I’ve decided that I’m going to add my flotsam to the mirrorless vs dslr camera web sewage debate. As you already know my bias is as apparent as this website’s domain name. I gave up the Canon DSLR camera line for the Panasonic Lumix micro four third system and have zero regrets.
Things are changing rapidly and the mirrorless camera systems are gaining ground on the DSLR establishment. I can’t open up You Tube photography channels without some pro talking about selling all their old Nikon/Canon gear for a Sony mirrorless camera. Some are even downsizing into the micro 4/3 world, particularly if low light capabilities aren’t a thing in their photography work flow.
I would argue that if you are a beginner and are looking to upgrade your camera phone, point and shoot or entry-level DSLR then you should consider a mirrorless camera.
The Obvious Difference in a Mirrorless vs DSLR Camera
DSLR cameras have a mirror and mirrorless cameras…don’t. There is your difference. Technologically a DSLR camera bounces light around a bunch of prism and mirrors. You know this when you click the shutter and you hear the thing flap up and down. The light enters the camera, get reflected through the mirror system until it reaches the camera system.
Mirrorless systems simply let the light pass through on to the sensor. There is no complicated reflection of light. No camera shake from a mirror moving. No noise. For my needs this is groovy because it allows for a simpler, lighter and less bulky mirrorless vs dslr camera body.
Weight and Size Advantages and Disadvantages
No mirrors frees up a lot of space in a camera which reduces the weight of the camera body. Mirrorless cameras are lot less bulky and weight quite a bit less than the DSLRs. I personally like the feel and grip of a DSLR-like camera. It’s what I’m used to. I do not care for the rectangle rangefinder bodies like those offered by Olympus and Sony. It’s why I really like my Panasonic G7 and G9. It has the feel of a DSLR and the weight of a mirrorless.
Frankly though the big weight savings is not so much in the camera body but it is with the lenses. I can carry a 24-70mm 2.8 equivalence on my camera and shove the 70-200mm 2.8 in my cargo pants. Those two lenses together probably weigh as much as the Canon 24-70mm 2.8L flagship lens. Carry two DSLR lenses around and you are toting a backpack.
Frankly I have no idea if the weight savings on Sony lenses versus Canon/Nikon DSLR lenses are that much. But I do know that the weight savings with a micro four third camera lens is pretty awesome.
Professional photographers typically ignored mirrorless cameras until recently. Now a day doesn’t go by when some Canon/Nikon pro announces to the blogosphere that they are swapping over to Sony. Some pros are even moving over to the weight and size convenience of the micro four thirds. Simply, the image quality of mirrorless vs DSLR is just not that great anymore.
Sony is making full-frame mirrorless cameras that meet or exceed the capabilities of their DSLR competition. Panasonic and Olympus are making micro four thirds mirrorless cameras with fabulous image quality in all but the worst low light locations.
What You See is What You Get
I love the mirrorless camera’s electronic viewfinder. Some DSLR pros and enthusiasts hate it. The EVF has a better IQ than the basic optical view finder. The image you see in the view finder is pretty much what you are photographing. If you need to adjust white balance, saturation or contrast you will see it in live preview on the EVF or LCD. My favorite feature of the EVF is focus peaking. I doubt I could do video now without it.
The EVF on today’s mirrorless camera have made huge advancements. Old school photographers may still love the feel of the OVF but the trend is clearly in the direction of EVF.
Mirrorless vs DSLR camera continuous shooting is generally no contest. The issue with DSLR cameras is that the mirror has to flip and down even in burst mode. It may be fast but it can never compete with a comparable mirrorless camera.
Yes there are DSLRs that do quite well, but, for instance my Panasonic G9 can nail 60 fps. The Canon 7D Mark II blazes at 10fps.
Camera Battery Life
In the mirrorless vs DSLR camera comparison battery life is one area that the DSLR shines. The EVF sucks the camera dry like a vampire at happy hour. Mirrorless cameras are getting better but every time you want to view the scene before taking the photo the camera has to be turned on. The DSLR viewfinder can be used even when it’s turned off.
Basically you figure that a mirrorless camera battery life is about half that of the DSLR. I found that to be mostly true when comparing by Canon t4i to the Lumix G7 or G9. I just don’t find it that big of a problem to carry a couple extra batteries in my pocket. They aren’t that big.
The mirrorless vs DSLR camera debate is ongoing however, the momentum is with mirrorless. Canon and Nikon are rushing to get their high-end mirrorless offerings to the market. Sony is destroying the market. Panasonic and Olympus support an enthusiastic micro four thirds community.
I’m not really up on all the technological mumbo-jumbo. I simply know what I like, and for me it’s mirrorless when you consider the 6 points above. If you want a more comprehensive comparison between a mirrorless vs DSLR camera then I suspect this article from Photography Life will do you just fine.
For me the weight, size, and technology are all reasons why I am very happy with my micro four thirds mirrorless camera.