Photography may be one of the most expensive and complex hobbies out there. It's one of the very few hobbies where the gear you have will make all the difference in how well your finished product will be. Well-made cameras, as well as well-made lenses, can have a huge impact on how well your shots turn out.
The need for quality equipment drives a LOT of conversations about photography. It's why there are debates on the best 35mm film cameras of all time, the best camera straps, as well as the best Leica cameras for beginners.
Among photographers, there are a couple of things that remain pretty certain. One of them is that the advantages of a mirrorless camera make them worth considering—even if you're an old-school diehard for DSLRs. Sadly, a lot of people don't really know about mirrorless cameras, or why they end up being so popular.
This guide will help enlighten you.
What is a mirrorless camera?
When we're talking about mirrorless photography, we're talking about a type of digital camera. Truth be told, these kinds of cameras are a lot like a standard DSLR. However, there is a minor tweak or two.
In a typical DSLR, cameras will have a mirror and will use an optical viewfinder that are used together to capture a photo. Mirrorless cameras won't have that mirror—and instead, tend to grab the photo as a direct reflection of what the sensors see.
The sensors are roughly the same size, and images are roughly the same quality. The other major difference that you might notice with mirrorless types of cameras is the fact that they use their main imaging sensor for autofocus, while DSLRs tend to have their own dedicated autofocus sensor.
Now that you know the differences, you're probably wondering what the advantages of a mirrorless camera can be. After all, those differences don't seem too big, do they? Believe it or not, they can make all the difference in the world.
In the photography world, bigger usually is better—but only so much. The truth is that no photographer ever wants to be the guy who is stuck lugging around a giant camera. It can make getting good shots difficult, and it can also make your arms feel tired.
One of the bigger advantages of a mirrorless camera is the fact that it's smaller in size without losing picture quality. This means easier shooting sessions, less clunkiness, and a lot more easy carrying.
If you want to see a really lightweight camera that's perfect for beginners and starts at the lower end of the mirrorless camera price spectrum, then you might like the Sony a5100. This camera offers ultra-fast autofocus, a super light build, and instant sharing to your smartphone so you can slay on Instagram faster than ever before.
The autofocus on mirrorless camera is fast as can be.
When mirrorless digital cameras first came out, autofocus speed was an issue. This is no longer the case. In fact, one of the best advantages of a mirrorless camera is the fact that you don't have to worry about compensating for a slower autofocus.
This was because DSLRs were always using phase detection autofocus, while mirrorless versions used contrast autofocus. Contrast was slower, just by design. Nowadays, most mirrorless cameras have hybrid autofocuses, which allow for better, clearer, and faster autofocusing.
The Sony a6300, for example, is an excellent example of what you get with the autofocusing advantages of a mirrorless camera. A wide range of different lens sizes and world-class autofocus will leave your film shots looking amazing.
Little light? No problem!
For most photographers, shooting in low light is one of the hardest things to do. If you're new to photography, then you're going to appreciate the low-light shooting advantages of a mirrorless camera.
Mirrorless cameras are excellent for shooting in low-light situations, primarily because they are designed to autofocus in lower light and also have a high burst rate without the typical "blackout" period regular DSLRs have.
The X-M1 by Fuji, for example, is perfect for nighttime street photography because of its excellent ISO range. (The ISO range, if you're curious, can be expanded to up to 24,600 with the right equipment, making full darkness shots potentially possible with this camera.)
Previewing images is a snap—literally.
The viewfinders on mirrorless cameras are great, and really can't be distinguished from DSLRs in most cases. However, if you're shooting in low light, you might notice a little bit of distortion and blurring while the camera loads up the view.
That being said, the Electronic View Finders in mirrorless cameras still offers one of the best advantages of a mirrorless camera beginners can enjoy. Mirrorless cameras, unlike DSLR cameras, actually will show you what the photo would look like with all the ISO and lens adjustments you choose.
This can reduce a lot of editing issues later on. The PEN E-PL9 from Olympus is a great choice for people who love a good view of their goods. The large 3-inch LCD screen is perfect for finding the right shot.
They're low key.
Most photographers have, at one point or another, been the victim of being told they can't shoot somewhere. If you're really unlucky, you might even get called a creep when you're taking photos with a DSLR in the wrong place.
If you love candid shots and don't like getting your lights punched out, you'll notice that one of the best advantages of a mirrorless camera is how low key they look. They look amateurish—and as such, won't raise as many eyebrows.
To the untrained eye, the Panasonic GF-7KP looks like a pink hipster camera. Little do they know that this camera shoots professional-grade goods!
There are way more autofocus points with mirrorless models than a typical DSLR.
If you're a veteran photographer, you already know why more autofocus points is a good thing. Without a lot of autofocus points, it's likely that your camera will lag when focusing on a group of people, or you may even have a seriously frustrating time trying to get a specific effect going on.
Good autofocus is hard to come by with DSLRs—unless you shell out mucho dinero. Along with having more focal points, one of the other advantages of mirrorless cameras is the fact that they have better overall AF spreads than DSLR.
The Samsung Wireless NX3000, for example, has an incredible autofocus spread and plenty of points. It's perfect for beginners who love getting clear shots.
DSLRs are at a design disadvantage here. That pesky mirror gets in the way, and while DSLRs are trying to get better about it, they still haven't caught up. In this battle, mirrorless wins with ease.
Transitioning from photo to video is way easier.
Mirrored cameras like DSLRs are a serious hassle if you want to record video and take stills with the same equipment. With a typical DSLR, you will have to shuffle around all the settings, add extra equipment to boost sound, and just take time to make huge switches.
If you're looking for one of the more productive advantages of mirrorless cameras, it's that setting up things with them will be a cinch. No mirror is blocking the sensors, so you don't have to change everything just to get a video clip.
The quality of video doesn't decrease, either. If you're looking for a great dual-purpose camera, then the Panasonic G7 will be a great choice. Its 4K video quality will make everyone's jaws drop.
They also allow you to use adapters for your lenses, too.
Lenses are the most expensive part of photography. A single DSLR lens can easily reach the $1,000 mark. If you want to switch from a DSLR to a mirrorless model, the fear of all that money going to waste is one of the biggest deterrents out there.
Third party groups are now making adaptors that allow you to use DSLR lenses on your mirrorless camera. This was actually done and greenlit by the manufacturers since making lenses for the cameras was taking too long.
Think about how much good the right lens could do with this beautiful Nikon IJ5, and you'll understand why this is a huge deal. More adapters means more lenses. More lenses means more options. Any questions?
Finally, it's worth pointing out that they are much more affordable for beginners.
In terms of pricing alone, the biggest advantages of a mirrorless camera is the affordability they offer. Too often DSLRs can costs upwards of $600 for a very basic setup (*cough* Canon Rebel *cough*).
It's possible to find a great camera under $500 if you look at digital mirrorless cameras. You don't even have to stoop to bad brands if you don't want to. Heck, you can even get a Canon EOS mirrorless kit for under $450.