What Are Interchangeable Lens Cameras?

Simply put, an interchangeable lens camera is one that allows you to remove the lens and replace it with another. For example, you can swap out a wide-angle lens for a tele zoom lens to shoot something far away. There are two types of interchangeable lens cameras: the digital single-lens reflex camera and the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.

A DSLR is an interchangeable lens camera with both a digital imaging sensor, used to create an image on the LCD display, and a movable mirror that reflects light to the optical viewfinder so that you can see what you're going to shoot without using the digital display. This dual capability makes the DSLR a versatile camera, often favored by professional photographers, but the mechanical moving parts inside the camera also make it bulky, heavy, and noisy.

To combat these issues, manufacturers introduced the mirrorless type of interchangeable lens camera (MILC) as an alternative to the DSLR. The capabilities of a MILC are similar to that of a DSLR, but it is quieter, lighter, and more compact than a DSLR because the moving mechanical mirror has been eliminated entirely in favor of a digital imaging sensor. Instead of an optical viewfinder, some MILC cameras feature an electronic viewfinder that allows you to preview the image the way an optical viewfinder would, except that the image comes from the sensor's exposure to light rather than a mirror's reflection. The MILC also includes an LCD digital display.

Each type of interchangeable lens cameras have their own strengths and weaknesses, but MILCs have an advantage over DSLRs when it comes to shooting video because you can use the electronic viewfinder while in video mode, whereas switching to video mode on a DSLR renders the optical viewfinder useless.

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