Mirrorless cameras as a category emerged only 4 years ago, yet the debate of what is better DSLR or Mirrorless in photography circles is almost as epic and all-pervading as Canon vs Nikon.
In this small article, I’ll try to take into account all the points both sides bring up in their argument along with my own thought, so you can understand which of these two camera categories will suit you the most.
Why mirrorless is the new king?
- Portability – due to its design, it by definition can be lighter, more compact and thus more suitable for travel and landscape photography than DSLRs. All mirrorless manufacturers take advantage of this, producing cameras with Full-Frame sensor that are much smaller than APS-C sized DSLRs and Medium Format Mirrorless cameras that are comparable in size with Full-Frame DSLRs.
- What You See Is What You Get – with mirrorless camera everything is simple. You look into a digital viewfinder or on LCD display, and what you see there is pretty much what you will get in the end. It’s very different from DSLRs and older cameras, where looking through a viewfinder, you basically see the same thing as with you own naked eyes. So, you have to rely on light meter and your knowledge and experience of camera to understand what the final image will look like. This process is called Visualizing and it was an integral part of the photography since the very first camera. But with mirrorless, there's no need for this anymore.
- Electronic shutter – just like the camera in your smartphone doesn’t have a physical shutter, cameras with much bigger sensors have learned to work without it as well. This is possible because now they are capable of reading all the data from the sensor so fast that there’s no need for the shutter to cut the exposure time anymore. This gives many benefits such as silent shooting mode and high flash sync speeds, but also sometimes can lead to artifacts if there is a fast moving subject in the scene.
- Value – when it comes to the image quality for the money, mirrorless give DSLR a good run for the money. Take Sony cameras, for instance. You can get A7 that is as good as Canon 5D Mark IV but… twice as cheap.
- Live View autofocus – is great in mirrorless cameras because it is the only autofocus system there is, whereas on DSLRs it has a secondary role, as most of advanced autofocusing capabilities of DSLR come from special chip in front of and beneath the sensor.
- Video capabilities – as inherent from previous points comes the fact that Mirrorless cameras are much better video-wise than DSLRs, because in essence their design is the same to movie cameras, only the sensor is bigger and has higher megapixel count.
- Adoption of new tech – mirrorless camera push and adopt new technologies sooner than DSLRs which tend to be oriented more onto a traditional market.
Why DSLR might still be way to go?
- Better autofocus capabilities in high end cameras, especially for sports – this is due to a specific sensor that handles focusing, whereas on Mirrorless cameras they are integrated in image sensor. And if in entry and mid range cameras Mirrorless have the edge, when it comes to truly professional sports cameras DSLRs can’t be beaten yet.
- Lens ecosystem – DSLRs have been around for a long time, so their lens ecosystem is much more developed. There are simply more options, with several models to choose from for every need and price-point. Mirrorless cameras do not only have enough options but their lenses are often bulky compared to body negating the size-weight advantage
- Mirror protects sensor – simply from mechanical standpoint, the Mirror that is present in front of the sensor in DSLR helps to keep dust and dirt off the sensor, making the process of keeping your camera in good condition easier as mirror doesn't require such special care as the sensor itself.
- Better price for used bodies – when it comes to used cameras, DSLRs due to a saturated market give mirrorless cameras a good run for the money. So, if you’re on a tight budget and need the best camera for the money, looking for a used DSLR is your best option
- Professional oriented features – when it comes to features, DSLRs still lead the way. Be it protocol for remote camera control from PC in application such as Helicon Focus or Bracketing options, Mirrorless cameras from different manufacturers simply lack these useful in certain situation features.
- "Professionalism" – this last point has to do with the perception. No matter how bad stereotypes might be, if they are there there’s very little you can do to change them. So it happened that in the eyes of not tech-savvy client you will look the more professional, the bigger and more monstrous your camera is, thus your chances to appeal to more clients increase.