Is Mirrorless a Giant Con?

unfocused

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We are about two weeks out from the R3 announcement and it seems like a good time to reflect on the current state of digital cameras.

I've been quite candid that I fully intend to switch over completely to mirrorless with the R3, taking a hit on my 1Dx III for the sake of having a single lens system and reducing the amount of equipment I have to lug around. But the following quote from @GMCPhotographics, raises questions that I have been wrestling with and which I think warrants further discussion.

...There are are rumours that Canon only introduced the RF mount to extract premium prices in a declining market to replace lost revenues from the declining market...
I also recall another forum participant (apologies for not remembering who it was) saying they felt like we were all beta testers for the R5. A sentiment I can identify with given the frequency of lockups that I've experienced.

To put it bluntly, I wonder if Canon's alluring little mirrorless lap dance will leave us all with much lighter wallets but unsatisfied.

I like the R5. I find many of its features brilliant, but I ask myself, if I had the choice between the R5 and a 5DV with a 45mp sensor, animal eye autofocus, and the feature improvements of the 1DX III, would I have chosen that over the R5. The answer is, I would have gone for the DSLR. There simply aren't enough features/benefits that are intrinsic to mirrorless to make it more desirable in my view than DSLRs.

I recognize the risks of comparing real cameras to hypothetical cameras, but if you look at what the 1DX III offers, it's pretty easy to see what could have been added to a 5DV. Similarly, for me, the major benefits of the RF lens line seems to be in adding a few new lenses and focal lengths and reducing weight. But, when comparting EF and RF apples to apples it's pretty evident that many of those perceived benefits would have been incorporated into the next generation of EF lenses.

Now, credit to Canon, they've played the game very well and no one is forcing me to keep stuffing dollar bills into their hands, but I do have regrets for what could have been.
 

Sporgon

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There are a number of issues with GMCPhotographics’s quote, one of which is that with the RF mount Canon introduced the RP, the cheapest, smallest and lightest FF camera of any manufacturer to date. Also all EF lenses work at 100% efficiency EF-wise on the RF mount, so you can be mirrorless without the RF lenses. But in a mature DSLR market of course Canon introduced something to keep selling cameras and lenses. I think this was on the cards from when they announced dual pixel, and how long ago was that ? Must be seven years ago now.
But are mirrorless bodies better than slr ones ? There is no doubt that in many areas they are and the advantages weigh differently with different people. But also given the current state of play it takes one hell of a lot of technology to try and keep up with the simple reflecting of light. If a dslr had the same slim form factor as mirrorless and could focus through the viewfinder to the edges of the frame with the accuracy of mirrorless then I would definitely stick with a dslr. The trouble is though that doesn’t seem to be possible, so at the moment I still have a foot in each camp.
 

Joules

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if I had the choice between the R5 and a 5DV with a 45mp sensor, animal eye autofocus, and the feature improvements of the 1DX III, would I have chosen that over the R5. The answer is, I would have gone for the DSLR.
There is no reason to believe a 5D V could have any form of eye AF when used with the OVF though. The 1DX III essentially has two image sensors - the regular one and one completely dedicated to AF. And even that camera couldn't even get eye AF, despite this high end, expensive setup. I can't see how there would be a chance for the 5D V to inherit that focus system, let alone improve it.

In terms of AF, Canon very much have an inherent advantage for their mirrorless bodies, as their unique Dual Pixel technology can be active all the time, unlike in a DSLR where a redundant focus system is necessary and thus, cost is likely increased.

when comparting EF and RF apples to apples it's pretty evident that many of those perceived benefits would have been incorporated into the next generation of EF lenses.
Same thing here. We have lenses like the RF 800 mm f/11 that would 100 % not been available for EF, ever. The aperture is too narrow to be viable for any but the most expensive OVF setups - and those don't need these budget options.

Similarly, I doubt the 24-240 mm would have materialized without Canon being able to leverage the freedom of digital corrections not available in an OVF.

And I also highly doubt the future for EF would have been cheaper than what we see now. The market is shrinking. The mirrorless flange distance definitively makes it simpler for Canon to design lenses. We don't know how much money it saves them, but seeing that the prices are going up despite the technological costs seemingly decreasing might be a good indicator for how severely the decline in sales affects fixed costs and profitability.
 

Czardoom

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I had already switched to mirrorless before Canon started the R syestem, having owned Olympus cameras and the Canon M5. Considering Sony had already entered the FF mirrorless market and was doing well, Canon had to enter the FF mirrorless market as well. No offense intended, but the quote regarding the idea that Canon only introduced the RF mount to extract premium prices is absurd. If all your competitors go into FF mirrorless, you have to go there too - especially as it is a larger profit margin category than your APS-C mirrorless offerings. I would say what is the most surprising aspect of the Camera business over the past couple years, it is not that mirrorless is on the rise, but the apparent quick demise of DSLRs - something I thought would take 10 years or so.

As for the prices - yes, some items are quite expensive, but as Joules pointed out, we also have the cheapest FF camera so far. Many RF lenses that are similar to their EF counterparts (like the 24-105mm f/4) are also similarly priced. ANd lets' not forget that we can't really compare the price of a new RF lens with, let's say, the mark II or mark III version of an EF lens. The RF lenses (with the exception of the long telephotos) are total redesigns with a 2 or 3 year R&D cost. Most mark II or mark III lenses were not new designs, just minor tweaks, with little R&D cost needed. Plus, we have lenses such as the 24-240mm and the new wide angle lens that would not have been possible (at the size, weight and price) without auto-in-camera corrections (impossible to do with EF).

Once I used a mirrorless with it's EVF that showed me WYSIWYG exposure information, I never looked back - that alone made me switch to mirrorless. As for the idea that Canon R5 users are beta testers, well, there may be some truth to that. And for that, we can thank Sony, who put the emphasis on specs rather than reliability and rush out their cameras in their beta versions. Just look at the way the forums and the internet respond to each camera release - "So and so is now way behind," "So and so better release their XXX model soon or everyone will switch to Sony" "I can't wait for the XX for another day," Etc. Etc. The days where camera companies took that extra time to really get every little thing right are over.
 
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unfocused

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There are a number of issues with GMCPhotographics’s quote, one of which is that with the RF mount Canon introduced the RP, the cheapest, smallest and lightest FF camera of any manufacturer to date. Also all EF lenses work at 100% efficiency EF-wise on the RF mount, so you can be mirrorless without the RF lenses. But in a mature DSLR market of course Canon introduced something to keep selling cameras and lenses. I think this was on the cards from when they announced dual pixel, and how long ago was that ? Must be seven years ago now.
But are mirrorless bodies better than slr ones ? There is no doubt that in many areas they are and the advantages weigh differently with different people. But also given the current state of play it takes one hell of a lot of technology to try and keep up with the simple reflecting of light. If a dslr had the same slim form factor as mirrorless and could focus through the viewfinder to the edges of the frame with the accuracy of mirrorless then I would definitely stick with a dslr. The trouble is though that doesn’t seem to be possible, so at the moment I still have a foot in each camp.
As usual, you make some very good points. I don't think there is any simple answer here. But, I do think it is worth asking if the supposed advantages of mirrorless will really leave us better off when all is said and done. I'm all in on mirrorless, but there remains some nostalgia for what might have been if Canon had instead devoted their efforts to squeezing the very best out of DSLRs.

I realize that in a competitive market, where we have all been conditioned to go for the newest technology, that Canon really had no choice but to jump on the mirrorless bandwagon. But, I have this nagging feeling that we may be sacrificing some things that we may wish we hadn't given up once mirrorless technology matures and we realize that it will never be quite as good as DSLRs in some ways.
 

Sporgon

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But, I have this nagging feeling that we may be sacrificing some things that we may wish we hadn't given up once mirrorless technology matures and we realize that it will never be quite as good as DSLRs in some ways.
Well the CEO of Ricoh seems to have the same feeling ! If SLRs were able to match the AF of mirrorless in the future I think there could be a swing back to them. All the rest is mostly fluff anyway.
 
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Joules

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But, I have this nagging feeling that we may be sacrificing some things that we may wish we hadn't given up once mirrorless technology matures and we realize that it will never be quite as good as DSLRs in some ways.
But which ways would that be?

The only legitimate downsides I am aware of are battery life and having a viewfinder that some don't find as suitable for judging the scene as an OVF. Lag can be mentioned for the moment, but as we are already rumored to eliminate that with the upcoming R3, it should be of no concern in the midterm future.
 
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unfocused

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But which ways would that be?

The only legitimate downsides I am aware of are battery life and having a viewfinder that some don't find as suitable for judging the scene as an OVF. Lag can be mentioned for the moment, but as we are already rumored to eliminate that with the upcoming R3, it should be of no concern in the midterm future.
There are subtle differences. The way the R5 can hunt wildly while trying to focus, which I understand from reading this forum, is the result of the way mirrorless bodies select the initial focus point as opposed to the way DSLRs select the initial focus point. Lag is a problem and hopefully it will be addressed in the R3, but it likely will never be as good as a DSLR because electronics simply cannot render an image at the speed of light.

From a sports shooting perspective, I feel like the 1DxIII does a better job of finding the subject initially during fast action. Again, I hope it improves with the R3, but that remains to be seen. I'm not hugely critical of the viewfinder, but I will say that under certain lighting conditions like stage lighting, I have found the mirrorless viewfinders can be wildly inaccurate for judging exposure. Fortunately, the actual image is usually much better than how it appears in the viewfinder.

But, this isn't about listing complaints about mirrorless bodies. It's really more about bemoaning the loss of consumer choice. (If indeed it has been lost)

In an ideal world, Canon would continue to develop and market DSLRs and EF lenses alongside R bodies and RF lenses and consumers could choose for themselves. Was it a financial decision on Canon's part. Unlikely that we will ever know. But, DSLR technology is mature and requires only incremental improvements, including many that can be carried over or tweaked from mirrorless.

I still believe it is entirely possible that in two or three years Canon will re-enter the pro/enthusiast DSLR market once they have built out the R system. And, as I've argued before, I think that depends on whether or not they can successfully migrate some magic number of DSLR users to the R system. If they hit their targets, they probably will abandon DSLRs, but if they find they can't, I wouldn't be surprised to see a 5DV or a 1DxIV or some combination of the two.
Having said that, I fully appreciate the irony that I will have long since converted to the mirrorless side and be unlikely to go back, despite any drawbacks.
 
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HotPixels

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I had already switched to mirrorless before Canon started the R syestem, having owned Olympus cameras and the Canon M5. Considering Sony had already entered the FF mirrorless market and was doing well, Canon had to enter the FF mirrorless market as well. No offense intended, but the quote regarding the idea that Canon only introduced the RF mount to extract premium prices is absurd. If all your competitors go into FF mirrorless, you have to go there too - especially as it is a larger profit margin category than your APS-C mirrorless offerings. I would say what is the most surprising aspect of the Camera business over the past couple years, it is not that mirrorless is on the rise, but the apparent quick demise of DSLRs - something I thought would take 10 years or so.

As for the prices - yes, some items are quite expensive, but as Joules pointed out, we also have the cheapest FF camera so far. Many RF lenses that are similar to their EF counterparts (like the 24-105mm f/4) are also similarly priced. ANd lets' not forget that we can't really compare the price of a new RF lens with, let's say, the mark II or mark III version of an EF lens. The RF lenses (with the exception of the long telephotos) are total redesigns with a 2 or 3 year R&D cost. Most mark II or mark III lenses were not new designs, just minor tweaks, with little R&D cost needed. Plus, we have lenses such as the 24-240mm and the new wide angle lens that would not have been possible (at the size, weight and price) without auto-in-camera corrections (impossible to do with EF).

Once I used a mirrorless with it's EVF that showed me WYSIWYG exposure information, I never looked back - that alone made me switch to mirrorless. As for the idea that Canon R5 users are beta testers, well, there may be some truth to that. And for that, we can thank Sony, who put the emphasis on specs rather than reliability and rush out their cameras in their beta versions. Just look at the way the forums and the internet respond to each camera release - "So and so is now way behind," "So and so better release their XXX model soon or everyone will switch to Sony" "I can't wait for the XX for another day," Etc. Etc. The days where camera companies took that extra time to really get every little thing right are over.
Many great points here. First, Canon had to enter FF mirrorless or basically be left behind. The market was headed in that direction. Sony marketing is a beast and had done a great job convincing everyone that mirrorless was automatically superior and the future. This was amplified by all of the reviewers/YouTubers/bloggers out there. Anyone who thinks Canon could have stuck with DSLRs only and survived is kidding themselves.

Also there's truth to the idea that Sony marketing again instituted a shift in the market much more towards headline spec and focusing mostly on that spec sheet. Again, this is amplified by reviewers/YTers/bloggers who love all of the shiny new stuff, since that is what their jobs and views are based on. And the reviewers/YTers can't really rate on factor like reliability, since they don't test long term. They won't rate on handling and ergonomics, for fear of being accused of subjectivity, as if that's a bad thing. Reviewers of all sorts of products give their subjective opinions, but for some reason camera reviewers need to stick only to the "facts" which is the spec sheet.

Mirrorless cameras are more like computers and so yes, they will suffer from more bugs. And as noted the market is such that it's really better to release a new product when it's 90% polished than waiting until it's pretty much perfect.

Also as tech advances you tend to get diminishing returns. So it's like the MP wars, or now the burst mode fps wars, where the top line number seems to count the most, but in reality one has to consider what return you actually get.

That all being said, it does seem as if mirrorless still has to mature a bit more to get to the stage of refinement that DSLRs are at. And yes, to me there will always be something special about an OVF and that nice sound of a DSLR. I will probably always own at least one DSLR just to remind myself of the "good ol' days."
 

Mt Spokane Photography

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I wanted mirrorless for just one major feature, accurate autofocus at all distances without AFMA which only works at two specific distances and even then its flawed. I could and did use my 5D IV in liveview to take advantage of accurate autofocus. I have not replaced my EF lenses with RF but have added a couple of consumer grade RF lenses to use for appropriate situations where I did not want to lug my heavy lenses around. I'd have been very happy to have a mirrorless that used EF lenses natively but I manage. I have 4 adapters so most of my EF-L lenses can mount quickly.
 

AlanF

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There are subtle differences. The way the R5 can hunt wildly while trying to focus, which I understand from reading this forum, is the result of the way mirrorless bodies select the initial focus point as opposed to the way DSLRs select the initial focus point. Lag is a problem and hopefully it will be addressed in the R3, but it likely will never be as good as a DSLR because electronics simply cannot render an image at the speed of light.
You are just repeating hearsay. I use the R5 for fast moving subjects, and can state from direct experience that there is no perceptible lag. Also, in the vast majority of cases, the initial acquisition of focus is very fast and there is no hunting. I find the blackout of a DSLR at 10 fps quite disconcerting for tracking. Memes get circulated and magnified originating from those who don’t know how to use gear or whinge about minor occurrences. The real positive advantage of mirrorless like the R5 is the AF. If it wasn’t, I would be taking out one of my DSLRs daily and not the R5.
 
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docsmith

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1) Canon will do what is best for Canon. 2) Leadership is knowing where you need to go in the long term and figuring out how to get there.

I suspect a 2 sensor DSLR, one for the image and one for AF, could do exactly what mirrorless does now....had Canon made the investment in that technology. But why mirrorless over an evolved DSLR? Simple, cost. I realized that mirrorless was the future after reading an article by Thom Hogan talking about how the manufacturing costs of mirrorless cameras were significantly lower than DSLRs. Think about a two sensor camera? More expensive to make. Think about the mirror, added cost. Canon knew that its competitors were about to make equivalent cameras for a lower manufacturing cost. In the long term, that is a losing proposition.

So this isn't personal, its business. It is not about the sale already made, it is about the sale they need to make in the future. It is not about mirrorless being a better technology (it has pros/cons), it is about mirrorless being a less expensive technology in the long term. Are those cost savings being passed on to the consumers, not yet, and you see that in Canon's profit margin.

I do not blame Canon, they did not leave me high and dry with all my EF glass. It works wonderfully with my R5. So good, I am waiting to transition to the RF mount. But, I will eventually transition, so Canon was smart. Specifically about RF/EF, it does seem like some wider angle lenses benefit from the shorter flange distance. IBIS seems to benefit from the additional communication pins. But I haven't had an issue wanting better IQ or performance from my EF glass so I'll wait until compelled.
 
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Del Paso

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I'd say it mostly depends on what you photograph.
If I did mostly sports or BIF, I'd certainly see more advantages in mirrorless, like eye/animal AF, burst-rate etc...
Also the loupe-function can be very useful for macro and using vintage lenses.
So, the reason why I still prefer DSLRs has more to do with subjectivity or ergonomics. I hate small bodies, so for me, no camera, no matter the brand, can match the 5 DIV's ergonomics. I still dislike the EVFs in high-contrast situations, and the dust on the sensors (in 4 years, never had to clean the 5 DIV's once). The worst dust magnet being the Leica M 240:eek:.
Yet, MILCs are improving rapidly, it looks like the R3 will have -for me- great ergonomics...
But: even though I'll get an R3, the improbable day Canon introduce an:love: EOS 5 DV:love:, I'll buy it at once.
So many choices, so little money...
 

kaihp

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There are subtle differences. The way the R5 can hunt wildly while trying to focus, which I understand from reading this forum, is the result of the way mirrorless bodies select the initial focus point as opposed to the way DSLRs select the initial focus point.
Are you talking about phase-detect vs contrast-detect AF?

I see that @AlanF has refuted your statement that the R5 can hunt. I haven't used it, so I cannot say either way.

In an ideal world, Canon would continue to develop and market DSLRs and EF lenses alongside R bodies and RF lenses and consumers could choose for themselves.

Ideal world for whom? Canon, like any other company worth it's salt, has more ideas and more proposals for products than resources, so developing either EF or RF is a given. Even with "infinite" resources, there would be an economical choice for Canon as to which lenses to develop (where do they invest their resources the best?).
Del Paso:
So, the reason why I still prefer DSLRs has more to do with subjectivity or ergonomics. I hate small bodies, so for me, no camera, no matter the brand, can match the 5 DIV's ergonomics.
There's no reason that an RF camera cannot have just as good ergonomics than the 5D4 (or the 1Dx3 for those that like the integrated vertical grip, like me).
 

koenkooi

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I suspect a 2 sensor DSLR, one for the image and one for AF, could do exactly what mirrorless does now....had Canon made the investment in that technology.
[..]
That's exactly what the 1Dx3 has, it uses an image sensor for AF. And it can do head and helmet tracking with that, according to Canon.
 
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AlanF

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I'd say it mostly depends on what you photograph.
If I did mostly sports or BIF, I'd certainly see more advantages in mirrorless, like eye/animal AF, burst-rate etc...
Also the loupe-function can be very useful for macro and using vintage lenses.
So, the reason why I still prefer DSLRs has more to do with subjectivity or ergonomics. I hate small bodies, so for me, no camera, no matter the brand, can match the 5 DIV's ergonomics. I still dislike the EVFs in high-contrast situations, and the dust on the sensors (in 4 years, never had to clean the 5 DIV's once). The worst dust magnet being the Leica M 240:eek:.
Yet, MILCs are improving rapidly, it looks like the R3 will have -for me- great ergonomics...
But: even though I'll get an R3, the improbable day Canon introduce an:love: EOS 5 DV:love:, I'll buy it at once.
So many choices, so little money...
Everyone has the right of preference of DSLR vs MILC, and it's their choice and they don't have to justify their choice, just use what you prefer. When I will dispute is when devotees attempt to justify their subjective choice using unsubstantiated statements. By the way, I take extenders on and off lenses and camera several times during most shoots in the field and have never had to clean a sensor. apart from very occasionally blowing off dust from a mirror. Canon did a good job introducing a protective shutter on the R-series - which Sony has now copied for the A1 - my R5 sensor is still perfectly clean after over 11 months of daily use and changing lenses and extenders.
 
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Maximilian

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There is no reason to believe a 5D V could have any form of eye AF when used with the OVF though.
...
In terms of AF, Canon very much have an inherent advantage for their mirrorless bodies, as their unique Dual Pixel technology can be active all the time, unlike in a DSLR where a redundant focus system is necessary and thus, cost is likely increased.
I think this is the main essence of it all. Thanks Joules.

A friend of mine did a wedding lately with the mix of R5 and 5D3. He stated:
"Apart from the OVF - and I [he] feel no disadvantage of the EVF - this shooting was like a car race with a formula 1against an oldtimer!"
(disclaimer: he is also doing a lot of sports)
That and seeing what a lot of you can do with the AF is the main point, why my next camera will be from the EOS R system.

Now, credit to Canon, they've played the game very well and no one is forcing me to keep stuffing dollar bills into their hands, but I do have regrets for what could have been.
I was looking for a 5D5, but seeing the R5 and its features I understand why Canon decided to only go that way.
But as Canon is milking the market a lot, I don't know when and which camera I will get.
 
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koenkooi

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[..]By the way, I take extenders on and off lenses and camera several times during most shoots in the field and have never had to clean a sensor. apart from very occasionally blowing off dust from a mirror. Canon did a good job introducing a protective shutter on the R-series - which Sony has now copied for the A1 - my R5 sensor is still perfectly clean after over 11 months of daily use and changing lenses and extenders.
Same here, on the RP (which lacks the protection, most likely due to not having a first curtain) I had to get the filter adapter to keep the sensor clean. With the R5 (which was delivered exactly one year ago today) I've taken care to always turn off the camera while changing lenses and I still haven't spotted any speckles at f/11 or narrower.

I'm not looking forward to do a wet clean myself, I have no idea how the IBIS cradle will react to the pressure of the applicator. I have enough points to have CPS do it once a year for free, but I have no idea how many weeks they will need to do that.
 

docsmith

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That's exactly what the 1Dx3 has, it uses an image sensor for AF. And it can do head and helmet tracking with that, according to Canon.
Yep. Just imagine had Canon dumped their R&D dollars into developing that tech. I really suspect it could have rivaled what we are seeing with mirrorless. Maybe even surpassed it as each sensor could be optimized to a specific purpose.

In R&D, you can develop all sorts of things, but smart companies develop products that give consumers most of what they want at the lowest manufacturing cost. Hence...we have mirrorless.....one sensor, multiple purposes.
 

Joules

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There are subtle differences. The way the R5 can hunt wildly while trying to focus, which I understand from reading this forum, is the result of the way mirrorless bodies select the initial focus point as opposed to the way DSLRs select the initial focus point.
What do you mean with selecting the initial focus point? Do you mean if you have some zone AF, that the R5 can struggle? I don't know how that would be a mirrorless characteristic. Of course a mirrorless, and in particular a Canon one, has many more focus points available than even the best DSLRs. And so choosing an initial one is a harder task.

But other manufacturers straight up use regular AF points on the sensor, so that there is no technological difference to OVF focus. Canon uses DPAF, which may fail if a scene doesn't have sufficient horizontal contrast (all pixel pairs are arranged the same way). So it may well be a R5 characteristic, but it should not be intrinsic to mirrorless. And also be a thing of the past once Canon introduces quad pixels, if lack of directional contrast is to blame.

If the issue even is a property of the R5 in the first place.
Are you talking about phase-detect vs contrast-detect AF?
You probably know it, but just to clarify this comment: Canon's Dual Pixel Autofokus system is also phase-detect. As are the sensors other manufacturers use on the image plane. Contrast detection may be used to fine tune some aspects and certainly the image pixels are used to subject detection and tracking. But modern mirrorless primarily use phase-detect AF, just as DSLR.