A Look at Why DSLRs Still Sell Much Better than Mirrorless Camera Systems

One of the biggest battles currently going on in the world of photography is DSLRs versus mirrorless cameras. There’s no doubt that DSLRs are still on top in terms of numbers, but as more and more companies put their faith in the mirrorless market, they continue to tempt consumers of all levels to give this five-year-old system a chance.

In the video above, Amateur Photographer decided to take a look into why DSLRs still hold a substantially larger market share, and what weaknesses in the mirrorless market may be causing this.

While the interviews in the video bring up some logical reasons, we should start by noting that the research and insights are location specific to the UK and, even then, there were a great deal of economic factors not taken into account when coming up with the numbers. So, grain of salt in hand, let’s take a look at what they found.

The possible reasons mentioned in the video as to why DSLRs are still on top range from the plethora of choices — and therefore confusion — that exists in the mirrorless market (Micro Four Thirds, mirrorless, CSCs), to the lack of quality lens choices and accessories available for mirrorless systems, to consumer fear of switching to the smaller companies making the best of these camera systems.


It’s the last of those arguments as to why mirrorless sales are slumping that is the most logical in my mind. The companies that are creating the best mirrorless systems are companies such as Olympus, Sony and Fujifilm, none of whom were held in particularly high regard in the digital era until mirrorless came along.

Canon and Nikon have ruled the digital market for a very long time, and yet neither of them seem to be producing quality mirrorless gear. That’s probably why Fuji’s CEO said in an interview with DPReview that even they wish Canon would jump in wholeheartedly — it would go a long way in giving consumers confidence in mirrorless systems.

The camera market is an oligopoly, but in terms of sales, at times it almost seems like a duopoly between Canon and Nikon, which makes converting to a new system seem less attractive for newcomers and seasoned veterans alike.


The second issue of lens choice we can expect to sort itself out over time, but if and only if consumers begin believing in this market even as Canon and Nikon don’t show it much love. For our part, we can only hope that the mirrorless market sorts itself out in all of these regards, because it’s there that we’re seeing the most innovation.

The only other thing really left to be sorted out is the naming scheme, which is ultimately up to the companies producing these systems. The Micro Four Thirds system has already proven that companies can work together with great results, and that’s what they need to keep doing lest the entire market collapse under the weight of consumer confusion, leaving everybody out of luck.

Of course, that’s just our take on what AP had to say. Beyond the thoughts expressed in the video, what are some of your concerns and qualms with the mirrorless camera market? Where would you like to see improvements to this fairly new breed of camera system?

(via Photo Rumors)

  • Danh


  • Benjamin Timmins

    I already strictly use a Nex7. Love it. Wont be going back to dslrs.

  • joshsouzaphotos

    Because a majority of people who buy DSLRs don’t buy them to be photographers, but to have a “pro camera” , the standard DSLR shape is what they’re after, it is what people think of as “pro” even if it is only entry level. I bet a majority of the sales after purchase are a zoom that is either 200 or 300 in focal length and has a macro ability, and MAYBE a 50.. aside from that these people likely will rock their 18-55 proudly for a long time.

    Look around, people with mirrorless cameras with amazing portfolios have been hired and fired before doing the job based on the look of their camera.

  • Jeff Ladrillono

    I love my x100s. But until I find a compact camera with autofocus that performs like a 5D3, I’ll stick with a DSLR kit.

  • Alexandra’s Corner

    They’re big still, because they match the EGO’s of those buying them!

  • Alexandra’s Corner


  • Devorah Kaye Goldstein

    I just went from Nikon to Olympus EM5 to have a lighter overall system — i still get alloy body + weather sealing, and the Olympus lenses (haven’t tried the Panasonic) are crazy sharp and have a very wide range of choices, including a few terrific portrait options. The colors SOOC from the EM5 sensor are just to my taste as well. My entire kit in my Think Tank weighs nothing compared to what I was lugging around before. Very happy with it all around.

  • emanresu1973

    You’re absolutely correct. People assume that the DSLR is the best camera available and that they are superior to other cameras, even if it is a $400 Rebel with a kit lens.

  • Mauricio Matos

    The mirrorless market is still young. Micro 4/3 is limited by a tiny sensor, as good as it may be, that limits resolution and dof. Sony is a complete mess. New bodies every other week, 4 different mounts. Fuji is innovative for sure but again, not everyone likes the classic look. Lenses are a problem to all of them. Sure, they all have some good ones but none of them have lenses for everything. Want a fast super tele? Nope. Want a fisheye? Ok, m4/3 has one but not the others. Tilt shift? Nope. Professional services like Canon and Nikon offer? Not a chance. And then there are the problems with accessories, flash systems and triggers and so on. I’ve used a few mirrorless systems already but end up going back to DSLRs. Bigger and heavier for sure but they just work.

  • emanresu1973

    People ask me all the time for camera shopping advice and I’m constantly steering them towards mirrorless. They don’t need the DSLR size or capabilities, yet they still argue with me about why a mirrorless is a better choice for them. They’ll never need half the features available, they simply want good image quality and ease of use. And 99% of the time, they will end up letting that Rebel or D3200 kit gather dust because of the bulkiness of it. Some of the mirrorless systems are fantastic and can really outperform some of the entry level DSLRs. But, marketing has led us to believe that the DSLR is king and nothing can compare.

  • Devorah Kaye Goldstein

    I haven’t had any issue with my OMD with triggers — they work fine with PW3’s, Phottix, etc.

  • Mauricio Matos

    With TTL and everything? Maybe things have changed the last couple of months.

  • Devorah Kaye Goldstein

    i don’t use TTL — i prefer to know in advance what my lights are going to give me, so it’s not an issue in my case. i know oly has its own ttl system but i didn’t bother looking into it since i don’t need it.

  • Mauricio Matos

    See…that’s the thing. You don’t use it, neither do I. But some people do and they can’t.

  • Devorah Kaye Goldstein

    Granted :)

  • emanresu1973

    Sony only has 2 mounts: A and E. One for the DSLR/DSLT line and one for the mirrorless. Same as Canon and Nikon do. And Sony’s E mount actually can use any lens out there with a cheap adapter in manual with focus peaking, including legacy A mount Minolta lenses. That’s pretty impressive to me.

    Fact is, the majority of people buying DSLRs are not pros, they are consumers and will never need to use a tilt shift, trigger, off camera flash, or any of the other niche items used primarily by pros and serious hobbyists. Consumers buy entry level and mid level DSLRs because they have a belief that there is no superior camera for quality images, and that is not true anymore. Most of the people buying Canon and Nikon entry level kits can just as well be served by a bridge camera or even a mirrorless without noticing a difference in quality.

  • Mauricio Matos

    Sorry but you are mistaken. Sony sells 4 types of lenses. The A mount full frame, the ST lenses for APS-C DSLRs, the E lenses for APS-C mirrorless and the FE lenses for the full frame mirrorless. Maybe it’s 2 mounts technically but if they can’t use those 4 types of lenses, it’s like 4 different mounts.

    Like I said replying to other person, it’s not about if you need something or not…it’s about being possible or not. Because if you buy a camera today and if you decide that you want to use one of those not existent lenses tomorrow, you can’t.

  • Devorah Kaye Goldstein

    Other person ;) replying: That’s the main reason I went with Oly — there are so many lenses within the m4/3 system that as it exists already it meets my needs.

  • prometheus1010

    It’s all about marketing and brand. Canon and Nikon completely dominate here which is why they have stagnated with little incentive to innovate. Canon seems to release a new rebel a couple times a year with little to no changes. Almost all consumers buying entry level DSLRs would be better served with a comparable mirrorless camera as they deliver the same IQ and feature set in a more compact package which will see much more use.

    This is creeping up into the enthusiast and semipro market with some of the high end offerings from Olympus, Fuji, and Sony. It’s quite clear where the actual innovation in the market is happening and it’s a shame these companies are struggling against the entrenched giants.

  • Venser

    So true, but I’m glad I went off the deep end with DSLRs when I started. I’m now pushing the limits of my gear that I otherwise couldn’t do with my E-M5. I shoot sports for fun and portraiture to pay for equipment. I’m loving my f/1.4 lenses for portraiture, albeit expensive, and sports is self explanatory.

  • Mauricio Matos

    Yep…it’s the more complete system…it helps to be the oldest one as well :)

  • Sky

    X100s is a compact. Doesn’t have anything to deal with mirrorless.

  • greenarcher02

    There are 2 M4/3 fisheyes (or 3?).
    Olympus offer professional services on some cameras.

  • Sky

    You are both right: There are 4 lines of lenses and 2 mounts.

  • emanresu1973

    You’re splitting hairs. You say “technically” there are 4 different mounts, but there aren’t. There are two MOUNTS: A and E, just like Nikon, and Canon have mounts for their DSLRs and their Mirrorless. WIthin those mounts, there are full frame and APS-C lenses to choose from. You can’t use a DX lens from Canon, Nikon or Sony or any other APSC lens system on a full frame camera. You CAN use a FX lens on any APS-C camera however. I can’t go buy a Rebel and then use my DX only kit lens on a 5Dmk3, but I can buy a FX lens and use it on any camera within that mount.
    Only Sony has a full frame mirrorless right now, but I’m sure that if Canon or Nikon decide to market one, they will also have FX and DX choices within their mirrorless mount.

  • greenarcher02

    Sony actually has a head start because they had the SLT series which people actually liked…
    And are you leaving out Panasonic? That’s the problem right there. Bloggers and journalist and supposed photographers sometimes just don’t care about this types of cameras. Panasonic still has the best mirrorless cameras for video, which are actually on par with Canon’s offerings.

  • emanresu1973

    Canons and Nikons have made their entry level kit DSLRs available at every mass retailer for a low price. I saw a Rebel t4i kit with an 18-55 going for under $400 this winter. And then people can claim they have a “pro” camera…………

  • NicholBolas

    I have no real good camera.

    In the last year I looked at tons of cameras: mirrorless, dslr, pro-compact, and so on.

    I learned a lot and I ended up to this conclusion: I want very good IQ but no much bulkiness. I want the opportunity to change lenses and to buy very good ones in the future.

    So I excluded DSLR, because I want to have my camera with me 80% of the time at least. And even if I really like D7100 or Canon 70D (and some Pentax), I excluded DSLR from my choice: not only DSLR are big and heavy but even their lenses are.

    Then I looked at pro-compact-cameras (like the RX-100 or even the X100s) and Olympus mirrorless, but I understand I want a viewfinder plus a bigger sensor with a very good DOF. So I ended up that what I want in terms of sensor is an APS-C sensor.

    And so…I’m going to buy the Fuji X-E2: not that big, lenses are not that big too and the IQ is maybe better than the APS-Cs of Nikon D7100 or Canon 70D. Surely not inferior.

    Plus: the kit lens. Any camera on the market has a kit lens that is just for starters. Fuji is an exception: they offer (at least in the X-E and X-T series) a metal-constructed and bright 18-55 (aperture 2.8-4). So yeah, I could buy a D7100 from Nikon, but then what? I’d have a 18-105 kit lens for the same price. And I would spend more money for a lens that with Fuji I would already have has a kit. So not worth the money in comparison to fuji x-e2 + 18-55 f 2.8-4.

    The only downside is I’d like to have the possibility to make some good macro shots in the future: unfortunately Fuji system, at least until now, is lacking about that (sure there is the new Zeiss 50mm 2.8 which is available for X-mount and it is 1:1 magnification, but it’s not cheap, no IS and, I think, too short for making macro with animate subjects). But I don’t think it would be a good idea to go for dslr only for the macro thing considering 95% of my photos would be portraits, landscape or something like that.

    A part from this (and maybe the tracking AF in continuous shooting) I think that this is the right camera for me. At the end of the day there is no perfect camera: it’s all about compromises. And I understood this after thinking about what I really need, what types of photos I want to take and in what type of situation I want to shoot.

  • Clayton Finley

    Cost. A decent mirrorless will put you up there in price, plus the few lens’s are really expensive, and by the time you’re all said and done, you’re $XXXX into a system that does not have a proven foundation. I would love a small mirrorless, but everything I’ve bought in the market I’ve ended up returning, the cost to performance just wasn’t there for me. Ended up spending that money on new Canon glass and couldn’t be happier.

  • Andy Umbo

    Many professionals are experimenting with Micro 4/3rd’s precisely because they HAVE a lot of sharp, reasonably priced, prime lenses available! Your statement that mirror-less has few quality lens choices is a joke, what genius wrote this entry? You can go to dozens of photo sites and read stories about pro photographers getting into M4/3rd’s and running them through their paces BECAUSE of the prime lenses available from Panasonic and Oympus, and the lack of the same in mostly Nikon, tho somewhat Canon as well! This entry smacks of what a journalism buddy of mine calls a “fake trend”, i.e. some writer putting stuff down on paper based on their personal opinion. Any research at all would have shown that pros are very interested in the mirror-less lens line.

    In addition, most older pro’s that started their careers and were shooting in film for decades appreciate the ease of format changes in mirror-less cameras. So easy to shoot square or 8X10 format, instead of the “hated” 35mm aspect ratio, appreciated only by photojournalist, the smallest part of the professional photography market.

  • Albin

    The DSLR “prosumer” wave of a few years ago exhausted itself. The little mirrorless potentially made sense for consumers in that bracket who were not already invested in DSLR system. Sales for multi-lens systems five years ago were hot, but in fact now they are not. DSLR sales are dramatically down as well.

    Too many consumers are holding onto unused prosumer or pro equipment, and using their cell phones for their personal photography. A Canon rumor is out that it is dropping its low-end models for the same reason: the niche for the mirrorless is being filled by improving single-lens compacts like the G, S. and SX at prices approaching those for kit-equiped entry DSLRs.

  • Norshan Nusi

    They don’t mention battery life?

  • Rob

    Why all of this hate on DSLRs in the comments? I thought fanboys were reserved for gaming consoles and cell phone OS’s, not cameras.

    I like my DSLR and since funds are limited I’m not interested in trading it in for a mirrorless camera. Guess I’m ignorant.

  • kdv

    Likewise, I always suggest to newbies the Sony NEX or Olympus u43. Unfortunately, they always end up with an entry DSLR from Canon or Nikon. Quite frustrating when I see them excited about a new DSLR for a couple of months then they become paperweights because DSLRs are too big and clunky to bring out to every occasions.
    Folks!!! Take a look at Mirrorless cameras, they exceed 99.9999% of any casual shooters out there.

  • Devorah Kaye Goldstein

    It’s not a matter of hating one or being a fanboy for another — it’s a matter of choosing the right gear for your needs, regardless of what the focus groups might say.

  • Rob

    I’m talking about people bitching about how hobbyists and consumers are wanting “pro cameras” and the condescending attitude and tone.

  • kdv

    I always suggest to newbies the Sony NEX or Olympus u43. Unfortunately, they always end up with an entry DSLR from Canon or Nikon. Quite frustrating when I see them excited about a new DSLR for a couple of months then they become paperweights because DSLRs are too big and clunky to bring out to every occasions.

    Folks!!! Take a look at Mirrorless cameras, they exceed 99.9999% of any casual shooters out there…

  • joshsouzaphotos

    While a high end DSLR is more adequate for sports and nature, there have been plenty who have shown that sports and birding even can be done with mirrorless. Portraits can also be done with pro quality with mirrorless…

    I get it though, for me the versatility I got with the NEX series was the selling point (and the NEX-7 is a looker) I also don’t like the DSLR look, just isn’t appealing to me.

    I’ve now got the Alpha A7, and I’m pretty damn happy with it. Could there be a better lens selection without having to use an adapter? Absolutely, but for what I do.. I’m extremely pleased with the results.

  • Dhaval Panchal

    The issue I have with CSCs is the fact that a lot of them have screens in aspect ratios that do not match the sensor taking the pictures, meaning composition is harder. Also, viewfinder lag. (Although admittedly, recently they are becoming very fast, but nothing beats the speed of light!)

  • Sum_it

    I’ve got a lot of money invested on lenses & accessories for canon bodies. I see no reason to change to a compact system. For me, size/weight of the body isn’t a factor. Even the weight of most lenses isn’t an issue. My current gear does everything I need. So why switch to a smaller camera?

  • NicholBolas

    But you know what you want. The point is that most people look at the dslr as the only thing which can improve their ability in photography. What the majority of the people thinks is that if a camera is bigger then it’s gonna to make better photo. Obviously it’s not.

  • Bob Mataranglo

    I have been using a Sony NEX 6 for both stills and video for over a year and am more than pleased with this camera that fits in my pocket. Vintage lenses add to its versatility.

  • Graham Marley

    This is the internet, where everything everyone else does is taken personally.

  • Rob

    Great point.

  • YouDidntDidYou



    The first nine months of 2013 were tough for the photo sector. This
    was then exacerbated by an even more negative Q4, where there was a 29%
    decline in value compared to Q4 2012.

    Superzoom cameras (fixed lens cameras) with more that 10x optical
    zoom) and bridge cameras declined by 45% and 38% respectively in value
    year on year.

    As for changeable lens, CSC (compact system cameras) fell by 35% in
    value, whereas DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras) declining by
    28% in value compared to Q4 2013.”*

    so DSLRs fell by 28% in value
    and CSCs fell by 35% in value
    and bridge cameras fell by 38% in value
    and superzoom compacts fell by 45% in value

    in value terms DSLRs have dropped 320% more than CSCs in the UK

  • emanresu1973

    It’s not hate, it’s perception. Most of the people who I deal with have no desire or ambition to expand beyond the kit lenses and system. Their perception is that a Rebel kit must be better than, say, a NEX 6, because the Rebel is a DSLR. It’s not hate, it’s not snobbery, it’s truth. They really don’t want the size of the DSLR but they want the perceived quality of one. For someone who isn’t already invested in a system, for someone with no ambition or desire to ever step out of being a casual shooter? A mirrorless is a great option, as are bridge cameras for those people. It’s not “hate” of DSLRs, I have three of them myself. It’s steering people towards the best investment for their situation. In the vast majority of consumers/casual shooters, it will be mirrorless systems and bridge cameras

  • Graham Marley

    I mean, how many articles or conversations are about what photographs we’re making? It’s “Choose this system or that.” or “You aren’t innovative enough.”

    People are ready to strangle each other over cell phones, so it’s going to be just as sad when it comes to cameras.

  • emanresu1973

    I have seen many, many friends invest in an entry level DSLR only to see them never have it with them. They continue to use a point and shoot or their cell phone because the DSLR is just too bulky for them to carry around with them.

    I have a compact superzoom that I use all the time when I am just taking snapshots of the kids. I am considering a mirrorless to complement my DSLRs for something “in the middle” in terms of IQ and features. For serious hobbyist, many professionals etc there will still be a need for a DSLR system, but most casual shooters would be happier if they just invested in a mirrorless or bridge in the first place.

  • Rob

    But I still sense a condescending tone in the people mocking the ones you’re talking about. I get your point, but the way it comes out sounds like snobbery.

    I bought a t2i years ago and love it. After finally getting an 18-135mm lens I haven’t gone back to the 18-55. I really wish I had a macro lens though. I don’t even think mirrorless was a cheap alternative (or even readily available) when I bought my t2i 3.5 years ago.

  • Juan

    entry level dslr (canon rebels) costs less than mirrorless camera (sony nex)… it’s the price, people…