Mirrorless vs. DSLR Camera Size Comparison
After yesterday’s discussion about the size of pro mirrorless cameras, I my have given the impression that they are now quite large. While true that pro mirrorless aren’t the diminutive package of previous generations, there’s still a noticeable size difference compared to DSLRs. Here’s another graphic courtesy of camerasize.com which illustrates this point.
I’m going to make some comparisons of roughly similar mirrorless and DSLR cameras, but they don’t match up exactly, either in capability or pricing. But, I wanted to pick cameras in roughly the same ball park. We determined yesterday that the newly introduced Fujifilm X-H1 is the largest of the mirrorless bunch (by a few millimeters). Compared this to a “comparable” higher-end Nikon APS-C DSLR. The both share the same sensor size.
We can see that the Nikon is considerably larger. There are smaller Nikon APS-C DSLRs but they are also smaller Fujifilm APS-C mirrorless cameras, so I think the size comparison is apt. Over on the full frame side, the difference is even more dramatic. Sony has opted to create a really compact body which looks rather small next to the D850. Incidentally, price and capability wise, the Sony A9 falls between the D850 and Nikon’s professional sports camera, the D5, which is even larger. I’m not just picking on Nikon. If we use Canon, we’ll see the same sort of size differences.
So yes, body size can be a big mirrorless advantage. However, when you factor lens size, the difference is typically even larger. There’s two reasons for this. First, most of the lenses for Canon and Nikon are for full frame cameras. If you own an APS-C sized DSLR, your lenses may be larger than they need to be. Second, according to optical lens design, I’m told, having the rear of the lens closer to the sensor allows for more compact lenses. DSLRs, of course, can’t do this because there needs to be enough space for the mirror assembly.
One caveat, which I mentioned yesterday. Some companies may make smaller mirrorless camera bodies, which gives an unexpectedly large size advantage to mirrorless. Sony’s full frame bodies are noticeably compact, for example. However, their lenses are still large, since the need to cover full frame image circle. You may discover that a small body may not work optimally with a larger lens. From my experience, sometimes a larger and heavier camera actually feels lighter because of a well designed grip.
Some people argue that the advantage of mirrorless is not primarily about its size, rather all the other benefits it brings. I disagree. I think the size advantage is one of, though not the only, advantages of mirrorless over DSLRs. But, yes, there are numerous other mirrorless advantages.
With fast, accurate and large electronic viewfinders (EVFs), they now work better, in most cases, over traditional optical viewfinders used in DSLRs. You get the actual color, exposure and framing of the scene before you press the shutter. Change your settings and these are represented in real-time on the EVF. With DSLRs, you shoot and then need to “chimp” on the rear LCD to see if you got the shot you wanted. The EVF makes for faster, more accurate and pleasurable shooting.
With mirrorless, everything is “Live View”, by definition. Whether looking through the EVF or the rear LCD, you get to see your scene in real-time. There no need to clumsily change your camera to “Live View Mode” like on DSLRs, which flips up the mirror — a decidedly archaic workaround.
Without a moving mirror, the camera is quieter and the shutter speeds are faster. Some pro mirrorless cameras can now shoot faster than the top end professional sports DSLRs.
Finally, mirrorless can take advantage of Moore’s Law, which governs the speed of computer improvements. After all, our digital cameras are just picture-taking computers. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies that are starting to trickle into our lives may also benefit mirrorless but not DSLRs. I talked about it on my post from last year called “Why DSLRs will Ultimately Lose”.
So yes, mirrorless does have a size advantage, in most cases. But it’s so much more. Mirrorless is the camera technology for the 21st century. There’s no longer any need for the distinctly 20th century, flapping mirror.
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