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For a very long time, DSLR camera systems have been dominating the market and used mainly for professional shooting. However, even as they were introducing new features and technologies, they were becoming heavier and bulkier.

On the contrary, smartphones and other electronic devices started shrinking in the past decade. For instance, the newest iPhone 13 has three powerful cameras, new AI technologies, and it captures stunning photos in such a tiny body!

Of course, you can’t compare an iPhone’s image quality with that of a professional camera because of the size of the sensor. Yet smartphones have become powerful tools for content creators, especially when using photos and videos for Social Media purposes.

With this in mind, a mirrorless camera combines the newest technologies of a smartphone and the image quality of a DSLR into a smaller and lighter body. Equipped with new image sensors, electronic viewfinders, blazing fast autofocus, and other features, the mirrorless cameras are the future of photography.

Camera sitting on a computer next to three lenses.

Main Differences Between Mirrorless and DSLR Cameras

Size and Weight

Most DSLR cameras are significantly bigger and heavier than mirrorless, often up to twice the size. Many photographers need to work long hours at weddings, events, and other venues. Because of this, it’s not only the weight of a camera you need to think about,  but you also need to think about how long you will be holding it. 

Holding a camera for a long time makes it significantly heavier. If you ask a photographer what it is like to hold a DSLR with a 70-200mm lens all day long, they’d tell you that their arm would hurt for days.

A mirrorless camera is often smaller, lighter, and more compact than a DSLR, depending on the camera and sensor type. For example,lately many photographers prefer to shoot with APS-C (1.5x crop) cameras rather than Full Frame because the size and weight are significantly smaller and lighter.

Therefore, these cameras are ideal for street photographers, journalism, travel, and anyone who likes the convenience and mobility a smaller and lighter camera provides. For those who need extra-fine results, a full frame mirrorless camera will be the perfect tool for them.

Electronic ViewFinder

The traditional method of framing a photograph is to use an optical viewfinder. Optical viewfinders, or OVFs, are standard on most DSLRs. 

An EVF, or electronic viewfinder, is available on mirrorless cameras. In contrast to an OVF, the EVF is a small digital screen that looks like an OVF but shows a digital preview of the picture.

The main benefit of using an EVF (or live view) is seeing how the photograph will appear before you capture it. This means you can fine-tune your settings without having to "chimp" or glance at an image on your screen to change the exposure.

Electronic viewfinders were a considerable drawback when mirrorless cameras initially came out on the market. However, as technology advances, modern EVFs may now match or even surpass the quality of optical viewfinders.

Autofocus Speed

The mirror in most DSLR cameras reflects light toward the optical viewfinder and a separate focusing sensor. However, in a mirrorless system, the image sensor takes up this function (because there’s no mirror in front of the sensor).

In today's mirrorless cameras, the image sensor incorporates a hybrid focusing system with more than 700 phase and contrast-detection points. This means you can track any subject from distance within 90% of the frame.

Most autofocusing systems in mirrorless cameras feature Eye control AF, subject tracking, real-time tracking, and can focus on any subject in less than 0.03 seconds. This technology helps professionals to focus instantly and not miss a single shot. On DSLR cameras, Eye AF or subject-tracking is not available.

This feature is also available in crop sensor cameras, which makes it even more convenient for those who prefer using a lighter camera system and enjoy the same autofocus features and performance.

Video Performance

Many professionals want to get their hands into the newest mirrorless camera systems because of their ability to take exceptional photos and record ultra-high definition videos with just one piece of equipment. This lowers the cost of production, especially for those who work freelance. 

The newest mirrorless cameras can record up to 8K UHD video or 4K UHD at 120p for super slow motion with superb image quality. This allows photographers to capture video at any given moment in a wedding or other event. It is also easier to record video using the same camera body.

Some of the latest video features on a mirrorless camera are:

  • 8K UHD up to 30p
  • 4K UHD up to 120p
  • H.265/XAVC 4:2:2 10-Bit
  • Up to RAW 16-Bit
  • AF with Subject Tracking
  • AF with EyeAF for human/animal
  • Up to 600 MB/s Bitrate
  • Unlimited Recording
  • Built In Microphone/External Microphone
  • In body Image Stabilization

When it comes to getting a high resolution in your videos, you need to have a camera that has a large image sensor. Not only this will give you that high resolution you need, but you’ll also see your images in much more detail because your pictures and videos are going to be crisp and clear.

Bigger is better! When it comes to sensors, many videographers might prefer to shoot videos with DSLR cameras. However, the scope of options and customization that a professional camcorder offers far outweigh the benefits of a large DSLR sensor. 

Image Quality

There isn't much of a difference between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras when it comes to picture quality. Both camera systems produce outstanding quality images, although the picture quality is highly dependent on the sensor type and camera model.

Although there is a difference between a DSLR and a Mirrorless camera, it’s the Autofocusing system that makes the difference. So, even if you get amazing image quality from both systems, a Mirrorless camera can take sharper images because of the ability to focus and lock faster on a moving subject.

Mirrorless cameras can detect a human eye or even a smaller bird eye in milliseconds. This gives you the edge in shooting at any given moment and not missing a single shot while shooting wildlife or action/sports photography.

DSLRs do offer more extraordinary battery life since they don't need to give a continual digital display on an electronic viewfinder or LCD Screen.

Lenses

DSLR cameras have been on the market for a long time. For this reason, they offer a wide variety of lenses. In addition, they also offer improved technologies in newer versions with better Autofocus, less distortion or color fringing, etc.

In Mirrorless cameras, they had to design new lenses with bigger mounts to integrate better in-body image stabilization. The newest cameras offer 5-axis in-body image stabilization which makes it easier to shoot with a low shutter speed using a manual focus lens.

The newer lenses are designed specifically for Mirrorless cameras and offer better AF performance and sharpness. For example, the newest Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Second Generation uses a high-speed and precision VXD linear motor focus mechanism which is twice as fast as the first generation.

Top Reasons to Consider Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras benefit from being lighter, smaller, faster, and better for video. Their top advantages are in the Autofocus, low-light performance, and recording superior video quality footage.

Top Reasons to Consider DSLR Cameras

For those who don’t mind the size and already own older lenses or can find them cheaper in the used market, DSLR cameras will be a great choice for them. 

Camera setup in photographer studio.

Wrapping Up

There are many points to consider when it comes to choosing between a mirrorless and a DSLR camera. Mirrorless cameras are designed for performance, great image quality, and hybrid shooting. On the other hand, DSLR cameras are still capable of creating amazing images, they have better battery life, and are compatible with older lenses. 

However, If you want to switch from a DSLR camera to a mirrorless, and you are only holding back because you already invested in DSLR lenses, many of your DSLR lenses may still work if you have an adapter.

If you are looking for some in-depth reviews of individual cameras, We’ve rounded up some great reviews and buying guides on DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras:

In the end, it comes down to your personal preferences and what features you need for your type of shooting. If you use the information in this post and the additional references and buying guides for research, you will end up getting a camera that will help you accomplish all of your photography goals.

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