Welcome to HardwareZone's Mirrorless System Camera Guide! Whether you're looking for your first camera, itching for an upgrade or simply curious, you'll find answers to your burning questions here: What is a mirrorless system camera? Why are they called mirrorless systems? What are the pros and cons of mirrorless system cameras? Is a mirrorless camera for me? Read on to find out.
Let's start with the basics. In a nutshell, mirrorless system cameras are cameras which are in between DSLR and digital compact cameras.
Compared to compact cameras, they perform better, are more versatile and larger. Compared with DSLR cameras, they're smaller and usually less versatile but more user-friendly. Image quality is better than what you'd get from a compact camera, and can be close to or even equal to what you'd get from an entry-level DSLR camera. Technically, what separates mirrorless system cameras from digital compact cameras are their larger sensor sizes and the ability to swap lenses. What separates mirrorless system cameras from DSLR cameras is the exclusion of a mirror-box and in some cases, smaller sensor sizes. More on that below.
Actually, there are a myriad of names for mirrorless system cameras, and nobody has really settled yet on a good one.
In 2008, when the first mirrorless camera was released, Panasonic and Olympus called them mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras (what a mouthful!). You can imagine that didn't really take off. Other names have also been proposed like Electronic Viewfinder with Interchangeable Lens (EVIL) cameras. We're just going to go with the easy 'mirrorless system cameras'.
The reason why they're called 'mirrorless' is because these cameras remove the mirror found in traditional DSLR cameras. Because of that they're able to reduce the camera's size while keeping a fairly large image sensor. They're called 'system' cameras because of their ability to swap lenses, giving you access to a wider eco-system of accessories.
To further the confusion, there's no one definitive mirrorless system, rather there are many mirrorless systems in the market today, seven at last count, with system names like Micro Four Thirds, NEX and NX. We'll go into more detail on the different systems later.
That's the best question of all! To answer that you'll need to know two things: The advantages and disadvantages of using mirrorless system cameras, as well as your own personal shooting style. Here's an easy guide on the pros and cons of mirrorless system cameras versus digital compact and DSLR cameras. Different camera models within each category might weigh each pro and con differently, but you'll get the general idea.
Digital Compact Cameras
Mirrorless System Cameras
|Portability||Lightest and easiest to carry||Chunky but portable||Biggest and heavy to carry|
|Ease of Use||Easiest to use||Easy to use||Lessons needed|
|Manual Control||Little to none||Good level of manual control||Highest level of manual control|
|Auto-Focus||Auto-focus is quick enough for common situations, but too slow for fast-moving subjects||Auto-focus can be slower than DSLR cameras, usually on fast-moving subjects||Auto-focus is fast and can keep track of fast-moving subjects|
|Shutter Lag||Noticeable lag between pressing of shutter release and taking of photo||Virtually no shutter lag||No shutter lag|
|Versatility||Good for most casual situations||Good for most situations||Good for nearly every shooting situation|
|Expandability||None||Additional lenses & accessories available||Additional lenses & accessories available|
|Prices||From S$150 to S$700||From S$900 to S$1600||From S$850 to S$13000|
Should you get a mirrorless system camera? That depends on your goals and preferences for owning a digital camera.
Get a digital compact camera if you just want a simple to use, easy to carry and affordable camera for common everyday shots.
Get a mirrorless system camera if you want better image quality than what you can get with digital compact cameras and you don't mind a slightly chunky camera, but not one as chunky as a DSLR camera. You also don't mind paying more than you would for a compact camera, and you don't want a camera as complicated as a DSLR camera can be. A mirrorless camera is also a good companion camera for the DSLR owner who wants an easier to carry camera with manual controls.
Get a DSLR camera if you want great image quality and don't mind carrying a larger and heavier camera. You also don't mind the learning curve you'll need to go through in order to make full use of the camera (although you can always leave it on 'Auto') and paying more for a good camera. If you want to go deep into the craft of photography and shoot more than everyday shots like wildlife, sports, off-camera flash, long-exposures and more, then a DSLR camera is the best option.