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Inspiration

DSLR vs Mirrorless Cameras | Gear Talk Episode 7

By Joseph Cha on October 16th 2014

The Great Debate

DSLR vs. Mirrorless cameras, which is better? Is there even a correct answer? Pye and I go head to head to discuss the pros and cons of each and debate which is better. Check out our discussion in the video below.

Watch The DSLR vs Mirrorless Cameras Video

The Two Sides

Pye uses the Canon DSLR system and I use the Sony Full Frame mirrorless cameras. This is an interesting topic for us to debate because Pye has also owned the Sony A7r with a few lenses and I shot Canon for 7 years before I switched to Sony mirrorless.

DSLR vs Mirrorless: Size

On paper, it’s clear that the mirrorless wins, but in practice, it’s a different story. It’s amazing to have a professional camera outfit that weighs less than my Chipotle burrito, but when the buttons are so close together, it’s easy to accidentally adjust settings.

dslr vs mirrorless size

I’ve been shooting with these mirrorless cameras for about a year now and I still have the occasional mishap. With that being said, the size is actually dependent on your intended use for the camera. For consumers, the smaller outfit is definitely a pro, but for professionals that convenience could cost them a shot.

Winner: Draw

Price

This is an area where the DSLR vs Mirrorless debate has a clear winner. When I compare the Sony Full Frame Mirrorless cameras to their competitors, the mirrorless cameras are more affordable in all categories.

  • Entry Level Full Frame: Sony A7 ($1498) vs Canon 6D ($1899)
  • High Megapixel Full Frame: Sony a7R ($2098) vs Nikon D800E ($3296)
  • Low Light Performance: Sony a7S ($2498) vs Nikon Df ($2746)

Winner: Mirrorless

Viewfinder: Electric Viewfinder (EVF) vs Optical Viewfinder

I absolutely love the EVF in my mirrorless cameras. It’s amazing being able to see the exact exposure and color I’m going to get when I press the shutter, and then be able to see the playback inside the viewfinder. It’s a great setup and my face never leaves the viewfinder, which is great for important events.

The downside is when it gets dark. The EVF slows down considerably and sometimes it’s impossible to see what I’m going to shoot without some sort of assisted lighting. It’s cases like these where you would want the simplicity of the Optical Viewfinder. EVF technology has improved immensely over the years, but optical viewfinders are still better, if only by a hair.

Winner: DSLR

DSLR vs Mirrorless: Autofocus

This is an interesting area of debate, because usually mirrorless cameras will have more autofocus points, but DSLRs will have stronger autofocus points. When it comes down to it, you’re going to want quality over quantity. In low-light situations, the mirrorless cameras do struggle and you’re going to wish you had even just 1 DSLR cross-type autofocus point. Although mirrorless camera autofocus technology is quickly advancing, it’s still not as good as a DSLR’s.

Winner: DSLR

Lens Selection for DSLR and Mirrorless

IMG_9639

Although a DSLR camera will typically have more native lenses to choose from, a mirrorless camera will have more adaptable lenses. I’ve mounted everything from E-mount lenses, A-Mount lenses (from Sony, Zeiss, and Konica Minolta), Leica, Voigtlander, Canon EF, and Exakta (have you even heard of that one?!) lenses on my mirrorless. With the advantages of flange distance and an EVF, mounting and focusing with any lens becomes a breeze.

Winner: Draw

Options on DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras

physical options
I find that the DSLR will have more physical ports and ways to hook into, and a mirrorless will have more digital options (like apps you can install). If there’s a particularly difficult shot you want to capture, more than likely the DSLR or Mirrorless camera you’re using has a way to capture it.

Winner: Draw

Conclusion

If you need a camera body with fast and reliable autofocus, an optical viewfinder, and don’t mind the size, then a DSLR is for you. If you want a lightweight camera body with an EVF and can take your time in low light situation, then the mirrorless is a better option. The DSLR vs Mirrorless debate has been going on for years and we barely scratched the surface covering these topics, so let us know which you prefer and why in the comments!

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About

I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Southern California. When I don’t have a camera in my face I enjoy going to the movies and dissecting the story telling and visual aesthetics.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Gabriel Michel

    Hello !
    (I’m new here, just a french sunday photographer going slowly to pro. Excellent website anyway !)

    I’m about to invest in a complete system, and I am really struggling DSLR vs mirroless so your article really matters to me.

    The real question for me is : Is mirrorless today better than, let’s say, a 5 years old DSLR ?
    5 years ago we were able to shoot pro with the DSLRs we had. So is the mirrorless IQ not better than them ? And the Af at least not as good ?

    Sony mirrorless is cheaper, but FE lenses are and will be more expensive (due to the short flange focal design and the “Zeiss coatings”). Anyway, Sony/Zeiss seem to release piece by piece one of the finest lenses ever made !
    A 70-200 2.8 will also be ridiculous on a E-mount…but for me it’s an “hurrah !” : a 85mm or 135mm, and my legs are the zoom.
    A thing I really don’t stand and understand is why Sony compressed the RAW files. Why ?!

    Olympus mirrorless system is mature but nobody can say the future is bright, because of the small sensor.

    Another point which is essential to me is the histogram. For me a DSLR should have a live histogram always showing (even without live view). I had 6 DSLRs and 3 mirrorless systems, and today I cannot rely on anything but the live histogram. Maybe the solution would be an hybrid like on on Fuji.

    The color rendition may be better on Canon than Sony (and Nikon), but not than Olympus in my personal taste.

    Ok the A7 series is not pro but when Sony will decide to release an A9 series, maybe it will be a real game changer. And I’m pretty sure that it will be happening this year or in 2016…according to rumors on the Internet.
    So what we will probably see in the near future is Sony (and Samsung !) bring professional mirrorless cameras, and Canon/Nikon bring mirrorless non-pro stuff.

    And what about the Nikon Df ? I think a better “Df mark 2” with a thinner body would be great, really competing the mirrorless systems. Or maybe Canon could release that model ?

    Another thing. I never carry my camera with the right hand. I always carry it with the left hand (actually, the lens mounted on it) so the grip is not important to me. Am I alone in this case ? My right hand is used only to press the shutter and handle the rings and buttons un the right side. I don’t understand why people are so attached to those grips…

    I have a question. Are DSLRs really better with autofocus ? Let me explain a little. Let’s say a 85mm 1.4 on a D810 is the autofocus really reliable at 1.4 ? Is contrast detection not more precise in this case ? I heard a lot of people telling me that I would have to buy 1.8 lenses instead of 1.4 on a D810 (or 5Dr), because it would be almost impossible to have the right focus with phase detection AF on a high pixel count DSLR. But I would like to use 1.4 or even 1.2 lenses !

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  2. Terry Jordan

    As far as the debate is concerned, I really wonder who here is actually interested in the art of photography. Even in the area of art, there are some changes in tools, however at the end of the day it comes down to capturing light and excluding it correctly! If we spend as much time learning the craft, as we do running from one tool to the other, it would be a non factor as to what gear is used! One other though, as far as crying about the weight of the camera (I understand a woman being concerned about the weight, but men? Really? Until these forums, I never gave any thought to the weight, because I’m too busy focusing on the art of photography! Whe there we use a pin hole camera or mirrorless or dslr, let’s concentrate on the craft!

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  3. Loretta Nichole

    I love the fact the mirrorless is more lightweight.. Looking forward to continued advances in this technology!

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  4. Peter Nord

    Those cameras are find, however I still find the results I get with an inexpensive Canon SX50 with the 1200mm equivalent zoom to be amazing.

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  5. Arnold Ziffel

    Pentax had a good idea with their poorly executed K-01 in that it used existing K mount lenses, theoretically letting you have the best of both worlds. But like I said, poorly executed.

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  6. David Hall

    I love my A6000 because as Pye said, it’s fun. I don’t shoot professionally, so for what I need – mirrorless is perfect. I need a camera that’s light enough to carry around for traveling, street photos, and conventions. Then I stop to take portraits, I can still get great looking shots. Great debate!

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  7. Enzo Scorziello

    I personally love my a-6000 (couldn’t swing the $$ for a7®. My biggest issue is with the hot shoe. I finding 3rd party flashes and accessories is not easy. I have yet to find anyone that has a good solution for flashes and triggers.

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  8. Peter McWade

    I love my Sony A7R. I almost always use manual lenses so autofocus is not an issue. I like the size because it is more like the old Pentax SLR and those just feel natural in my big hands. I don’t worry about speed because I usually take considerable time setting up a shot vs just rapid fire of auto shooting and hoping for the best. I am quite sure that I will upgrade some time in the future but not in the near future. I also love the amount of lenses I can adapt to my little beastie.

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  9. Steven Chen

    the EVF will be light up when getting dark, but Optical V can’t. so I think the winner will be the mirrorless ? after shoot with Nikon DSLR for 20ys and switch to the Sony and Olympus EM1.

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  10. MARTIN MIANO

    thats really cool

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  11. Gonzalo Broto

    I guess one has to carefully ask himself (or herself) what are their priorities and then choose accordingly. In the end, it’s mostly about how people feel when using a camera (since IQ these days is very close in most situations and any camera is better than what most people need).
    In my case portability was on top of my needs, so it was an easy choice, and I went with the smallest mirrorless ILC available at the moment: Lumix GM1. I just wrote an article in my blog about the benefits of small cameras, check it out here: http://gonzalobroto.blogspot.com/2014/10/born-by-chance-handbag-photography-ii.html

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  12. Marc Avice

    will interesting to see where the mirrorless cameras will be within 2-3 years. To my view, they need to rethink their ergonomics (buttons locations etc)

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  13. Mircea Blanaru

    I use the mirroless system and I am very happy with it. If I would need a brick, weighting kilograms, using almost always a tripod and not regarding to the money I would use rather a medium format camera like the Hasselblad or Phase One.

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  14. Michał Obuchowski

    I agree and am looking at a 7d2 for pro photo assignments and a7s for video… geesh… so much cash!! :P

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  15. Greg Silver

    I’d argue that autofocus is better/faster on a DSLR than on a Mirrorless. Yes in low light DSLR will have the edge, however I would question how many people actually shoot in low light. I decent light, I’ve had an exceptional experience with my a6000 which has been much more accurate and faster than some of the DSLR’s I’ve used. I’d give the win to Mirrorless!

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  16. J D

    A camera is a tool. Pick the best tool for the job. You don’t need a 1Dx to go take landscapes and you aren’t going to shoot sports with an A7.

    Personally, I have yet to put a mirrorless in my hands that felt good. And if a camera doesn’t feel good in my hands then I am not going to want to use it. That’s the reason I picked Canon over Nikon many years ago. Canon felt better in my hands.

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  17. Kevin Nguyen

    Though I have small hand, my 5D3 is staying with me :)

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  18. Steven Pellegrino

    I agree with what they said in the video. I shoot both mirrorless and DSLR professionally, and each has it’s pros and cons. The FujiFilm X cameras are my first choice, but they’re not perfect for every scenario.

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