Love DSLRs. But I chose mirrorless because I love film gear more.

A valid response to this blog title is “What?” Allow me to explain. Or try to anyway.

These are interesting times. A lot of virtual ink is spilled debating between mirrorless or DSLR. Most points made miss the point for me really. Sure, I chose mirrorless. But my choice has nothing to do with a dislike for DSLRs. I love DSLRs. But I love film cameras more.

But, but… Battery life… OVF over EVF… Native lens selection… AF speed… Dual card slots… So on and so forth. Meh. Gladly put up with all of this. (And most of these concerns are being eliminated by the most recent wave of mirrorless cameras. An A7iii will be in my future and it may go down as the industry tipping point.) But once again film tech is what changed my mind.

Why?

Had a Nikon DSLR and a few Pentax DSLRs. One of my personal favorite DSLRs ever was/is the Pentax K-1. Really liked it. Gushed over it. Being sentimentally tied to Pentax it was a very nice mix of old and new. Loved that I could use the lenses from my Pentax film cameras (here and here). A lens I initially loved, the Mitakon 85mm f/1.2, ultimately did both the lens and the camera in. The Mitakon 85mm f/1.2 was meant to be a consolation prize for my sorely missed Sony mount Mitakon 50mm f/0.95. Plus due to backwards compatibility I could use this lens on my film cameras.

Mitakon Speedmaster 85mm  f/1.2

Loved the results when I hit focus.

Pentax K-1

And there is issue one.

  • Hitting focus. With mortal aperture lenses the Pentax focus confirmation light works just fine. At f/1.2 and 85mm not so much. Focusing by eye alone was actually easier with the ME Super since it has a focusing prism. In short I missed EVF peaking and zoom in focus assists. Ended up being a portrait lens that was challenging, for me, to shoot portraits with. With 36MP on tap it is thoroughly disappointing to realize you missed focus when you start editing on a larger screen.
  • Issue two would be size and weight. Odd coming from a person who happily shoots medium format cinder blocks, but this combo is melee weapon heavy. It is literally set off the front passenger seatbelt unbuckled warning light heavy.

Mitakon Speedmaster 85mm  f/1.2

  • The third and last thing is by no fault of the DSLR. Each DSLR brand will allow you to shoot older same brand film lenses to some extent. Pentax, Canon, and Nikon all have some level of backwards lens compatibility. But only with their own mount. Near any mirrorless body allows you to mount near any film lens assuming there is an adapter.

I have quite a few film cameras. (No full frame gear yet? KEH post listing many a high quality bargain to be had w/ film cameras.) While the cameras are definitely a draw, nothing like holding a brick of vintage solidity and goodness in hand, what I most love about them are the lenses. And there are many brands.

So mirrorless it is.

Manual Focus

Before vintage lenses I will list the Mitakon 50mm f/0.95

Durham Frui/Coffee and Cameras

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 (Nikon FE)

Nikon FE w/ Kodak Ultramax 400

Asashi Pentax Takumar 50mm f/1.4 M42 screw mount (Pentax ME Super)

Zun Lee at WSSU Digg's Gallery

Asashi Pentax Takumar 50mm f/4 Macro M42 screw mount (Pentax ME Super)

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Minolta 50mm f/1.7 (Minolta X-700)

Night Gallery and Sony A7

Canon 50mm f/1.8 (Canon AE1 Program)

Canon AE1 Program

For me Sony rose to the top of the mirrorless pile. Why Sony? For personal and practical reasons.

Not only does Sony offer some of the best focus aids, but it offers IBIS and is currently the only full frame mirrorless cameras which retains the native 35mm focal length. That 50mm is still a 50mm.

Plus courtesy of some brilliant minds there are autofocus adapters also. Not interested in adapting current lenses, like Sigma, Canon, and most recently Nikon, because I am not invested in them, but I really like the fact that there are AF adapter vintage film lens options.

(My dream digital Contax G2) Tech Art TA-GA3 adapter/Contax Zeiss G 45mm f/2

Techart Contax G to Sony A7 Adapter

And then of course there is Sony’s own LA-EA4 which many use to mount Sony A lenses. Makes sense for those already invested in that mount. But that is not what interested me. I have hit the mother load of excellent glass with Maxxum lenses originally purchased for my Minolta Maxxum 7. The first few I purchased before I even knew that I was one adapter away from using them on my E mount cameras also. All lenses cost way less than either their A mount or E mount spec equivalents, some of which were nothing more than brand name swaps (Exhibit A), cost even when factoring in the cost of the adapter.

Minolta Maxxum 50mm f/1.7

Minolta Maxxum 7 w/ Fuji XTra 400

Minolta Maxxum 135mm f/2.8

Minolta Maxxum 135mm f/2.8 / LA-EA4 / SOny A7Rii

Minolta Maxxum 20mm f/2.8

Maxxum 20mm f/2.8

Minolta Maxxum 100mm f/2.8 Macro

Minolta Maxxum 100mm f/2.8 Macro

A few more Maxxum lenses, but I will move on.

Back to the beginning.

I love DSLRs. But I chose mirrorless because I love film gear more.

Happy shooting.

-ELW

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