Your New Mirrorless Camera Might Be Screwing Up Your Images

Are you shooting with one of the mirrorless wonders that are quickly taking over the photography world? If so, you don't want to miss this little tidbit of information. 

It seems like mirrorless cameras are on everyone's radar right now. With 2018 seeing the release of the Sony a7 III, the Nikon Z6 and Z7, and Canon’s EOS R, many new users will soon be trying out these beauties for the first time. If you are one of them, what you'll see in this video might be a bit of a surprise. 

It seems there are some subtle differences in light admission and the rendering of bokeh with these new mirrorless cameras, depending on which shutter mode you are using, even when all of your other settings remain the same. Manny Ortiz explored this with the Sony a7 III after hearing about these anomalies from one of his viewers. In this video, he demonstrates some surprising differences that you are going to want to see and learn from if you plan to use the electronic first curtain shutter on your mirrorless camera. 

I've yet to get my hands on a mirrorless camera myself, but I've had my eye on the new Canon version, and seeing these differences was an eye-opener. It leaves me to wonder if the camera companies will see this as enough of an issue to correct it, or if it will simply come down to user preference. 

Mirrorless users, comment with your thoughts and experiences!

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38 Comments

Still confused. Electronic shutter is affected but not full electronic shutter (silent mode)? With time these technical issue will be resolved.

Matt Williams's picture

The video incorrectly uses the term "electronic shutter." It's electronic front curtain (EFCS) - exposure begins electronically and ends mechanically (vs electronic shutter which is just entirely electronic).

Electronic shutter is not affected because the issue stems from the difference in location of an electronic shutter, which is on the sensor plane, to a mechanical shutter, which is a few millimeters above the sensor. Using all mechanical or all electronic negates that few millimeter difference.

adrien willmott's picture

Thanks for the explantation matt. Just for clarification, should I be loosing sleep over this? ;)

Matt Williams's picture

Not one bit, in my opinion.

Christos Dikos's picture

It's called Electronic Front Curtain Shutter. It's optimal at slow shutter speeds because there is no vibration from a mechanical shutter. It also increases shutter life. The video above discusses using EFCS at 1/1000 sec or faster.
What's nice about these "new fangled" mirrorless cameras is that you can simply turn of the EFCS and go back to a mechanical shutter. Plus there's also no flapping mirror.

This article seems likes it was written by somebody stuck in 2011.

Musing Eye's picture

I think the "I've yet to get my hands on a mirrorless camera myself..." line is perhaps the clue there, I agree.

Yes, take a non-default setting that seems to me to be intended for long-exposure or silent shooting conditions (like a concert in a darkened hall), then leave it on when you don't need it and you have a minor difference in the captured image.

Matt Williams's picture

Some DSLRs also have EFCS in live view, so this isn't strictly a mirrorless thing

Personally I think it's a non-issue but YMMV

Bill Peppas's picture

That's why ND filters are there for...

Ryan Cooper's picture

ND filters have downsides too.

Bill Peppas's picture

If you are competent and don't get a cheap one they barely have real downsides.
Vignetting for example... good ones do add a little wee bit, nothing not correctable in post-processing.
Color tint... easily correctable both in camera and in post processing.
Cost... well... it's not like the rest of our gear is dirt cheap or free.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Competent has little to do with it, but you are putting another piece of glass in front of your lens. A dark one at that. This can have an impact on autofocus performance, flaring, the nature of the flare, as well as image quality. And, as mentioned, vignetting and tint. Not to mention additional weight and time during the shoot.

Also, that cost adds up fast once you consider the need for a variety of densities and diameters. (or opt for a variable ND)

Not to say NDs don't have their place, but it is always a compromise.

Dana Goldstein's picture

A top quality variable ND will set you back a couple hundred dollars, won’t weigh anything (honestly where did you get that idea), and will be of major benefit to anyone who shoots outdoors. No need to scare people off something that can be of major benefit.

Ryan Cooper's picture

I didn't say it didn't have benefits, I said it was a compromise. And nothing weighs nothing. Particularly if you need several of them for a variety of lens diameters. (or a collection of step down rings and a large one)

At the end of the day, I will use an ND filter if it is the only way to solve a given problem. It is the last line of defense, not the first because of my reasons above.

Bill Peppas's picture

A high quality ND & Variable ND do not suffer from glare and do not worsen your image quality noticeably at all.
Vignette and tint is the most stupid, lazy ass, excuse one can ever use.

The cost... when a high quality ND costs 150-250$ while even a battery grip for that camera costs 400$... cost becomes a rather moot point.

Autofocus performance won't suffer unless you have a terrible autofocus system.
Any reliable autofocus system from -2eV and lower (darker) will autofocus more than just fine with an ND on.

You're not putting a ND1000 on it, don't confuse long exposure photography ND's with the NDs you have to use to shoot wide or nearly wide open for portraiture.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Your solution is to spend $150-250, to introduce an element that directly impacts the image negatively and must be fixed in post, that CAN introduce unwanted optical glare, and will impact AF (sorry but simply physics, less light = less accuracy. Some systems are impacted less than others but all will be impacted) in order to address an issue that can be fixed by changing a setting.

Personally, the only time a filter ever goes on my lens is when I am in a situation where the filter is the only way to achieve the desired result. Otherwise, my glass stays unobstructed.

Bill Peppas's picture

You're trying to dispute an everyday used solution by many professionals in the field.
I guess you are to stubborn to accept that it is a fine solution.

By the way, the other solution is very cheap, buy a normal shutter camera with 1/8000 speed... 3k$+ in most cases...

Ryan Cooper's picture

Or turn off EFCS if your camera suffers from this and you need to shoot at a fast shutter speed...

I've used ND filters for decades. There really isn't any downside other than having to carry around something else. Anyone that thinks it's "obstructing" your glass and worsening your image, probably hasn't used a quality one for any significant amount of time.

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

Interesting finding. I never though the difference will be that big.

the guy didn't even notice until someone in comments told him. That's a silly difference, not big

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

That's the way it suppose to happen! Thanks for your constructive comment

you're supposed to see big differences by yourself, not have someone told you about it. the differences you don't notice immediately can't be big by definition

Musing Eye's picture

Okay, I usually don't complain about this, but this is whole new levels of outrage clickbait. Not very impressive, FS. His original title was bad, and you had to go even one step worse?

This article makes the author sounds like she didn't actually watch the video, or at least didn't think about it. Something that only affects you if you use a particular electronic shutter setting, and you're shooting at greater than 1/1000s, and now we've got this manufactured level of concern? It seriously undermines my confidence in reading FS, and I've enjoyed a lot of your articles.

Antonio Hernandez's picture

I think that this article's title should have been more specific instead of being so exaggerated by Ms Edwards. The report specifically refers to the electronic front curtain and not the camera as a whole. Frankly, Ms Edwards should have done a better job with her report. Sony A7iii has been out there for a while now and this is the first time that I see this topic being discussed. I wonder what's Ms Edwards agenda writing articles as a third party without documenting herself more about mirrorless cameras. Shame on her!!!

Tim Gallo's picture

Fstoppers, please stop using click-bait titles... you are better than that. I dont know who is editor in chief, but you have to have more self-respect and respect to professionals that look at your site sometimes.

"I've yet to get my hands on a mirrorless camera mysel,"
Dear Jenny, it seems that you also yet to grasp all the technical aspects also :). Its ok to make mistakes, but dont be ashamed to correct or edit it after - thus it will be more respectful and less confusing for future readers.
its called EFCS.

also, the difference is too small to call it "screwing". rather its better to say - all cameras has their limits, ups and downs that you have might missed.

also, pretty much sure if you see final retouched results of two different pictures with two different settings - almost nobody would see the difference :)

Rob Mitchell's picture

lost me at 'yo, your backgrounds suck'

"My background have not been actually f/1.4" Yes they have and you have not been "cheated", there is just another factor in the light path influencing your results. The lens is still a f/1.4 lens and which shutter type you're using is not going to change that.

There is no perfect camera. I believe people like to create problems that truly are not deal breakers to dump your camera be it DSLR or mirrorless. Again, there is no perfect camera and people will always find a problem just for conversation.

It is most probably the accuracy of the mechanical shutter. 1% or 2% deviation in time at 1000th/sec is a huge amount. The electronic shutter could me more precise regarding the time it expose the sensor and probably much more close to a real value of 1000th/sec than the mechanical shutter, therefore the difference in exposure and in background blur...

The title does not fit the story at all, it should be something like Why you might want to avoid electronic front curtain shooting on mirrorless camera's.

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