There are perhaps a million and one blog posts and online articles debating the extent of the influence of mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras. Some proclaim that it’s the dawning of the new age and that these nifty little powerhouses are taking over the industry. Meanwhile some merely shrug their shoulders, give the cameras their due credit, and then brush them off again.

What are these “mirrorless, interchangeable-lens” cameras anyway and what’s the big deal about them? In a nutshell, they’re DSLRs without the pentamirror/pentaprism system, which makes them much, much more compact – like, pocketsize-compact (provided it’s a loose, baggy pocket – but still!). Apart from the pentamirror, pretty much majority of a DSLRs features and capabilities are packed into them as well. This then begs the question, why stay with the bulky DSLRs when you have a handier counterpart that can do the same things? Let’s look at the nitty-gritty shall we?

Sensor

Most of the high-end mirrorless cameras come with APS-C sensors, no different from DSLRs. As with DLSRs these sensors also come in a variety of sizes which affect crop-factor, light-handling, pixel count, and overall image quality. Except for the full-frame DSLRs, which are a league of their own really, the mirrorless, interchangeable-lens compact cameras can ably compete with their big cousins’ photo-capturing skills.

Viewfinder

The new mirrorless models can typically switch between an optical viewfinder and an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Though the older models had wonkier EVFs which flicker upon fast movement, the issue has already been addressed and the more recent cameras no longer have this problem. Despite this though, phase-detection and continuous autofocus is still a tad bit slower because of the camera’s contrast-focusing approach, and isn’t ideal for action or sports photography.

Shooting

Though the mirrorless cameras don’t have burst speeds at par with the mid-level to professional DSLRs, everything else is a pretty good match. Shooting modes, shutter speed, focusing, dynamic range, white balance options, you name it. They even have HD video to boot!

Accessories

Fujifilm, Leica, Olympus, Sony, all the manufacturers have their own line-up of accessories to complement their new models. From lenses, to external flash, to filters – basically everything a DSLR has, they do too. Only theirs are smaller.

Handling

What it comes down to at the end of the day is how the camera feels in your hand. The small size of the mirrorless, interchangeable-lens models make them practical and convenient. But the weight of the DSLRs give them a balance and stability light cameras don’t have. On top of that, the DSLR’s size allow more flexibility and power when it comes to lenses : focal range, and zooms – though, seeing how technology works, that’s probably only just a matter of time.

In conclusion, yes, mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras are awesome. For travel photographers and photojournalists who want to be unencumbered by heavy and conspicuous equipment, these new models are perhaps a godsend. But for the variety of lenses and the stability of weight in your hands, DSLRs are still unmatched. At the end of the day, though both types of cameras hold the same capabilities, they’re still ideal for different things, and thus cater to different needs. And while the compact models are now all the rage, there will always be a space for DSLRs in the industry.

Julia Escano – Shoot The Frame