- Great battery life
- Many native lenses available
- Low-priced entry-level models
- Generally larger size
- Noise (both in terms of the shutter and mirror)
- Speed of operation
- Generally larger size
- Quiet operation
- Smaller-sized bodies
- AF during videography
- Adapters allow many lenses
- Full frame lenses are large
- Poor battery life
- No viewfinder on some
- Nikon D3500 entry-level APS-C format DSLR
- Nikon 18-55mm kit lens
- Nikon D750 prosumer level Full Frame format DSLR
- Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
- Nikon Z6 prosumer level Full Frame format mirrorless
- Nikon D5 pro level Full Frame format DSLR
- Canon EOS Rebel T3i entry-level APS-C format DSLR
- Canon EF-S 18-55mm kit lens
- Canon EOS 6D prosumer level Full Frame format DSLR
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
- Canon EOS R prosumer level Full Frame format mirrorless
- Canon EOS 1DX Mk II pro level Full Frame format DSLR
- Fujifilm GFX 50R pro level Medium Format mirrorless
- Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 prosumer level MFT format mirrorless
- Arri Alexa LF pro level Full Frame cinema camera
- Blackmagic Pocket Cinema prosumer level cinema camera
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro prosumer level drone
photo by MarioGuti via iStock
Much of the photographic news concerning new releases is focusing on mirrorless cameras, causing many photographers to wonder if they should buy a DSLR as their next upgrade. Many beginners into serious photography also have questions of whether to purchase mirrorless or DSLR.
DSLR vs Mirrorless
photo by OlyaSolodenko via iStock
If one were to only look on social media for camera release news, they might think DSLRs are gone from the marketplace. But there are a lot of new DSLR cameras being released in entry-level, prosumer, and full-fledged professional models.
It also helps to know this if we are looking at used cameras, since it means the camera manufacturers are still invested in DSLRs.
There are good reasons why camera makers are so focused on mirrorless technology, though. Mirrorless cameras offer features that appeal to many photographers.
Let’s look at the benefits of mirrorless and the benefits of DSLRs and discuss what they may mean to you.
Pros and Cons of DSLRs
photo by MarioGuti via iStock
Pros and Cons of Mirrorless
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Pro Tip: Regardless of whether you get a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you need a solid bag to carry them. When you hear "camera bag," you might think of a big, ugly bag that's uncomfortable to carry, but the HEX Ranger Sling V2 is none of those things. This is my everyday bag and it's super functional, comfortable to carry, and easy on the eyes. It accommodates up to eight liters of gear yet hugs your body in a way that you wouldn't expect of a bag with that kind of capacity. It's easy to access gear, too - simply rotate the bag from back to front to get what you need. There's even a mini version if you have a small kit!
Explaining the Pros and Cons of Each
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Some of the bullet points above may need a little bit of an explanation…
Let’s start with the questions about lenses. Even though the mirrorless camera bodies are smaller and lighter than DSLRs, the lenses are often just as big as lenses for DSLRs, at least in regards to Full Frame format. APS-C and MFT format mirrorless cameras have some small and light lenses.
So for some photographers, the smaller body with a lens that’s still substantial may make the combination a little unwieldy. Some photographers add a specialty grip or a battery grip which helps out but kind of invalidates the ‘benefit’ of a smaller body.
The native lens situation is an interesting phenomenon, as well. Though there may not be as many native lenses (lenses in that mount) for a mirrorless camera as there are for DSLRs, the proliferation of third-party mount adapters makes possible mounting almost any 35mm camera lens from the last 40 to 60 years and newer to a mirrorless camera.
photo by hsyncoban via iStock
As for larger size being both a pro and con of DSLRs, some users with larger hands actually prefer the layout and handling of a larger DSLR vs mirrorless cameras, while the small size of crop format cameras and lenses in mirrorless is a definite plus for others.
Since mirrorless cameras are constantly showing either a rear view screen or an electronic eye level viewfinder (EVF), then it’s no surprise that they have less battery life than many DSLRs. Another thing that impacts purchase decisions is that some mirrorless cameras only have a view screen and no eye level viewfinder at all.
photo by ielanum via iStock
I’m putting this one all by itself in the bullet point explanation since it is kind of a big deal for anyone beginning serious photography and unsure of what their budget should be. I can find a brand new entry-level DSLR with a kit lens, sometimes even two lenses, for less than my last upgraded smartphone cost!
And if we factor in buying used cameras, we can find some amazing bargains in entry-level DSLRs. Of course, the used market has more than entry-level cameras. I’ve found many excellent cameras and lenses from all the major brands and in categories including prosumer and full fledged professional levels.
Used Cameras Are a Fantastic Option
photo by Cecilie_Arcurs via iStock
If you are thinking about your options to buy a DSLR in 2021, you should really look into the used market. For mirrorless cameras, too. And here’s the thing, you can find current models of cameras, many in virtually brand new condition, on used camera websites. Head on over to one of my favorite used gear sites, MPB, to see first hand what I mean.
You will find the best used DSLRs on well regulated used marketplaces. Buying from an individual has an element of risk, even if the camera is almost new or the person selling is someone you know. Many online marketplaces have terms and conditions which protect the consumer from fraud, misleading descriptions, or getting a lemon, but the best used camera stores go a step further.
Having the cameras and lenses rated by knowledgeable experts is probably one of the top reasons for using an online marketplace like MPB for purchasing used photographic gear. This also makes these stores a great place if you have any used gear you want to sell yourself. Since they inspect and rate everything in their stock, you know you will get a fair offer for your own equipment and you will know the condition of your next used camera purchase.
I’ve noticed that even the newest models of cameras, mirrorless or DSLR, will have used cameras available in just a few weeks from release. Sometimes these are store or camera rep demos being offered, since these can’t be sold as brand new items.
Examples of Best Used DSLRs
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The used market is going to be highly variable as to what stock is available at any given time, but let’s look at a few offerings I found at MPB as I wrote this article.
Nikon Mirrorless or DSLR:
Canon Mirrorless or DSLR:
Other Choice Used Gear:
So, as you can see, it will be easy to buy a DSR in 2021 and be assured of finding just what you want in regards to type of camera, format, user level, and even used or new. Choosing a DSLR in 2021 is a very good choice for any level of photographer.