Ever since mirrorless cameras hit the market, there has been fierce debate about whether the traditional DSLR or the newer mirrorless technology is better. The reality is, both mirrorless and DSLR cameras are on a path of continuous development, evolving and improving with the latest innovations in camera technology – so what is all the fuss about? What exactly are mirrorless cameras and why have they got DSLR camera world all aflutter? Let's find out!
Since their invention back in 1918, camera technology has followed roughly the same basic principles basing its inner workings on a complex system of mirrors used to direct the light from the lens up to the viewfinder so you can see the image you are about to photograph. As well as creating a photograph, this system provides the opportunity for dedicated autofocus and auto-exposure sensors within the camera's technology, creating an optical connection between the lens and your eye.
Mirrorless cameras use a different type of camera technology that works without the need for a traditional pentaprism and reflex mirror system. Mirrorless camera technology has removed all of the mirror design components, instead using an electronic imaging sensor to do the same job. Light passes through the lens directly onto the digital sensor, displaying your image on the camera's screen. This type of technology is most commonly seen in the cameras of mobile phones, however standalone mirrorless cameras are becoming much more mainstream due to their compact nature and greater versatility.
DSLR vs Mirrorless
When it comes to capturing high-quality images, people tend to gravitate towards either a DSLR camera or a mirrorless camera. Both DSLR and mirrorless cameras use interchangeable lenses, which can be swapped as needed. Both systems capture very high-quality images and generally speaking, both systems also offer a degree of manual—as well as automated—control. What's the difference between mirrorless and DSLR then? The most straightforward answer is that a DSLR camera has mirrors and a mirrorless camera doesn't, as we discussed above, but there is a bit more to it - here is a breakdown of the key differences between mirrorless and DSLR cameras:
- Size. Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter due to the removal of the pentaprism and reflex mirror system.
- Battery Life. Mirrorless cameras tend to drain the battery a lot faster due to increased reliance on them for basic functionality.
- Shooting Speed. Mirrorless cameras are able to achieve higher continuous shutter speeds due to there being fewer moving parts.
- User Experience. Some people prefer the more traditional weight and feel of the DSLR.
Are Mirrorless Cameras Better?
A topic of much discussion in the camera world, yes, mirrorless cameras have the advantage of being lighter and more compact, however, as relative newcomers to the market, the technology is still playing catch up in many aspects. Let's take a more in-depth look at the advantages and disadvantages of mirrorless cameras to learn more.
Advantages Of Mirrorless Cameras
- More Compact. Removing the mirrors creates a lighter, more compact camera body. DSLR's are bigger and bulkier due to the pentaprism mirror box and reflex mirror.
- Less Delicate. The removal of the mirror system reduces the delicate nature of the camera and the need for complicated mechanisms prone to various forms of damage (from dropping, bumping etc).
- Better Stability. The electronic viewfinder reduces camera shake as there is no movement inside the camera when the shot is taken. Some mirrorless cameras also have built-in electronic stabilisation features.
- Much Quieter. Because there are fewer moving parts, mirrorless cameras offer near silent operation, whereas DSLR's generally have very audible clicking noises.
- Better Shooting Speed. Both of these cameras can shoot at very fast shutter speeds, however, mirrorless cameras come out on top when taking sequential photos. The simplified inner workings of a mirrorless camera allow you to take many more images in a shorter amount of time.
- Final Picture Preview. Mirrorless cameras offer complete picture previews, including the exposure and contrast settings on the electronic viewfinder (EVF) – essentially what you see is what you get. DSLRs on the other hand, have an optical viewfinder which enable the photographer to see through the camera lens in the present context but the photographer must take the photo first, then examine it for the various exposure settings.
- No More Viewfinder Coverage Issues. Optical viewfinders typically provide you with an image that is slightly smaller than what the camera will capture. With Electronic viewfinders, you no longer have this problem because it will always be 100% viewfinder coverage.
Disadvantages Of Mirrorless Cameras
- Shorter Battery Life. DSLR's are still winning the race when it comes to battery life. This is primarily due to the fact that they require much less battery power during regular operation (less reliance on electronic features) and the fact that they have more room for larger batteries.
- Smaller Size. Yes, being smaller and lighter does help with packing, carrying and storage; however, sometimes it can mean handling difficulties for anyone with larger hands.
- Limited Lenses And Accessories (at the moment). Because mirrorless cameras haven't been around as long as the DSLR technology, there isn't as many compatible accessories and lenses available (this one is rapidly becoming less and less of an issue as mirrorless cameras are more mainstream).
- Poor Operation In Low Light. The optical viewfinder (OVF) of the DSLR performs better under low light conditions than the electronic viewfinder of the mirrorless camera. This is mostly because mirrorless cameras have different sensor technology to DSLRs.
Do Professionals Use Mirrorless Cameras?
While DSLR cameras have been the go-to option for professional photographers for a long time, it is clear from the latest offerings from camera giants Canon, Fuji, Sony and Nikon that mirrorless is definitely the way of the future.
Many professional photographers have made the switch and once the available range catches up to DSLR and photographers look to replace their kit - many more will follow. It is likely developments in mirrorless technology will only continue to improve, eventually overtaking all of the capabilities of the DSLR setting the industry up for a new era in the evolution of cameras.
Is Mirrorless Cheaper Than DSLR?
Mirrorless cameras offer huge potential within the camera industry for advances in technology that haven't been seen since the introduction of digital storage. They can solve many of the traditional problems associated with DSLRs and are cheaper to build support. However, even though they are potentially cheaper to manufacture, in the current market, most manufacturers charge hefty premiums for mirrorless due to historical development and establishment costs, but also because the sales volumes are not there yet. Over time it is expected the prices will come down, but at present, mirrorless cameras are generally priced at or above their DSLR counterparts.
How To Protect Your Mirrorless Camera
Even though mirrorless cameras are less delicate than DSLR's, it is still important to keep them safe from knocks, falls and unnecessary wear and tear. Protection for cameras usually comes in the form of good quality camera bags which help to avoid damage in transit (which is when most unexpected damage occurs).
Best Camera Bags For Mirrorless Cameras
The biggest difference between choosing a camera bag for mirrorless over DSLR is that the cameras are not nearly as bulky, so you don't necessarily need a massive bag. Two of the top contenders for the best mirrorless camera bags are: