Mirrorless Cameras for Truly Hybrid Shooters?

Before I get started here, let me just say that this post is more of a stream of consciousness than anything that you may learn from. Sorry for that. I need to get this out of my brain and into writing to help me work my way through... I've been shooting still photos for over 25 years. I shoot all sorts of things including professional headshots, senior portraits, families and weddings. And for still photos, I've been using DSLRs since the early 2000s. And even today, my main still photos camera is the Nikon D750.

Nikon D750

I also have a Panasonic GH4 for a little over a year and I bring it along to my wedding shoots and pull it out for candid shots. But I never find it to be a very satisfying choice relative to the D750 for still photos in these conditions, with a few exceptions.

G7 Angle View

At a wedding earlier this month, I wanted to get some of the family shots after the wedding from a high angle. I'm very tall at 6'7" so I have the advantage of being able to hold the camera above my head and get a nice high angle perspective. I'm not anywhere near the first person to ever do something like this and some have given this type of shot, when you hold the camera up and lose all visibility as to what you're actually shooting, a "Hail Mary" shot.

But in the modern age, we have live view! So now you can actually compose the shot while holding the camera well above your head. But if you're a dedicated DSLR shooter, live view is pretty frustrating when you're trying to keep between 4 and 40 people in place and looking their best. The DSLR shows you the image while you're getting things framed up, then you press the shutter release and 2 - 5 seconds later, the photo is captured. 2 - 5 seconds!

A lot can change in that time. And that's where I think the mirrorless cameras have the advantage. Live view is just normal on mirrorless cameras. That's simply how they operate. No mirror to flip up and out of the way of the shutter and sensor. That means that you press the shutter button and it takes the photo almost instantly. That's genuinely useful.

Or I could just pack a 6 foot ladder and stand at the top of that while I use the optical viewfinder on my D750. No.

So I've been starting to wonder more and more if it might be time for me to look at full frame mirrorless cameras. Right now, the main thing keeping me with the Nikon is that I have a full set of lenses and flashes. And the Nikon CLS flash system is quite convenient. I can crank through photos of the couple with a flash and umbrella very quickly and easily with full TTL flash off the camera on a stand or in the hands of an assistant.

And I'm not sure the flash ecosystem for the Sony line of cameras would be as effective and easy and quick to use. I'm not saying they aren't, I just don't know and need to do some research on that.

sony_a7r_mark_ii

I'm probably not going to look at m4/3 for still photos simply because there haven't been amazing cameras in this domain with great high ISO capabilities as far as I'm aware. The GH4 definitely isn't that great relative to the Sony's I've used. The Olympus cameras may be better but in my limited exposure to them, they weren't stellar either. I think it is a limitation of the sensor pixel size.

But things aren't perfect on the mirrorless side either. Get a full frame Sony with it's tiny little body and put a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom on that thing. That's a very, very front-heavy piece of gear. It doesn't matter how small the body is, if its got a 35mm sensor in it, you still need very big lenses in front of it. And hefting that front-heavy thing around for several hours...not sure how that would feel. Maybe ok, maybe a pain...

There's the issue of lens options with Sony as well. They've got some good lenses, don't get me wrong, but not a lot of choice. And good, fast, full-frame lenses are not cheap. The price for fast zooms usually sits around $2000 and goes up from there. That's a serious commitment and part of the reason I'm still using a Nikon DSLR (I've got a good, solid set of lenses there and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the idea of selling all that off and building up a new kit...)

The Sony A7 series of cameras use tiny little batteries that don't really last all that long. In my Nikon, I can shoot an entire wedding on one or two batteries. That's one battery change max. I know this sounds petty, but when you HAVE to move quickly and get great results and you're not going to have a second chance, how many times you have to change your battery really does matter.

Over time, I think I'm finding that APS-C sized sensors are probably the right size for my style of shooting. Full-frame sensors are really hard to focus when you're shooting wide open. You miss focus a lot. Or the eye of your subject is in focus but their ear is out of focus. And that's a fine look sometimes, but not always. So I end up stopping down and getting the look that you usually get with an APS-C camera anyway. And for close product shots, you need a LOT of light for a full frame camera so that you can stop down enough to get everything into focus. On a smaller sensor camera, you get more depth of field at the same aperture.

So at this point, I think I need to try one of these mirrorless cameras for one of my upcoming still shoots. I'd like to wait and see what Sony announces in the next few months to update or replace their a6000. If they surprise us with an in-body image stabilized APS-C 4K shooting camera, that could be the right camera for me. I'll need to get my hands on it and give it a go! Oh, and do more research on the flash options for that camera as well. Oh, and the lens options, too...

Oh and battery life...I'm hearing not so great on the Sony's. Especially the full frame cameras. Can anyone tell me if I'm hearing that wrong. I know it sounds petty but it can really throw off a video or still shoot if you're changing batteries every 30 to 45 minutes.

Oh yeah, and overheating during video shoots. On my wife's a5100 I can get clips about 20 to 25 minutes in length and that's HD, not 4K.

It sure would be nice to have one camera that's great at still photos and 4K/UHD video. There's a great advantage that is often underestimated by many people: Being intimately familiar with a single camera. You can work more efficiently and fluidly and focus more on creativity and story-telling rather than spending a lot of effort getting your camera to do what you need it to do.

In any case, I'll look at that new APS-C Sony once they announce and start shipping.