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Mirrorless or DSLR: When to use which?

What’s the big deal about the mirrorless versus DSLR cameras debate? We break it down by discussing several key features and let you decide. Ultimately, it’s not about which camera is better. It’s about finding one that works with your style and lets you shoot photographs the way you want to.

SIZE AND WEIGHT

Mirrorless cameras are typically much smaller and lighter due to the absence of a flip-up mirror. Its lenses are smaller too so you can fit several in your bag when previously you could fit only one. DSLR camera bodies are comparatively larger, as they need to fit in the mirror and prism.

Canon EOS 400D
(Photo: http://www.mycookinghut.com/2008/12/02/tips-on-food-photography/)

Canon EOS M3, EF-M18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
(Photo: http://asia.pcmag.com/canon-eos-m-22mm-kit/5447/news/hands-on-with-the-canon-eos-m3)

IMAGE QUALITY

Both cameras are capable of high-quality images, with similar resolutions and noise. Previously, smaller image sensors in mirrorless cameras were unable to capture as much light, which meant lower quality images. However things are changing as camera manufacturers have developed more sensitive chips to further reduce noise.

LENS SELECTION

DSLRs let you explore a comprehensive range of lenses to suit the subject or situation. Where previously mirrorless cameras came equipped with fewer lenses, Canon has bridged the gap with the Mount Adapter EF-EOS M, enabling the EOS M to take on the full spectrum of lenses.

Canon EOS 6D, EF17-40mm f/4L USM
(Photo: http://web.canon.jp/imaging/eosd/samples/eos6d/)

Canon EOS M3, EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
(Photo: http://www.johnniebutters.com/2015/03/canon-eos-m3-review-vs-original-eos-m.html)

FOCUSING SYSTEM

DSLRs' traditional phase detection means it is always a popular choice for shooting sports, wildlife and action photography, especially when the subject's movement is unpredictable and swift. The EOS M3 has upped the game with its sensor that combines phase and contrast detection for better focus, even with low light and erratic movement.

VIEWFINDER

If you look through a DSLR viewfinder and adjust settings like ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, you might notice the image in the viewfinder doesn't change. Mirrorless cameras feature electronic viewfinders that display a more accurate representation of what your final image will look like, removing some of the guesswork with your camera settings.

BATTERY LIFE

DSLRs are capable of up to a thousand shots or more on a single battery charge as no power is used if you hold the camera up and look through the viewfinder. Because mirrorless cameras operate in live view mode, battery consumption increases and you'd generally get a couple hundred shots on a single battery charge.