The photography is extremely complex and multifaceted art. The result always depends on numerous factors that include the photographer’s skills, creativity, and the ability to catch the right shot. However, not less important for the good result is the quality of equipment he uses. This applies to the type and quality of lenses and, most importantly, on the camera.
There are plenty of devices available today. They differ by technical characteristics, the principle of work, mechanism, and price. Thus, to choose a perfect option, the photographer must consider all of the above-mentioned aspects. However, to give you a sort of kick start, we have prepared a detailed comparison of the two most popular categories of cameras, read it to figure out which one to choose!
What Does A DSLR Mean?
In fact, it is pretty much the same thing as SLR. The additional letter stands for digital, which means that it comes with a digital type of sensor, unlike classic SLRs.
How does it work? We are not going to dive into the complex details of its mechanism. In a few words, the basic principle is the following – the mirror reflects the light that comes from the environment through the lens and directs it up at an angle of about 90 °. From there, the light is transferred to the photographer’s eye with the help of the pentaprism. When shooting the mirror rises, and the shutter opens, allowing the lens to project light on the camera’s sensor. These cameras are great for professionals as they come with interchangeable lenses and perform great in all conditions.
What Is A Mirrorless Camera?
In terms of performance, the cameras from this category are similar to DSLRs, but the mechanism they have inside is completely different. As you can understand from its title, it does not have a mirror. Thus, the mechanism used in mirrorless models is much simpler, which also results in smaller size and weight. In addition, thanks to the lack of movable mechanisms inside mirrorless cameras, they don’t make as much noise as DSLRs while shooting. Also, just like DSLRs, these cameras allow you to change the lenses depending on your needs.
Mirrorless Cameras Vs DSLR: Key Differences To Keep In Mind
Now, when you know the definition of both types, let’s compare mirrorless cameras to DSLR in order to see how they differ.
Mirror mechanisms built in DSLRs is extremely complex, which makes their manufacturing a difficult task. These consist of many moving components that require companies to assemble their models as accurately as possible. Thus, creating each DSLR model is a complicated and time-consuming process, which influences its final price.
A mirrorless model (even if it has the same technical characteristics as a DSLR), on the contrary, would have a lower price because its mechanism is much simpler. This doesn’t make mirrorless cameras cheap. After all, they still can be called a relevantly new product, which means you will have to overpay. But they cost less than DSLRs.
The larger the matrix, the higher the quality of the shooting will be – especially in low light conditions. In low light conditions, a large matrix provides a shallow depth of field and a rather pleasant background blur, while a smaller one won’t perform well.
From this point of view, mirrorless models used to suffer from their own compact dimensions, as manufacturers had to install a smaller matrix, which negatively affected the quality of shots. However, modern mirrorless cameras come with powerful matrices. You can even purchase a full frame mirrorless model!
Comparing these two types of cameras, it is wise to start with the most obvious distinctive feature – size. DSLRs, as a rule, has a massive body and an additional block bulging from the top of the camera (it contains a pentaprism). Since there is no pentaprism in mirrorless models, they are lighter and more compact.
If you look at the first models of mirrorless cameras, you can see that they could easily fit in a pocket, while the DSLRs are so big that you would normally have to wear them on your neck or hide inside a special bag. However, over time, the manufacturers of DSLRs were able to produce less bulky models, while mirrorless models seem to have the opposite tendency. On the contrary, they are now equipped with more and more functions, which makes them bigger. Therefore, the difference in size is likely to be erased by the hand of technical progress in the coming years.
DSLRs are distinguished by phase focusing – this method uses special sensors that are located near the pentaprism and examine the luminous flux.
Mirrorless devices use contrast autofocus. This means that the focus is carried out at the expense of software after analyzing the image that fell on the matrix. Thus, the focus in mirrorless cameras is not as accurate as of the one used in DSLRs, and, in general, it works much slower. In some modern mirrorless models on the matrices, phase sensors are installed, but in terms of focusing speed, these devices are still inferior to the SLRs.
We have to mention that some modern mirrorless models have phase sensors built in the matrix. However, in terms of speed of focusing, these devices are still inferior to the DSLRs.
Although both DSLRs and mirrorless models give you a possibility to switch lenses, they are much different in designs, which is why they require different types of lenses.
There are significantly more options for DSLR cameras, so the owner of one of these devices will definitely not be limited in choice.
There are not too many options available for owners of mirrorless models. However, do not let this fact disappoint you because there is an alternative – you can get a special adapter. This will allow you to use your camera with lenses suitable for DSLRs. However, keep in mind that this might be quite inconvenient to use a big lens on a compact camera.
At the moment when you release the shutter on DSLR, the pentaprism and the mirror rise. This mechanical operation is accompanied by vibration and noise. Sometimes, this can be quite inconvenient. In some conditions, you may want to have a “silent” camera and, in this case, mirrorless models will come in handy.
Unfortunately, the continuous use of electronic viewfinder and display has a negative effect on mirrorless camera’s battery life. The batteries in such models tend to drain much faster than in DSLRs, while their small size implies that manufacturers can’t equip them with large batteries. Thus, if you choose this option, we would recommend having an extra battery with you.
Due to the mechanical design of the viewfinder, the DSLR does not waste too much energy. A budget DSLR camera gives you a possibility to take from 800 shots on a single battery charge, while a mirrorless camera only gives you a stock of maximum of 300 photos – then the device will require recharging.
Note: insufficient battery capacity of a mirrorless device is unlikely to be a problem for the urban photographer (300 shots are still quite a lot), but the traveler will definitely have to save a charge.
Common Features Of Mirrorless And DSLR Cameras
Although it seems like these two types of cameras are absolutely different, they do have something in common. Here are the two main common features that are typical for both classes:
- Matrix – the most important part of a digital camera. Just a few years ago, we could say that mirrorless model can’t come with a full-frame matrix, and it was one of the main points for DSLR. However, now their technology has made a step further. A well-known manufacturer of cameras, Sony, has changed the way we approached mirrorless cameras by releasing a new series that were equipped with matrices that were just as good as those used in DSLR cameras.
- System. For some reason, many people call mirrorless system cameras, forgetting that DSLR cameras also belong to this class. Thus, here you have one more common feature – both mirrorless and DSLR are system cameras, which is clearly characterized by interchangeable optics.
Are DSLRs Better?
Generally, cameras from this category are considered the best choice for professionals. They have a bunch of advanced features that help a photographer take full control over the result. Besides, they have a bit different mechanism of work that tends to perform better in specific conditions. They also have certain cons about which we will talk later on.
Now, let’s see what these devices are good for! We can recommend purchasing a DSLR camera if:
- You are going to shoot sports events. Mirrorless models are not suitable for this task, as they don’t focus quickly enough.
- You are planning long photo sessions. Unlike mirrorless, DSLR models have higher battery life, so you won’t have to worry about finding your camera dead in the middle of the session.
- The camera will be used for shooting parkour and other extreme activities. In terms of design, DSLR models are more lasting and firm than mirrorless.
- You are shooting in the studio. In this case, you are probably not too concerned about the size and weight of your camera. But, if you make a choice in favor of DSLR, you will definitely look more professional in the eyes of your customers.
Are Mirrorless Cameras Better?
Not so long ago, if anyone were planning to start a career in photography, he would not have too many options of cameras to choose from. The only option available for professionals was a DSLR camera. The only alternative out there was a compact digital camera that had a whole bunch of disadvantages – it looked unprofessional, its functionality was limited, and the quality of shots was far behind. However, the market has expanded significantly over the past decade. Now, photographers can choose from a wide range of professional tools.
First mirrorless cameras have made their way to the market not so long ago. Still, they seem to be gaining momentum. These cameras can create shots of excellent quality, and they are not as pricey as DSLR cameras.
Thanks to a pocket-friendly price tag, compactness, wide functionality, and other benefits, mirrorless cameras have overtaken the market of professional photography supplies. Although some conservative photographers may disregard the new technology, it has already deeply integrated into the field of photography.
Now, when you know what’s the difference between DSLR and mirrorless cameras, let’s define why are mirrorless cameras better and what makes both professionals and amateurs choose them? Here are the top benefits:
- Low weight and small size;
- Simple manual focus;
- High burst rate
- Facial recognition;
- Better spread and more autofocus points;
- Focus distance in the viewfinder;
- More silent work;
- Preview of filters;
- Lower price.
Who should pick this option? As you can see, cameras from this category come with many significant benefits, but we have to admit that they also have some cons. Thus, they will not suit everyone. Here is when we recommend purchasing a mirrorless camera:
- You are looking for models with higher shooting speed. Mirrorless cameras are known for a high frame rate and shooting speed. Thus, when you are shooting continuously (making a big series of shots), the probability of getting a good photo is higher.
- You care about the size. If you are looking for a camera that takes excellent shots but doesn’t weight too much, mirrorless is a perfect option for you! They are much more compact and easy to carry around with you!
- You have budget limitations. Mirrorless models are cheaper than DSLR ones with similar parameters since they have a simpler design.
So Which One To Choose?
So, after comparing DSLR vs mirrorless cameras, can we finally say which option is better? There is no one universal answer to this question. Every type has certain pros and cons. Therefore, we recommend you making a choice based on your personal needs and preferences!