I wouldn’t count out the DSLR’s Just Yet!!
Looking to buy a high-end camera? Your first step is to decide between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera. Here's how the two types compare.
If you want to get the most out of your photography, you'll want to purchase a camera with an interchangeable lens. But which is better for your needs, a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera or a mirrorless camera?
Quality and versatility are the two main reasons these types of cameras are used by professionals. And while there are a number of pro-level models for that market, there are lots of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras that will suit almost any type of photographer.
DSLRs and mirrorless cameras share one important feature that separates them from all other types of cameras: You can swap out the lens. So, if you need to capture more of a scene, you can use a wide-angle lens, or if you need to get closer to the action, you can buy a telephoto lens. That's one of the reasons they're an investment because you're buying into not only a camera but an ecosystem of lenses.
Both types of camera systems are roughly on a par with each other, since, for the past few years, mirrorless cameras have been driving the lion's share of innovation. However, there are still a number of differences between mirrorless and DSLR cameras. So which type of camera is best for you? Read this guide to find out.
Make sure you check out all of our top picks for DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and more on our best cameras page.
Fujifilm announced its newest entry-level mirrorless camera, the X-A7 ($699, available Oct. 24). The X-A7, which is the successor to the X-A5, will have a 24.2MP sensor, 3.5-inch articulating touchscreen, and will come with a 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens.
Sony announced two new mirrorless cameras: The A6100 ($750 body only; $1,100 with lens, available October) and the A6600 ($1,400 body only, available November). Both cameras will have a 24.2MP APS-C sensor, Sony's Bionz x image processor, and 425 phase/contrast detection autofocus points. However, the A6600 will also come with 5-axis in-body image stabilization, a headphone jack, a higher-resolution viewfinder, and much greater battery life, of up to 720 shots.
Canon has announced the successor to the EOS 80D: The Canon EOS 90D ($1,199, body only, $1,599 with 18-135mm IS USM lens) boasts a 32.5MP CMOS (APS-C) sensor, 45-point autofocus system that covers 100 percent of the frame, an optical viewfinder, and the ability to record video at 4K/30 fps.
DSLR and Mirrorless Defined
For the most part, DSLRs use the same design as the 35mm film cameras of days gone by. A mirror inside the camera body reflects light coming in through the lens up to a prism (or additional mirrors) and into the viewfinder so you can preview your shot. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up, the shutter opens and the light hits the image sensor, which captures the final image. We'll go through the features and capabilities with our top DSLR pick for beginners, the Nikon D3500.
In a mirrorless camera, light passes through the lens and right onto the image sensor, which captures a preview of the image to display on the rear screen. Some models also offer a second screen inside an electronic viewfinder (EVF) that you can put your eye to. Our example of a mirrorless camera, one of our favorites, is Sony's A6300.
Size & Weight
DSLR camera bodies are comparatively larger, as they need to fit in both a mirror and a prism. The body of the Nikon D3500, for example, is smaller than its predecessor, but still a rather bulky 3 inches deep before you put the lens on the front. With the 18-55mm kit lens, the camera weighs about 1.5 pounds.
A mirrorless camera body can be smaller than a DSLR, with simpler construction. The Sony A6300 has a body just 1.6 inches thick and weighs 1.75 pounds with its 16-50mm kit lens.
Winner: Mirrorless Camera
You can carry a mirrorless camera more easily and fit more gear, such as extra lenses, into a camera bag.
MORE: Best Mirrorless Cameras
DSLRs used to have the advantage here because they use a technology called phase detection, which quickly measures the convergence of two beams of light. Mirrorless cameras were restricted to a technology called contrast detection, which uses the image sensor to detect the highest contrast, which coincides with focus. Contrast detection is slower — especially in low light — than phase detection.