Why You Should Care That DSLRs Are Dying

Why You Should Care That DSLRs Are Dying

I am not a big tech fan; I don’t overly get involved in tech reviews, but the death of the DSLR is something that does concern me, and here is why you should be worried to.

If you have read any of my previous articles or watched my YouTube videos, you will know that I am not a big gear head. I have used the same camera for a decade before finally upgrading my kit. Dual card slots, 100 AF points, and the highest-resolution sensors do not really concern me when it comes to professional photography. Yes, I need my camera to perform certain tasks, but most of what comes out of these companies is marketing hype and designed to make consumers' lives easier, rather than offering any real improvements to professional image quality. I get that camera companies need to offer improvements in order to sell cameras, but for a long time, there haven't been any improvements that have caught my eye as a non-techy person. However, mirrorless has completely changed this for me.

My camera lives on a studio stand nowadays, and I don’t recall the last time I used autofocus or a memory card. So, most of the technological advances just pass me by. And the actual practicalities and technological advances of mirrorless cameras don't offer anything new to me either. But for many, it will be a groundbreaking change, and I think wedding and event photographers will really be the big winners here. And this change will have an effect on the value of the equipment I own when I come to sell and upgrade.

With both Canon and Nikon jumping into the mirrorless game and hoards of photographers following with both feet, it is starting to concern me that the DSLR may well be on its way out. And if not on its way out, it's certainly going to take a massive hit in value for resale, which is a big part of any professional photographers assets.

Before I go into why we should care, I want to have a quick trip down memory lane.

Consumer Full Frame

Back in the olden (digital) days, the full 35mm sensor was reserved for the flagship cameras only. They were extremely expensive and offered a reason for medium format and 35mm film photographers alike to jump into the digital world. Once this was established, the big marketing race was for the first consumer full frame camera. I managed to pick up a Canon 5D (the original) when a camera store when bankrupt in the recession. It was a thing of beauty and the envy of many of my friends: an entire 11 megapixels of full frame goodness. Any film photographer who shunned me for moving over to digital could no longer state that the sensor was too small or that the image quality wasn’t high enough. Digital cameras had finally made it to the masses in an affordable(ish) package. The two main players, Canon and Nikon, had both achieved this, and it seemed like the stage was set for digital DSLR cameras to reign over professional photography forever. 

The Megapixel Race

For years after this, camera companies competed over megapixels. I am pretty sure a phone came out some years ago which had 46 or so megapixels, while I continued to work with 20 megapixels with no complaints from my clients. But megapixels sold cameras. Photographers had anxiety over the resolution that they needed, often before downsizing it to 1,000 pixels at 72 dpi to post to a Facebook group. Eventually, everyone decided that computers were struggling and that 50 megapixels was more than enough in most studios and that anything over 20-30 was far too much in the event and wedding world. 

Autofocus and Dual Card Slots

So, we moved on from megapixels and on to autofocus, something that I could understand. Granted, I didn’t need it, but I can certainly see the merits in the majority of fields for having more and better autofocus points. Around this time, the camera companies started to add dual card slots to the models below their flagship cameras. If I were shooting weddings today, this is something that I would not be able to live without. Eventually, we had our card slots and more autofocus points than I personally would ever know what to do with. So, the camera brands moved on.


Sony and Fuji had been producing mirrorless cameras for years, even Hassleblad had a crack, but while Nikon and Canon remained DSLR companies, I assumed it was a flash in the pan and another marketing gimmick. But I was wrong. Both Canon and Nikon have produced amazing mirrorless cameras with specific lens lineups, and they have both been very well received. The benefits of a mirrorless camera seem huge in many genres, and it allows both brands to add tech that wasn’t possible in a DSLR.

So Why Should You Care About This?

There are two camps of photographers out there (broad, sweeping statement, I know): tech savvy folk and people like me. 

For the tech savvy, this is great. They can offload their DSLR cameras quickly before losing too much value and make a nice move across to mirrorless, which I am convinced is the future. If you are in this camp, get rid of your DSLR gear now before the value plummets faster than usual in the used market. Rather than waiting for a 5D Mark V to come out to devalue your current Canon camera, you now have two lines of bodies that will have an impact on your used prices. They may well bring out two other mirrorless bodies before a DSLR replacement comes out, and these will have an impact on the value that your current body holds.

What about people like me? I am useless with new tech. And it isn’t me trying to avoid it; my brain just doesn’t work like that. I upgraded my camera a year ago, and I am still getting to grips with it after a decade of shooting with the same bodies. I know that I am on a sinking ship, but I do not have that much time around my working schedule to learn new tech at the snail's pace that I absorb this information. Moving from Lightroom to Capture One was stressful enough. I have a very specific way of working, and I know that I will hold on to my gear for way longer than I should, allowing for masses of depreciation to occur before finally jumping ship and having a year of stress trying to figure out how a new camera system works. 

A lot of you will be pulling your hair out at me and thinking: "why not just jump now?" And you would be right: that would be the sensible thing to do, but logic doesn’t always win out. 

To conclude, I am a dinosaur who knows that he is going to be left behind pretty soon and standing there, holding on to some heavily devalued gear that no one will want. It will be the FD to EF lens scenario all over again. 

Scott Choucino's picture

Food Photographer from the UK. Not at all tech savvy and knows very little about gear news and rumours.

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Previous comments

The DSLR product cycle hasn't moved forward in the last ten years? Just on the Nikon side, they went from the crop-sensor D300s to the FF D3 and D700 in 2008. And today, what is the D850 two years ago but a giant leap forward preceeded by the ground breaking D800?You phone and mirrorless fan boys forget what came before.
Don't equate the current dslr/mirrorless/phone market-place game of musical chairs with the film/digital tectonic shift. Totally different types of events and not comparable.
Like trying to draw parallels between the K-T Boundary event 65 million years ago and the start of the last ice age.
Phones may have a lot of features due to software but they still are not a complete system and can't do what I ask of my DSLR's. Refer to my original questions.
You are right about one thing and that the low-end and middle segments are always in flux. But the one thing that remains constant is the need and the want for the high-end. My D850 will outlast your next 3 or 4 phones plus the next 3 iterations of mirrorless bodies. Sony considers their product obsolete before even a year passes and Apple won't assure you that they can repair your phone or that your data is recoverable. Not exactly devices I would feel comfortable staking my career or data on. And the jury is still out on Nikon and Canon's offerings long-term life cycles.

I don’t get it! You don’t want to change system, but you are afraid your gear will loose value?

If you don’t sell the gear you don’t loose anything.

And if DSLR-gear looses value you can buy used gear for a fraction of the price.

What’s not to like?

I think people forget that there is another, parallel move that will keep the DSLR alive for quite some time; the advent of affordable medium format. Fuji GFX is in the vanguard here. I would rather move in that direction than mirrorless, which has a size advantage I don’t want. My big hands just don’t work well with little buttons and controls. I’m still using a pair of Nikon D700s (12 megapixel FX) and I would only consider upgrading when they both die and then only to medium format. Portrait, boudoir, glamour and fashion genre don’t really require a move in the mirrorless direction, whether in the studio or out in the field. 🤷🏼‍♂️

I agree with this whole-heartedly. I have a GX680 and just love it. I can put a digital back on anytime I wish, but I still prefer the film look, feel and flow. I also have an XT1 and it's nice, but...like you...it doesn't feel full in my hands. I feel that mirrorless, DSLRs and next medium format will all have their place in the photography world, giving people more choices and options. It shouldn't be a 'war' or debate as to which one will win out, but an acknowledgement that they all have their place for those who love photography. Definitely want to look into one of the GFX's. Thank you sir.

Scott, I think you are looking at the glass as 1/2 empty. Consider this, since you like DSLRs, you can take advantage of falling prices and pick up some high quality DSLR gear for a bargain price.

Question... When a new camera comes out does my current one stop working?


I don't care at all. So should nobody. Tech comes and goes. Get used to it and adapt to what is on the market.
If you get shaken by the loss of tech and you are still young, get some therapy because the fact of life is that everything changes constantly. I have no patience nor sympathy for people whining about how sad it is that old tech disappears.

Adapt and overcome.

I work at a secondary school and there are some old teachers who are still moaning about the loss of the chalk board.
Really?? What is wrong with you?

15 years ago, it was the same kind of people who were moaning about film cameras disappearing that are now complaining about mirrorless. It is seldom about the tech but nearly always about the psyche of people.

Just wait for the electric vehicles to catch on...

I wouldn't mind. They are too expensive for me but I would switch without hesitation.

You may or may not be right. All I know is that I have tens of thousand of dollars invested in glass and DSLR's that work, new ones, and not so new ones. I'll be 70 this coming year and I don't see myself affording the abandon of all this great gear that shoots quite well. Oh I've dabbled a bit in the mirrorless world with some lower end models Sony A6000, Canon M5, Canon RP but likely that's as far as I go or will be able to afford to go. I know I'm not the target buyer for the big sellers and I'll still go to sleep tonight unhindered by any camera envy.

Happy shooting whatever you use.

Buy a new car, push it out of the showroom and see a couple of thousands of dollars evaporate.

I would like to correct you when you say 'invested in glass", what you actually mean is tens of thousands of dollars spent on glass and technology you do not get a return on your spending therefore it's not a class of investment. and I'm not knocking you I myself have houses worth of money spent on photography equipment, but how do you think I made that money.

Obviously camera gear is not an investment nor are automobiles unless you buy vintage ones. However comments like this remind me of Jesus' words to the Pharisees... strain at a gnat and gulp down a camel. I don't now, nor do I ever, intend to make money from my photography as then it becomes work. My photography is play, nothing more. My investment in this gear is my pleasure and that's the return I expect. Get over yourself.

24mp Camera for 700-1000$ camera with APC-c sensor.

45mp cell phone for 600$ has nothing to do with it.

A decent DSLR full frame under 500$ will be a good start. It's doable but not with 300% profit margin....

I am excited about the Canon RF mount as I will be able to use my R, FL and FD lenses without an extra optic in the adapter.
This opens up thousands of old lenses to be used again.
Love it.

you guys have to consider is that these companies are consolidating and they're buying back their own stock this isn't price dropping this is a fire sale. As soon as these companies restructure themselves you can expect cameras to be a lot more expensive. These large amounts mean more glass which means more machining and better optical purity which of course means more money to produce so the lenses are going to skyrocket also you're going to be looking at having $5,000 entry-level full-frame camera, I'm certain of it by 2022. I have a little insider knowledge. there may be a market effect on the legacy cameras that are out now where their value will skyrocket because of this.

How is this bad news for me, a happy 6D and 40D shooter? The cheaper the used market gets for EF lenses, the better for me. I'll be able to replace my 40D with an 80D for $300 in a year's time if this trend continues. In all seriousness, after two reads I couldn't find the part where I care about DSLRs losing market share. I would think the author, being an infrequent and resistant upgrader, would have my response to this "threat."

Personally, whilst i understand mirrorless is becoming more popular, I'm a firm believer in dslr. I think it still has very much to offer. Yes dslr maybe bulky in comparison, but when you add a decent lens to a mirrorless, it's pretty much a similar size to a dslr anyway! I believe it will be some years before mirrorless offers everything better than dslr, if ever.

So... why should we care?