Myth Busted: Pro Mirrorless Camera Systems Are No Longer Smaller and Lighter Than DSLRs

Photo with big mirrorless camera lens

(Editor’s note: This opinion piece by photographer and educator Scott Kelby first appeared on his website.)

It’s time to face it — the new full-frame mirrorless camera bodies from Nikon, Sony, and Canon aren’t really that much smaller (if at all) than DSLRs, and if they are lighter, we’re talking a few ounces (not pounds). This isn’t awesome because one huge reason so many people were attracted to mirrorless in the first place was the dream of a super high-quality camera without the bulk and weight of a DSLR.

That dream is fading away as many of the new professional mirrorless bodies being released are relatively close in size and weight to their DSLR counterparts.

Essentially, what we have now (in our mirrorless evolution), is this:

  1. A DSLR-like body that’s nearly as heavy, but they’ve replaced the mirror with an Electronic Viewfinder (which brings some advantages and disadvantages as well).
  2. While a few native mirrorless lenses are a bit lighter in weight, some are actually larger and heavier. Some of the sharpest, faster ones are definitely sharp as heck, and heavy as heck, too (in some cases, stunningly so), and quite expensive, to boot.

As for camera bodies: for example, let’s look at the Nikon D750 DLSR versus Nikon’s new mirrorless Z6 II body. The Z6 II’s body is 4+ ounces lighter, but if you want to use one of your existing Nikkor lenses on it, once you put the adapter on…it actually weighs an ounce more than the D750 DSLR with the same lens. Same with my Canon R6 mirrorless versus my old Canon 5D Mark IV. The Canon R6 is about 4 ounces lighter (negligible), until you put on the adapter so I can use my existing Canon lenses, then it weighs about the same if not an ounce more.

The more I compare new mirrorless bodies and lenses, the less the difference it seems there really is today (especially for Sony users who are just using the same lenses they always have, but now on mirrorless). And yes, I know, if you do some digging, you can certainly find a particular mirrorless full-frame body and lens combination that might weigh less overall, but that’s not where the manufacturers seem to be heading.

Even with Canon — for example, their R-mount mirrorless 70-200mm seems a lot smaller at first glance, and it is — when you’re at 70mm, but once you zoom it in to 200mm, the lens then extends out from the barrel, so now it’s nearly as long as the DSLR mount version. It does weigh a bit less, but it costs about $700 more than their 70-200 with a DSLR mount.

If you actually want a legit super lightweight mirrorless body and lens, you almost have to leave Sony, Canon and Nikon full frame and go with a crop sensor or Micro Four Thirds, like a Fujifilm or a Panasonic Lumix camera with a fixed pancake lens (nothing wrong with Fujifilm, Panasonic Lumix or Olympus cameras, by the way, all three make great mirrorless models), but if your goal is a lightweight carry-around camera that takes great photos, why not just use your iPhone’s camera instead?

I recently read an article where the author essentially said (I’m paraphrasing here), “If you’re carrying around a low-end DSLR, you’re fooling yourself. Quality and size-wise, you might as well be just using your iPhone,” (and I tend to agree, and when the iPhone gets a real telephoto lens, which I feel will be very soon, it’s game over for those low-end, traditional camera bodies).

This “mirrorless is now back to being heavy and bulky” wave seems like where we are headed now. I’m cool with it, as we can have the best of both worlds — for me, it’s my iPhone for when I don’t want to lug a heavy camera rig around, and my new Canon EOS R6 for when I think it’s worth hauling the gear (and for me, there are many times when it’s definitely worth it).

There are some really nice things about mirrorless, but the dream of full- frame, super small, super lightweight, super high-quality bodies doesn’t seem to be the direction the big camera companies are moving. Anyway, something to consider if you’re thinking of upgrading.

Visit Scott Kelby’s website to see all his photography content.

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