Been getting several questions about Mirrorless cameras since Canon’s Announcement last week and thought I would summarize in plain language here:

DSLRs allow photographers to see and compose their shots through an optical viewfinder. Light enters through the lens, bounces off a mirror, through a pentaprism and out the viewfinder to the photographers eye so he can see what the actual shot will look like before he presses the shutter button. When the release is activated, the mirror quickly flips up, and the shutter curtains activate, allowing the light to expose the sensor. DSLRs also have interchangeable lenses allowing photographers to change the focal length, aperture and perspective of the glass they are using.

Point and shoot cameras lack a reflex mirror system, as well as through the lens optical viewing (but live view type shots obviously can act as the equivalent) and they typically have a single, wide range zoom lens built as part of the camera that cannot be removed. Point and Shoots typically have very small sensors. Some point and shoots have optical viewfinders, but they are slightly off center as they do not redirect light through the lens and off a mirror.

MIrrorless Cameras – The easiest way to think of a mirror less camera, is essentially a point and shoot camera that can change lenses and can have a much larger sensor. (That is the quick and dirty explanation). Because it lacks a mirror reflex system, you cannot have a “real space” optical viewfinder, but a digital equivalent through live view is of course possible.

– Mirrorless cameras are typically much smaller and lighter than dSLRs because there is no reflex mirror.
– Because there is no mirror, they require special lenses to be made to spec in order to work properly.
– Canon has an EOS adapter that will allow photographers to use their regular lenses with the new Canon M, the problem here is that it introduces some distance between the camera body and the lens itself, which means you will lose a light as the aperture ratio changes.
– Mirrorless cameras also focus using a different method, suffice it to say its a little slower than dSLRs, but the technology is catching up.

Michael’s Take – We don’t really know how successful mirrorless cameras will be, the market will decide. The trend as of now however is that the dSLR market is leveling off and the mirrorless market is really increasing. Canon MUST keep up with Nikon and others who already have mirror less cameras on the market. Canon’s EOS-M Mirrorless Camera is very, very similar to the Canon T4i in overall functionality. The major drawback for now is that there are a limited number of lenses that work with each manufacturers respective mirrorless cameras.

I think dSLRs are definitely here to stay for professional photographers, but for the casual shooter, the mirrorless camera system offers an extremely light and compact system that may emerge as a new contender in the digital photography world. I believe that with time, technology improvements and a greater lens selection, we will see more and more of these.