Why are DSLR camera photos exceptionally beautiful

DSLM vs DSLR - which camera is better? The ultimate comparison

Content: You can find these tips here

Buying advice: DSLR or DSLM

The best camera for every purpose

The mirrorless system cameras (DSLM For D.igital S.ingle L.ens M.irrorless) are on the rise. What is immediately noticeable: DSLMs are more compact and lighter than SLR cameras (DSLR For D.igital S.ingle-L.ens R.eflex). There have long been voices predicting the end of the DSLR.

The trend towards DSLM does indeed seem unstoppable. The Japanese electronics manufacturer Sony in particular recognized this early on and, for example, with the →Alpha 6000 * (read our → test report on the Sony Alpha 6000 here) with APS-C sensor or the → Sony Alpha 7 III * with full format sensor (35 mm 35 mm format) convinced hundreds of thousands of photographers to switch from DSLR to DSLM.

The top dogs Canon and Nikon were only extras in the booming DSLM market for a long time. With the introduction of the → Canon EOS R-System * and the → Nikon Z-System *, Canon and Nikon want to recapture lost territory.

But one question remains: Which system is now the better? Should photographers use the DSLM or the DSLR? First of all: Both camera systems have their advantages and disadvantages. It really depends on your special needs, whether you should buy a mirrorless system camera (DSLM) or a single lens reflex camera (DSLR).

Many well-known photographers are now using the DSLM. Mirrorless system cameras do not only have advantages. There are still reasons to rely on the good old DSLR. In this article, I'll tell you what they are. But will that be enough for the DSLR to win? You read that in our conclusion.

picture quality

Many photographers ask themselves: Which camera now takes the better pictures? This question is answered quickly. In principle, it does not matter whether you use the DSLM or the DSLR. There is no difference between the two systems in terms of image quality. How can that be? The fundamental difference between the two camera systems is the mirror, which the DSLR owes its name to.

With a reflex camera, the light falls through the lens, is reflected by the oscillating mirror and displayed in the optical viewfinder (simplified representation). If you release, the mirror folds up and the light falls on the image sensor. The DSLM does not have exactly this mirror mechanism.

That is why the DSLM is also more compact and lighter than a DSLR. In addition to the lens used, the image quality depends solely on the image sensor (and of course on the photographer).

Many DSLMs and DSLRs have exactly the same image sensor installed. Means: Whether you use the DSLM or the DSLR has no influence on the image quality. If the same sensor is installed, both camera systems deliver the same image quality. I leave out subtleties like a different autofocus (important for wildlife or portrait photographers, for example) with different camera models.

I also have one important note: Sony's professional DSLMs have the image stabilizer built into the body and not into the lens. This means that you can take handheld pictures even in poor light conditions, regardless of the lens used.



For a long time, phase detection autofocus (DSLR) was clearly superior to contrast autofocus (DSLM). That is slowly changing. In addition, so-called hybrid autofocus systems, as a combination of phase and contrast AF, are installed in many higher-priced DSLMs. Basically, there is no longer any difference between the systems (but certainly between different manufacturers and price ranges).


Burst speed

The DSLM “lacks” the mirror mechanism. This is an advantage when it comes to taking many pictures in a very short time. Sony's top model Alpha 9 II (DSLM) shoots up to 20 pictures per second. Nikon's flagship D5 (DSLR) creates ten to twelve pictures per second, 14 with the mirror up. The →Canon M50 * (to our → test report on the Canon EOS M50), a DSLM located in the entry-level segment, has ten frames per second.

Clear advantage of DSLM

Size and weight: camera body

The great strength of mirrorless cameras is their compact design. Due to the lack of a mirror mechanism, the housing can be made smaller. This not only saves space, but also weight.

A modern DSLM with APS-C sensor like the →Sony Alpha 6500 * weighs 453 grams with battery (without lens). DSLMs with full-frame sensors naturally add more weight to the scales. The →Nikon Z7 * weighs about 675 grams (depending on the equipment and robustness of the housing, the weight of the different camera models can vary greatly).

DSLRs are heavier and bigger. One →Canon EOS 2000D * with APS-C sensor as an entry-level camera weighs 475 grams. One →Canon EOS 80D * with APS-C sensor and very good equipment comes in at 730 gramsNikon D850 * with a full-frame sensor it weighs 1005 grams, but DSLRs are not only heavier, they are also larger. There are also photographers who prefer to have a more grippy camera with more weight in their hand.

But this point clearly goes to the DSLM

Size and weight: lenses

Mirrorless APS-C cameras in particular often come with incredibly compact lenses. But if you compare similar lenses with a similar performance, you see that it is not primarily the camera body that makes a camera system big and heavy, but the lens.

Take the Nikkor Z 24–70mm f / 4 for Nikon's mirrorless Z cameras as an example. The lens weighs around 500 grams. For comparison: A comparable Canon EF 24-70mm f / 4L IS USM, developed for full-frame DSLRs, weighs 600 grams.Lenses for DSLMs are usually a bit lighter, even with other focal lengths.

Even if the difference is smaller than some might think. This point goes to the DSLM

Weight comparison DSLM vs. DSLR

As a landscape photographer, I need a wide range of lenses. The ultra wide angle lens is a must. There is also a standard zoom lens and a telephoto lens. I once packed a couple of virtual photo backpacks with which I could also be on the go. The equipment is quite comparable. What is astonishing: The weight advantage of the DSLM is there, but not as clear as one might expect. Packed camera backpacks in comparison:

  • Full frame DSLR
  • Nikon D850 1005 grams
  • Nikkor 17-35mm f / 2.8D IF-ED 745 grams
  • Nikkor 24-85mm f / 3.5-4.5 465 grams
  • Nikkor 70-200mm f / 4G 850 grams
  • 1 spare battery 86 grams
  • Total weight: 3151 grams
  • Full frame DSLR
  • EOS 5D Mark IV 895 grams
  • Canon EF 16-35 mm f / 2.8L III 790 grams
  • Canon EF 24-70 mm f / 4L IS USM 600 grams
  • Canon EF 70-200 mm f / 4L IS II USM 780 grams
  • 1 spare battery 72 grams
  • 3137 grams
  • Full frame DSLM
  • Sony Alpha 7R III 657 grams
  • Sony FE 16-35 mm F2.8 GM 680 grams
  • Sony Vario-Tessar T FE 24–70 mm F4 ZA OSS 426 grams
  • Sony FE 70-200 mm F4 G OSS 840 grams
  • 3 spare batteries 171 grams
  • 2774 grams

The advantage of the full format DSLM Sony Alpha 7R III with the appropriate equipment for a full-frame DSLR →Canon EOS 5D Mark IV * in this case is just 363 grams. Nevertheless, 150 grams less in the hand can subjectively mean an enormous weight advantage.

The camera backpack, however, is often almost the same weight. But that always depends a lot on the lens. There are also very compact and lightweight lenses for DSLRs. An acquaintance was traveling for a long time with a bright telephoto lens (they are very large and heavy) and switched to a less bright telephoto lens when changing the system from DSLR to DSLM. This of course saves a lot of weight. The equipment is then absolutely no longer comparable.

However: With modern image sensors (and ideally with full-frame cameras with relatively few megapixels) you can still take very good pictures even with ISO values ​​above 10,000 (with a corresponding noise reduction when developing the → RAW). With this technique, you can take great photos even with low-light (and therefore relatively light) lenses, even in the dark.

If you are really interested in saving space and weight, choose a camera with an APS-C sensor (or smaller). 90 percent of the photographers who are out and about with a full-frame camera will probably never use the potential of the sensor.

For example, those who only create pictures for the web or print a photo book every now and then are not even using the potential of a modern APS-C camera. With a Canon EOS M50 (APS-C sensor with 24 MP), for example, you can mathematically print a photo with a resolution of up to 50 × 34 cm (with 300 DPI).

More is not possible, you ask now? But there is certainly more. The larger a photo, the more distance the viewer usually takes to look at it. With a resolution of 120 DPI, you can print images in the format 126x84cm with the EOS M50. A photo of this size with 120 DPI is still quite handsome. Only on closer inspection will you see “stairs”.

Especially in the field of APS-C cameras, I found it a little difficult to find comparable lenses due to the relatively small selection. However, the comparison clearly shows that the weight advantage of the DSLM is not as great as expected. The comparison between full-frame cameras and APS-C cameras is interesting. Here the difference is very clear. But it must also be said that full-frame lenses are in a different league.

Lens selection

The more the demand for DSLMs increases, the more lenses come onto the market. As of the end of 2019, it is still the case that users of a DSLR usually have a much larger choice. Not only on new lenses, but also on used lenses.

Lenses that are ten or twenty years old can sometimes be operated on a modern DSLR without any problems. I use an old, but still quite good, 80-400mm Nikkor lens on my full-frame camera. The used lens is available for around 500 euros. DSLM owners can only dream of such bargains.

While the lens selection at Nikon and Canon is still quite manageable, Sony now has a very substantial product range that fulfills almost all wishes.


Battery life

Due to its design, the DSLM does not have an optical viewfinder like the DSLR. Instead, the DSLM has an electronic viewfinder. Cheaper models even only have the display (like the good old "digicam"). However, the electronic viewfinder consumes a lot of electricity.

With many older and cheaper DSLMs, one battery therefore only lasts for around 300 photos. But newer models sometimes create 700 or more photos. The advantage of the DSLR, which sometimes comes with 1000 releases with one battery, is noticeably waning.

Only those who work a lot with the display with the DSLR will be able to take significantly fewer photos with one battery charge. On our photo trip to the → Everest Base Camp, I was therefore very happy that I could rely on the enormous endurance of my DSLR. Especially since you can always lie in wait even with an almost empty battery. After all, the optical viewfinder does not consume any electricity. This is simply impossible with the DSLM and the electronic viewfinder.

This point just goes to the DSLR

Optical vs. electronic viewfinder

Mirrorless cameras are equipped with an electronic viewfinder (entry-level models, however, often only have the display). SLR cameras are always equipped with an optical viewfinder that works with the help of the built-in mirror mechanism.

But which system is better now? It's a matter of personal preference. With the DSLM, beginners will appreciate the possibility of displaying the histogram (shows whether there are too dark or too light parts in the photo) or the “finished” photo in the viewfinder before it is taken. Professionals who are familiar with the settings of a camera can usually do without this gimmick.

In the dark, the DSLR's optical viewfinder beats at least the electronic systems of entry-level DSLMs. Professional DSLMs now have very powerful viewfinder systems.


The mirror - a blessing and a curse

The mirror in a DSLR is the reason for the higher weight and also the larger volume. But the mirror also has advantages. If you change the lens, the folded-down mirror protects the sensor behind it from dust. Especially outdoor photographers who change lenses during a storm in the desert can find sensor protection in the form of a mirror very helpful.

With the DSLM, the sensor is often directly behind the lens. If you change the lens, the sensor is completely unprotected. However, there are also DSLM models in which the sensor is completely protected by the electronic shutter - such as the Canon EOS R.


⭐ Conclusion: DSLM or DSLR

The victory thus goes to the DSLM. But whether you choose a DSLM or a DSLR also depends a little on the purpose of the camera.

Advantages of DSLR

  • The enormous endurance of the batteries still speaks for the DSLR. The DSLM is catching up enormously - especially in the professional sector.
  • Night shots are easier to take with an optical viewfinder of the DSLR - at least this is true in direct comparison to entry-level DSLMs.
  • The almost infinite selection of lenses (especially used lenses) speaks in favor of the DSLR.

Advantages of DSLM

  • Beginners will appreciate the DSLM's ability to display all important information and even the “finished” photo in the electronic viewfinder before releasing the shutter.
  • Photographers who create timelapse recordings definitely use DSLM. The mechanical shutter on the DSLR is a consumable item and is not suitable for taking hundreds or thousands of photos in a short amount of time. The DSLM's electronic lock has a clear advantage here.
  • Even long-term travelers who pay attention to every gram of weight end up with the DSLM in combination with a light, but not so outstanding lens. If weight is more important to you, you also use a camera with an APS-C sensor or an even smaller sensor and not a full frame.
  • Videographers usually end up with a high-priced DSLM like the →Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II * or the →Sony Alpha 7R II * with an image sensor stabilized on five axes (this practical feature does not exist with the DSLR).

Which camera to buy

The trend is clearly towards DSLM (especially with full-format sensors). A few years ago, depending on the purpose, I often advised the DSLR.

The latest DSLM models have caught up enormously in terms of technology and are equal to or even superior to the DSLR in many areas. The main advantages of the DSLM are the lower weight in combination with the compact design and the very high speed of continuous shooting. If you value a wide range of (new and used) lenses, you should use the DSLR.

If you ask me today whether you should buy a DSRL or a DSLM, I advise you to go for the DSLM.

The really mature models, with which photography is easy, costs a lot of money and are at least in the semi-professional area. Entry-level DSLMs, at least for me personally, are not much fun. Here you will find an overview of the → best camera models.


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