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What’s an interchangeable lens camera (ILC)?

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by David Em
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An interchangeable lens camera (ILC) is a camera that accepts different lenses. However, it’s commonly used to describe mirrorless cameras.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Photographer in a studio changing their camera lens.

Interchangeable lens camera definition

By definition, an interchangeable lens camera is a type of camera that allows you to change the lens. DSLR and mirrorless cameras allow for interchangeable lenses. Compact point-and-shoot and instant cameras are built with lenses that can’t be changed.

Related: The best DSLR camera for beginners

Although you can change the lens on a DSLR camera, it’s generally not considered an ILC because it uses a mirror or prism. An ILC doesn’t use a mirror or prism. It’s also known as a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC).

Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras are relatively new, and they’re the future of cameras. Like a DSLR, they have a lens mount. As long as the lens is compatible with the mount, you can use it on the camera body.

Related: What’s a telephoto lens, and is it worth it?

Pros

Since an ILC doesn’t have a mirror or prism inside, they’re smaller than a DSLR camera. As a result, they’re also lighter. Being smaller and lighter, an ILC is easier to use, and your arms won’t get tired.

Another benefit is if you’re traveling or carrying several lenses for a photoshoot. Due to its size and weight, you can travel with more lenses and photography gear while saving space.

Related: The camera accessories every photographer needs to have

When compared to a compact camera, an ILC is slightly bigger or similar in size. However, they have much larger sensor sizes. An ILC also has access to better lenses. Therefore, image quality is better with an ILC than a compact camera.

Cons

Interchangeable lens cameras have their drawbacks. One of the main drawbacks is that they use an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical viewfinder.

Electronic viewfinders consumer power, which will cause your battery life to decrease faster than cameras with optical viewfinders.

Also, the autofocus for ILCs isn’t currently as great as DSLRs. They’re slightly slower and aren’t able to track as well. With time and improvements in technology, they’ll get better.

There aren’t too many disadvantages of using an ILC. Overall, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Related: Holy Trinity of Lenses: 3 Lenses Every Photographer Needs

Best ILC

There are a lot of ILCs on the market, and they vary in price. The following are several of the best and top-rated ILCs:

Conclusion

Overall, an ILC is a great camera system. When it’s paired with a high-quality lens, your images will turn out excellent. ILCs are the way of the future when it comes to cameras. By not holding a mirror or prism, they’re lighter, smaller, and pack a lot of quality in the small body.

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Featured image courtesy of Canva.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

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