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I have been a long time mirrorless user all the way back since Sony NEX and then migrated to Fujifilm X when they introduced the X-M1. I love shooting and travelling with them, they are small and light weight. The image quality is as good as any DSLR cameras and the ability to mount a variety of lenses on them is a bonus. Before I continue, I have to put out a disclaimer that the topic of Mirrorless vs DSLR is very subject and it all comes down to personal preference. I have shot many great images using mirrorless, but circumstances do change so I am back to shooting with DSLR now. By that I mean I am back to travelling with a DSLR. This is not related to my professional work which is shot 100% with DSLRs.
So why have I ditched mirrorless and moved back to DSLR? It all comes down to my new shooting style and habits. After so many years of taking pictures, my work flow and thought process of taking pictures have changed and are more refined. When I am travelling, I no longer carry my camera around my neck or shoulder and look for things to shoot. Now I keep my camera in the bag and only take it out when I need to shoot. I shoot with a purpose, if it is a photo that worth posting on facebook/instagram/website/blog then I might consider to use my camera, otherwise iPhone is as good as anything else.
Are mirrorless cameras really smaller?
The biggest selling point for mirrorless cameras is its smaller and lighter footprint, but if you are like me who carries his camera in a shoulder bag , then are you still benefiting from the smaller and lighter body? To me the answer is no, I still use the same Retrospective 10 camera bag regardless of which camera I use. The only difference will be shredding off a few hundreds of grams off my shoulders. This means I don’t really see a size difference.
Shoot and go
I don’t spend hours and hours of taking photos. Typically when I am travelling, I would allocate 5-15mins to get all the photos that I wanted at the location and be done with it. I will remain camera free until I hit the next location and then repeat the same process. This is another reason why size doesn’t really matter to me because I keep my photo taking time short.
Full frame is king
I am used to shooting with full frame, the size of the sensor is one thing, having access to a wide range of full frame lenses is something that I have missed. I missed having access to some of the cheaper f/1.8 lenses such as the 35mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8. The equivalent lenses on mirrorless would cost a premium.
DSLR still feels better
The grip, ergonomic design and button/dial layouts on a DSLR are still better than any mirrorless. Buttons and dials on mirrorless are small which makes them cumbersome to use. I shoot mostly with people so I like to shoot spontaneous and in burst which allows my subject to move freely and never have to pause in a pose. I also like to shoot against the sun which I find DSLR is much more reliable with its autofocusing.
One of the cool things about mirrorless cameras is that you can use all sorts of exotic lenses on it. With DLSR, I can’t really do that, but I have pretty much got rid of all the Viogtlander lenses and left with a couple of Nikon MF lenses, so this doesn’t affect me anymore. With the Nikon MF lenses that I have, I no longer need to use any mount adapters keeping the kit pretty small. Check out the tiny Nikon 50mm f/1.8 MF on the Nikon D750. This setup is smaller than what I have previously with the Fujifilm X-E2 + Nikon-Fuji mount adapter.
If you love the blur and shallow DoF like me FF is the way to go, slap on a $200 50mm f/1.8 and you are all set. If you go mirrorless, there is a premium to pay to get the same kind of blur.
My travel kit
I have replaced my previous travel kit Fujifilm X-E2 w 18-55mm f/2.8-4 + 50mm f/1.8 to Nikon D750 w 35mmf/1.4 + 50mm f/1.4. If I need something wider, I will throw in the 17-55mm or 16-35mm. Although, the total foot print and weight of the new kit have increased, they are all fitted in the same camera bag, so effectively I don’t really notice any size difference apart from the weight. I might eventually replace the 35mm f/1.4 with a 35mm f/2 which is 1/3 of the size.
A full frame mirrorless like the Sony A7 II will cost you about $1700 which is about the same as the Nikon D610. The size difference between the two is pretty negligible and Sony’s full frame lenses are not much smaller either. In fact the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 is larger, heavier and more expensive than the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. What’s the real benefits when the price and size are the same? For now, I am back to DSLR.