What’s the difference between DSLR, mirrorless, and point-and-shoot cameras?

Understanding the difference between DSLR, mirrorless, and point-and-shoot cameras can be critical in deciding which camera type best suits your needs and preferences.

DSLR Cameras (Digital Single Lens Reflex)

A DSLR camera utilizes a complex system of mirrors to direct light from the lens to an optical viewfinder. When you take a picture, the mirror flips up, the shutter opens, and light hits the image sensor, which then captures the image. DSLRs offer interchangeable lenses, giving you more creative control and versatility.

Advantages of DSLRs include superior image quality, speedy performance with fast autofocus, a vast range of lenses to choose from, and usually a longer battery life compared to mirrorless cameras. The optical viewfinder also allows you to see exactly what the lens sees, without any lag. Some entry-level models that are great for beginners include the Canon EOS Rebel T7i and Nikon D3500.

Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras, as the name suggests, lack the mirror mechanism of a DSLR and instead, light passes directly onto the image sensor. When you take a photo, the sensor captures a preview of the image to display on the rear screen or an electronic viewfinder.

Mirrorless cameras tend to be smaller, lighter, and quieter, making them more portable and less obtrusive. They offer similar image quality and performance as DSLRs and also have interchangeable lenses. Their electronic viewfinders can display more information and allow you to preview your image with settings applied, but they can have some lag and consume more battery life. Popular mirrorless cameras for beginners include the Sony a6000 and the Canon EOS M50.

Point-and-Shoot Cameras

Point-and-shoot cameras, also known as compact cameras, are simple to use and very portable. They come with a fixed lens (non-interchangeable), have automatic settings for ease of use, and some models offer manual controls for more flexibility.

These cameras are perfect for beginners or those who want a simple, ready-to-go camera for casual shooting. However, the image quality, performance, and creative control are typically inferior compared to DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

The type of camera you choose should depend on your specific needs, budget, and the type of photography you're interested in. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, and understanding these can help you make a more informed decision.