Wildlife Photography: DSLR vs Mirrorless Cameras

Many photographers were reluctant to try out mirrorless cameras when they debuted. Some even mocked their performance. But today, mirrorless cameras have had a couple of generations out in the market, and the technology has proven itself a worthy adversary to standard DSLR. The progress has been so impressive that traditional DSLRs have been struggling to keep up, and the whole industry is now leaning towards mirrorless cameras.

But what is it that makes the mirrorless cameras so much better? In today’s video, photographer Villiers Steyn puts two great mirrorless and DSLR cameras into the race, comparing them in how they fare specifically for wildlife photography, and shares his experiences.

For the purpose of this video, Steyn puts the Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR camera with a 100-400mm II lens against the Canon R6 with a 100-500mm RF lens and compares the overall experience and results. Both of these setups are hugely popular with wildlife photographers, so his comparison makes a lot of sense.

While we don’t like to make photographers fret over which piece of hardware they own, wildlife photography is uniquely demanding. Having some top-notch features always helps capture animals in the wild. And from Steyn’s experience, he also accepts that the advanced features of the mirrorless camera should improve his efficiency.

While there was a time when mirrorless cameras focused slower than DSLRs did, that is not at all the case now. The R6’s auto-focus beautifully keeps birds sharp. The DSLR, on the other hand, struggles whenever there’s anything in front of the subject. Similarly, the frame rate is equally important for wildlife photography. And this too is an area where the mirrorless is unbeatable. With the ability to shoot up to 20 frames per second—silently—it means that there’s a greater chance that you will capture the decisive moment.

But it does come with a catch. The fast performance of the mirrorless means there is a greater chance you’ll take lots of photos. In the video, you can see that Steyn’s friend, with a mirrorless camera, ended up taking more than three times as many photos as Steyn, who used a DSLR. This means spending a lot more time going through photos afterward, and spending more money on buying storage. You might want to be careful on this front.

When it comes to image quality, however, the difference is insignificant. When Steyn compares the images taken under the same conditions by the two cameras, he sees no difference at all. The only notable difference is that the R6 has a better noise performance at a higher ISO. This is expected, considering that the R6 was released some four years after the 5D Mark IV.

Are you a DSLR user or a mirrorless user? Do you like how it performs? Let us know in the comments.

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