Does This Debate Have Any Substance? Mirrorless vs DSLR Cameras


The Mirrorless vs DSLR Debate…

…Has been going on some time and while many are in favor of both, some are strictly in one camp or the other.

Some of you will be reading that headline and thinking, “oh, here we go, typical clickbait”. Others, on the other hand, might be thinking, “interesting, I have been considering a mirrorless camera.”

mirrorless vs dslr
Image by Devanath

Today, we'll focus more on the Mirrorless side of things and how they stand up to DSLRs and modern digital photography rather than a direct comparative.

Let’s be honest, the Mirrorless vs DSLR debate is photography’s answer to Mac v Windows or iPhone v Android. It's a debate that creates tribalism on an epic scale.

So let’s get a few things out of the way before we go any further.

  1. DSLR cameras are not going away anytime in the near future – (more on that later).
  2. Buying a mirrorless camera does not stop your DLSR working or prevent you from using it.
  3. And, we as consumers dictate the way the market will go – (more on that later too).

The Rise Of The Mirrorless

Mirrorless technology is advancing at a breathtaking speed! Significantly faster than its DSLR cousin. It has taken the mirrorless platform less than five years to get to this level – and let's be honest here, this market is mature now.

Some of the biggest announcements at Photokina this year were for mirrorless, Fuji with their medium format GFX50S, Panasonic’s 6K capable GH5 and Canon’s latest attempt on the market, the M5.

mirrorless vs dslr
The medium format Fuji GFX 50S is a mirrorless medium format camera

Many of the original disadvantages of mirrorless cameras are being swept away. These included:

  • Smaller sensors,
  • Slow autofocus,
  • Lack of lenses and
  • Poor electronic viewfinders.

The big players in mirrorless have made serious dents in these and other issues. Sony have full frame sensors to compete not only in image quality but also in pixel count.

Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic have increasingly diverse ranges of high-quality lenses and high pixel count, low lag viewfinders. Many of these mirrorless cameras have built-in WiFi and GPS – enabling remote control and geolocation without the need for expensive add-ons.

Let's Be Real, Mirrorless Cameras Have Advantages And Disadvantages


  • The small form factor makes carrying cameras and multiple lenses easier for traveling photographers.
  • Better quality video modes, many have 4K as standard with Panasonic in particular, making their cameras very video friendly.
  • New lenses highly optimized for specific cameras and sensors.
  • Fast, accurate autofocus, one of the biggest improvements in the mirrorless ecosphere.


  • Electronic viewfinders are not everyone’s cup of tea, some will still prefer the older optical viewfinder
  • Battery life is a big issue. Mirrorless cameras consume more power than DSLR rivals as they need to power both the sensor and the viewfinder. Being smaller than their DSLR cousin, means less space for batteries.
  • Lack of fast telephoto lenses. Whilst there is an excellent range of wide to standard lenses, mirrorless systems still lack the fast telephotos both zoom and primes.
  • Their small form is not to everyone’s taste.

Of the disadvantages, the electronic viewfinder is likely to be the biggest issue for manufacturers. Getting something to rival an optical viewfinder is a major technological challenge and will dissuade some DSLR users from switching.

The other main disadvantages are likely to be solved pretty quickly. Battery technology is advancing at a rapid pace and combined with low power components it will not be long before battery life is up there with DSLRs.

Given both Fuji and Sony’s obvious push for a segment of the pro DSLR market and Panasonic’s aggressive attack on the video market, fast telephoto lenses are almost certainly on the horizon.

Even the small form factor can be easily solved by third party grips. There is also no reason why manufacturers cannot make larger yet lighter mirrorless cameras.

After all, it's easier to make a camera bigger than it is to make it smaller.


Sony are one of the forerunners in the mirrorless race. By Kārlis Dambrāns

Further Learning

Whether we're using a Mirrorless or DSLR camera, we all need to understand the fundamentals of Composition.
That's why the Photzy Team have 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!

How Long Before You Switch To A Mirrorless Camera?

So returning to the original question. As mentioned at the top, DSLRs are not going away anytime in the near future. However, their reign as the photographer’s weapon of choice is waning.

We as consumers drive the market by buying what we think is right for us. Sure, manufacturers try to persuade us which direction to take but the ground swell will nearly always follow what we as consumers want.

Whilst there will be many vocal and passionate DSLR users, it is a safe bet, in my opinion, to say there will not be enough to keep the DSLR market “mainstream.”


Fuji have an enviable reputation for producing “photographer's cameras” By Brain & Storm

As mirrorless technologies continue to improve, a majority of “fair-weather” photographers will move over to them. As the market tilts in favor of mirrorless, companies with limited resources will be forced more and more to concentrate their R&D budgets on the newer technology.


DSLRs will not suddenly stop being produced but they have reached their zenith. If you want a glimpse of this new reality, you can take a look at the recent past.

The biggest driver of the move from film to digital was not the hardcore photographers like us, but the consumers who bought into the compact digital camera revolution.

By buying these small compact digitals in their tens of millions and creating huge profits, the camera manufacturers plowed this back into the technology including the DSLR market. Then, one disruptive technology virtually destroyed the compact camera market, the smartphone.

So, how long before you switch to a mirrorless camera? The answer is, eventually…

Mirrorless vs DSLR – Top Takeaways

  • As mentioned, this wasn't meant to be a this against that boxing-style match, but to show how the photography market is showing signs of change.
  • The speed of technological progression with mirrorless cameras is advancing pretty quick. This means that new photographers looking to branch out from their smartphones may look right to these smaller mirrorless digital cameras without giving DSLRs a look in.
  • There are some great advantages to both DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras, but for something smaller and yet still with a load of powerful capabilities, the mirrorless is becoming increasingly popular, and it's becoming clear why…
  • DSLRs are still going to be around for quite some time and they serve their purpose as a choice for many professionals and newer photographers around the globe. This is no dispute. They are fantastic and solid cameras with a real sense of tangibility about them.

Further Resources

Further Learning

Whether we're using a Mirrorless or DSLR camera, we all need to understand the fundamentals of Composition.
That's why the Photzy Team have 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 Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

Very interesting article. One point though ; Olympus already has fast telephoto lenses. It’s one reason Sony has a 40% stake in Olympus – to get access to brilliant lenses. Also, due to be released in December, is the amazing Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. Another point the image stabiliser is so good there is no need to go up to the very high ISO’s necessary on other cameras.

I have been using Canon SLRs for the last 25 years and never tried a mirrorless camera, but a friend showed me his Olympus a couple years ago and I was amazed at the quality produced by this tiny camera. At the time I was a bit hesitant about the whole viewfinder question, but it seems clear mirrorless technology is advancing very quickly.

I am almost certain my next camera will be mirrorless, since there are too many plus points with mirrorless cameras to ignore. In 10 years time I think the vast majority of photographers will want a mirrorless camera.

Why can’t they make Mirror less Cameras that are compatible with existing DSLR lenses? One can still use Nikon lenses made during the film era with DSLRs

IMO, the main reason for mirror cameras has been the recording medium, since one had to see what the camera was seeing. In that respect, that most important reason was logically removed with replacing the film with sensor.
Many more consumer products have had their mechanical components replaced with solid-state electronics. Your radio, TV set, car, and also the camera, all are built with electronic components and for several reasons like weight, size, manufacturing price, reliability, adjustability, large series precision, and of course programmability.
In a DSLR (same as in SLR), your scene view was mainly used for composing the shot, and that remained regardless of other data overlays. The camera, film or sensor, still recorded what it was programmed to do, such as B&W, filter effect, etc). With electronic viewfinder monitor, one gets to see what the camera sees – lately even in long-exposure or stacked photo mode, which had to be pre-set and/or guessed in devices using purely optical visual control.
True, all-electronic cameras consume more power, and one can’t do anything without batteries, not even look at the scene… but ever better power cells compensate for that.
There sure is more, but letme just add a thought about “romance factor”. Isn’t it strange that digital cameras still folllow the ergonomic lines of old film cameras? There are no more (mechanical) reasons to keep the form. Some manufacturers have abandoned that a long time ago (such as SONY F-series, like F-828), or perhaps all those P&S’s with folded optic systems, smartphones, action cams… And yet, the connsumer still dictates how the “well-made” cameras should look like, never mind that there are better ergonomic shapes.
Oh, well.
Myself, I have always liked bridge cameras, even in the film age (such as Olympus IS3000), switching to Sony F-828, R-1, and later to Oly, Nikon… Without knowing just what my next camer is going to be, I’m sure I’ll like it, and use it as much as I can…
… wishing everyone would just do the same, whatever their choice of system and/or manufacturer is!

I have been using Sony a6000 for last 6 months and I love it. I think a big problem for people who own a DSLR do not want to switch to a memory less camera is that the lens are not compatible. Please think about it if you are an owner of a Canon DSLR and already have a set of lenses, if you switch to a memory less camera, all these lenses can not be used on it. What are you going to do?

Mirrorless also allows you to see what is in focus using manual focus with focus peaking technology. And when it is too dark to compose the shot properly using SLR, the electronic viewfinder will allow you to see every detail and compose easily. As well, the viewfinder of a SLR shows the photographer the image with the shutter wide open. It will look different when you press the shutter and the aperture reduces in size.
Finally, I had lovely Canon D60 with a near focus problem. While I could take it to the agent to have this fixed (for a fee), this problem does not occur with a mirrorless as the sensor itself is used for focus.

I bought my first mirrorless camera many years ago A sony nex 3, for trying the concept, since this experimental test I now make my professional photography (HDR,Architectural and portrait) with a Sony Alpha 7 camera. Like the focus is make directly on sensor the focus is ok each time, no front or back focus. The manual focus is very simoke ti do. The Carl Zeiss lenses and Sony G Lenses give great results!

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