DSLR vs mirrorless: which camera type is right for you?

With many emerging technologies, it’s often the case that the idea at their core is ahead of the real-world implementation – and in the field of photography, that’s definitely the situation when it comes to interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs). At a rough count, there have been 20 new mirrorless models launched in Australia over the last 12 months alone, compared to just two DSLRs. That’s a telling trend. While there’s still a huge number of DSLR users that are happy with their cameras, the industry has turned a lot of its focus onto the mirrorless format – meaning that, in the future, DSLR lovers won’t be able to upgrade in the way they’ve done in the past. So why are DSLRs still so popular, and what are the advantages of the mirrorless configuration?

The Canon EOS 90D is one of the few DSLRs to have been launched recently (Image credit: Canon)

As you’ve probably worked out, it’s all about the mirror… specifically, the reflex mirror. This is the component at the heart of the single lens reflex – aka SLR – camera which, as we know it today, has actually been around since the late 1940s. When digital capture first came along, 35mm film was simply swapped for an imaging sensor, but nothing much else has changed. The reflex mirror is located just behind the lens mount and reflects light up to the optical viewfinder – so, at the eyepiece, you’re seeing reality, pure and simple. It’s real world, real time… and that’s why so many photographers love their DSLRs.

However, that reflex mirror is actually in front of the imaging sensor, so at the moment of exposure it has to be physically flipped out of the way. This is obviously done mechanically, so it’s noisy, creates vibrations and also blacks out the viewfinder when in the up position.

It's all about the reflex mirror in the Canon EOS 90D DSLR

It’s all about the reflex mirror in the Canon EOS 90D DSLR (Image credit: Canon)

The mirrorless camera is pure digital-era, replacing the traditional mirror box and optical viewfinder with an electronic finder which live streams from the imaging sensor. This allows for a smaller, lighter camera body and, with all that mechanical activity gone, one that’s also quieter and quicker. No brainer, then?

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