With the arrival of the EVIL camera systems, better known as Mirrorless Cameras, people are confused between the Pros and Cons of picking up one of these instead of the traditional DSLRs. Even though the differences between these two different types of cameras are quite minimal, it’s worth knowing them before you pick one up.
A mirrorless camera is basically a DSLR without the mirror. Instead of the mirror used to reflect light into the viewfinder they usually use an electronic viewfinder or an EVF. This in turn helps in maintaining a compact form factor as far as the construction of the body is concerned.
DSLRs have a much larger image sensor and a pentamirror/pentaprism based optical viewfinder system. The EVIL systems employ an APS-C size sensors, usually found in DX type DSLRs, or a smaller micro four third sensor along with an EVF.
(Full Frame vs APS-C vs Micro Four Thirds sensor size comparison)
DSLRs use the same lenses as the 35mm (Film) SLRs. Newer DSLR lenses are designed specifically for digital imaging, and tend to produce better results. They also have a wider collection of lenses available as they have been around for a longer time.
Since EVIL systems are newer they don’t yet have an extensive lineup of lenses. However, current lens selection, though growing, is still relatively limited and expensive compared to the extensive DSLR lens market. Because the EVIL systems have much smaller “flange back distance” (the distance between the lens mount and the image plane), the lenses can be made smaller compared to the same type for a DSLR.
Most new DSLRs come with a variety of video modes, even though most DSLR purists argue that a DSLR should be used for photography and not as a video camera.
The EVIL cameras all offer HD video, most providing full HD. Most EVIL cameras includes an HDMI port which allows the camera to be connected directly to an HDTV.
But one has to keep in mind that even though the DSLRs and EVIl cameras have a video mode, they are primarily a still photography camera, they are not a replacement for a video camera. And the video modes on these cameras have certain limitations compared to the traditional HD video cameras.
DSLRs even though bulkier compared to EVIL systems are built better and sturdier. The DSLR bodies, especially the PRO ones, can withstand the rigorous and continued use in extreme conditions which the EVIL system can not do.
EVIL cameras are smaller and lighter than their true DSLR counterparts. Since the EVIL system does away with the prism/mirror, mirror box, and viewfinder they are truly compact. And even the lenses for theses systems are compact compared to their DSLR variants.
The main benefit of DSLR autofocus systems is that they are fast. DSLRs offer faster phase-detection autofocus, while EVIL systems use the slower contrast-detection autofocus that relies on the imaging sensor. AF speed of an EVIL camera won’t be quite as fast as normal DSLR. EVIL system are fine for photographing static objects like a portrait or a landscape but not as good at photographing moving objects as DSLRs.
DSLRs us an optical viewfinder that uses mirrors to reflect light from the lens to the viewfinder. You get to see exactly what the lens sees.
EVIL systems use an electronic viewfinder or some models even do away with the EVF and use the LCD on the back.
As far as image quality is concerned, the top mirrorless models can match that of the top APS-C DSLRs. Mirrorless cameras are much smaller and lighter, making them easy to carry for long periods. Manufacturers who have developed EVIL systems aren’t particularly looking to attract existing DSLR users. The targets were and still are people who had/have become accustomed to the convenience of point & shoot and mobile phone cameras.
*(Electronic Viewfinder with Interchangeable Lens)