Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras, or MILCs, are an altogether new type of camera, on the market for about three years now. Olympus blazed the trail in this category, creating a camera type reminiscent of their venerable PEN line of interchangeable lens rangefinder cameras of the 1960s.
To the right, you see one of the old PENs. Many avid photographers in that era had a real fondness for these handy, flexible little cameras.
Today, the digital camera market has evolved to include a few key categories:
- Point-and-shoot cameras – Pocket sized, So-so images
- DSLRs, like old film SLRs but digital – Bulky, Best images
- Mobile phone cameras – Always with you, Decent images
- And now MILCs
Quality mobile phone cameras burst on to the scene recently, bursting the bubble of the point-and-shoot category of digital camera. Memento is able to make even our largest photo canvases from iPhone 4s photos. Many/most photographers don’t see the point of carrying a point-and-shoot around, when the camera “you always have with you” is just as good in many/most situations.
DSLRs have held their own a bit better in the new camphone world. But they are a real “commitment” both in learning how to use them, as well as how darn heavy & bulky they are.
In the pre-MILC days, photographers could consider the fine G series from Canon. These cameras resembled the old rangefinders not only in how they looked, but also who used them & why. Pro photographers enjoyed carrying these on their own vacations. The G series gave them almost all the control found on a DSLR, with quite a decent lens included. Rangefinders were not as feature-rich as their bigger brothers, the film SLR. But you could get equally great shots under many circumstances, with a far more portable little box. So too with the G series. These cameras packed many of the features reserved for better DSLRs, but came with one lens, permanently attached. This allowed for a much smaller form than the big-boy DSLRs.
The MILC-Man Cometh
Think of a MILC as a high quality point-and-shoot, but with the flexibility of interchangeable lenses. Not only can you customize your MILC to specific shooting situations a point-and-shoot could never handle, the lenses make fewer compromises. The single permanent lens on an older camera had to be all things to all people, and so was master of no single function. Now, the glass on your MILC can rival that on a pro DSLR if you choose!
Our clients who enjoy travel, but don’t see themselves as photo hobbyists, are fleeing their DSLRs for MILCs. We are often “camera advisors” for our customers. Given the uniformly positive news fed back to us, we are recommending these to anyone who is not a super photo-nut like some of us here at Memento! And even we all want one, because there are times you just don’t want to drag the beastly DSLR around.
Every major manufacturer except Canon now offers some kind of MILC:
- And many more, with Canon announcement rumored
MILCs are higher quality than the average & economy point-and-shoot, no doubt. Cost is in the vicinity of $500 or more. But for the frequent traveler, this is a great investment. Your photo quality goes up, while your back & shoulder pain goes down.