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Although a DSLR camera uses a mirror mechanism to either focus light through an optical viewfinder or transfer it directly to the camera sensor, a mirrorless camera (hence the name) does not. This means that all light passing through the lens ends up on the imaging sensor. Since an optical viewfinder (OVF) no longer reflects light, mirrorless cameras rely on electronic viewfinders (EVFs) and LCDs to project what the imaging sensor sees. As opposed to DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras can be made simpler, smaller, and less cumbersome due to the lack of a mirror mechanism and an optical viewfinder.

The following diagram depicts the differences between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera:

As you can see, a DLSR has a lot more components in its internals than a mirrorless camera. A DSLR includes a focusing panel, a condenser lens, a pentaprism / pentamirror, and other components such as a secondary mirror and a phase-detection autofocus sensor, in addition to the complex mirror mechanism.

How Mirrorless Cameras Work:

A mirrorless camera, on the other hand, is mechanically much simpler: light passes directly through the lens (#1) onto the image sensor (#4), and the optical viewfinder is replaced by an electronic viewfinder (#9) that replicates the image sensor. The mechanical camera shutter (#3) stays open in regular operation and is only used at the end of the exposure. The flange distance (the distance between the lens mount and the image sensor) on mirrorless cameras can be greatly reduced due to the absence of both a mirror and a pentaprism, as seen in the example above. As a result, most mirrorless camera bodies are smaller and lighter than DSLRs.

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DSLR cameras have many benefits over mirrorless cameras. Aside from the camera’s possible lighter weight and bulk, using an electronic viewfinder will provide photographers with a number of advantages. Since everything is duplicated directly from the image sensor, camera settings like white balance, saturation, and contrast can be shown directly through the viewfinder, and additional information overlays like live histograms can be placed inside the viewfinder, enabling photographers to see precisely what they are about to photograph.

When used in conjunction with a quick contrast detection or on-sensor phase detection device, the ability to zoom in on a subject to verify focus, use focus peaking, face detection, and other powerful features can be used to ensure that focus is achieved precisely with each image. When shooting in daylight, rather than relying on the camera’s back LCD, the electronic viewfinder can be used to review images.

Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, have a long list of drawbacks. First, the electronic viewfinder can only be used when the camera is turned on and power is supplied to the image sensor, which can have a major impact on the camera’s battery life. Second, electronic viewfinders may have noticeable latency, blackouts, and high contrast, which some photographers can find difficult to adjust to. Although the new mirrorless camera models can be very quick and accurate when it comes to autofocus, they still fall short when shooting fast action, particularly in low-light situations.

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