DSLR vs. Mirrorless: Which Camera Is Right for You? (+ 4 Best Options for 2024)

Posted on June 9, 2024 | Updated on June 13, 2024

One of the best tools in any designer’s arsenal is a good camera. Stock photos do well enough, but to wow clients even more, using elements they can’t find anywhere else is vital. Then, they get something unique and the designer gets better advertising through word-of-mouth recommendations. The first step to getting a great photo is deciding between a DSLR vs. mirrorless camera.

Both pieces of technology are worthy candidates, but they shine in specific instances. Learn more about both types of cameras, which applications are best for each, and a few recommendations for beginners.

What Is a DSLR Camera?

DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex, which means the camera will capture the image on a memory card rather than film. The “single lens” part of the same highlights how it uses just one lens to focus, frame and capture the shot. “Reflex” indicates the mirror that enables users to view their shots directly through the viewfinder rather than relying on a digital screen on the camera.

To take a picture, the mirror flips away to reveal the digital image sensor. That component captures the desired image and stores it on the SD card.

These devices also allows the photographer to change the lens, providing the opportunity to adjust the camera to many situations. A normal lens is good for shooting photos that capture how the scene would look to the naked eye. Wide-angle lenses are perfect when photographers have a subject they can’t get far enough away from to capture fully and telephoto lenses are essential for shoots that require a lot of zooming in.

How a Mirrorless Camera Differs

As the name implies, a mirrorless camera has no mirrors. This makes the device much easier to carry, as the body doesn’t have to be so big. It displays what the designer wants to photograph on a digital screen. While setting up a scene is a bit harder because the user can’t see what the raw image looks like, they do get the advantage of seeing exactly what the picture will look like when it’s snapped. These trade-offs are notable when deciding between a DSLR vs. mirrorless camera.

Some mirrorless cameras also have an electronic viewfinder. This follows the same principle — the shot will appear as it will be captured rather than displaying the unfiltered image.

Additionally, mirrorless pieces also have interchangeable lenses. These tend to be lighter than DSLR lenses, again thanks to the lack of mirrors. There are adapters that enable DSLR camera lenses to fit on mirrorless devices, but unfortunately, it can’t go the other way around.

When to Choose a DSLR vs. Mirrorless Camera

A DSLR is optimal if the user is going out on a longer shoot. For the time being, mirrorless cameras tend to have a shorter battery life because they have so many digital components that draw power. Also, because they’re much smaller than a DSLR, there isn’t as much room for a big battery pack. It’s possible to turn off some settings, buy a fast charger or get extra batteries, but for convenience, a DSLR takes the cake.

However, a mirrorless option may be better if the shoot requires a lot of moving around. DSLRs are quite bulky and the lenses aren’t exactly small either. This means it can be challenging to lug the camera around or get into different positions for the perfect shot. Some might even find the device downright heavy. All components of a mirrorless camera are lighter than a DSLR, so if movement is a factor in the shoot, it may be a better option.

Because they’ve been around for a long time, DSLRs are often more durable, have more lenses and are more ergonomical than a mirrorless piece. When using a longer lens, many photographers prefer a heftier camera so they feel more stable. Their many buttons also feel more accessible to those who don’t want to dig through a digital user interface. Combine that with their strength in harsher outdoor environments and the DSLR feels more like a great beginner’s camera.

Mirrorless devices, on the other hand, have a host of benefits that make them quite user friendly. The portability and ability to compose an image as a beginner while viewing the filters are significant pluses. Plus, no mirror means the camera captures pictures silently and much faster than a DSLR. Since the technology is also much newer, more companies are switching to producing more of them, increasing the diversity and quality of lenses. If a photographer wants to futurize, they may want to go mirrorless.

Cost is also a major factor. Because mirrorless cameras are newer and have more advanced features, they’re typically more expensive than DSLRs, sometimes by a great deal.

4 Great DSLR or Mirrorless Options for Beginners

After learning about the best use cases for DSLR vs. mirrorless cameras, it’s time to explore the many options on the market. Here are four options of mirrorless and DSLR devices to make the choice easier for budding photographers.

Panasonic Lumix S5IIX

The Panasonic Lumix S5IIX is an excellent choice if designers need photo and video capabilities. Not only does this device shoot incredible photos, but it can also capture video in 4K and 6K. Phase detection is also new to this model, which compares two views of the shot like human eyes do, improving focus accuracy and reliability. With an updated processor and built-in fan, users can capture almost anything with gorgeous results for an extensive period.

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Canon EOS 6D Mark II

The Canon EOS 6D Mark II delivers when it comes to image quality. It also features a compact design that the brand says remains durable in various environments. The camera even has Wi-Fi, Near-Field Communication and Bluetooth capabilities, along with a GPS that measures elevation, latitude, longitude and coordinated universal time. A moveable touchscreen also makes it possible to check each shot from multiple angles.

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Sony α6700

The Sony α6700 has impressive capability when it comes to exposure. Its new algorithm can detect faces and adjust the levels to provide a more accurate picture. The Creative Look setting also offers 10 presets that filter the shot in varying gorgeous ways. Users can adjust the eight levels the device uses to provide these or utilize them as-is. The α6700’s image stabilization on five axes additionally verifies every picture is as clear as possible.

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Nikon D850

Though it came out a few years ago, the Nikon D850 still holds its own in the world of DSLR cameras. It has an incredible autofocus in low-light conditions, a Silent Photography feature and a tilting touchscreen. The device also excels at subject tracking, action photography and video, and time lapses. The D850 can even connect to a photographer’s phone via Nikon’s SnapBridge app, making image sharing a breeze.

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Choosing a DSLR vs. Mirrorless Camera: What’s the Best Option?

In truth, the decision of whether a mirrorless or DSLR camera is better is up to the designer. Unique needs require different capabilities, which is why it’s critical to research both types of devices. Learning what sets them apart can help narrow down the decision, assist the user in taking incredible photos and make clients very happy.

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