When building the ideal camera setup, photographers are often faced with two opposing options – be it film versus digital or prime versus zoom lenses. When it comes to cameras, both the digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) and the mirrorless camera encompass unique strengths that can serve you well during different chapters of your photography journey. If you’re new to the photography world, it helps to know about the history of DSLR cameras and the way they are built.

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Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | EF11-24mm f/4L USM

The general design of a DSLR camera allows light to enter through the lens, where it gets bounced off a mirror through a special prism to end up at the viewfinder. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up and allows light to hit the actual image sensor. This is when your image is successfully taken!

Due to advances in modern technology, a flip-up mirror is no longer always necessary in newer models, which has led to the term “mirrorless.” This refers to compact cameras that are simpler in their mechanism.

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Canon EOS M6 Kit (EF-M15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM)

From the days of film to the digital format that we are familiar with today, it is evident that Canon has come a long way. Since the Canon Flex in 1959, single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras have since evolved to DSLRs. This has further led to the new breed of powerful yet compact mirrorless digital cameras.

As with the evolution of cameras, at every stage of your photography journey, your camera needs may evolve accordingly. In this article, we break down the key differences between the DSLR and the mirrorless camera, to help you choose the right camera for nailing that perfect shot.

Size and weight

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Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | EF35mm f/1.4L USM

An obvious distinction between a DSLR and mirrorless camera is their size and weight. Mirrorless cameras have lighter internal elements due to the absence of a flip-up mirror mechanism and light-reflecting prism. They typically also come with smaller lenses, which means you can fit more in your camera bag as opposed to bulkier DSLR lenses.

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Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

If you are a photographer who prefers carrying a camera out daily, then you may find a lightweight mirrorless like the Canon EOS M50 suitable for you. This is a compact yet solid camera that is easy to carry around, making it the perfect companion for someone constantly on the move.

Battery life

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF17-40mm f/4L USM

Another difference between a DSLR and mirrorless camera is that of battery life. Needless to say, this is an important consideration for any photographer as a higher battery life means a chance to capture more shots. This is especially important for those who typically shoot for longer durations.

The optical viewfinder is normally used when shooting through a DSLR. When doing so, almost no power is used and this easily leads to a thousand pictures or more on a single battery charge.

On the other hand, mirrorless cameras have shorter battery lives. Power usage is more draining on mirrorless cameras since it essentially operates in live view mode. If the idea of lugging around numerous spare batteries sounds dreadful to you, then a DSLR may just be a better fit.

Lenses and accessories

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Canon EOS 6D | EF50mm f/1.8 STM

DSLRs come with a wide selection of lenses that range from macros to primes, to standard or telephoto zooms and more. This makes it easy for photographers to find one that best suits their genre and style. On the other hand, mirrorless models are more restricted in terms of access to lenses and accessories, though the selection has been steadily increasing over the years. With the Canon EOS M series, photographers can enjoy the full features of the EF lenses with the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS M.

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Canon PowerShot G5 X

Autofocusing and shooting speed

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Canon EOS 60D | Canon EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

In terms of autofocusing (AF), DSLRs are better for tracking fast subjects such as sports or wildlife with higher accuracy. However, they tend to be slower when shooting in live view mode. When composing an image on the LCD screen, the mirror has to be flipped up, which causes a slowdown.

On the contrary, mirrorless cameras have faster live view AF performance. This is due to the simpler mechanics of a mirrorless camera that makes it easier to shoot more photos per second, at higher shutter speeds.

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM

With that said, developments in cameras have since closed up the gap between these two systems. The latest Canon DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Canon EOS 6D Mark II, for instance, includes a Dual Pixel CMOS AF that is designed to give faster autofocus even when shooting through live view mode.

Video quality

For those wishing to create outstanding videos, both the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Canon EOS M50 have you covered with their ability to shoot in 4K quality.

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Canon EOS 6D Mark II | EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

The focusing system that your camera uses makes a big difference in video quality as well. For the most part, higher-end mirrorless cameras are better suited for videography because they use an autofocus system known as phase detection. This method gives you the fastest and most accurate autofocus for capturing moving subjects.

On the other hand, most DSLRs use the contrast detection system when shooting videos in live view mode. This type of autofocus affects the quality of your video as it tends to be slower and less accurate. This often leads to a blur look in the middle of a video as the camera hunts for the right focus.

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Canon EOS 80D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

With that said, newer DSLR models like the Canon EOS 6D Mark II have phase detection added in their sensor. This addition makes the camera great at tracking subjects. You can even change the focus by simply touching another point on the screen while shooting!

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Canon EOS 6D Mark II | EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM

As we’ve shown, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras each offer their own unique features. But one thing’s for sure – both have the ability to produce stunning images and videos with great performance!

If you’re feeling inspired to shoot after reading this article, be sure to share your photos with us at #CanonSG!