DSLR vs Mirrorless: What type of camera is right for you?

With many new technologies, it's often the case that the idea is inherently ahead of the reality in photography, which is definitely the situation when it comes to interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs). As a rough estimate, there have been 20 new mirrorless models released in Australia in the last 12 months alone, compared to two DSLRs. This is a trend indicator. While there are a huge number of DSLR users who are happy with their cameras, the industry is paying a lot of attention to the mirrorless format - meaning that, in the future, DSLR lovers won't be able to upgrade like they did in the past. So why are DSLRs still so popular, and what are the benefits of a mirrorless configuration?

Canon EOS 90D is one of the few DSLRs that was recently launched

As you probably got it, it's all about the mirror... in particular, the mirror. It's the component at the center of the single-lens reflex - aka the DSLR - the camera that we know it today has been around since the late 1940s. When digital recording first came, the 35mm film was simply replaced with an image sensor, but nothing much has changed. The mirror is located behind the lens and reflects the light into the optical viewfinder - so, through the eyepiece, you see reality, pure and simple. It's the real world, in real time... and that's why so many photographers love their DSLRs.

However, that mirror is actually in front of the image sensor, so at the time of exposure it must be physically folded aside. This is obviously done mechanically, as it is noisy, creates vibrations, and also darkens the viewfinder when in the up position.

It's all about the mirror in Canon 90D EOS DSLR

The mirrorless camera is a purely digital era, replacing the traditional reflex box and optical viewfinder electronic viewfinder, video streams from the image sensor. This allows for a smaller, lighter camera body and, with all that mechanical activity gone, both quieter and faster. Ezhu understandable, and then?

Well, yes and no. Electronic viewfinders obviously have a frame rate (also known as refresh rate) so, at fast speed shooting, they can darken too, and as good as they are, they can't match an optical viewfinder for dynamic range, contrast, or resolution... at least not now.

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Same but different

Therefore, it's not surprising that a camera maker like Canon - the leader in the DSLR market for a very long time - is giving consumers a choice. The two new DSLRs mentioned earlier were both from Canon. In addition, the company is still busily promoting models such as its best-selling EOS 5D Mark IV, and has already announced the development of the EOS 1D Mark III x professional sports DSLR. However, it's also very active with not one, but two mirrorless camera systems - the full frame EOS R and the APS-C format EOS M.

In fact, the most recent Canon of New Camera launches on DSLR and mirrorless cameras are the EOS 90D and the EOS M6 Mark II. At the same 34.4 megapixels APS-C format CMOS sensor (32.5 effective MP) and Canon's latest generation of dig! Processor with 8 images, so they have similar feature sets and performance. However, side by side, they illustrate the main differences between DSLR and mirrorless designs.

With a more compact form factor, the EOS M6 Mark II makes for an ideal companion

It is clear that the EOS M6 Mark II has become even more compact, which is about 300 grams lighter. Overall portability is enhanced by the comparative smallness of Canon's EF-m mirrorless lenses. Size and weight - especially if you carry a set of lenses with you - are currently the main reasons for DSLR users to switch to mirrorless. But Canon also makes some compact DSLRs, such as the 25.8MP EOS 200D with the Mark II, in the company of other relatively recent DSLRs released in Australia. Interestingly, as a result of, shall we say, "mature" DSLR technology is beginning to represent excellent value for money in interchangeable lens cameras. Canon currently has three DSLRs under $1000 complete with standard zooms, and the 200D Mark II doesn't go overboard for that much camera for the money.

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Through the Looking Glass

On the mirrorless front, the EOS M6 Mark II is the new EOS M flagship camera with key features such as burst shooting at a crackling 14fps when using its focal plane (FP) shutter, and at a super-fast 30fps when using the touch shutter... like full autofocus and exposure control. The sensor-based autofocus is another plus for mirrorless cameras, especially in terms of scene lighting, and the Canon Dual Pixel CMOS AF system has a total of 5,481 measuring pixels (143 user-selectable points), which in particular ensures very reliable subject tracking, even when shooting fast-moving subjects or glitches such as small children.

For the smallest possible size reduction with a mirrorless configuration, the Canon M6 II packs a Clip-on EVF that nevertheless integrates fully with the camera, even keeping touch and drag AF point selection from the monitor. On the other hand, if you prefer a fully integrated viewfinder - and many photographers still do - canon like the EOS M5 and M50 mirrorless models (again with MP 25.8 resolution), which therefore looks like mini DSLRs.

While camera performance matters, design plays a huge role.

Don't laugh, style remains an important issue for many camera buyers, and it's one of the reasons why DSLRs aren't made, especially at enthusiast and pro levels. And the empirical factor is the processing, the layout of the controls and, of course, the optical viewfinder. Interestingly with the EOS 90D, Canon really exploits these elements, making it the most capable mid-range frame DSLR on the market, while also offering some of the benefits of a mirrorless camera when it's in Live View or Video modes. These include a shooting speed of 11 frames per second - that's very fast for a mid-range DSLR - and a lighting and responsiveness dual pixel CMOS autofocus system. And you can switch between traditional controls and touchscreen so in many ways the EOS 90D represents the best in camera tradition and technology.

Tradition certainly has a role to play in its camera performance, but new technology gives mirrorless cameras a number of hard-to-ignore benefits...and it's really just getting started, with so many more to come. Whatever your preference, though, there's almost certainly an ILC canon out there that fits.

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