THE DSLR TO MIRRORLESS SWITCH – ARDENT STUDIO

Date: August 24, 2017

There is no bigger thrill to me than documenting a couple’s big day as they spend it with their family and loved ones.  I’ve been shooting wedding photography for almost 10 years now.   About 6 years ago, I started to get an interest in documenting my own life.  In this age of social media, photographing everything we do is so easy with the technology available to us.  The problem was, in order to get the same professional quality photos you were used to giving to your client, you would have to carry around your big body DSLRs.  I don’t know about you, but after taking my Nikon d4 with the smallest fixed lens I owned on a night out with my friends bowling and bar hopping, I lost interest in that idea pretty quickly.  

I started researching point and shoot cameras.  I was ready to compromise the DSLR quality of my images for something more portable.  The idea was to find something that was smaller than my DSLRs but had better image quality and control over my cell phone camera. 

Upon researching for smaller, portable cameras, I ran across the Fuji x100 mirrorless camera. I was immediately in love with this camera already for its old vintage film body look.  After researching for a few weeks, I finally pulled the trigger on my first mirrorless camera.  The Fuji x100 promised the same picture quality as any DSLR and it came with a 35mm equivalent f2.0 non-interchangeable lens.  

I was super excited taking this with me on a night out.  It was small enough to fit in my pocket and I was blown away with the quality when I loaded up the photos.  The only problem was the autofocus sucked so bad.  The EVF (Electronic View Finder) was also really weird.  I loved the old analog film body feel when I was dialing in my exposures, but everything else felt a little too electronic for me.  I went through 2 generations of the Fuji x100 series before I called it quits and went back to my DSLR.  

It wasn’t until a few years later when a videographer friend of mine was raving about his Sony mirrorless.  I kind of ignored the conversation until I heard it was the first full frame mirrorless camera.  After a few weeks or researching, I was sold on the Sonys, but a $2800 price tag for a camera and one lens combo was kind of steep for a “play camera”.  After another week or two of debating, I told myself that as long as I can use this smaller setup for my sessions, it would warrant the price.  That was what I sold myself on before pulling the trigger on a Sony a7s + a 55mm 1.8 Zeiss lens.   

As soon as it came in, I took it out for a session the next day.  I remember telling my clients that my big cameras were in the shop for repairs, so I had to use this little camera for today.  I remember the look on their faces before I told them I was kidding.


Fast forward to the end of the session, I rushed home to load the images on my computer.  I was absolutely blown away by the quality.  There’s a quote going around that says, “Zeiss is nice.”  I now understood the full meaning.  The sharpness and contrast from that lens just blew me away.  I decided to take it as my second body for a wedding that weekend.  At the time, I was a one body and change lens kind of guy.  I just couldn’t carry two DSLRs on my side anymore.  I decided to dig up my dual strap and have my Sony on the side of my hip.  It was a little confusing at the beginning of the day because I shoot from the LCD screen when I use the Sony.  I kept waiting for the live view to show up when I switched back to my Nikon body before realizing I needed to look through the viewfinder.

I was amazed at how well the camera focused.  The church wasn’t that dark, but it shot like a champ at the reception.  What shocked me was how clean the ISO was.  I knew from my research that the Sony a7s had amazing ISO capability.  It was labeled the ISO king at the time, so I pushed some extra high ISO on purpose to compare later in post-production.  I swear 6400 and even 12,800 iso looked like 3200iso on my d4.  Needless to say, I shot 90% of my shots from the Sony the following wedding.  What started off as a play camera ended up being my work camera.  I did a fire sale on all of my Nikons and made the complete switch to the Sony system.  A lot of people asked me why I didn’t buy a Nikon adapter and save myself from buying Sony lenses.  I wanted to go smaller and be more portable, so buying an adapter and keeping the big heavy DSLR lens defeated that purpose.  I loved how small all the lenses for the mirrorless lineup was.  

I shot exclusively on the Sonys for 2 years before recently making another complete switch to a different mirrorless camera system.  All of the Sony lenses were starting to be the same size and in some cases, bigger or heavier than DSLR lenses.  This defeated the purpose of why I made the switch to mirrorless in the first place.


The next step I took in the mirrorless camera world was investing in the Fuji X-T2 camera. I love how small and fast and decently price the Fuji XF lenses are.  I also love how simple the controls are as the Sony’s were a bit menu driven.  I will say I miss being able to push my ISO to 12,800 on my Sonys with full confidence that I will not have to deal with any noise issues.  I’ve shot dark ceremonies in hotel ballrooms with no natural light at 25,000 ISO on my Sony’s and came out with awesome images.  But with all that being said, I absolutely love how light my bags are for my sessions, my weddings, and yes… my travels.  



The only Sony body I still own is my Sony rx100iv.  It is literally the size of a point and shoot camera that offers professional quality.  It’s awesome when I just want to throw it in my pocket knowing I probably won’t shoot anything, but it’s nice to have just in case and it’s small enough to where it doesn’t feel like extra weight.



So to close out this article, mirrorless cameras do not produce better quality photos than dslrs.  Your images won’t magically look different.  The main thing to me is it is the same quality as the bigger DSLRs.  The lenses are smaller.  The comparison of my Fuji xt2 with a 35mm equivalent lens to a Nikon 750 + a Sigma 35mm Art is Day and Night.  We’re not even comparing to the flagship bodies such as the d4 or d5 bodies.  Going smaller has also allowed me to shoot with dual bodies now so that completely eliminates the need to change lenses now.  The EVF has improved so much since the Fuji x100 days.  You see exactly what your final image will be.  It is such an invaluable tool for sunny days where you can’t chimp the back of your LCD to check your exposure without having to do the under the shirt trick.  

My favorite thing about mirrorless camera now is I can find birdseye angles and low ground angles so easily because we shoot from the LCD screen instead of the viewfinder.  If I want a high bird’s eye view, I simply tilt the top of the screen down and raise the camera high above my head.  If I need a low angle, I flip the bottom of the screen up and just crouch down a bit.  No more laying in a bush of poison ivy, (yes, it happened to me twice), to get your shots.  


If you’ve been wanting to make the switch from DSLR to mirrorless, the technology has absolutely caught up.  In some cases, the technology is better than DSLRs.  Go smaller and still bang out the highest quality images.  How can you say no to that?  I couldn’t. =)