DSLR vs Mirrorless Cameras

February 5, 2018
DSLR vs Mirrorless

Size and Weight

DSLRs are certainly bulkier than mirrorless; however, the large camera body can be helpful when using larger lenses. Not only are mirrorless cameras typically lighter and smaller, but they’re also quieter. By not having a mirror moving up and down, photographers can virtually shoot unnoticed — a great benefit to street, wedding and wildlife photographers.


DSLRs certainly have a greater range of lenses with Canon, Nikon, and Pentax. Nevertheless, mirrorless cameras are not far behind. Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony have a good range of lenses dedicated to mirrorless cameras. Also, due to the short focal range distance in mirrorless cameras, lenses that have a large focal range can be used when coupled with a compatible adapter. When using an adapter, you still get image quality, but the autofocus quality goes down. Keep in mind when selecting an adapter, to pick one that will keep electronic reporting and autofocus, and always check compatibility before making any purchases.


Traditionalists will argue that DSLR has mirrorless beat with its viewfinder. Mirrorless cameras do not have an optical viewfinder; they use an electronic viewfinder. It is important to note the low-end mirrorless cameras generally do not have any viewfinders, and purely rely on the rear LCD screen, which can prove difficult in bright light.

The optical viewfinder is best for natural, clear, lag-free viewing. Whereas, an electronic viewfinder can have a slight lag when moving the camera. The advantage to an electronic viewfinder is they can simulate the digital image the camera will capture. Though the simulation may not always be perfect. Yet, it does take out the step of taking a shot and then checking the LCD screen immediately after.


Each camera uses a different type of autofocus. DSLRs use phase detection to focus, which utilizes the mirror, dividing the incoming light into pairs of images, compares them and then focuses the lens on the subject.

Mirrorless cameras use contrast detection to measure the contrast between pixels on the sensor until it detects enough contrast to find the image is in focus. Unfortunately, this method is slower, difficult to use in low light and less effective when focusing on moving objects than phase detection. For people who shoot action and sports photography, DSLR is the better choice. However, newer mirrorless cameras are using a hybrid focusing method, combining phase and contrast detection.


When it comes to video recording mirrorless and DSLR cameras are pretty much on par, with regards to quality. Both cameras can shoot full HD. Mirrorless cameras also shoot 4k, while this is only a feature on newer high-end professional DSLRs.

Mirrorless cameras have an advantage – there is no mirror blocking the sensor. Also, they are better suited for shooting video because of their on-chip focus sensor. DSLRs cannot use phase detection with the mirror up while recording video and therefore have to use the slower, less accurate, contrast-detection focus.

Battery Life

There is no comparison between the two when it comes to battery life. A DSLR camera averages 600-800 shots and with better models over 1,000 shots on a single charge. The mirrorless camera averages around 300-400 on a single charge. For long shoots, you will definitely need spare batteries.


Basically, if you are looking for an entry-level camera you will get the most bang for your buck with a cheaper DSLR than a cheaper mirrorless. The main reason for this is the cheaper mirrorless cameras tend not to have viewfinders and cost a pretty penny to have one. The price difference disappears once you get into the enthusiast and pro market. For the same amount of money, you generally get the same features, quality, and power.


It mainly comes down to personal preference. The best way to decide is to try them both out and see which best suits you. You may prefer a camera with a larger body with more to grip and an optical viewer of a DSLR. On the other hand, you may prefer the light, smaller body of a mirrorless, which is great for traveling.



  • carlbradley

    I don’t understand why mirrorless cameras have poorer battery life–one would expect the opposite, unless the video viewfinder uses far more energy than moving the mirror. I have used both—and I guess because I am an old fart, I much prefer the look and function of the optical viewfinder to the other. Slow focusing and poor focusing in low light is a problem, and you can lose that perfectly composited shot on occasion. Good article. (I have used and loved ACDsee since version 3, and only resort to Photoshop when I am correcting tilt and perspective on tall architecture.)

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