Why All Adventure Photographers Should Own a Mirrorless Camera

Get rid of the bulk and take the leap!

By: Matt Van Swol
September 28, 2016

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Let’s a get few things out of the way before we start. 1) I am not sponsored by any camera company (though I sincerely wish I was) and my opinions are based solely off of my own experience 2) I love traditional DSLR cameras. My first camera I ever owned was a Nikon D3200. I loved that thing, used it for years, still own one with a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens and I bring it with me on occasion when the person I am traveling with doesn’t own a camera. But in my opinion, everyone that travels often, backpacks, hikes, camps, runs…you name your favorite activity: if you like to take pictures while doing it, I implore you to buy a mirrorless camera. Here’s why.

Mirrorless cameras are unique in a couple ways. The most notable is their lack of a tradition viewfinder, replacing it with a digital one. I’ll be honest: I hated it at first. There is something beautiful about looking through the lens of a glass viewfinder and seeing exactly the shot you want, but here’s the problem: the shot you see is almost always not the shot you take. It takes fiddling with camera settings, taking a shot, fiddling again, taking another shot…etc. The process can be time consuming, frustrating, and a hassle. Enter mirrorless cameras. With mirrorless cameras, you can change settings using the physical dials, but visually see the changes you are making come to life on the digital view finder, making it infinitely easier to adjust settings on the fly. I’ve saved so much time using the digital viewfinder I doubt I could ever go back to a traditional one; it’s just so darn convenient! Not only is it convenient, but I’ve found that with the time I’ve saved not fiddling around with the camera and taking tens of shots to find the right photo, that is more time I can spend enjoying the sunset, the mountain view, the animals…whatever it is you are photographing. Photography is fun, but for me the thrill of being outside, enjoying nature and the company of whoever I am with is the real reason I am usually there in the first place.

One of the most notable hands on features of these cameras is the fact that they often weigh less and are physically smaller than their DSLR counterparts. Because they are mirrorless, the bodies of mirrorless cameras can be shrunk into much smaller sizes. If you combine this with a pancake lens, it almost feels like you are carrying around a point and shoot! Not only are they not as bulky, but they are lighter than the traditional DSLR. I switched from a Nikon D3200 to my Sony A7r and saved about 50g in weight, other mirrorless cameras weigh far less. The ergonomic benefits of these cameras are endless, and you’ll notice it when you are backpacking or running with one (that’s right…running). Normally you would never carry a DSLR when running, but grab a Sony a6000, and you might think differently. That’s the beauty of a mirrorless camera: they are extremely accessible in all conditions and nearly all situations.

I suggest testing one out and seeing how you like it. Rent one from a website like lensrentals.com and try it for a week trip. If you like it, your rental money actually goes toward the price of camera if you were to choose to buy it! If not, return it, it’s a win-win for you. Make sure to try different lenses. At first, I only shot with the stock lens, but shooting with the award winning 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens and the 10-18mm Wide Angle Zeiss showed me just what these cameras are capable of. Try it out and let me know how it goes!

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.