What's the Best Alternative Camera to a Big DSLR? - The Pros & Cons

What’s the Alternative to a Heavy DSLR for Capturing Amazing Photography?

What is a “Carry Around” Camera Anyways?

Many photographers will face this same issue. Recently, a friend of mine told me that he wanted to invest in something small but powerful which would act as a carry-around camera for him.
He is an enthusiast photographer and already owns a DSLR with a couple of lenses.

Image by Kaique Rocha

There's No “One Size Fits All” Camera System

So I did try to help him out and find an option that provided a similar result in a smaller package. Of course, if you want a small camera which packs a punch as a DSLR you’ll probably need to go for a mirrorless system.

Photo by Gunman47

So, we went through the wide variety of options and came to the same conclusion.
If he wanted a very good mirrorless system, i.e. that he could easily carry around with a decent lens or two, he would have to pay close to the same price as a DSLR, but facing a few sacrifices like the focusing system, lens choices, battery life and so forth. This made him think for a moment.
The truth is, a mirrorless system generally does seem like a great idea:

  1. You get a smaller package because you trade the mirror for an electronic viewfinder
  2. All the pieces for the focus system for on-sensor focus measuring is smaller too.

The clear benefit I am demonstrating here is ultimately SIZE and WEIGHT. They make DSLRs appear giant-like.
While there are huge benefits, it's always worth being aware of any cons against the pros – as would anyone considering buying a DSLR for the first time when upgrading their gear from a Smartphone. It's a big step either way.

Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns

I've found focus often underperforms when compared to the DSLR counterpart, meaning a mirrorless camera works great for photographers that tend to shoot something that is stationary, such as landmarks, cities/buildings, still life etc.
But when it comes to more action-packed scenarios, in my experience they're just not cut out, therefore I would definitely recommend mirrorless systems to anybody that does stationery studio work, or landscapes, or anything that doesn’t move too much. Why?
Well, simply because there are many mirrorless full frame cameras on the market that outperform the best DSLR full frame sensors, and cost up to $1,000 less. This would then appeal massively to a great number of photographers!
Also, with one adapter you can use your standard DSLR lens with all the controls you need, and you are good to go. A huge advantage here is that you get a smaller package, same favorite lenses and thus a smaller weight to carry around. Sounds good!
But, using those lenses with the best adapter out there is still difficult when it comes to things that move. That’s simply because focus can be up to 3x slower than you might get from a DSLR (compared to using the mirrorless-designed lenses).

Photo by Janitors

However, most mirrorless systems have focus peaking, which is good for fine tuning focus in dark scenarios because the EVF uses the highest ISO possible to provide a visible image. Neat, right?
On the street, however, this is not so good.
EVF usually has lag, which makes moving with your eye through the EVF weird (and possibly even a little dangerous), the autofocus tends to miss because it catches on the wrong things (even though some systems will prove to use 100+ focus points).
The burst rate I have found yet to be up there with DSLR systems, which have increasingly impressive FPS shooting capabilities – ideal for sports and wildlife.
Just for the record, I am not digging at mirrorless systems, I am simply saying they are not yet a “lighter and more compact DSLR” – I expect today with new launches from the top manufacturers frequently happening, we are seeing shifts from all directions towards this goal.
The progress they’ve made is frankly amazing, and I hope that they start outperforming DSLR’s in everything. Because who doesn’t want more punch in a smaller package, right?

Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns

Summary

Therefore, if you are facing the same dilemma as my friend here, take everything into account. If you need a small carry around camera, would you be better off investing into a small entry level DSLR with a pancake lens or a lighter prime lens, or a mirrorless system?
If you are planning on doing landscapes and portraits which involve people posing and not really moving around, go for mirrorless (if you're after a lighter and more compact system).
It's also worth noting there are mirrorless cameras I'd consider “average” at shooting stills but offer significantly better video than most DSLR’s on the market.
So if you're into video, a mirrorless camera can offer you a much greater variety of options, whether you need resolution, or high ISO, or even FPS. With most DSLR’s you're limited to Full HD video at around 24 fps (with some exceptions that go to 60 fps).


Best Alternative Camera to a DSLR – Top Takeaways

  • Consider what you're using your new camera system for – Photographing stills or shooting video?
  • Do you prefer shooting landscapes and portraits or more action and street photography? This plays an important role in which kind of camera you should consider.
  • Your camera will (and should) be an investment in your photographic journey, think about everything from weight, size, functionality, portability, ergonomics to name a few essential considerations.

Further Resources

Further Learning

Whether choosing to use a Mirrorless or DSLR camera, we ALL need to understand the fundamentals of Composition.
That’s why the Photzy Team has come up with a fantastic guide to help you out with all the essential stuff YOU need to know to improve your photography, ten-fold!

About the author

Dzvonko Petrovski

Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and is not afraid to share the knowledge about it.

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