Mirrorless cameras have now been on the market for a few years, and though initially, they weren't for some, have they now reached a level where you should ditch your DSLR to go mirrorless?
Whether you're looking to upgrade your camera or buy one for the first time, there's never been so much choice when it comes to camera types on the market. Point and shoots have largely been replaced by smartphones (except in the vlogging sphere), and bridge cameras still have their value among specific demographics, but the newest conundrum is whether you should buy a DSLR or go mirrorless?
DSLRs have been around since the advent of digital photography and took over from their analog SLR counterparts in almost every area. Initially, things were slow, with low-resolution stills and poor dynamic range, but since then, the DSLR has become the powerhouse of most camera manufacturers and the line of cameras they tip as their flagships.
But what about mirrorless cameras? Initially, the cameras took time for photographers to adapt to, with electronic viewfinders, issues with certain features, and incompatibility with their own brand or third-party accessories. But increasingly so, mirrorless cameras are seeming like the better option.
Advantages of Buying a DSLR
- There are so many more brands and models of DSLR that you can pick one up at any price point. This means you can swap and change systems inexpensively.
- They've been around much longer, so consistent feedback from professionals and amateurs have helped camera manufacturers evolve the pedigrees of the cameras.
- Optical viewfinders give a more realistic view of the scene.
- Second-hand cameras can be very inexpensive.
- Many more third-party accessories compatible with DSLRs.
Advantages of Buying a Mirrorless
- Often smaller and lighter than a DSLR of equivalent specification.
- In-body image stabilization in some mirrorless cameras means sharper shooting in low light and smoother video footage when shooting handheld.
- Larger mount size means camera manufacturers can be more precise with optics and decrease lens size and weight.
- Electronic viewfinder, if of sufficient quality, can make it easier for photographers to compose in low light or at night.
And the Downside of Choosing Sides?
The main disadvantage of picking a DSLR over mirrorless is that it's bigger, bulkier, and heavier, and that means taking things on long journeys or traveling with DSLRs, especially if you have a high-end model, which will break your back much faster. Fatigue plays a huge role in the kind of images you can create, because if you're not physically on location, then you've missed the shot.
DSLRs are also harder to use at night, when composing through the optical viewfinder is almost completely impossible because you can't see anything. Instead, you can use the rear LCD screen to compose, but this is a major drain on the battery. Of course, extra batteries can be brought along, but you're adding extra weight again.
For all their benefits, mirrorless cameras also have some drawbacks. There are fewer lenses specifically designed for mirrorless cameras, than there are for DSLRs. With mount adapters that allow users to pair the new mirrorless bodies with older lenses originally designed for DSLRs, the devices become bulky and a little ungainly, which defeats the purpose of getting a slim, sleek camera designed to weigh less and take up less room in the camera bag. Also, customers have to factor in the extra cost for the adapter.
Now, my approach to categorizing the two types of camera is by no means scientific or exhaustive. I'm aware of resolution, bit depth, flange distances, and all the other technical specifications there are with comparing two different camera types. And yes, I'm fully aware that the models you choose within each system are as diverse to choose between as switching from DSLR to mirrorless. But I think my approach to choosing between the two systems will be like many other customer's views, based on the main advantages and disadvantages of the two camera types and which best suit their needs on a day-to-day basis.
Which Type Will I Go For?
I've shot DSLRs since the Nikon D90 (the world's first video-shooting DSLR) came out, but have dabbled with all kinds of cameras over the years. I must say, I'm impressed with the latest mirrorless cameras and much prefer the smaller form factor and ease of use in low-light situations thanks to the EVF. Then again, I do miss my traditional optical viewfinder.
On the whole, though, in my opinion, it's mirrorless all the way. The advantages that come with the mirrorless systems far outweigh the disadvantages that I would prefer weren't there, and I've climbed enough snowy mountains and trekked across enough hot plains to know that I want my kit as light as possible. If I can skim just a few hundred grams off the total weight for my camera bag, then I can fit another lens in, pocket a flashgun, or just make it easier on my shoulders when carrying it through the airport and onto the plane when traveling.
I just hope the camera manufacturers can keep up with the extra demands customers will have for the cameras, including extreme connectivity and the ability to share images through to editing software and social media with the speed and ease of a smartphone.