A few days ago, I wrote about a crazy decision that saved my passion for photography. I sold thousands worth of camera gear and switched to one of the cheapest mirrorless cameras and lens I could find.
I made it sound like DSLRs are now obsolete because these smaller cameras are just as good, or even better, for less money and less bulk. While there are some compelling arguments for making the switch, it’s not for everyone.
On the other side of that coin, it’s evident that people are ditching DSLRs for its little brother: the mighty mirrorless. I’m seeing more and more mirrorless cameras in the hands of photographers and filmmakers these days.
As someone who’s used both types of camera for a long time, I present the arguments for and against. By the end of this article, you’ll have no trouble deciding which companion you want by your side, out there on the field.
The ‘Looking Clumsy’ Effect
In you like to shoot in public, by far the biggest advantage is that no-one is intimated by you or your cute, modest camera.
Less people stare at you because you look more like a harmless tourist than a pervert or paparazzi. Even thought it’s completely legal in most countries to take photos in public, so many feel comfortable with it. It’s no-one’s fault, particularly, but it’s something photographers have to keep in mind.
Robert Rittmuller has written a relatable, detailed article on this issue:
Why it sucks to use a DSLR in public
Almost on a daily basis we read stories about photographers who are chased away from buildings, accused of taking…
My friend calls it 'looking clumsy’. If you look harmless to people, they won’t acknowledge you. It’s allowed me to accomplish some of my best street photography and photojournalism.
On the Cheap
With mirrorless, the camera gear is generally cheaper, even though the images they produce are just as good as the DSLR equivalent.
With lenses, you’re getting the same glass from the same company. The same can be said for the cameras, which have the same, if not better, sensor technology. The downside is the sensor SIZE, though. In low-light situations, the mirrorless won’t produce the cleanest images.
The small structure of a mirrorless is just so damn convenient. DSLRs are so awkward to lug around, whether that be holding it, putting it on your neck, storing in your bag, etc.
My mirrorless camera and pancake lens fit in my pocket nicely. If I don’t have a spare pocket, it’s lovely and light to hold. It feels so much more natural, too. Possibly because we’re used to holing light phones.
Moving on to the first argument for buying a DSLR: durability. They say you get what you pay for. That’s certainly true here. There’s no denying that these things are machines; beasts that can survive anything. You can drop them, knock them and get them soaking wet, all in a day’s work.
I dropped my mirrorless once, and the lens now has a small dent, along with a scraping feel when I turn the focus ring. Oops!
There’s a clear lack of choice when it comes to mirrorless bodies and lenses. DSLRs have been around for much longer and are still the most popular choice. And so, photographers can expect to feel like a kid in a candy shop when buying gear.
When it comes to the Canon EF-M range, there are only 10 lenses. The highest focal length is 200mm, which isn’t ideal for people who want to shoot sports, wildlife, the moon, etc.
Stick With What You Know
Almost all photographers started using SLRs and have continued using them for most of their photography life. They’ve learned everything about it and feel comfortable with it, in any scenario.
That alone will help the photographer take better photos. Imagine switching to a camera where there are less buttons, in different places. You’d have to learn and get comfortable with a new system, which takes time and dedication. You’ll likely miss or mess up images during this process.
As a rule, people generally stick to what they know, in all aspects of life, whether the alternative is better for them or not. A great article that explains the psychological reason behind this is one by Angela Lashbrook:
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The Ultimate Deciding Factor
The most important factors that should affect your decision is the type of photographer you are. Different talents and styles demand different needs and tools. A sailor doesn’t need a car; they need a boat.
Are you a serious photograph who needs speed and power from a camera? Most DSLRs can turn on and start taking photos in just a tenth of a second. That’s pretty damn fast! They also show speed when shooting in burst mode and saving big RAW images.
A DSLR is the beast you need when a lot is happening in a short amount of time. For example, shooting a wedding or event that involves people or things moving quickly. Also, fast-paced photojournalism, like a protest.
For the rest of us who don’t have to worry about missing the shot, the slower little brother that is the mirrorless is the better option. The image quality is the same as its DSLR equivalents, due to advancing sensors and quality glass, while the cost is much lower.