Are Mirrorless Cameras Going to Cause the Demise of the DSLR?

In the past few years, the photography world has seen the rapid progression of mirrorless cameras and I foresee the demise of the DSLR. Now, I am well aware that many photographers are still to be convinced, but let me present my case.

What Is The Difference Between DSLR and Mirrorless

I’m not going to go into the differences in too much detail or over-explain the technical and mechanical differences but it is worth mentioning. The common denominator between both systems is that they both contain an electronic imaging sensor that is exposed to light when the shutter is opened.

Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) Camera

DSLR Diagram - demise of the DSLR

DSLR Diagram

A DSLR camera works by placing a mirror in front of the sensor. The light coming into the camera through the lens is bounced off this mirror and into a prism at the top of the camera body. The light is directed through the prism and into the viewfinder. This allows the photographer to see through the lens and compose the image. Once the camera’s shutter button is pressed, the mirror flips up and the light passes through the lens and straight onto the camera’s sensor. When the sensor has had enough light to make the image, the mirror falls back down and blocks the light from the sensor.

This system has been in use long before digital cameras. In was the main technology used in film cameras throughout the twentieth century. It was logical to keep it when the film was replaced by an electronic sensor.

Mirrorless Camera

Mirrorless Diagram - demise of the DSLR

Mirrorless Diagram

As the name “mirrorless” indicates, there is no mirror in this kind of camera. In a mirrorless camera, the sensor sits directly behind the lens and is constantly being exposed to the incoming light. The sensor will send an electronic image to an LCD screen on the back of the camera or to an electronic viewfinder. The electronic viewfinder on a mirrorless camera looks similar to the viewfinder on a DSLR but because there is no mirror and prism to direct the light from the lens, the sensor in the mirrorless camera needs to create an electronic image to display in the electronic viewfinder. This is why the sensor is constantly being exposed to the light coming in through the lens.

When the shutter is pressed, two mechanical curtains pass over the sensor. The first curtain will completely cover the sensor before the camera begins the image capture process. This first curtain will start to move down over the sensor while a second curtain follows closely behind. This way, the sensor is only exposed for the exact amount of time required to make the image. The gap between the first and second curtain is determined by the shutter speed set by the photographer.

Most people now own a mirrorless camera without probably being aware of it; every smartphone has a mirrorless camera.