One of the original reasons I switched to using mirrorless cameras is the big size improvement over traditional DSLR cameras. In the early days of digital it was hard to pack all the electronics into a camera and sizes exploded. Now that large size has become the established standard and the classic film SLR cameras look tiny in comparison.
The first 35mm film camera I got when I was a kid was my grandfathers old Kodak 35. It had a simple rangefinder form-factor and was completely manual. Fast forward a few decades when the first mirrorless cameras were coming out and DPReview had a glowing review of the Panasonic GF1 and it’s 20mm pancake lens. I loved using it, it made me feel like I was starting out new with a fresh eye for photography. And it’s easy to see why compared to the Kodak 35. I was literally going back to my roots (actually my first camera was a Kodak Ektra 1 but I was about 6 years old so it doesn’t count).
Compared to the current DSLRs the GF1 looks like a toy. But again, although the technology was now here to minimize size (check out the Sony NEX cameras) the big manufactures are wedded to the massive DSLR because it “Looks more professional” Though admittedly, if you were hiring a wedding photographer and one had a big DSLR and the other had a tiny mirrorless which would you choose?
Did the thought of “What do their wedding photos look like” even enter your mind before you started to lean one way?
I’ve been through a few other cameras since the GF1 but now I’m loving the Olympus OMD EM5 mk.II. Again it’s easy to see why. Here’s a picture of it next to my Nikon FE SLR (same model on the left in the comparison picture at the top of the post).
Most people consider the DSLR the evolution of the film SLR but I think the smaller mirrorless cameras are spiritually the more accurate descendants of film cameras. Even the biggest camera setups used by professional photojournalists in the days of film were a fraction of the size and weight of the big heavy DSLRs you see people using today. And form factor has a major impact on how and how much you use a camera. The majority of my photography involves hiking, backpacking, or lots of on foot work where shaving off the extra 10-20 pounds of gear can make or break a hike into the backcountry. Conversely many people aren’t even photographing with their big DSLR because of the bulk of simply carrying it around. It stays on a shelf at home and they just use their iPhone instead.
A feather light afternoon wandering the streets with a tiny rangefinder style camera with a panckake lens compared to the physical back pain of lugging a huge DSLR around will quickly change your mind on why cramming more into a smaller package is more than just a passing trend with cameras.
Of course on the far end of small size there are cameras like my dad’s Minox B, but I figure just leave those to James Bond and the other secret agents.