Mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera

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EVIL redirects here, as an acronym for Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens.
MILCs feature a large sensor in a small body (full-frame Leica M9 rangefinder camera)

A mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC), also simply called a "mirrorless camera", is a camera with an interchangeable lens that, unlike a single-lens reflex camera, a (D)SLR, does not have a mirror reflex optical viewfinder.

These are also referred to as Interchangeable Lens Cameras (ILC) or Compact System Cameras (CSC). These cameras usually have an electronic viewfinder (EVF) rather than an optical one, if they have one at all. Mirrorless cameras are smaller, lighter, and cheaper than SLRs, while still offering through-the-lens previews.

Mirrorless cameras constituted about five percent of total camera shipments in 2013.[1] In 2015, they accounted for 26 percent of interchangeable-lens camera sales outside the Americas, and 16 percent in the U.S.[2]

Mirrorless cameras are available with a variety of sensor sizes including 1/2.3", 1/1.7", 1", Micro 4/3, APS-C, and full frame. When sales of DSLRs fell in 2013, many camera manufacturers, including Nikon, responded by releasing many mirrorless cameras including the lenses.[3]

As of 2016, several mirrorless camera systems were available. In chronological order (by their introduction) and referring to the adopted lens-mount type, they are: Epson R-D1 using Leica M mount in 2004; Leica itself with its M-mount in 2006; Micro Four Thirds mount for Olympus and Panasonic; Samsung NX-mount; Sony E-mount; Nikon 1-mount; Pentax Q mount for Pentax small-sensor Mirrorless (Pentax Q); K-mount for both Pentax DSLRs and Pentax large-sensor mirrorless; Fujifilm X-mount; Canon EF-M mount; Leica with its L-mount (originally known as T-mount) initially for APS-C mirrorless and later for full-frame mirrorless as well; and Hasselblad XCD mount for medium format mirrorless. (Sony's full-frame mirrorless cameras, introduced in late 2013, use the same E-mount as the company's APS-C mirrorless, but attain full-frame coverage with "FE" lenses.)


The category started with Epson R-D1 (released in 2004), followed by Leica M8 (released September 2006, which isn't actually a "mirrorless" but a rangefinder camera, a system of focussing dating back to 1933 and the release of the Leica III, itself a development of the 1932 Leica II)[according to whom?] and then the Micro Four Thirds system, whose first camera was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, released in Japan in October 2008.[4]

A more radical design is the Ricoh GXR (November 2009), which features, not interchangeable lenses, but interchangeable lens units – a sealed unit of a lens and sensor.[5][6][7] This design is comparable but distinct to MILCs, and has so far received mixed reviews, primarily due to cost; As of 2012 the design has not been copied.

Following the introduction of the Micro Four Thirds, several other cameras were released in the system by Panasonic and Olympus, with the Olympus PEN E-P1 (announced June 2009) being the first in a compact size (pocketable with a small lens). The Samsung NX10 (announced January 2010) was the first camera in this class not using the Micro Four Thirds system – rather a new, proprietary lens mount (Samsung NX-mount). The Sony Alpha NEX-3 and NEX-5 (announced May 14, 2010, for release July 2010) saw the entry of Sony into the market, again with a new, proprietary lens mount (the Sony E-mount), though with LA-EA1 and LA-EA2 adapters for the legacy Minolta A-mount.

In June 2011, Pentax announced the 'Q' mirrorless interchangeable lens camera and the 'Q-mount' lens system. The original Q series featured a smaller 1/2.3 inch 12.4 megapixel CMOS sensor.[8] The Q7, introduced in 2013, has a slightly larger 1/1.7 inch CMOS sensor with the same megapixel count.[9]

In September 2011, Nikon announced their Nikon 1 system which consists of the Nikon 1 J1 and Nikon 1 V1 cameras and lenses. The V1 features an electronic viewfinder.[10]

The Fujifilm X-Pro1, announced in January 2012, was the first non-rangefinder mirrorless with a built-in optical viewfinder. Its hybrid viewfinder overlays electronic information, including shifting framelines to compensate for parallax. Its 2016 successor, the X-Pro2, features an updated version of this viewfinder.


Mirrorless can be seen as replacing or supplementing the existing categories of compacts, DSLRs, and bridge cameras. Most often, a mirrorless (either compact-style or DSLR-style) can be a step up from a compact, instead of or on the way to DSLRs. Alternatively, a compact-style mirrorless can be a more portable supplement to a DSLR, instead of a compact camera. More rarely, a mirrorless can be a third camera, in addition to a DSLR and compact – not portable enough for everyday (always carried) use, but not as serious as a dedicated DSLR, instead being relatively portable, for walking around and occasional shooting. They are less frequently compared to bridge cameras, as despite filling a similar intermediate niche, they differ significantly in design.

Compared to high-end compact cameras compact-style mirrorless equipped with a large sensor provide better image quality. Their lens systems, though, make them considerably bulkier (zoom lenses in particular). Small-sensor mirrorless have no image-quality advantage over high-end compacts, but they offer more versatility (due to interchangeable lenses).

DSLR-style mirrorless are in most respects very similar to DSLRs, though DSLR-style mirrorless are significantly smaller and light, most notably in being thinner, and also quieter due to lack of flipping mirror, are more video capable and their LCD screen basis provides a uniform interface compared to DSLRs. Mirrorless lenses are smaller than comparable DSLR lenses, but current Mirrorless lens selection is much more limited and relatively expensive, but most MILC cameras can use DSLR lenses by adding a US$40 adapter.

Higher end mirrorless cameras are appearing with electronic first curtain shutters, which aids in low light photography. Focus tracking technology has advantages compared to DSLRs because the computer using on board phase sensors tracks the high resolution image from the sensor rather than RGB low resolution data that phase DSLRs rely on.[11]

Bridge cameras[edit]

Mirrorless occupy a similar niche to bridge cameras, being intermediate between compacts and DSLRs, but in many respects make opposite design decisions, and complement rather than replace each other: with rare exception, bridge cameras use a small sensor, a variable superzoom fixed lens, and DSLR-style body, while mirrorless use a large sensor, interchangeable lenses (with lower zoom factor), and either a compact-style or DSLR-style body. The difference is because a small sensor can be sufficiently provided for by a superzoom lens, which can hence be fixed, and since superzoom lenses are relatively large, there is little benefit in having a compact body. The small sensors on bridge cameras also boast an extremely high crop factor (typically above 5.0), thus allowing such cameras to achieve zoom ranges that are physically impossible on DSLRs and cameras utilizing larger sensors. This trait alone makes a bridge camera much more versatile than DSLRs and mirrorless whose lens lineups are usually not capable of achieving anything more than the 35 mm focal length equivalent of 500mm; in contrast, most bridge cameras usually ship with lenses that are capable of providing a 35 mm focal length equivalent of more than 600 mm, with some cameras even capable of exceeding 800 mm: Nikon's Coolpix P510,[12] for example, has a 35 mm equivalent zoom range of 24–1000 mm.

Large sensors, by contrast, are more demanding on lenses and hence interchangeable lenses are generally used to cover the range (though compare fixed-lens Sigma DP1 and Leica X1); smaller lenses allow an overall small camera, hence the possibilities of compact-style mirrorless, while DSLR-style bodies are still easier to use for dedicated photography.

Two exceptions to the rule that bridge cameras have small sensors are Sony models that feature large sensors and fixed lenses—the now-discontinued Cyber-shot DSC-R1, with an APS-C sensor and a zoom lens; and the current Cyber-shot DSC-RX1, with a full-frame sensor and a prime lens. The current Canon PowerShot G1 X features the same combination as the DSC-R1.


Compact-style mirrorless with pancake lenses generated significant excitement in the photographer community, as they finally provided a pocketable digital camera with a large sensor (hence high image quality). DSLR-style Mirrorless, and compact-style Mirrorless with larger lenses have also generated interest, and with full frame mirrorless with internal IBIS providing lighter and more compact still and video capabilities Mirrorless is offering new possibilities to the DSLR concept.

Beyond the interest to consumers, mirrorless has created significant interest in camera manufacturers, having potential to be an alternative in the high-end camera market. Significantly, mirrorless has fewer moving parts than DSLRs, and are more electronic, which plays to the strengths of electronic manufacturers (such as Panasonic, Samsung and Sony), while undermining the advantage that existing camera makers have in precision mechanical engineering. Sony's entry level full frame mirrorless α7 II camera has a 24MP 5 axis stabilised sensor yet is more compact and lower in cost than any full frame sensor DSLR.

Nikon announced the Nikon 1 series on September 21, 2011 with 1" sensor. It is a high-speed mirrorless which according to Nikon featured world's fastest autofocus and world's fastest continuous shooting speed (60 fps) among all cameras with interchangeable lenses including DSLRs.[13] Canon was the last of the major makers of DSLRs, announcing the Canon EOS M in 2012 with APS-C sensor and 18 mm registration distance similar to the one used by NEX.

In a longer-term Olympus decided that mirrorless may replace DSLRs entirely in some categories with Olympus America's DSLR product manager speculating that by 2012, Olympus DSLRs (the Olympus E system) may be mirrorless, though still using the Four Thirds System (not Micro Four Thirds).[14]

Panasonic UK's Lumix G product manager John Mitchell while speaking to the Press at the 2011 "Focus on Imaging" show in Birmingham, reported that Panasonic "G" camera market share was almost doubling each year, and that UK Panasonic "G" captured over 11% of all interchangeable camera sales in the UK in 2010, and that UK "CSC" sales made up 23% of the Interchaneable lens market in the UK, and 40% in Japan.[15]

As of May 2010, interchangeable-lens camera pricing is comparable to and somewhat higher than entry-level DSLRs, at US$550 to $800, and significantly higher than high-end compact cameras. As of May 2011, interchangeable-lens camera pricing for entry mirrorless appears to be lower than entry-level DSLRs in some markets e.g. the U.S.

Sony announced 2011 sales statistics in September 2012, which showed that mirrorless had 50% of the interchangeable lens market in Japan, 18% in Europe, and 23% worldwide. Since that time Nikon has entered the mirrorless market, amongst other new entries.

In down-trend world camera market, mirrorless also suffer, but not much and can be compensated with increase by about 12 percent of 2013 sales in popular mirrorless domestic (Japan) market.[16] However, mirrorless has taken longer catch on in Europe and North America—according to Japanese photo industry sources, mirrorless made up only 11.2% of interchangeable-lens cameras shipped to Europe in the first nine months of 2013, and 10.5% in the U.S. in the same period.[17] Also, an industry researcher determined that Mirrorless sales in the U.S. fell by about 20% in the three weeks leading up to December 14, 2013—which included the key Black Friday shopping week; in the same period, DSLR sales went up 1%.[17] In 2015, mirrorless is gaining market share in North America, while DSLR is falling, showing 16.5% $ value growth rates for mirrorless while DSLR is falling by 17% in $ value sales. In Japan, mirrorless at times outsells DSLR. Despite lowering DSLR prices 2015 sales figures due in January 2015 will show further increases of mirrorless compared to DLSRs in the ILC market. In 2015, mirrorless-cameras accounted for 26 percent of interchangeable-lens camera sales outside the Americas, although a lesser share of 16 percent in the U.S., but still [2] a huge increase in interchangeable lens camera market share in only two years.[18]

2015 statistics show that overall camera sales have fallen to one third of those of 2010, due to compact cameras being substituted by camera capable mobile phones. This means that overall share of camera sales is seeing ILC market share increasing, with world volumes showing ILC having 30% for overall camera sales, of which DSLR had 77% and mirrorless 23%.[19] In the Americas in 2015, DSLR annual sales in dollars are now falling by 16% per annum, while mirrorless sales over the same 12-month period have increased by 17%.[20] Hence the Mirrorless market share of interchangeable lens cameras has more than doubled in two years.

Systems comparison[edit]

System Notable models Lens mount Sensor size Stabilization Throat diameter Flange focal distance Focus system 35 mm equiv multiplier Release date
Canon EOS M Canon EOS M, EOS M2, EOS M3, EOS M10, EOS M5 Canon EF-M 22.3 × 14.9 mm APS-C Lens-based 47 mm 18 mm Hybrid Contrast-detection/Phase detection autofocus 1.6 October 2012[21][22]
Fujifilm XF Fujifilm X-Pro1, Fujifilm X-T1, X-A1, X-M1, X-E1, X-A2, X-E2, X-T10 Fujifilm X-mount 23.6 × 15.6 mm APS-C Lens-based 44 mm 17.7 mm Hybrid Contrast-detection/Phase detection autofocus on X-T1, X-E2; Contrast-detection autofocus on other models 1.5 January 2012
Hasselblad XCD Hasselblad X1D Hasselblad XCD mount 43.8 × 32.9 mm Medium format none  ??  ?? Contrast-detection autofocus 0.79 June 2016
Leica L Leica T, SL Leica L-mount 35.8×23.9 mm full-frame (SL)
23.6 × 15.7 mm APS-C (T)
Lens-based  ??  ?? Contrast-detection autofocus 1.0 (SL), 1.5 (T) April 2014[23]
Leica M (rangefinder camera) Leica M8, M9, M9-P, M Monochrom, M-E, M; Epson R-D1, R-D1s, R-D1x, R-D1xG Leica M-mount 35.8×23.9 mm full-frame (M9, M9-P, M Monochrom, M-E, and M), 27×18 mm half-frame (M8), 23.7×15.6 mm pseudo–APS-C (R-D1) none 44 mm 27.80 mm Rangefinder 1.0 March 2004 (R-D1)
Micro Four Thirds system Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, G10, G2, G3, GH1, GH2, GH3, GF1, GF2, GF3, GX1, GX7

Olympus PEN E-P1, E-P2, E-P3, E-PL1, E-PL2, E-PL3, E-PM1, OM-D E-M5, E-PL5, OM-D E-M1

Micro Four Thirds 17.3×12.98 mm 4/3 Lens-based (Panasonic); In body (Olympus)

Olympus EM-5 1st 5 axis stability system versus traditional 2 axis

~38 mm 20 mm Contrast-detection autofocus on most bodies; hybrid contrast-detection/phase detection autofocus on Olympus OM-D E-M1 2.0 October 2008 (G1)
Nikon 1[10] Nikon 1 J1, V1, J2, V2, J4, V3, J5 Nikon 1 mount 13.2 × 8.8 mm 1" Nikon CX Lens-based 17 mm Hybrid Contrast-detection/Phase detection autofocus 2.7 October 2011
Pentax K Pentax K-01 Pentax K mount 23.6 × 15.6 mm APS-C Sensor-based 45.46 mm Contrast-detection autofocus 1.53 February 2012
Pentax Q Pentax Q, Q10, Q7, Q-S1 Q-mount 6.17×4.55 mm (1/2.3") for Q and Q10
7.44×5.58 mm (1/1.7") for Q7 and Q-S1
Sensor-based 38 mm[24] 9.2 mm[25] Contrast-detection autofocus 5.5 (appx), Q and Q10
4.6 (appx), Q7 and Q-S1
June 2011
Ricoh GXR Ricoh GXR Sealed interchangeable sensor lens unit system, and Leica M-mount Depends on each sealed interchangeable sensor lens unit: APS-C, 1/1.7", 1/2.3" depends Contrast-detection autofocus for sealed camera units, manual focus (display-assisted) for Leica M mount unit 1.5 November 2009
Samsung NX Samsung NX10, NX100, NX200, NX20, NX300, NX30, NX500, NX1 Samsung NX-mount 23.4 × 15.6 mm APS-C Lens-based 42 mm 25.5 mm Hybrid Contrast-detection/Phase detection autofocus 1.53 January 2010
Sony α NEX NEX-3, NEX-5, NEX-5N, NEX-6, NEX-7 (still cameras), NEX-VG10 (video camera) Sony E-mount 23.4 × 15.6 mm APS-C Lens-based 46.1 mm (1.815 inch) 18 mm Contrast-detection autofocus (earlier models), Phase and Contrast (newer models) 1.5 June 2010
Sony α ILCE α7, α7R, α7S, α7 II, α7R II, α7S II, α6300, α6000, α5100, α5000, α3000 Sony FE-mount (full-frame)
Sony E-mount (cropped)
35.8×23.9 mm full-frame (α7, α7R, α7S, α7 II, α7R II and α7S II)
23.4 × 15.6 mm APS-C (αxx00)
Depends (Lens based although α7 II, α7R II and α7S II have 5 axis IBIS and can utilise lens and IBIS at same time) 46.1 mm (1.815 inch) 18 mm Contrast-detection autofocus, Phase & Contrast (α7, α7 II, α6000, α6300) 1.0 (α7x), 1.5 (αx000) October 2013


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