DSLR and mirrorless camera are compared more often, each having their own advantages and some weaknesses. These weaknesses are not really a disadvantage though. Understanding their features is a key on maximizing the goodness they can offer. This article aims to dissect the features of a DSLR and a mirrorless camera in order to find which camera is better for a certain condition.
Before we discuss their features, let me first give some introduction about DSLR and mirrorless camera.
A DSLR or Digital Single Lens Reflex camera uses a mirror to reflect light to the viewfinder. This is how we see what’s in front of the camera. This mirror then flips up when we press the shutter exposing the image to the camera sensor. This mirror is the one responsible for the bulkiness of this camera. It has the same design for the most part to a film camera. SLR is actually a modification to the Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) camera. Single lens has just one lens as the name suggests. A TLR has two lenses, one for the sensor and one for the viewfinder.
Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, do not use a mirror. The light enters the through the lens and right towards the sensor. Because it does not use a mirror, it can save a large amount of space thus making it smaller and lighter.
Here are some factors that could help us which camera is better.
Size and Weight
DSLR and mirrorless camera greatly differ when it comes to size and weight. This was due to the mirror mechanism that is present in a DSLR and not in a mirrorless. DSLR is bigger and heavier as compared with the mirrorless camera. Bigger camera doesn’t mean a better camera. It is true. However, smaller camera doesn’t mean it is better as well. It depends on the preference of the user. Lighter and smaller camera might be better for many but not to all. For me, personally, I use the extra weight of the DSLR as a stabilizer when I press the shutter. It is more stable (for me) as the force from pressing the shutter is countered by the weight. I may sound unusual but it works for me all the time. If you are a travel photographer, well, the portability of a mirrorless camera fits you well.
Another major difference of these two is the viewfinder. Most mirrorless camera does not have a viewfinder. This means we have to rely on the LCD display. However, there are more and more brands of mirrorless camera that have an electronic viewfinder. Yes, it is an electronic viewfinder compared to an optical viewfinder for DSLR. Electronic viewfinder has advantages because it shows more information as the camera system analyse the composition. But some still prefer to see the real thing rather than seeing a simulated image. According to some, electronic viewfinder might cause some pixilation, etc.
In DSLR, part of the light which hits the mirror reaches the autofocus mechanism. In a mirrorless camera, light hits the sensor directly and the autofocus at the same time. This makes autofocus in a mirrorless camera faster than a DSLR. This might not be true couple of years back when the mirrorless technology was introduced. The flipping up of the mirror added fraction of time when shooting fast moving objects in a continuous mode. If you’re into sports photography, then mirrorless camera is great for you.
The bigger the sensor, the better. This is absolutely true. A DSLR surely has a bigger sensor compared to a mirrorless camera. However, some mirrorless camera manufacturer created new mirrorless camera models with a big sensor to rival a DSLR.
DSLR definitely has an edge in this category. Some might say that a smaller body (which is in the case of a mirrorless) has longer battery life. For me, the full electronic functions of a mirrorless (such as autofocus) consume lots of battery life. On the other hand, most mirrorless camera can use cellphone chargers (and/or power banks) to charge its battery, making it more portable.
Value for money
This is the biggest factor that could affect our choices between the two. It is a consensus the photographers and manufacturers that DSLR has more value for money. This is because an entry level DSLR camera offers complete feature for a lower price spectrum. Upgrading from an entry level to a high end DSLR can be unnecessary, although a full frame / high-end DSLR is really better. What I mean is you have the same functions and you can do the same thing with an entry level but of course the high-end is much better. The point is that the entry level DSLR has the same optical viewfinder (OPV) with that of the OPV of a professional. While in the mirrorless, the entry level does not have this function. Electronic viewfinder is only present in the high-end models.
DSLR and mirrorless cameras are always compared with each other to be able to choose which of the two is better. For this case, I believe that both have the unique greatness in each of them. The thing that we have to identify is which of the two is the most appropriate for us. Being a photographer is really complicated but very fulfilling once you identified which techniques and equipment suits you well. Tools and equipment are just part of becoming a photographer but it really is the photographer (with his skills gained thru research and experiences) who plays a great role in producing quality images. These images could show life and the inner dimensions which the world needed to see.