Last updated on October 6th, 2023
Mirrorless vs DSLR has been a hot topic for some time. Professionals use both mirrorless and DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras alike. They each have their quality and are versatile. And there are plenty of both available on the market. Which one is the best for you, though? In this guide, you will learn which camera types are faster when shooting. You will also learn which cameras are quieter. And you’ll know which cameras have better picture quality.
When making your decision between mirrorless vs DSLR cameras, you want to look at the pros and the cons. Let’s learn a thing or two about each today:
What is a mirrorless camera?
Want to know a little more about how a mirrorless camera works? First, understand how DSLR cameras work. Most camera makers, such as Canon, Nikon, and Sony, share the same industrial design. Light enters through the lens, bouncing off a mirror through a prism, and ends up on the viewfinder. A click of the shutter button gives you a mirror that flips up, allowing light to hit the camera’s image sensor. There you have it: your photo! These existed before digital cameras. They were in film cameras because it is a useful way to compose your picture before clicking to take it.
We now live in an advanced technologic world. Is a flip-up mirror necessary? No. That’s why there’s a whole new breed of cameras coming our way. They are making their way into modern digital photography. They’re without the flip-up mirror, aka “mirrorless.”
There are already many types of mirrorless cameras out there. Many have interchangeable lenses and single built-in lenses. And others have their own types of image sensors for niche product markets. There’s even a chance you have a mirrorless camera in your possession: your smartphone! You don’t have to worry about looking in the viewfinder because you can see your image’s preview on your phone.
Did you know that you’re using a mirrorless camera already? Shooting your DSLR in “Live View” mode, looking at the reach LCD screen for your shot. You’ve got it! You should know high-end mirrorless cameras even replicate traditional viewfinders. They don’t reflect from mirrors. It shows you a small version of what’s displayed on the back of the camera.
What are the benefits of mirrorless cameras?
There are benefits to using a mirrorless camera. Though we’re not trying to sell you either, they each have their own pros and cons.
Size matters when it comes to DSLR vs mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless cameras are much smaller and weigh less. If you want to take your camera wherever you go, this one’s for you. Your lens is going to be smaller too. You can fit several in your bag this way.
The viewfinder is going to be more accurate, too. Your adjusted settings are going to be the same as what you see in it. With traditional DSLRs, you don’t know what you get until later. Mirrorless cameras use electronic viewfinders. It makes it so you can see the real-time aperture and ISO adjustments before you take the picture.
Here are some more bonuses to mirrorless cameras:
- Focus peaking: being able to see the pixels in your image when focusing manually.
- Quiet operation (no sound from a flip-up mirror). Longer lifespan due to fewer moving parts.
- Lightweight and compact, making them great travel cameras.
- Better for shooting video.
Cons to mirrorless cameras:
Here are some things to consider when choosing mirrorless vs DSLR or vice versa:
- A shorter battery life: DSLRs drive power only when in Live View mode; mirrorless doesn’t. Mirrorless can only get a couple of hundred shots on one battery charge.
- Fewer lenses and accessories.
- Mirrorless does not match the speed of a DSLR and its focusing system on sports or wildlife.
Mirrorless vs DSLR Camera Size and Weight
When you hold up the two cameras, you will notice that the DSLR camera is noticeably larger. Why? Well, DSLR cameras require a mirror, as well as a prism. On the flipside, mirrorless camera bodies are smaller than DSLRs. That is because they need a much simpler composition. Well, mirrorless wins out, then. You can carry your mirrorless camera around wherever you go.
Autofocus & Speed
If you tend to shoot in low-light and use autofocus, you want to use a DSLR camera. Though, there have been improvements to models of mirrorless low-light cameras like this. Such brands as Canon and Sony, have made improvements to their mirrorless autofocus systems as well. Though your best bet will be a DSLR for low-light and autofocus photography shoots such as sports.
When you are using a DSLR, your optical viewfinder will show what the camera intends on capturing. This is as opposed to a mirrorless camera, where you will view the preview on the screen. Though, you can get a mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder. What it does is it stimulates the optical viewfinder.
Shooting outside when it is good lighting will be similar to what you will see on your mirrorless camera’s preview screen. However, in low-light scenes or with fast-moving subjects, you will get a wrong, grainy preview. The reason being, DSLR cameras are much better in low-light conditions. If you have decent lighting, either camera will work for you. Remember that challenging low light conditions call for DSLR cameras.
It is recommended that you use a high-end mirrorless camera when shooting video. The reason being? DSLR cameras do not have phase detection with the mirror being up. In turn, they are slow, not as accurate, in contrast-detection mode. You will end up with blurry videos because your camera is looking for the perfect focus.
New SLRs have begun adding phase detection on their sensors. Also, mirrorless cameras are capturing 4K, Ultra HD video with better resolution. If you want better autofocus, your best bet will be mirrorless when deciding between mirrorless vs DSLR cameras for filmmaking.
What are the cons of mirrorless cameras?
Battery life drains easily
Battery life is essential to all photographers. But the EVF processing that occurs with mirrorless cameras drains the battery life in any mirrorless camera. You could alternatively carry extra batteries on hand, but no one wants to do that.
Mirrorless cameras have a history of low battery life. For instance, the Sony a7 has a battery life of 270 shots with EVF and 430 with LCD. Alternatively, the Canon EOS Mark II DLSR’s battery got 850 snaps with the optical viewfinder. If you want the best mirrorless battery capacity, you’ll have to go with the Sony a9 with 480 shots via EVF and 650 shots via the LCD. But as mirrorless cameras get more popular, you’ll find the battery life will improve in the coming years.
Mirrorless cameras lens mounts aren’t typical compared to the classics Canon EF, Canon EF-S, and Nikon FX/DX lens mounts. Sony recently gained about 40 new lenses in the last decade with the Sony A7 and Sony a6000. You can also find third-party manufacturers who put out their mirrorless lenses similar to DSLR lenses they put out. Or you can set up your mirrorless systems by using an adapter. In no time, we’re sure more companies will come out with the best mirrorless camera lenses. But do keep in mind that there are fast zoom lenses for mirrorless models with great image quality on the market. Travel photographers should take advantage of these lenses on their mirrorless cameras.
Here are some best mirrorless camera lenses:
- Olympus M Zuiko ED 14-150mm f/4-5.6 II
- Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary
- Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 Asph
- Fujifilm XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS
- Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f/1.6
- Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di III VC
- Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS
- Tamron 14-150mm f/3.5-5.8 Di III
- Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
Overheat in video
Mirrorless cameras are much different than DSLRs because they’re designed to be smaller and lightweight than the DSLR. Because of the way the camera manufacturers make mirrorless cameras, they are likely to overheat. A mirrorless camera must create a live view from the sensor. Then, the sensor has nowhere to deliver its data to at such a high frequency.
Vulnerable sensor exposure
Have you ever changed the lens on a DSLR? The sensor that goes with it is a mirror that protects the sensor. There are advancements in insulating the camera system. The sensor exposure is less vulnerable to dust and debris with the DSLR vs mirrorless. Anytime you change the lens on a full-frame mirrorless camera, the sensor is 100 percent susceptible to dust and debris. When a full-frame sensor gets dirty, you can sure bet the final image will be of lesser quality than a full-frame DSLR.
Will mirrorless cameras replace DSLR?
Many people favor mirrorless cameras over DSLR cameras. In fact, going with a mirrorless camera is a great alternative to a DSLR for many people for specific reasons. You may be more of a casual shooter or take static landscapes, portraits, and travel type photography. Then mirrorless is the best replacement for DSLRs. With fast shutter speeds, high resolution, and high-speed focus, mirrorless cameras are getting better. Even the ergonomics on individual cameras are better. These days, camera manufacturers are making a wide range of mirrorless cameras. They have interchangeable lens cameras differing in sensor size, lens mount, and performance.
But even with the increasing popularity of mirrorless cameras, there is still a huge user base for DSLR cameras. So, don’t bank on mirrorless taking over anytime soon.
Is mirrorless vs DSLR better for beginners?
Mirrorless cameras are an excellent choice for beginners. But before you go out and buy your first mirrorless camera, remember to think about the pros and cons. What matters to you the most? What types of cameras seem the best in your hands? Because with even the most basic mirrorless cameras, what you see is what you get. Remember, if you are more comfortable with compact cameras. You will probably be the most comfortable with a mirrorless camera. Make sure the best DSLR or the best mirrorless camera for you checks all your boxes. Practice with focal lengths on what you plan to shoot. Test out stabilization and see what works better in different shooting situations you plan on doing.
Many beginners choose mirrorless because they are more of a pocket camera. Mirrorless lacks a viewfinder and battery life. So, if you’re not shooting long, it’s best to go with a mirrorless. But those on a tight budget with features like a rear screen and touch screens might be better with a cheaper DSLR camera. Most professional photographers shoot with either or. They often take time and try out different cameras. And they usually spend some hard-earned money on their cameras. But don’t rush between upgrades-stick with your decision and learn the best way to use the camera that fits you best. Later on, as you become a more professional photographer, you will better grasp what’s better.
What is the price of mirrorless vs DSLR cameras?
Mirrorless camera lenses run a lot more expensive than DSLR lenses; just remember that. But there’s not too huge of a difference depending on the model. Often, there are no used lenses. So, full-price brand new lenses will have to do. Pricing on mirrorless cameras can range. It can go from the $ 1,500’s for something like a Canon EOS RP full-frame mirrorless camera with an interchangeable lens. The higher-end cameras are the Sony a7r IV full-frame mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses at around $3,500. The best entry-level mirrorless camera is likely to be the Sony a6000. At less than $500 with a lens, you get a shooting speed of 11 fps even when bought as a new camera.
The best mirrorless cameras include:
- Sony A7R Mark IV
- Canon EOS R5
- Panasonic Lumix S1R
- Leica SL2
- Nikon Z7
- Sony A9 Mark II
- Panasonic Lumix S5
- Sony A7S III
- Canon EOS RP
- Nikon Z6
- Fujifilm X-T4
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera
mirrorless vs DSLR Price
DSLR camera prices range from around $300 for a Canon DSLR and $1,500 roughly for Sony A7 III. More expensive DSLRs range from about $3,000 to $6,000 for something like a Nikon D6 FX-Format Digital SLR camera body. Do keep in mind that you will probably have to purchase a separate camera lens. The best entry-level DSLR camera is the Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D. You could get an excellent Nikon D850 for about $2,000, which is on the cusp of being a professional camera. There are many great mirrorless camera under “,000.
What are the benefits of DSLR cameras?
The benefits of DSLR cameras include high-speeds. They have a larger sensor that gives clearer, sharper images and better resolution. Also, they often have a more powerful processing power. And you can work with many interchangeable lenses, so it’s more versatile to use a DSLR camera.
Some of the best DSLR cameras for beginners include:
- Nikon D3500
- Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D
- Canon EOS R SL3
- Canon EOS 90D
- Nikon D7500
- Canon EOS 6D Mark II
- Nikon D780
- Nikon D850
- Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
- Pentax K-1 Mark II
- Nikon D5600
- Canon EOS 250 D
What are the cons of DSLR cameras?
- DSLR cameras tend to come with a higher price tag than mirrorless cameras.
- DSLR cameras take more time to learn as they tend to be more complicated.
- Maintenance on a DSLR is much higher and more expensive than a point and shoot camera.
- DSLR cameras weigh more and are bulky looking. Mirrorless cameras tend to be more ergonomic.
- DSLR cameras are noisy!
When to choose mirrorless vs DSLR
Mirrorless cameras have the same capabilities as DSLR cameras. Though they’re not quite there yet, mirrorless cameras are still a wise and budget-friendly investment at all price levels. When you create a list of pros and cons, you will see what is better for you when it comes to mirrorless vs DSLR cameras. Our best advice is to find the best camera for you and your purpose as a photographer. When you begin to use your camera and feel the camera in your hands, you will know what the best choice is for you is. You will be on the path to becoming a professional photographer.