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.