Understanding What’s a Mirrorless Camera: Is it Worth the Investment?

photos mirrorless camera


Mirrorless cameras, as the name implies, capture images without the use of a mirror, unlike traditional SLRs. Instead, they often utilise an electronic viewfinder (EVF) that provides a digital rendering of the frame. A mirrorless camera’s compact and lightweight design results from the absence of a bulky mirror box.

These cameras, such as the Nikon Z FC potentially offer superior image quality and advanced features like in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), touch screen live view, and silent electronic shutters. Understanding the advantages and considerations of a mirrorless camera system can help determine if it’s worth the investment for your photography needs.

Mirrorless Camera Advantages

One of the primary advantages of mirrorless cameras is their compact and lightweight design. Without the bulky mirror mechanism found in SLRs, mirrorless cameras can be significantly smaller and lighter, making them more portable and comfortable to use for extended periods.

Improved Autofocus Performance

Mirrorless cameras have advanced autofocus systems that utilise on-sensor phase-detection technology. This allows for faster and more accurate focusing, even in challenging low-light conditions. Many mirrorless cameras also offer advanced features like eye/face detection autofocus, which can be particularly useful for portrait photography.

Mirrorless Camera AdvantagesDescription
1. Compact and LightweightLack of a mirror mechanism allows for a smaller and lighter body design.
2. Advanced AutofocusOn-sensor phase-detection autofocus provides faster and more accurate focusing.
3. High-Speed ShootingCapable of shooting at higher continuous frame rates compared to SLRs.
4. Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)Provides a real-time preview of the image with exposure and settings applied.
5. Improved Video CapabilitiesOffers better video quality, higher frame rates, and advanced video features.

Lens Ecosystem Considerations

One crucial consideration when choosing a mirrorless camera system is the lens ecosystem. While mirrorless cameras offer several advantages, their lens selection is generally more limited compared to the vast array of SLR lenses available. However, adapters can be used to mount SLR lenses on mirrorless bodies, providing a viable solution for photographers transitioning from SLR systems.

Proprietary Lens Mounts

Each major camera brand uses its own proprietary lens mount. These mounts are designed specifically for their respective camera systems, ensuring optimal compatibility and performance.

  1. Native Mirrorless Lenses
    • Camera manufacturers are continuously expanding their native mirrorless lens lineups, offering lenses designed specifically for their mirrorless systems.
    • These lenses are optimised for the shorter focal distance and electronic communication capabilities of mirrorless cameras, providing superior performance and seamless integration.
  2. Lens Adapters
    • To use existing SLR lenses on mirrorless cameras, lens adapters are required. These adapters allow photographers to mount their SLR lenses on mirrorless bodies, enabling them to leverage their existing lens investments.
    • Adapters are available from both camera manufacturers and third-party companies, with prices typically ranging from $100 to $200.
    • It’s important to note that while adapters enable the use of SLR lenses on mirrorless cameras, some features like autofocus and EXIF data transfer may be limited or unavailable, depending on the specific lens and adapter combination.
Lens TypeCompatibility
Native Mirrorless LensesFully compatible with mirrorless camera bodies, offering optimal performance and seamless integration.
SLR Lenses (with Adapter)Can be used on mirrorless cameras with the appropriate adapter, but may have limited functionality or missing features.

While the lens ecosystem for mirrorless cameras is still expanding, the ability to use existing SLR lenses through adapters provides a practical solution for photographers transitioning from SLR systems, allowing them to gradually build their mirrorless lens collection over time.

Transitioning from DSLR to Mirrorless

For photographers considering the transition from a SLR to a mirrorless camera system, there are a few viable paths to explore. The author found modern mirrorless cameras to be highly capable, though SLRs still hold a slight advantage in low-light autofocus and tracking fast-moving subjects. However, the author is in the process of switching to a mirrorless system, finding them to be a viable alternative, especially for portrait photography.

Transition Paths

  1. Gradual Transition with Lens Adapters
    • Use a lens adapter to mount your existing SLR lenses on a mirrorless camera body.
    • This approach allows you to leverage your existing lens investments while gradually transitioning to a mirrorless system.
    • Some features like autofocus and EXIF data transfer may be limited or unavailable, depending on the lens and adapter combination.
  2. Complete System Replacement
    • Continue using your current SLR system until it no longer meets your needs.
    • Once ready, sell or trade in your SLR gear and start fresh with a new mirrorless camera and lens ecosystem.
    • This option provides a clean slate but requires a more significant upfront investment.

For beginner photographers, an entry-level SLR or mirrorless camera can both be suitable options. The author advises against going into debt to upgrade all camera gear at once and recommends a more gradual approach, replacing lenses over time as needed or as budget allows.

Transition OptionDescription
Gradual Transition with AdaptersUse adapters to mount SLR lenses on a mirrorless body, allowing a gradual system change.
Complete System ReplacementSell/trade SLR gear and start fresh with a new mirrorless system when ready.


In the ever-evolving world of photography, mirrorless cameras offer a compelling blend of cutting-edge technology and portability. While the lens ecosystem is still expanding, the ability to leverage existing SLR lenses through adapters provides a practical solution for photographers considering the transition. As the industry continues to innovate, mirrorless cameras are poised to become an increasingly attractive option for both professionals and enthusiasts alike.

Ultimately, the decision to invest in a mirrorless camera system comes down to individual needs and preferences. Whether you choose to gradually transition with lens adapters or make a complete system replacement, the advantages of mirrorless cameras, such as their compact size, advanced autofocus capabilities, and improved video performance, make them a worthwhile consideration for those seeking a versatile and modern imaging solution.






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