Mirrorless vs DSLR Cameras – 2021 Guide

| Last Updated: August 5, 2021

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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. Photography as 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 travel as easily, but superior autofocus makes it a better choice for capturing that dynamic action shot. 

Today's mirrorless and DSLR cameras are better than previous generations, to the point that they can both be used 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 camera models.

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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. 

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 viewfinder (EVF) to show a quick image preview. The lack of a mirror box allows a more compact camera design with a smaller camera body.

Mirrorless cameras are designed exclusively for the digital photography era and are very different from the traditional single-lens reflex mode cameras. A full-frame mirrorless camera combines ease of use with outstanding technical control. 

Instead of an optical viewfinder, a high-resolution electronic viewfinder takes live feed directly from the compact mirrorless system and provides a digital preview. 

A mirrorless camera has fewer moving parts, so they are quieter than their DSLR counterpart. Unfortunately, they also have low battery life and limited lens selection compared to DSLR cameras.

The electronic viewfinder 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?

Mirrorless cameras are usually cheaper than DSLR rivals. The price for a mirrorless camera ranges from $300 to $3500.

What is a DSLR Camera?

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. Digital SLR cameras are flexible and capable of producing professional quality images when paired with the correct DSLR lens. This camera works with a fixed digital image sensor and phase detection. It has a single interchangeable lens for framing, focusing, and taking photographs.

How Does a DSLR Camera Work?

A DSLR camera 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 cameras use phase-detection for autofocus, which performs well in all lighting environments. Phase detection technology gives DSLR a big advantage over mirrorless in low light photography, especially if you are relying on autofocus for quick shots.

DSLR cameras 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 viewfinder.

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How Much Does a DSLR Camera Cost?

A DSLR camera costs between $499 and $6499 depending on the seller and the interplay of demand and supply on the market.

Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR - Similarities and Differences

Mirrorless cameras and DSLR cameras are both digital cameras, but with different specifications, features and technology. In this section, we will review their similarities and differences.

Similarities

Image Quality and Customization Options

Both mirrorless and DSLR 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, 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.

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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.

Low Light Functionality

Both the mirrorless and DSLR 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.

What is the Difference Between DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras?

Size and Weight

Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter because they have smaller imaging sensors. DSLR cameras are larger and heavier because of the larger imaging sensors. They have larger lens mounts, lenses, and bodies.

Image Quality

The image quality for DSLR cameras depends a lot on the size of the sensor. Larger sensors offer higher resolution with better image quality. Bigger sensors also mean a giant camera with bigger lenses, so high quality is guaranteed. Mirrorless cameras have smaller sensors and so smaller lenses and will not produce high-quality pictures like the DSLR cameras. 

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Mirrorless cameras also come in full-frame and compact varieties; however, a full-frame mirrorless camera is more expensive. Opt for a compact sensor with a high crop factor, and you will end up sacrificing quality for cost.

Shooting Speed

Although both DSLR and mirrorless cameras can take pictures at high shutter speeds, mirrorless camera's more straightforward internal mechanics enable them to take shots faster than most DSLRs, particularly when it comes to a burst or series of images.

What is the Advantage of a Mirrorless Camera?

  • Significantly easier manual focus
  • Smaller and lighter

  • Allows preview of the image for night photography

  • Quiet operation

What is the Advantage of a DSLR Camera?

  • A lens for every occasion

  • High-quality pictures even in low light conditions

  • Built for speed and high-quality photography

  • Superior autofocus

Top Picks Between Mirrorless and DSLR Cameras

When comparing DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras, a photographer may have challenges deciding which digital camera to pick. Mirrorless cameras 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 DSLR cameras.

Mirrorless cameras have 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 camera 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.

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

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Conclusion

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.

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.

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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.



Hi, I’m Andy. I’ve been taking pictures for just about as long as I’ve been old enough to hold a camera. I studied photography in community college after high school but was encouraged to follow a career path that was more stable. I do gigs here and there on the side but never took the leap to focus my efforts full-time. When Pam reached out to me through a mutual friend, I jumped on the opportunity to be a writer. Favorite type of photography: macro and street.