Not so many years ago, the digital camera market was a pretty simple thing. For most people, a point and shoot camera was a great entry point featuring much better imagery than their mobile and being much more affordable than the intimidating options of a DSLR.
But many things have changed. For one – DSLRs have become massively more affordable and accessible, bringing in features like live view, touch screens and even free lessons when you buy the camera. And an entirely new category has been created – the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.
The names a mouthful but it really just means that the camera doesn’t feature the mirror mechanism of a DSLR (which flips out of the way as you shoot) but does allow for the use of multiple different lenses.
There’s a lot of competition between these two camera classes, so let’s see how they stack up against each other. For comparison we’re using the Canon 1200D DSLR and the Sony Mirrorless a6000.
Dimensions and Bulk
This is one of the most obvious ways in which the two camera type vary. DSLRs are notably bulky cameras, not only including the mirror array but also an optical viewfinder. They’re crafted to be used with two hands and generally require a dedicated bag, on top of the need to carry additional lenses.
And that still holds true for the most part. Despite the 1200D being one of Canon’s most compact DSLR’s at 130x100x78 mm, it’s still obviously larger than the Sony camera which measures 120x70x45mm. That means more room for extra lenses with the Sony and you could even throw it into a handbag or backpack when you’re on the move. The weight is less of an issue – the Canon is 480g vs the Sony’s 344g – that’s body only.
It’s definitely worth considering these points when you’re deciding on a camera system. Think of how often you’ll be carrying all of your equipment around and how you’re going to transport them. And also remember that everything gets heavier still with a large zoom lens attached.
The general consensus has always been that DSLR’s produce better images – the larger camera bodies mean that a bigger image sensor can be used for more clarity and better performance in low light.
But the never-ending march of technology means that these issues can be overcome and truthfully both styles of camera are closer than ever before in terms of quality. Many mirrorless models now include the same size sensors as DSLR cousins. In the case of these two cameras, the Sony actually features a larger sensor and a more megapixels – 24mp vs the Canon’s 18mp.
What this boils down to for the user is amazing image quality, regardless of the camera they choose.
DSLRs are just fast – that’s why you see sports photographers using them on the sidelines all the time. You press the shutter and the camera instantly fires, so you’ll never miss that important shot.
They’re certainly vastly superior to point and shoot cameras in this regard, but mirrorless models are catching up fast. For one thing, there’s no mirror which has to move out of the way before it can shoot, which means instantaneous snaps. And new advanced auto focus tech means that mirrorless models can be better at keeping a moving object sharply defined. The Sony a6000 promises 11 frames per second with continuous auto focus and subject tracking. That’s very impressive indeed.
Accessories and More
One area where DSLR’s really excel is in the extra bits and pieces you can buy for him. A modern camera like the Canon 1200D is also compatible with decades worth of Canon lenses, even if some require manual controls. There are also numerous remote controls and other accessories like flash units which can be inserted into the top mounted hot shoe which really add to the versatility of the device.
The Sony a6000 also sports its own hot shoe and while the E-mount range of lenses is still in its early days there’s a lot of choice on offer. More than 20 lenses are available, from massive zooms to super wides and the always reliable 50mm prime – perfect for taking portraits. Buying a top quality camera also means coming into a whole ecosystem of extras, so take some time to do the research before you pick one up.
With a bigger camera body usually comes a bigger battery, and DSLR’s are noted for their long battery life even while using the rear LCD and onboard flash.
The Canon 1200D is likely to last for several hundred more photos on a normal charge than the Sony a6000 – roughly 500 v 360 shots. But the picture as ever isn’t quite that simple – the battery pack on the Sony model is considerably smaller and lighter, so you could easily bring one or two backup batteries if you were concerned about running out on the day. On the other hand, the ability to use the optical viewfinder on the DSLR instead of the energy burning rear LCD means you could potentially get even more battery on a single charge.
Choosing a new camera is a complex decision, not least because you’re also getting involved in a whole eco-system of lenses, accessories and more. There’s also the inevitable learning curve which comes with a new system, and the need to carefully consider just what you want to achieve with your new piece of kit.
It’s lucky then that users have never had more choice in the digital camera market, nor has been such consistently high quality across the brands. The most important thing is to get out and see the camera for yourself, hold it in your hands and get some expert advice on whether its right for you. And for that, you just have to head to your local Harvey Norman store, where our top quality staff will help you get the right camera for you.
In Short: In this feature, we break down the differences between Digital SLR cameras and the newer mirrorless systems to see which is best for you