Is a DSLR or mirrorless camera better? Nowadays there is a huge variety of different cameras, new and new models of SLR cameras and in recent years also mirrorless cameras are being developed very quickly. When I started actively shooting in 2011, brands like Fuji, Panasonic and Sony were still almost unknown in the photography world. Canon and Nikon dominated the DSLR market.
On the other hand, mirrorless cameras were almost unknown back then. Today, mirrorless cameras are becoming increasingly popular. In 2019, they even sold more of them worldwide than SLRs for the first time. So what’s the difference between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera, and in general, which one is better?
CHOOSING BETWEEN DSLR VS MIRRORLESS
In this article I will try to explain the main pros and cons of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. As I mentioned in my article on how to choose a camera, the final choice always depends on your goals, the kind of photo shoots you want to do and of course your financial possibilities.
ADVANTAGES OF DSLR CAMERAS
- Probably the biggest advantage of DSLR cameras is their affordable price. That’s why even today many beginners buy an SLR camera, which can be bought for as little as 250-300 EUR. What can’t be said about mirrorless cameras, which are quite a bit more expensive. Of course, if you need a more professional DSLR, it is possible that the final price will be equal to that of a cheaper mirrorless camera
- It’s a safe bet, after all, because DSLRs have been on the market for a long time, with new models and improvements being added every year
- Wide selection of models from beginner to fully professional
- Even the cheapest DSLR models have an optical viewfinder, which is sometimes necessary for some types of photography
- Battery life is better than mirrorless cameras so far. This is what I personally felt the most when switching to a mirrorless camera. With a DSLR you take on average 600-800 shots on a single charge, even 2000 shots with better models
- Very good availability of a variety of lenses
- Compared to mirrorless cameras, they have a slight advantage when tracking fast moving subjects.
DISADVANTAGES OF DSLR CAMERAS
Some of the latest technologies are impossible to use in DSLRs because of the mirror
Limited speed of a series of photos due to the fact that it has to go through the mirror
Clicking sound, which can sometimes be irritating (for example at a lecture or wedding ceremony)
Heavier weight of the DSLR due to the mirror
ADVANTAGES OF MIRRORLESS CAMERAS
They are lighter than SLR cameras
By not having a mirror, you can see each photo “LIVE” as it will be taken. So you don’t need to take many shots and change the settings, just set them once and you can see the result right on the display
Much faster photo series due to the fact that the photo does not have to go through the mirror
Silent mode so you don’t even hear you’re taking a picture
Much newer technology used
Manual focusing is easier than on DSLRs thanks to Focus peaking
They take better quality videos than SLRs today. 4K video is now standard on all higher quality mirrorless cameras
DISADVANTAGES OF MIRRORLESS CAMERAS
By being lighter, you have to watch out for the weight of the lenses. Sometimes the weight of the lens can be quite unbalanced against the camera
Batteries can take fewer shots than DSLRs, usually around 300-400 shots, better models a bit more
Cheaper mirrorless cameras don’t always have a viewfinder and sometimes this can be a problem, especially when shooting motion activities (sports, kids running, animals, etc). You will usually pay more for a mirrorless camera with a viewfinder
Smaller selection of lenses. Sometimes it’s better to buy an adapter to be able to mount a DSLR lens. That said, that adapter can sometimes negatively affect the resulting photo quality
WHY DID I SWITCH TO A MIRRORLESS CAMERA?
Personally, I’ve been shooting with a DSLR for many years. I switched to mirrorless in January 2021. I chose the Canon EOS R and so far I am very happy with it.
As for me personally, I bought a mirrorless camera because I knew I didn’t need an SLR. On the other hand, I need to see the result of my work on the sensor as quickly as possible. By not having a mirror, I can already see the resulting photo on the sensor in advance and I don’t have to take “test shots” after changing exposure settings.
I also think technology is moving forward faster with mirrorless cameras. This is one of the reasons I decided to go mirrorless, as I want to keep up with the new possibilities in the world of photography.
At the same time, if you just want to get started with photography or want to shoot very fast moving activities like sports, a DSLR is a good way to go.
IF YOU DON'T HAVE A CLEAR REASON TO BUY AN DSLR, CHOOSE A MIRRORLESS CAMERA INSTEAD
As you can see, each has its advantages and disadvantages. As Peto mentioned in our conversation about how to choose a camera, unless you know what you need a mirror in your camera for, go mirrorless. However, not every beginner can afford to invest so much money in a mirrorless camera. So if you’re looking for something cheaper to get some practice – a DSLR is the way to go. If you already have enough money, it’s a good idea to think about what kind of photography you primarily want to do and what matters most to you in a camera (weight, burst speed, optical viewfinder, battery, design, technology) and base your choice on that.
THE PHOTOGRAPHER IS THE ONE TAKING GOOD PICTURES, NOT THE CAMERA
The most important thing when choosing a camera is: the photographer takes the pictures, not the camera 🙂 So unless you know the basics of photography, it’s not really urgent to invest a lot of money in the best cameras and think long and hard about whether a mirrorless or a DSLR is better.
Rather, borrow equipment from a friend or a rental shop, try out several types. Experience with multiple cameras alone will give you the best idea of what to choose. I wish you the best of luck in choosing your camera, whether it be a DSLR or mirrorless 🙂