Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR: What’s the Difference?


mirrorless camera vs dslr

It’s the middle of summer and you want to get outside to take some photos. Your trusted dslr is in hand.

You love it, but you keep reading about mirrorless cameras. The new “kit” on the block.

You’re itching to try it… something shiny, new, and exciting.

Could a new toy bring new life into your work? Maybe, probably – most likely!

Maybe you are asking yourself: Should I buy a mirrorless or stick with my dslr camera?

If you are like most photographers who have an entry-level dslr or a point and shoot camera, you aren’t sure what the differences between a mirrorless camera, a dslr, or an slr are…

And perhaps you aren’t sure if you should drop a few hundred dollars on an entry-level mirrorless camera or just pick up a new lens for your trusted dslr.

We are here to answer some of your questions and push you over the edge toward a new camera.

Recommended: Entry Level Mirrorless Camera Under $500 Olympus OMD EM10

Key Differences – Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR:

Samsung NX3000 Best Selling Mirrorless Camera under 500 with Flip LCD Screen

Samsung NX3000 – Excellent Choice Under $400


DSLR’s are an extension of the old school film camera – the SLR.

Like the SLR, the DSLR has a mirror which reflects the image through the viewfinder so you can see what you are going to take a photo of before you click the button.

The mirrorless camera does not have a mirror inside to reflect the image through to the viewfinder.

All mirrorless cameras have use of the LCD screen on the back of the camera to focus and shoot.

Mirrorless cameras were “viewfinder free” for many years until the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) was invented to allow photogs a similar viewfinder experience as the DSLR.

The initial problem with the EVF was that it was slow, but as the years move forward and technology progresses, the EVF is getting to be a lot faster and rival the DSLR’s viewfinder capabilities.

An advantage of the EVF nowadays is that the EVF shows what the image will look like as is when it is shot.

A DSLR’s viewfinder reflects the scene as you see it, not as it will be output – because it’s a mirror – a reflection – and does not take into account the ISO, Fstop, and other camera settings when the image is reflected through the viewfinder.

The beauty of the mirrorless camera is that you can preview the scene live and make adjustments before you take the photo. This is a huge leap forward in pre-processing/preparing images before they hit Lightroom or Photoshop.


No Mirror:

Olympus OMD EM10 Best SElling Mirrorless Camera Under 500 2

Olympus OMD EM10 – Excellent Choice Under $450

Segueing from the point above about the EVF, the mirrorless camera simply does not have an internal mirror to reflect the image into a viewfinder.

Thus, most mirrorless cameras are smaller than dslr’s and weigh less.

There is less internal componentry to make a mirrorless camera heavy and bulky.

However, with the advent of full frame mirrorless cameras, they are creeping up in size and rivaling the weight of dslrs.

A full frame mirrorless camera is one that has the same sensor size as an SLR or a professional grade dslr. The full frame sensor is larger than an APS-C or Micro Four Thirds sensor.

As a sensor, it’s larger and offers you more space to capture the image upon than a “cropped sensor” APS-C.

(Learn more about Sensors here!)

To keep your mirrorless camera experience lightweight, we recommend buying a mirrorless camera body that isn’t full frame.

If you travel a lot with your camera, you’ll love the smaller size advantage of mirrorless option vs a dslr.


Battery life:

DSLRs are generally able to hold a charge for days… well, maybe not days, but they do hold a battery charge for a heck of a long time because the batteries are huge.

A mirrorless camera has smaller batteries that need to be charged more often and tend to run out quickly if you are shooting in video mode a lot.

If you need to shoot all day or for a long wedding, you will definitely want to make sure the mirrorless camera you buy has interchangeable batteries and does not require being charged by being plugged in to a USB.


Image Quality/Sensors:

Sony A7 II top view

Sony A7 II Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

When mirrorless cameras came out they were less competitive regarding image quality. They rivaled a cell phone (a modern cell phone) and were a step up from most point and shoot cameras.

In the past few years mirrorless cameras have begun to up-the-ante with more megapixels and larger sensors.

A pro-dslr will generally have a full frame sensor. A semi-pro dslr will generally have an APS-C sensor.

Mirrorless cameras now have the same variety of sensors and rival pro-dslrs easily. And within both types of camera genres you can get pretty much any type of sensor/megapixel combo to suit your price point.



Both dslrs and mirrorless cameras have enough megapixels to make a difference.

You can pick up a 20-24 megapixel APS-C sensor mirrorless camera just as easily as you can an entry level pro dslr with the same specs. Or you can pick up a fully loaded point and shoot that will knock your socks off!

Check out the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 RII Digital Still Camera Full Frame Point and Shoot

Or you can pick up a 40-50 megapixel full frame mirrorless for a few thousand dollars – just like a professional dslr.

Whatever your needs are, both mirrorless and dslr’s can meet them when it comes to megapixels and image quality.


Lens options:

There is an entire ecosystem of adapters that allows for the use of Canon, Nikon, Sony Alpha-mount and other lenses on the NEX cameras. The stable of E-mount lenses is still growing, but is doing so rapidly. – Sohail Momdani for Chase Jarvis

As mirrorless cameras become mainstream, manufacturers are increasing their mirrorless camera lens options.

And, micro four thirds makers Pentax and Olympus share lenses easily although they have different internal capabilities.

Pentax lenses are image stabilized while Olympus image stabilizes in camera, not in lens.

Sony has an array of lenses that are starting to rival those available for dslr’s.

Canon and Nikon lenses can be used on camera with the purchase of an adapter ring. For a new photographer though, the lens that comes on camera will work just fine.

As you grow your experience and want to expand your lens range from the usual zoom style kit lens, you’ll likely have what you need available.




The most obvious advantage of mirrorless cameras is that there isn’t a mirror blocking the sensor. This means that unlike a DSLR, you don’t have to completely change the way that the camera works in order to shoot video: you can continue to use the same means of previewing and shooting when you switch from stills to video. As a result, it’s mirrorless cameras that have led the charge towards offering better and better video and the clever photographic tricks that can stem from it. – From DPReview *


Final Thoughts – Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR:

Basically, as technology moves further down the road, the core differences between a dslr and a mirrorless camera are being minimized.

The #1 difference is whether there is a mirror or not to reflect the image through a viewfinder.

Now that the EVF has come into play, if you are a photog that needs a viewfinder, you will be able to have that experience with most mid-priced mirrorless cameras available today (over $500-$600)

If you are looking for a new camera or want to take the plunge into the mirrorless world – do it…

Quality imagery, durability and variety are some of the things you’ll experience when you buy a mirrorless camera at pretty much any price point.

Moving away from the dslr may even feel liberating!


Should You Buy a Mirrorless Camera?

If you are questioning the logic of buying a mirrorless vs dslr for beginners, get a mirrorless camera.

Or even if you are new to photography and are not sure whether you should get a point and shoot or a mirrorless camera, get a mirrorless camera.

You’ll be able to buy interchangeable lenses, filters, accessories and expand your creative range easily with a mirrorless camera.

It’s the wave of the future, and they’re only getting better with time.

You won’t be disappointed.

We recommend purchasing from any of the major brands – Sony, Canon, Samsung, Fuji, Olympus, Nikon, or Pentax.

File Under: What is a Mirrorless Camera, What are Mirrorless Cameras, Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR, DSLR vs Mirrorless Camera


Adorama    DPReview   Techradar   Chase Jarvis


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