A photo showing the Sony a6300 AF points

14 Reasons Why A Mirrorless Camera Is Better For You

When you’re first getting into photography, most people start off with a point and shoot camera or their smartphone. These cameras are undoubtedly capable of producing fantastic results. But there comes a time for many people when they want to upgrade to something that’ll give them more creative control.

In this article, we will give you 14 reasons why a mirrorless camera is better for you.

What is a Mirrorless Camera?

A DSLR contains a mirror box, which allows you to see directly through your lens in the viewfinder. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up to expose the sensor and capture a picture. While this is an ingenious design, it makes the DSLR quite bulky and means the camera body contains a lot of delicate moving parts.

As the name would suggest, a mirrorless camera doesn’t have a mirror. Instead, the camera projects everything the sensor is seeing electronically into the viewfinder. Yes, it’s really as simple as it sounds!

A schematic showing the light's path through a DSLR vs. a mirrorless camera
DSLR cameras have a mirror which helps the viewfinder see through the lens. Mirrorless camera’s, on the other hand, does not have a mirror.

Why a Mirrorless Camera?

Mirrorless camera’s biggest advantage is their size. Generally they’re more compact, which is a huge bonus for travel photography. The electronic viewfinder is also a great tool, allowing you to see exposure adjustments in real time – particularly useful in low light. If you pick a micro four thirds camera, you also have access to a vast range of lenses, which more than matches the variety on offer for DSLRs.

Let’s take a look at fourteen areas where mirrorless cameras have the edge over DSLRs….

1. You Are Likely to Use It More!

Due to the elimination of the mirror setup, the mirrorless camera bodies tend to be smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts. The reduced bulk and weight mean you’re more likely to carry your camera around, so you’ll probably shoot more. My daily camera is the Panasonic GX8, pictured below. Combined with a small pancake lens, it’s barely bigger than a traditional compact camera and I can shoot without any compromise on quality while still traveling light!

A photo showing the Panasonic GX8 with a 20mm prime lens attached
One of my favorite mirrorless cameras, the Panasonic GX8. With this 20mm prime attached, it’s really tiny compared to a DSLR! Photo by Helen Hooker

2. With an Electronic Viewfinder, You Get What You See!

Whereas a DSLR has an optical viewfinder, mirrorless cameras use an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Here, you see the image exactly as it’s captured by the lens. This is a huge bonus because you can see any changes you make to the exposure in real time through the viewfinder!

Most mirrorless cameras also allow you to display gridlines in the EVF to aid composition. Another, often overlooked, benefit is being able to playback and zoom in on recorded images via the EVF. On sunny days, when the LCD is difficult to see, this is an incredibly powerful tool.

A photo of the electronic viewfinder (EVF) on a Panasonic GX8 mirrorless camera
The EVF on my Panasonic GX8. I love being able to see exposure changes in real time. Photo by Helen Hooker

3. You Choose How to Compose Your Photos

Another benefit with mirrorless cameras is the ability to choose how you shoot. This is because you can use either the rear LCD screen or EVF to compose your pictures. On sunny days using an EVF means you don’t have to worry about glare from the LCD. Equally, the articulated LCD screen on most models can help you to shoot from a high or low point of view.

4. More Autofocus Points for Creative Compositions

Unlike a DSLR, the autofocus points on a mirrorless camera cover a much larger area of the viewfinder, often right to the edges of the frame. This gives you many more creative options for composing pictures – after all, you won’t always want your subject in the middle of the picture.

A photo showing the Sony a6300 AF points
Mirrorless cameras usually have a much more Auto Focus points compared to DSLR cameras

5. You Can Focus with Just a Touch

Most mirrorless cameras have Touch Focus. Here, you choose where you want to focus by touching the rear LCD screen – much easier than fiddling with buttons. Some mirrorless cameras even offer touch shooting. You touch the position of our photo’s subject on the LCD screen, after which the camera focuses and shoots in a split second. A great tool for street photography!

A street photograph taken with a mirrorless camera
Touch focus and shooting is a great tool, especially for street photography. Photo by Helen Hooker

6. Silent Shooting in Quiet Places

Virtually all mirrorless cameras have a silent mode – something that’s simply not possible on a DSLR. Engaging the electronic shutter (instead of the mechanical one) allows you to take photos in absolute silence. That’s very useful in quiet locations, where the click of a mechanical shutter would be disturbing.

A wide angle photo taken inside a church using a mirrorless camera
Being able to shoot completely silently is useful in some locations where silence is important. Photo by Helen Hooker

7. Be Creative with Your Aspect Ratios

While the 3:2 aspect ratio is standard on DSLRs, mirrorless cameras shoot in a variety of aspect ratios, depending on the format of the sensor. For instance, micro four-thirds cameras use a 4:3 ratio. This doesn’t have to be fixed though, and many models will allow you to shoot in different sensor ratios, such as 1:1 (square), 3:2 and 19:9. This allows you to try out different compositions and see the results without having to crop your pictures later in post-processing.

8. Mirrorless Cameras Make It a Breeze to Focus Manually

We rely on the autofocus systems in our cameras almost all the time as they’re so good these days. There will be occasions when manual focusing is needed though, and mirrorless cameras make this a breeze. In the viewfinder, you will see in-focus areas highlighted in a contrasting color (called Focus Peaking) so it’s easy to see which areas are correctly focused.

A wide angle photo taken inside a church with a mirrorless camera and a manual focus lens
This image was shot with a manual focus lens, but Focus Peaking made it a breeze! Photo by Helen Hooker

9. Mirrorless Cameras Are Often Equipped with Advanced Autofocusing

If you prefer to stick to autofocus, modern mirrorless cameras have some handy tools to make your life easier. Most offer face detection now, and some can even detect eyes (Sony Eye-AF) and whole bodies. This makes it super-easy to focus when you’re taking people photos and to track them as they move.

A photo showing a sony mirrorless camera tracking the eye of a model
Mirrorless cameras are often equipped with advanced autofocus tracking systems such as the Eye-AF from sony.

10. Mirrorless Cameras Have Faster, Smaller, Cheaper Lenses

The smaller form factor of crop sensor mirrorless cameras means the lenses will generally be smaller and lighter too. The shorter distance between the lens and the camera’s sensor also means that it is possible to make lenses with a large maximum aperture more compact and affordable.

For instance, the Canon 24-70mm f2.8 lens costs $1,699.00 and weighs 805g. In contrast, the Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 (the equivalent focal length for micro four-thirds cameras) is $898 and weighs just 305g!

A bokeh image of a leaf taken with the Olympus 45mm f1.8 mirrorless lens
This image was shot on an Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens, which can be bought very inexpensively. Photo by Steven Ramon

11. Mirrorless Camera Lenses Are Super-Sharp

The area needing to be focused (the image circle) on a crop sensor mirrorless camera is smaller than on a DSLR. This means it’s easier to manufacture lenses that are sharp throughout the frame, at all apertures and all focal lengths. It also means it’s almost impossible to buy a bad lens for a mirrorless camera, even on a tight budget!

A landscape photo taken with a mirrorless lens
Photo taken with the mirrorless lens GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR. Photo credit Ken Kaminesky

12. Mirrorless Cameras Are Compatible with Most Lenses

Perhaps you’ve got some old lenses hanging around at home from an old film camera? Why not dust them off and take them out for a spin on your new mirrorless camera? There’s a whole raft of adapters out there which allow you to attach almost any type of lens to your camera. Even better, focus peaking makes focusing with old manual focus lenses so easy!

Found an old film camera lens hanging around? With the right adapter, you could shoot with it on a mirrorless camera! Photo by Dan Gold

13. Mirrorless Cameras Have Incredibly Fast Burst Rate

Without a mirror to lift up and down, mirrorless cameras are often capable of faster continuous shooting speeds than DSLRs. For instance, the Panasonic G9 can shoot at 20 frames per second using the mechanical shutter and a staggering 60 frames per second with electronic shutter! This is great for action photography so, if sports are your thing, this could be a real bonus.

14. Style up Your Camera!

All DSLRs tend to be the same shape, but mirrorless cameras come in different shapes and sizes. If you want a chunky DSLR style body they are available (the Panasonic G7 for instance) but you might prefer a slimline rangefinder style instead (such as the Olympus PEN models). The choice is yours!

Have I convinced you?

If this has whetted your appetite and you’re itching to go out and buy a mirrorless camera, the next thing to do is decide which model to buy. Choosing a camera is a very personal thing but, luckily for you, I’ve already done some of the footwork. In my second article of this series, we’ll take a look at some of the best mirrorless cameras on the market that are ideal for beginners.

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About the author

Helen Hooker

Helen Hooker is a musician and photographer based in the UK. Helen has been photoblogging every single day since November 2008 and has a particular passion for architectural and wildlife photography.

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