A NO Nonsense Guide to Mirrorless and DSLR cameras (and which one is right for you)- Part 1

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While you’re reading this, you probably posted a picture on Instagram an hour ago… NO? How about reshared a selfie of your favorite celebrity? Liked a photo of that awesome aerial view of Boracay?

The thing is, every person on this planet  who is or was exposed to today’s technology have taken at least 1 photo in their life. Since the creation of cameras in the early or late 1500s, photography has evolved from being a mere tool for preserving drawings to capturing life’s precious moments.

Fast forward 2016, cameras became more personal and not just a professional’s craft. Film cameras have been introduced and in time upgraded to digital formats. If you’re a budding photography enthusiast or probably just a hobbyist, what kind of camera do you need?

MIRRORLESS vs DSLR

Caution: I am in no way a professional photographer, and will base my opinion on personal experience (I own a DSLR for 5 years and a Mirrorless camera for about a year now) and from friends and colleagues that owned these kinds of cameras.


The million-dollar question is:

Which is better? Mirrorless or DSLR?

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For me, the right answer is…

There is no right answer! 

Crazy, right? But let me explain this to you first: To say that the other is better will cause another World War. It’s a debate that will last a lifetime. It will cause chaos on internet forums and “unfriending” of friends on Facebook. Obviously, people have their own preferences. The right gear for you boils down to where, when or why you will use it.

Before we go down to the specifics, let’s look at some key terminologies to better understand this article:

Mirrorless Camera: Or Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera….Does not have a mirror reflex optical viewfinder.

SLR: Or Single-Lens Reflex Camera… Unlike older cameras, the image projected via the prism system is exactly what is captured. Typically uses film.

DSLR: Or Digital Single-Lens Reflex Cameraa combination of a SLR with a digital imaging sensor. Does not need film.

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Both of them have interchangeable lenses, so you can remove the kit lens and use other lenses like the popular 50mm,zoom lenses,etc.

Alrighty! Now that we got that covered…

I created a no-brainer checklist on things to consider before purchasing your first or next mirrorless or DSLR camera. It covers what you need to know to prepare you for that momentous chapter in your life.*winks*

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Okay, so just a brief explanation for each:

RESEARCH – There are a gazillion of camera brands out there, and you may feel overwhelmed when you walk in that camera store.

BUT…it’s not the brand that makes the artist. Your vision is more important than the gear. However, it is still essential to buy your gear from a trusted brand. Reviews online are really helpful, as well as videos on Youtube that test the product from unboxing to actual usage. Before I bought my cameras, I made sure to check lots of blogs and videos with actual samples of photos taken with that model/brand. Even if you’re still in the decision-making phase, visit your local camera shop and look at displays so you can test out the camera. One thing that photographers love is the feel of the camera body in their hands (It sounds creepy,but yeah,you get the picture).

Some sites that are helpful for your research (detailed comparisons in different aspects like video quality, screen size, lens availability, etc.)

Cameradecision.com

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Snapsort.com

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SET A BUDGET – So here’s the catch: Are you willing to shell out a big amount of cash to purchase the latest model or would you risk buying an older version that came out a year ago?

The reason why I put this on the checklist before the “Level of Skill” is because typically, people who are going pro or “upgrading” would know that they need to shell out more cash for more expensive and high-end camera models. So if you are a beginner in photography and don’t want to break the bank, entry-level cameras (20,000 pesos / $400 or less) are recommended. Big brands usually release new models every year, and with the tight market competition nowadays, new features and accessories are added to the cameras. Here’s what they don’t tell you: older versions don’t really differ from the latest releases.

LEVEL OF SKILL – Beginner, Intermediate or Pro?

You decide. In my own experience, I started with of course digital cameras. I still remember the days when we had those Kodak cameras with rolls of films. Fun times. When I was in high school, digital cameras were slowly introduced. By college, DSLRs made its way to the hands of consumers. It really depends on how you handle the camera, and your knowledge on the technicalities of the craft.

CAREER or HOBBY? – I think this is pretty straightforward.

If you’re planning on a new venture in photography and already quite knowledgeable about the craft, why not try an upgrade?  For paid and corporate events, DSLR is the best choice. While you can use both the DSLR and the mirrorless on intimate parties or family gatherings, it still boils down to how you will use it in the future.

FUTURE INVESTMENT – Cameras are pretty darn expensive when you buy them, and also when you already have them.

Cameras are like cars. You have to maintain them, and occasionally plurge on some add-ons like accessories and additional gear that you MIGHT need to achieve those unique shots. If you’re planning on using it for paid gigs, go and invest!

Another thing is repairs and damages. At some point your camera will break down, or some careless cousin would drop it and cause unnecessary scratches and possibly a “lens error” message. Fear not! This is a normal occurrence in the daily life of a camera owner. While there is a slim chance for you to actually wreck your camera in its entirety, you have to consider setting aside repair costs.

The Brand Problem

At this point, you’ll probably have ideas already and that’s a good way to start your journey to the land of camera city, but WAIT! What brand to buy? Such a sensitive topic! (At least for some people)  For a more in-depth review of cameras, I recommend heading on to DP Review  for reading more technical articles regarding gears and such. They also have a user-friendly forum so you can ask experts from around the world anything you feel you need to know.

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In my own opinion, brands that have been in the industry for so long should be on top of your list. Our first digital camera at home was a 7-megapixel Sony camera, and it took beautiful shots. In college, I started being more into Photography so the money I got from design gigs enabled me to purchase my very first 14-megapixel Fujifilm S2950 back in late 2011 which is a “bridge camera” also a point-and-shoot camera with a massive zoom capability and fancy features like built-in Panorama and flash. It looks like a DSLR but is just an upgrade of the regular digital cameras.

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Soon after, I decided I want to buy my own DSLR. Yes, a DSLR ladies and gentlemen! From a mere bridge camera, I convinced myself that I need to upgrade already. Back then, mirrorless cameras were not really in the market yet, so the closest upgrade you can get is of course the DSLR. I bought a secondhand Nikon D3100 with kit lens that was just used by the previous owner for a little over a year. It served me well until late last year for 4 years! After our Baler,Aurora trip here, it had problems because of my carelessness it got wet on the beach along with my smartphone. An impulse buy led to me acquiring the Sony A5000, for an upcoming Boracay trip but it was all worth it in the end. If you would like to see some of my shots using the DLSR vs my Mirrorless camera…


Using the DSLR (Nikon D3100 with kit lens, Helios 58mm, MIR 37mm):

Mt.Pulag Hike / Surfing in Baler / Luneta Park Photowalk

Using the Mirrorless (Sony A5000 with kit lens, Fujian 35mm CCTV Lens):

Mt. Batulao Hike / Mt. Manalmon Hike / Boracay Trip 2015


So, which one is right for you then?

Let’s set this thing straight first: Photos shot with the DSLR are not necessarily better than those from the Mirrorless cameras.

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Nowadays, some mirrorless cameras are more expensive than DSLRs. This is because brands are innovating the landscape of camera technology by making it smaller and more compact without sacrificing the quality of the gear. Earlier DSLR models are heavier or bulkier, especially with big lenses and accessories. However, as I’ve mentioned earlier, if you’re going to use it for paid events/business, the DSLR is more ideal and used primarily in the professional field. With that being said, there’s no problem using it for personal photos. I love the DSLR, and it served me well for the past 4 years and I’ll probably buy another one in the near future…

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…but right now, I am really, really happy with my Sony A5000 mirrorless camera. It’s small, compact and I can even switch the kit lens with other lenses. Transferring photos is a breeze on your smartphone via the built-in bluetooth technology.


It’s a matter of choosing what fits perfectly with your needs.

Repeat after me: It’s not the camera,but the person behind it that takes great photos. 

Let me know if this article has been helpful to you. I’d like to hear some of your suggestions and top picks!


This is not a paid article and is purely based on the opinion of the author of this post.

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