10 Benefits of Using a Full Frame Mirrorless Camera for Street Photography
It wasn’t that long ago that full frame DSLR cameras weren’t a viable option for street photographers, let alone mirrorless brands. But thanks to technological advancements and competitive prices, that is about to change.
In this article, we will discuss the 10 benefits of using a full frame mirrorless camera for street photography. There is a lot to cover, so let’s go!
1. They get smaller and lighter
For many seasoned street photographers, size is everything; and the smaller it is, the better.
A large, traditional looking DSLR can portray you as a professional. This is something that many street photographers want to avoid. Informing potential subjects and making them change their behavior is not the preferred outcome. In rare cases, it could even create a confrontation.
Mirrorless camera bodies, along with their lenses, also tend to be smaller than their DSLR counterparts, sometimes drastically. Two notable examples of the mirrorless world are the Sony A7C and the Sigma FP, the latter being the smallest full frame camera on the market today.
Regardless of the brand, a reduced size and a less intrusive look are two great reasons why full frame mirrorless systems are good candidates for street photographers looking to upgrade their equipment.
2. Better dynamic range
Dynamic range is the amount of pixel detail available from shadows to highlights in an exposure (measured in stops). In terms of size, full frame cameras have larger pixels and larger sensors than various point-and-shoot and APS-C digital systems.
This means that difficult lighting situations where the exposures are too dark or too bright will generally be better handled by full frame cameras than their smaller sensor counterparts. Below is a graph showing the relative size difference between the sensors.
It’s not uncommon for full frame mirrorless cameras to have 14 to 15 stops of dynamic range. Compared to crop sensor cameras and smartphones, which can reach a maximum of around 10 stops, you’ll capture much more detail without noise in shadows or highlight clipping with full frame mirrorless systems.
3. Higher frame rates and faster shutter speeds
If you’ve used a compact compact camera before, you may have come across a system with a limited frame rate and low shutter speed.
Most full frame mirrorless cameras will average 2 to 5 fps (frames per second). If you shoot sporty or fast-moving subjects like birds or cars, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to capture the perfect frame.
With full frame mirrorless systems, it is not uncommon to see 10 to 30 fps. For street photography, that means you’ll rarely miss the action.
Shutter speed capabilities can also greatly influence the shot. The best point-and-shoot cameras typically peak at around 1/2000 or 1/3000 of a second. With full frame mirrorless systems, you exceed 1/6000 to 1/8000 of a second using the mechanical shutter, and up to 1/32000 of a second using the electronic shutter function in models top of the line.
For street photography, this is more than enough to freeze the action, as well as for photographing subjects in direct sunlight.
4. Better quality images
Most full-frame mirrorless systems from Sony, Canon, and Nikon have a resolution of 50 megapixels or more; these are capable of capturing incredibly detailed images.
For street photographers who only take a single lens in the 28mm to 35mm range, high resolution means they can crop images while editing without losing much quality. Indeed, it is like wearing two lenses, one for close subjects and one for distant subjects.
5. Full frame mirrorless cameras may use suitable lenses
Like their APS-C mirrorless counterparts, full-frame mirrorless systems can use matched glass, allowing photographers to use just about any SLR and DSLR lens provided there is an adapter. The main difference is that with full frame mirrorless systems, you can capture images within the intended field of view without cropping.
So while there is nothing wrong with fitting the lenses on mirrorless APS-C cameras, there will be a cropping factor. For most of the big brands, like Canon and Nikon, there is a crop factor of 1.6. For Sony, it is 1.5.
This means that you will need to multiply the focal length by the crop factor to get the actual focal length in 35mm format. A legacy 50mm lens would be equivalent to 80mm on Canon and Nikon and 75mm on Sony.
That’s why full frame hybrid systems are great for street photographers. For example, you will need the M42 screw mount adapter for a legacy portrait lens like the Pentax 50mm 1.4 Takumar to work with one of the full frame mirrorless systems. And the advantage for street photographers is that the camera would work at the original focal length of 50mm.
6. Two card slots and better battery life
It hasn’t always been the case, but most full-frame mirrorless cameras have much better battery life than their APS-C and point-and-shoot counterparts. This means that day-long street photography sessions may only require one battery.
Many full-frame mirrorless manufacturers also offer dual card slots; camera manufacturers rarely offer this functionality on smaller sensor systems. If you take photos long enough, you will inevitably experience card failure. This is why a camera with two card slots is ideal for street photographers to protect their images.
If you’re looking for the right accessories for travel and street photography, check out our guide to the essential gear items you should take with you.
7. Fast automatic eye focus
For performance in fast-paced urban environments, Eye AF is extremely important for street photographers as they need to quickly latch onto a subject’s eyes and take the picture.
Major camera brands know this feature is important to their customers. They put their latest and greatest Eye AF updates into their full frame mirrorless systems to stay competitive.
8. Programmable camera buttons and menu systems
The ability to customize the camera buttons and menu system is a must for street photographers. That’s because at some point, they’ll have to instantly switch to another shooting mode or access a feature buried somewhere in the menu.
Most full frame mirrorless cameras offer a degree of customization. This gives photographers the freedom to program special function buttons with one-touch response time.
It is also important to be able to customize the menu. It will allow street photographers to quickly change shooting modes, autofocus settings, Eye AF (human vs. animal) subject modes, and more. All of this can be done with just one tap on the screen.
9. Entry-level prices are reasonable
Entry-level full-frame mirrorless cameras like the Canon EOS RP start at under $ 1,000 for the camera body. This means street photographers are getting all of the features mentioned here and more for the same price or less than some of the higher end Sony cameras, as well as iPhones!
In addition to getting more for your money, street photographers will be able to invest in a system that grows with them. A collection of lenses and accessories will grow over time, with lenses that last for twenty years with the right care.
10. Wi-Fi and NFC
Most new full-frame mirrorless cameras come with Wi-Fi and NFC, which allows for a fast wireless connection between your camera and smartphone. This is ideal for street photographers who need to edit their images quickly on their phone and then upload them to social media.
Full frame mirrorless cameras to win
Competition fuels innovation. Camera makers are constantly stepping up their game, and there’s never been a better time to get your hands on a full-frame mirrorless camera. Hope the perks we’ve listed here are enough to tip you over; your street photography will be the next level.
Did you know that street photography has many personal benefits? Let’s discuss some of them.
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