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

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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.

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

Advantages:

  • 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.

Disadvantages:

  • 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.

Summary

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…

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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 the author

Jason Row

Jason Row is a British born travel photographer now living in Ukraine. His images have been licensed to companies such as Cunard, Ethiad and Virgin Atlantic as well as multiple newspapers and magazines. As well as shooting stills he is now creating travel stock video in 4K. He maintains a travel stock photography site at Jason Row Photography You can also catch up with him on Facebook at Facebook/TheOdessaFiles

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