Mirrorless vs. DSLRs – What To Choose And When

So, you have been using a point and shoot camera for a long time when it comes to your photography hobby/work, know most of the tids and bits of photography. And now you think it’s time to purchase a high end camera which can help you widen your boundaries, you decide to go for a DSLR, the go-to option for most people. And your choice is true to a certain point. Most professional photographers always opt for the high-end DSLRs when it comes to their work. Gives more versatility and options from a myriad of lenses.

But even DSLR’s dominance is coming under threat from a certain category of camera, albeit MILC (Mirrorless cameras). While they are not gonna dislodge DSLRs anytime soon from the citadel, they are sure giving them a chase for their money. A lot of noise has been created about the MILC vs DSLR comparison, and now mirrorless cameras have reached a point where they can actually contest this debate. Mirrorless cameras pretty much provide the same features that are provided by DSLRs and deliver the same image quality. So, before you join the merry bandwagon of DSLR users, have a look at why you can also work with Mirrorless models.


But first, let us know the one primary difference between the workings of a MILC and a DSLR.Working mechanism for DSLR and MILC

A DSLR comes with a mirror inside its body which guides light to reflect onto the pentaprism before it goes to the viewfinder for viewing purpose. When a user presses the shutter button, the mirror lifts up, thereby allowing light to hit the sensor and thereby capturing an image.

Mirrorless, as the name suggests, do not come with a mirror inside the body. Instead, light hits the sensor directly, in turn leading to a capture of the final image to be displayed on the LCD.


We have laid down a few points to be considered while going for a DSLR or a MILC.

  • Size and Weight

When it comes to size and weight, DSLRs are a bit on the heavier side and comparatively larger when compared with MILCs. Since mirrorless do without the mirror inside the body, leading to a nice and slim body, the size and weight factor tends to scale heavily on their side.

  • Viewfinders 

Optical & Electronic Viewfinders

MILCs employ electronic viewfinders which are loved by many of the users. The main advantage of an EVF is that it shows the exact preview of the image that you are seeing through the viewfinder and also display more information. Any changes that are done to the white balance or the histogram is being displayed through the viewfinder. It’s disadvantage is that it tends to come up as a cropper when it concerns fast-paced images and especially in situations concerning low-light.

This is where optical viewfinders tend to score because their simulation is pretty accurate when it concerns the above mentioned situations.

  • Auto-focus

One of the major points over which DSLR used to have a large advantage was the presence of phase-detection autofocus in its arsenal. This sensor is much faster in terms of locking onto subjects and when it comes to displaying onto the LCD. However with MILCs, contrast-detection autofocus is employed. In this case, the light from the sensor is being used by the system to find the perfect spot where it displays a higher value of contrast leading to a slower autofocus method despite being accurate.

Recently though, MILCs have started incorporating phase detection autofocus and hybrid autofocus onto their models. This combines the speed and accuracy of both the systems leading to a more detailed image.

  • Lenses


DSLRs offer a user to choose from a vast plethora when it comes to lens selection. Starting from the basic kit lens to telephoto lenses, wide-angle lenses, prime lenses a user gets to make his choice based on his requirements. MILCs, however come up short when it comes to lens selection. Unlike DSLRs, they have a very small number of lenses even when it comes to brands like SONY, Olympus. Nikon and Canon occupy the niche when it comes to lens choices for DSLRs.

If you are thinking that there goes my lens choices, then fret not. There are adapters available on the market which allow a user to use a DSLR lens to be attached to a MILC, provided it is made by the same manufacturer. Another option that you can go for is to use mirrorless cameras which employ the usage of Micro Four-Thirds sensor format, which happen to have the widest selection of lenses.

  • Continuous Shooting

Mirrorless cameras tend to have a slight advantage over here as it employs mechanical shutter which have been known to give better results. Due to the absence of a mirror, its sensors tend to capture images at a higher frame rate and shoot silently. Take for example, the difference in frame rate between the SONY a6000 and the Nikon D5500. The a6000 has a frame rate of 11fps in comparison to the smaller number of the Nikon, which is 5fps. Even the recently-released full-frame SONY a6300 has a frame rate of 11fps.

  • Image & Video Quality

There’s no clear winner when it concerns the topic of image quality. Both of them employ the usage of a myriad of sensors ranging from full-frame (Nikon D750, SONY A7 series) to APS-C format (Canon EOS 600D, SONY a6000). And both the categories deliver high image quality irrespective of the sensors used for both DSLRs and MILCs.

Concerning video quality, DSLRs used to rule the roost since it was the first to enter the scene with better features and dependency on ridiculously expensive lenses(albeit with better features). Most professionals still prefer DSLR now-a-days as it comes with a complete package of performance and trust. With the advent of mirrorless models presence in the market, the scene is slowly changing with more people preferring the 4K resolution, superior autofocus, more information made available with MILCs. Even high tier companies like Nikon and Canon are realizing the importance of such notable features and are starting to produce models with 4K content and better video imaging capabilities. It remains to be seen, however which comes out ahead in this race.

  • Battery Life

A normal DSLR gives you the ability to shoot more than 600 shots on a single battery. While a mirrorless model finds it difficult to even cross half of that number.

Nikon D5500 – 820 shots

SONY a6000 – 310 shots

You be the judge of who gets the clear cut.

  • Price

An amateur user will have the advantage of a DSLR with average specifications at a less price whereas at the same price, the mirrorless model that will be available will have very less options. It won’t even come upto the DSLR when the topic of camera resolution, image sensor comes up.

At the higher spectrum of price range, both DSLRs and MILCs go head to head when it concerns features, auto-focus performances and deliverance of output. And this is heavily favoured by enthusiasts and professionals.

Bottomline :

Both MILCs and DSLRs hardly have a huge difference when it comes to the specifications end. And both of them deliver images which can make a person go awestruck at the detailing and quality. However, it needs to be said that the final call depends on the user as to what he/she is most compatible with.

MILCs give a user the benefit of less bulky models, whereas some users prefer the more heavier and ergonomical feel of DSLRs. And more option of lenses.
If it comes to casual usage of a camera, it makes sense to go for a mirrorless as it provides decent features despite its shortcomings. Check out the Nikon 1 series(Nikon 1 V1 and Nikon 1 J1) for budget based mirrorless cameras.Nikon 1 Series

Higher up the price chain, it’s a very difficult call to make unless you are grounded with the whole concept of DSLRs in particular. The SONY a7R series is one notable series which has been delivering stellar performances as comparable to that of high-end full-frame models and is a huge favourite among professionals too.