October 2017 Newsletter: SMILE!

When it comes right down to it, we are in the business of improving the sensory environment. Technological advances in all aspects of acoustics, construction, A/V, and imagery all play a role in the future of the sensory experience and we strive to stay on top of the news and trends in all aspects of the industry. This month we’re focusing on photography and video.

Whether it’s storage devices, batteries, or entertainment devices, size and weight have always been the name of the game, and the same rings true for cameras. From the 1970’s up until the 1990’s, the Single-Lens Reflex camera (SLR) was the industry standard. By the early 2000’s, the light receptor was replaced with a digital imaging sensor, and the Digital SLR (DSLR) had become the standard. Due to recent developments in technology, we now see the smaller, lighter, quieter, and cheaper mirrorless cameras emerging as the dominant market force.

The basic design element of single-lens reflex cameras is a series of internal mirrors which reflect an image to the optical viewfinder, hence “reflex” in the technology’s name. The optical viewfinder allows the user to view the image through the lens before the image is taken. When the shutter button is pressed, the mirror flips out of the image path allowing light to pass to the digital imaging sensor and an image to be captured.

In contrast, mirrorless cameras use a digital display system in place of the optical mirror and optical viewfinder of SLR cameras. Until recently, the electronic viewfinder (EVF) could not produce an adequate resolution, latency, or clarity compared to the optical viewfinders. Time required for auto-focus was another hurdle, although modern mirrorless cameras now can produce shorter auto-focus times than their DSLR counterparts due to incorporation of the contrast detect auto-focus (CDAF) into the image sensor. The CDAF also produces much better results with video compared to DSLRs.

With the removal of the mirror mechanisms, mirrorless cameras can be produced in a much smaller, lighter, and quieter package than DSLR cameras. The lenses themselves can be smaller as well. As we have seen with the massive improvements of smartphone cameras over the past few years, the value of convenience in a camera form factor is massive. It is much easier to capture those special moments with a camera that can be easily carried in your pocket!

In addition to the convenient form factor, the list of advantages of mirrorless cameras is long. No mirror mechanism means no noise, less camera shake, less dust and cleaning, cheaper to manufacture, and higher shutter speeds. The EVF always provides an accurate view of the image to be captured, allows information overlays, image previews and reviews, is viewable in low light, provides digital zoom and subject tracking, and is capable of unlimited focus points, none of which is possible on the optical counterpart.

While there are still a few problems left for mirrorless cameras to overcome, such as short battery life, continuous autofocus, and EVF lag, we are currently witnessing a paradigm shift in the industry as DSLRs are increasingly being replaced by their younger and more convenient relative. As technology becomes lighter, smaller, and in this case cheaper – the process of photography will become more accessible and powerful due to the innovations of mirrorless camera technology. SMILE!

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