This video blog post explains the basics of mirrorless cameras, and it’s meant for beginners and people who don’t know how they differ from dSLR cameras.
My students asked me recently: What’s the difference between dSLR and mirrorless cameras?
In simple terms a dSLR has a mirror and a mirrorless camera doesn’t.
But why is there a mirror in the dSLR in the first place?
The mirror allows us to see through the lens when composing our photos. The light then bounces up into a prism on the top of the camera and flips it the right way up and the right way around.
If the mirror wasn’t there, the view through the lens would be upside down and backwards, just like a good ole view camera. (And yes, I have used a view camera.)
When you press the shutter on a dSLR, the mirror flips up out of the way and the light is then able to travel to the back of the camera where it reaches the sensor (or film if you’re using a film SLR).
So how come we see the photo the right way around on a mirrorless camera?
On a mirrorless camera you compose your photos using the LCD screen on the back of the camera, or an electronic view finder with an eyepiece (EVF). Some cameras have a rangefinder. A rangefinder has an eyepiece viewfinder that is close to the lens, like for example, on a Leica camera.
With these other types of viewfinders, the mirror and prism are not necessary.
This makes mirrorless cameras much quieter too, because you don’t have that clanking of the mirror every time you take a shot. And that’s great for things like wedding ceremonies, when you need to be super quiet.
By the way: Mirrorless cameras are not new.
Rangefinder cameras have been around for many years. The film version of a Leica is a rangefinder too, and there are many others.
The new features with digital mirrorless cameras, are the EVF and the LCD viewfinders.
P.S. If you want more technical info about mirrorless cameras, check out this article on Wikipedia.