Which is better, DSLR, Mirrorless, or cell phone camera?

The evolution from film cameras to digital devices has been an amazing thing to witness. My first digital camera was the Canon D60, a six-megapixel camera. (This was Canon’s second generation DSLR., the first was a three-megapixel camera). Although early cameras were slow and noisy, the immediate feedback on the LCD screen was so compelling it fundamentally changed photography. No film to buy and process. Not limited to 24 or 36 exposures. I was hooked.

Now we have cameras in phones that can produce amazing photos, DSLRs with up to 45 and 50-megapixel resolution, and mirrorless cameras that rival DSLRs in camera function and image quality. In fact, in a recent issue of Digital PhotoPro, the editors claim that “2017 will be recognized as the year in which the dominance in the camera market shifted from DSLR to mirrorless designs”. And the editors further conclude, that for the first time, DSLR technology has advanced nearly as far as it can, mainly due to the optical viewfinder and limitations of the mirror mechanisms which define these cameras. On the other hand, mirrorless technology has continued to advance, with an example being Sony’s a9 (which came out in early 2017). This camera is faster at 20 frames per second than any DSLR, has no blackout between frames using an electronic viewfinder (EVF), and an advanced autofocus system which is claimed to surpass DSLRs. Is it the new sports camera?

Not much later in 2017, Sony announced the a7R-III, a 42.4-megapixel camera with a frame rate of 10 fps, a pixel shift function, great EVF, and a sensor that reportedly provides 15 stop dynamic range. The latest Outdoor Photographer magazine gives a detailed account of this impressive mirrorless camera.

Will mirrorless win? I don’t know but many, if not most, of the previous shortcomings appear to have been resolved. I’ll admit that the mirrorless camera that I own (Olympus E-M1-Mark II) has features that I wish my DSLRs had. Maybe the next generation of DSLRs will include “live composite”, “live time”, articulated LCDs, “pro-capture mode”, silent shutter, etc.

So, which is better? I will remain loyal (at least for now) to my DSLRs as my primary system because I have a great lineup of lenses for this system and have a well-trained muscle and mental memory for Canon ergonomics. But hey, each format has its unique advantages so why not own and learn to use all three?