Mirrorless Hacks – 5 tips to get the most out of your mirrorless camera

“Mirrorless Cam Hacks”

Hack #1: Custom Buttons/Modes

This one might seem pretty rudimentary or even obvious, but we’ve come across a fair share of new users and experienced ones who do not fully utilise this function. Not every camera has this feature, but you’ll find it with different names adopted by the respective camera manufacturers. Custom menus are also a rather common, so that lengthy menus can be condensed to just the parameters that you need quick access to.

As the name suggests, these CUSTOM buttons and modes give one the ability to change their mapping or target function. You could reprogram ‘C1’ on a Sony mirrorless camera such as the A7 Mark III to adjust ISO, punch in to check focus or activate focus peaking. Custom modes allow you to preset multiple settings such as ISO, shutter speed and aperture value, picture profile and movie recording format/resolution. These buttons can be incredibly useful when doing event work, where things are moving quickly and you’d want a few quick setting changes at your finger tips. Even if you’re not doing fast paced and time sensitive work, moving faster can’t hurt anyone yeah?

Hack #2: Record externally

If you’re doing video work, some higher end mirrorless cameras provide uncompressed, clean HDMI signal output. This allows you to use something like an Atomos recorder to get unlimited recording time (limited by the battery life still, but see hack #4 to overcome this) at the highest quality. Video quality isn’t just about resolution, but the amount of compression in each frame (or across frames) plays a critical role in the amount you can ‘push’ the footage in post production.

P.S. External recorders usually also act as external monitors that can provide a better viewing experience, help you with catching focus and provide advanced video features such as histograms, peaking and false color.

Hack #3: Expensive Webcam

Since the onset of Covid19, live-streaming and webinars have become the new norm, so why not make yourself more presentable by upgrading your webcam? This might sound like a crazy idea, but it could be a good way to get some use out of cameras that might be idling around- maybe not for every call, but for presentations or important ones like job interviews, you’d want to look the best!

What you’d need is typically a HDMI cable (that fits your camera), a USB encoder and a small tripod stand. Once the camera is setup and hooked up, be sure to change the video input source on your streaming application and you’re ready to go! If you want to further ‘up’ your game, you can also pick up a non expensive ring light and USB microphone to look good and sound good!

Hack #4: Use dummy batteries/power banks

One drawback of the small form factor that mirrorless cameras come in is the relatively poorer battery life. As mentioned above, battery life can limit your ability to record video for long durations (think conferences, interviews or if you want to use it as a webcam). There are some cameras that can be powered via USB cables and power banks, or ‘dummy’ batteries that link up to an AC plug or power bank.

When ordering online, do ensure that you’ve read reviews thoroughly and don’t just go for the cheapest option. We’ve heard many horror stories of cameras getting ‘burnt’ by low grade electrical circuits. 

Hack #5: Adapting lenses

Last but not least, the short flange distance due to the lack of a mirror presents users with the option to adapt a wide array of glass and get the ‘best of all worlds’. Adaptors typically come in two forms: passive and active. The former does not transmit electrical signals from the camera to the lens and vice versa, whereas the latter affords one the ability to control certain features such as aperture value and drive the autofocus motor. 

A speedbooster acts to ‘enlarge’ the perceived sensor size by reducing the image circle of lenses intended for larger sensors. Another ‘side effect’ would be that more light hits the sensor- usually 1 stop or double the amount of light for a 0.71x speedbooster. Although these are usually pricy, they are described as miracle workers because they essentially kill three birds with one stone:

– Adaptor that allows you to mount non-native mount lenses

– Reducing the image circle (providing greater perceived depth of field/sensor size) and hence the focal length (usually a 24mm focal length will appear like 17mm, though you’d still need to multiply the figure to the crop factor of the camera- more on the math here: https://danielscottfilms.com/crop-factor-calculator/)

– Doubling the light input. As above mentioned, you can expect to see f/2.8 as f/2, or f/5.6 as f/4 when utilising a speedbooster on your mirrorless camera.

Remember that these hacks are just some ways to improve the way you utilise the tool- but do remember that at the end of the day, its just a TOOL! Keep shooting and stay connected!

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