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Need advice - DSLR or Mirrorless


I have had a Canon 90D for over two years and shoot a lot of sports photography with a 70-300mm. It’s been good but I wanted more distance and more quality.

I went into Canon to look at getting my first L series lens EF 100-400mm, and then started asking questions about mirrorless options and having a play with them.

I started looking at the R7 and the RF 100-500mm instead, and despite some nervousness to transition, I’m now wondering if I should just bite the bullet and upgrade.

I’d absolutely love any advice you can provide me to inform my decision. Thank you!



The biggest factor for me when deciding between a DSLR and mirrorless was the fact that with a DSLR you're using a different auto-focus mechanism when shooting through the viewfinder vs. using the live view screen, whereas with a mirrorless you have the same AF capabilities no matter how you're taking a shot. I expected I would use both methods for my photography, depending on the situation, and wanted to be using the best AF mechanism the camera supports no matter how I'm taking a shot.

Kevin Rahe
EOS M50 Mark II


There are definitely very experienced sports photographers in this forum (I don't shoot sports myself), so look forward to their advice.

The only thing I'll add as a concern with the RF 100-500mm is that at the telephoto end, it will be at or near f/7.1 vs the f/5.6 of the EF 100-400mm and presumably your existing 70-300mm.

I don't know how much better ISO performance is on the R7 vs 90D.  I'm wondering if you'd be ending up with similar noise levels.

Though if you don't have to deal with nighttime games, this wouldn't be a concern since you could keep ISO levels low.


EOS 5D IV, EF 50mm f/1.2L, EF 135mm f/2L, 600EX-RT (x6), ST-E3-RT
EOS C70, RF 24-70 f/2.8L IS, EF-EOS R 0.71x


I shoot most sports with both eyes open and at least for me, mirrorless doesn't work well for that because even the best (which in my limited experimenting is the Nikon Z9) still have enough EVF lag to be disconcerting.  It may not bother you, especially if you are shooting with the other eye closed.

I will change architecture if/when mirrorless offers a significant upgrade over my 1DX II and III bodies for sports that exceeds the negatives.

If I were shooting studio, landscape, and other less demanding environments I would probably have made the transition. 

I like the heft of the 1DX series bodies to counterbalance the heavy fast glass that I use and I don't have to worry about changing batteries during events.  One other concern, particularly if you plan to shoot sports with multiple bodies, is when the mirrorless camera is active the sensor itself is exposed making the sensor far more susceptible to damage from the sun.  I am pretty careful about keeping my not in use camera bodies pointed away from the sun but I would be OCD about it if they were mirrorless.


EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video


To be or not to be, that’s the question.

Besides the technical aspect to me you have other points to consider. The market is moving toward mirrorless so if money is not a problem I would go with mirrorless. The R7 with the RF100-500 is an excellent option for outdoor sports and wildlife, for Indoor sports you will need a different lens because the R7 is on the noisy side. I would recommend you to buy also DXO or Topaz Denoise. 

Gear: Canon EOS R7, EF100-400 L II, EF70-200 f2.8 II, RF18-150, RF50.


I've been shooting a lot of sports for more years than I care to count... It is most of what I shoot and my workhorses are a pair of 7D Mark II with battery grips, a 24-70, a couple 70-200s, some 300mm and a 100-400mm II lenses. I have been seriously studying making the inevitable switch to mirrorless myself. I haven't done so yet... at least not for sports. (I do use an M5 with several small lenses... mostly for fun "street photography" and casual travel.)

There are pluses and minuses to switching from a 90D to an R7.

On the plus side...

  • The R7's AF system looks fantastic. In fact, it's the main reason I would consider making a switch sooner rather than later. For one, almost the entire image area is covered by thousands of AF points. Plus the camera is able to lock onto and track faces and even eyes. It also can be set to do the same with vehicles and wildlife. I've watched and read a lot of reviews, had some conversations with some action shooters using the cameras. They all call the AF systems of the R7 and other recent R-series "a game changer". Rather than spending your time keeping an AF point on the subject yourself, leave it to the camera and concentrate on composition and timing your shots. The 90D has an excellent AF system... for a DSLR. But any DSLR AF system is miles behind that of the latest mirrorless from Canon (I hear Sony AF is very good too, Nikon not quite as good but getting better with each new model, and all other manufacturers a bit behind these top three.)
  • Another factor with the mirrorless camera AF systems is that the sensors are embedded directly in the image sensor. This has a couple benefits. First is that those sensors have benefit of 100% of the light passing through the lens, where a DSLR uses a semi-transparent main mirror and a secondary mirror to direct some 30% of light to the AF sensors in the bottom of the camera's mirror box, sending the rest of the light to the optical viewfinder. As a result, the mirrorless camera's AF can work reliably in much lower light conditions. This also allows the mirrorless camera to work well with smaller aperture lenses and lens/teleconverter combos. Where your 90D and my 7DII can only focus an f/8 combo, the mirrorless can focus f/11 and even f/16. While the 90D has one of the best low light AF systems of any DSLR (good to -3EV, if memory serves), the R7 is able to keep focusing to -5EV...  two stop lower light conditions, or just 25% of the light the 90D requires. Maybe those are lower light conditions than you'd ever be shooting sports... but this should make for higher performance AF in better light conditions, as well. Paired with a fast focusing (USM) lens, the R7's AF system seems pretty amazing!
  • A second benefit of the mirrorless camera AF system with the sensors embedded directly in the image sensor is there's no need to "Micro Focus Adjust" lens to camera. "Folding the light path" to the AF sensors in a DSLR creates opportunities for misalignment that needs to be corrected by calibration. This concern is sidestepped with mirrorless since the sensors and image maker are one in the same.
  • The R7's frame rate is also great for action photography. It can shoot 15 frames/sec with its mechanical shutter or up to 30 frames/sec with the electronic shutter! That's up from the 10 fps possible with a 90D (yes, I know it can do 11 fps, but that's only with focus locked, which is not something you'd want to do shooting moving subjects). There is some risk of rolling shutter distortions with the e-shutter, so I'd probably use the mechanical most of the time.... and just be satisfied with 15 fps! 😀
  • R7 has another interesting feature... "Pre Burst". The camera can be set up to continuously "take" a series of shots before you press the shutter release. Have you ever missed a shot because you just couldn't react quickly enough? This feature might solve that, by capturing a series of images from the fractions of a second before you press the shutter release. Sounds great, but there are a couple possible concerns... For one it would fill up memory cards pretty quickly! I also suspect battery drain would be more rapid, since you'd need to keep the release half-pressed (or back button pressed) and AF active continuously. Also, I think it only works with the electronic shutter, so the risk of rolling shutter issues comes along with it. Still, it might be a very useful tool shooting some sports.
  • Another plus with a mirrorless is the electronic viewfinder (EVF). It can be set to display "exposure simulation", which helps avoid problems that can happen with DSLRs. Have you ever shot a series, then stopped to review and discovered you had accidentally changed the settings and the exposure was way off? I have! Exposure simulation can alert you before you shoot that your settings are wrong. Once accustomed to the controls, it also should be possible to keep your eye to the viewfinder while fine tuning the settings. I think the EVF can even display a live preview histogram, if wanted. There are some focus assist features, too... such as focus peaking that's useful with manual focus lenses (though probably not for sports photography). 

There's a lot more pluses to the R7, but I think the above are the main features that make the camera so attractive to a sports shooter. Personally I also prefer to use an APS-C camera (like you), because it allows use of smaller, lighter lenses... and the image quality is more than enough for anything I need to do with them (even at "only" 20MP with my 7DIIs Heck, I shot with 6MP and 8MP DSLRs back in the dark ages.... even with 1.5MP digital before that, though it wasn't sports due to a nasty shutter lag).  

So, why haven't I already switched to a couple R7? There are a couple reasons. In my opinion, these are the "minuses" compared to my 7DII or your 90D:

  • It's not a huge deal, but mirrorless battery life is significantly less than DSLRs. The R7 at best is rated to be able to take about 700 or 800 shots with a fresh battery. In comparison, your 90D is rated to do over 1800 (when the built-in flash is not used). Actually, that's better than my cameras, which are rated to around 1000 shots (when flash is not used... note: R7 doesn't have a built-in flash.) Now, all these "ratings" tend to be low. I know I get a lot more shots out of a battery charge and imagine you do too. I've also heard from a number of R7 users that they are also getting far more shots than the camera is supposed to be able to do. However, it's still less than the DSLRs... so plan to carry more spare batteries when shooting with an R7. The reason mirrorless drain batteries faster is their very useful EVF. Essentially the viewfinder display and the image sensor are active continuously while shooting. When the camera is in sleep mode, the viewfinder goes dark. Of course this is a heavier power drain than the optical viewfinder of a DSLR, which you can see through even when the camera is powered down. 
  • Which brings me to my biggest gripe about the R7... there is no battery grip available and the camera isn't designed to accommodate one. A battery grip is one means of increasing the number of shots you get between battery changes. Twice the batteries, twice the shots! I use BG-E16s on my 7DIIs. You can use a BG-E14 on your 90D. But the R7 cannot be fitted with a BG-R10, even though the camera's footprint is only slightly different than the R5, R6 and R6II that all use that grip. There's more to a grip than just an extra battery, too. In fact I probably use them more for the vertical controls than for the added battery. I also feel the camera with the grip balances better with big lenses. Still, I prefer a camera with a removable grip. Although it's rare, I occasionally remove the grip to "lighten my load", such as when hiking some distance with my gear.
  • Another concern for me is the unique control layout of the R7. While I'm sure I could become accustomed to the relocated joystick and control dial around it, this is very different from other cameras I use. All my current DLSRs have essentially the same controls, which makes switching between them while shooting rapidly reasonably foolproof. Its differences slow me down when I use my M5, though. As a result, I use it for less rapid shooting conditions and rarely alongside my DSLRs. If it were the only model I used or if the controls of other models mirrored those of the R7, I wouldn't be concerned. But that's not the case.

These factors may be of concern to you too... Or maybe not. It comes down to weighing all the pluses (and there are many with the R7) versus any minuses that might effect your particular workflow. 

Regarding the RF 100-500mm lens... It looks fantastic and would be great on an R7. There also is the RF 100-400mm... a smaller, lighter lens that would probably balance better on an R7 (another reason I use grips on my cameras... they balance better with big lenses).

Or, there's the new "dream lens" for sports... the RF 100-300mm f/2.8LI For the types of sports I shoot, I rarely need longer than 300mm (on APS-C), so am now drooling over this lens. Amazingly, it's about the same diameter and weight as my less versatile EF 300mm f/2.8L! The zoom is a bit longer, though.


Alan Myers
San Jose, Calif., USA
"Walk softly and carry a big lens."
GEAR: 5DII, 7DII (x2), 7D(x2), EOS M5, some other cameras, various lenses & accessories

Hi Amfoto1

What's the problem on carrying an extra battery in your pocket? They are not that big 😁 

Gear: Canon EOS R7, EF100-400 L II, EF70-200 f2.8 II, RF18-150, RF50.