DSLR vs Mirrorless: Pros & Cons Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. What is DSLR?
  2. Pros of DSLR
  3. Cons of DSLR
  4. What is Mirrorless?
  5. Pros of Mirrorless
  6. Cons of Mirrorless
  7. Comparison of Image Quality
  8. Comparison of Speed and Performance
  9. Comparison of Size and Weight
  10. How to choose between DSLR and Mirrorless

Choosing the right camera can be a puzzling task, especially when you're caught in the crossfire of the "DSLR vs. Mirrorless" debate. This guide is here to break down the pros and cons of DSLR vs mirrorless cameras in a way that's easy to understand. So, let's delve right in and simplify this decision for you.

What is DSLR?

A DSLR, which stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex, is a type of camera that has been a trusty companion for photographers for many years. It's the camera you’ll often see professionals carrying around, with a big lens attached to the front and a viewfinder to peek through.

But what makes it special? Let's look at some key points:

  • Optical Viewfinder: A DSLR camera uses a mirror mechanism to reflect light from the lens up to your eye. This means what you're seeing through the viewfinder is exactly what's happening in real time. You’re literally looking through the lens.
  • Interchangeable lenses: One of the big advantages of a DSLR is the ability to switch lenses. This gives you a ton of flexibility in terms of how you can capture your shots. You can go from a wide-angle lens for landscapes to a telephoto lens for wildlife photos in a jiffy.
  • Image Sensor: DSLRs typically have large image sensors, which is a big deal when it comes to image quality. A larger sensor can capture more light, meaning your photos will have less noise and more detail.

Now that you know what a DSLR is and what makes it tick, let's dive into the pros and cons of DSLR cameras.

Pros of DSLR

So, why should you consider a DSLR? Here are some key advantages:

  • Superior Image Quality: Thanks to their large image sensors, DSLRs often deliver top-notch image quality. So, if you're after standout photos with loads of detail and less noise, a DSLR might be your best bet.
  • Flexibility with Lenses: The wide range of available lenses for DSLRs is a huge selling point. Whether you're into landscape, portrait, wildlife, or macro photography, there's a lens for that.
  • Excellent Battery Life: DSLRs tend to have longer battery life compared to mirrorless cameras. This can be a lifesaver, especially when you're out in the field, away from a power source.
  • Optical Viewfinder: The optical viewfinder in a DSLR offers a clear, real-time view of your subject, which can be beneficial in bright lighting conditions where a digital screen might be harder to see.

However, like any piece of tech, DSLRs have their downsides too. Let's move on to the cons of DSLR cameras.

Cons of DSLR

While DSLRs do offer some great benefits, they come with their own set of drawbacks. Here's what you should keep in mind:

  • Size and Weight: DSLRs are often bulkier and heavier than mirrorless cameras. This can make them less convenient to carry around, particularly for travel or street photography.
  • Complexity: DSLRs can be more complex to use, especially for beginners. With numerous settings and controls to navigate, there can be a steep learning curve.
  • Slower Continuous Shooting: DSLRs typically have slower shooting speeds in continuous shooting mode compared to mirrorless. This might make them less ideal for action or sports photography.
  • Noisy Operation: The mirror mechanism in DSLRs can create noise, which might not be ideal in quiet settings or when shooting wildlife.

Now that we've covered the pros and cons of DSLR cameras, it's time to turn our attention to their increasingly popular counterparts — mirrorless cameras.

What is Mirrorless?

So, what exactly is a mirrorless camera? As the name suggests, mirrorless cameras do away with the mirror mechanism found in DSLRs. Instead, they use an imaging sensor that constantly feeds an image to the rear screen or an electronic viewfinder. This simple change in technology has some interesting implications. But before we dive into the pros and cons of mirrorless cameras, let's understand the basic functioning a bit more.

In a mirrorless camera, light passes through the lens and right onto the image sensor, which captures a preview of the image to display on the rear screen. This is quite a departure from the traditional DSLR setup, where light enters through the lens and then bounces off a mirror to the optical viewfinder before hitting the image sensor when a photo is taken.

Essentially, the mirrorless design simplifies the process of capturing an image. But does that make it better? Well, that depends on what you're looking for in a camera. Let's explore the pros and cons of mirrorless cameras to help you decide.

Pros of Mirrorless

Now that we understand what a mirrorless camera is, let's take a look at its benefits. These are some of the shining points that make mirrorless cameras a popular choice among photographers:

  1. Size and Weight: Mirrorless cameras are generally lighter and more compact than DSLRs. This is thanks to the lack of a mirror box and pentaprism. If you're always on the move or if you travel a lot, a smaller, lighter camera can be a real game-changer.
  2. Quiet Operation: Since there's no mirror flipping up and down, mirrorless cameras tend to be quieter than DSLRs. This makes them ideal for shooting in quiet environments where you don't want to disturb the peace — think wildlife photography or weddings.
  3. Fast and Accurate Autofocus: Mirrorless cameras are known for their fast and precise autofocus systems. This is because they use an autofocus method called contrast detection, which tends to be more accurate than the phase detection used by most DSLRs.
  4. Video Capabilities: If you're into videography, you'll be happy to know that mirrorless cameras generally excel in this area. They offer high-quality video, often with 4K resolution, and they're better at focusing during video recording compared to DSLRs.

These are just a few of the advantages that mirrorless cameras bring to the table. But it's not all sunshine and rainbows — like any piece of technology, mirrorless cameras have their downsides too. Let's explore the cons of mirrorless cameras next.

Cons of Mirrorless

As we dive into the cons of mirrorless cameras, it's important to remember that no camera is perfect. Every camera type, including the mirrorless, has its drawbacks. By understanding these, you can make an informed decision about whether it's the right tool for your photography needs. Here are some of the drawbacks you might encounter with mirrorless cameras:

  1. Battery Life: Mirrorless cameras are notorious for their short battery life. This is mainly because they use an electronic viewfinder or LCD screen, which consumes a lot of power. So, if you're planning a full day of shooting, make sure to pack some extra batteries.
  2. Limited Lens Selection: While DSLRs have a wide range of lenses available, mirrorless cameras have a more limited selection. This is particularly true for newer mirrorless systems. However, the selection is steadily growing as more photographers are opting for mirrorless cameras.
  3. Electronic Viewfinder: Some photographers prefer the optical viewfinder of a DSLR to the electronic viewfinder of a mirrorless camera. An electronic viewfinder can sometimes lag, and it might not display colors as accurately as an optical viewfinder.
  4. Price: High-end mirrorless cameras can be more expensive than their DSLR counterparts. This is something to consider if you're on a budget. However, there are also budget-friendly mirrorless options available.

These are the primary cons of mirrorless cameras. But remember, technology is always evolving. The cons we see today may not be an issue tomorrow. Now that we've examined the pros and cons of DSLR vs mirrorless cameras, let's move on to compare their image quality.

Comparison of Image Quality

So, you've got a good handle on the pros and cons of DSLR vs mirrorless cameras. Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty: image quality. It's one of the most important factors for any photographer, whether you're a seasoned pro or a budding beginner.

DSLR and mirrorless cameras are both capable of producing high-quality images, but there are a few differences worth noting.

  1. Dynamic Range: Both types of cameras can deliver excellent dynamic range, which refers to the spectrum of lights and darks a camera can capture in a single shot. However, some photographers find that DSLRs perform slightly better in extreme lighting conditions. This can give you a bit more flexibility when shooting in harsh sunlight or low light.
  2. Noise Control: Noise, or grain, can be an issue in low-light conditions or when using a high ISO setting. Some mirrorless cameras, especially those with larger sensors, tend to have better noise control than DSLRs.
  3. Detail: The level of detail in your images is largely determined by the sensor size and resolution of your camera. High-end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras both offer large sensors and high resolutions, allowing for crisp, detailed images.

Overall, when it comes to the image quality produced by DSLR vs mirrorless cameras, there isn't a clear winner. The best camera for you depends on your specific needs and shooting conditions. Now, let's take a look at how these two types of cameras compare in terms of speed and performance.

Comparison of Speed and Performance

Now let's put our foot on the gas and zoom into the speed and performance of DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Remember, it's not just about capturing a great shot—it's also about how quickly and efficiently you can do it.

  1. Autofocus Speed: Mirrorless cameras have the upper hand here. Thanks to their on-sensor phase detection, they can focus faster than DSLRs in many situations. This makes them a solid choice for action shots, wildlife photography, and other scenarios where your subject might be moving quickly.
  2. Shooting Speed: If you're trying to capture a flurry of action in a short amount of time—like a bird taking flight or a child blowing out birthday candles—the speed of your camera's shutter can make all the difference. Both DSLR and mirrorless cameras offer fast continuous shooting speeds, but the latter often has the edge due to its lack of a mirror mechanism.
  3. Battery Life: DSLRs generally outperform mirrorless cameras in this area. Since they don't have to power a live view screen or an electronic viewfinder all the time, they can often shoot more photos on a single charge.

So, what's the bottom line when it comes to the speed and performance of DSLR vs mirrorless cameras? Mirrorless cameras generally offer faster autofocus and shooting speeds, while DSLRs tend to have longer battery life. Like with image quality, the best choice depends on your specific photography needs and preferences.

Comparison of Size and Weight

When it comes to carrying around a camera all day, every ounce counts. Let's compare the size and weight of DSLR and mirrorless cameras to see which one might be easier on your arms—and your camera bag.

  1. Size: Mirrorless cameras are generally smaller than DSLR cameras. This is because they don't need room for a mirror and an optical viewfinder, which are necessary components of DSLR cameras. If you're looking for a camera that's compact and easy to carry around, mirrorless might be the way to go.
  2. Weight: Along with being smaller, mirrorless cameras are usually lighter than DSLRs. This can make a big difference if you're on a long shoot or traveling with your camera. Of course, the specific weight of a camera can vary depending on its make and model, so it's always a good idea to check before you buy.

Overall, mirrorless cameras tend to be more portable than DSLRs, both in terms of size and weight. But remember, smaller doesn't always mean better. Some people prefer the heft and sturdy feel of a DSLR, especially when using larger lenses. As always, the best choice is the one that feels right to you.

How to choose between DSLR and Mirrorless

So, you've read about the pros and cons of DSLR vs mirrorless cameras, compared their image quality, speed, performance, size, and weight. Now comes the big question—how do you choose between the two? Here are some factors you might want to consider:

  1. What will you use the camera for? Are you a professional photographer in need of advanced features and high image quality? Or are you a beginner looking for a user-friendly camera for casual shots? Your photography needs can greatly influence the type of camera you should choose.
  2. What's your budget? DSLRs and mirrorless cameras come in a wide range of prices. Consider how much you're willing to spend, and remember to factor in the cost of lenses and any additional equipment you might need.
  3. How important is size and weight to you? If you're after a lightweight, compact camera, a mirrorless model may be more up your alley. But if you prefer a larger, sturdier body — especially when using larger lenses — a DSLR might be your best bet.

In the end, the decision between DSLR and mirrorless cameras comes down to personal preference. Try them both out if you can, and see which one feels right in your hands and meets your specific needs. Remember, the best camera is the one that you'll enjoy using the most!

If you found the DSLR vs Mirrorless: Pros & Cons Guide helpful and want to learn more about how to get the most out of your chosen camera, check out the workshop 'Shooting In Manual Mode On Your DSLR Or Mirrorless Camera' by Austin James Jackson. This workshop will teach you how to shoot in manual mode and take your photography skills to the next level.