Mirrorless vs DSLR Cameras

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After all the time and work photographers put into their art, nothing is quite as satisfying as the clarity of a well-taken picture. Before we dive into the great DSLR vs mirrorless debate, photography as an art goes hand in hand with quality cameras, but not every camera is right for the job.

A compact camera can hike with you up a mountain for that breathtaking landscape. A full-size DSLR may not be portable as such, but camera manufacturers make its superior autofocus  a better choice for capturing that dynamic action shot. 

Today’s mirrorless vs DSLR cameras help you explore the camera world, to the point that you can use either to capture professional-level images. However, they do have varying specifications. All you need to do is pick the right one – but how? Read on to compare the relative strengths of mirrorless vs DSLR models.

What Is a Mirrorless Camera? What Does Mirrorless Camera Mean?

If you are wondering more about mirrorless cameras, we’ve broken it down to help you gain a better understanding. 

DSLR and mirrorless camera on the floor
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How Do Mirrorless Cameras Work?

A mirrorless camera is a digital camera that accepts different lenses but does not use a mirror to reflect the image into the viewfinder. Mirrorless models do not have a reflex mirror inside them, so the light flows into their image sensor directly. They have an LCD screen display or electronic viewfinders (EVF) to show a quick image preview. When you press the shutter button, the sensor begins to record data and finally, you get a photo. The lack of a mirror box allows a more compact camera design with a smaller camera body.

Mirrorless cameras typically are designed exclusively for the digital photography era and are very different from the traditional single-lens reflex mode cameras. Full-frame mirrorless cameras combine ease of use with outstanding technical control to allow you enjoy the experience of the camera world. 

Instead of optical viewfinders, high-resolution electronic viewfinders take live feed directly from the compact mirrorless system and provide a digital preview. 

Mirrorless models have fewer moving parts, so they are quieter than their DSLR counterparts. Unfortunately, they also have low battery life and limited lens selection compared to DSLR models. Additionally, mirrorless cameras offer high-quality images.

The electronic viewfinders feature limits the mirrorless camera’s ability to autofocus in a low light environment because it relies on contrast detection. Contrast is highest with a bright light source, so contrast-detection autofocus is noticeably sluggish in low light.

How Much Does a Mirrorless Camera Cost?

In mirrorless vs DSLR comparison, mirrorless cameras are usually cheaper than DSLR rivals. The price for mirrorless models ranges from $300 to $3500.

sideview and design for mirrorless camera

Photo credit: improvephotography.com

What Is a DSLR?

DSLR cameras are very popular and many people seek them out. But what are these amazing devices? If you want to expand your knowledge, here’s some information on this type of camera. 

What Does DSLR Stand For?

DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. It is the advanced version of an SLR camera, this means instead of using photographic film it uses a digital imaging sensor to capture images. Digital SLR cameras are flexible and capable of producing professional quality images when paired with the correct DSLR lens. 

This camera works with fixed digital image sensors and phase detection sensors. It has a single interchangeable lens for framing, focusing, and taking photographs. If you click the shutter button, the mirror flips down exposing the digital sensor, which then absorbs light and shoots an image.

How Does a DSLR Work?

A DSLR uses a reflex mirror that helps the photographer catch the image they see in front of them by focusing light through the optical viewfinder. Light passes through the lens within the camera body and then bounces off a mirror.

DSLR technology that uses phase-detection for autofocus, performs well in all lighting environments.  With the Dual pixel CMOS AF,the phase detection technology gives DSLR a big advantage over mirrorless in low light photography, especially if you are relying on autofocus for quick shots.

They deliver excellent image quality. They have greater light sensitivity and have versatile controls. The best advantage for a photographer using this camera is that what they are filming can be seen through the optical viewfinder.

Nikon DSLR camera
Photo credit: borrowlenses.com

How Much Does a DSLR Cost?

These types of cameras cost between $499 and $6499 depending on the seller and the interplay of demand and supply on the market.

DSLR vs Mirrorless Cameras – Similarities and Differences

DSLR and mirrorless cameras feature different specifications, features and technology. In this mirrorless vs DSLR comparison, we will review their similarities and differences.


Customization Options

Both cameras have digital features and provide high-quality pictures compared to compact point and shoot cameras. Mirrorless and DSLR cameras also come with various manual customization options, which help a photographer manipulate their shots accordingly.

Interchangeable Lenses

Both mirrorless and DSLR cameras have interchangeable lens systems (DSLR DSLRs or a mirrorless with a mirrorless), meaning their lenses can be removed and switched with others depending on the photographer’s preference and needs. 

While both camera types have an interchangeable lens mount, there is greater DSLR lens availability and selection because mirrorless cameras are a relatively new technology. You may have to search harder for specialized mirrorless lenses.

DSLR and Mirrorless camera
Photo credit: gearpatrol.com

Focal Length

Both DSLR and mirrorless cameras have various focal sizes that offer flexibility when capturing both close and long-range shots. Range variety in a digital camera is essential because it gives you the ability to use the same camera for close and long range photography, provided the correct lens. With this feature, the cameras can take a much wider range of photos compared to smaller point and shoot cameras.

Image and Video Playback

Despite the many differences in DSLR vs mirrorless cameras comparison, they have similar video and image playback capabilities. Both feature the typical 3 inches LCD screens which are sufficient to users

Low Light Functionality

When comparing DSLR vs mirrorless, both cameras work more comfortably in a low light environment compared to point and shoot cameras. That said, DSLR cameras have a distinct advantage over mirrorless because of their phase-detection technology.

Image Quality

Both types of camera have the capability of capturing a high quality final image as they both use the modern and high-quality full-frame and APS-C sensors in the market. Usually, the size of the sensor is the main factor that dictates the quality of the image. 

However, there are other factors that determine the quality of the image such as autofocus, camera resolution and lighting condition. Both shooting mirrorless or with a DSLR will allow you to capture high quality images. Typically, a mirrorless APS-C camera will have the same image quality as a DSLr with an APS-C sensor.

What Is the Difference Between DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras?

To fully compare DSLR vs mirrorless cameras, you need to look at how they differ when it comes to the most important camera specs and features:

Size and Weight

Generally size and weight are important features when it comes to cameras. If you are using your camera in situations where you need to move around, portability is key. Mirrorless systems are smaller and lighter because they have smaller imaging sensors. 

You can carry these cameras more easily and fit in other gear in a camera bag. DSLR cameras are larger and heavier because of the larger image sensor, an optical viewfinder and the mirror. They have larger lens mounts, lenses, and bodies. 

Additionally, its pentaprism, housing, secondary autofocus mirror as well add on their weight. However, the lighter mirrorless cameras are often an ideal option for beginners because of their compact size and simple control

difference between mirrorless camera and DSLR camera
Photo credit: canon.com.au

Battery Life

In mirrorless vs DSLR comparison, DSLRs offer longer battery life because they can capture without providing live view on an electronic viewfinder or an LCD screen which extends the battery life significantly. 

Most DSLRs are rated at 600-800 shots on average, and the advanced models can capture more than 1000 shots per charge. A DSLR performs well on one or two batteries even when shooting for extended periods. On the other hand, a mirrorless camera body is small which equals shorter battery life. 

Additionally, mirrorless camera sensors are continuously active draining the battery faster. An average mirrorless camera can shoot up to 300-400 shots. That means you will need to carry extra batteries when capturing for prolonged periods or when traveling which can be expensive and inconvenient as well.

Shooting Speed

Although both DSLR and mirrorless cameras can take pictures at high shutter speeds, mirrorless cameras have the edge as lack of a mirror allows them to capture image after image more easily. The electronic shutter enables them to shoot at a higher speed silently            

Also, the internal mechanics enable them to take shots faster than most DSLRs, particularly when it comes to a burst or series of images. Mirrorless cameras are an ideal choice when it comes to action, sport and wildlife photography. 

They have few moving parts and most models can now shoot into 4K or 8K video resolution. The best DSLRs cannot match the speed of the latest mirrorless cameras. For instance, Canon EOS DSLR can shoot at 16 frames per second while the newer mirrorless cameras can shoot even higher frame rates such as 60.

Image Stabilization

Shaky hands may result in blurry images. These effects intensify when you zoom in or when you use longer shutter speed. Both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are equipped with the image stabilization functionality. This functionality helps reduce the camera shake effect when shooting handheld.

This means the sensor measures the camera movement and then the camera shifts part of the imaging sensor or lens in an opposite direction to compensate for shake. Although both cameras use the lens-shift method, several mirrorless cameras shift both the sensor and the lens element in a  synchronized pattern for enhanced stability.

However, higher end mirrorless cameras such as Sony a6600 and the Olympus OM-D EM-5 provide in-body-five-axis image stabilization unlike most DSLRs. This stabilization is superior to the other systems and useful when capturing while moving. Additionally, it generates much steadier footage when shooting handheld. 


Considering that DSLRs have been in the market for a long time, there is a wide range of DSLR lenses from different manufacturers that you can choose from. Although camera makers are ensuring the selection is growing, mirrorless cameras are less, providing access to a smaller number of lenses.

Typically, if you’re looking for the widest choice of lenses, a Nikon or Canon EOS DSLR is your ideal choice. Each of these cameras have a wide range of lenses at different prices, with third party manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma also offering these options.

The mirrorless lens selection is ideal for companies whose main focus is technology. For example, the latest full frame mirrorless camera such as the Sony full-frame option has around 50 E-mount lenses for its mirrorless brands. Full frame mirrorless cameras have smaller bodies than their DSLR counterparts. However, that is not the case for their lenses.


Optical viewfinders are an integral part of DSLRs design. With DSLR optical viewfinders, there is no lag and following a fast-moving subject is quite easier. This makes it ideal for action and sport photography. The image displayed via the DSLR viewfinder is what comes through the lens

Great mirrorless cameras on the other hand use electronic viewfinders instead of optical. This means they display the picture from the sensor readout directly and not through an optical pentaprism system. Considering that optical viewfinders are advancing at a faster rate, the latest has minimal graininess and the visible lag is now eradicated.

They display more information than optical viewfinders such as live image histograms. They have functions for accurate manual focusing and can display a clear view of a scene even in low-light conditions. Additionally, the mirrorless viewfinder reflects an image with ISO, shutter speed and white balance and other in-camera settings considered.

Video Quality

Typically, video shooting is a function that most cameras can perform. However, the quality of the video is what sets these two types of cameras apart. Mirrorless cameras offer higher quality videos than DSLRs as their design makes them ideal for constant live view required for shooting video. 

Additionally, 4K resolution is where mirrorless camera makers concentrate their video shooting technologies. 4K video is standard for all mirrorless cameras with the latest now offering 6K and 8K. Beside cameras, mirrorless lenses feature silent stepping motor technology for fast and silent focus when shooting

Unlike mirrorless cameras, with the mirror up, most DSLRs cannot use face detection when shooting videos. Instead, they use the slower, less precise, contrast-detection focusing method. This results in a blurry looking video as the camera tries to look for the correct focus.

Ease of Cleaning

Mirrorless camera sensor’s are more exposed and much nearer to the camera’s lens throat. Although not all entry level mirrorless cameras are affected ,some are more prone to dust and other sensor foreign matter than other cameras. For instance, Panasonic and Olympus are more susceptible to dust than Sony mirrorless cameras.

Mirrorless cameras differ from DSLRs as they feature the automatic dust-removal mechanism that dislodge any sensor debris, enhancing ease of cleaning. DSLRs, on the other hand, have their sensors located at the rear of the camera and enveloped by the mirror in front of the shutter.

As a result, the sensor gets exposed to dust only when shooting in live view. Reaching DSLR sensors with dust-removing gadgets is quite challenging and requires a unique cleaning technique that can open up the shutter and lock up the mirror.


High-end DSLRs use the quick and efficient autofocus modules mounted in the base of the camera behind the mirror. However, DSLRs autofocus systems only function when the mirror is down.

Mirrorless camera systems use sensor-based autofocus which tends to be faster than the equivalent autofocus mode on DSLRs. Most mirrorless cameras use the modern hybrid AF systems. This mirrorless technology combines phase detect and contrast detect AF from the sensor to help you achieve an appealing performance.

Usually, they are impressive in accuracy and speed when shooting moving subjects. Additionally, many mirrorless cameras provide face and eye detection, making it more precise to capture animals and people.

The Mirror

Although both cameras can display the scene that the camera lens views, their ways of displaying them vary. Mirrorless cameras use the live view to form an electronic image that can display in an electronic viewfinder or on the back screen. They do not have a mirror mechanism that flips up and out of the way.

DSLRs use a mirror to reflect an image in the viewfinder. When capturing an image,the mirror flips up allowing the image to pass to the rear of the camera where light can reach the camera sensor. Many photographers opt to use the optical image of DSLRs as it ensures longer battery life.

What Is the Advantage of a Mirrorless Camera?

  • Many mirrorless cameras offer a significantly easier manual focus
  • Smaller and lighter
  • Allows preview of the image for night photography
  • In DSLR vs mirrorless comparison, mirrorless ensures a quiet operation
  • Incorporates high resolution OLED EVFs and EVFs providing you with fast refresh rates
  • Hybrid AF systems that enhance accuracy of contrast-detection and fast on-sensor phase detection
  • Offers continuous Live view through the electronic viewfinder (EVF) or LCD

What Is the Advantage of DSLRs?

  • A lens for every occasion
  • High image quality even in low light conditions
  • Built for speed and high-quality photography
  • Superior autofocus
  • The use of larger batteries allows you to shoot for a prolonged time without running out
  • Offers on-lens and in-body image stabilization reducing chances of image blur
  • Provides advanced lens systems such as professional zoom and prime lens, delivering an amazing image performance

Top Picks in DSLR vs Mirrorless Comparison

When comparing DSLR vs mirrorless cameras, a photographer may have challenges deciding which digital camera to pick. Mirrorless models are lighter and smaller digital cameras that offer good quality pictures. They also come with a significantly easier manual focus, which is a plus compared to a DSLRs

Mirrorless cameras have a live histogram and a feature called zebra stripes. As a part, the zebra feature puts animated strips on photo areas that are too displayed. The histogram feature is just a graph showing you how much of the scene is entirely black, how much brightness level is moving up, and what is entirely white.

In the viewfinder, no DSLR  can display a live histogram while you mess with camera settings or before you take the image. Having a live histogram in the viewfinder in a mirrorless camera is a huge benefit over a DSLR. Mirrorless cameras also have an advantage over the DSLR when it comes to previewing images for night photography.

When comparing DSLR vs mirrorless, DSLR is an excellent digital camera, but the mirrorless camera is more preferred because of its outstanding features.

Mirrorless vs DSLR Camera photoshoot
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When to Choose Mirrorless

If you are a beginner, a blogger or an influencer, mirrorless cameras are your best option. They are compact, lightweight and are also equipped with tilting angle screens allowing you to shoot from all kinds of angles. They are suitable for both stills and video.

When to Choose a DSLR

DSLRs are bigger in size compared to their mirrorless counterparts. With bigger lenses, they are bigger to handle and have more external controls allowing you to spend less time tapping at touchscreens and navigating digital interfaces. If you are working on a tight budget, a DSLR is your best option.

People Also Ask

Since more and more people are getting into photography and want a superb experience, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the best type of camera to meet your needs. Photographers with different styles and preferred subjects will need different types of cameras. Here are some commonly asked questions about the two camera types.

Will Mirrorless Cameras Replace DSLR?

Mirrorless cameras haven’t replaced DSLR and haven’t yet fully reached parity with them. On some fronts, mirrorless cameras have emerged as a DSLR counterpart, while in others they still lag. If you regard mirrorless cameras as suitable for your shooting, this depends more on your needs and the value you attach to your devices.

Do Professional Photographers Use Mirrorless Cameras?

Professional photographers also use mirrorless cameras. There are pro-grade lenses for mirrorless cameras that have a high performance like DSLR cameras. Photographers may decide to buy these more expensive professional-grade mirrorless lenses since they provide the kind of performance they need.

Mirrorless nad DSLR camera together
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Do Mirrorless Cameras Use DSLR Lenses?

Both mirrorless and DSLR cameras come with different lens mount types and unique modifications to suit their specific models. Mirrorless lenses work with the focus on mirrorless cameras, while a DSLR lens only works with DSLRs. They are not cross-compatible.

How to Travel With a DSLR Camera

Ensure you buy a good camera bag and use lens filters. Consider using the camera lens hood to keep dirt off. You have to be a savvy photographer, know when to take your DSLR camera with you on a trip. To be on the safe side, always take a lens cleaning kit with you. If possible, have your camera insured against theft or common damages like fire.


DSLR vs mirrorless cameras are worth thinking about. Quality in a picture is all that matters, and everyone has an opportunity to choose what kind of camera to buy and use. When it comes to digital cameras, flexibility, control, and power take it all. But do not forget an important feature that will perfectly complement the three – portability! Everyone loves to carry around something light in their bag