Mirrorless vs DSLR Cameras

Why Mirrorless Camera

Are you thinking about changing over to a mirrorless camera? Do you know what the main differences are between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera? In this informative video, pro photographers Juan Pons and David Swindler discuss the main advantages of mirrorless, highlight many of the myths, and identify some of the challenges. With this wealth of information, you’ll be able to make an educated decision on whether mirrorless is the right choice for you.

One of the first advantages people think of when comparing mirrorless to a dslr is that mirrorless systems are significantly lighter and smaller. As you can see in the diagram below, when the mirror and pentaprism are removed, the flange back distance is shortened. This allows a mirrorless body to be smaller compared to a dslr. However, the weight savings in real life tend to be fairly minimal since both cameras have to house the same size sensor. If you really want to save weight and size, you would need to get a smaller sensor, like a crop sensor or micro 4/3’s. With lenses, they too can be smaller and lighter for mirrorless cameras. However, most of the lenses being designed for these cameras are being built for very high resolution sensors. Therefore, being small and light is secondary to their optical performance. We find that on average, mirrorless dedicated lenses are on par with their dslr counterparts in terms of size and weight.

Mirrorless vs DSLR Camera

In the video, we discuss the “What You See Is What You Get” aspect of mirrorless cameras. In other words, you see exactly what the sensor is seeing when you look through that viewfinder. You can even see the histogram in real time! And on top of that, you can review your images in bright light by looking through the viewfinder.

Without the mirror in the way, there is no interruption to how the auto-focus works. Indeed, we find numerous AF advantages in mirrorless cameras, especially when shooting in fast burst mode. The image below is a great example. I shot over 60 frames as this rider rode towards me over approx 6 sec. All the while I was following him with my AF and zooming out to ensure he filled the frame. On my dslr, I would have been happy if half of the shots were in focus. But on my mirrorless camera, I was shocked to find that pretty much all of them were tack sharp!

Mongolia Eagle Hunter Horse Riding

Another nice thing about mirrorless is that it’s easier to see when your sensor has gunk on it. In the example below, I was setting up for a sunrise shoot. While I was waiting for the light, I noticed I had a lot of sensor spots when viewing the image through the viewfinder (see red circles). I quickly took off the lens and blew the sensor with air from a rocket blaster. Since there is no back flange recess on a mirrorless camera, accessing the sensor to clean it off is very easy. I then quickly put the lens back on and captured the good light without having a ton of sensor spots.

St Helens Sensor Spots
St Helens without sensor spots

In the video we talk about a whole host of other advantages and challenges associated with mirrorless cameras such as:

  • Ability to adapt any dslr lens to mirrorless
  • Battery Life
  • Easier to manually focus both during the day and in low-light
  • Less vibration without the mirror slap
  • Weather sealing and impact resistance
  • Ergonomic concerns
  • Newer designs and faster innovation
  • Digital focus scale pros and cons
  • And much more!

In conclusion, we feel that mirrorless is the wave of the future. Camera companies are going to be allocating the bulk of their R&D dollars towards mirrorless systems so you can expect much faster innovation. If you are still shooting with a dslr, it would make sense to consider getting a mirrorless camera at some point down the road. With lens adapters, you can still use your dslr lenses on the new camera, making the transition much less painful. Make sure you subscribe to the Images In Focus YouTube Channel and let us know what you think about the video!

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