DSLR vs Point & Shoot vs Mirrorless

The digital camera market is currently brimming with options. For one who is new to this market the overwhelming number of camera types and terminology can be at times too intimidating. This article is directed to be a simple guideline as to what to expect from each type of camera so that you can assess for yourself which type of camera you need.

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras are called as such because unlike the cameras of the older years it has a single lens and a built-in mirror mechanism that projects the image on to the optical viewfinder. When the shutter release is pressed the mirror moves away from the path of the light and the exposure is made. The sensor size of DSLR cameras are the largest among the three types of cameras being discussed here. The best thing about DSLR cameras is their ability to change lenses, thereby shifting from an ultra wide to a tele lens to a fish-eye depending upon the kind of shooting needs to do.

Conversely a point & shoot does not have a mirror mechanism. They usually don’t have a viewfinder either. Those which do, have an electronic one where the image is projected via the sensor. Images are usually composed using a LCD screen at the back of the camera. Sensor size of the compact point & shoot is the smallest among all the camera types discussed here. They are usually 1/2.3 of an inch in size and can be either CCD or CMOS. Lenses cannot be interchanged and they usually come with a decent amount of zoom ranging from 24mm (wide angle on a 35mm format equivalent) to 1000mm (on the tele lens) such as the Nikon P510. The incredible zoom range and an affordable price tag makes a compact point & shoot a lucrative option for users who are looking for an all purpose camera. However the biggest disadvantage of these cameras is the smaller size of the sensor which ultimately results in less than comparable results to a DSLR. Another disadvantage is the presence of noise in low light conditions.

Mirrorless or EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) or MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) are cameras which have a larger sensor size compared to a compact point & shoot, often as large as an APS-C sensor. However, these cameras don’t have a mirror system that projects the image on to an optical viewfinder (OVF). As a result an OVF is an impossibility. However much like that of a compact point & shoot, one can find some MILCs to have a electronic VF, albeit much smaller to that of the OVF of a DSLR. The advantage of a MILC is that they have a smaller frame compared to a DSLR but yet pack in a large sensor comparable to a semi professional DSLR body. The image quality is thus very high. Cameras such as the ones in the EOS-M range from Canon or the Sony NEX comes with an APS-C sized sensor. Nikon has launched a special set of cameras with a first of its kind 1” sensor known as the Nikon 1 series. But the true advantage is the ability to use interchangeable lenses much like that of a DSLR.