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The biggest tradeoff between SLRs and mirrorless cameras is compactness for sensor quality. In particular, an APS-C mirrorless kit costs about the same as a low end full-frame SLR kit.

There are lots of situations where you would lose pictures on the mirrorless kit that you might have gotten on the SLR kit (nighttime, concerts, buildings). The other way around it is not so clear.

The word on the street is that mirrorless cameras are less obtrusive than SLRs, but I am not sure I believe this. Is a full-frame SLR gawdy enough that it justifies foregoing sensor quality?

marked as duplicate by mattdm, Itai, scottbb, enthdegree, null May 12 '16 at 16:01

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  • If you are going full-frame do you plan on upgrading your lenses as well? What full-frame are you looking at and what type of photography do you do? – Matthew Whited May 11 '16 at 20:19
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    I shoot portraits, landscapes, products, and rarely care about obtrusiveness or bulk. Other people want something light and compact. There is a market for all types of cameras, millions of people buy each type. I don't understand how you expect an answer when it seems obvious that it's a personal choice each consumer makes depending on their needs. Are you asking specifically about the tradeoff between bulk and sensor size, or asking what other reasons there might be? And how is it not covered in the possibly duplicate mattdm linked to? – MikeW May 11 '16 at 21:00
  • Agree with @MikeW this is opinion based. What do you enjoy and take pleasure with is what ultimately decides this. Stop worrying so much about "quality" and pixel peeping. – RyanFromGDSE May 12 '16 at 15:31
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People get very hung up on "quality". I think Internet review sites are partly to blame, because they get traffic by analyzing the minutia of this vs. that measurement. Keep in mind, though, that the baseline for quality is very, very high, and every modern camera with a 1" sensor or large is capable of stellar results. We're not talking "C" vs "A", here — it's a question of A+++ vs A++++.

There may be some extreme situations where you might "lose pictures" with the mirrorless camera, but really, they're probably also situations where you're not getting a lot of keepers with the latest-greatest full-frame, either.

With 2016's technology, the biggest functional difference is going to be in autofocus. Even with the on-sensor phase detect, Fujifilm's AF speed lags behind the high-end DSLRs — especially for continuous tracking of moving subjects. For slower or still subjects, though, it's a non-issue — and from what I've seen, offerings from Olympus, Nikon, Sony are really narrowing the gap. And, on the upside, the slower contrast-detect approach is inherently more accurate and offers niceties like eye tracking.

Obtrusiveness is obviously both situational and subjective. Since I use the Fujifilm X-T10 a lot, I'd say that from experience, going around the city people don't give a second look (or if they do, it's because they think it's a film camera), but the lens definitely looks like more than a toy. It's no stealth cam.

Consider this, though, when comparing the example you suggested earlier — Nikon D600 + Sigma 35mm f/1.4 compared to Fujifilm X-T10 with Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4: the D600 setup weighs about 1.7kg (with batteries and accessories), while the X-T10 clocks in at 0.7kg — about 40% of the weight! Whether or not other people notice that, you might, if you're out shooting for extended periods.

  • Now that the a6300 is out, with 420-something phase-detect autofocus points, autofocus advantage is no longer exclusive to dSLRs. – wedstrom May 11 '16 at 20:27
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    Well, number of points isn't the only thing. As I noted, that gap is narrowing, and it's likely that that too will be an "A+++ vs A++++" situation in the near future – mattdm May 11 '16 at 20:33
  • The type is - phase detection has a big improvement over contrast detection in speed. But yes, your overall point is absolutely correct. – wedstrom May 11 '16 at 20:39
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    @wedstrom It still doesn't track moving subjects as well as the top PDAF systems. Not to mention that any Canon DSLR with Dual Pixel CMOS AF has just as many "focus points" when using Live View as the a6300 if you count them the way that Sony counts those "420-something phase detect AF points". – Michael C May 11 '16 at 21:29
  • @mattdm There are DSLRs that can now do facial tracking via the PDAF array coupled with a high resolution RGBir light meter (that is effectively a better imaging chip than the image sensors in the earliest DSLRs one and a half decades ago) and processed by a dedicated processing chip. The Canon 7D Mark II and 1D X Mark II are two such cameras. – Michael C May 11 '16 at 21:55
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The Sony A6000 is $500. Show me a full frame for that price, and I will accept your argument that even the body, let alone the lenses, are the same for a full frame dSLR as they are for an APS-C compact mirrorless. The only full frame camera I know of that matches even the A6300 or Fuji X-T10 in price is the A7(which is showing its age!), which is also mirrorless.

Compare APS-C dSLRs to APS-C mirrorless cameras, and full frame dSLRs to full frame mirrorless. Do that and I think you'll find the price and quality differences will become vanishingly small. You shouldn't ignore lens system, features, handling and ergonomics - these are really the biggest differences, and won't change much over time. Price and quality will come down to differences on brand and model more than fundamental aspects of mirrorless/dSLR systems as a whole.

Pick the brand, feeling, design system, ergonomics and philosophy(Sony is all about sensors, Fuji is more retro and widely better received ergonomics, just to mention a few) of the company you like best. It sounds silly, but those are the constants in this ever-changing world, and the cost of switching later goes up as you buy in.

Remember that the body is only a small part of the expense if you plan on getting deep into photography. Good luck!

Full frame DSLRs just as cheap as APS-C Compact Mirrorless

Ok, with several examples I can now make a comparison. The Nikon D600 and the Canon D6 were both launched in 2012.They are aging for sure. Even the A7 is getting old. This doesn't make them "bad", but it comes with it's own set of downsides. Things like autofocus, video, and ISO won't be as good as their current full frame counterparts. In many respects, much newer mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X-T10 and Sony a6300 will have caught up. In video, the a6300 is certainly better. In base ISO range, the Canon D6 is rated up to 25600 - exactly the same as the a6300. This is a huge blow to what I would consider a key advantage of full frame. Granted, this is mostly on paper, the full frame canon's outdated sensor is still probably better "in real life", but the differences are eroding.

What you end up with is all the weight of the full frame, with all the costs of the lenses (which do not come down in price dramatically over time like bodies do), but many of the advantages have been eroded by time. If you have never felt the difference, it is a very different feel from holding a little a6300 vs the heft of a good old full frame dSLR. Not something you casually walk around with. Now, especially in professional settings, that solidity, size, and heft screams professionalism, so that's something to take into consideration.

So, if video and weight are beans to you, and cost of full frame lenses has been taken into account, then the older cameras may be great. If the needs favor APS-C crop factor(so-called "reach"), or other newer features like 4k video, or you care about weight and bulk, APS-C is the way to go.

Ultimately, I'd go with the one that you see yourself using the most, even into the future. If you really, really want to go full frame, but can't afford a newer body yet, you might take the disadvantages of an older camera and then upgrade in the future(today's hot new cameras are the A7's and D6's of tomorrow), without having to sell your old lenses.

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    The Nikon D6 and the Canon 6D are in the same price range as some of the higher end APS-C mirrorless cameras: $1-1.5K. Cameras like the Samsung NX1, Sony Alpha α6300, Fuji XT-1 IR, or Fuji X-Pro2. – Michael C May 11 '16 at 21:49

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