Join Joseph "PhotoJoseph" Linaschke for an in-depth discussion in this video DSLR vs. DSLM, part of Photography 101.
- The camera choices that you have today are incredible. You can choose between a whole variety of cameras, including your DSLR, and now DSLM cameras. The difference is whether the camera has a mirror or not. A DSLM is a mirrorless camera. So to really understand what a mirrorless camera is and how it works, we need to step back in time a little bit and talk about the fundamentals of traditional cameras, starting with a basic film camera here. This is a SLR, no D, just the SLR, Single Lens Reflex.
Single lens, and the reflex stands for reflections. The light coming through this lens is gonna hit a mirror in here, reflect up into this thing called a pentaprism, reflect again, and come through the viewfinder out here. This is how cameras have been since they started to look like this. Now the way that you take a picture with a camera like this, is when you push the button, a mirror flips up out of the way, revealing the shutter behind it, which then opens and stays open for whatever duration your exposure is. That could be a 30th of a second or 125th of a second, or 8,000ths of a second, and then closes, and then the mirror flips back down.
When cameras went digital, they didn't really change that much. This is a traditional DSLR, or Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. Same basic idea, the light comes through the lens, hits a mirror, bounces up into the pentaprism, bounces out of there, and through your eye. So here's a couple things that happen with a camera like this. First of all, let's take a look at the actual picture-taking process inside the camera. (shutter clicks) When I take a picture, the mirror flips up out of the way, the shutter opens, the shutter closes, and the mirror comes back down. That's what you're seeing and that's what you're hearing in here.
So there's a couple things about that. First of all, when that mirror flips up out of the way, you are no longer seeing what the camera sees because the mirror has blocked your view. The mirror has flipped up and closed, blocking off your view of whatever it is the camera sees. So if you're looking through a DSLR and you see that perfect moment, while you're shooting, you see that absolute moment that you wanted to capture, you didn't capture it. If you see it, your camera didn't. Only you or the camera can see one at a time. You can't both see it at the same time.
So that's one of the limitations that you have of a standard DSLR type camera. So let's move over to mirrorless for a moment. On a mirrorless camera, there's, well, no mirror, hence the name. Now this particular mirrorless camera is quite small. This is a Lumix camera, which has a smaller sensor, sized at a micro four-thirds sensor. This sensor is considerably smaller than the sensor you'll find in a camera like this one here, which allows the entire camera to be a lot smaller. But forgetting about the sensor size for a moment, the big thing that's different between these two cameras is that this one doesn't have the mirror.
So this means that there's no mirror flipping up down. You'll notice, there's no pentaprism on here and what this allows is for you to see exactly what the sensor sees at all times. This is really exciting. This means that when you're looking through the viewfinder, and this is now what's called an electronic viewfinder, or looking at the LCD on the back of the camera, you're gonna see the same thing. You're gonna see exactly what the sensor sees. See, when you're looking at this camera, you're seeing the real world, but you're seeing it, well, as the world actually is. If you change the camera settings to make the camera under or overexposed, or if you put the camera to black and white mode, or anything like that on a DSLR, what you see through the viewfinder doesn't change.
On a mirrorless camera, though, since you're seeing exactly what the sensor sees, all those things do change. If you were to dial the exposure compensation dial over or under, to say go to a stop or two stops over or underexposed, you would actually see that through the viewfinder. You would see your image getting darker or brighter as you dial the dial, before you've even taken the picture. If you put your camera into a supersaturated color mode, or into black and white mode, you'll actually see that through the viewfinder. If you're shooting a black and white, you get to see the world in black and white.
It's really fantastic. So there's a couple other things, advantages and disadvantages, to working with this type of camera. Since there's no mirror moving around, the camera's a lot quieter. Let's take a look at what this looks like when we take a picture. (shutter clicking) You'll notice is makes a lot less noise, but if we are still taking a picture by opening and closing a shutter, but we're looking at what the sensor sees, how does that actually work? Well, here's what happens on a camera like this. On a mirrorless camera, the sensor is always exposed, that's why we could see the sensor when I took the lens off.
When you take a picture, the shutter actually has to close, it kind of resets the shot, if you will, and then it opens for whatever duration you've set, again, 30th, 125th, 8,000ths of a second, whatever it might be, and then closes again, and the opens again, so that you can start seeing through it. So this means a few things. First of all, the shutter's opening and closing twice, as opposed to just once on this camera. But remember on this camera, the mirror also had to flip up and down, which it doesn't here, which means that that whole process is actually faster. You can shoot more frames per second on a mirrorless camera than you can on a mirrored one.
Additionally, on this mirrorless camera, you're actually seeing what the sensor's recording, while it's recording it. So if you see the shot, you got the shot. Those fractions of a second before and after the picture, where the shutter is opening and closing, that's the part that you don't see. But if you see it through here, you captured it. Or at least, you might have captured it, unlike on here, where you definitely didn't. So at this point you might be thinking, "Well, in that case, a mirrorless camera's "just about perfect, isn't it?" Well, maybe, maybe not. There are still some advantages to the traditional DSLR type camera.
One of the biggest ones is focusing speed. If you're shooting highspeed action, the focus tracking on these types of cameras is generally superior to what you get on a mirrorless camera. Now that may change in the future because this technology is advancing very quickly. But as it is now, if you're shooting fast action sports, probably, you're gonna wanna go with a DSLR type camera. But again, that could change at any time. There's lots of advantages and disadvantages to both platforms. And the beautiful things is that now you have choices. When you go out camera shopping, now you know some of the fundamental differences.
So from here, it's just up to you.
- Adjusting aperture, shutter speed, and ISO
- Controlling autofocus
- Using buttons to change focus, metering, and shooting modes
- Carrying a camera like a pro
- Stabilizing the camera
- Working with flash
- Thinking creatively and changing your point of view
- Buying new gear