached if I were trying to lug the same DSLR inventory. Then there is additive lighting, I can shoot it a wider aperture with my Micro 4/3 bodies and therefore used less powerful lights, or less power over all which is helpful on location.

No doubt a competent professional sports photographer will want good tracking focus, but as an animal photographer of many years I also know that there are many, many situations when even the best tracking focus is of no value, depending on how your subject is moving, how big your subject is, the nature of the background, how far away they are etc. I can test this whenever I want to, I have all the equipment. But for unpredictable fast-moving subjects it can be more reliable to pre-focus and work within that focus zone. Highly specified tracking focus is not always the magic bullet it is believed to be, at least not in some situations.

I hope that someone considering a new camera system will not become preoccupied by data charts because they don't take into account the you usage differences between some of the systems under discussion. Instead it's much better to consider the performance features you need such a speed, and the availability of an appropriate lens ecosystem. There are of course personal preferences - not everyone likes the feel of a small camera and they prefer the bulk of a DSLR. There are also the more subtle characteristics of a given system, and in that regard I do have a preference for Olympus because the colour rendering is incredibly reliable and this does save me a bit of time during postproduction (no matter how carefully I set my white balance in the field, I normally have to do some tweaking with my Canon kit, which also renders slightly flatter files).

My point is that these discussions very often fail to address things which are genuinely important for the user. I would wager that the scenarios I have described from my working life are also pretty common scenarios most of you will shoot in much of the time. I find it incredible when some small system users are criticised, when so often the person offering critique has no real-world experience of the equipment they are lambasting. Before resorting to data charts, try and look at the bigger picture, because it is surprising. Like many, I didn't expect much when I bought my first OMD camera, I too thought that data charts will tell me everything I needed to know and I also had the mindset that a smaller sensor system would not work for me. I was very wrong, and happy to stand corrected. I have no axe to grind, and looking around my office I have a number of different systems from different manufacturers, all of which have their place. Just use what suits you and try not to give someone a hard time for preferring something different.

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