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Why I still don’t buy a mirrorless full frame camera


My article on the hype surrounding cameras like the Sony α 7 is now over 2 years old. So it’s time for a refresher. Maybe the manufacturers of the hip, modern technology have changed my mind in the meantime. Here is the old article:

Of course, I am not a benchmark because I do not have to buy everything immediately what is supposedly new and chic. I question many things that most contemporaries (first of all) take for granted. Mostly it is enough to repeat some “truths” often enough. Many “trade magazines” and “experts” on the Internet usually take over the flowery promises of the manufacturers quite uncritically. But I digress… Back to the technology.

To say it right away, I’m still running around with Nikon D750, D300 and D300s. But maybe someday the time will come to change to the camera without mirror. In any case, the development of these cameras is slowly going in the right direction. With the mirrorless Nikons, I can at least turn off the electronic viewfinder and the display backlight. The Sony α 7RIII’s display glowed funny the entire time during long exposures, draining the battery and heating the body unnecessarily. This is completely unsuitable for long exposures and light painting.


Meanwhile, the friends in the special district 千代田区 have woken up from their coma and build two similarly “cool” cameras like the competitor Sony with the Z6 and Z7. Everything Sony did wrong with the α 7 models they try to do better. They even succeed at some points. Even the top dog Canon now builds cameras without optical viewfinders and mirrors. So far, I haven’t had a Canon R in my hands, so I can’t report much enlightening about these cameras.

The Z6 and Z7 feel good. Operation, unlike the many oddities of the Sony cameras, is customarily good and well thought out. Any Nikon photographer should have little trouble switching from DSLR to the new cameras. The equipment is good. Only that you can only use an XQD card to store the pictures is annoying. There would certainly be room for a second card slot for SD cards, and the casing is not that small.


For the Nikon Z6, the comparison is quite easy for me because I currently work mostly with the D750. So far, I haven’t had the chance to test the Z6 extensively, but most aspects can be compared well even without a long-term study. The Z6 uses the same sensor as the D750, the Z7 is equipped with the sensor of the D850. So I most likely won’t have any advantages in terms of image quality. Probably even the image noise will be a bit more pronounced because the slightly smaller bodies can’t dissipate heat from the sensor as well as the thick DSLRs.

According to the manufacturer, the Z6 weighs 675g including battery and memory card. To use my lenses on the new system I would need the FTZ adapter, this weighs 136g. That makes a total of 811g. According to the manufacturer, the Nikon D750 weighs 840g including battery and memory cards. Fabulous 29 grams less in the photo backpack!

The size of the Z6 is given as 100.5 x 134 x 67.5 mm, the D750 is slightly larger at 113 x 140 x 78 mm. However, this does not give me more free space in the photo backpack, especially not when the adapter is mounted. Then the Z6 suddenly becomes even “thicker” than the DSLR. So at this point I don’t have the slightest advantage.

When comparing the Z7 with the D850, things look a little different. The D850 is about 160g heavier than the D750. Nikon Z6 and Z7 weigh the same. But again, we’re talking about a lighter back of just under 200 grams. That is not an argument for me to take 3000€ in hand.

My main criticism at the time was the very short battery life of the Sony α 7. Nikon does not specify a battery life for the Z6 and Z7 as a precaution. CIPA tests all cameras for battery life according to a standardized procedure. For the Z6, the gentlemen managed 330 releases with the freshly charged battery. On the D750, the friends were able to press the shutter 1230 times before the power ran out. Both cameras use the same battery. Consequently, the power consumption of the mirrorless is much higher. And because the technology does not have an efficiency of 100%, more heat is inevitably produced, which most likely results in more image noise. In the case of the Sony α 7RIII, which I recently tested extensively, this was at least the case. For most photographers, this should not matter; under normal conditions, the Z6 will succeed in taking significantly more than 330 shots. For long exposures and light painting, however, this is an important aspect when choosing the “right” camera. The Sony α 7RIII signaled me after 3 shots with 10 minutes exposure time that it wanted a new battery. So the risk of the battery going flat during long exposures is much greater than with the DSLR.

I’ll leave all other aspects like the electronic viewfinder out of consideration here because they don’t have much significance for the work in light painting.

Oh yes, there was one more thing… the price. The Z6 including adapter currently costs 1799€ at Amazon, the D750 with 1169€ over 600€ less. Due to the short battery life, the purchase of 1 or better 2 reserve batteries is necessary; another 150€. In addition, there is about 150€ for the 64GB XQD memory card, a second one as a reserve would certainly be quite good. If you take a lot of pictures, you might even want to buy the 120GB version for 235€. For comparison: good SD cards with 64GB currently cost about 20€, the copies with double capacity also cost double, so about 40€.

At the latest here I am out. For the extra price I can buy a second D750 or a good lens or 87 cases of beer… The manufacturer leaves out the mechanically complex mirror and the camera is still more expensive? But that’s how it works in capitalism, the price is only lowered when considerably less copies are sold than are produced.

In the second comparison, things look a bit better for the system camera without a mirror. The Z7 is stocked by the online dealer at a current price of 3009€, the D850 changes hands for about 70€ less. All in all (batteries, memory cards), however, there is still an additional price in the triple-digit euro range. And for what? Just to own the latest model? To have the best without having even come close to exhausting the possibilities of the old camera? I’d rather wait until the mirrorless system camera costs only half as much as the comparable DSLR… if the manufacturer still makes them at all.

All time good light

Sven Gerard

Sven Gerard, Jahrgang 1969, geboren und aufgewachsen in Berlin. Er fotografiert seit frühester Jugend mit großer Leidenschaft. Neben dem fotografischen Erkunden zahlreicher beeindruckender verlassener Orte, widmet er sich seit mittlerweile 10 Jahren intensiv dem Lightpainting. Sein umfangreiches Wissen teilt er auf seinem Blog „“, weiteren Publikationen und in seinen Workshops. Darüber hinaus organisiert er Veranstaltungen zum Thema Lightpainting, wie „Light Up Berlin“. Gerard lebt gemeinsam mit seiner Lebensgefährtin in Berlin und hat einen erwachsenen Sohn. Sven Gerard was born in 1969 and grew up in Berlin. He has been a passionate photographer since his early youth. In addition to photographically exploring numerous impressive abandoned places, he has been intensively involved in light painting for 10 years now. He shares his extensive knowledge on his blog ‘’, other publications and in his workshops. He also organises events on the subject of light painting, such as ‘Light Up Berlin’. Gerard lives in Berlin with his partner and has a grown-up son.

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