About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

Mirrorless Cameras are Like iPads

Mirrorless Cameras are Like iPads

Mirrorless Cameras are Like iPads

I've been shooting with mirrorless cameras since the early days of the format. My first mirrorless camera was a Panasonic GF-1, which I absolutely loved, and since then I've shot with a Panasonic GH2, a Fuji X-Pro 1 and X-E1, as well as a Sony Nex-7, a Sony A6000 and a Sony A7II. I think I can reasonably say that I'm a mirrorless fan. Unlike some mirrorless shooters though, I still regularly shoot with my DSLR.

There are a lot of heated discussions in the the photography community when it comes to mirrorless cameras. For some, it's an "either or" situation. You are either a mirrorless shooter or your not. Some are adamant that mirrorless is the only way to go, while others disagree. Some see a mirrorless camera as a second camera, one to take when you want to travel light, where as other people have gone all in on mirrorless and a mirrorless camera is their only camera.

While readings some polite discussion on the topic recently (and by polite discussion, I mean heated arguments) I began to think that the situation with mirrorless is very like the iPad (and tablets in general) market. Some people see iPads as the future of computing. For some this is an absolute. Even if we're not quite there yet, they see this as the absolute certain future of computing. And yet for many other people, iPads are a secondary computing device, and they still need the robustness and power of a fully fledged computer.

I'm reminded of the comments the late Steve Jobs's made about the iPad and computing market after the iPad first launched. He made the analogy of iPads being like cars and computers being like trucks. While many people only need a car, he pointed out, there will always be people who need trucks.

For me personally, this sums up how I feel about the camera market. Mirrorless cameras are kind of like cars in this analogy, or like iPads. It's perfectly acceptable that for some people, mirrorless works perfectly for them, and a mirrorless camera is all they need. But some photographers still need or want the DSLR "truck". And while you can argue that mirrorless cameras may have the same quality and many of the features of DSLRs, those who still need the "truck" know it's not just about quality or features. It's about robustness, ruggedness and reliability.

With the continuing advances in iPads, especially the iPad Pro, many more people are using them as their main computing device, and the same goes for mirrorless cameras. Cameras like the Fuji X-Pro 2 or the Sony A7 series make it more and more suitable for heavy duty photography projects. In my opinion, these cameras are the iPad Pros of photography tools. You can do just about anything with them, and for many people they're more than enough.

But even with higher end tablets, such as the iPad Pro, people still people want to use desktop or laptop computer. And likewise, there are many photographers who still want the flexibility of a DSLR or medium format camera.

The thing is, there's nothing wrong with this. Both approaches are perfectly acceptable. I enjoy travelling light and shooting with my mirrorless cameras, but I'm still perfectly happy to use my DSLR when I want or need to. I don't feel that those, like me, who still want to shoot with a DSLR are somehow misguided or stuck in the past. I still love shooting with my Nikon D700 because it's still a workhorse of a camera, and sometimes that's what I want. I just wish that there wasn't such divisive commentary around this. It doesn't help when certain manufacturers try to stoke this animosity up for the sake of marketing.

When Canon and Nikon recently released their current lineup of high end DSLRs there was lots of virtual shouting from people, who would probably never need to use a camera of this high end in the first place, that these were obsolete, and that no one needs cameras off this size any more, when a mirrorless camera does everything. Of course this happens every time someone releases a new camera, so it's nothing new, but it reminded me of when Apple last released their revised Mac Pro a few years ago.

There was lots of commentary from people saying that there was no need for this, that all you needed was an iMac, or even an iPad. These comments are from people who don't need the power of a high end desktop, and because they personally don't, they can't understand that anyone might. As someone who has worked a lot in television graphics and 3D animation, I need a high end computer, and reading the same tropes time and again from people who would never buy one of these computers in the first place, is frustrating.

The same goes for the current round of DSLR vs mirrorless arguments. If someone needs a high end DSLR, then just because a commentator may not have the same needs, that doesn't mean that those needs don't exist.

People are different and needs are different. I'm in no way trying to bad mouth any particular camera, or mirrorless cameras in general. I also think that it could well be the case that sometime in the future, mirrorless technology may well be the dominant technology in cameras, just as touch based computers may well be the man type of computer. We're not there yet though, in my opinion.

We've never been so lucky as photographers as we are now when it comes to the choice of tools available. There is such a great level of flexibility out there, from premium compacts, to Mirrorless, to cutting edge DSLRs like the Nikon D5 or Canon Eos 1DX. What you use is your choice, and we have never had so much choice. Rather than argue about it, why not just embrace it. We've all heard the somewhat overused cliche that it's the photographer that makes the photo, not the camera. If it's not about the camera you use, then it's definitely not about what camera someone else uses. After all, at the end of the day, it's the results that matter.

Oh, and by the way, I'm writing this on my iPad.

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