Mirrorless, Mirrorless, on the wall….

….what is the fairest camera of them all (especially for an old man in motion)?

Once I started shooting the run and gun videos for my assignments documenting private jet journeys around the world for National Geographic Expeditions, it didn’t take me long to figure out that answer. And unfortunately, it wasn’t my beloved DSLR.

Here’s a look at just one 48-hour stop in Morocco on a recent around the world trip…it gives you a pretty good idea of the frenetic pace of these types of trips.

On these fast moving assignments, which are epic, globe-girdling trips that move at a breakneck pace (11 countries in 26 days…and you thought I was kidding when I said “breakneck pace!”), I have no time whatsoever to stop and outfit my camera with an LCD loupe, a shoulder rig, mic pre-amp and all the other bells and whistles you need to prepare a DSLR to shoot video.

I know that because I tried on my first assignment, and I missed a lot of key moments while I was kitting out my DSLR. After that first trip, it was clear that what I needed was a lightweight, video-friendly machine I could pull out of the bag and start shooting at a moment’s notice.

And a mirrorless camera was basically the way to go. I chose a selection of Sony gear so I could get at least one camera with an APS-C sized chip (for nice bokeh), mic jacks, decent lower-hiss, built in pre-amps, the 60fps frame rate option for slo-mo, and the ability to adapt any Nikkor (or basically, any other lens) to it.

The Sony A6000 is currently my APS-C chip size camera of choice for run and gun video. It lacks headphone and mic jacks, but the image quality is superb, the autofocus is lightning fast, and it takes a huge array of lenses thanks its easy adaptability. I use a Sony mic in the Multi-interface hotshoe for ambient sound.
The Sony RX 10—It features a smaller 1″ chip with superb, sharp video that is not downsampled (hence little to no moire or aliasing), headphone and mic jacks, built-in ND filter, a Zeiss 24-200mm f/2.8 equivalent lens…the perfect video run and gunner, not to mention still camera, for a traveling shooter who wants a lightweight, but fully featured camera.













When I first started traveling on these types of assignments, there was no RX10, so I carried two of the A6000’s predecessors, the NEX 7 and NEX 6. These days, I carry the RX10, and the A6000 with a Sony 10-18mm f/4 (for ultrawide work), a Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 (for general shooting) and an assortment of prime lenses that can vary, but always includes a Sony 35mm f/1.8 E, and often two old but sharp Nikkors, a 24mm f/2, and an 85mm f/1.8, outfitted with a Metabones Speed Booster for Nikkor to Sony E (which retains the original lens’field of view and adds almost a stop of light-gathering ability. A miracle adapter!)

The Sony and Zeiss E lenses are sharp, autofocus, and have the OSS (Optical SteadyShot) which make them super for run and gun situations.

The adapted Nikkors are manual focus, but they are super sharp and I only use the compact ones  (besides the two mentioned above, I also have the 50mm f/1.8 Series E, and the 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E) so they balance beautifully on the smaller camera body.

One of the biggest advantages of the mirrorless camera is built in electronic viewfinder (EVF) for shooting video outside on bright days. No need to snap on a bulky loupe over the back of your LCD screen, just put your eye to the viewfinder and voila, you’ve got a crisp image to work with.

The other huge benefit of these cameras is their size and weight (or more accurately, their lack of size and weight!). My camera bag weighs about half of what a similar DSLR outfit would and the bag is correspondingly smaller as well.

As airlines crack down on carryon size and weight, and as many of us reach an age where we are not exactly spring chickens (hence the name of this blog), there is a double incentive to cut down on the size of gear we carry. As I once remarked in a workshop, “The older and heavier I get, the newer and lighter I want my gear to be.”  My students that year never let me live that one down, but I stand by the sentiment.

The size of the sensor in your mirrorless camera is a matter of personal taste. The micro 4/3 cameras like the Panasonic GH 4  and other models, are very popular with filmmakers. Still shooter micro 4/3 lovers seem to go for the Olympus. It’s a little harder to get the creamy bokeh and really low noise at high ISOs with an M4/3 sensor than with a larger APS-C or full frame camera, and one of the reasons that I like my current system is that I can get the benefits of the smaller 1″ chip in the RX10 (that’s slightly smaller than micro4/3s) when I need it, and the nice bokeh and low light capabilities of larger APS-C equipped A6000.

I’ll talk more about kit and what I take on trips in future posts, (and I have a feeling that the new little full frame Sony A7s may be looming large in my packing plans soon), but everything in good time.

#A6000, #RX10


16 thoughts on “Mirrorless, Mirrorless, on the wall….

  1. Bob…loving the blog and enjoying your migration to mirrorless…I totally agree about the a6000…it is a stellar camera and so lighting quick…
    Keep up the great work and I’ll be following you.


    1. Thanks Brian. Oh, that pace…it’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time,and there is not one spare minute to set anything up or do a re-take. That’s why when I go off on my own projects these days, I’m staying in one place for weeks and doing just the opposite. Gotta keep the balance!

  2. Love it.

    My needs are even smaller. Older’s Law: If the camera doesn’t fit in a ski jacket pocket, it’s the wrong camera. I use the Canon S110, and this winter I plan to try the even smaller iPhone 5s.

    — jules

  3. Great info Bob. I am very interested in the a6000 and the 16-70 for starters. Loved your post on video monopods too—thanks for taking the time to share your wealth of info and experience! PD

  4. Dear Bob Krist,
    thanks a bunch for sharing your thoughts and experience with your equipment. As a NPS member myself, i’m having a hard time with Nikon these days. I just don’t understand why they wont move on and at least build one solid mirrorless camera with all the benefits that comes with it, so they can test waters.

    Oh well, lets move on shall we? Thanks again for your superb blog!

  5. I’m looking at buying into Nikon with their new D750. However, it feels like buying the last model in a range that is about to become obsolete. Superseded by smart mirrorless systems like Sony’s Alphas and Samsung’s new NX cameras. The biggest issue is the lack of an EVF. Not only that, but the arbitrary limitations carefully designed into models across Nikon’s lines. People were raving about there being a playback 1:1 zoom button that would save so much time, but doesn’t exist on the “lower-end” cameras. This is a basic 101 feature that should be a given, especially on mid to high-end cameras. It was on my E-M1 (along with many other cool little nuanced design features). It sounds like Nikon has been starving customers for years so that every little crumb is gratefully devoured. Basic features like this shouldn’t be kept from their lower-end cameras. Features that consumers down’t need are the only things that should be kept for high-end. Bizarre.

    I couldn’t believe the number and type of cool features built into the Sony and Samsung cameras. Astounding. Samsung’s enormous global marketing has the potential to sell a very large number of consumer cameras and possibly hurt both Nikon and Canon. If their new NX was available now I would seriously consider it instead of the D750, especially if their BSI sensor had a better SNR and low-light handling than Fuji’s X-trans sensor.

    I’m curious as to why you haven’t mentioned the Sony A77 mark 2. The A-mount seems to have a lot more pro lenses behind it. And, the Axx cameras have IBIS.


    1. Nick: It’s not mentioned because I don’t use it or know about it. I use what works for me in real-life assignment situations and I report back. I do not have the chops or the patience to do exhaustive camera side-by-side tests. The A77 and that series are great still cameras, but their video capabilities, as I read, were not up to the A7 series. Please keep in mind that these are subjective musings from a working photographer, and not exhaustive side-by-side tests from a photo testing site. I’m sure I miss stuff all the time!

  6. Hi Bob,
    I too went to a mirrorless camera when I found I needed a Sherpa to pack around my gear. I do mainly bird photography and the Olympus OMD-M1 is great for stills and is light weight. I normally just carry it with an over the shoulder strap, a 100-300 lens and a monopod. I can go anywhere with this combination

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