Is it Best to Use a DSLR or a Mirrorless Camera? 11 Nov 2021
As a commercial photographer working in Berkshire and with experience in all of the UK, Europe and the Middle East, I have my fair share of opinions and preferences on the photography equipment I use. The types of cameras I use sometimes change depending on whether I’m undertaking a location product photography project for a manufacturing client, or whether I’m doing corporate headshots for a small business’ social media posts.
What Camera Should I Use?
There is no universally accepted ‘best camera to use’ for all types of commercial photography. However, I’m often asked whether using a DSLR or mirrorless camera is better, as many other photographers sit on each side of this relatively new debate. What’s my stance? Well, both of these cameras have their advantages and drawbacks, and while many lean towards mirrorless cameras over DSLRs, the idea that DSLR cameras are a thing of the past is completely untrue.
Both these cameras take excellent pictures and offer similar levels of flexibility. In the interest of fairness, I’ll provide as unbiased a view on these cameras as possible and break them down in some finer (though not too technical) detail.
What is a Mirrorless Camera?
Mirrorless digital cameras are compact cameras that work without the need for a reflex mirror and pentaprism. Light passes through the lens directly to the digital sensor, displaying the image on an LCD screen. This allows you to adjust image settings and preview your image.
Most name brands like Sony, Canon and Nikon have added mirrorless models into their newer ranges of high-quality camera technology.
How Does a Mirrorless Camera Work?
Instead of using a mirror and pentaprism to bounce light from the viewfinder, the sensor is exposed directly to the light. The image is subsequently transferred to the digital viewfinder.
When the shutter button is pressed, the image sensor is covered by a shutter, exposing the sensor to light. Another door then slides up to cover the sensor, taking the picture while stopping the exposure. This all happens in a split second.
Benefits of Mirrorless Cameras
High-end mirrorless cameras, such as the popular Sony A7S, have the following advantages:
- Lightweight – mirrorless cameras are easier to carry and more portable than DSLRs, making them ideal for travel photography.
- Silent mechanism – there are fewer moving parts inside, making it quieter and beneficial for discreet location shoots.
- Functional – mirrorless cameras’ focusing capabilities are relatively robust; they have a higher frame per second burst rate than DSLRs that make it easier for photographers to take a sequence of pictures quickly and efficiently.
- EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) – you can adjust settings like saturation, exposure, brightness and contrast before taking pictures with a mirrorless camera.
What is a DSLR Camera?
DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) cameras date as far back as 1999 and are known for delivering high-end photo images for almost any type of photography work. When using a DSLR, you can see the exact image directly through the viewfinder.
How Does a DSLR Work?
Contrary to how a mirrorless camera works, DSLRs work through the use of a mirror and pentaprism, which reflects light into the optical viewfinder. The light passes through the camera lens and reflects off this pentaprism and mirror, which moves when the shutter is released.
Benefits of DSLR Cameras
The advantages of DSLRs include (but are not limited to):
- Changeable lenses – DSLR cameras have been around for a long time and thus have a wider range of lenses. These present more options for shots with lenses ranging from ultra-wide to super-telephoto and specialist lenses, PC lenses and more.
- Long battery life – the DSLRs’ viewfinder requires no power, unlike mirrorless cameras, making the battery last longer.
- Less dust and debris – the sensor is hidden by the mirror, meaning DSLRs pick up less dust. Dust-heavy environments in industrial or manufacturing mean the DSLR is preferable.
- Quick autofocus – DSLR photo cameras have advanced subject tracking with lightning-quick autofocus, which is ideal for quick-fire photoshoots.
- Sensor sizes – the bigger DSLR sensors enhance the image quality and resolution, as they capture more light, making these cameras ideal for low light situations.
- Compatible with many camera accessories – DSLR attachments include flashes, triggers, mounts and more, giving you numerous options for taking pictures.
DSLR vs. Mirrorless Camera
Both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras present a wide range of benefits for commercial photography experts like myself. While a mirrorless camera is lighter, the DSLR’s battery life is far superior.
As a photographer relying on frequent lens changes on a given shoot, I prefer to use my DSLR for day or half-day shoots. What’s more, the speed of focus is sometimes preferable for capturing images ‘in action’, which are often moving subjects.
Having said that, there is always a specific time and place for a mirrorless camera, particularly when it comes to continuous shooting or faster image bursts.
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