I’m a big fan of mirrorless cameras, or at least the one I own, Sony Alpha 7RIII. I think it is superior to my Nikon DSLR on all counts except when it comes to the electronic viewfinder in low light, where I find the autofocus of my Nikon to be more accurate. I shoot 90% of my images with my Sony and my guess is I’ll be 100% mirrorless at some point in the future.
Below are some facts about the differences between the two systems, starting with their definitions.
Simply put, a mirror inside the camera body reflects light coming in through the lens up to the viewfinder so you can see what the lens ‘sees’. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up, the shutter opens and the light hits the image sensor (or film), which captures the final image. That’s the reason why you see black while the sensor is being exposed.
In a mirrorless camera, light passes through the lens and goes right onto the digital sensor, which captures exactly what you were previewing on the digital LCD screen in the back or in the electronic viewfinder you put your eye to.
Size and weight
DSLR: Bigger and bulkier.
ML: Generally smaller and lighter.
Since ML lenses are not necessarily smaller than DSLR lenses, the actual difference between the two systems when comparing body + lens can become pretty small.
DSLR: access to a huge amount of lenses from several manufacturers, ranging from cheap to crazy expensive.
ML: Restricted to a small number of lenses from fewer manufactures, though the selection is growing very fast and the gap will eventually close. Also, adapters allow using DSLR lenses on ML camera bodies.
DSLR: Higher clarity and natural look, you see what the lens ‘sees’, not necessarily what the sensor (or film) will capture .
ML: What you see is what you get.
The advantage of electronic viewfinders is that they can display a lot more information than an optical viewfinder can, including live image histograms, for example, and you can change the settings while looking into the viewfinder. Also, since you are seeing exactly what the sensor is seeing, you will never get a wrong exposure. Lastly, you can review the image you just shot while looking into the viewfinder, which can be an advantage when photographing people (you can keep them engaged and in contact with the camera while you’re adjusting your settings).
DSLR: Used to have a clear advantage, but the gap is narrowing. Also, autofocus performance decreases when using the live-view function.
ML: Latest models can have excellent overall autofocus performance.
Mirrorless cameras autofocus anywhere in the frame, while DSLRs only autofocus near the center. This is another great advantage for the ML.
DSLR: DSLR’s can no longer match the speeds of the best ML’s.
ML: The mirrorless design makes it easier to add high-speed shooting.
The lack of a mirror makes it easier to take image after image, so they tend to achieve higher speeds (frames per second).
DSLR: Used to be the most popular choice with pros.
ML: With superior autofocus in most models, mirrorless cameras provide the best results for most filmmakers.
DSLR: They use the latest and best state of the art sensors.
ML: They use the very same sensors as DSLR’s.
DSLR: 600-1000 shots on one single charge.
ML: 300-600 shots on a single charge.
The difference between the two systems becomes smaller when shooting continuously and not using the LCD screen to review the images. DSLR’s will, in fact, ‘waste’ a lot of power in order to raise the mirror every time a frame is taken.
Depth of Field Preview
DSLR: Not very good.
ML: What you see is what you get, so the preview is 100% accurate.
Legibility in Daylight
DSLR: DSLR’s finders are bright in daylight, but looking at the images on the LCD screen is difficult in direct sunlight.
ML: You can use the electronic viewfinder and review your images even in very bright sun light.
Price and overall remarks
If you’re on a budget, an entry-level DSLR gives you more than a cheap ML. If we look at the high end models, you get very similar performances for very similar prices.
It all comes down to personal preferences and the best way to know what to buy is to try them both and get a feel for them. If you’re looking to making a large investment into one of these systems, it might be worth renting the cameras you’re considering buying and taking them for a spin for a few hours. I believe there are stores in NYC that will deduct the price of the rental from your total if you end up buying that model within one month or so from the rental date (this information might not be accurate at the time you’re reading this).
What camera do you use and why? Please share your experience with the community by commenting down below. If you enjoyed this information, please share it on your own channels.
Thank You and Happy Shooting!