When you are shopping for a new camera, one of the most interesting choices is whether to opt for a mirrorless camera vs DSLR. Until relatively recently, the DSLR was quite clearly the king of the crop, but today that may no longer be the case.
DSLR cameras are based on the same sort of technology as the old 35mm film camera. The mirror inside the camera reflects light onto the CCD, which is what records the image that is then saved to the camera’s memory.
This is in contrast to the modern mirrorless design, which allows light to pass through the lens and onto the image sensor directly, with no mirror in the way. The question is, does the technology really make a difference? Is there a winner in the mirrorless camera vs DSLR debate?
Well, a DSLR camera body will usually be bigger, because the mirror and the prism requires extra space. Some cameras are three inches deep, and once you add a lens kit they can weigh 1lb 2oz or more. Mirrorless cameras are smaller – often less than two inches in size, although the difference in weight is minimal, with an average camera plus lens weighing just over a pound. The lens is usually the bulkiest part. The difference in size is important though, since it means that you can fit more gear into your camera bag.
When it comes to image quality, DSLRs have traditionally been king, while mirrorless cameras were considered to be little more than just standard point and shoot cameras, because the contrast detection process they used was slower than the phase detection offered by DSLRs. HOwever, that is changing, as more and more camera makers are putting phase detection into their mirrorless cameras. For example, the Sony a6000 has a large number of phase detection points built in to its image sensor, and Nikon’s D5300 has a separate sensor for AF which has 39 phase detection points on it. Not all mirrorless cameras have this feature, though, so if it is important to you as a photographer it is worth checking.
In good light, the preview of a mirrorless camera should be accurate, but in low light there may be some differences, and they can also struggle with moving subjects. DSLRs are slower to focus, but their optical viewfinder will give a good representation of what the image will look like.