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Camera War – DSLR vs. MILC

  • Camera War – DSLR vs. MILC

Have you ever wandered into your local camera store, and noticed that there are many bulky DSLR cameras sitting alongside the smaller, stylish MILCs (Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera) in the display cases? What are the differences? Which one should you get? I’ll tell you what I know and let you make the decision.

Cameras were designed to capture light reflected off objects. Prior to digital cameras, there were two light paths for light to travel through the camera. The first one was through the lens and onto the film; the second one goes through the viewfinder on top of the camera, allowing photographers to see what is being captured. However, there is one problem: the pictures always look slightly different from what the photographer sees through the viewfinder.

SLRs, the predecessors of DSLRs, were designed to address this problem. In SLRs and DSLRs, the only path that light travels is through the lens. A mirror is placed in between the lens and the film or sensor to reflect the light in the direction of the viewfinder. When the shutter is activated, the mirror is moved aside to allow the light to reach the film or sensor.

MILCs, the late comers in the camera market, were designed to provide similar functions to the DSLRs while offering other characteristics that better suit non-photographers. MILCs are significantly smaller than DSLRs, have similar designs to DSLRs, but have the mirror removed from the design altogether.

MILCs are so popular that the market saw significant growth in 2012 as many consumers switched to MILCs and left their point-and-shoot digital cameras behind. The biggest selling points of MILCs are: their portability and image quality. Because these cameras are lightweight and small in size, they can be carried in handbags or even the pockets, making them ideal to bring along to everyday activities. They are also stylish, which caters to the younger, more style-conscious consumer, and the touch screen LCD displays provide a user friendly interface to operate the cameras.

On the other hand, the DSLRs’ physical size actually works in their favor in many ways. First, DSLRs almost always feature larger sensors than MILCs, giving them the advantage in image quality and performance in dim, low-light environments. They also have faster auto-focus capability, allowing photographers to make multiple consecutive shots at high speed, a must-have feature for action photography. Another advantage DSLRs have is the ability to use external flash units. This gives the images better, more natural lighting than the built-in flash on MILCs. Lastly, because DSLRs carry larger batteries and do not rely on LCD displays to operate, they have a longer battery life and are better suited for shooting in places with limited access to power.

DSLRs and MILCs target different customer groups, and you should carefully consider your needs before making the decision. If you are thinking of purchasing a camera, which one do you choose?


  • Janna Rager Rager

    Like the info but the colored font is hard to read against the sunset background.

    • Kevin Chan

      Thanks for the notice, Janna. I'll see if I can turn it up a bit.

    • Kevin Chan

      Hi Janna, I was unable to find a solution that does not involve fiddling with the css file, so I changed the background image. Please let me know if it is easier to read now. Thanks.

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