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What makes mirrorless cameras unique?

Dropping the SLR mirror means more than you'd think.
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Brett Putman / Engadget

While most photographers have left film far behind, many of us are still reliant on another piece of camera tech that's over 70 years old: a mirror. Mirrorless cameras ditch that mirror to let lenses project light directly onto the sensor, and that leads to a host of other differences in how they capture images when compared to their DSLR forebearers.

While mirrorless cameras have been rising in popularity since at least 2013, driven in large part by Sony's A7 and Panasonic's GH cameras, this past year feels like the start of this camera format becoming dominant. Both Nikon and Canon, the last major manufacturers to avoid the full-frame mirrorless market, released feature-packed cameras complete with radically new designs and lens mounts, and we've seen ambitious new models from Fujifilm and Panasonic that bring features not before seen in DSLRs. Traditional DSLRs aren't going anywhere for a while, but expect to see more and more mirrorless designs from all these companies.

So, mirrorless cameras are here to stay. But, aside from dropping a mirror, what actually makes this style different? It turns out losing the mirror leads to major shifts in how a camera previews, focuses and stabilizes an image. Check out our video for a full rundown of what makes mirrorless cameras unique, and the pros and cons of each style.

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