Why do we take photographs? For most people, it’s simply because they cherish the experience; for others it’s a catalyst for getting out, seeing new places, and meeting new people. One thing is for sure, though, that the majority of us want our images to be seen, consumed, and enjoyed by an audience- making the ultimate aim to create visually interesting images. Let’s explain to you the difference between DSLR vs Mirrorless Camera.

When it comes to landscape photography, what often appears beautiful to the naked eye doesn’t always translate through a camera, and vice versa. Although the techniques listed are highly sophisticated, you don’t need to draw upon the knowledge of veterans. Choosing the right compositional device to create a more balanced image can be the right way for you. 

It’s been a few exciting years for the camera industry. A few major updates in the recent past have completely changed the entire landscape of professional photography, and as an added benefit, we consumers get to reap the benefits. The biggest shift has arisen because of the high-end mirrorless camera. In 2019, Sony entirely resting on the shoulders of mirrorless designs became the biggest seller of full-frame cameras. This move spurred Canon and Nikon into the mirrorless ring with their Z and Eos lines. The move to mirrorless design has been quick but is it the one you should go for? Or the traditional Digital SLR cameras are the better move forward? 

Finding this DSLR vs Mirrorless Camera debate irksome? Then let us help you make a decision. 

Digital SLR and Mirrorless Cameras: The Definition

In the simplest term, SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex with reflex translating to reflections. In a DSLR, forthcoming light enters the viewfinder after it bounces off of a mirror through the lens. The early camera designs had a dedicated lens for a viewfinder and the other lens was used to take pictures. SLR looks after proper framing of photographs as it allows the light to bounce off the mirror and turn into a prism before redirecting it to your eye. DSLRs come with a lot of complexity, but they work well enough as the camera is switched from film to digital sensors. 

This type of camera, as the name suggests, doesn’t have a mirror. Instead, the advancing light comes directly onto the sensors of the camera after passing through the lens. In mirrorless Cameras, the person doesn’t have to look directly through the lens, the viewfinder renders a seamless experience from the sensors displayed on the screen. 

This ends up being pretty close to how DSLR works, but the decades-old DSLR vs Mirrorless camera rivalry ignites from autofocus. 

Autofocus: What’s different?

Good autofocus relies on having a mirror coupled with an ability to focus on quick-moving objects. It is the reason why sports photographers pay almost $6000 for a Nikon d-4s or Canon 1dx. These cameras usually had two autofocus systems integrated with contrast-detect that is available on most cameras and a phase detect that enables a quick sharp focus on moving subjects. An autofocus system is designed to rely on the second smaller mirror that reflects some of the light down into a dedicated sensor at the bottom of the camera. Most importantly, a phase detect sensor communicates the direction to focus on, that is why it can seamlessly capture objects that are both closer and farther away. And it’s also really proficient at tracking objects in the foreground. 

In a DSLR camera, the autofocus assembly is usually separate from the sensor and that’s why it could never comprehend what it is focusing on. So, it is unusual for them to adapt to different scenes. Additionally, if the mirror is flipped, the camera has to rely on a second system called contrast-detect autofocus because of the inability of sensors to focus on inverted objects. In a contrast-detect autofocus system, a camera moves backward and forward to calculate what renders a higher contrast image. 

To tackle the slow-paced solution, the so-called hybrid autofocus system started gaining an audience. The mirrorless cameras used a phase detector through the in-built sensor itself. This process eliminates the back and forth hunting game as they know what direction to focus in. The high-end mirrorless Cameras are massively used because of this one feature. Most video producers that had to rely on slow autofocus are quickly shifting to mirrorless frames. 

Turning away from traditional methods, companies now use dual-pixel autofocus on their EOS mirrorless cameras that turn every pixel into a tiny phase detect sensor. 

Some key differences between DSLR vs Mirrorless cameras to look for-

Features DSLRMirrorless Camera
Size and weightSomewhat larger, need to fit in mirror and prism.Compact, with simpler construction
Previewing imageOptical viewfinder covers exactly what capturedOn-screen preview, offers and electronic viewfinder
Low-light image qualityBetter to shoot withImage becomes grainy
Video-qualityLess-accurate, contrast-detection focus methodBetter suited and accurate 
AutofocusLess than 10fpsAt least 10fps. More with high-end cameras

Expanding on DSLR vs Mirrorless debate- 

  1. Size and weight- The DSLRs need to fit in both mirror and prism, which allows them to have a protruding top and a wider body. This also translates to a viewfinder being affixed on a single-axis and digital sensor. Therefore, giving them a bulky appearance. On the other hand, Mirrorless Cameras are entirely mirror-free. The shortened distance between the lens and the sensor allows it to be compact while also providing other benefits like the adaptive lens. 
  2. Previewing image- An optical viewfinder is an integral part of the DSLR design. The mirrorless cameras use an electronic viewfinder to capture the image. That being said, many professional photographers are moving to electronic viewfinders because of their advantages in the autofocus system. 
  3. Low-light image quality- Mirrorless cameras use a computational approach to photography. They offer the best print quality in spaces with good lightning but aren’t as effective or efficient as DSLRs in low-lights. 
  4. Video quality- DSLR may have stood strong amongst the mainstream filmmaking and videography, but today, mirrorless cameras reign supreme. 4K video is becoming a standard, whereas DSLRs have been slow, and on-hybrid system autofocus and stabilization systems offer higher video quality. 

Apart from all these DSLR vs Mirrorless camera differences, there is one other area(probably the most important) to focus on. That is the difference in stabilization.

The DSLR vs Mirrorless camera debate cannot be completed without talking about stabilization. Stabilization is a system in which the camera shakes or moves vibrantly to compensate for camera movement to yield sharper photos. Both the cameras come with top-notch image stabilization sensors that work by shifting part of the lenses and images in the opposite direction. As cameras come of age, mirrorless cameras are adapting to a 5-axis image stabilization that helps in pitch, yaw, and several roll movements along the axis. 

Though the in-body stabilization drains the battery quickly, the images are less noisy than the DSLR designs. 

Now, the big question arises, if you want to pick a new camera, should it be a DSLR or Mirrorless

DSLRs still offer several advantages over mirrorless cameras, they are durable and start up quickly. On the other hand, mirrorless cameras have improved a lot and are still in the process of triumphing over their professional counterparts. But there is no denying that mirrorless cameras are taking over. 

Although DSLRs because of their established name and reputation continue to dominate the sales, it will come as no surprise if mirrorless cameras become more mainstream in the coming years.  

So, who wins this DSLR vs Mirrorless camera debate for you?