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In recent years, mirrorless cameras have come to dominate much of the photography market. So much so that, if you’re a DSLR shooter, you may feel like you’re lagging behind. You may feel like you’re using old, antiquated equipment. You may start saving up for that brand-new mirrorless kit. But should you still use a DSLR in 2020?
Here’s the thing:
While mirrorless cameras may be all the rage these days, there’s a lot to be said for DSLRs.
And while there are a lot of benefits to going mirrorless, for some photographers, mirrorless bodies and lenses would be an unnecessary step sideways.
Or, even worse, a step backward.
That’s what this article is all about. I’m going to give you five reasons why you might want to still use a DSLR in 2020.
And you’ll come away knowing whether a DSLR still makes sense for your shooting needs, even in this increasingly mirrorless age.
If you’ve spent some time reading about DSLRs versus mirrorless cameras, then you’ll be familiar with the optical viewfinder and electronic viewfinder comparisons.
On the one hand, optical viewfinders are much clearer than electronic viewfinders, and they feel more real.
On the other hand, electronic viewfinders give you a live preview of your image before you even take it, one that allows you to assess exposure from the moment you put the camera up to your eye. You also get other cool benefits, such as focus peaking (where you can see in-focus areas through the viewfinder), as well as the ability to “see” in black and white.
But there’s another key optical viewfinder benefit:
They look way better in low light.
When you’re shooting in darker situations, looking through an optical viewfinder is very similar to looking with your naked eye.
But looking through an electronic viewfinder is like looking through an old, poor-quality display. There’s noise everywhere, and this makes it tough to tell whether you’ve nailed focus and exposure.
Of course, it’s possible to look past these flaws, and you can still shoot mirrorless in low light. But it’s frustrating to look through a viewfinder and see a poor-quality image, so if you’re a frequent low-light shooter, you might want to consider sticking with a DSLR instead.
Now, EVFs are improving all the time, and there may reach a point in the future where the quality in low light comes close to that of OVFs. But right now, OVFs are dominating EVFs in the low-light arena.
Another reason to still use a DSLR in 2020 is that DSLRs have much longer-lasting batteries compared to mirrorless cameras.
And if you’re the type of photographer who likes to shoot all day without stopping, or someone who goes into areas without access to electricity for days on end, you’re going to struggle with a mirrorless body.
Most mirrorless bodies are rated at around 250-400 shots, though you can get a substantial amount of additional life out of them if you make an effort to conserve battery. Even so, mirrorless battery life pales in comparison to DSLRs, which frequently feature capabilities from around 800 shots to 1500 shots and beyond.
When I got my first mirrorless camera, I thought I was ready to handle the limited battery life. In a sense, I was: I had three original batteries, plus two chargers.
But even if you have the batteries to last a day or two, it’s frustrating to have to remember to charge them after every shoot. It’s also frustrating to change batteries during shoots, especially when working in the freezing cold or in bad weather.
So if battery life is a big deal to you, then you may want to stick with your DSLR.
I’ve used a number of mirrorless cameras, and I’ve also used a number of DSLRs.
And the DSLRs are far, far better when it comes to ergonomics.
You see, mirrorless cameras are much more compact than DSLRs on average. But in order to achieve the smaller form-factor, manufacturers have flattened body grips.
Sure, there are some mirrorless cameras that retain a DSLR-like feel, but many of the mid-level options from Sony and Fujifilm, not to mention the entry-level, no-viewfinder cameras from most manufacturers, have very limited grips.
And this makes them very tough to use for street photographers (who often shoot one-handed), as well as casual walkaround photographers. Plus, anyone who holds a camera for hours on end wants it to feel comfortable, not just usable.
In a lot of cases, mirrorless bodies just…aren’t.
Check out this DSLR, which shows the extent to which a deep body grip defines its shape:
So before you grab a new mirrorless body, make sure to head into your local camera shop and actually try it out. Hold it in your hand.
And ask yourself:
How would I feel after hours in the field?
If the answer is something along the lines of “Not good,” then you may want to still use your DSLR in 2020.
I’ve already talked about the difference between electronic viewfinders and optical viewfinders.
But there’s a practical consequence that comes with using an electronic viewfinder that I haven’t mentioned:
It’s tough to shoot with both eyes open.
But if you’re an action photographer, someone who shoots sports or even street photos, then you may like to shoot with both eyes open. This allows you to anticipate movement. It allows you to see what’s going to move into the frame before it happens.
And it can really take your images to the next level.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to use both eyes when shooting mirrorless. This is because there’s a feeling of disconnect between the electronic viewfinder and the optical viewfinder. Plus, even the best EVFs have some kind of lag; while this may be irrelevant if using one eye to shoot, it creates a level of disjointedness when working with both eyes.
This is one of the reasons why, by the way, plenty of sports photographers are still opting for a camera like the Nikon D5/6 or the Canon 1D X Mark II/III over mirrorless options like the Sony a9 II or the Olympus OM-D E-M1X. While the latter two cameras offer incredible specs, it’s just too difficult to use them with both eyes open.
Here’s your final reason to still use a DSLR in 2020 over mirrorless:
The lens selection.
Now, there are plenty of great lenses for mirrorless systems. But the range just isn’t as expansive as the DSLR lens lineup that’s offered by Canon or Nikon.
Fortunately, there are adapters that allow you to use DSLR lenses on mirrorless bodies. But these can cost a substantial amount of money, and for some lineups, they’re just not ideal.
Some shooters won’t care about the limited lens offerings; if you’re a portrait photographer, for instance, you’ll probably be just fine with the lens lineup offered by any of the major mirrorless manufacturers. This is because portrait-type lenses are often developed first, as part of a “standard” prime and zoom series.
Note, also that switching from a Canon DSLR to a mirrorless system like Fujifilm, will cost a significant sum of money. You’ll need to buy a mirrorless camera, yes, but you’ll also need to replace your entire lens lineup. And while you can sell your DSLR lenses on the used market, they likely won’t get you close to the cash you need for a well-rounded Fuji system.
So make sure you keep this in mind before switching to mirrorless.
Now that you’ve finished this article, you know all about the five key reasons you should still use a DSLR in 2020 over a mirrorless camera.
And you should have a sense of whether a DSLR makes sense for your needs.
Now I’d like to know:
Do you shoot mirrorless or with a DSLR? And why? Share your reasons in the comments below!