Written by Sanne

Compare mirrorless cameras to SLR cameras

You like photography and you're looking for a suitable camera. It has to be a camera that you can adjust to the situation you'll be using it in. Mirrorless cameras nowadays can do anything SLR cameras can do, so do you choose a mirrorless camera or an SLR camera? The biggest differences between the 2 types of cameras are explained below. That way, you'll discover which camera suits you best.

Which camera will you choose

Mirrorless camera Single-lens reflex camera
Hold in 1 hand No Yes
APS-C image sensor Yes Yes
Many frames per second Yes No
Many lenses available No Yes
Optical viewfinder No Yes

Size

Mirrorless camera

Mirrorless camera

A mirrorless camera is a lot more compact than an SLR camera. There's often fewer control buttons on a mirrorless camera, which gives you a better overview. Many models only allow you to view your subjects through the screen and not through a viewfinder. Because of this, you can carry a mirrorless camera around everywhere more easily. A rubber grip is often missing, though, making it harder to operate it using 1 hand.

Single-lens reflex camera

Single-lens reflex camera

An SLR camera is the largest type of camera there is. An SLR camera's body has a mirror, a viewfinder and a large number of control buttons. This doesn't mean an SLR camera is the heaviest per definition, though. Mirrorless cameras and SLR cameras often weigh the same. Because of the ergonomic design, though, an SLR camera can often be easily held in 1 hand during photographing.

Image quality

Mirrorless camera

SLR cameras are often thought to take better photos than mirrorless cameras. Unfairly so, because both cameras often feature the same sensors. The size of the image sensor affects the quality of your images. Many cameras have Micro Four Thirds sensors that provide your photos with sufficient detail. The larger APS-C sensor is also found in many mirrorless cameras. A small number of them even have full frame sensors, providing a lot of depth of field to your photos.

Single-lens reflex camera

SLR cameras don't have Micro Four Thirds sensors, they only have sensors upwards of APS-C size. An APS-C sensor adds a lot of detail to your images, but sometimes causes a little image noise at higher ISO values. Some SLR cameras have full frame sensors. In low light, this sensor allows you to capture images with a lot less static. Because of this, SLR cameras with full frame sensors are very pricey. They're pretty much only meant for professional photographers.

Speed

Mirrorless camera speed

Mirrorless camera

Your camera's speed is measured in the number of frames per second (fps). Most mirrorless cameras have between 5 and 10 fps. For subjects that move fast, such as athletes, you'll need at least 5 fps. For capturing children on video, 3 frames per second will suffice. You can choose from mirrorless camera models that take many more frames per seconds, even over 30.

SLR camera speed

Single-lens reflex camera

The speed of SLR cameras is limited by their mirrors. After taking each photo, the mirror has to fold back in to take the next photo, causing some delay. SLR cameras are learning to do this quicker and quicker, though. Most models can take 5 to 10 frames per seconds. Only few of them take between 10 and 30. These cameras are a lot more expensive than those with a lower fps.

Lenses

Mirrorless camera lenses

Mirrorless camera

Mirrorless cameras come with far fewer lenses than SLR cameras. This is because mirrorless cameras are relatively new to the market. The number of lenses for each type of mirrorless camera is limited, but the variation is large. For example, you can find a lens for any variable focal length. This allows you to purchase the right lens for various types of photography.

SLR lenses

Single-lens reflex camera

If you're looking for a different lens for your SLR camera, you've got a lot more options. SLR cameras have been around for a lot longer than mirrorless cameras, which is why more lenses have been produced for this type of camera. There are many more different types of lenses on offer for them, such as wide-angle lenses, macro lenses, and telephoto lenses. There are many more possibilities when it comes to various variable focal lengths, too.

Viewfinder

Mirrorless camera viewfinder

Mirrorless camera

A large number of mirrorless cameras don't have a viewfinder. This means you can only view the subjects you want to portray through the screen. When the sun is out, this screen is often hard to see. A viewfinder comes in handy in those cases. Mirrorless cameras that have a viewfinder have an electronic one. This basically displays a scaled-down version of your screen. The downside to this is that you can't watch what the camera is seeing live, as you often get the images with a delay.

SLR viewfinder

Single-lens reflex camera

SLR cameras come with a viewfinder by default, in the form of an optical viewfinder. This viewfinder shows you the exact same image the camera is seeing, providing a natural image with real colors. Optical viewfinders don't cause any delay either. Your eyes also tire more slowly when looking at live images. These viewfinders won't display adjustments to, for example, the lighting and white balance. Electronic viewfinders can do that.

In short

Mirrorless cameras and SLR cameras don't differ much. As far as image quality and settings go, they perform almost equally well. Both cameras have good sensors. You'd choose an SLR camera for its optical viewfinder and its ergonomic design. Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, can process more frames per second because of the lack of a mirror. An advantage of SLR cameras, compared to mirrorless cameras, is their varied selection of lenses. The selection for the relatively new mirrorless cameras is more limited.


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