MAKING THE MOVE FROM DSLR TO MIRRORLESS
In case you’re a photographer who has been living under a rock the past year, let me say this: Mirrorless is the future!
Don’t believe me? Sony, Panasonic and Fujifilm have been going nuts releasing amazing cameras as of late, and the image quality these lightweights have been producing has been hitting like heavyweight DSLR bodies.
Still don’t believe mirrorless is the future? Go check out Nikon and Canon’s latest full frame… wait for it… mirrorless cameras *GASP!* Alright enough of the melodrama. But you get it; if two of the most steadfast imaging companies finally gave into the mirrorless market, that must mean there’s something to this “mirrorless-trend,” and it’s got me shook. If you’re anything like most veteran photographers, we kind of tend to turn our noses up when we see/hear about someone using a mirrorless for professional work. Here’s how a dedicated DSLR shooter got seduced by a mirrorless system and why I’m never looking back.
Real quick, let’s take it back to my experience with DSLR bodies. I’ve been faithfully shooting one of the major brands for about 8 years. From their entry-level model all the way up to their most popular body, I’ve been a loyal fanboy. A little over a year ago, I finally hit that burn-out feeling working professionals deal with. Every-time I picked up my DSLR I just dreaded it. Not to mention the physical weight started to take a toll on my back, and yes I tried working out and all but uh, that just left me more tired haha.
We also film weddings and I was (still am) frustrated with how stubborn they are when it comes to adding decent video features to a camera. For the longest time there was no option to record LOG, the 4k file codec was horrendous, sloppy slo-mo, no focus peaking and I didn’t wanna shell out thousands to buy a few of their cinema cameras. All that to say the switch didn’t happen over night… but I was ready for a change.
As I said, mirrorless didn’t catch my attention right away. I always thought of it as a novelty camera. That was until one of my dear friends Phil Porto decided to try out the Fujifilm XT-2. I wanna say it was probably a week later that I saw him selling off all his DSLR gear on Facebook groups. After that, at WPPI 2017 in Vegas I noticed another close friend of my wife and I, Ashlee Hamon, was playing with Fuji bodies at their booth. Sure enough a couple weeks later, she also sold all her DSLR gear and made the switch.
And it wasn’t just them; plenty of my colleagues were making the move to either Sony, Fujifilm and a lot of video shooters moving to Panasonic; and again Sony for that matter. That being said, it wasn’t long before I picked up the phone and set up a play date with my friends and their new systems! Fujifilm had my attention.
Seeing how much I liked my friends’ Fujis, I eventually talked my wife into letting me buy a Fuji XT-2 and a 23mm 1.4 lens in August 2017; it was for personal use. I liked it for its lightweight, small form factor, beast of a crop sensor, shoots raw, dual card slots, and a great line of prime lenses to choose from if I wanted to expand in the future. Once the boys in brown dropped my package off, I immediately opened it. From there on, the XT2 was glued to my hand. Coffee shops, date nights, vacations… where I went, so did the XT2. And then an elopement in California happened and that’s when it clicked (pun intended); I think I wanna switch.
We photographed our bride and groom all day in Yosemite National Park. I normally shoot with two bodies, so this time I had my DSLR with an 85mm prime lens and the Fuji XT2 had the 23mm (35mm FF equivalent). After the elopement, we headed back to our Airbnb, and I rushed to my Macbook to import all the files into Lightroom to start editing.
Needless to say I was blown away with the image quality, colors, dynamic range, and crispness I got out of the Fuji! When I started comparing files between the two camera systems, the Fuji outpaced the DSLR with colors and dynamic range. That would’ve been my biggest concern: Can I really shoot Fuji professionally? Yes… yes I can. I still mainly shot my DSLR for full wedding days and engagement sessions, but I couldn’t shake how impressed I was.
Let’s fast forward (because I’m long winded… long type-er?… you get it). Earlier this year I bought a small fleet of mid-range DSLR bodies so my video team can all be shooting on the same thing. Yeah, big mistake. I think this particular body, in my experience, sucks. Did not like the colors. The files fell apart in Final Cut X while color grading. Didn’t feel like the 1080p footage was all that sharp, and the biggest flaw: No 4K… and before the peanut gallery starts chiming in; Yes we film weddings in 4K.
BEGINNING OF RANT: Why? Well, a lot of newer video companies (the younger crowd) are starting off with mirrorless cameras that can shoot 4K. And why wouldn’t they use it to set themselves apart from more established companies, older companies that don’t “like,” to shoot 4K? It’s just like how I used to make fun of people that still filmed wedding videos on camcorders/mini DV tapes; I don’t wanna be the guy shooting 1080p in 2018. Gotta stay up on the competition, right? END OF RANT.
Anyways, from January til June we were slammed with weddings and didn’t think it was smart to try switching systems. But then, rolling into late summer, things slowed way down and BAM; Fuji announces the XT3 in early Sept!
Once this camera was announced and released, I threw all of those mid-range DSLR bodies on Facebook buy/sell groups and sold ‘em like hotcakes. Now, I did the math. IF I had bought four of the main bodies we use (we run four cameras during the ceremony), which are the next step up in the lineup, cuz those can do 4K, Log, and Slo-mo, I would be spending upwards of $12,000. Not to mention I would have to buy extra lenses. After selling off all the mid-range DSLR bodies and buying three XT-3 bodies (I still own the XT2) along with a variety of prime lenses I spent about $5,000 out of pocket.
Once they got delivered to my door, I got them out of the boxes, set them up, and we then filmed our first wedding on them…. I was hooked for good. I also wanna mention my video team loves being able to keep everything in one bag and felt less tired since everything was lighter weight. We’re still editing most of those video but so far so good I’m loving the videos way better than what we were getting from the DSLR bodies. Meanwhile, I shot the hell out of that camera during one of our National Park pitstops at Bryce Canyon and later in San Francisco!
Now that I went full Fuji for video, I started feeling that itch again… the curiosity of: I wonder if I could photograph my next wedding with these XT-3s… And so I did! The very next weekend, I shot an entire wedding with a mirrorless camera. Since then I’ve photographed one more wedding with Fuji and then an engagement session. Suffice it to say, I didn’t once find myself missing my full frame DSLRs.
Where am I going with this? I realize this whole post might have sounded like I’m Fujifilm fanboy or a mirrorless evangelist, and maybe rightfully so. But what I really want to leave you with is this:
DO NOT be afraid of trying one of the new mirrorless systems, or maybe any new system for that matter.
Switching camera systems takes time and careful planning. While mirrorless may not for everyone (yet), changing camera systems has certainly reinvigorated my personal interest in photography. I find myself more eager to shoot, the light weight means I have more stamina during weddings, and my wrist isn’t swollen afterwards. Mirrorless EVF’s (electronic viewfinder) have also come a long way and I personally love Fuji’s. Overall I just love the feel of the camera; it’s true what some people say when it comes to having an emotional response shooting with a certain piece of gear.
If you find yourself stuck in a rut, or in the middle of burn out; do something for yourself and business and try something new. People change, photography style changes, why shouldn’t your camera system? As Tom Haverford from ‘Parks and Recreation’ says, “Treat yo’ Self!” You deserve it!