SLR or Mirrorless camera : Which one is a better option for a beginner?

 For last few days one of my friends if researching about cameras to find the best fit for him. He has been using a Point-n-shoot camera for few years now and thinks that his camera is not able to capture some of beautiful scenes he witnessed in Goa. This is how he describes the scene - 'Friends sitting on the beach at Goa at 2am, when the sea was lit with fullmoon in the sky. By 3:45am, the beautiful colors were there on the sky which were reflecting back from the sea with few more stars and the fullmoon'. It sounds brilliant and I can understand the frustration of not being in a position to capture the moment with his existing point-n-shoot camera.

Two days back, when he told me about this. He said that what would be the best SLR camera for him. After inquiring more, I realized that he is looking at an SLR for home use with most optimized pricing. He is an avid traveller, so another thing was to accomplish the task of capturing situations mentioned above. On the basis of this discussion, we concluded on an entry level camera and then I suggested him to go through other DSLRs available and try to compare those. In case, you need some specific details on particular features, ping me back.

Today he came back to me and asked about Mirrorless cameras. Since it was a busy day at office, I requested him to wait till night and I will share appropriate details about Mirrorless cameras and how they are different from SLRs. 

If you are wondering why we are only talking about SLRs and Mirrorless cameras then answer is - both these cameras have interchangeable lenses. And when it comes to upgrade from a Point-n-shoot or a birdge camera, these two options come to your mind. This post will help you understand the differences and similarities between SLRs and Mirrorless cameras.

SLR stands for Single lens reflex cameras which are heavily used for most of the commercial projects in last century.  With the advent of Digital SLRs, these cameras are accessible for home use as well and there are many hobbyists who utilize these DSLRs well.  With digital technologies, the cost of producing photographs has reduced a lot and people can afford to have these equipments for their personal usage as well. An SLR uses a mirror inside the body which diverts the light from the lens into a viewfinder so that we see exactly what the camera sees. When we press click button,  this mirror goes up to clear the path between the lens and the sensor to create a digital image, mostly JPEGs and proprietary file formats like NEF, CRW etc. 

From the above description, when we remove the mirror from the camera having interchangeable lenses is called Mirrorless camera :).

Let's quickly look at the advantages of SLR cameras over Mirrorless Cameras -

1. SLR cameras can focus faster with phase detection technique as compared to Mirrorless which use the slower technique to focus - 'contrast detection'. Contrast detection is used by Point-n-shoot as well as phone cameras.

2. Because of the technology, SLRs show better previews as compared to Mirrorless cameras. Although some of the high-end mirrorless cameras try to match the preview quality of DSLRs.

3. There is a great range of lenses available for DSLRs as compared to Mirrorless cameras. Apart from the camera company, there are various other companies which manufacture lenses for DSLRs as well, which is not the case for mirrorlesss cameras. On top of that, not a good range is available for Mirrorless cameras and exception is Sony Nex series which has comparatively larger number of lens options available.

Advantages of Mirrorless cameras over SLRs -

1. Mirrorless cameras are lighter and smaller as compared to DSLRs, because they don't need the mirror and shutter.

2. Mirrorless cameras are not noisy as there is no shutter like DSLRs

3. Mirrorless cameras are less prone to dust although this is debated a lot. But one basic thing is that probability of catching dust by DSLR sensor is more as compared to mirrorless because of air inflow due to  mirror going up and down for every shot. 

4. Because of more manufacturing cost, Mirrorless cameras are comparatively cheaper. 

Common advantages of DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras -

1. Both these cameras use improved series of sensors. 

2. Both these cameras have capability of using interchangeable lenses. 

3.  Better image stabilization by taking advantage of sensor and lens capabilities. Image stabilization is about fixing basic blur issues which may otherwise come due to hand movement while shooting the photographs or other similar reasons.

4. When we talk about entry level DSLRs and Mirrorles cameras, both of them use comparable sensor sizes and technology, which produces better quality images. This was an issue with Mirrorless cameras launched in early days.

I know that all this is not enough to do decision making, so I would recommend you to visit a showroom once to have a feel of both type cameras and come back to see the subsequent post on the same.

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