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April 6, 2021

Mirrorless cameras first came around into the mainstream market in 2008, and by 2018 they accounted for almost half of all camera sales that year. Canon is the current market leader in cameras, however it was Sony who first dipped into the mirrorless market. They have maintained their lead in the mirrorless segment while other companies including Canon are playing catch up with them.

Let’s talk about how DSLRs work. DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. Its design is derived from the old Single Lens Reflex cameras. The way they work is that light comes into the camera through the lens. In the camera body, a small mirror bounces the incoming light and image straight up. The light is then bent again in the pentaprism; that big bulge at the top of the camera, and out where it can be seen through the viewfinder. When a picture is taken, the mirror quickly swings up and out of the way, the shutter opens and the light strikes the film. In today’s DSLRs it’s much the same except the film and film transport mechanism have been replaced by a digital sensor, electronic circuitry, and algorithms.
DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras are identical in layout and function, both support interchangeable lenses. Quality images are almost indistinguishable between them.

As the name suggests mirrorless cameras eliminates the mirror and pentaprism resulting in a camera that’s smaller and lighter than a DSLR. Its size is somewhere between a point-and-shoot camera and a DSLR. The small hump at the top of some mirrorless cameras houses a small digital monitor in the viewfinder.

You’ve probably heard the clicking of cameras while watching a news press conference on TV. Much of that sound is what’s known as mirror slap in a DSLR. A mirrorless camera eliminates much of that sound. In fact, many mirrorless cameras can be completely silent, an advantage when shooting in quiet courtroom or funeral situations.

The lenses are not compatible between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. And, because mirrorless cameras are relatively new, their selection of lenses is limited when compared to DSLRs, so far. However, most manufacturers have made adapters so that you can use your old lenses with the new mirrorless bodies.

Early models reportedly suffered from “viewfinder lag” resulting from processor lag and slow display refresh rates. This meant that the images seen in the viewfinder lagged slightly behind what was actually happening. Newer cameras have improved so much so that this doesn’t seem to be much of a problem anymore.

Mirrorless cameras are very popular and many photographers are ditching their DSLRs for them. So, with all these changes, is it necessary to switch over? If you’re part of the if-it-isn’t-broken-don’t-fix-it philosophy. DSLRs still work very fine and have a wider array of lenses, ensuring a more flexible working experience. The added weight may also help with balance, especially when working with a large telephoto lens.

However, if you like to work with latest in technology, and are looking for something with something not much bigger than a point-and-shoot camera with the flexibility and controllability of a DSLR, you may decide to opt for a mirrorless camera.  

Image Source: Getty Images