Mirrorless vs DSLR Cameras | Which one do you need?

DSLRs or Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras have a mirror and pentaprism combination to project a scene to the optical viewfinder of the camera. In addition, DSLRs feature a distinct autofocus system for better AF functioning. In contrast, mirrorless cameras do not come with the mirror, and hence these cameras replace the optical viewfinder with an electronic viewfinder. They are new to the world of photography but caught up to the industry pretty fast. Thanks to the technologies that made this leap happen, we have more options to choose from. Let’s compare Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras in detail.

Mirrorless vs DSLR Cameras

Mirrorbox vs No Mirrorbox

As mentioned earlier, DSLR cameras come with a mirror box and a pentaprism to feed the optical viewfinder. The optical viewfinder produces high clarity image feedback of the sensor’s field of view. Mirrorless cameras lack this mirror box and rely on an electronic relay from the sensor. This relay is projected to the electronic viewfinder with very high resolution and high refresh rates to produce a sharp image.

Optical Viewfinder vs Electronic Viewfinder

Optical viewfinders show the field of view of the sensor. When the shutter-release button is pressed, the mirror goes up exposing the sensor to the scene. This is the basic working of a DSLR. The image at the optical viewfinder is optical and is very fluid. You will never feel a lag of any kind since it is optical feedback. However, the optical viewfinder will not work while shooting videos as the mirror will block the view when it is locked up.

However, in the electronic viewfinder, there is an electronic relay from the sensor which could potentially introduce a lag. But modern systems are very efficient and have a fast processing speed. In addition, the EVFs are not properly visible in bright lights. However, as an advantage, EVF supports shooting video with EVF as there is no mirror in the architecture that blocks the viewfinder’s view.

Autofocus | Mirrorless vs DSLR Cameras

Modern cameras come well equipped with fast autofocus or AF features that let you track even the fastest of actions. A DSLR has a dedicated phase-shift AF system that provides a very fast AF ability to the DSLRs. However, even high-end DSLRs can only apply AF feature for up to 60% of the sensor area, mainly in the center. Therefore, DSLRs let you track the subject only when the subject is positioned at the center.

Even though the autofocus system in mirrorless cameras is not as fast as DSLR’s dedicated AF system, mirrorless cameras boast better AF points coverage. A Mirrorless camera AF has a coverage of more than 90% in most models. This is very beneficial if you are working with a fast action scene.

Note that mirrorless cameras are progressing rapidly, so there might not be enough reasons to choose a DSLR in future.

Larger vs Smaller

The mirror box and pentaprism in the DSLR cameras adds to the weight and size of the body. Therefore, a DSLR body is larger and bulkier. But that should not stop you from shooting photos. A solid body gives you a comfort handling ability. DSLRs have a design period of decades and have an excellent grip, feel, and a weather-sealed body.

The lack of a mirror box significantly decreases the body size of the mirrorless cameras. This in effect gives you a very compact, lightweight body that can be carried anywhere. Contrary to that, modern high-end mirrorless cameras also feature a larger body to provide a firm grip and a weather-sealed body.

The Right Balance

The heavier body of a DSLR gives the right balance when using a larger lens. Otherwise, it would be very difficult to balance the weight with one hand. The mirrorless cameras, being lighter, can be difficult to balance when large lenses are mounted. Keep this in mind if you are switching from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera. Be careful while you mount your camera to a tripod, or when you remove it.

Flange Distance | Mirrorless vs DSLR Cameras

The lack of a mirror box in a mirrorless camera decreases the flange distance (distance between lens mounting surface in the camera and the sensor). A decreased flange size and the lack of mirror-flip mechanism allows the lens to be placed nearer to the sensor in a mirrorless camera. This in effect allows the mirrorless camera to produce sharper edge to edge photos than a DSLR.

Battery Life

A larger body means more space for a battery. This was very meaningful back in the days. But now, things are changing. Advancement in battery technology allows manufacturers to produce high-performance battery even with limited size. There are battery packs available if you want more shots from your camera. So, battery life is not an issue while choosing a camera anymore.

Silent Shutter

The architecture of a mirrorless camera without the mirror box lets the camera function extraordinarily silent compared to a noisy DSLR. The upwards movement of a camera generates a sound that may ruin the picture, especially candids. A silent shutter is your best friend at moments when you don’t want your camera to grab the attention of a scene, or when you are shooting while recording audio.

Continuous Shooting (Bursts) Speed

The complex mirror box mechanism limits the maximum burst speed of a DSLR camera. Even most of the high-end DSLRs can only shoot somewhere near 10 fps in continuous bursts. But that’s not the case with the mighty Canon EOS-1D X Mark IV that supports a whopping continuous shooting speed up to 20 fps. Mirrorless cameras generally provide faster continuous burst speeds than DSLR cameras, when compared in a similar price range.

In-Built Image Stabilization |

The lack of a mirror box in mirrorless cameras allows the manufacturers to use that space for in-built image stabilization or the IBIS system. This is a premium feature and is very helpful while shooting photos or videos without a tripod. IBIS is a great advantage to mirrorless cameras over DSLRs.

Conclusion | Mirrorless vs DSLR Cameras

Buying a mirrorless camera seems like a better decision. Mirrorless cameras are progressing extremely fast in the industry and offer a lot better value for money than DSLR cameras.

Here are some examples of amazing mirrorless cameras you may go for:

Mirrorless Camer ModelReason to choose
Canon R5(Best & the only 8K mirrorless camera)
Sony a7S III (Best mirrorless camera for low light video shooting)
Sony a9 II(Best action-photography camera)
Best mirrorless cameras

Adarsh R

A blend of a photographer, a movie lover, and now a writer.