Since 2009 when the first Mirrorless (also known as CSC’s or Compact System) Cameras were introduced to consumers by Olympus with the Pen EP1, they have become a budding opponent for the very popular DSLR, which stands for digital single-lens reflex.
Although the DSLR Camera may be the top choice for most professional photographers, many do however believe that the Mirrorless Camera is the future of photography.
So what is a Mirrorless Camera?
To be able to understand what a Mirrorless camera is and how it works, you must first grasp the way the majority of DSLR cameras are built. Practically all of the well-known brands such as Nikon, Sony, Canon and Pentax are categorised as interchangeable-lens cameras and all of them share a similar industrial design – Light enters through the lens and then bounces off a mirror, through a special prism, to end up at the viewfinder. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up, which then allows the light to hit the actual image sensor on the camera and hey presto, your photograph is captured.
So now with great advancements in modern technology, this flip-up mirror method is no longer required to take a photo. An entirely new class of cameras are beginning to make photographers, both novice and professional stand up and take notice.
Unlike their well-known counter parts, these new cameras have no flip-up mirror, hence the term ‘Mirrorless’. This is the most obvious difference between the DSLR and the Mirrorless Camera, due to the lack of a mirror, there isn’t a viewfinder through which you are able to preview the image that you want to capture. However, this does count in the favour of the Mirrorless option, because of its more simple and streamlined design, it allows for a significantly smaller and more portable device.
To make much better sense of all the information given about what a Mirrorless Camera actually is and how it compares to a ‘traditional’ DSLR Camera – let me put it to you this way… You undoubtedly already own a mirrorless camera. Can you guess what it is? All smartphones have mirrorless cameras, as are most point-and-shoot camera models. Instead of having to look through a tiny viewfinder which you have to hold your eye up to, you can see an exact preview of the image right on your phone screen or on the back of the camera itself.
Let’s compare size & weight
When purchasing a new camera, size and weight should be one of the most important properties. Take into consideration that in most cases you are going to be using the camera in circumstances where you are likely to move around, so the lighter and more portable the camera is, the better.
One of the major selling points of the mirrorless cameras, especially when compared to a DSLR, is the compactness and the considerably lighter weight. However, although the actual body of a mirrorless camera may be lighter, the lenses weigh about the same as the lenses of a DSLR. Taking that into consideration, should you prefer to use some of the larger lenses, the bigger and heavier DSLR would be a better-suited option for you so that you don’t have to struggle with balancing your lightweight camera with a heavy lens.
Using the LCD screen to preview and view your captured images, paired with a smaller camera body the mirrorless camera does have a disadvantage in this area. However, all the DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras come with removable batteries, you might have to carry a spare with you at all times.
A look through the Lens
Taking into consideration that DSLR’s have been on the market for the longest time, it’s a given that they have a wider variety of lenses available for you to choose from. So, if you are somewhat of a lens junkie, a DSLR is the better option for you. But don’t just simply dismiss the option of a mirrorless camera, as this variety of cameras continue to grow in popularity, their lens options are slowly but surely catching up to their rival.
DSLR: Canon and Nikon has an enormous range of lenses for every job you can dream up, even Sony and Pentax are catching up.
Mirrorless: Olympus, Panasonic and Fuji are the leaders in this category. However, Sony is catching up.
Based on the fact that both the DSLRs and the Mirrorless cameras contain equivalent sensors and image processors, makes them equally capable of taking fantastic quality pictures. Sensor size, after all, continues to be the most important factor which dictates image quality. Other qualities such as autofocus, low-light shooting and camera resolution should always be factored into how good the final image will be, neither camera has the upper hand over the other in this department.
It is in this feature that the mirrorless camera gets an edge on the DSLRs. Even though DSLR’s have a wider range of options when it comes to lenses, it is only the higher-end DSLR’s that can yield 4K or Ultra HD quality videos. Because the DSLRs can’t phase detection with the mirror up while recording video, they tend to use the slower, less accurate, contract-detection focus method. This then leads to the oh-so familiar blur look in the middle of a video, when the camera starts hunting for the correct focus.
Which then is the better option?
After numerous comparisons and many opinions, each one of these cameras has shown their strengths and weaknesses. The DSLR does offer a comprehensive selection of interchangeable lenses and battery life. On the other hand, mirrorless cameras are lighter, more portable and offer better video quality. Both of the current DSLRs and mirrorless cameras show us, just how far digital camera technology has improved, from stunning performance to the ability to produce never-before-seen image quality. DSLRs may hold the favour of many today, but then again, with the rapid pace of which photographic technology is improving, who knows what future photographers may prefer.