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I recently had the good fortune while at the neighborhood library to stumble upon America the Beautiful, a photographic portrayal of American wilderness by Clyde Butcher.  The book contains a range of elegant black-and-white landscapes, to include an especially impressive portrayal of a giant sequoia.  Indeed, that Mariposan photo demonstrates the much broader range of focal plane options available to the large format photographer than to those of the 35mm persuasion.  One of the things that has always impressed me about large format photography is the use of a ground glass.  This strikes me as a such a “pure”, unfettered approach toward seeing through the lens.  At the very least, it provides a sufficiently capacious viewing area that one can more clearly discern fine discriminations in focus before tripping the shutter.  Perhaps we are finally witnessing a greater recognition of the importance of a large “ground glass” among 35mm camera manufacturers with the increasing availability of 100%-coverage viewfinders among digital SLR models.

I am therefore given pause by the notion of a mirrorless SLR.  I am attracted to the mechanical simplicity and absence of low-frequency  vibrations from mirror slap such a design would provide.  Yet, a mirrorless camera must necessarily place the camera’s sensor between the lens and the eye.  It interrupts the interaction between light and photographer with some (potentially significant) degree of preprocessing.  Such a system seems sensible for the traditional point-and-shoot camera when the user either is not a photographer or simply wishes to make quick snapshots.  Yet, the situation with SLR work is theoretically different.

I will admit to personally finding the live-view feature of my camera useful when shooting wide-angle landscapes in low light.  Yet, even doing so does not give the same feel as looking through the viewfinder and seeing the light of the landscape interrupted by no more than glass.  So, I shall remain interested to see what mirrorless cameras the manufacturers release in the coming years, but perhaps not with bated breath.

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