# Exploring Alternatives to DSLR Cameras

Once someone gets interested in photography, the first thing on their wish list is a DSLR camera. Maybe it's a Canon 5D Mark II or a NIkon D700. Whichever your preference, all DSLR cameras essentially function the same way. They are also all roughly the same size, and nowadays they all hover between 10-20 megapixels. There are other options out there. Depending on your needs, these alternatives may be a better fit for you.

## Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras, as they've come to be called, are interchangeable lens camera with no direct viewfinder. A DSLR has a prism and a mirror that allows you to see through the lens. Mirrorless cameras rely on live view screens on the back of the camera or electronic viewfinders that are basically little screens behind a peephole.

The advantage of these is their size. They typically have all the functions of a standard DSLR, but are tiny. You can even change lenses. The downside is the sensor size. The small sensor means slightly poorer low light performance and slightly more depth-of-field. If you shoot a lot in low light situations and require big final images that will show noise, then maybe these aren't for you.

### Sony Nex Series

The next series is regarded by some to be the strongest performer in the mirrorless category. It has a 14.2 megapixel APS-C sized sensor that is bigger than the 4/3 size sensor in most other mirrorless models. APS-C sensors are the same size as most digital SLRs with the exception of FX or full frame cameras. This means it can compete in low light performance.

## Rangefinders

Rangefinders used to be the primary competition of SLRs. They use an optical viewfinder, like many point-and-shoots, but a double-image patch allows you to manually focus your lens very accurately. The viewfinder is also more sophisticated in that it often corrects where it points to correspond with your distance.

There is only one digital camera being produced today that uses the rangefinder system, the Leica M9. The Epson R-D1 series is the other viable option in digital, but it is not currently being produced. There are a lot of options in film that you're willing to go there. The M9 and R-D1 are both manual cameras: manual focus and manual exposure.

### Leica M9

There are few things in life more polarizing than a Leica. They are extremely well made and gorgeous, and at the same time they are pretty pretentious. The M9 is no exception. It has uncompromising knobs that control shutter speed, and less buttons on the back than a decent watch. But if this calls to you, it's really the only thing that will fill the void.

## Point-and-Shoots

The main reason people take the step from point-and-shoot to DSLR is control. You want the shutter to click right when you press the button. You want to control shutter speeds and apertures. You may even want to control white balance and ISO. What most people don't realize is that there has been an advanced point-and-shoot market for many years. The Canon G series has been a big hit for years, and Fuji more recently made big waves with their genre bending camera, the X100. There will always be people who want the control without the weight.

### Ricoh GR DIgital IV

If there's one film camera from back-in-the-day that professional photojournalists loved as a back-up, it was the Ricoh GR. This digital version features some of the same great functionality. It sports a fixed 28mm equivalent f1.9 lens with RAW image capture and great ergonomics.

## Medium Format

Remember how I mentioned that this article wasn't necessarily written to save you money. This next set of cameras will display that point pretty nicely. These cameras have retained the name medium format, even though that is just a nod to film cameras these resemble. The funny thing is that these cameras are actually DSLRs in the most basic sense. They have a viewfinder, a prism and a mirror that allow you to see as the camera is seeing. But medium format cameras fall into a different realm.

First, they are big. I mean next to impossible to use one-handed. Next, they start around 28 megapixels and increase dramatically from there. The sensors could hold their own up against a business card. These cameras are built for serious landscape, portrait and fashion photographers. The weight means that sports would be tough, though. Maybe just strap on a wide angle lens and crop in on the action later.

### Mamiya DM Series

So you want a 54x40mm sensor. The Mamiya DM series is perfect for you. The cameras in this series come with the Leaf Aptus-II backs. Mamiya claims that once the body, lens and back come together, "your life will be forever changed." This camera is for serious commercial and fashion work, so tethering is easy. You can even control it with your iPhone.

This series features versions ranging from 28-80 megapixels. The 28 version with an 80mm lens will set you back around $10,000 USD. The 80 version will set you back around$34,000. That's a pretty nice car. On serious note, the 28 version is deal. You can easily drop that much on DSLR gear if you're serious, so if portraits or landscapes are your thing, why not get a camera built for it.

So you looked at the Mamiya DM 28 and you said, "I can get a cheaper DSLR that produces that resolution." I understand. For around $10,000 USD, you can the Pentax 645D that produces 40 megapixel images. That won't get you a lens though. The 645D is a natural step up from the DSLR. It has good autofocus and a big LCD screen on the back. It is ugly in the most dramatic fashion, but if we're honest, so are most high end DSLRs. I consider this camera a slight step down from the Mamiya, but the Mamiya is more modular. It's for people who have worked with medium format before. The Pentax is a much more cohesive package. ### Hasselblad H4D So you love the Leica M9, but it's just too inexpensive. And you really want to tether your camera with firewire 800. The H4D is probably one of the best digital cameras in the world. Like the Mamiya, it comes in a range. The prices are a little more expensive. The lowest model (31 megapixels) with a 80mm lens will cost you about$14,000. The other models are comparably more expensive.

Don't forget to factor in memory cards. A 4GB compact flash card will hold about 50 images. It also comes with built-in GPS embedding the location, altitude and time on all your image.

## Before You Make the Jump

Jumping from your phone or a cheap compact into the DSLR can be pretty daunting. There are a lot of options to consider. I'm here to throw a few more options into the mix. I think that mirrorless cameras are very similar to what people think they want from a DSLR. Just remember, before you make the jump, really consider what you want to use the camera for. If you're looking for something that will always be by your side, a point-and-shoot or mirrorless might be the answer. If you're looking for total old-school control, consider a rangefinder. And if landscapes and portraits are what gets you going (and you have deep pockets), the medium format camera are unmatched.