What Is a Mirrorless Camera and How Do They Differ From DSLR

Mirrorless camera Sony

Mirrorless cameras boast of a compact point-and-shoot body and powerful image sensors of DSLR cameras. Their compact nature and ability to produce better-quality images are the main reasons behind their increased popularity among many photographers.

Many photographers are now trading their DSLR in favor of smaller and lighter mirrorless cameras. Another major factor for the shift is because they are quieter, which makes many photographers, especially theater and wedding photographers, prefer them as they can shoot virtually unnoticed.

Defining a Mirrorless Camera

Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, simply referred to as mirrorless cameras, are cameras that do not require a reflex mirror, which is normally a key component of the DSLR cameras.

The reflex mirror in a DSLR reflects light up the optical viewfinder. Mirrorless cameras do not feature an optical viewfinder. Instead, the imaging sensor in a mirrorless camera is exposed to light which offers you a digital preview of your photos either on an electronic viewfinder (EVF) or rear LCD screen.

Mirrorless came after DSLRs and that’s the reason they are called mirrorless’ instead of the DSLRs being termed as mirrored.’

To help you understand more about mirrorless cameras, let's see how they compare to DSLR.

The Difference between Mirrorless Cameras and DSLRs

In terms of image quality, mirrorless cameras compete with DSLRs. Most of them come equipped with an APS-C sensor, similar to that of consumer-level DSLRs.

Since their debut in 2004 when Epson R-D1 was launched, the mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras have been greatly improved.

And although it is not statistically proven, many photographers believe that mirrorless cameras will eventually take over from DSLRs and make the latter obsolete. However, until that happens, it is important to understand how the two compare.

DSLR Cameras

These cameras have a mirror in front of their sensors that flip up once you press the shutter button. The mirror gives you a view of your subject through the lens by reflecting it into the optical viewfinder. The mirrored image is reflected through a prism housed in the camera body to ensure that you get an appropriate side-up view of your subject.

This is why DSLR cameras tend to be bigger than their mirrorless counterparts since they have to be spacious to accommodate both the mirror and prism.

Besides, their spacious nature adds to the focal distance, when means more lens and other specialized components have to be added to correct the added space between the sensor and the lens. All these additions and corrections add to the cost, which makes them costlier than mirrorless cameras.

Mirrorless Cameras

Canva - Close-Up Photo of Person Holding Black Camera

As we mentioned earlier, these cameras do not feature a flip-up mirror that serves as the optical viewfinder in DSLRs. This means they have nothing linking up the lens and the sensor. Instead, some have an electronic viewfinder while others do not.

Photographers looking through the EVF or LCD to capture images right. The shortened distance between the lens and the sensor means that they cost less to manufacture since there are additions and corrections required.

Mirrorless cameras often fall under two categories;

Rangefinder-inspired aesthetic - These have no electronic viewfinder

Miniature DSLR look-alikes. These include electronic viewfinder (EVF).

Pros and Cons of Mirrorless Cameras

Their small size makes them less intimidating/intrusive for subjects

They are smaller and lighter than DSLRs

You can use mirrorless cameras, especially those with electronic viewfinders, to review photos in a bright environment

They are relatively cheaper as compared to DSLR cameras of any quality

Cons of Mirrorless Cameras

They may not be ideal for capturing moving subjects because of slower autofocus times

Their newness nature makes new lens choices limited

Shorter battery life due to the electronic viewfinder or LCD

Bottom Line

Mirrorless cameras are not intrinsically better or worse than DSLR cameras, although they have their advantages in several areas such as video and their disadvantages such as battery life and slow autofocus.

Therefore, when it comes to deciding whether to buy a mirrorless or DSLR camera, you have to consider your needs. Mirrorless cameras, especially those with more compact designs, tend to work better for casual photographers, who may want a camera they can easily take with them, and who may not be bothered by their shorter battery life.

For advanced photographers, this may be up for debate, but you should consider your needs before making a decision. Luckily, there are different models with varying features to choose from.

Posted in: Camera basics