It’s the holy war of the photography world: Mirrorless versus DSLR. It’s also, these days, a largely irrelevant question, as both technologies are pretty far along and end up doing about the same thing. Photographer David Bergman takes a look at a reader question and offers his thoughts on what’s better.
Bergman covers the basics of the main differences between DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex) and mirrorless cameras, chief amongst them being the viewfinders. You’re looking at a small screen on a mirrorless viewfinder, compared to looking at actual life reflected in a series of mirrors on a DSLR. For Bergman, he prefers the natural experience of looking through the DSLR’s optical viewfinder. In practice, I’ve found that a lot of my own photography students can’t tell the difference. I’m not sure what that says about the eyes of the next generation, but I do think it says that manufacturers and older photography pundits )myself included) are the ones that are more worried about this academic distinction of viewfinders.
Mirrorless used to primarily be about being smaller and lighter than DSLR equivalents. I’ve been a big fan of small, full-featured mirrorless bodies such as the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III. They were always cheap, cheery, and incredibly small and light. However, these small cameras invariably always ended up giving up something to DSLRs that made them better secondary cameras than daily drivers.
Fast forward to modern mirroless cameras, and small and light have, somewhat, gone out the window. A Canon EOS R5 buyer is going to be carrying around almost as much size and weight as the EOS 5D Mark IV buyer, but those larger mirrorless bodies are packing all the latest tech. As Bergman points out, the focusing done off the sensor on an EOS R5 mirrorless, for instance, adds some incredibly helpful abilities such as eye-detection autofocus, whereas, on a DSLR, you’d have to awkwardly hold the camera away from your face to shoot, if that’s a feature that’s offered at all. Unfortunately, this capability comes at a cost, literally: Mirrorless bodies that are true high-end DSLR replacements cost as much as their counterparts.
While Bergman himself comes down on the DSLR side (favoring an EOS-1D X Mark III), he does concede that newer and never-before-seen lenses are gracing the new mirrorless mounds, such as Canon’s RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens, a lens with an insanely wide aperture for a zoom, and the weird new VR lens from Canon, the RF 5.2mm f/2.8L Dual Fisheye 3D VR Lens.
Ultimately, the choice is personal. What would you choose? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.