How is a Mirrorless Camera different than a DSLR?

Getting to Know Your Camera Photography Business Tips

About a year ago, I made this informative video explaining the differences between a traditional dslr and the newer mirrorless camera technology. But now that I've owned my Mirrorless Camera for over a year, I have a better idea about the pros and cons on a more personal level from actually shooting with it. This video explains the basics, and I'll add my thoughts below.

What is a Mirroless Camera?

Just like the name says, a mirrorless camera is one that doesn’t have a mirror to lift out of the way when you push the shutter button to take the picture. On your Dslr, when you look through the viewfinder to see what your camera is seeing,(show viewfinder) you’re actually looking down a tunnel of mirrors to show you exactly what your lens is looking at. This mirror is the same piece that gets lifted out of the way when you push the shutter button to let light hit the sensor. 

Pro: More Compact and Lightweight

With the mirrorless cameras, they take out the whole system of mirrors, which frees up all that space inside the camera, making these cameras much more compact and lightweight than a dslr. I've really enjoyed a camera that you can grab and go without hauling around so much weight and looking like I brought a whole ensemble to a something like a preschool performance or date night. 

Con: Screen Viewfinder Rather than Live View

Because you no longer have the mirror to show you what your lens is looking at in real time, the mirrorless camera relies on the digital live view screen to show you what your lens is looking at, so the downside is that instead of seeing a crystal clear real time image through your lens, you’re looking at a tiny screen. I've noticed that looking through the viewfinder at a tiny screen isn't quite the same as my old DSLR, so I tend to just hold it up and take the shot looking at the larger screen on the back. I feel like this definitely changes my look as a professional, and have felt a little embarrassed taking this camera on a professional shoot, especially a wedding. Obviously the picture quality is more important than how I look with my camera, but image is important for referral business and a lot of people could get the impression I'm using some cheap point and shoot at a wedding and that's not great for business.

Pro: No Moving Shutter

With mirrorless cameras, instead of lifting the mirror up and down at the shutter speed you select, your camera’s sensor can simply collect the available light for the period of time you’ve specified. Without having to mechanically lift the mirror out of the way, you’re able to have a faster frame rate with the mirrorless cameras, which is how many pictures you can take per second, and that comes in handy if you're a sports or action photographer. You also have one less moving part to worry about, which means less money spent on repairs.

Con: Shorter Battery Life

Anther downside with the mirrorless cameras is that the batteries are much smaller, and you've got less shooting time on your battery. So you'll have to buy a lot more batteries and be switching them out more frequently, which is definitely less convenient if you're shooting weddings.

Con: Slower Focus

One of the cons I hadn't thought about before I bought the SonyA7 Mirrorless camera was the slower focusing ability. After shooting with the camera in several different settings I've definitely noticed a frustratingly slow focusing ability at times, especially in lower lighting. Granted, I'm coming off my old camera which was a Canon 5D Mark II and had a beautifully quick focus, so the mirrorless camera's focus pales in comparison.

Con: Smaller Lens Selection

Another big consideration when looking at a new mirrorless camera is the lens selection. Currently mirrorless cameras have a very small selection of compatible lenses but the number continues to grow. You can likely use some your current lenses with your new mirroless camera, but you’ll have to get an adaptor for them to fit on the camera, and they might not be available for all lenses.

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  • Missy on

    Wow this cleared up many of my questions. Thanks for the great information on mirrorless vs dslr

  • Allie on

    This was very informative! I have wondered about mirrorless cameras for a while but never really bothered to look into it!

  • Lori on

    Thanks! I wasn’t sure exactly how a mirror less camera worked.

  • Jambor zoltan on

    Same thing happened to my Nikon D50 in the middle of a wedding – since that I go to any wedding with 2 cameras 2 lenses 2 flashes aso.

  • Sourav Saha on

    A nice and intuitive article. A very helpful one too

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