DSLR or Mirrorless Camera for Beginners

Michael • updated May 27, 2022 • 8 min read

DSLR or Mirrorless Camera for Beginner

Are you a beginner photographer and unsure whether an DSLR or a mirrorless system camera is the best option for you? Then you’ve arrived at the right place.

We’ll go over the differences between the two camera types, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each.


1. What is the difference between a System Camera and an DSLR?

Before delving into the benefits and drawbacks, let’s first define the difference between an SLR and a system camera, as well as briefly discuss the different names of the cameras.

DSLR versus System Camera 

In your search for the best camera, you may have come across the abbreviations DSLR and system cameras. Therefore, we’d like to explain them briefly for you:

  • DSLR = digital single lens reflex camera
  • DSLM = digital single lens mirrorless camera = System Camera

So DSLR is simply the abbreviation for a single-lens reflex camera and DSLM for a mirrorless system camera. For this tutorial we stick with the term “system camera.”

Often, mirrorless system cameras are also simply called system cameras, which is actually not quite correct. A system camera is simply a camera that consists of interchangeable components, for example, interchangeable lenses or attachable flashes. This is also true of a DSLR.

Nevertheless, mirrorless cameras, in particular, are simply referred to as system cameras, and we will do the same in this article.

The technical difference is the mirror system.

What is the distinction between a reflex and a system camera? A DSLR camera, as the name implies, employs a mirror system. Light passes through the lens and reflects off several mirrors, allowing you to see an image in the viewfinder.

This mirror system is not present in a system camera. The image is delivered directly from the sensor.

So, which is better: a DSLR or a mirrorless System Camera?

A DSLR’s mirror system takes up a certain amount of space in the camera’s body. Unlike other technological developments, the mechanism cannot be shrunk further after a certain point because it requires a minimum size.

That is why an DSLR camera cannot be made any smaller. On the other hand, a system camera can be built smaller.

So the primary distinction between DSLR and system cameras is that a system camera lacks a mirror system.

2. The biggest difference – optical or digital viewfinder

The viewfinder is one of the most noticeable differences between a system camera and an DSLR. The viewfinder on an DSLR is optical (OVF), whereas the viewfinder on a system camera is electronic (EVF). But what exactly does that mean?

Graphic, Mirrorless system camera with digital viewfinder
Image: ©Sony


The system camera’s electronic viewfinder

As previously stated, the image hits the sensor directly in a system camera. This immediately displays the image digitally on the display or in the viewfinder, which also has a small display.

This has its benefits. For example, the image in the viewfinder is displayed exactly as you set the camera and as you will see it later on the computer.

So, if the image is too bright or too dark, you can adjust it before pressing the shutter.

You can also use the electronic viewfinder to display aids such as a grid for applying the rule of thirds or camera settings such as exposure time or aperture.

DSLR with optical viewfinder
Image: ©Canon

The DSLR camera’s optical viewfinder

An optical viewfinder is used with a DSLR camera. The mirror’s reflection allows you to see the subject through the lens just as you would with your naked eye.

When you press the shutter button and the finished image appears on the monitor, you can only tell if your photo is too bright or too dark. This is a significant disadvantage, especially in low-light situations.

Modern DSLR cameras frequently include a live view mode. The DSLR camera then functions similarly to a system camera. However, because the mirror inside the camera must be flipped up for this,

DSLR cameras are designed in such a way that live view mode is only used in exceptional circumstances.

This makes taking pictures and focusing in DSLR cameras’ live view mode much slower, and thus unsuitable as a permanent solution.

Many photographers who have used DSLRs for a long time prefer the optical viewfinder and find shooting with a system camera’s electronic viewfinder unnatural. It’s just a matter of getting used to it.

The image in the optical viewfinder, by the way, appears in real time. The image must first be transferred from the sensor to the monitor when using an electronic viewfinder. But it’s now so fast that you can’t tell the difference.

In addition, the absence of a mirror system ensures that a system camera can shoot completely silently because there is no need to flip the mirror.

This is ideal for not frightening wild animals or drawing unwanted attention in the pedestrian zone.

3. Image Quality: DSLR vs System Camera

There are no differences in image quality between system cameras and SLR cameras. The mirror system’s presence or absence has no effect on image quality.

Image quality is determined by the camera settings and the lens. So you can’t tell whether a great photo was taken with a DSLR or a system camera.

  • There are no differences in image quality. A system camera in the same price range as a comparable SLR produces comparable images.

4. Autofocus

The first mirrorless system cameras had extremely slow autofocus, making them far inferior to DSLR cameras.

However, things have changed since then. A good system camera can now focus as quickly as a good DSLR. In the end, the camera model is more important than the mirror

Some system cameras, such as Sony’s, have a focus system that recognizes the human eye and precisely sets and maintains the focus on it. This is a significant benefit for portrait photographers.

  • However, even in lower price segments, many system cameras now have more autofocus points than DSLR cameras at the same price. This gives you a larger area to focus onin the image.

5. Weight & Size – Do you carry your gear a lot?

A system camera can be built more compactly than a DSLR camera due to the lack of a mirror mechanism. This has a minor impact on the width and height of the camera body.

But if you think that switching to a system camera will generally get you smaller and lighter camera gear, you might be disappointed.

The difference, for example, between gear for a Nikon or Canon DSLR and gear for a Sony system camera with similar lenses is barely there.

However, compactness is frequently at the expense of ergonomics and can thus be a disadvantage. Photographers with large hands may have difficulty handling a small system camera.

  • They don’t take too much away from each other in this respect. If you want it even smaller and lighter, a Fujifilm system camera is the right one.

graphic, DSLR vs mirrorless system camera battery life

6. Battery life

Because a system camera lacks a mirror system and operates entirely electronically, it consumes more power than a DSLR camera.

This is primarily because of the displays. Because they are usually on all the time, both the larger display on the back of the camera and the small display in the electronic viewfinder are absolute power hogs. As a result, DSLR cameras have much longer battery life.

This is a clear advantage over the system camera for longer photo tours, where you must always bring at least one spare battery.

Although the batteries in new models are getting better, a system camera will always require multiple batteries.

  • DSLR cameras, have significantly longer battery life.

7. Continuous shooting rate

The continuous shooting rate of your camera determines how many photos it can take per second.

Entry-level cameras can take five photos per second, whereas professional cameras can take 12 or more. A high continuous shooting rate is useful in sports or wildlife photography, for example, when you want to freeze fast movements and then select the best photo afterward.

The mirror must be flipped up before taking a photograph with a DSLR camera. As a result, it’s usually a little slower than a system camera at the same price point.

Of course, professional DSLR cameras can still capture images at breakneck speed. They are, however, usually more expensive than a system camera that is equally fast.

  • The system cameras typically outperform DSLRs.

8. The video function

Videos have become a popular topic in recent years. System cameras typically have the upper hand in this category.

An DSLR camera’s mirror must always be tilted upwards when recording video. As a result, a different, slower focusing technique is used.

The focusing technology in system cameras is designed so that light always hits the sensor. As a result, even in video mode, the system camera focuses faster and more accurately.

Furthermore, system cameras frequently provide more video setting options than DSLR cameras.

  • We have to say, that system cameras are better with video.

9. The lenses and accessories available

Lenses on both SLR and system cameras can be changed. This enables you to obtain lenses that precisely match your photographic motifs and requirements.

System cameras have only been around for a few years, whereas DSLR cameras have been around for a long time. As a result, the selection of lenses and accessories for system cameras remains somewhat limited in comparison to DSLRs.

There is the option of using lenses from other manufacturers in conjunction with an adapter on the new system camera. The price is also affected by the selection and overall high quality of DSLR lenses.

  • DSLRs thus have an advantage in terms of more lenses and accessories available.

10. Costs of purchasing a camera

There are currently some system cameras available that are less expensive than SLR cameras with comparable functionality.

On average, entry-level system cameras are $50 to $100 less expensive than corresponding DSLR cameras. When purchasing a camera, however, you should consider more than just the price.

  • Think about what you would like to photograph. For example, if you like to go on long hikes for your landscape photography, then a DSLR would be a good choice due to the long battery life.
  • On the other hand, if you plan to shoot action and sports, go with a system camera, as you can shoot many images in continuous mode.

11. Looking to the future

The future viability of the systems is an important point that is frequently overlooked. DSLR s have already vanished from some suppliers’ product lines. Olympus and Fujifilm have ceased all production. Sony, too, has few models with mirrors in its lineup.

Of course, this means that no new lenses for these cameras are being developed. As a result, it is debatable whether purchasing an DSLR camera today is still worthwhile.

If you’re just starting out in photography, we recommend investing in a mirrorlesssystem camera, as these models are unquestionably the future.

  • Mirrorless system cameras clearly are the future. Even if it is painful for nostalgics, DSLR cameras will become obsolete sooner or later.


12. Pros & Cons

DSLR camera pros:

  • Increased battery life
  • The viewfinder image is always visible and depicts the exact image being produced by the lens.
  • The brightness of the viewfinder matches the brightness of the surroundings.
  • Even more options for lenses right now

Mirrorless system camera pros:

  • Less complicated in terms of mechanics
  • There is camera body weight
  • The image is shown in the viewfinder as soon as it is saved to the memory card.
  • It is possible to see the viewfinder while taking a picture.

13. Which camera should I buy, according to your advice?

Finally, the most important question of all. Which camera should I buy?
Today’s DSLR cameras are extremely advanced. The lens and accessory selection is extensive and of high quality.

System cameras are without a doubt the way of the future. Nonetheless, a few more years of development are required.

  • Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll be wiser and know what type of camera is best for you.

Don’t forget to share this article!

By Furoore team member Michael
Furoore Team is here to assist you in capturing the most significant moments in your life. To create exciting photographs, discover photography guides, find unique photo ideas, and limitless image inspiration.


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