DSLR vs. Mirrorless Cameras: Which Is Better For You?

The DSLR vs. Mirrorless camera debate has been going on for a while. This article covers almost everything you need to know—from viewfinder to compatibility with accessories. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will learn which one is better for your needs.

“Should I buy a DSLR or a mirrorless camera?” is probably one of the questions you have when shopping for the best cameras on the market. However, the answer highly depends on your needs and preferences.

So instead of wondering about which one is better, it is essential to ask yourself which features matter to you and what you want to achieve.

Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed! As a hobbyist photographer, I’ve been in your shoes before. I know how intimidating it is to buy your very first camera, so I wrote this article to help you make an informed purchasing decision.

Keep on reading to know the following differences between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera:

  • Viewfinder
  • Size and Weight
  • Autofocus Speed
  • Shooting Speed
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Battery Life
  • Lenses and Accessories

This information will help you learn about which camera is better for your needs and preferences.

DSLR vs. Mirrorless Cameras: What Is the Difference?

What primarily makes DSLRs different from mirrorless cameras, and vice versa, is the reflex design.

A digital single-lens reflex camera, commonly known as DSLR, borrows its design from the 35mm film cameras in the past. It features a mirror inside the body that reflects the light passing through the lens. This reflection goes up to a prism and into the viewfinder. Once you press the shutter button, this mirror flips up so that the light can enter the camera’s sensor, which captures the final image. The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is just one of the many best-selling DSLR cameras on the market.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II DSLR Camera

On the other hand, a mirrorless camera does not have a mirror inside the body, hence its name. Instead, it enables the light to go right through the image sensor, which displays the image on the rear screen. Some mirrorless devices also include a second screen that acts as an electronic viewfinder (EVF) for previewing the scene. A notable example is the Sony a7 III.

Sony a7R III Mirrorless Camera

However, this is just one of the several differences between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera. Below are the other factors in which they can vary.

DSLR VS Mirrorless: Which Has a Better Viewfinder?

Due to their distinct reflex design, a DSLR and a mirrorless camera show images in different ways.

A DSLR uses a mirror to reflect light towards the optical viewfinder. Thus, it offers an accurate preview of the scene in front of you.

Meanwhile, a mirrorless camera features an electronic viewfinder (EVF) screen to transmit the light entering the sensor. When shooting in good lighting, it can show the scene similar to an optical viewfinder. However, this display can become dull and jerky in low-light and fast-moving situations.

That is because a mirrorless model has to slow down when capturing images to get more light. In contrast, a DSLR reflects the light directly to your eye for an accurate and real-time preview.

Despite this downside, mirrorless cameras offer one significant benefit. It can display what the final image will look like when you take the picture. So if you adjust the aperture of shutter speed, the camera’s EVF will change accordingly.

On the other hand, DSLR cameras simply reflect the light without altering the image through the optical viewfinder. It requires you to rely on the camera’s metering mode and other camera settings for predicting what the final result will look like.

To sum up, both types of viewfinders perform well in good lighting conditions. However, if you often shoot in dimly lit or other challenging conditions, consider getting DSLRs. If you are a beginner, you will find mirrorless cameras easier to operate.

Winner: Draw

Both viewfinders come with their own pros and cons. A DSLR offers a real-time display, but it does not tell you how the final image will appear. Meanwhile, a mirrorless system allows you to see what exactly it will capture when you press that shutter button. However, its preview suffers from blur and lag in challenging light conditions.

DSLR VS Mirrorless: Which is Smaller in Size and Lighter in Weight?

DSLRs are larger and heavier because they have a mirror and optical viewfinder mechanism inside the body.

Mirrorless cameras do not have these elements, so they are usually smaller and lighter.

For example, let us take a look at the Canon EOS M6 Mark II as our mirrorless option and the Canon 90D as our DSLR pick. Both cameras share the same sensor size and other basic features.

Canon EOS M6 Mark II Mirrorless Camera
Canon EOS 90D DSLR Camera

We included their specifications below, so you can compare them side-by-side.

Canon M6 Mark II (Mirrorless)Canon 90D (DSLR)
Dimensions (W x H x D)4.71 x 2.76 x 1.94 in5.54 x 4.13 x 3.02 in
Weight408 g (14.4 oz)701 g (24.7 oz)

As you can see, the camera body of the M6 Mark II is smaller and narrower by at least an inch and a half than the 90D. The M6 is also lighter by at least 300 grams compared to the 90D.

Overall, mirrorless cameras are more compact and lightweight than its DSLR counterparts. However, there is an exception to this. It is essential to note that the latest mirrorless cameras with a full-frame sensor are now as large and heavy as DSLRs. Mirrorless lenses are also relatively larger than a DSLR camera lens. So in some ways, the difference regarding the size and weight is negligible.

Winner: Mirrorless Camera

With that said, mirrorless cameras still reign in this category due to their generally smaller size and lightness. They enable you to pack more gear, such as extra lenses and battery, inside a camera bag compared to DSLR cameras.

DSLR VS Mirrorless: Which Has Faster Autofocus Speed?

In the past, DSLR cameras have a better autofocus performance than mirrorless cameras because they feature a phase-detection technology. This innovation splits the light entering the sensor into two images, which helps the camera accurately focus the lens.

Meanwhile, mirrorless cameras were limited to contrast-detection sensors back in the days. This technology only detects the highest contrast in the image to calculate the focus. For this reason, mirrorless bodies used to have slower autofocus performance than DSLR cameras, especially in low-light situations.

However, these differences are now obsolete. Today, almost all mirrorless cameras feature both phase- and contrast-detection autofocus points, also known as hybrid autofocus systems, on their image sensor.

For instance, the Sony a7R IV uses 567 phase-detection AF points and 425 contrast AF points to offer fast autofocus performance. This full-frame mirrorless camera can rival the AF system of professional DSLR cameras like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. 

Winner: Draw

Both mirrorless and DSLR cameras offer accurate and fast autofocus, owing to their similar hybrid autofocus systems.

DSLR VS Mirrorless: Which Has Faster Shooting Speed?

Both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can take photos using very fast shutter speeds. They can also capture a burst of images quickly.

With that said, lighter mirrorless cameras usually have a slight advantage over heavy DSLRs. Since they do not have to lift a mirror to let light pass through the sensor, these cameras take less time to snap a photo. They ultimately make it easier to capture an image after image.

On the other hand, a DSLR has a mechanical shutter and a mirror inside the body. So before taking a picture, the camera has to lift these elements to enable light into the sensor. Thus, it can slow down performance by a bit.

Another advantage of a mirrorless model is the option to use an electronic shutter. This feature allows you to shoot more quickly and silently.

Winner: Mirrorless Camera

Mirrorless cameras have less moveable parts inside the body, enabling them to capture more photos per second.

DSLR VS Mirrorless: Which Takes Better Photos?

Both types of cameras can take high-quality pictures at large resolutions with less noticeable grain or noise.

However, this was not always the case.

In the past, mirrorless cameras feature a smaller image sensor. That limits the amount of light entering the sensor, hence negatively affecting the image quality.

Fortunately, mirrorless camera makers introduced more sensitive chips to the market over the years. These create better image quality while minimizing the appearance of noise in the photo.

Moreover, several mirrorless cameras now use a larger image sensor (equivalent to 35mm full-frame) similar to high-end DSLRs. Sony started this revolution when they released the a7 line, and other manufacturers followed with their flagship full-frame mirrorless cameras.

What’s even surprising is that some mirrorless camera makers—notably Fujifilm through its GFX series—have released medium format cameras. This sensor format is larger than the 35mm full-frame sensors to deliver impressive results.

Fujifilm GFX 50R Mirrorless Camera

Winner: Draw

Both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer impressive image quality due to the equivalent sensor size and image processor.

DSLR VS Mirrorless: Which Records Better Videos?

Both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer Ultra HD or 4K for high-quality videos. Some models, such as the Panasonic Lumix S1H, even allow you to shoot 6K footage.

However, it is important to note that the resolution is not the only determining factor to achieve high-quality videos. You also have to consider the camera’s autofocus performance during recording.

In this regard, mirrorless cameras have the advantage since they usually feature an on-chip phase-detection system. This technology offers a fast and accurate focus in both the electronic viewfinder (EVF) and LCD screen display.

Unfortunately, DSLRs cannot use phase detection with the mirror up. That restricts you from accessing the optical viewfinder when filming. Plus, they generally use a contrast-detection sensor that leads to a slower and less accurate focus. On a more positive note, several DSLRs—especially the latest ones—now include an on-sensor phase-detection to enable faster live view focusing.

Winner: Mirrorless Camera

Mirrorless cameras provide better videos due to their advanced autofocus system. But in terms of resolution, both DSLRs and mirrorless models are neck-and-neck.

DSLR VS Mirrorless: Which Has Longer Battery Life?

DSLRs can take photos and videos without having to provide power to the LCD screen or electronic viewfinder. Thus, they offer longer battery life than their mirrorless counterparts.

There is some good news, though—battery life is slowly improving in many mirrorless cameras. For instance, the Sony a6500 is rated at 350 shots per charge. Its successor, the a6600, can take around 810 photos, which is a significant increase in battery life.

Sony a6500 Mirrorless Camera

Nevertheless, mirrorless cameras rarely come close to the battery life of DSLRs. Just look at the Nikon D3500. Despite being an entry-level model, it offers around 1,550 shots on a single charge.

Nikon D3500 DX-Format DSLR Camera

Winner: DSLR Camera

DSLRs have an impressive battery life because they do not require the EVF or LCD to run in live-view mode constantly.

DSLR VS Mirrorless: Which Offers More Lenses and Accessories?

Both mirrorless systems and DSLRs are both interchangeable lens cameras, meaning they are compatible with different lenses.

However, DSLR cameras have already been on the market for many years. So it is not surprising that camera manufacturers have plenty of time to produce hundreds of lenses and accessories for DSLR cameras.

Thus, DSLRs give you access to a wide selection of camera gear, ultimately giving you endless creative opportunities.

Meanwhile, mirrorless cameras are only out for a while, so they do not offer the same number of accessories.

With that said, it is only a matter of time until they catch up to DSLRs. Many camera makers now offer native lenses compatible with mirrorless models. There is even an option to use an adapter to use DSLR-format lenses on a mirrorless mount. Do note, though, that it usually alters the focal length and autofocus performance of the lens.

Winner: DSLR Camera

As they have been on the market longer, DSLRs offer more camera accessories. However, the gap is narrowing quickly as more manufacturers produce multiple gears for mirrorless cameras.

What Makes a DSLR Better than a Mirrorless Camera?

Although many people are saying that mirrorless cameras are the future, DSLRs are still worth considering. Sure, they have disadvantages—namely being heavy and large, but they also offer advantages.

First of all, their size can effectively handle bigger lenses, which are more common nowadays. They also have more space for external controls, so it is easier to navigate menus in inclement weather. Trust me, tapping the touch screen when it is damp with mist or rain is quite difficult.

Furthermore, DSLRs are compatible with a wide range of lenses and accessories. They are the ideal choice if you want complete creative freedom.

Most importantly, DSLRs feature optical viewfinders. These might not seem like a big deal to mirrorless users. But some photographers still prefer OVF because it displays real-time images in better clarity, even when shooting poorly lit or fast-moving subjects. It does not suffer from delays, unlike an electronic viewfinder found in most mirrorless cameras.

Finally, DSLRs have a longer battery life because they do not have to use the viewfinder and LCD screen when shooting. Both these features quickly deplete the battery of the camera. 

Overall, DSLRs are not yet obsolete. They still win in terms of battery life and availability of camera accessories. And if you prefer an optical viewfinder and a more robust body, a DSLR might be a better option for you.

Top 3 Recommended DSLR Cameras

What Makes a Mirrorless Camera Better than a DSLR?

As their name suggests, mirrorless cameras lack a mirror inside their bodies. These make them considerably smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts. Thus, mirrorless cameras are easier to carry and pack when traveling.

Another advantage of mirrorless cameras is their better video performance. Most models are engineered to record high-quality videos up to 4K resolution. They also offer a fast autofocus system, which enables accurate preview in the LCD screen. All these features help you produce high-definition footage without the camera hunting for focus. 

In terms of shooting speed, both DSLR models and mirrorless cameras can capture a burst of images quickly. Mirrorless systems have a slight lead, though. They are generally faster because they do not need to lift a mirror when snapping a photo. Instead, the light simply goes through the sensor, allowing you to take pictures instantly.

Lastly, it is only a matter of time until mirrorless cameras catch up with the selection of lenses and other accessories. Every year, manufacturers are releasing several camera gears that are compatible with mirrorless units.

The mirrorless revolution is here, and thousands of photographers and videographers are jumping ship. I could not really blame them. After all, mirrorless cameras are significantly lighter and better than DSLRs in some aspects.

Top 3 Recommended Mirrorless Cameras


Choosing between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera may seem overwhelming, but it does not have to be impossible.

Ask yourself which features matter to you and what makes you comfortable when shooting. Doing so will make it easier to find the camera best for your needs and preferences. Thus, you do not have to worry about the mirrorless vs. DSLR debate.