Jul 5, 2023

DSLR vs Mirrorless: Which is better for landscape photography?

By Martin Rak

Your Award-Winning Tutor

Discover the ultimate camera for breathtaking landscapes as we explore the pros and cons of DSLR and mirrorless options, unveiling the ideal choice for photographers seeking to capture the beauty of the natural world.


When it comes to capturing landscapes, choosing the right camera is crucial for photographers. With advancements in technology, both DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) and mirrorless cameras have emerged as popular choices.

Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but when it comes to landscape photography, which one is better? Let's look at the characteristics of DSLR and mirrorless cameras and determine which is the ideal choice for capturing breathtaking landscapes.

1/ Image Quality

Dolomites, © Martin Rak

The Quest for Impeccable Image Quality in Landscape Photography

When it comes to landscape photography, image quality is undoubtedly one of the primary considerations for photographers. DSLRs have long been renowned for delivering exceptional image quality, thanks to their larger sensor sizes and optical viewfinders.

These factors contribute to capturing fine details, wide dynamic range, and accurate color reproduction, making DSLRs a preferred choice for landscape photographers seeking impeccable image quality.

Closing the Gap: Mirrorless Cameras and Advancements in Image Quality

However, mirrorless cameras have been steadily closing the gap in terms of image quality. With their electronic viewfinders and advanced image sensors, mirrorless cameras provide real-time previews of the final image, allowing photographers to make on-the-spot adjustments and fine-tune their settings.

This feature is especially advantageous for landscape photographers who want to ensure they capture the scene exactly as they envision it.

Advancements in Mirrorless Technology: Propelling Image Quality to New Heights

In recent years, the advancements in mirrorless camera technology have propelled image quality to new heights. The latest mirrorless models boast impressive sensor capabilities, producing images that rival or even surpass those captured by DSLRs.

Manufacturers have recognized the potential of mirrorless cameras and have started phasing out certain DSLR models in favor of mirrorless alternatives. This shift in the industry further emphasizes the advancements and potential of mirrorless technology in delivering exceptional image quality for landscape photography.

Beyond Sensors and Viewfinders: Factors Influencing Image Quality

The image quality of a camera is not solely determined by the sensor size or viewfinder type. Other factors, such as the camera's image processing capabilities and the lens quality, also play significant roles.

Both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are equipped with powerful image processors that handle complex algorithms to enhance image quality, reduce noise, and improve overall performance.

Additionally, the quality of the lens used with the camera greatly impacts the final image. Both DSLR and mirrorless systems offer a wide range of high-quality lenses, allowing photographers to choose the best optics for their specific needs.

The Changing Landscape: Mirrorless Cameras Surpassing DSLR Capabilities

In conclusion, while DSLRs have a long-standing reputation for exceptional image quality, mirrorless cameras have made significant strides in closing the gap and even surpassing DSLR capabilities.

The advancements in mirrorless technology, coupled with real-time image previews and powerful image processors, have elevated the image quality of mirrorless cameras to new heights. With manufacturers phasing out certain DSLR models, it is evident that mirrorless cameras are gaining momentum and recognition in the photography industry.

Whether one chooses a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, both options offer the potential to capture stunning landscape photographs with remarkable image quality, enabling photographers to express their creativity and vision.

2/ Portability and Convenience

© Andrik Langfield

The Importance of Portability: Enhancing Landscape Photography Experience

Landscape photography heavily relies on the portability and convenience of a camera system, as these factors can significantly influence a photographer's overall experience and their ability to capture breathtaking images.

Specifically, for landscape photographers who frequently embark on long hikes to remote locations, the weight and size of their camera gear become paramount considerations.

DSLRs: Durability and Weight Considerations for Landscape Photographers

DSLRs, with their complex internal mechanisms and larger lenses, tend to be bulkier and heavier than their mirrorless counterparts. Carrying a heavy DSLR kit over long distances can be physically demanding and may limit mobility, especially when traversing challenging terrains or hiking to remote locations in the mountains.

However, it is important to note that professional DSLR cameras like the Nikon D850 or Canon 5DIV are known for their durability, making them suitable for rugged landscapes where sturdiness is essential.

Embracing Portability: Mirrorless Cameras as the Traveler's Choice

On the other hand, mirrorless cameras have been specifically designed to prioritize portability and convenience. With their lightweight build and compact form factor, mirrorless cameras offer landscape photographers the freedom to carry their equipment easily and effortlessly.

This advantage becomes particularly valuable when photographers need to navigate challenging terrains or embark on long hikes to reach those picturesque, off-the-beaten-path locations. Mirrorless cameras have gained significant popularity among landscape photographers due to their portability, allowing them to move more freely and capture stunning images without being weighed down by heavy gear.

Blending In with Ease: Mirrorless Cameras and Inconspicuous Landscape Photography

Moreover, the compact size of mirrorless cameras also makes them less obtrusive in the field. This can be advantageous for landscape photographers who want to blend into their surroundings and capture natural, candid moments without drawing too much attention.

The smaller footprint of mirrorless cameras allows for a more inconspicuous approach, enabling photographers to immerse themselves in the landscape and capture genuine moments without disrupting the scene.

Framing Freedom: Utilizing Tilt Screens for Unique Landscape Perspectives

In addition to their lightweight design, mirrorless cameras often come equipped with advanced features that further enhance convenience and usability.

For example, many mirrorless models offer tilting or vari-angle LCD screens, allowing photographers to frame their shots from various angles, including low or high vantage points, without the need to physically contort themselves or their cameras.

This flexibility is particularly useful when photographing landscapes with unique perspectives or when capturing low-angle shots to emphasize foreground elements.

Seamless Connectivity: Wireless Transfer and Sharing with Mirrorless Cameras

Furthermore, mirrorless cameras often have integrated Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, enabling seamless wireless transfer of images to smartphones or tablets. This wireless capability streamlines the workflow for landscape photographers, making it easier to preview and share images on the go, whether it's for social media updates or immediate client feedback.

The convenience of wireless connectivity eliminates the need for cumbersome cable connections and allows photographers to stay connected and share their work in real-time.

Compact yet Powerful: Advancements in Performance for Mirrorless Systems

In recent years, mirrorless camera systems have seen significant advancements, not just in terms of portability but also in overall performance. The smaller size and weight of mirrorless cameras have not compromised the quality of images produced.

Manufacturers have focused on optimizing the image sensors, processors, and lenses to deliver exceptional image quality and performance despite the compact form factor. This technological progress has empowered landscape photographers to embrace the advantages of mirrorless systems without compromising on image quality or functionality.

Embracing Portability: Unleashing Creative Potential with Mirrorless Cameras

In conclusion, while DSLRs have traditionally been associated with landscape photography, mirrorless cameras have gained substantial traction due to their superior portability and convenience.

The lightweight build of mirrorless cameras allows photographers to move more freely and comfortably, especially during long hikes or when navigating challenging terrains. The smaller size also contributes to a more inconspicuous approach, enabling photographers to capture genuine moments without disrupting the scene.

Furthermore, the advanced features and wireless connectivity options offered by mirrorless cameras enhance convenience and streamline the workflow for landscape photographers. With advancements in technology, mirrorless cameras have emerged as a compelling choice for photographers who prioritize portability, convenience, and the ability to capture stunning landscapes without compromise.

3/ Lens Selection and Adaptability

© Sharegrid

DSLRs: A Vast Lens Ecosystem for Specialized Landscape Photography

When it comes to landscape photography, the availability of a wide range of lenses is of utmost importance for photographers seeking to capture the perfect shot.

DSLRs, having been on the market for a longer period, have amassed a vast selection of lenses from various manufacturers, making them an attractive option for landscape photographers in search of specialized lenses.

Whether it's wide-angle lenses to capture expansive landscapes, tilt-shift lenses for precise control over depth of field or telephoto lenses allowing to capture distant subjects, compress the perspective, and isolate specific elements within a scene, DSLRs offer a diverse lens ecosystem that caters to the specific needs and preferences of photographers.

Adapters: Unlocking Possibilities and Preserving Legacy with DSLR Lens Compatibility

Furthermore, one notable advantage of DSLRs is their compatibility with older lenses through the use of adapters.

This opens up a world of possibilities for photographers who may have legacy lenses or unique optics that they want to incorporate into their landscape photography. By utilizing adapters, DSLR users can adapt and mount a wide variety of lenses, expanding their creative options and pushing the boundaries of their photographic capabilities.

Mirrorless Cameras: Rapidly Growing Lens Ecosystems for Landscape Photographers

On the other hand, mirrorless cameras, although relatively new to the photography scene, have been rapidly expanding their lens ecosystems to meet the growing demand of photographers.

Many manufacturers have recognized the potential of mirrorless systems and have invested in developing excellent lenses specifically designed for mirrorless cameras. These lenses take advantage of the compact form factor and technological advancements of mirrorless cameras, delivering exceptional optical performance and image quality.

Adaptability Unleashed: The Shorter Flange Distance Advantage of Mirrorless Cameras

Moreover, one inherent advantage of mirrorless cameras is their shorter flange distance, which refers to the distance between the lens mount and the image sensor.

This shorter flange distance enables the use of a wider range of lenses, including those designed for DSLRs, with the help of adapters. This adaptability gives photographers the freedom to experiment with different lenses, including vintage or specialty optics, and explore unique perspectives that can elevate their landscape photography to new heights.

Fueling Innovation and Creativity: Expanding Lens Options for Mirrorless Systems

The expanding lens options and adaptability of mirrorless cameras not only cater to the needs of landscape photographers but also present exciting opportunities for innovation and creativity.

As more lenses become available for mirrorless systems, photographers can further refine their approach to landscape photography, fine-tuning their equipment to achieve their desired aesthetic and artistic vision.

Optimal Performance: High-Quality Lenses for Capturing Breathtaking Landscapes

In addition to the lens selection itself, the optical quality of the lenses is equally crucial for capturing breathtaking landscape images.

Both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer high-quality lenses that are specifically engineered to deliver sharpness, contrast, and minimal distortion. Landscape photographers often require lenses that can capture intricate details and faithfully reproduce colors, and both DSLR and mirrorless lens offerings meet these demands.

Beyond the Camera: Enhancing Lens Selection with Accessories in Landscape Photography

It is worth mentioning that lens selection and adaptability extend beyond the camera system itself. Various accessories, such as filters and lens attachments, further enhance the creative possibilities for landscape photographers.

Whether it's a graduated neutral density filter to balance exposure between the sky and the foreground or a macro extension tube for close-up shots of intricate details, the availability of compatible accessories adds another layer of versatility to the lens selection process for both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

Making the Choice: Lens Selection and Adaptability in DSLRs vs. Mirrorless Cameras for Landscapes

In conclusion, the lens selection and adaptability offered by both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras play a crucial role in landscape photography.

DSLRs, with their extensive lens ecosystems and compatibility with older lenses through adapters, provide a wide array of specialized lenses for capturing landscapes. On the other hand, mirrorless cameras are rapidly expanding their lens offerings and leveraging their adaptability to accommodate a diverse range of lenses, including those designed for DSLRs.

The evolving lens options and adaptability of mirrorless cameras present exciting opportunities for photographers to explore new perspectives and push the boundaries of their creativity. Ultimately, the choice between DSLR and mirrorless cameras for landscape photography should consider not only the available lenses but also the specific needs and preferences of the photographer.

4/ Autofocus and Advanced Features

© Ethan Cull

Capturing the Perfect Shot: Autofocus Performance in Landscape Photography

Autofocus performance and advanced features are essential considerations for landscape photographers seeking to capture stunning images in various conditions.

DSLRs: The Reliable Choice for Fast and Accurate Autofocus

DSLRs have long been revered for their reliable and fast autofocus systems, making them a popular choice for capturing landscapes with moving subjects.

These systems often incorporate advanced autofocus tracking modes that excel not only in landscape photography but also in wildlife or sports photography, where quick and accurate focusing is paramount.

Advancements in Autofocus Technology: Mirrorless Cameras Stepping Up the Game

Nevertheless, mirrorless cameras have made remarkable strides in autofocus technology, rivaling the performance of DSLRs.

Many mirrorless models boast cutting-edge autofocus systems that leverage phase-detection or hybrid autofocus, ensuring precise and rapid focusing even in challenging low-light situations. This advancement is particularly advantageous for landscape photographers who encounter dynamic scenes or unpredictable subjects.

For instance, when photographing wildlife in their natural habitat, such as birds in flight, the ability to swiftly lock focus on the subject is essential. Mirrorless cameras excel in this regard, providing photographers with the tools necessary to capture those fleeting moments with exceptional precision.

Elevating the Landscape Experience: Advanced Features of Mirrorless Cameras

Beyond autofocus, mirrorless cameras offer a range of advanced features that further enhance the landscape photography experience. One such feature is the real-time exposure preview, which provides photographers with a live view of the final image before pressing the shutter.

This allows for accurate exposure assessment and adjustments, empowering photographers to achieve their desired results without relying solely on post-processing.

Additionally, mirrorless cameras often provide a variety of shooting modes, including bracketing options for capturing a series of images with different exposure settings, enabling photographers to create stunning high dynamic range (HDR) images in post-production.

In-Body Image Stabilization: Empowering Landscape Photographers for Sharper Results

An exceptional feature found in some professional mirrorless models is In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS). IBIS proves invaluable for landscape photographers, as it effectively counteracts camera shake, resulting in sharper images and smoother video footage.

Through sensor-shift technology, IBIS compensates for unintended camera movement caused by handheld shooting or unstable shooting conditions. This innovation enables photographers to confidently shoot at slower shutter speeds without compromising image quality due to motion blur.

For landscape photographers who frequently encounter situations where tripods are impractical or prohibited, such as in crowded areas or during spontaneous outdoor adventures, IBIS offers a compelling solution for achieving tack-sharp images.

Redefining Landscape Photography: The Power of Mirrorless Cameras' Advanced Features

The combination of advanced autofocus systems, real-time exposure preview, and IBIS found in many mirrorless cameras has revolutionized the landscape photography experience.

These features empower photographers to overcome technical challenges and focus on the creative aspects of their craft, resulting in compelling and visually striking landscape images.

In summary, while DSLRs have long been favored for their reliable autofocus systems, mirrorless cameras have caught up and now offer impressive autofocus capabilities, particularly beneficial for capturing landscapes with moving subjects.

Moreover, mirrorless cameras provide a range of advanced features, including real-time exposure preview and IBIS, which greatly enhance the landscape photography process.

The choice between DSLR and mirrorless cameras ultimately depends on individual preferences and specific requirements. Both systems have proven their worth in delivering outstanding results when in the hands of skilled landscape photographers.

© Bohemian Journeys

Conclusion

Both DSLR and mirrorless cameras have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landscape photography. While DSLRs are renowned for their exceptional image quality, lens selection, longer battery life and durability, mirrorless cameras offer portability, convenience, and advanced features.

Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on individual preferences, shooting style, and specific requirements. It is recommended that photographers consider their needs, budget, and the type of landscapes they plan to capture before making a decision.

Whichever option one chooses, both DSLR and mirrorless cameras have proven their capabilities in delivering stunning landscape photographs in the hands of skilled photographers.

If you already own a modern DSLR such as Nikon D850 or Canon 5DIV with a couple of lenses that serve you well, there is definitely no urgent need to upgrade to mirrorless.

However, if you are in the market for a brand new camera, it is better to go for a mirrorless camera like Canon R5, Nikon Z8 or Sony A7R V.

The industry concentrates fully on the mirrorless ecosystem and with this equipment, you will get all the newest technologies and features. It is a safe bet for the future, as mirrorless technology will certainly stay here for the years to come.

Landscape Photography Masterclass

Master Your Photography Skills!

Discover new shooting techniques, learn about post-production strategies, and listen to interviews with renowned landscape photographers, all designed to take your photography to the next level.