So, you’re looking at a Smartphone vs Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR (otherwise known as a digital single-lens reflex camera). We get it – it’s a tough choice, and as smartphone photography continues to grow as a discipline it’ll get even tougher.

Smartphone vs Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR

Digital Camera Central

On one hand, a smartphone camera – even an additional lens – is inexpensive and let’s be honest – you probably have one anyway.

On another hand, experts argue that smartphones – no matter how good their cameras become – just will never be able to compete.

But, a DSLR camera is guaranteed to be expensive, and for what? While some professional photographers could talk for ages on the topic of why the DSLR is worth the money, we here at Photos with Phones have to tell you to plug your ears.

Smartphone vs Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR


The gap is closing, and it’s closing fast. Today, it’s unclear as to what the best camera for professional photography is…

We’re going to give it to you straight here so that you can shut those pesky know-it-alls down when they try to argue this point with you in the future.

Here we go – who reigns supreme in Smartphone versus Mirrorless versus DSLR Cameras?

Smartphone vs Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR

Before we get into the arguments for and against each style of camera maybe we should take some time to outline what exactly a mirrorless camera vs DSLR is and how they both work.

Oh, and we’ll discuss what is the best camera for professional photography…

After all, we are a smartphone photography website – we haven’t exactly written a lot about them in the past…

Its imperative to know how everything works when one compares Smartphone vs Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR and the video does a great job of explaining without delving too deeply into the technological specifics.


Mirrorless Camera

Digital Camera World

Mirrorless cameras appeared in the photography world about a decade ago. While for awhile they remained relatively unknown – used only by the fad chasers – today they dominate the industry.


Well, the live view – which is the preview not reflected off a mirror – is used to create an electronic viewfinder image. Which, as you can probably guess, gets rid of the need for the mirror and sensor all together.

So, the whole concept of mirrorless just gets rid of a few camera parts – theoretically making the machine less expensive. At the same time, it will take a few years until we know whether the price is really all that different.

The jump in technology, however, hasn’t been all good. The methods of autofocus used in DSLR’s for decades no longer works with mirrorless cameras. New technologies have to be developed, and – as of yet – the jury is still out as to how they compete.

As far as other issues go, users also cite a lack of comparative battery life and a bulky ergonomic design with mirrorless cameras.

Even still, there are other pros to consider before moving away from potentially purchasing a mirrorless camera.

At the same time, the hefty price tag attached to these bad boys make them a no-go for many a photographer.


DSLR Camera

Digital Camera World

In layman’s terms, when you hit the button light travels through the lens (not lense), then to a mirror that alternates to send the image to either the viewfinder or the image sensor depending on the camera’s design.

The SLR – the predecessor to the DSLR – was invented during a time before digital sensors, so the design was a major breakthrough in photography. Historians and photographers alike argue over when in fact this invention was, but the most basic of SLR cameras were probably being used in a limited capacity around the turn of the 20th century.

In the case of SLR cameras, the whole process outlined above was mechanized and film was used to capture the image as opposed to it being stored on a file. The use of SLRs occurred all the way up until the mid 1990s!

At this point in time, twenty plus years into the digitalization of the SLR though, many argue that even the DSLR has become outdated.

That debate, however, is for another time and place and probably on a different website…

Like mirrorless cameras, DSLR’s typically have interchangeable lenses and allow for both auto and manual focus. The prism or mirror that made DSLR’s popular allows for an accurate shot preview that compares to that in a mirrorless.

Haven’t you ever wondered why when you look through a DSLR it’s almost always focused?

DSLR fanatics argue that their babies are of an optimal size, possess a competitive optical viewfinder, and a superior battery life

As a result, they are still the most common kind of camera in the game.

What makes these different from your phone

best camera for professional photography


So, where is your phone on the spectrum between DSLR and mirrorless?

Interestingly enough, your phone lies somewhere in the middle. It utilizes the same shutter idea used in DSLRs – that is that when you hit the ‘take photo’ button the aperture lets the light into the sensor, exposure is done, and then the photo is moved to an ISP to become a JPEG file – but with some modifications.

The phone also moves closer to the DSLR and mirrorless side when accompanied by a top-class clip-on lens!

To explain, your phone doesn’t have a shutter or mirrors like a DSLR and it isn’t creating massive raw data files like a mirrorless camera (this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoot in RAW!).

But, smartphones are starting to use raw data files and store photos as JPEGS. Both of which aid in control of the editing process and make them more like DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

However, there are certain things that phone cameras aren’t able to do yet. Here are some interesting comparisons from TechRadar on the topic, though they do cede that phones will likely eventually be able to replicate the results.

The Winner: Smartphone vs Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR

best camera for professional photography

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So, what is the best camera for professional photography?

DSLR is the winner – for now.

The industry preference just beats out the mirrorless camera in terms of performance. The latter will likely pass the former in popularity over the coming years. Smartphone cameras lag slightly behind.

At this point, you may be saying, “PWP, aren’t you concerned about your viability as a business?”

We appreciate your concern, but we aren’t worried.

To explain, as technology continues to evolve so will all camera tech. While this probably means that DSLR and mirrorless cameras will continue to be superior, it also certainly means that smartphone cameras will improve to where their competitors are today.

Essentially, your phone camera is good enough now for professional photography. And, it will only get better over time.

The Stigma

So, it’s been established that smartphones don’t have the best camera for professional photography. But it’s also been proven that these cameras are improving and improving fast. So, what does this mean?

At the same time, there will always be people that look down on smartphone cameras. Just as there are people today that look down on mirrorless cameras.

They’re photography purists, and no matter how legitimate smartphone photography becomes they’ll never take it seriously as a discipline. They’ll never consider your smartphone to have the best camera for professional photography.

It’s just the nature of the beast.

It is worth noting, however, that as camera technology improves our expectations of said technology will increase. By this, we mean, in ten or so years your phone will perform up to par with today’s DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

It is unlikely that your phone’s camera will ever compete with the DSLR or mirrorless offering of the day. On the other hand, it will certainly be good enough for you to take high-quality photos, edit them, and more easily share them with the world around you.

We here at PhotosWithPhones think this is better anyway.

That is, after all, the main goal of photography.