First camera: DSLR or mirrorless

Started 6 months ago | Discussions
kufuxul
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First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
6 months ago

Hi,

As someone who doesn't own any DSLR and is not bound to Canon/Nikon lens system, should my first camera be DSLR or mirrorless?

My budget is 600$ and was leaning towards Canon T3i/Nikon D3200 until I found this article: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/01/04/dslrs-are-a-dying-breed-3rd-gen-cameras-are-the-future/ which started me thinking about buying some mirrorless camera, as perhaps they are the future and will offer better options (lenses etc.) in couple years?

Apart from future perspectives, will mirrorless camera offer same quality as T3i/D3200 in the same price range or will I be trading quality for portability? If so, what model should I take?

Also, Canon/Nikon have established lens systems which are more than likely to be compatible with newest models... can the same be said about mirrorless cameras? If so, what system should I buy into?

I'd appreciate your help!

Ido S
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to kufuxul, 6 months ago

kufuxul wrote:

Hi,

Hi!

As someone who doesn't own any DSLR and is not bound to Canon/Nikon lens system, should my first camera be DSLR or mirrorless?

Depends on a bunch of things, one of them being just pure personal preference.

My budget is 600$ and was leaning towards Canon T3i/Nikon D3200 until I found this article: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/01/04/dslrs-are-a-dying-breed-3rd-gen-cameras-are-the-future/ which started me thinking about buying some mirrorless camera, as perhaps they are the future and will offer better options (lenses etc.) in couple years?

Think about the present. Pick what works the best for you, not what has the most potential to help a camera company make profits.

Apart from future perspectives, will mirrorless camera offer same quality as T3i/D3200 in the same price range or will I be trading quality for portability?

If by quality you mean just image quality, then yes, mirrorless cameras and DSLRs in this price range will give very similar image quality. But it also depends on what lens you use.

If so, what model should I take?

Read this article: The Best Affordable Mirrorless Camera | The Wirecutter

And while you're at it, read the DSLR version, too: The Best Entry-Level DSLR | The Wirecutter

Also, Canon/Nikon have established lens systems which are more than likely to be compatible with newest models... can the same be said about mirrorless cameras?

Why wouldn't it? Why would a company release a lens, only to be incompatible with a newer camera?

Mirrorless cameras are, exactly like DSLRs, called "system cameras", because they are a part of a system. Lenses are a vital part of the system. Some companies have several systems - for example, Sony has the A-mount and the E-mount, each with two different formats (sensor sizes). Lenses designed for the E-mount are incompatible with A-mount cameras, but an adapter can be bought to do the other way around - use an A-mount lens on an E-mount body. Lenses designed for APS-C sensors give an image circle that's not big enough to "cover" a full frame sensor entirely, so those should not be used on cameras with full frame sensors, but a lens designed for full frame sensors can be used on cameras with APS-C sensors. Hope you're following...

If so, what system should I buy into?

Depends on a bunch of things, one of them being just pure personal preference. (Sorry for reusing answers, but it simply worked for this question, too.)

I'd appreciate your help!

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baloo_buc
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to kufuxul, 6 months ago

kufuxul wrote:

As someone who doesn't own any DSLR and is not bound to Canon/Nikon lens system, should my first camera be DSLR or mirrorless?

Mirrorless offerings are getting better 5 years after their appearance. Still they are far away from the flexibility and performance of dSLRs. The gap is narrowing, though.

My budget is 600$ and was leaning towards Canon T3i/Nikon D3200 until I found this article: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/01/04/dslrs-are-a-dying-breed-3rd-gen-cameras-are-the-future/ which started me thinking about buying some mirrorless camera, as perhaps they are the future and will offer better options (lenses etc.) in couple years?

Buy what you need now not something that may be better in the future but doesn't meet your demands today.

Apart from future perspectives, will mirrorless camera offer same quality as T3i/D3200 in the same price range or will I be trading quality for portability? If so, what model should I take?

Canon has a sensor that is not up to present day standards so its performance is almost identical to the one in the best mirrorless offerings.

Also, Canon/Nikon have established lens systems which are more than likely to be compatible with newest models... can the same be said about mirrorless cameras? If so, what system should I buy into?

The most mature system is Micro 4/3s. You have two manufacturers there.

I'd appreciate your help!

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Ido S
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to baloo_buc, 6 months ago

baloo_buc wrote:

Canon has a sensor that is not up to present day standards so its performance is almost identical to the one in the best mirrorless offerings.

The best mirrorless offerings are, well, the Sony α7R. And that has a very similar (if not identical) sensor as the Nikon D800E, which is considered to be the best sensor at sizes up to 35mm full frame. The α7 is also a proven performer, also up there with its full frame competitors (and in DxOMark's tests, it clearly beats Canon full frame sensors in dynamic range by quite a wide margin).

Fujifilm's X-Trans sensors are terrific, too, and so are Sony's APS-C sensors (especially in the α6000). The latest Four Thirds sensors are pretty much on par with Canon's APS-C sensors in most categories, and beat the Canons in dynamic range...

In short, saying that the best sensors in mirrorless cameras are similar in performance to the worst sensors in current-generation DSLRs, is plain nonsense.

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Chris R-UK
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to baloo_buc, 6 months ago

baloo_buc wrote:

kufuxul wrote:

As someone who doesn't own any DSLR and is not bound to Canon/Nikon lens system, should my first camera be DSLR or mirrorless?

Mirrorless offerings are getting better 5 years after their appearance. Still they are far away from the flexibility and performance of dSLRs. The gap is narrowing, though.

Victor,

I don't think that you have used a recent top of the line mirrorless camera.  IMHO, apart from lens choice (which is important) and continuous focusing, the upper range of mirrorless cameras (Sony A6000, A7, Fujifilm X-T1, Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic GH4) have all the flexibility and performance of entry and mid-range DSLRs and are superior in some areas, e.g. manual focusing and video.

The smaller bodied mirrorless cameras have more limited functionality simply because the bodies are small and you can't fit so many controls on them.

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Dave Stott
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to kufuxul, 6 months ago

kufuxul wrote:

Hi,

As someone who doesn't own any DSLR and is not bound to Canon/Nikon lens system, should my first camera be DSLR or mirrorless?

My budget is 600$ and was leaning towards Canon T3i/Nikon D3200 until I found this article: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/01/04/dslrs-are-a-dying-breed-3rd-gen-cameras-are-the-future/ which started me thinking about buying some mirrorless camera, as perhaps they are the future and will offer better options (lenses etc.) in couple years?

Apart from future perspectives, will mirrorless camera offer same quality as T3i/D3200 in the same price range or will I be trading quality for portability? If so, what model should I take?

Also, Canon/Nikon have established lens systems which are more than likely to be compatible with newest models... can the same be said about mirrorless cameras? If so, what system should I buy into?

I'd appreciate your help!

FWIW I have both dslr (t3i) and mirrorless (Panasonic G5) systems,  in both cases with good quality but not top of the range lenses.   Both bodies are equally versatile (maybe the G5 has the edge), and both produce images that satisfy me in everyday shooting.

For general use I carry the G5, coupled with the 14-140mm lens.   It is portable and flexible - no advantage in taking the Canon.

For wildlife shooting I stay with the Canon.   Micro 4/3 do not currently have a long zoom that would satisfy me.     As and when they do I will probably go completely mirrorless.

It depends on what you plan using the kit for.   I think in a year or two,  mirrorless will certainly do anything we want, and it will come down to range of glass and cost,  but no-one really can tell you.

Dave

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Alphoid
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to kufuxul, 6 months ago

A better article:

http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2014/02/disruption-and-innovation

At this point, mirrorless cameras are generally better than dSLRs at the same pricepoint, at least with US prices:

  1. Because they lack a pentamirror/pentaprism, complex mirror mechanism, complex alignment between AF sensor and image sensor, etc. they are cheaper to make. Sony A3000 sells for $350. For comparison, a Nikon D3300 costs $600, while a Canon T3 costs $400.
  2. Because of lack of alignment issues between autofocus sensor and main sensor, autofocus tends to be more accurate. On older models, it was also slower, but the current state-of-the-art, it is just as fast.
  3. Because the camera see what it's shooting, automatic modes actually work. With dSLRs, you have to know what you're doing, and even there, the cognitive load is higher.
  4. EVFs display more information, and give accurate preview of exposure and white balance, as well as more accurate review than LCDs.
  5. Autofocus points on dSLRs cost money. On mirrorless, they're nearly free. At the same price point, you end up with many more AF points on a mirrorless.
  6. Mirrorless is, obviously, much smaller.

On the other hand, dSLR still has a few advantages:

  1. EVFs still have a bit of lag. It's getting better -- at this point, it only matter for super-high-speed action. For what I do, mirrorless does fine for normal action (kids in my family running around). It is not yet good enough for birds doing acrobatics in flight.
  2. Autofocus is still better on dSLRs until you hit something like an A6000, OM-D, or GH4. Mirrorless developed the technology for high-speed autofocus about a year ago. It's only on the super-high-end models. It will trickle down, but it will take a year or two.
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Chris R-UK
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to Alphoid, 6 months ago

Alphoid wrote:

A better article:

http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2014/02/disruption-and-innovation

At this point, mirrorless cameras are generally better than dSLRs at the same pricepoint, at least with US prices:

  1. Because they lack a pentamirror/pentaprism, complex mirror mechanism, complex alignment between AF sensor and image sensor, etc. they are cheaper to make. Sony A3000 sells for $350. For comparison, a Nikon D3300 costs $600, while a Canon T3 costs $400.
  2. Because of lack of alignment issues between autofocus sensor and main sensor, autofocus tends to be more accurate. On older models, it was also slower, but the current state-of-the-art, it is just as fast.
  3. Because the camera see what it's shooting, automatic modes actually work. With dSLRs, you have to know what you're doing, and even there, the cognitive load is higher.
  4. EVFs display more information, and give accurate preview of exposure and white balance, as well as more accurate review than LCDs.
  5. Autofocus points on dSLRs cost money. On mirrorless, they're nearly free. At the same price point, you end up with many more AF points on a mirrorless.
  6. Mirrorless is, obviously, much smaller.

On the other hand, dSLR still has a few advantages:

  1. EVFs still have a bit of lag. It's getting better -- at this point, it only matter for super-high-speed action. For what I do, mirrorless does fine for normal action (kids in my family running around). It is not yet good enough for birds doing acrobatics in flight.
  2. Autofocus is still better on dSLRs until you hit something like an A6000, OM-D, or GH4. Mirrorless developed the technology for high-speed autofocus about a year ago. It's only on the super-high-end models. It will trickle down, but it will take a year or two.

There are also a lot more lenses available for DSLRs than for mirrorless.

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Glen Barrington
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I don't think it matters all that much . . .
In reply to kufuxul, 6 months ago

kufuxul wrote:

Hi,

As someone who doesn't own any DSLR and is not bound to Canon/Nikon lens system, should my first camera be DSLR or mirrorless?

My budget is 600$ and was leaning towards Canon T3i/Nikon D3200 until I found this article: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/01/04/dslrs-are-a-dying-breed-3rd-gen-cameras-are-the-future/ which started me thinking about buying some mirrorless camera, as perhaps they are the future and will offer better options (lenses etc.) in couple years?

Apart from future perspectives, will mirrorless camera offer same quality as T3i/D3200 in the same price range or will I be trading quality for portability? If so, what model should I take?

Also, Canon/Nikon have established lens systems which are more than likely to be compatible with newest models... can the same be said about mirrorless cameras? If so, what system should I buy into?

I'd appreciate your help!

You're going to get a good camera regardless of what you buy, and neither camera format are going away regardless of what you read from the fanboys.  Everyone's first camera is an experiment anyway.  My suggestion is buy a name brand camera that fits your budget and works pretty much the way you think it should work.

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Alphoid
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to Chris R-UK, 6 months ago

Chris R-UK wrote:
There are also a lot more lenses available for DSLRs than for mirrorless.

Questionable. It depends on what you're looking for. There is a larger raw number of lenses in the Canon/Nikon line-ups, but there are also big gaps.

If you want fast lenses with stabilization, your choices are:

  • Sony A-mount
  • Pentax
  • Micro 4/3

This is helpful for everyone, but especially beginners, who often either don't have tripod/flash, don't know how to use it, or don't want to use it. That's a very big gap. A/K/MFT mounts all have similar (and very sufficient) lens lineups. The gaps are relatively esoteric.

On the low-budget end, you can also adapt many older manual focus lenses to mirrorless. Not so to dSLRs.

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Alphoid
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to baloo_buc, 6 months ago

baloo_buc wrote:
Canon has a sensor that is not up to present day standards so its performance is almost identical to the one in the best mirrorless offerings.

I'm not sure what you're smoking.

Best mirrorless offering is the Sony A7s. It's not yet benched, but it's predecessor, the A7R ($2300), by DxOMark, has better image quality by DxOMark than either the Canon 1Dx ($6000) or the Nikon D4s ($6000). Overall image quality is 95 for A7r, 89 for D4s, and 82 for 1Dx.

Cheapest new mirrorless I am aware of is the Sony A3000. Compared to bottom-of-the-barrel Canon/Nikon, it has much better image quality than the Canon T3, at about $50 less. It is only slightly behind the twice-as-expensive Nikon D3300. It is much better than the D3100 (the cheapest Nikon dSLR still in production), and still $50 cheaper.

If you compare Sony E-mount to Nikon and Canon, the mirrorless sensors give better image quality than the competing dSLR sensors at every price point.

Panasonic and Olympus are a bit behind in terms of raw sensor performance, by virtue of a slightly smaller sensor, but not enough to matter in the real world. Panasonic makes up for it by giving spectacular video, while Olympus by giving IBIS. Shooting primes, Olympus will generally come out well ahead Canon/Nikon for image quality, in spite of sensor size, due to IBIS. Both have excellent ergonomics as well, but especially the nicer Olympus models. Canon/Nikon ergonomics suck until you get up into the D7000/70D range.

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ultimitsu
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to kufuxul, 6 months ago

kufuxul wrote:

perhaps they are the future and will offer better options (lenses etc.) in couple years?

More like in 20 years. M43 has been around for 6 years, lens selection wise it is still significantly behind DSLRs. All other mirrorless are way worse.

Apart from future perspectives, will mirrorless camera offer same quality as T3i/D3200 in the same price range or will I be trading quality for portability?

You are essentially trading battery life, AF performance, real time zero lag view finding and ergonomics for portability. Image quality wise you dont really lose anything by going mirrorless as long as sensor size is the same.

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ambercool
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to kufuxul, 6 months ago

What's your experience in photography?  If you're pretty experienced, then just pick one that has the lenses you want and what feels good in the hand.  All of the images from these companies should be similar nowadays.

If you don't really have photography experience, then I'd say to get the cheapest from any of those systems you can find and grab the accommodating 50mm.  After that, you practice.

GL

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jrtrent
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start with the viewfinder
In reply to kufuxul, 6 months ago

kufuxul wrote:

Hi,

As someone who doesn't own any DSLR and is not bound to Canon/Nikon lens system, should my first camera be DSLR or mirrorless?

Mike Johnston in an article on The Luminous Landscape once wrote, "The viewfinder is the single most important user interface on any camera. Throughout the history of cameras, the method of aiming the camera accurately and communicating its view to the operator is what has determined and defined most different basic camera types."

I find the experience of using LCD's, EVF's, and DSLR-style OVF's to be quite different, and I have a decided preference for the optical viewing system of a DSLR.  I find LCD's useless in bright sun, plus I simply prefer a camera to be at my eye and pressed against my face rather than holding it out in front of me.  I also find shadow/highlight detail much easier to see with an OVF compared with an EVF; again, this is particularly true on sunny days.  After handling and looking through them, your preference might be different, or you may find that other advantages of cameras designed around LCD's or EVF's outweigh the differences in viewfinders, but do at least consider how easily you can see and compose your pictures with the different viewing systems.

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Dave Stott
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Re: start with the viewfinder
In reply to jrtrent, 6 months ago

jrtrent wrote:

kufuxul wrote:

Hi,

As someone who doesn't own any DSLR and is not bound to Canon/Nikon lens system, should my first camera be DSLR or mirrorless?

Mike Johnston in an article on The Luminous Landscape once wrote, "The viewfinder is the single most important user interface on any camera. Throughout the history of cameras, the method of aiming the camera accurately and communicating its view to the operator is what has determined and defined most different basic camera types."

I find the experience of using LCD's, EVF's, and DSLR-style OVF's to be quite different, and I have a decided preference for the optical viewing system of a DSLR. I find LCD's useless in bright sun, plus I simply prefer a camera to be at my eye and pressed against my face rather than holding it out in front of me. I also find shadow/highlight detail much easier to see with an OVF compared with an EVF; again, this is particularly true on sunny days. After handling and looking through them, your preference might be different, or you may find that other advantages of cameras designed around LCD's or EVF's outweigh the differences in viewfinders, but do at least consider how easily you can see and compose your pictures with the different viewing systems.

Very good points, especially about the downside of an lcd for general use.  Otoh, a flip out and twistable lcd can be a real godsend for low down or hard to reach shots.   I wouldn't seriously consider a camera that didn't have both a vf and an lcd

As for ovf and evf, I use both and they each have pluses and minuses.    However, I principally use the vf for composition and not to judge the final image (though I can't decide whether the "blinkies" in the evf should be on or off), so either way it's not a big deal for me.

Da e

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baloo_buc
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to Chris R-UK, 6 months ago

By flexibility I mean mainly lens choice and covering most of situation (also the ones that require focus tracking).

@Ido S and Alphoid: The OP seems not to be interested in buying full frame mirrorless. My bad because I compared with micro 4/3s not with the Sony or Fuji offerings that offer the same IQ as normal dSLRs (because they use up to date sensors and identical size). So thank you for pointing that out.

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baloo_buc
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to Ido S, 6 months ago

Just to put in perspective your comparisons:

Canon 600D 1999 lei ($617)

Nikon D5100 1999 lei ($617)

Sony A7R (only body) 8398 lei ($2592) on promotion so with a lens it goes to 10697 lei ($3302)

Sony A6000 3599 lei ($1111)

Canon 700D 3599 lei ($1111) you get 600 lei cash back so maybe a fair price would be 2999 lei ($926)

Nikon D5300 3999 lei ($1234)

Olympus OM-D M5 4498 lei ($1388)

Fujifilm X-T1 7599 lei ($2346)

Maybe the prices in Romania are quite high but the proportions remain the same.

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Ido S
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to baloo_buc, 6 months ago

Just to put in perspective your comparisons:

Canon 600D 1999 lei ($617)

Nikon D5100 1999 lei ($617)

Sony A7R (only body) 8398 lei ($2592) on promotion so with a lens it goes to 10697 lei ($3302)

Sony A6000 3599 lei ($1111)

Canon 700D 3599 lei ($1111) you get 600 lei cash back so maybe a fair price would be 2999 lei ($926)

Nikon D5300 3999 lei ($1234)

Olympus OM-D M5 4498 lei ($1388)

Fujifilm X-T1 7599 lei ($2346)

Maybe the prices in Romania are quite high but the proportions remain the same.

I did not try to recommend anything with my post… it's just that the person I replied to suggested that the best sensors in mirrorless cameras are only on par with the worst sensors of DSLRs, which is obviously false.

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Alphoid
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Re: First camera: DSLR or mirrorless
In reply to baloo_buc, 6 months ago

I have cameras including a full frame dSLR, APS dSLTs, MFT mirrorless, and an RX100 with a 1" sensor.

Going all the way from 1" to full frame makes a big difference, at least when you're not constrained by depth-of-field (if you do want wide DoF, they're both comparable and limited by the quality of the glass).

MFT to APS? Not so much. You see it in lab tests on review sites, but in real-world shooting, if you gave me an MFT camera one day and an otherwise identical APS camera another, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

On the other hand, in the case of Olympus, I do get much better image quality than from an APS dSLR due to image stabilization. I typically use a 45mm f/1.8 lens on the Olympus. There are no equivalents to that on a dSLR.

I agree that autofocus tracking is not very good on mirrorless until you go a bit above OP's price range. Whether or not that matters depends on what OP is doing.

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Alphoid
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You're confusing some EVF issues with LCD
In reply to jrtrent, 6 months ago

Most of those downsides, except dynamic range, apply to LCDs, not to EVFs. LCDs do not work well in bright sunlight. However, EVFs, like OVFs do. Indeed, one of the major upsides of an EVF, for me, is the ability to review photos in bright sunlight. With a dSLR, I cannot do it until I find shade, or a computer, or similar.

It's a personal preference either way.

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