Should You Switch from DSLR to Mirrorless?

Reports from Nikkei that say Nikon has completely switched its focus from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras are not new to anyone who has been paying attention to the camera world in the last few years.

Canon is in the same place. Most camera companies have moved from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras, but there are a few exceptions. Will you?

Let me start by saying that this is not an article about DSLR vs. mirrorless.

We’ve already written one of these, just like everyone else, and to be honest, mirrorless already won that argument a long time ago.

In terms of specs and features, mirrorless cameras now have many advantages over DSLRs and almost no disadvantages. We’ve been saying for years that mirrorless is the only way forward for the camera business.

However, DSLRs are still used by a considerable number of photographers. Maybe you’re one of them.

If you’re still shooting with a DSLR, you’ve probably thought about the pros and cons of switching to a mirrorless camera, but you might not be sure which way to go. Is it smart to take the jump?

You should know by now what the trade-offs are and how much it costs to switch.

So, instead of talking about things like lens lineups or feature sets, I’d like to talk about some of the more subtle aspects of switching camera systems, like the creative differences and why you don’t always need to follow the hype train.

Image Quality, in More Ways Than One

There is no difference between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras when it comes to the quality of the pictures they take. Still, almost all of the money that camera companies spend on research and development goes into mirrorless cameras.

This means that mirrorless cameras are getting better and better and are becoming more and more cutting-edge.

There are a lot of different kinds of these, such as high ISO performance, pixel count, and dynamic range. (The shorter flange distance and larger diameter mounts of most mirrorless systems are also advantageous when designing lenses for mirrorless cameras.) Some photographers have said things like, “I don’t know why, but DSLR photos look better to me.”

Tamron-17-35mm-f2-8-4-21

On the one hand, DSLR photos don’t seem to be any better. Heck, you’re already shooting with a mirrorless camera if you use live view on a DSLR or, say, rip out the mirror. I’m sure that no one reading this article can reliably tell the difference between a photo taken with a DSLR camera and one taken with a mirrorless camera in a side-by-side test (given the same sensor, like the Nikon D780 vs Z6 II).

But the idea that “DSLR photos look better” seems to be more true than it should be, especially to photographers who don’t have a DSLR.

Even when I look at work from the same photographers, I can see that maybe the average quality of photos has gone down in the age of mirrorless cameras.

2016 Great Sand Dunes Black and White

If that’s the case, it has nothing to do with how the sensors work. Any difference would be caused by the way things are done.

It’s the same reason why I’ve never taken a good photo with my phone, even though many other photographers have. Simply put, I don’t put in enough effort because I only use my phone to take quick pictures and nothing else.

Mirrorless cameras are better than DSLRs these days. They are also easier to take with you and use on the go. They encourage people to make and share images faster and more often.

In the DSLR world, 11 FPS used to be a top-of-the-line speed. Now, when an entry-level mirrorless camera has that speed, I call it boring.

A reader’s comment on one of Libor’s recent articles caught my attention: “You asked me how often I get my camera out. Answer: It’s been months for me.

I have a backlog of 50K NEF files that haven’t been processed yet. I also have thousands of photos from a dead relative that I need to go through. I’m really swamped by the backlog.”

There is a glut. We can’t go out and take pictures because of it. It shuts us down. Or, if it doesn’t stop us, it makes us pay less attention to each photo than it deserves because we’re working with so many of them.

Tokina 100mm Macro Lens Adapted to Nikon Z7 with FTZ Adapter

But it’s a different way to take pictures. A speed bump has been taken out of the way. With a mirrorless camera, it’s easier to take a lot of “accidental” photos if you don’t think about slowing down and taking the best photo possible. It’s also easy to not spend enough time editing your best photos because you always have more to do and more photos to edit.

So, even if the image quality of a mirrorless camera is the same as or better than that of a DSLR, the quality of an image may not be the same.

I don’t think this should stop you from switching; the better technology of mirrorless cameras can help you expand your work and maybe even make it better in the right hands.

But just because your gear is newer or has better specs doesn’t mean you’ll take better photos.

Nikon Z7 Sample Photo of Lightning

If that’s the case, it has nothing to do with how the sensors work. Any difference would be caused by the way things are done.

It’s the same reason why I’ve never taken a good photo with my phone, even though many other photographers have. Simply put, I don’t put in enough effort because I only use my phone to take quick pictures and nothing else.

Mirrorless cameras are better than DSLRs these days. They are also easier to take with you and use on the go. They encourage people to make and share images faster and more often.

In the DSLR world, 11 FPS used to be a top-of-the-line speed. Now, when an entry-level mirrorless camera has that speed, I call it boring.

A reader’s comment on one of Libor’s recent articles caught my attention: “You asked me how often I get my camera out. Answer: It’s been months for me. I have a backlog of 50K NEF files that haven’t been processed yet. I also have thousands of photos from a dead relative that I need to go through.

I’m really swamped by the backlog.”

There is a glut. We can’t go out and take pictures because of it. It shuts us down. Or, if it doesn’t stop us, it makes us pay less attention to each photo than it deserves because we’re working with so many of them.

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