It is the year 2018, we can finally say that the time of mirrorless cameras has come (good job, Nikon for catching up!). If you are not sure of the term ‘mirrorless’, I am loosely referring to everything smaller and thinner than DSLR cameras: rangefinders, digital compacts, micro four-thirds, point and shoot cameras. It is embedded in the mirrorless DNA that a small but fast lens is to complement their small body size. I recommend a fixed focal length, 35mm prime lens. Without further ado let me give you 3 reasons why in 2018 you should always carry a mirrorless camera with a small 35mm lens.
You won’t miss a ‘decisive moment’
Unless you are a full-time pro, chances are that for everyday photographers, photo opportunities are spontaneous. You may find the perfect sunrise or sunset during the commute to and from work, or it may be the case that an unanticipated event unfolds right in front of your eyes. It is almost a crime for a self-disciplined photographer to walk away from these opportunities empty-handed (and empty-SD-carded). I know I would kick myself for that! A mirrorless camera and maybe one extra battery in your bag or pocket would give you the peace of mind you are looking for. 35mm prime lenses would be your best friend as they have the perfect focal length for street photography and can moonlighting some landscape jobs. For sceneries that requires something a little wider, always remember there is photo stitching software that do pretty decent jobs. So go on and take 6 shots now and stitch them together later when you get home. I personally always have a Ricoh GR II in my bag. It is noticeable how many more photos I am able to take every day. Although most of them would have higher pixel counts if taken by DSLR, I am happy to let that thought go knowing I cannot always have my Pentax K-1 around (awesome camera by the way). If you are still not convinced, make a commitment to try to carry a camera for a month. You will see the difference.
Mirrorless beats a smartphone in photography experience, but carry both!
When something unusual takes place, the natural reaction of most people is to take out his phone, take a snap and share the image via social media. There is definitely nothing wrong with that. Smartphone are usable in most situations, it may even have the added advantage of being discreet which is a big bonus for street photographers. However, the smartphone becomes less useful when it is dark or when the object moves fast. Changing camera setting on a smartphone is painfully slow, not to say the default app does not usually let you shoot in RAW format which limits the possibility of further post-processing. HOWEVER, this is not my point. My argument is that those who carry a camera pay attention to not just the image quality, but the quality of taking the image. The brass or magnesium body, the manual control dials, switches and buttons, the discreet yet crisp shutter sound makes up an overall pleasant experience of using a tool that is crafted to be both beautiful and functional. I simply wouldn’t swap the satisfaction brought by camera photography experience. If not unbearably heavy, carry both so you have both the convenience and the pleasure. Separate your selfies and the more serious photographs to show your attitude and respect towards your hobby.
Fixed focal length mirrorless camera is a best ‘balanced’ photographic system
I started my photographic journey on a small DSLR 10 years ago. There weren’t many mirrorless choices back then. (Canon G series was expensive and did not score high in image quality compared to DSLRs.) My advice for beginners today is to start your investment in a decent mirrorless system with full manual controls. The reason is that you get all the benefits of entry-level DSLRs without the weight and the bulk. With a 35mm prime lens or even a 24mm-70mm type zoom lens, you are set for 90% photographic situations. Carry it around and start taking as many photos as you can early in the morning, during lunch breaks and after work or school. The purpose of your first system is to help you find your style. Once you are confident of your choice of style, you will then decide the type of gear to upgrade to. In my case with my interest in social documentary and street photography, I am happy to stay on the mirrorless system with a 35mm lens as long as it meets my requirements.
If you wish to know more about my view on mirrorless cameras photography with 35mm lenses, make sure you read more about reasons to own and carry a 35mm lens mirrorless system in my other articles. Remember I do not intend to write specific camera reviews in this article. If you are deciding on which system to buy, always go for reputable brands with a long history, a solid line up of cameras and lense and good customer support. At the time or writing, the mirrorless systems I like and recommend are the Fujifilm, Sony, Ricoh and Panasonic. Last but not least, you can’t go wrong with the Leica M series rangefinders. Remember to check 35mm Gear for further tips and recommendations.