What We Want in Mirrorless and 5 Signs You’re Progressing

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff HarmonLeave a Comment

Jeff hosts with Connor at the round table to talk about what they want in a mirrorless body and 5 signs that you are progressing as a photographer.


Topic 1: What We Want in Mirrorless

Jeff: Connor, before we get into the rumors from Canon and Nikon with new mirrorless bodies coming here in the latter half of 2018, I want to know what would make the perfect mirrorless camera for you.  What features would you want that camera to have?

Connor: Really want a mirrorless body that could take my Canon lenses natively.  No new mount. Adapters and fine, but would be so much better to me if I could use my current lenses.  I would need to have battery life equal or close to my DSLR.

Jeff: For me the exciting thing about a mirrorless camera come down to two things that I would find valuable – the electronic viewfinder and no need for autofocus micro adjustment.  I’ll talk more about those things in a second. On top of those benefits, the perfect mirrorless camera would need to offer the same battery life as my DSLR, excellent autofocus, and good ergonomics.  

No way I want to have to replace batteries more often that I do today.  I love that i can take a freshly charged battery out on a shoot and not have to worry about it unless I am shooting in really cold temperatures.  The perfect mirrorless camera would have to provide me the same battery life.

Autofocus has to work really well, and I think this was a bit of a struggle for early mirrorless bodies but has largely been solved or in some cases perhaps made even better than in DSLRs.

The camera has to feel good in my hands.  I am 6’2” and I have fairly large hands, so it might be a thing more of my issue than it will be for every photographer, but the few times I have held mirrorless cameras it just felt bad in my hands.  Very foreign. Maybe that would reduce over time but I found it tough to reach of buttons, especially back button focus. I suppose I may get used to it over time and maybe this is something that is silly, but it seemed like a very real concern for me as I have tried out mirrorless cameras in the past.

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

I use histograms extensively in all types of shooting I do whether it is landscape, high school basketball, family portraits, or my living room.  The trouble is that unless you shoot in live view with a mirrored camera, you can only see that histogram after you have take the shot. It is awkward to shoot using live view all of the time so in many situations I take numerous test shots, look at the photo I just took along with the histogram, and adjust my exposure to get what I want.  We are going to talk about histograms a little more in the second half of the show, but I absolutely loved the electronic viewfinder when I rented and tested out the Sony A7R3 a few months ago. I would love to have that feature available to me always.


The other thing I would love is not having to worry about doing autofocus micro adjustment.  With a mirror in the camera when you aren’t shooting in live view the light coming into the camera is being split between the viewfinder and a component in the camera called a focus sensor.  

That focus sensor does all of the autofocus when you are shooting without live mode.  Well the trouble is that sensor is not EXACTLY the same distance and position from the lens elements as the imaging sensor and so even though that sensor will say something is perfectly sharp, when you press the shutter button to have the camera lift the mirror up and expose the shot to the imaging sensor the autofocus may be off just a little bit.  

Many, but not all, of the DSLR cameras have a feature that allows a photographer to do some tests and make micro adjustments to where that sensor is positioned in the camera so that autofocus can work the best it possibly can.  If you would like to know more about AFMA, check out my Photo Taco podcasts on the topic (AFMA Explained, AFMA Revisited).

Anyway, I have found that this has to be done for every lens every 6 months or so to keep this perfectly sharp and this is simply not a problem when you have no mirror to deal with.  The light is always going to the imaging sensor and autofocus is always being done without sending it to another sensor. I would love that benefit of not worrying on the way to a shoot if I have tuned the autofocus recently.

Nikon Mirrorless Specs

Jeff: Now that we have said what it is we want The rumors are really flying about the full frame mirrorless options coming from Nikon and Canon.  The rumors about the Nikon cameras seem more solid, to the point where some of the information can’t be rumors. An event is scheduled for 8/23/2018 where Nikon is expected to unveil two new mirrorless bodies.  Let’s go over the technical specs that are in the rumors:

  • The names of the two new Nikon full-frame cameras will be:
    • Nikon Z6: high speed, low light model (24MP)
    • Nikon Z7: high-resolution model (45MP)
  • Nikon is rumored to target/compete directly with the Sony A7/A7r line of cameras.
  • Similar body size to the Sony a7 camera but with better ergonomics and a better grip (we already know that from the leaked pictures).
  • Battery life is said to be worse than current Nikon DSLR cameras.
  • There is a chance that the new Nikon mirrorless cameras may use existing DSLR batteries.
  • My understanding is that there is only one selection wheel on top of the camera.
  • Most likely no built-in flash.
  • The new Nikon mirrorless camera will have features/functions never introduced beforehand (not sure if this applies to Nikon, to mirrorless cameras, or to the industry in general).
  • There is a second LCD screen on the top of the camera (see leaked pictures).
  • There is no word on a Nikon APS-C based mirrorless camera. In fact, the rumors I have been receiving in the past 9+ months have only been for a full frame solution.
  • BSI sensors (supposed to be new gen/tech with advanced AF).
  • 5-axis in-body stabilization
  • 9fps
  • Memory cards: XQD and CF Express (ProGrade is coming with a CF Express card).
  • EVF resolution: 3.6MP (I am not sure if this is MP or million dots).
  • Very good video AF features.
  • Video AF could be different for the two mirrorless models (the cheaper version may have less AF goodies).
  • AF tracking ability of the 45MP version on par or better compared to the current Sony A7 models.
  • Over 400 AF points, not sure about the exact number, it should be somewhere between 430-450. The AF is supposed to be very fast.
  • The rear LCD screen is tiltable just like the Nikon D850.
  • I see 8K listed in the technical specifications, but it is hard for me to get the translation right – I don’t think it’s for video, maybe it is for 8K time-lapse just like the D850?
  • 4K video.

Show Sponsor: Squarespace

  • Head to Squarespace.com/IMPROVE for a free trial.
  • When you’re ready to launch, use the offer code IMPROVE to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain.
  • That’s Squarespace.com/IMPROVE, offer code IMPROVE.

Topic 2: 5 Signs You’re Progressing as a Photographer

Jeff: Our friends over at Petapixel recently published an article by Mark Denney, and landscape photographer in North Carolina, where he outlined 5 signs that you are progressing as a photographer.  I thought it would be fun to go through those 5 signs and talk about our views of them and maybe add or take away from the list.

Sign #1: Composition

Mark says you should be able to look at your work and be able to say that you’re creating consistently better composition now than last year or two years ago using concepts like rule of thirds, repeating patterns, and layered elements.  Connor, what do you think, is composition one of the 5 signs that you are improving as a photographer?

Connor: Attention to composition, for sure.  Can get too caught up in following rules and not get a good photo.  Good rules of thumb there. Hard to measure yourself. Not finding lots of distractions, sure.  That is good.

Jeff: I agree that composition is a critical element of mastering photography.  I also think it is one of the hardest things to teach and to self-evaluate. It is tough to put into words, audio like we are doing here, or even video training how it is a photographer can improve on their composition.  This is where it is so helpful to go on a workshop and have 1×1 time with an instructor to see how it is they approach composition, what they are looking for, etc. Also really helpful to have a portfolio review where the reviewer can offer suggestions on shots you have take regarding composition.

Sign #2: Histogram

Mark says that a sure sign you are making progress in your photography is if the histogram is no longer an obscure color chart and has become a tool.  This one speaks right to my nerdy little heart Connor, so I am probably not the best judge of it being one of the 5 signs you are improving. What do you think?

Connor: Weird to have on the list.  Point seems to be you know how to use it as a useful tool.  Connor doesn’t use the histogram that much. Will use it occasionally, like out in the bright sun.  Meter in the camera is all I use. Good marker showing you know your camera well enough to understand it.

Jeff: Obviously, I think it is one of the 5 signs.  I already talked about how I love and use the histogram extensively.  So much that I want it available to me in the viewfinder and not just in live view or as I review I photo I just took.  I make much better informed decisions about the exposure settings I am using because of the information the histogram gives me.  If you don’t have a good grasp on the histogram you should check out my Photo Taco podcast on that as well (Histogram Explained).

Sign #3: Lenses

Mark says that lenses are number 3, but not for the reason I expected.  I thought it would be that the photographer has realized how much image quality is suffering when using kit lenses and has invested in higher quality glass.  But that is not his suggestion as a sign of progression here, his suggestion is that as you go to shoot you are using different lenses for different types of scenes.  Even using different lenses at the same scene. Really, using the lense as another tool to help you create the photo you envision. What do you think Connor?

Connor:  Better sign of progression than histogram! Could be taught in a photography 101 or 102 class.  Important thing to understand and make those kinds of decisions. Compression being right for the shot.  Things like that. Kind of agree, but more situational.

Jeff: I am not sure I would have put this on my 5 signs prior to reading Mark’s article, I think I would have prioritized something else ahead of this, but I can see his point.  I do think it takes a photographer who has progressed quite a bit to have lens choice be one of the considerations shaping the photograph being created and accomplishing the vision.

Sign #4: Lighting

Mark says that you should be shooting in better lighting conditions AND understand why you are doing so.  Showing extra texture and dimension of the things you are shooting. What do you think about lighting being a sign of a photographer progressing Connor?

Connor: Agree completely.  Artificial or ambient. Understanding light is one of the most important thing we can do as photographers.  Using the light around you or understanding when the light is better for landscapes.

Jeff: I probably would have made this sign #1 since everyone thinks lists are always in priority order even if you say they are not.  I think that lighting is the very biggest thing that has marked my own progression in photography. Lighting is something that is still very much a work in progress for me, probably will be for a very long time to come because there is so much to it.  No question that lighting belongs on this list.

Sign #5: Post-Processing

Mark says that you should see yourself as a better post-processor now than you were two years ago.  He also says that it takes processing thousands of photos to really learn the tool and establish your own style.  Connor, is post-processing on this list?

Connor:  Definitely.  No question about it.  Hesitant sometimes because many think that you can take bad shots and “fix” them in post.  Or vice-versa. Have a buddy who used sharpening a lot and got a crunchy kind of feel and one day he asked me about sharpening.  I showed him I did it way less and he was surprised to hear that was how I did it. I do things differently now that I did 6 months ago.

Jeff: Again, this one speaks to my nerdy little heart.  To me this is absolutely true. In fact, I often take photos in a very specific way with the post-processing in mind.  Having a vision in my head and knowing what I can do in post-processing, I will take shots a few different ways so that I can create that vision.  Doesn’t always work out, a sign I am still a work in progress, but when it does it is so much fun.

It is actually even a little more fun to me to see photographers make progression on their post-processing.  I love to teach photographers how to use Lightroom and Photoshop and see the smile on their face when a shot they took and then edited looks as good as it does.  


Jeff: Apple AirPods.  ($150 https://amzn.to/2MkRvkc) I have tried all kinds of other in-ear bluetooth headphones, including the Zolo kickstarter that I backed.  None of them work as well as the App AirPods. The others I have tried either fall out too easily, disconnect frequently, or don’t hold a charge very well.  I spent more on less expensive options than it would have taken just to buy these and as podcast listeners I thought you would like to know they are my pick for in-ear bluetooth headphones.  For over the ear bluetooth headphones my pick is still the MPow H5 ($50 https://amzn.to/2MjaQ55)

Connor: Skull Candy Method Wireless Bluetooth Headphones ($50) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DWHPMEG?tag=amz-mkt-chr-us-20&ascsubtag=1ba00-01000-a0048-mac00-other-nomod-us000-pcomp-feature-scomp-wm-5&ref=aa_scomp&noLL=1#Ask




Leave a Comment