The Mirrorless Camera. An Expensive Point & Shoot?

So, yes I took the plunge and bought the Sony A6000 with two kit lenses, the 16-55mm and 70-200 mm. The reason I had purchased it was in the hopes I would be able to travel with a much lighter and smaller camera (my backpack on my last travel weighed 18 pounds before the 5 pound tripod!) and possibly for street photography. Especially when at Kensington Market as some can be quite hostile when you take a picture.

HDR Sony A6000
HDR of the Scarborough Bluffs taken with the Sony A6000

So, I unpacked my new purchase with great delight and anticipation. I was especially excited about it having Live View. My Nikon D7200 noticeably was absent of Live View, and I had listened and watched, and become very jealous of those Canon users around me with Live View, who would rant and rave about how great and useful they found it. Now finally, I would have this super power for each image!

It did not take long before I was cursing and swearing at the camera. It had many automatic options and scenes. I’m sure my Nikon does as well, but I had shot pretty much in manual mode from the first time I used it. Into the living room I went, trying different modes and playing with all the buttons. Please note, I did not take out, look up, or even glance at anything close to a manual for this camera. A camera is a camera is a camera right? Or not, I was soon to find out.

I spent one entire night, trying to figure out if there was a flash. I was shooting inside and needed more light and I saw some settings in the menu which would suggest there was a flash. But all I could find was a hot shoe for an external flash. I continued to play with it until I accidentally hit the right button and a flash jumped up. See, a camera is a camera is a camera after all! Now I was on my way to shooting indoors using a flash on some automatic scene selections. Wow, moving right along. And that Live View, was great and helpful. Or at least that’s what I thought at this point. However, I had decided I like using the view finder to set up a shot, so really I wasn’t getting as full a benefit from this as I could have. And I hadn’t figured out yet, where to turn this off in the menu settings.

F/6. Everything was f/6. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to change the aperture. I put it on manual and played with everything my fingers and thumbs came in contact with on the camera and still, f/6. You see, I was placing the camera up to my eye to use the viewfinder each time I took a photo. I didn’t realize that there was a dial, in the usual spot you would find one on this camera. My thumb kept coming to rest on the dial on the back, not the top. It took three days. I’ll repeat. Three days! Three days and finally looking at a manual to realize I hadn’t even seen that other dial. Yep, that was it. The secret to all the aperture stops. It was only day three and I was already starting to hate this camera. It just didn’t make sense to me and everything seemed so hard.

When I used to do triathlons, I found out very quickly you have two (or more) types of bikes. The one you compete with, usually between $2,000 & $5,000 and then a beater bike for travelling around the city, maybe to work each day or to run errands. These bikes are usually around $800 – $1,200. The difference, besides the price tag, is the manner in which you treat them. Your competition bike never gets locked to anything. Never! If you are out training on it and need to use the washroom, in it comes into the handicapped stall with you if you don’t have a group you are riding with to take turns to look after it. If you stop for a bite to eat, you guessed it. We ask at the door if bikes are allowed. Now the commuter bike, usually an aluminum hybrid beast, although still more expensive then those CCM Canadian Tire steel bike frames, but much less expensive then the competition bikes, are the ones we sometimes sacrifice. It would get me around town and be locked up here and there, usually with two locks. If I stopped for food, it would be chained outside and if I returned and it was not there, I’d be upset and out some money, but sometimes bikes get stolen. This was the way I was to come to think about that Sony mirrorless camera compared to my Nikon. I wanted it as a ‘kick around town’ type of equipment, where I might take it where I wouldn’t take my ‘good’ Nikon equipment. So, into the scout car it goes with me each day. There are lots of opportunities and things to photograph when driving around my division. I just don’t take photos of crimes or such and am always cognizant that people notice a police officer in uniform taking photos and generally look to see what’s happening. But there are many sunsets and sunrises, and sometimes interesting things in between that I am able to take photos. I leave it in the scout, in a small holder on the front seat. Should anyone have the gall to go into the scout (and they have on me when I didn’t lock the doors!) and they steal the camera, well good on ‘em. Cause, even if they sell it, I will have the satisfaction of arresting them for theft once I review the video lol! Like the beater bike, it’s a risk I take. We do that with the less then valuable substitutes.

So, Ralph and I spent the next week trying this thing out. I actually broke down and downloaded a manual for the camera and read it cover to cover. I found out what Zebra mode was and what it did. I can’t remember now, but it can’t be that important to my shooting as I haven’t used it yet. During that week, I tried to shoot everything in manual mode. Ralph would stand quietly beside the scout, smoking his cigarette, pointing out all the neat things I could be taking photos of. He’s annoying that way, trying to be helpful. In the meantime, I’ve got the camera down and I’m scrolling through many depths of menus trying to find the one setting I am looking for. After not finding it, and cursing and swearing along the way, Mr. Helpful says “Hey Potty Mouth. You missed the sunset,” or some such irritating thing. I look at him and say “I hate this camera,” to which he reasonably responds, “So take it back.” I hurl the camera at his head, not even caring if it ends up on the ground. I have decided I hate this thing.

So when I spent a little time away from actually using the Sony, I realized I was trying to use it on manual with all the precise settings I can do and realized it isn’t a DSLR. It has some limitations. I didn’t expect that. Also, I am so used to my Nikon, that each time I pick up the Sony, I have to learn it all over again. So, I decided I would entirely and only use it for one month. Then I could truly get a sense for it. So off to a resort in Muskoka I went to check it out for a fall retreat. Sue had asked that I take lots of photos so she could see the layout of the place. Earlier in my experiments, I had decided to take off the live view. I found out you could either have it on or off on the screen. Unlike the Nikon, when you raise the camera to the eye, the back screen turns off. This was not true for the Sony and it just eats through batteries because of it. So, I started taking photos for Sue, but I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. After each photo, when I checked the rear screen for automatic playback, the screen was black. I checked and no I did not have the lens cap on! So I clicked a few more and the same thing happened. I took it off manual and put it on a sunny day setting. Still the same results. Now I really hate this camera and I’m ready to throw it out. So, I spent the rest of the trip taking photos with my cell phone. When we were driving home, I looked further at the camera. I realized I had completely turned off the back screen. That included the playback and you have to use the viewfinder to see the last photo taken. I grumbled under my breathe, again cursing the limitations of the camera.

So, over the course of a month or so, I fail to understand what all the hoopla is and why people are moving to mirroless by the droves! It has a place, no doubt. However, I have found many limitations of this camera, that I just can’t overlook. I am used to being able to control all my camera settings and menu buttons and to control all settings while shooting in manual mode. So, instead I have adopted a different attitude for this camera. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. So without doubt, this camera is better than nothing. I can throw it in the scout, put it in a pocket when travelling downtown, or use it when at a family gathering. I don’t try to use it on manual as I find the limitations irritating. Instead, I use it on some automatic scene mode and because it is a 24 Megapixel camera, I shot in RAW and process it in Lightroom. If I get a competition photo using this camera, it will most likely be by happenstance and not skill lol! But for now it suits as a beater camera!

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