Mirrorless vs DSLR–Which one has better image quality?

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DSLRs used to be much more superior in megapixel, FPS, exposure metering, buffer, operation & control, AF system, ISO performance and access to lenses and flashes. But with mirrorless cameras like the Sony NEX-7, Leica M9, Fujifilm X-Pro 1, Nikon V1 and Olympus E-P3, much of these advantages are no longer exclusive to DSLRs only.

For example, Sony NEX-7 has a 24MP APS-C which is better than many DSLRs. It has electronic front curtain which makes 14 FPS possible. Its ISO performance matches with any entry level DSLRs It features twin wheel dials which make operation and control much more convenient, despite in a smaller body.

Mirrorless cameras have came a long way, but DSLRs still have better AF system which uses both contrast and phase detection, so shooting moving subjects is still better with DSLRs. Shooting with DSLR is of cause the only choice for professional work because it can access to the vast amount of different lenses and lighting equipment. For example wild life photographers need to use some of the biggest lenses ever made and studio photographers need to use tethering, wireless triggers and different lighting setup.

So which one is better for you? Is one better than the other ?

As mirrorless cameras mature, I don’t think image quality will pay a big part in the debate of Mirrorless vs DSLRs.  You can pretty much expect mirrorless cameras and DSLRs both produce equally good quality images, except when compare to FF cameras, then you will see some differences at higher ISO. If you want the sharpest image possible then DSLR lenses will always produce sharper images, but I doubt you will see any difference even if you print it at A0 size.

To pick between mirrorless or DSLRs, there are three main aspects you need to think about :

  1. Size – Are you mainly going to use the camera for travel or casual shooting? Are you willing to carry a heavier DSLR around?
  2. Ergonomic design – Try out all the cameras, put them in your hands and have a feel of them. See which one feels more comfortable in your hands.
  3. Expansion – Are you planning to get into photography? Are you planning to get more lenses and flashes later on?

One of the main reason for choosing mirrorless cameras is its compactness. Mirrorless cameras are much more portable, yet still capable of producing quality images. Because of this,  a lot of photography hobbyist have turned to use mirrorless cameras. Many of them liked the  retro or rangefinder look such as the E-P3, M9 and X-Pro 1. After all, taking photos should be fun.

DSLRs will always have a better ergonomic design simply because it is bigger, there are more dedicated buttons, wheel dials and switches instead of changing every setting inside the menu. Some people prefer the more solidly build  DSLRs, they tend to have a better grip.

You will also need to think about are you planning to get into photography, perhaps you want to get a few more lenses and flashes in the future . then you might as well start early and get yourself familiar with DSLR.

So it is pretty obvious, if you want something compact, get a mirrorless camera, focus on which is the best mirrorless camera for you instead.

If you get pay for taking photos, then the obvious answer is get a DSLR. You want to be sure your clients get the best image quality possible.

If you are looking for a travel camera, you can get either depending on how willing you are on carrying a heavier DSLR.

If you are a starter who wants to get into photography, you can choose either, start off with an entry level DSLR or a good mirrorless camera, then once you have master the system, you can pursue further to medium size DSLR or pro size DSLR.

If you are mainly going to take photos of your family, babies, etc, mirrorless camera will do the job well.

Image quality is not really a big part in the debate of mirrorless vs DSLRs. Entry level DSLR and mirrorless cameras have pretty much the same image quality. But when you compare to FF camera, you will see some differences in some situation. Don’t focus too much on the image quality. I doubt you can see much difference between them. To put this to test. I have attached 10 photos below and to make it a bit more obvious, some are taken with a mirrorless camera and some are taken with a FF camera. So it should be much easier to identify than mirrorless vs entry level DSLR. Each image is numbered, leave your answers below and see who can get them all right.

Image (1)

Image (2)

Image (3)

Image (4)

Image (5)

Image (6)

Image (7)

Image (8)

Image (9)

Image (10)

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About Kent Yu

Kent is a professional wedding and portrait photographer based in Wellington, New Zealand. He and his team specialise in modern and contemporary weddings. Kent has his work published in international magazines and is a regular author to a number of photographic publication. He is fascinated by photographic equipment and enjoys showcasing the gear used in creating his images. You can find him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+
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Comments and Feedback? Fire away !

avatar *** says:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 with Sony and 6, 8, 9, 10 with FF

avatar Kent Yu says:

Looks like we have a winner here …..Bang on !! Great Stuff

avatar Xabier Granja says:

I’m going to say only images 2, 6 and 8 are taken with a FF! Maybe, just maybe 9 too, but I’m not sure about that one.

avatar Kent Yu says:

Xabier, unfortunately that’s not quite there yet. It was hard for me to indentify too and I shot these.

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