Updated: Sep 18, 2020
By Thierry Rossignol - Training Manager PhotoSoc 20/21
Some of you might be considering getting a digital camera some day, or maybe you’re just a gear freak like me! Either way this post will help clarify the differences between the two main types of digital cameras, DSLR and Mirrorless. Although one is not better than the other, both possess their own pros and cons where one type might be better for some photographers depending on how they shoot.
Okay so let’s start with DSLRs! This obscure name stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex. These cameras basically combine two mechanisms: a single-lens reflex which is when a prism or mirror is used to reflect the light from the lens to a view finder, and a digital sensor.
Mirrorless cameras on the other hand are purely digital and contain no mirror (hint the name “mirrorless”). This means that the digital sensor is always exposed to light and that the viewfinder is digital (basically a tiny screen).
Ok now that the technicalities are out of the way let’s talk pros and cons!
Whilst both types are used professionally and you can’t go wrong with either, one will be better for some. DSLRs are generally much bigger (and heavier) than mirrorless cameras. Although this makes them harder to travel with, their size does allow them to not only have a better grip and a longer battery life but also to display much more physical buttons which are great for quickly changing parameters and menus. These two advantages may seem futile but when you’re out in the field shooting for hours a good grip can make all the difference. The ease of switching between camera modes is also a life saver when you’re in a changing environment.
Mirrorless cameras are much easier to travel with due to their compact nature (seriously they’re tiny). Since they’re more discrete they can also be great for street photographers who don’t want to risk intimidating their subjects. The mirrorless will also let you shoot considerably faster than DSLRs which is also great for street shooters or any fast paced photography. One of the biggest technical advantages of mirrorless cameras however is their video quality. Now i know this is a photography blog but some of you might also be fond of videography. If that’s the case then mirrorless is generally the way to go.
All this being said the biggest factor to consider is personal taste. Although both have their own relative strengths and weaknesses you can't really go wrong with either. Motivation and inspiration can be very hard to find sometimes and the lack of these are usually the biggest obstacles to any photographer. Which is why what matters the most in a camera is that it makes you want to go out and shoot! So if the fact that one particular camera "looks really cool" or you've seen another photographer who inspires you using it is what pushes you to choose it then more power to you! Beyond all the essential functionalities and maybe a few specific ones, the thing that will determine how much you grow as a photographer is the amount of photos you take. And a "cool looking" camera can be crucial for that, so don't feel foolish for choosing a camera for its looks.