DSLR vs Mirrorless Camera: Which One Is Better?

DSLR vs Mirrorless camera? These two options render a difficult choice but both of them have an interesting common feature; the lens is swappable. Yes, you can put a different lens with a different angle any time you want, depending upon the kind of image you are going for. For a scenic capture, you can put on a wide-angle lens or a telephoto lens if you want to capture an image up close. This feature makes them stand out from the rest of the cameras out there.

Before making a decision about which of the two cameras you are going to buy, you need to consider the differences between the two cameras. We have listed a few differences between the two to make the ‘DSLR vs Mirrorless camera’ debate easier for you.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera as a webcam

Either of these cameras can be used as a webcam. All you need to do is connect the camera with your PC using a USB cable, and use software like SparkoCam to run video chat apps using the attached camera. Big electronics brands including Canon, Panasonic, Fujifilm and Olympus have released software that can link a DSLR or a Mirrorless camera with your computer and set you up for smooth video chats.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Basics

The basic working principles of both the cameras are illustrated below:

DSLR

DSLRs have the same design as the old 35mm film movie cameras. The light coming in from the lens is reflected through the mirror in the camera body. It reaches the prism, and goes into the viewfinder for you to preview the shot. When you are ready to capture, you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up and the shutter opens, which allows the light to hit the image sensor, capturing the image.

Recommendation: Our recommended DSLR for beginners is a 400$ Nikon D3500.

dslr vs mirrorless
Source: nikonusa

Mirrorless

In the mirrorless camera, as the name implies, are no mirrors to reflect the light. The light just comes in through the lens and goes straight to the image sensor. It captures the preview of the image which is then displayed on the rear screen. A smartphone camera works the same way. There is a second screen offered in some models of mirrorless cameras that you can hold up to your eye for a better view when there is too much sunlight.

Recommendation: Our recommended mirrorless camera is a 700$ Sony a6100.

Source: Sony

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Weight and size comparison

DSLR and mirrorless cameras are quite different with respect to the measure of their size and weight.

DSLR

The body of a DSLR camera is comparatively larger than that of a mirrorless camera. Before installing the lens, a Nikon D3500 body is 3 inches deep. It is understandable, considering the mirror and the optical viewfinder mechanism in it. As for the weight, a Nikon D3500 weighs around 1.5 pounds, once the lens has been installed.

Mirrorless

Mirrorless cameras are more compact and due to the absence of the mirror, weigh less than the DSLR cameras. Their construction is simpler and sleeker. With the lens installed, a SONY a6100 weighs about 1.3 pounds only. You can easily fit a mirrorless camera in your pocket and carry it around.

Conclusion: In the given category, the mirrorless camera wins.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Auto-focus efficiency

Here, the two competitors are compared on account of their auto-focus speed.

DSLR

DSLRs come with a technology called phase detection which enables them to quickly measure the convergence of the two beams of light. The Nikon D3500 has 11 large phase detection sensors in its auto-focus sensor and uses the entire image sensor for contrast detection. The newer versions of Canon DSLRs put the phase detection sensors right on the main image chip along with the contrast detection sensors, allowing them to function like a mirrorless camera with a live on-screen preview and fast auto-focus.

Mirrorless

Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, are confined to a different technology called contrast detection which uses the image sensor to detect the highest contrast and it later coincides with focus. Contrast detection is slower than phase detection, especially, in low light. Now nearly all mirrorless cameras come with both, contrast and phase detection. For instance, a SONY a6100 has around 425 contrast detection points on its image sensor and similarly, 425 phase detection points.

Conclusion: After carefully evaluating the auto-focus specs of both DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, the decision would be a DRAW.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Image preview

The image previewing quality of both mirrorless and DSLR cameras are contrasted below:

DSLR

A DSLR camera has an optical viewfinder (OVF) which goes through the lens and shows the image on the preview. Due to this feature, a DSLR reflects the light directly to the eye and you are more reliant on the camera’s metering and measuring. A DSLR works good in both good and bad light due to its optical image viewfinder.

Mirrorless

A mirrorless camera usually has a more advanced technology called, an electronic viewfinder (EMV). This allows you to view the image through a small, high resolution screen. However, in less favourable conditions like low light and dim backgrounds, the camera will slow down and the image will turn out to be grainy and dull.

Conclusion: If you are standing in good light, both the competitors will perform well but if the light is dim and dull, a DSLR’s game is stronger. Therefore, for this category, DSLR wins.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Image stabilization

Image stabilization is a sensitive topic in the camera world. As your hands shake, the image becomes  blurry. However, image stabilization solves this issue. The sensors used in this technology are shake sensitive. Both the competitors have installed this feature. Let’s decide which one’s better.

DSLR

DSLRs come with image stabilization with the lens-shift method. This method enables them to counteract shake along two axis, either vertical or horizontal. Yes, the DSLRs are limited to that.

Mirrorless

Some mirrorless cameras also have the same lens-shift method as DSLRs. They have a sensor along the axis which provides better stability and synchronicity. We have found that the differences between these approaches are minimal. The main advantage of sensor stabilization is that it works with all lenses, even the older and cheaper lenses.

Some high end mirrorless cameras like SONY a6500, SONY a6600 and Olympus OM-D EM-5 MARK 3 offer in-body 5-axis image stabilization. This feature has not yet been introduced in DSLRs. This 5-axis image stabilization is a superior technology and extremely suitable for image or video capturing from a moving position i.e. from a car, a boat or a helicopter.

Conclusion: Mirrorless is clearly the winner in this category but the victory only holds for the more expensive versions. For the low cost ones, both mirrorless and DSLRs are the same.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Image quality

For this category, the competition doesn’t go too far. Both the cameras can take high quality pictures with somewhat similar resolution and noise. The mirrorless cameras originally came with smaller image sensors and would capture less light, resulting in lower quality. Now, mirrorless camera manufacturers have catered for it and produced more sensitive chips for better noise reduction with smaller sensors.

Some mirrorless camera makers like SONY and Canon now install larger image sensors in the cameras. They make them with the same APS-C size as most of DSLRs. Full frame mirrorless cameras have the same 35mm size sensor as found in high-end DSLR cameras.

Conclusion: Both the cameras take great photos when they have equivalent image sensors and processors.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Video Quality

The video quality of a camera depends upon its auto-focus quality and that being the key differentiator, let’s find out which one has the edge.

Mirrorless

Mirrorless cameras are more likely to have an on-chip phase detection focus which gives them an advantage while making a video.

DSLR

DSLRs have less accurate contrast detection and cannot use phase detection while recording the video, which consequently leads to a blurry video. This happens due to camera’s search for better light and right focus. Canon counted for this shortcoming and started working on adding an on-sensor phase detection and introduced it in their 80D and EOS Rebel T7i.

Mirrorless camera manufacturers are now making their move towards ultra HD and 4k. SONY has already put 4k in its base mirrorless camera, a6100 and Canon, in its Rebel T8i.

Conclusion: Mirrorless cameras win this category by virtue of their better focus in most of the models and hence provide a better product for the filmmakers.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Shooting speed

Both of them have very fast rate of shooting. Mirrorless cameras, however, have an edge in this spectrum due to them being mirrorless. The lack of mirror takes less time to process the incoming images and an image after image can be taken without any pause. DSLRs, on the other hand, are not mirrorless and hence, take a bit more time than their counterpart.

Conclusion: Mirrorless cameras win this category as well due their simpler capturing mechanism.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Battery life

Battery life is a good deciding factor between cameras. Let’s find out which one does better in this round.

DSLR

DSLRs have a longer battery life due to their ability to capture images without a live preview screen and an electronic view finder, both of which consume a lot of power.

Mirrorless

Mirrorless cameras’ battery life is shorter than that of DSLRs due to the screen and EMV. Newer versions are improving their battery life. For instance, the new SONY a6100 can go up till 420 shots per charge, when the screen is running.

Conclusion: DSLRs are the clear victor of this category.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Lenses and accessories

Let’s find out which one of the two has more to offer.

DSLR

DSLRs have a wide range of lenses and other accessories. You can get these accessories in different quality, varying form amateur and affordable to more professional and expensive.

Major camera manufacturers like Canon and Nikon have a huge variety of lenses available for their DSLRs. Third party lens makers like Sigma and Tamron have also been making lenses for Canon and Nikon’s DSLRs for a long time.

Mirrorless

Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, have a limited number of accessories and lenses available in the market. Canon only has 8 M-Series lenses available for their mirrorless cameras and Nikon has just 13 lenses for their new Z-Series of mirrorless cameras. However, SONY has 50 E-mount lenses for their mirrorless models. Panasonic and Olympus, which share the Micro Four Thirds sensor format, each make about 40 lenses that can be used on cameras from either maker.

Conclusion: DSLR wins this category for having a much wider range of lenses available in the market.

DSLR vs mirrorless camera: Durability

Durability is another very important factor that drives a decision.

DSLR

Canon EOS 90D has an aluminium alloy body so it can withstand the bumps quite well. Nikon gives a weather proofing for their high-end DSLRs like D780 that costs around 2300$ for body only.

Mirrorless

High-end mirrorless cameras such as SONY a6600 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark 3 come with a full weather sealing and will keep out the rust and dust. Older Sony versions like a6100 come in a magnesium alloy body.

Conclusion: Both types come in models that are shock and dust resistant so the result would be a DRAW.

Conclusion

Mirrorless cameras are lighter, compact and better for the people who want better video quality. The drawback, however, is that mirrorless cameras do not have the option of too many alternate accessories and lenses. DSLRs, on the other hand, come with a wide range of lenses and accessories. DSLRs are also a better choice if you are looking for improved battery life and optical viewfinders.

If you are a beginner, a mirrorless camera would be suggested, given their compact size and easy controls. The touch screen feature of mirrorless cameras has an upper hand over DSLRs. DSLRs are still desired by a lot of people due to their good grip and designs and some shooters still like the ability to look straight through the lens. However, like a smart customer, you should always check the two cameras first and then decide which one matches your criteria better.

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