How Mirrorless Cameras Are Changing the Game for Photojournalists

How Mirrorless Cameras Are Changing the Game for Photojournalists

One of the best features of mirrorless cameras is their ability to shoot totally silently thanks to the lack of a mechanical mirror. That feature turned out to be a great boon to a photojournalist at the recent Democratic debate, allowing him to shoot in a position where others couldn't.

The Sony a9 is known for its electronic shutter with fast readout and no viewfinder blackout, which allows photographers to shoot in complete silence. For New York Times photographer Doug Mills, that became a great advantage at the recent Democratic debate. It turns out that the sound of the DSLRs used by other photojournalists was picked up by the broadcast microphones, leading NBC to tell them to only shoot during audience applause. When Mills was brought to the side of the stage for his turn, he was told he couldn't shoot, but he quickly explained that his camera didn't make any noise, leading the NBC tech to remark that such cameras should be standard for all photojournalists. If you've ever listened to any live political event, you've probably heard the constant clatter of DSLRs, so surely, an eventual migration to mirrorless cameras would be beneficial in that sense. Nonetheless, press companies are deeply invested in Canon and Nikon cameras and lenses, so such a change won't happen overnight. 

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85 Comments

dale clark's picture

Movie studios used what was called a “blimp” back in the day for movie stills. A large sound deafening enclosure with a clear class hole for lens ( similar to underwater camera housings). You can buy a poor mans version at the major photo outlets. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1334667-REG/camera_muzzle_muz_001...

Robert Sommers's picture

My d850 has a really neat feature called quiet shutter or silent shutter. And it has an actual viewfinder to boot! And enough weight to nicely balance my nikkor 400mm 2.8 fl, not a flimsy potato chip on the back end. What am I missing out on again?

Matthew Saville's picture

The "silent shutter" on optical viewfinders isn't really that silent, and the live view autofocus of a DSLR isn't on par with the sports-capable AF tracking of an A9.

And the Sony 400 2.8 is SOOO much lighter, it actually balances perfectly with an A9, with or without a vertical grip. If you haven't yet held the new Sony 400 2.8 you really should give it a try, it's astonishingly light...

Robert Sommers's picture

I hear that it is truly a marvelous lens. At the prices of these particular lenses, it would be impossible for me to make a move in that direction but I have heard nothing but great things about it.

Yin Ze's picture

lol. are you seriously comparing the a9 electronic shutter to the silent shutter mdoe on the 850 aka live view? the one that you have to look at the back of the screen and rely on contrast detect af and are limited to 3-6 fps, with rolling shutter. also

" Note that during burst photography, focus and exposure are fixed at the values in effect at the start of each burst".

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

You are seriously in compensation mode right now.

Do you not hear the machine gun shutter sounds at press events. Maybe you should let them in in your little silent shutter trick. LOL!!! Seriously, think about it. Either the majority of photojournalists don't use your camera body for some reason (ahem, D5, 1DX); or they don't use silent shutter for some reason.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Don't worry, Robert, all your high school friends still think you're really awesome! You just keep clinging to the past and ignoring the reality of the present!

Robert Sommers's picture

Jonathan I would be willing to bet that I was published and working for magazines long before you were even born, not to mention having multiple solo shows of my photography. But the majority of my high school friends do think I am awesome or I would like to think so anyway. Thanks for chiming in.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Ummm... Congrats?

Robert Sommers's picture

Not looking for your affirmation, just spare me the snide patronization that typifies so much of the content and commentary on this site. I rarely visit because of the juvenile banter and fanboy idiocy, now I remember why.

Jonathan Brady's picture

You go from this... "My d850 has a really neat feature called quiet shutter or silent shutter. And it has an actual viewfinder to boot! And enough weight to nicely balance my nikkor 400mm 2.8 fl, not a flimsy potato chip on the back end. What am I missing out on again?"
To accusing others of "fanboy idiocy"?
Seriously?

David Howard's picture

Check your posts, you did not add anything of value here. I am sure you are a great guy, just missed the mark here.

C Fisher's picture

Have you ever actually held a mirrorless camera, or are you too busy crying in the corner about Canon.

Dave Dundas's picture

If you're gonna take shots at someone else for not knowing what they're talking about, you should have your own facts right first.. Canon hasn't made anything called an 850 since about 1989, it's pretty obviously a Nikon that he's referring to.

C Fisher's picture

Yeah but crying over nikon just doesn't sound as good, no alliteration.

stuartcarver's picture

Tell me i didnt read this wrong, you are bragging about having silent shutter on a camera that feels balanced with a lens where you would be stood 1/2 a mile away from the subject? I suppose you could be stood in a Library shooting a press conference thats 2 streets away.

Brent Rivers's picture

I too scoffed at the mirrorless revolution, laughing, poking fun - "look at my tank in my hand, NOTHING is better!" Until i actually used a Sony A6500. Granted that one was so small, it wasn't usable for me. Enter the A9 - After a week of using it I sold off 3 Nikon pro bodies, a host of lenses and never looked back. Fast forward and I have the A7rIII for studio and portraiture paired with the A9 and with latest firmware updates, they just leapfrogged even the latest firmware offerings. It's just a matter of time...

Robert Teague's picture

I kind of did that myself, but instead went with the Nikon Z7. No desire to go back.

Robert Sommers's picture

I had an evf camera once, the high resolution but totally klugey foveon sensored Sigma DP2 Merrill. I think I am forever an optical viewfinder guy. Just not my thing.

stuartcarver's picture

There just isnt a comparison between that camera and new gen mirrorless. it doesnt even have a viewfinder does it?

Robert Sommers's picture

Not in the true sense of the word, you are right.

stuartcarver's picture

Pick up a cheap Fuji and a couple of primes then head out and see what you can get, it’s a great 2nd kit option if nothing else, but the 1st and 2nd gen xtrans 16mp sensor will blow you away. It makes it all less serious.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

@Matthew Saville. You need to educate yourself on the difference between mirrorless and d-slrs as it seems you have missed the last five years of development.
Besides, a press conference with a 400 mm lens. Really??

David Widder's picture

What are you missing out on? Lol, only reality. Comparing the hobbled shooting experience of temporarily turning a clunky DSLR into a pseudo mirrorless camera with the shooting experience of an ACTUAL mirrorless camera shows you know little to nothing about any facts this post is talking about. There is NO COMPARISON. Fake news, move along.

Russell Stubbs's picture

An optical view finder is not better than a digital one. That idea just doesn’t fly anymore. An EVF has no black out in burst shooting, you can see your exposure and depth of field before taking the shot, You can view a lot more data about your camera and its settings in the EVF, etc. Your silent shutter is NOT the same as mirrorless.

I recently shot an event with a D810 and a D610, both with battery grips. NEVER AGAIN! From now on it is 2 XT3sOne with a wide zoom and the other a medium zoom,. It is a night and day difference unless you absolutely need full frame (90% of the time you don’t)

Matthew Saville's picture

Dork moment: I heard about this as I was listening to Leo Laporte... :-P :-D

Marc CORBI's picture

Actually, Mirrorless are still not really mature after 10 years selling .. and the main ML seller is shrinking in quantity in 2019, soon or later they will have to switch from an apsc mount to a real full frame mount to attract DSLR users. Professionals need more or less sharp images from corner to corner, they also need a viewfinder with no lags and no jerks during continuous shooting. Mostly b loggers are attract by some secondary functionalities more than picture quality..

Kevin Harding's picture

So much ignorance and so much wrong in this post it's hardly worth the effort. Go do some research.

Yours truly,
Ex-Nikon D3s etc. user, now very happily switched to a Sony A9 and other Sony cameras for the past 6-7 years.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Marc, are you trolling or just astonishingly ignorant?

Brent Rivers's picture

It's just a matter of time, Canikon knows this and has been scrambling to come up with competing tech...it's been tough for them, and they flubbed the first stab at it.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Marc. Where have you been hiding for the last five years. Really, get informed.

David Widder's picture

I'm sorry Marc, but just for reals dude...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bMLrA_0O5I

Russell Stubbs's picture

You sound like a grandpa that has to ask his grandkids how to use his cell phone!

Dude I have a d810 I use for landscapes. The rest of the time I use 2 XT3s. There is nothing better about DSLRs anymore. There is no lag in my XT3s. The autofocus is better than my D810 there are a ton of features my D810 doesn’t have (same with a D850) and it shoots 11 FPS at almost 100% hit rate on auto focus. You really need to look into this before commenting. Etc, etc etc.

Dan Donovan's picture

I am a commercial photographer who shoots on assignment 5 days a week or more. I switched from Nikon to Sony a few months ago. The Sony a9, a7RIII and a7III cameras have many advantages over other full frame cameras on the market. I will never go back to DSLRs.

00rob00 Rob00Rob's picture

Meh Pentax silent mode works pretty well too albeit in live mode

Yin Ze's picture

My pinhole camera also has a silent mode and works well with my 400mm.

00rob00 Rob00Rob's picture

You don't say? Anyway let's be practical here and as I already commented my Pentax camera's do silent mode. Have you ever tried one? Be really surprised how this small company sort of bridged the gap between mirror less and DSLR.

Yin Ze's picture

my pinhole camera is completely silent whereas the Pentax is reported to be not completely silent. As one Pentax user noted: "Just tried this on my K1. Set the LV Electronic Shutter to ON. There is still a slight whoosing noise when taking shots in LiveView. So not silent. Quiet. But not silent."

Da Beat's picture

So, what's so overwhelmingly important about this debate that a mobile phone camera won't do as a backup unit? Take any modern half inch or one inch pocketcam and you'd still be shooting too. It's not like a wedding where there are all kinds of misconceptions associated with using "inferior" gear.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Ummm... A 28mm AOV for starters.

Da Beat's picture

What do you mean? You're still using a 1990 motorola startac?

Brent Rivers's picture

I would have loved to have seen the faces of all those Canikon tank shooters who were told they couldn't shoot as the A9 shooter grabbed exclusive shots in complete silence.

Yin Ze's picture

Since I've switched I have seen this happen and I am glad i made the business decision to do switch from Nikon to Sony. I had to cover a court appearance for a big case and the Nikon guy was told he could only shoot during the entrance of the subject due to his loud camera. I was able to shoot throughout the proceeding.

MC G's picture

Are they milkshake proof though?

Indy Thomas's picture

I have been arguing the advantages of silent shooting ever since the first mirrorless cameras offered this feature.
It is one of the defining advantages of mirrorless: Not small size or lens adaptability.
This feature actually has some of the greatest advantages for a photographer allowing them to capture images irrespective of size or the lens attached.
I have been using it zealously for a lot of conferences where I am inside rooms with a bunch of VIPs and can get tons of images that would be impossible with the noisy DSLRs I was using at the time.

Anthony Collins's picture

I absolutely 100% agree. Shooting silent images in my Corporate Conferences is a blessing.

Yin Ze's picture

Before a9 the only viable, quiet option for me was the Panasonics. I started with the gx7 and was blown away by what I could do without having a loud shutter mechanism ruining an important moment. Now the a9 solved many of the issues i had with Panasonic: low light iso, af, banding, and rolling shutter.

Indy Thomas's picture

My first mirrorless was also the GX7 as it was the first to offer SS. Shot a wedding with that the same week I got it as a third to my Canons. It was brilliant. Low light was not awesome but I still got some good samples in the evening. My Canons were used for the real challenging stuff but the Panasonic won my heart.
I still play with it. It still holds up against my best DSLRs in decent light.

Anthony Collins's picture

I used a Z6 to shoot a Corporate Conference recently. I LOVE the ability to shoot absolutely silent. The "quiet" mode on my D850 is good but "silent" is better by a long shot. Image quality and high ISO response is similar with both bodies.
There is a problem that Conference shooters should be aware of: If you shoot against video screens, which many of my corporate conferences use, you will get "banding" with a mirrorless camera. I've done my research and this is a thing.
I'm attaching images from the 1st day of a conference which I used the Z6 and then Day 2 I used the D850 from almost the exact same position. (I have lots of Day 1/Day 2 images to compare)

Yin Ze's picture

Hi, I have shot against similar background with a9 but did not notice this. Could it be the slower electronic shutter readout on z6? I recently examined a z6 demo unit at Adorama and there were thick alternating bands of dark due to the flourescent light from the Nikon display. i have never seen this type of banding on the back of my a9 screen and i have shot under many lighting conditions. i do notice that the color may change from frame to frame but I have not seen anything as intense as the z6 onscreen banding.

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