Mirrorless cameras and DSLRs – What’s the Difference?

Mirrorless cameras and DSLRs – If you’re in the market for a good camera and you do some searching online, you will likely be confronted by some unusual terms you might not understand, which makes the job of finding the right one for you, that bit more tricky.

Two of the terms you might encounter are ‘Mirrorless Cameras’ and ‘DSLRs’ and if you don’t know the difference, you could end up with an unsuitable product for your needs.

So, what are mirrorless cameras?

When trying to explain what a mirrorless camera is, it helps to know what the term refers to. Mirrored film cameras preceded digital cameras by several decades and they use a mirror housed inside the camera unit that flips up at the point of exposure and allows light to enter via the lens through to its destination, the camera’s image sensor.

In recent years and thanks to technological advances, the mirror is no longer needed to perform this task and the term ‘mirrorless’ was coined. That said, there are a number of different varieties of a mirrorless camera, many being used in the mobile phone industry, but the common denominator is that none of them includes a mirrored mechanism.

One major difference to note between DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras is that you have a viewfinder and a digital display, whereas a mirrorless camera relies on using the digital display only to frame the required image, something that photographic purists say puts the DSLR at an advantage.

The digital display is often called the EVF – Electronic View Finder and the optical display is often called the OVF – Optical View Finder.  Some reviews or shopping websites use these terms, so it helps to understand them when comparing mirrorless cameras and DSLRs

How They Differ from DSLR Cameras

Digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) project an image onto the digital imaging sensor and they couldn’t be much more different than their mirrorless counterparts, as they contain a complex system of mirrors and have long been thought of as the only option for anyone looking for the best on the market.

That has changed in recent times, as the gap between the quality produced by mirrorless cameras and DSLRs has closed somewhat. They may not yet be on a par at this point in time, but it may not be that long until this happens, as the battle hots up. With mirrorless cameras used in the ever-improving paradigm of smartphone devices, the money will continue to be pumped into research and development of the technology.

With mirrorless cameras will be always found in the ever-improving paradigm of smartphone devices, the money will continue to be pumped into research and development of the technology.

What a mirrorless camera can do, and to a certain extent DSLRs with a foldout, EVF is to be able to take photographs that used to be uncomfortable with relative ease.  Imagine you want to put the camera over your head to photograph what is happening in front of a crowd.  With a DSLR it’s pretty much guesswork what photograph you will get, whereas with a mirrorless camera or a DSLR with a fold out EVF you can fold out the EVF and point it to you can see it when you have the camera pointing at people’s heads.  It is also easier to take selfies using these fold out EVFs – just use the EVF folded out and pointed towards you when you press the button.

I mention this an in more detail below, but the sensor size on mirrorless cameras tends to smaller.  This leads to smaller file sizes (but a drop in quality!) which means you don’t need as much hard drive space etc.  It is all relative!

Which is Best?

Right now, I’d say that DSLRs still have the edge in terms of picture quality, but ask me again in 12 months time and who knows what the status quo will be.

DSLR cameras have a very large user base, a large range of camera lenses ranging from the inexpensive to the very expensive. Mirrorless cameras are catching up but don’t have the user base not the extensive range of lenses.  What many mirrorless camera manufacturers do however is to make lens adapters.  These can be put onto the camera and the, depending on the lens used, another manufactures lenses can be put onto the adapter.  You can get old lenses for next to nothing on eBay or camera shops – just be careful of getting a decent one for the money you pay!

As for sensor size, it is often thought that DSLR’s which have a full-size sensor (know as Full Frame) will always outperform the smaller sensor sized cameras (known as APS-C).  99% of mirrorless cameras are in the APS-C bracket by the way.  However, when you look at the printed quality and check the differences out they are not as big as people think.  Many mirrorless cameras now boast quality at least equal to full frame cousins.

Andrew now uses mirrorless cameras developed by Fuji.  He uses XT2’s, along with a wide range of Fuji lenses and accessories.  Have you noticed a difference in the quality of work that is produced?

The biggest difference is in the weight of mirrorless cameras and DSLRs.  Mirrorless weigh considerably less, so if you have a small frame, poor health etc then mirrorless cameras could be your best bet.

Mirrorless cameras Fuji XT2

Fuji XT2’s

Mirrorless cameras Fuji XT2

Mirrorless cameras Fuji XT2

Andrew is on of the few Bristol wedding photographers who love family groups and sunset wedding photography and does so using his Fuji XT2’s!

Some links to my web pages you may find useful

Mirrorless and DSLR camera training programme


Andrew Miller Photography – Real Reviews on Google