Travels with a mirrorless camera system

Relics of a Failed state

For the past few weeks we have been travelling with a pair of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs).  This is in place of our usual full frame DSLRs with several lenses.  The reason for the change in camera selection is that we were to be spending most of our time in a couple of European cities, on foot and on public transport.  This was not to be a “serious” photographic trip and the thought of carrying around heavy camera gear day in and day out was not attractive.

Nonetheless, every photographic opportunity should yield usable images, so we wanted to be able to capture data for processing into expressive images, if the situation arose.  So, the choice was made and after nearly 3 weeks of use we have come to some conclusions about our choices of equipment:


Lightness.  The complete kit of camera body and two lenses weighs less than the DSLR body only.  This is a big difference for day in, day out walking around.

Image quality.  The data captured with the cameras processes into good images, most of the time.  Occasional slow focus in less than ideal conditions meant a few out of focus shots, but generally, the results are more than acceptable.  Low light sees the systems start to struggle at 1600 ISO and higher, however.

Convenience.  Having a small camera and consequently a small camera bag is very easy to carry and handle over a long day on foot.  There would be times when I would just not bother taking the camera because of the size and weight of a full size system would be unbearable.

Cost.  Compared to the equivalent DSLR, small ILCs are less costly to buy and lenses are cheaper and smaller than the full frame equivalent.  A full frame Sony Mirrorless system, whilst lighter and more compact than the equivalent Canon/Nikon offerings is no cheaper, at least at the time of writing.  We have been using the smaller NEX series bodies and lenses.


Electronic viewfinders are still not as good as an optical viewfinder.  Granted, our bodies are a few years old, but the image through the viewfinder is of lower resolution and higher contrast than the captured image when reviewed.  This meant that often we thought the scene was too contrasty to capture, when in fact it was quite usable.  Low light is another matter, with a very grainy image in the viewfinder.

Response time/Shutter lag.  For someone used to a DSLR, even a short lag between pressing the shutter and the capture is quite disconcerting.  Trying to follow the action at a sporting event was very hit and miss.

Image quality.  Whilst the output from the APS-C format sensors is good, the combination of smaller size and less sophisticated lenses means that for “Serious” photography, my go to system would still be a full frame DSLR.  For most situations, the smaller camera is adequate, but for challenging lighting situations it just can't match the full frame body.

High ISO Noise.  Whilst the dynamic range of the APS-C mirrorless system is pretty good, it is still not at the level of full frame DSLR, at least not the Nikon system we currently use.

Battery life.  Driving an electronic viewfinder and rear screen uses up a lot of battery power.  Combined with a smallish battery we would just get a day’s shooting out of one battery.  Still adequate for the type of trip we are on, but well short of the 3-4 day’s heavy use the DSLR can handle.


There seem to be more Cons than Pros, but all in all, this type of system is ideal for the type of use we had planned.  Whilst there are some compromises, the convenience factor alone outweighs most of the disadvantages and the results we have obtained are more than satisfactory.

So, in the final analysis, is it Mirrorless or DSLR ?  For us, the answer is BOTH.  For travel and everyday shooting, the mirrorless system is a great option, but for the more challenging situations of low light, critical quality and overall performance, the DSLR still reigns supreme.

These comments are purely a result of our experiences and expectations.  Your situation may be different and I know of several serious photographers who are committed to the mirrorless system, although at the higher level than the system we have been using.

A bit of trial and error yielded some results at the World Swimming Champoinships.

A bit of trial and error yielded some results at the World Swimming Champoinships.

Colour Perception - when seeing is not believing

Colour perception

Recently at a presentation, I used this image to demonstrate that our perception of tone and colour is easily fooled.  The brown square at the centre of the top face and the orange square in the centre of the face at left are exactly the same.  To check this for yourself, download the image and open in Photoshop.  Then, using the colour picker, sample each square to prove they are the same.

New workshops to be announced - Following the St George Education Program

We are pleased to announce that Phototutor owner Michael Smyth will be participating in the Photography Education Program to be run at St George Leagues club from May to September 2017.

The details of the program can be found at:  along with registration forms

Michael Smyth will will be presenting on Saturday 29th August on the topic of "The workflow to Expressive Images" on behalf of Phototutor.

We will be announcing new workshop dates soon that will follow the St George series.

Ice Patterns, Greenland

Ice Patterns, Greenland

Looking forward to 2017 - What can we expect ?

As we say goodbye to 2016 and race ahead into 2017, what is on the horizon ?

Can we expect there to be an end to conflict, suffering and war ?  Unfortunately not very likely given the state of the world.  As we sit here in Australia, safe and free from serious problems, we can only be very grateful that we aren't in America, England, the middle East, or pretty much anywhere else for that matter.  

Can we expect our politicians to grow some spine and finally address the real issues that surround us and stop dealing in petty politics and ideology ?  Sadly also unlikely.  We will have have to put up with another year of the same old, same old.  So let's look at what we can do. 

What we can expect is to pursue our own goals of creativity and self expression, to continue to learn and to push our own boundaries.  We can also expect to have ever more opportunities to improve our skills and learn from others around us.  So, best wishes for 2017 to everyone.


SNAP ! Two images of the same iceberg by two different photographers

These two images are of the same Iceberg, mine was taken in August 2015 in Nordbugt, Scoresby Sund in Greenland.  Imagine my surprise when Peter Eastway posted his image on his weekly newsletter.  Peter says he thinks the image was taken in 2013, in which case it is an exceptionally long lived berg. 

My image of the iceberg, taken in 2015 - updated 

Peter Eastway's image from 2013 - clearly the better image !

If you don't already subscribe to Peter's weekly Newsletter, I highly recommend it and you can subscribe here: 


New Editing and Printing techniques under development for our workshops

Old town, Seydisfjordur Iceland.  This image was originally posted last year, but has now been updated with our new processing techniques that add back the 3rd dimension to the image.  See our workshops schedule for the upcoming workshops on the 25th March and 27th May 2017.

The workshops are starting to fill up, so don't delay if you want to learn these new techniques

The cost of printing using your own printer - revised 2016

Many people get scared off at the presumed cost of printing their own images, compared with online or printing in store at office supplies outlets (no names, but you know who they are).  This is assuming that the quality of the prints from online stores is comparable with the best practice using high quality papers and printers.

Our experience with seeing what is done online and in the office supplies print services is that the quality is "acceptable" to the novice, but a long way short of the quality you can achieve printing at home.  In addition to the quality issues the online printers use low quality papers with variable results.

We have recently conducted a cost breakdown using the current costs in Australia for Epson P600 and P800 printers and using Canson fine Art papers.  

The results are very interesting....

The real costs of printing yourself have been calculated using some assumptions:

Consumption of ink has been assumed at twice the quoted rate as advised by Kayell Australia and assumed to be up to 90% of cartridge capacity only.  Actual usage will vary depending on image content and other factors, but this is a conservative estimate.

Inkset and printer costs are current as of November 2016 in Australia

Paper costs are based on Canson A3 and A2 boxes of 25 sheets at the current price in November 2016 in Australia

We have also calculated the amortised cost of printing assuming the cost of the printer being written off over 5 complete inksets used.  This is a very conservative estimate of the life of a printer and is for illustration purposes only.  A new printer price includes a full set of inks and we have included the cost of the printer plus 4 full replacement inksets.


Printing in store or online A3 size (40cm x 30cm) cost per print is $ 15.00 - $16.00 per print

compared with doing it yourself:

Printing A3 using an Epson P600 printer and Canson Platine A3 is $ 5.90 per print *

Printing A3 using an Epson P800 printer and Canson Platine A3 is $ 4.70 per print *

Printing A2 using an Epson P800 printer and Canson Platine A2 is $ 10.00 per print *


Epson P600 and A3 Platine total costs amortised  = $ 7.40 per print 

Epson P800 and A3 Platine paper total costs amortised  = $ 5.45 per print

Epson P800 and A2 Platine paper total costs amortised = $ 11.35 per print

 * Please note the above costs are per page printed, including test prints and rejects and assumes full page printing over 90% of cartridge capacity.  Your actual usage may vary, but we are confident that these are realistic costs, based on our own experience.  The initial cost of the P600 printer is offset by the much higher cost of inks - these work out at about double the per ml cost of the P800 printer, however the initial cost of the P800 is higher.  In essence, if you are going to print seriously, the P800 is the more cost effective printer to buy.

So, there is no excuse for not printing your own images.  You will save money provided you intend printing on a regular basis, plus you have absolute control over the process, can choose between several beautiful fine art papers and have the satisfaction of doing it all yourself.

We are running a printing Master Class early in 2017, check the Workshops page for details.