DSLR vs mirrorless: which do you prefer?

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Dec 17, 2019
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I had a bunch of Nikon stuff (bodies, lenses, flash, etc) and found I wasn't using my D700 w/grip or my D7200 w/grip very much. What was being used was my Samsung S9+ phone or my point & shoot Nikon AW120. I sold all the Nikon DSLR's and bought a Sony a6300 & a7II. I also have a Panasonic ZS100 point & Shoot. Long story made short I prefer mirrorless over DSLR for the weight savings.
 
Nov 19, 2019
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Also you can always lock your mirror up (especially if on a tripod) and shoot avoiding mirror slap and get super sharp images. The extra weight of (some) DSLRs can also help stabilization. However the large lens throat of (say) the Nikon Z series is allowing lens designers to produce some stunning lenses ......... tempting
im not super knowledgeable in optics but is this the reason i keep hearing / seeing about lenses with super low apertures like 0.95 ? is it the "lens throat" that you mentioned that allows this ? im also curious if because of the same size you mentioned if mirrorless would be better for low light ?
 
Dec 12, 2019
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im not super knowledgeable in optics but is this the reason i keep hearing / seeing about lenses with super low apertures like 0.95 ? is it the "lens throat" that you mentioned that allows this ? im also curious if because of the same size you mentioned if mirrorless would be better for low light ?
Hello Canadian One,
I also am not that knowledgeable about optical design but am certain that I read somewhere that the size of the lens throat (on Nikon Z series for example) and distance from the sensor allow optical designers more freedom (or less constraints if you look at the other side of the coin). hence superior as well as faster lenses. I am dubious about the practical value of really fast lenses since the depth of field must be minute and this is very limiting for 99% of photography.
Mirrorless are not intrinsically better in low light than either DSLRs or Compacts. The number of photosites on a sensor and the size of them tends to be the governing factor in low light photography. The bigger the photosite the more light and therefore signal it can gather. Also better processing by the camera CPU can reduce the noise level and increase the signal. This is something astrophotographers take advantage of by taking many images and stacking them . the principle is the signal (what you are photographing) is constant in position but the noise is random, so by stacking the signal gets stronger (taller) and the noise being in different places each time tends to not grow as much and even cancel each other slightly. The result is a signal level is much higher than the noise level and a better image can be obtained.
A general rule is that for the same size sensor more megapixels = smaller photosites so for example for a full frame sensor (FX) a 24 megapixel sensor will have less noise than a 36 megapixel sensor. An additional factor is that newer cameras have better sensors and better processing engines builtin so general improvements are taking place all the time. The Nikon Z6 has less noise than the Nikon Z7 so if night or low light photography is your thing then the Z6 is better.
All that being said I am shooting on an older camera (Nikon D850) sometimes at 6400 ISO and I am getting great images with practically no noise after processing through Topaz Denoise AI !
 
Jan 6, 2020
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Hi Artaius: I'm very new to the Nikon cameras and photography. I will purchase one once I have fully decided as to what type of camera that has all the things I want on it and the type as well. You have made some really great points related to the Mirror-less and DSLR's. I feel that info has made some very great points to my issues in learning. I'm leaning towards the Nikon Z 6. What is your take on this type of camera? I know that it doesn't have the 2 card slot, which I would like. I also find the lens choice, at present, quite minimal and very pricy. Any input would be great.
 
Jan 6, 2020
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someone will laugh but for me my D3400 is a serious camera and truthfully if it wasnt for the lack of autofocus points id be happy with it but im a hobbyist so my upgrade will be to a D7500 i will not go mirrorless only because of the prices here in canada are ridiculously expensive (for me) and saving the $1200 for a D7500 on my wages is interesting enough :) maybe in a few years ill switch
 
Jan 6, 2020
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HI Canadian One: I have the opportunity to purchase a D3000, which in all intensive purposes is a total antique in the realm of cameras but I've read some 437 reviews and don't think that you could get something for $350.00 any better. The camera and lenses have only been used several times. Yes, the camera is outdated it was brought out in July 2009, but with this camera comes the USB cord, Nikkor 18-55mm, and a Nikkor 55-200mm lenses. The battery and battery charger, cleaner, dust cloth and a case for everything to go in. The lenses are worth the $350.00 alone. The thing is that whatever the camera and bells and whistles that you can acquire are that it is used for the purpose of taking photos and enjoying it along the way. There's always new cameras, lenses, etc. that are coming out all the time and just perhaps a great deal can be snagged. By the way, this D3000 camera was replaced by the D3500. The D3000 in the reviews was enjoyed by beginners and pros alike. The thing is with this camera it is just for taking photos and no videos or live view screen. But what the heck for $350.00 you can't go wrong. There will be time enough to save for my new and desirable camera the Nikon Z6. By that time the price will probably have gone down enough as it is expensive and so are the lenses. Photography is not a cheap past time no matter what way you look at it.
 

Artaius

Staff member
Nov 13, 2019
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If you're just getting started in your photography, the Nikon D3000 will certainly get you going on your journey . However, even for the money, I would recommend aiming for something newer. The D3000 is very limited specs-wise, with a low-resolution 10.1MP sensor and only 100-1600 of ISO sensitivity. Not that you need loads of image resolution or the ability to shoot at ludicrous ISOs, but the D3000 will do a disservice to your photography in 2020 – for the sake of a few bucks, I don't think it's worth it.

The Nikon D3500 (review here), for instance, is a great camera – and it's currently only $358 including the 18-55mm lens (link in the review). For that you get a 24.2MP sensor and ISO100-25,600, both of which will make a huge difference to the pictures you produce (especially in challenging lighting conditions). The general advances in technology and image processor will also make this a faster, more accurate and generally better imaging machine in general.

Typically I'd say that lenses are more important than the body, but in this case I'd definitely advise opting for a newer camera like the D3500 with more modern tech.



HI Canadian One: I have the opportunity to purchase a D3000, which in all intensive purposes is a total antique in the realm of cameras but I've read some 437 reviews and don't think that you could get something for $350.00 any better. The camera and lenses have only been used several times. Yes, the camera is outdated it was brought out in July 2009, but with this camera comes the USB cord, Nikkor 18-55mm, and a Nikkor 55-200mm lenses. The battery and battery charger, cleaner, dust cloth and a case for everything to go in. The lenses are worth the $350.00 alone. The thing is that whatever the camera and bells and whistles that you can acquire are that it is used for the purpose of taking photos and enjoying it along the way. There's always new cameras, lenses, etc. that are coming out all the time and just perhaps a great deal can be snagged. By the way, this D3000 camera was replaced by the D3500. The D3000 in the reviews was enjoyed by beginners and pros alike. The thing is with this camera it is just for taking photos and no videos or live view screen. But what the heck for $350.00 you can't go wrong. There will be time enough to save for my new and desirable camera the Nikon Z6. By that time the price will probably have gone down enough as it is expensive and so are the lenses. Photography is not a cheap past time no matter what way you look at it.
 
Dec 16, 2019
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My next camera body will be a mirrorless one, probably Canon since I have EF lenses. Since my current 760D is from 2016 I am almost due for a new one. Sadly, the R5 will be too expensive, if I wish to stay married, so probably the R replacement when it is out. Being in IT, I never go for the V 1.0 version :)
 
Feb 28, 2020
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I can't afford to upgrade to a mirrorless system so I've been trying to make the best use of the the equipment I have available. I'm currently shooting a Pentax K10-D with a variety of Sigma and Pentax lenses and getting great results which have often looked better than images taken on much more expensive mirrorless systems. I believe that great pictures can be taken using any camera providing the person taking the picture knows how to compose a good shot. If I had the money I'd upgrade to a Pentax K1-II as I already have a large selection of 35mm manual and AF lenses I could use without having to invest in a new set of lenses. The original M42 Takumar lenses have superb optics along with the Zeiss Tessars and they can be picked up fairly cheaply although prices are rising. I also have the option of using the old Helios and Jupiter series Russian lenses as they can also be adapted to fit on the K-mount. I see no reason to switch to a mirrorless system with a limited range of lenses when I have so many options available to me and a much lower outlay.
 
Mar 23, 2020
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I use lots of cameras... but still consider my Nikon D800 as my 'serious' camera. This is at least partly as I have lots of lenses for this, and I know the camera well (and it still shoots incredible image files). But I own two mirrorless cameras (a Fujifilm X-T1 and a Sony A7) that I will use when I am travelling light. I am not shamed to admit that my Apple iPhone 8 Plus gets used a lot too nowadays!
Hi
Like you I am using my D800 (wonderfull images) and also my D750 & D500 (BIF). Just a few months ago I bought a Fuji X-T2 (new and discounted), while I don't really like the mirrorless of the camera I love the look of my images with its" film simulation". I think lenses are much more important than bodies you use, I spend a bundle with this new camera buying the XF50-140 OIS + XF 14 F2.8+ XF18-55 OIS. I do mostly landscape and architecture, and BIF. Even the Fuji with the 3 lenses and backpack weighs over 8 pounds.... way too much for travelling and carrying for more than a few hours.
 
May 29, 2020
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My first MILC was the NEX-5 and I used it a lot for macro, food and product photography. Obviously with no VF it definitely had its limitations but for those applications it was perfect. My last DSLR was the Canon 20D which had a decent sensor but a terribly small viewfinder. I mostly have been using the NEX behind analog RF/SLR cameras for the past decade or so. A couple of years ago I got the Leica M-D and then traded up to a Leica M10-P and use it a lot for people, places, and travel. Its small form factor, its super sharp lenses, and its uninterrupted optical viewfinder are its strongest points. Once live view was introduced, shortcomings with adapted macro or telephoto lenses were a thing of the past. That said, I was wanting to get into wildlife and macro more deeply and those are definitely two things that they do not excel at.

I got a D850 a few months ago and have been putting it through its paces and it certainly still has its strong points even with the increasing maturity of the mirrorless platforms. It has an amazing sensor that can handle deep cropping, it has a very good optical viewfinder which I prefer, it has very fast autofocus, great ergonomics and weight in the hand (which is also important to me), and of course the legendary Nikkors, many of which are at the top of my list of performers from any manufacturer, namely the 200/2, Micro 200/4, 400/2.8, and 600/4.

The simple fact for me is that I started building my Nikon and Nikkor collection in my teens and am now deeply invested so that has kept me on the F mount. If I were starting from scratch I'd definitely be looking very closely at the Sony A7 and Nikon Z series because of their lens performance. But having come from superb optical viewfinders like those in the Nikon F, F2, and Leica M3, that and the size and weight stability from the DSLR form factor keeps me leaning towards DSLR over mirrorless.
 
Mar 23, 2020
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The only mirrorless I own is the Fuji XT2 for near a year. I have nothing in the ergonomic that make me like it better than any of my D-SLRs such as the Nikon D800-750-500-7100-7000.
Dislikes
1- Battery life , around 300 shots vs 1000. I have 5 batteries for the XT-2
2- lack of a good grip, without buying the expensive battery grip.
3- Menus that are crazy to learn, when I compared them to my Nikons, without any help button as on the Nikons. I haven't found a way to display the actual iso on the monitor while focusing, when the ISO button is rotated to "Auto". I can only see what is the max iso set in one of my 3 set options "auto1-3''. This is ridiculously complicated for nothing.
4- Lens price.

Likes:
1- Much better lenses designed for its DX format, but quite expensives.
2- Fujifilm simulations, extremely convincing.
3- AF is as good as my Nikons, except for the D500.
4- Noise is very well controlled for a DX camera.
5- More tolerance, than Nikon to retrieve highlights.
6- weight & size of lenses & camera.
Conclusion: I like my Nikons better for handling, an easiness to learn and set, while the XT-2 with all its Fujifilm simulations is amazing with mostly very little of post-processing, in capture One. Its ashame that DXO Photolabs 3 does support only the Bayer sensors
 
May 30, 2020
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Hey, it's Rod Lawton here, Group Reviews editor at DCW, and I've got a question for all you folk out there. Who uses a DSLR in preference to a mirrorless camera and why? (OK, two questions.) Mirrorless cameras are the future, yada yada yada, and I own a few myself and I've tested dozens, but I also still like optical viewfinders, camera bodies big enough to get a proper grip on and batteries that will last all day (so that's DSLRs, then). What do you think?
I have had both DSLR's and Mirrorless cameras over the past few years, my first mirrorless was a Sony NEX 6 which I have always thought was rather ugly but it produced very nice images at the time and was very compact, however, I dropped it whilst on holiday in Greece and basically it made me think how delicate it was and I ended up buying a Nikon D5100 followed by a D5300, which produced amazing photos and felt much more robust and comfortable to use. I was tempted back to mirrorless with the Olympus OMD EM10ii, which was very compact and produced excellent quality photos but again, the camera felt a little delicate and the battery life was rubbish. Prior to the Olympus I also had a Fuji X30, Pentax K10D, K20D and K3, so you can see that I was totally confused as to what system to use. The Pentax K3 was out of this world for image quality, the best I had experienced but the camera was over double the weight of the Olympus but then I had the chance to buy a Pentax KP from WEX photo for a bargain price and it has turned out to be the best of both worlds. It has even better resolution than the K3, it has 5 axis IBIS, live view and so much more and is a very compact but rugged and weatherproof body, I absolutely love it and I will not be going back to mirrorless anytime soon
 
Jun 1, 2020
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I jumped on the very first serious mirrorless camera - the Sony A7R - and began buying the Carl Zess Contax C/Y lenses and after-market adapters. I found the batteries didn't last very long and the overall weight of the camera with lens, adapter and body was not that far off what I had been using. Also, I prefer a live view on a ground glass which I have with my twin lens reflexes and view cameras. I'm probably the oldest cameraperson on these pages, having started in 1941, before WWII! So, my habits of 80 years are hard to break, I guess. I went back to my Canon 5D Mk II, as it is ergonomically more friendly and can't poke me with a sharp corner in my sleeping bag (I'm an outdoor photographer) while trying to keep my batteries warm. Since I shoot 90% off a 'pod, a slapping mirror doesn't bother me. It's locked up or put on the timer. I shoot Canon and Sigma glass.
 
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Jun 6, 2020
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I was a firm advocate of mirrorless back in the Samsung camera days, a true convert. Then I looked through the OVF of a Pentax K1 ii and now I use cameras of both types. The reason is that although I can appreciate the advantages of an EVF, for me, all that data can get in the way of the composition . Data overload, my advice is just be wary of it, a great photo is not in the data, it is in your creativity. These days I am more concerned with what I can do with a camera rather than what the camera can do.
 
Jun 14, 2020
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It seems broadL y that mirrorless is well on its way to killing off the DSLR, I’m afraid those who prefer the latter will soon be out of luck on anything but very basic and very expensive models....and then they won’t have any choices in ten years. On the upside good glass for DSLR is really declining in value in the used market so if you aren’t a gear changer you can get ten years out of it


One thing mirrorless has brought back for us is the ability to easily manually focus. That and adapted classic lenses are great. I shoot an old DSLR ff, and a quite expensive fixed lens compact mirroless. They both have advantages. All my gear is now quite old though and if I was starting out today as a hobbyist or semi pro I wouldn’t get a DSLR.
 
Jun 6, 2020
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DSLRs are not the only system in danger of fading out of existence, the whole interchangeable lens camera market is is in trouble. The question for me is how do camera manufacturers inspire smartphone users, the point and shoots of today, to consider buying a dedicated camera of any flavour in sufficient numbers ? The camera market is not going away, I suspect it is bigger than ever, but it does not seem to be moving on to dedicated camera gear. I don't think expensive high end gear is necessarily the answer either, incomes from a lot of professional work seem down as well as incomes in general, making substantial investments in dedicated cameras and glass seems difficult to justify in the current financial climate. That is why I think MFT and APS-C cameras are important in all this, as feeders to the dedicated camera part of the market, but they need to ape some of the interface and usability of the smartphone to continue this. In a healthy camera market DSLRs may eventually become a niche, just as with digital rangefinder cameras, in the current market I think DSLRs and Mirrorless are in the same boat, needing to find ways to carve out a larger % of the overall camera market.
 
Jun 14, 2020
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DSLRs are not the only system in danger of fading out of existence, the whole interchangeable lens camera market is is in trouble. ... Mirrorless are in the same boat, needing to find ways to carve out a larger % of the overall camera market.
Excellent points all.

I agree that with the advent of relatively good (for web presentation) camera phones it’s becoming difficult to convince Many enthusiasts to carry anything more due to bulk.

another good type of camera is the 1” sensor. I have an rx100m3 and having owned a gf1 I feel the quality generally exceeds that in good luv just and is pretty close in lower light. It’s a shame that camera line is so expensive Becuase it’s a solid answer to bridge camera. If they sold a non vlogging version with the lightening af for around what the mk iii goes for I think it would get a lot more buyers (proportionally)

it’s clear that vlogging and YouTube vids are the new norm and every single camera manufacturer is trying to get in on that market now. Perhaps at the expense of still photography on some ways.

As a photographer it’s a real shame to see this, what I consider, decline in photography. Some basic colour theory and some cheesy filters is the new gold standard. It is largely aesthetics and not subject now You don’t need a great camera to shoot f8-16 equiv in good light especially if you’re manipulating them with instagram filters.

as much as it’s great that the access is there for all it’s very difficult to stand out when there are 1-3 billion people making mediocre or worse photos and flooding every avenue of presentation.
Perhaps I sound bitter as someone who isn’t good enough to stand out but when I see EXCELLENT photographers making very good art that have 800 followers and some bozo unknowingly shooting at a Dutch angle with a half naked woman getting 5 million. It’s a shame.

Anyway sorry for that rant - more to topic. I have old gear and was considering selling my now very devalued equipment to move to Sony. But I just can’t justify it. Instead I bought a Samyang (wallimex) 14mm 2.8 to get some ultra wide angle cityscapes in London and the south of England.

I’ll continue to use my 24L for street. 24-105 for all Purpose. The rx100iii and rx1 with evf are an excellent travel combo covering indoors and outdoors in good light.

the reason I can’t make this switch is it would cost me £thousands to get Lens parity And frankly the 5dii limiting factor is maybe autofocus but more likely photographers at this point. As old as it is people made masterpieces with it. Until I can I guess I don’t need anything g better. In the meantime I’ll see what unfolds. If the mirror less market is really in danger too I don’t see how Sony can keep their prices on lenses so high. They’re regularly 35-75% more than equivalent canon and the used market is very limited.
I hope that used gear prices keep the dslr alive for a while. If not I’ll keep buying et glass And get a 5div at some point when they’re even cheaper used. I’ll probably be the last semipro out of dslr at this point- I can’t spend every cent I make on gear.

I see Mirror less’ advantages but I don’t understand why hobbyists it’s semi pros would rush to switch without giving canikon another year or two to see where they go. Sony isn’t without flawsneither are Olympus or Panasonic etc. Most of usprobably are not running into a wall so do all of these advances for stills matter thy at much?

also - Can compositing save photography

alright that was a lot. Sorry about that.
 
Feb 28, 2020
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For me, an optical viewfinder is the only option I'd consider. I've tried at a few mirrorless models but I've always went back to DSLR and nothing would ever make me switch so I guess I'll be sticking with Pentax as they have never let me down so far and the K1 can still hold it's own against all newcomers and I'm still amazed at the picture quality from my old K10D even though it's a dinosaur by modern standards the colour rendition was the best in it;s class. The vast choice of lenses in both K and M42 mount available offer loads of creative options for those on a tight budget. The option to use these lenses on a mirrorless system like the Sony Alpha or Fuji XT is there but when I tried these I still preferred the simplicity of my DSLR. People may call me old school, but the point of photography is to enjoy taking pictures and unfortunately I just couldn't get used to mirrorless,
 
Feb 28, 2020
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I always keep coming back to DSLR. I tried switching to Fuji and Sony but ended up back with a Pentax K1 and enjoying my photography a lot more. I love the simplicity of Pentax cameras and how easy it is to adapt from one model to another. I struggled with the awkward menu's on the Sony camera's and although the Fuji was better I still prefer the Pentax pentaprism optical viewfinder especially in tricky light conditions as it gives a truer depiction of the subject
 
Feb 28, 2020
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someone will laugh but for me my D3400 is a serious camera and truthfully if it wasnt for the lack of autofocus points id be happy with it but im a hobbyist so my upgrade will be to a D7500 i will not go mirrorless only because of the prices here in canada are ridiculously expensive (for me) and saving the $1200 for a D7500 on my wages is interesting enough :) maybe in a few years ill switch
I had a Pentax K10D before I upgraded to a used K1. I tried out a few mirrorless camera's along the way from Fuji and Sony but the K1 is the one I stuck with. I think in the current climate most people will be wary of spending heavily on expensive camera gear so the used DSLR market will thrive. I chose Pentax due to the availability of a wide range of lenses with many being affordable on a limited budget including some superb vintage lenses like their M42 Takumar's which can be picked up fairly cheaply though high demand is forcing prices up.
 

Kam

Jul 21, 2020
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This podcast episode talks about this subject;

 
I agree with Void3000 I can't seem to get on board with an EVF viewfinder. They are very good now and the Nikon Z range are really good. But it just isn't the same as looking through the viewfinder in realtime. And a DSLR or rangefinder have that advantage over mirrorless. However I really want to like mirrorless due to the size and weight which has a definite advantage of DSLR.

David

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Aug 20, 2020
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I have both. I prefer a DSLR. I prefer the OVF not so much because it is "superior" to an EVF, but because I can look through it without having to turn the camera on. But the main reason I Prefer a DSLR is that I can get many more shots from a single battery. If you are travelling and recharging may not be possible then this really matters, especially when airlines limit us to carrying a maximum of two Lithium batteries.

Incidentally CIPA ratings are next to useless for most of us, so far as real-life use is concerned. I get more than double the CIPA figure with my 7D mark II. When I used Canon 1-series cameras, with their much bigger batteries I regularly got well over 2,000 shots per charge.

One big advantage of digital photography over film is that the marginal cost of each extra photograph is tiny. If I have to economize on the number of frames shot, because of miserable battery life, I might as well spend $20 on an old SLR and go back to using film (which also continues to defy predictions of its death!)
 
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