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Mirrorless vs DSLR

Quickly explores differences between two most dominant type of digital cameras

Zenit 3M, SLR

Zenit 3M - one of the symbols of photography in USSR era in all eastern countries under it's influence
It's a film SLR camera



Digital single lens reflex 

This is lamost synonym for high quality camera, even though image quality  is matched by Mirrorless cameras

Most people relate good quality with bulky size due to the domination of those bigger cameras in most of photography world.


This is "Mirrorfull" camera. Mirror is used to allow for an Optical viewfinder to be utilized, as well as an advanced focus system.


















The mirror itself doesn't contribute in any way to the optimal image quality of the camera.


Realizing this allot of manifacturers decide to present system without this mirror - hence Mirorless.

So let's remove mirror and see what happens.


  • Size is smaller

  • Distance from lens back to the sensor is smaller - flange distance (red text)


















  • No optical viewfinder and no advantages that could come from it's utilization

  • We have to use LCD to see what camera sees

       and / or 

  • We have to add an alternative of optical viewfinder called electronic viewfinder

  • We have to add alternative to advanced focus system of DSLR


Initial attempts at Mirrorless weren't extremely succesful and far behind top DSLR in performance, but that changed.


Mirroless - a camera without the mirror


















Aren't all cameras except DSLR mirrorless ?


Yes and no - but more important  Mirrorless is synonim of the cameras without mirrors that have interchageable lens

also known as ILCA - interchangeable lens camera.


Which is better ?


If you like small - Mirrorless.

If you want topmost performace and have higher budget DSLR.


IQ is almost identical. Why ?


Underlying technologies used in both are very much the same - sensors have same performance, optics are similar too

There are even cases like Nikon DSLR's that uses Sony sensors used in some of the mirrorless models.


Generally cheapest DSLR are behind most Mirrorless cameras.

Even the best Mirrorless is behind top DSLR models in AF speed and performance, but price difference is serious


  • If you are entering photography I higly recommend Mirrorless as they allow for a quicker introduciton

  • If you are already using a DSLR, I recommend you to check a few mirrorless models and see if it's for you

  • If you have large hand (too large to use small grip) and like your equipment heavy Mirrorless will offer very limited options

  • Advantage of DSLR due to a bigger body is better control layot 


In conclusion...


I am biased, I like mirrorless more, not just beacause they almost match bigger brothers and are small

They are the future (may be a little too far future), and I want to participate in future technologies establishment not to yesterday one.


Now, to beef up a little bit the DSLR majority, yes porbably 95 % of professionals use mainly DSLR, and most of the significant images that represent best in photography are done with the big boys in camera bussiness.


Something usefull, there is a site that can compare camera sizes ...




Mirrorless Sony Camera

Sony NEX6 - very popular mirrorless camera, praised for it's EVF (Electronic viewfinder)

SLR side , cut trough view

Olympus DSLR cut trough, mirror is in yellow
Optical viewfinder in blue
Focus sensor position is in red


Source Wikipedia

DSLR vs Mirrorless Diagram

Compare DSLR  vs Mirrorless 
AF sensor position vary between models



Guide to understanding in practice what are difference, is to present pros and cons list of both types of cameras

On the positive side Mirrorless are:

+ smaller

+ lighter

+ cheaper (comparing price / features)

+ easier to learn photography with 

+ faster (for it's price category)

+ with better hybrid AF

+ better for video

+ with higher burst rates

+ more adaptive to diferent type of mounts and lenses

+ easier to use with manual lenses 


- lenses are more expensive (often due to features)

- less battery life

- have inferior PDAF speed (excluding a few of the latest models)

- control layout is not always as good (due to the smaller size)


DSLR pros are :

+ with better PDAF

+ with better control layout

+ optical viewfinder  - so scene is always seen as it is

+ more options for lenses

+ better battery life


- bulkier

- video recording is compromise

- low burst rates, except for high end models

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