I think I posted about mirror-less DSLR-style cameras sometime around mid-2011. At the time there were only four or five of these high-end high-specification DSLR-style cameras available. Since then I think that just about all major camera manufacturers have now released, or are about to release, models of this new category of high-end pro-am targeted camera.
At this stage this type of camera is still so new that nobody really knows what to call them. They are sometimes referred to as “mirrorless cameras” but there are two issues with using this terminology. Firstly, but this has never stopped anyone before, “mirrorless” is not a word. Secondly, every camera on the planet that is not an actual DSLR (or a film-based SLR) is actually a mirror-less camera. All the cameras in smartphones and tablet computers are mirror-less. All compact and point’n’shoot camera are mirror-less. So it is pretty dumb calling these new mirror-less DSLR-style cameras just “mirrorless” because that terminology just about covers 95 percent of all the camera currently in use on the planet.
Another term used to refer to this new type of camera is “third generation” or “3rd gen” or “gen3” and I have seen just G3 used. But the average person would have no idea what it meant if they saw something like “the Sony NEX-7 as a great example of the new G3 cameras” (the Sony NEX-7 is pictured above). Someone reading that might think that G3 is some kind of wireless networking and that the Sony NEX-7 can connect to Telstra Next-G 3G network. Which is totally not the case.
I sort of like something like DSLR-M which says, to me anyway, that it is a DSLR minus the mirror. But nobody uses this. But this is exactly what we are talking about here. We are talking about a DSLR camera, which has a flick-up mirror mounted in the body, but without the flick-up mirror—hence a DSLR-M, or DSLR-m for those that like a little bit of lowercase.
In one article I read about this new type of camera the author used the term “pocket DSLR” and in a way this, as you will see shortly, is a good way to name this new camera technology.
So, why is this new category of camera interesting? There are three main big reasons.
Big Reason Number One: As my naming indicates, with a DSLR-m camera (a.k.a. mirrorless camera or Pocket DSLR camera) you get all the sophistication, performance, image quality (via the large dimensions sensor, typically APS-C sized), resolution (the NEX-7 above is 24.3 megapixels and the Pentax K-01 below is 16 megapixels), awesome ISO range (typically from 25 up to 25,600), high-speed shooting (up around 6 frames per second), RAW image output, and all the total imaging control and pin-sharp focus provided by a real DSLR.
Big Reason Number Two: With a DSLR-m you can use interchangeable lenses. So if you want to take amazing, super crisp, vivid, knock-your-socks-off macro pictures of bugs, then you can put a lens on to do that. Or if you want to take unbelievable pictures of the moon showing individual rocks, or pictures of the rings around Saturn, then you can put on the lens to do that (if you can afford that lens and the supa-dupa tripod to mount the camera on). If you want to take amazing portrait pictures of your girlfriend or great baby pictures then you can snap on fixed-length (non-zooming) soft-focus portrait lens.
Big Reason Number Three: Because there is no mirror built into the body to provide the through-the-lens (TTL) viewfinder image the actual camera body itself no longer has to be as large as it does with a regular DSLR camera. So DSLR-m cameras are overall smaller, certainly thinner, and are lighter than a real DSLR.
If you would like to read a little more about the new mirrorless DSLR revolution then Trey Ratcliff at “Stuck In Customs” does a review of using the Sony NEX-7 here. Trey is a big fan of mirrorless and he shows a few examples of stuff he has taken using the NEX-7 in his review. Following is a screen clip from Trey’s notes about the NEX-7.
You can check out some more about the Pentax K-01 at DPReview here.