What is a Mirrorless Camera

There’s a new player in the photography field that seems to be the new buzzword in the camera world. It is the mirrorless camera. What is mirrorless camera ? In this post I will answer this question and discuss the benefits and ‘not so benefits’ of the mirrorless camera. We will also compare it with the traditional DSLR camera.


Mirrorless

A mirrorless camera is similar to a DSLR camera except for one thing, that is the elimination of reflex mirror mechanismmirrorless camera found in DSLR cameras. DSLR cameras are built with an optical viewfinder. The light from the lens enters the camera body and is then reflected several times until it reaches the optical viewfinder. In a mirrorless camera there is no optical viewfinder. The image from the sensor is sent directly to an Electronic View Finder or EVF. EVF is basically an LCD screen that simulates optical viewfinder. Mirrorless camera is not a new invention. Any camera that does not have a mirror based optical viewfinder is technically a mirrorless camera. That includes point and shoot cameras, cell phone cameras, tablets etc. In this article we will be talking about mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses (ILC). MILC or Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera is the new term in contrast with its counterpart DSLR.

The mirrorless interchangeable lens camera or MILC was invented only with one intention – to eliminate the bulky pentaprism and mirror system to make the camera compact and lightweight, and to ultimately reduce production costs. Just like DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras can also be mounted with different lenses. Every manufacturer have their own proprietary lens mounts. So any lens can not be mounted onto any camera.

It took many years for the MILC or Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras to hit the mainstream. There were many flaws that had to be corrected. The electronic viewfinder would not provide as much detail as an optical viewfinder. The battery life was poor due to the continuous use EVF. After many years of refinements, mirrorless ILC cameras have finally hit the market that produce real results.


Image and Video Quality

Image and video quality mainly depends on the image sensor. Image sensors come in different sizes and formats. Generally, larger the sensor, better the image and video quality. Full frame sensors will produce images that are rich in detail. Crop sensors are smaller than full frame. The crop sensor image quality will not match up to the full frame camera. MILC’s are more compact and lightweight, but they have the same sensors as DSLR camera inside the body. The image quality of MILC’s is just as good as DSLR cameras. Just like the DSLR, your image quality will also depend on the quality of the lens.

DSLR or MILC ?camera lenses

Since MILC’s are starting to be the talk in the town, it’s can be confusing to make a decision since DSLR’s have been around for decades. There are some key points to consider when deciding on which one.

Price

  • DSLR are considerably lower in price compared to mirrorless. The same amount of money will get you a DSLR with wide range of features. Mirrorless however in this price range will be on the cheap end lacking features and performance. The higher end models of DSLR and MILC are very comparative. They will both give you the same performance and features in the same price range.

Weight and Size

    • This is a matter of personal preference. MILC’s are considerably lighter and smaller than DSLR’s. If you prefer lightweight and portability is an issue, then MILC may be a better fit for you. But that doesn’t mean that the lenses will be lighter and small. You may have difficulty balancing a heavy lens on a lighter camera body.
    • DSLR’s are more bulky and heavy compared to MILC’s. Most people prefer the weight as it offers more stability and balance.

Lenses

    • DSLR’s have dominated the camera and lens market for many years. There are hundreds of lens available at an affordable price . Used lenses for DSLR can save considerable amount of money. Although there are companies starting to manufacture adapters that allow DSLR lens to be mounted on MILC’s. But that can affect performance of the lens including focal length, zoom, and auto focus.
    • MILC being in its infancy, the lens selection is not a vast as it’s counterpart DSLR. Although many companies are in the process of developing lenses for these cameras.

Viewfinder and Battery Life

    • Electronic viewfinder in MILC’s may not be ideal for everyone. The illuminated EVF may cause strain on the eyes. Although the EVF technology have advanced in recent years, but it could still be an issue for some people. This is also an issue with battery life. You may need to purchase additional batteries since the LCD in EVF puts a constant drain on the battery.
    • Optical view finder in DSLR’s is easy on the eyes and does not drain the battery. It is also better in low light conditions. You can see your subject much more clearly through an optical viewfinder when the light conditions are low. MILC’s electronic view finder tends to struggle with the detail in low light.

Conclusion

Modern technology is advancing at a rapid rate. Digital SLR cameras still dominate the photography field, but Mirrorless ILC’s are also catching up with a fast pace. Both cameras are capable of producing great images. At this point in time DSLR is a first choice among enthusiasts and professionals alike. The MILC’s have not evolved to the point to leave DSLR extinct. DSLR’s offer many benefits over mirrorless – price being one them. DSLR is a clear winner in the price / performance category.

I hope this article have given you some base ground in making a selection between a DSLR or MILC. Mirrorless may be the future, but the mighty king of photography, the DSLR is not going away anytime soon. Please leave and questions or comments below.


7 Comments

  1. Hi, I found this to be a very interesting article.    Until I read your article, it had not occurred to me how many mirrorless cameras are actually around.  Yet with the point and shoot camera, cell phone cameras and those on our tablets, we are surrounded by cameras without mirrors.   

    The last time that I went camera shopping, I planned to upgrade to a Canon 70D.   Yet, after talking to other customers hanging out in the camera aisle, I ended up taking home a Sony mirrorless.    Here in the US, the price was very comparable to the DLSR camera body that I was looking at.   It is significantly lighter camera that will appeal to photographers that need lighter cameras.   I’ve noticed that both Canon and Nikon have mirrorless cameras now also.     Good post.   Thanks. 

  2. Very informative article. You very clearly explained the difference between a DSLR and MILC camera as well as why someone might choose one over the other. Technology is always changing and definitely changes the way many things are done. Sometimes the changes are small, and having someone who can steer you towards the right item for your needs is a great help.

  3. I think mirrorless owns the future of photography, although Digital LSR are still pulling waves in the market presently. I think as advancement are being made in mirrorless cameras they will eventually knock out DSLR. A lot of my photographer friends are already opting for mirrorless because it’s easy carriage and image quality.

    1. Author

      The trend seems that way, but I think DSLR will still be around for another 5 or so years.

  4. Very interesting. I’m going to have to do a price/feature comparison between DSLR and MSLR cameras. My daughter is interested in photography. Shes signing up for a photography class in college. Of course shes hinting that she needs a camera! 🤣

    I’m going to have to do some more research on the features because I dont know what they all are…. But I’ll peruse your site. Looks like you know something about cameras and photography.

    1. Author

      Today.. DSLR is still the choice among many photographer.  But in the coming years, I see mirrorless dominating the market.

  5. Hi, until reading your post, it didn’t occur to me that mirrorless cameras are actually very common.  As you mentioned, point and shoot camera, our cell phones and Ipad cameras are all mirrorless.    

    Compared to my photographer friends, I still consider myself a beginning photographer.  Yet, I am currently on my second non-point and shoot camera.   Last time that I went camera shopping, I intended to purchase a Canon 70 D.   Yet, I ended up taking a Sony mirrorless home instead.   I love how light it is.     I still have not had time to do a lot of side by side comparisons between the quality of pictures.    Yet, the mirrorless wins when it comes to having a light camera to carry around on hikes.     Great post.  

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