DSLM compact cameras were designed exclusively for the digital photography era but how do they work, and what makes a mirrorless camera different from a traditional Single Lens Reflex model?
Launched by Panasonic in 2008, the DSLM (or Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) camera has revolutionised the world of creative photography. Mirrorless cameras combine compact ease of use with outstanding technical and control. The biggest difference between mirrorless and professional DSLR cameras is that they do not use a mirrorbox or pentaprism, as a consequence do not use an optical viewfinder. This enables DSLM cameras to have smaller camera bodies and more compact lenses. Instead of an optical viewfinder, a high resolution electronic viewfinder can be used which takes a live feed directly from the CSC camera sensor itself.
As a consequence, mirrorless cameras (also commonly referred to as Compact System Cameras or CSC) use high speed contrast detection autofocus, rather than the phase-based autofocus used on professional level.
Indeed, DFD (Depth from defocus) technology, found on the DMC-GH4 CSC camera, produces one of the world’s fastest auto focus speeds while a Pinpoint Focus mode features a Picture-in-Picture display which magnifies the image between 3 and 10 times for absolute clarity. Focus peaking technology allows you to quickly see just what areas of the image are sharpest.
Micro Four Thirds CSCs also benefit from a wide range of compatible lenses.
Yet for all this, a mirrorless camera still boasts the easy convenience of compact camera photography. Indeed, a DSLM camera with ‘pancake’ lens is comparable in size to a compact camera – yet offers the benefit of a larger image sensor able to take more detailed images. Another perhaps less obvious benefit of a mirrorless camera compared with a professional DSLR is that with fewer moving parts they can be more robust and reliable.
A large image sensor and advanced image processing are vital if you’re looking for superior picture quality. Panasonic new cameras feature a large Micro 4/3 sensor and proprietary Venus Engine image processor for excellent detail, contrast and colour.
The compact form factor of a DSLM doesn’t mean they’re light on features. Lumix G compact system cameras are packed with cutting edge features. Look out for Lumix G mirrorless cameras which offer built-in Wi-Fi functionality. A Wi-Fi connection allows you to control your camera from a smartphone or tablet, back-up up images and print to a networked printer.
Some Panasonic DSLM cameras even use one-touch NFC (Near Field Communications) technology to effortlessly share images between devices.
In addition to superb picture performance, Panasonic mirrorless cameras can also record high quality 1920 x 1080 resolution Full HD video in AVCHD or MP4 formats, and in the case of the DMC-GH4, even 3840 x 2160 4K Ultra HD