This content DSLR vs Mirrorless is most suited to beginner photographers.
To discover the differences in DSLR vs Mirrorless cameras we need to have a little history lesson. If we rewind the clock 50 years or so, the cameras we would have been using would have a taking lens and a separate optical viewing system. Which meant as a photographer, you would see a slightly different view to that captured at the film plane. While this system worked well for many applications there are times when we need to see what is being recorded.
At some point, some clever little backroom boffin decided to put a mirror between the lens and the film. Reflecting the image via a sophisticated and heavy pentaprism and out through a primitive viewfinder. The SLR or Single Lens Reflex was born.
Undoubtedly a massive improvement on earlier systems. However, there was a problem. The mirror blocks the light/image from reaching the film. To solve this necessitated the mirror swinging up out of the way just before the moment of exposure, creating another problem. The viewfinder went black. No big deal if you were photographing still subjects but a significant pain in the butt for sports photographers.
Not long after another backroom type, came up with the solution. Build an “instant return mirror.” Just like the name suggests, when you made an exposure, the view you saw went black then moments later returned as the mirror dropped back into place. For the next 30 may be closer to 40 years we had variations and improvements to the SLR style of camera.
Then along came digital photography. The mega-pixel race began. More pixels meant better pictures, or so we were led to believe. The film compartment in the SLR replaced with a bunch of wires and circuit boards. The film plane gave way to a sensor, and a new style of camera was born — all hail the DSLR, or if you prefer the digital single-lens reflex. If I were to be brutal, I would suggest that actual camera development paused at that point for years. Marketing and hype were distracting us to the real possibilities of a digital photography platform.
While the traditional big players of the photographic world were tinkering with outdated camera designs, a bunch of lab-coated bespectacled research and development people at smaller camera manufacturers were doing radical stuff, like thinking outside the box. The first casualty of this progressive thinking was the mirror box. They just unscrewed it and chucked it in the bin.
That single act created a new camera class; the mirrorless camera was born. Two things happened, weight was reduced, and 16 -18mm of new space appeared. Which meant that lens designs could be made more compact and weigh less. Lens mounts could be enlarged again allowing for new optical formula. Improved image quality and impossible to build lenses became possible as a result.
Far be it from me to declare a winner in the DSLR vs mirrorless wars, as there is a long way to go. My gut feeling is that in the not too distant future, mirrorless styled cameras will rule the domain of serious photographers. For the time being, sports shooters will most likely stay DSLR followers, casual and general photographers will start to move to mirrorless gradually.
Before the mirrorless revolution can take hold, there are issues to address. Number one is the viewfinder. Early mirrorless cameras had a viewfinder that was frankly, and to use a photographic term:- crap. The current variants could best be described as OK, certainly not good, great or life-like. However, to be fair, being able to judge exposure, colour balance, have a live histogram, zoom in to focus plus the ability to change menu settings all without taking your eye from the camera is pure heaven.
In short, the difference between a DSLR vs Mirrorless camera depends on your preferences. But now at least you’ve worked out why they call the new generation of cameras mirrorless.