There is a growing excitement and interest in electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens cameras, dubbed as EVIL for short. They may fill the gap in the world of digital cameras. For the most part there has been no middle ground when it comes to choosing a digital camera. The options were a compact point and shoot or a more professional Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR)
There seems to be no industry standard for the name of these emerging cameras. They have been referred to as micro, mirrorless, hybrid and crossover cameras.
Point and shoot cameras have always been easy to carry around, being small enough to fit into a pocket. The drawback is their small sensor size which results in much poorer image quality compared to a DSLR. The DSLR has superior image quality but is much larger and heavier.
These mirrorless cameras are significantly smaller then a DSLR. The benefit they have over a compact point and shoot is their larger sensor size and the ability to have interchangeable lenses. The larger sensor allows a higher quality image that is comparable to an entry level DSLR camera.
The manufacturers have developed flat, compact, non zoom lenses for their models of the micro cameras. The lenses are fast and of very high quality. A micro camera with one of these lenses, (referred to as a pancake lens) keeps the overall size of the camera small enough that you can now have a high quality pocket camera.
Benefits Of A Micro Camera
- Smaller in size, particularly in thickness because it does not require the space for a flipping mirror
- They are quieter and have less vibration because they do not have a flipping mirror
- Not having a mirror means lenses can be placed closer to the sensor. This allows high quality lenses to be designed that are smaller and lighter
- They generally have more features and controls than a compact point and shoot camera
- Fewer moving parts than a DSLR, therefore sturdier
- Higher image quality over compact point and shoot cameras due to a larger sensor
- When fitted with a thin pancake lens they can be small enough to fit in a pocket
- Digital viewfinder can be helpful to see if the image is in focus in low light situations
Mirrorless Cameras Are Not Without Drawbacks
- There is no through the lens (TTL) optical viewfinder
- The auto focus is contrast-based as opposed to the phase-based AF system of a DSLR, this means the auto focus is generally slower and not as efficient at focusing on moving objects
- So far the selection of lenses specifically designed for micro cameras is limited and they are fairly expensive
- The price of a micro camera body is still higher than a entry level DSLR
- As of yet there is not a full-frame micro camera
Both a plus and a negative is the mounting system of the micro cameras. The fact that they are as small as a point and shoot but can have interchangeable lenses is part of what is really exciting. However, the mounting system is not compatible with existing lenses. Some models have adapter rings available that will allow the use of Nikon, Canon, Minolta and Leica lenses. Part of the benefit of purchasing a micro camera is its ability to have the smaller and lighter lenses. If you want to take advantage of this you’ll have to shell out the money for all new lenses.
Where Will These Cameras Fit Into The Market?
Only time will tell what the market for these cameras will be. They might be a more portable option for people who want a higher quality camera without having to carry around a bulky DSLR and heavy lenses. They may become a supplementary camera to the professional photographers DSLR. Or perhaps the manufacturers are going to try to capture a whole new market. People who have not yet ventured into the world of DSLR cameras and who do not already have a large investment of money in lenses might choose to go with a micro camera.