mirrorless v. DSLR.

The cold that I’m still fighting off has completely zapped my energy, so since I haven’t had the gumption to finish a piece of furniture I thought I would share an update on the Olympus O-M-ED-10 camera I purchased over a year ago.

I realized recently that I tend to grab my Olympus camera (which is a mirrorless camera) more often than my old Canon Rebel (which is a DSLR) these days.  I have to say, it took me almost a year to get to the point where I am more comfortable with the Olympus.  That’s mostly because I’m a slow learner when it comes to the tech-y stuff.  I just don’t have the patience to learn something new, I’d rather jump in at the deep end and sink or swim, which usually tends to involve a bit of sinking.

I purchased my Olympus back in September 2016.  You can read a post about that purchase here if you want more details on why I chose to purchase a mirrorless camera.  And then back in May 2017, just before my cruise to Norway & Scotland, I purchased a 17mm prime lens for it, and I posted another update on the camera here.

I promised to keep you guys updated on how the new camera worked out for me and now that I’ve had it for over a year I feel like I’m in a good position to report back on it.

I generally use my camera for two things, travel photos and blog photos, so I thought I’d address both of those needs separately.

Travel Photos.

I took both of my cameras on that cruise last May, but I definitely used the Olympus far more than the Canon.

Flam, Norway

The main reason for that was size.  The Canon is much bigger and heavier than the Olympus.  I just didn’t want to carry the Canon around with me all day.  The only time I took the Canon off the ship was the day we hired a private guide with a car, so we weren’t on foot all day plus I could leave the camera in the car if I wanted to.

Dunrobin Castle, Scotland

I also used the Canon while taking photos from our balcony.  I have a decent zoom lens for it, so it was fun to play around with that from the comfort of our room.  I definitely got some shots with that zoom lens that I couldn’t have gotten with the Olympus (unless I purchase a zoom lens for it).

sailing away from Bergen, Norway

However, when were off the ship touring around on foot, I only carried the Olympus with me.

It worked beautifully in low light situations.

The Beamish

And I got some beautiful landscape shots with it.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Before our next trip I plan to find a good zoom lens for the Olympus and not even bother with packing the Canon.

Blog Photos.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I find myself grabbing the Olympus for blog photos most of the time these days too.  I can’t blame that on size and weight, since I don’t have to lug the camera far to take my furniture photos.

One of the main reasons is the 17mm prime lens that I use with it.  For those of you who aren’t into tech-y details you can skip this next bit, but for those of you who are interested, a 17mm prime lens on a mirrorless camera (like my Olympus) is approximately equivalent to using a 35mm prime lens on a DSLR camera (like my Canon).  There is some sort of mathematical reason for that, but let’s not kid ourselves, who really understands that stuff?  And who really cares?

The important bit is what that means.  With a prime lens you can’t zoom in and out.  It has a fixed focal length.  That means to ‘zoom in’ you have to literally walk closer to your subject, and to ‘zoom out’ you have to walk away from your subject.  You may be wondering why anyone would want a prime lens at this point.  Well, it’s because you can get a good, fast prime lens for less money than a good, fast zoom lens … and speed translates to crisper photos, especially in less than optimal lighting conditions.  So when I’m taking furniture photos in winter, I get better results with a prime lens.

Currently I have a 50mm prime lens for my Canon.  It works great for furniture photos out in my driveway when I can get a good 20’ away from my subject.

But it doesn’t work so great inside my house where I just can’t get far enough away from a piece of furniture to fit it into the frame using that 50 mm.  I can only use it to take close up photos indoors.

The 17 mm prime lens on the Olympus, on the other hand, is just right for indoor photo shoots.  I only need to get about 6’ away from the piece of furniture to get a full shot of it.

I should point out here that if I had a 35mm prime lens for my Canon DSLR I could easily use that for indoor furniture photo shoots too, I just don’t happen to have one.

The 2nd reason I tend to grab the Olympus these days is that feature I mentioned the last time I posted about this camera.  The touch screen focus.  Here’s how that works, the LCD screen displays the image you’re about to take and to choose the spot where you want the camera to focus you just touch the screen there.  The camera focuses and takes the shot with just one touch, no need to depress the shutter release button.

I use this feature ALL. THE. TIME.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  It’s how I get awesome crisp photos of the hardware on my furniture even when the hardware isn’t centered in the frame, like this …

I can accomplish that with my Canon also, but it take a few more steps and it’s not as precise.

Lastly, I have found that the automatic white balance setting on my Olympus works better than the same setting on the Canon.  White balance is something I have an ongoing struggle with.  Since a big part of my blog involves showing specific paint colors and how they look on furniture with different top coats, I want the colors in my photos to look as real as possible.  Honestly, sometimes I still don’t manage to pull that off, but I do work at it.  Seriously, just how many different shades of white are there in this next photo?  And which one is ‘true’ white?

Of course, you can adjust your white balance with photo editing software after the fact, but it’s so much easier if you are starting out with a photo that was captured with good white balance.  If you are a fellow furniture painter or blogger, I hope that you are also paying attention to white balance in your photos.  Even if you’re taking photos with a smart phone you should have some options for setting your white balance so be sure to check that out.

One instance where I do still prefer my Canon Rebel is when I want to get a photo like this next one.

For some reason I still find it easier to use the zoom lens on my Canon to create photos with a shallow depth of field (where the background is blurred out like the example above).  If you want to learn more about how to take photos with a shallow depth of field, check out this article I found on the subject.  I’m sure that I can accomplish this with the Olympus, but that is something I need to work on.  That sounds like a good goal for 2018, doesn’t it?

If you’ve stuck with me to the end of this post I hope you learned something new about cameras, lenses, white balance or depth of field.  I plan to be back next week with a gorgeous dresser makeover (photographed indoors with my Olympus mirrorless camera and 17mm prime lens), so be sure to stay tuned.


18 thoughts on “mirrorless v. DSLR.

  1. First, I hope you feel better soon. I know how hard it is to function with a bad cold and it sucks. Then I want to say thank you for the camera lesson. I have an older canon Daly and I haven’t even begun to learn it’s functions, I just grab my iPad or my iPhone to take pictures, avoiding uploading photos and then messing with the cropping etc. I am a techie short bus person. But you had me at ‘touch screen’. That is an awesome feature. I still don’t understand the mirror less part but before I invest in other lenses for the canon, I’ll have to look into other options.


    1. I was pretty much in the same spot you’re in when I purchased the Olympus. Trying to decide whether to invest in lenses for my Canon, or just switch gears entirely. Although it took me a while to get here, now I’m really glad I bought the Olympus. That touch screen feature is really fantastic. The camera itself isn’t terribly expensive (relatively speaking), but of course the cost of lenses can add up quickly.


  2. I’m afraid I ride that short bus with Laura. But found this post very interesting. Really like that last shot where you discuss shallow depth of field.
    I had that flu/cold in December. It was a total energy zapper. I had to take short naps to get thru the day. Hope you get better soon.


  3. I’ve never thought of capturing something like different shades of white before. I’m going to be more observant from now on. Good information. I always enjoy your vacation pictures too. I always think, oh, she should frame that one bc they are all so beautiful.


    1. Thanks so much Becky! I do have a photo gallery in my upstairs hallway with all of my fave vacation photos (you can read more about that here). I haven’t updated the photos for my last two vacations though and you’ve reminded me that I really should get on that! As for the shades of white, sometimes it can be mind boggling trying to decide which spot in your photo contains the truest white (in order to adjust the white balance appropriately). If you start doing that, you’ll soon see how many different shades of white there can be 😉


  4. I love you posts about photography. Keep ’em coming! I have a Sony a6000 mirrorless. I was trying out different cameras and managed to get a scratch on the LCD screen so my decision was made. I couldn’t return it. I’m loving it but I really wish it had that touchscreen feature!


    1. Thanks for this comment Robin! I always wonder if I’m boring people to tears with these sorts of posts, so I’m happy to hear that a few of you are getting something out of them. I have to say, I really underestimated how much I would love the touchscreen. I thought I’d never use it and would stick with the viewfinder option, but now I almost never use the viewfinder!


  5. Thanks for writing this article! I love looking at beautiful photographs and learning how to take them, so any tips I can actually understand are much appreciated. Hello, my name is Cynthia, and I’m technically challenged … there should really be a support group for us! LOL


    1. Yep, we need a support group. We can also address the predilection for ‘collecting’ cool vintage things in our group. And possibly an addiction to paint supplies 😉


  6. the omd series are full packed tiny little camaras..their IBIS is amazing. the feature that I like the most is the live bulb option..You have a preview of what the final image be when you are in bulb mode…something I’ve never seen in any DSLR…miss my OM-D EM5.


  7. For travel, I give mirrorless a skip until they build a proper 18-300mm lens. I was about to get a Canon M50 but the best versatile lens is a 18-150 only, almost useless when shooting kudu or giraffe at some distance. Once other brands learn to make lenses, I will gladly look at Olympus or Sony. But, for now, a Canon 80D with Sigma 18-300mm is the safest bet. Mirrorless really need lens options. I live in Africa where a Canon L 28-300 or 100-400 is ideal


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