What camera do I use? DSLR vs. DSLM

When I talk about photography and my photos, people often ask me, what camera I use and prefer. When I tell them, it is an Olympus camera called OM-D E-M1, they are wondering, why not a Canon or Nikon DSLR?

So first I have to explain, that I am not using DSLR (=Digital Single Lens Reflection) cameras anymore, because I don’t need a mirror in a camera. Many (regarding photography) uneducated people think, the mirror in a DSLR enhances picture quality in some way. In reality a mirror is just reflecting the light from the lens into the optical viewfinder (=OVF) of a DSLR and is in no way related to image quality.

I prefer DSLM (=Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) cameras, which are mirrorless system (=interchangeable lens) cameras. These cameras have an electronic viewfinder (=EVF) as a replacement for the old OVF. Again, the type of viewfinder stands in no relation to the image quality of a camera. It rather defines the level of control over the image taking process, as explained further below. DSLM cameras and DSLR cameras are supposed to have a similar professional level of image quality. Of course the image quality depends on many more factors, that I won’t discuss in this short blog entry.

Through an EVF you see the photo as a live view picture. The image sensor is responsible to gather the light that comes through the lens. It then converts the light waves into an electronic signal. With an EVF you already see the photo before you take it. You can control the white balance, exposure or you have even more controls directly on your display, like live histogram, a level gauge or indicators for highlight/shadow clipping. Again, this is, before you take the photo. I have much more control over the image taking process, hence the end result is much more exactly, what I wanted. If it is very dark, an EVF can even brighten up the live view image in the viewfinder.  You can still see, what you want to photograph. In an OVF you have no chance to see anything at all because it stays black in darkness.

In an OVF you cannot see the results of the changes of your settings, like exposure changes or white balance, before you take the photo. With a DSLR camera I often ended up with try and error until the result was fine. That was a much more complicated way than nowadays.

A mirror in a DSLR has some more disadvantages. It can mechanically fail and induce mirror shock through mirror slapping, which produces slightly blurred images. Everytime you take a picture the mirror has to go up, because it stands in the way between lens and image sensor. After you have taken the photo, it goes down again. Additionally DSLR cameras are much bigger with a build in mirror. That leads to bigger lenses as well.

If I take my Olympus OM-D E-M1 as an example, it is in many aspects more powerful than a professional DSLR. It is very fast, has fantastic ergonomics and button layout and feels like a glove in your hands. But the most important is, without a mirror it is more robust and SMALLER. Even the lenses are much smaller for a DSLM than for a DSLR. Isn’t it much more fun to take photos without the burden of heavy DSLR cameras and lenses?

So, if you have never heard about DSLM cameras, may be this article encourages you to look out for a DSLM camera as your next camera.. It is the new professional or enthusiast way of taking photos now and even more in the future.

And just to show you a beautiful example of a DSLM, I have added photos of my Olympus OM-D E-M1 (without lens), that has nowadays an even faster and more powerful successor E-M1 Mark II. The E-M1 has a Micro Four Thirds (=M43 or M4/3) mount but is as a professional camera not the smallest of its kind. You can use all Micro Four Third lenses from Olympus, Panasonic/Leica, Voigtländer, Samyang and many more on that camera. The E-M1 is a beauty of a cam. It makes taking images much more joyful.