3 Reasons Why I'd Still Buy a DSLR in 2020

3 Reasons Why I'd Still Buy a DSLR in 2020

While DSLRs seem to be losing ground to mirrorless cameras as the years go on, they are still the go-to tools of many photographers because they are often the best for the job. The recent spate of announcements from Nikon and Canon make it clear: It’s probably the best time ever to buy a DSLR.

Here are three reasons why it’s not a bad idea to invest in a DSLR in 2020:

DSLRs Are at the Top of Their Game

The Canon EOS 90D, EOS-1D X Mark III, the Nikon D6, and the Nikon D780 are probably the last prosumer and professional DSLRs that will ever be released by the big two players, Nikon and Canon. These cameras signify every advancement, every technology that could conceivably be thrown into a DSLR, and indeed they feel like it.

Given the rise of mirrorless cameras, a successor to the Canon EOS 90D is unlikely.

Given the rise of mirrorless cameras, a successor to the Canon EOS 90D is unlikely.

I’ve had a few weeks of seat time behind the Canon EOS 90D, and it in every way feels like a well-sorted, established product that it should be after 11 iterations. Even compared to its direct predecessor, the EOS 80D, it’s a faster camera with better controls and more resolution, as it has absorbed much of the function of the 7D line of cameras.

The Nikon D750 was (and is) already an excellent camera that was getting just a bit long in the tooth with the absence of a touch screen and 4K video. The D780 that replaces it rectifies that and then some.

DSLRs have already had plenty of time to mature and these cameras show that maturity over the still-evolving nature of mirrorless cameras. A good reason to stay in the mirrored camp.

Prices Are Lower

The aforementioned D750 dropped down to under $1000 during holiday sales, and other excellent DSLRs went even lower than that. In the short term, DSLR bodies will provide better bang-for-the-buck compared to similarly priced mirrorless models. You won’t find a mirrorless camera that can keep up with the tracking autofocus of a D750 for under $1000, at least not yet.

There’s also a huge back catalog of lenses for EF and F-mount lenses. While in many mirrorless systems you’re seeing the first generation of holy trinity lenses (16-35, 24-70 and 70-200), for Nikon and Canon, there are several generations of decent lenses available to choose from on the used market, as well as new models with all the latest bells and whistles, too. Don’t have the need for the fancy coatings on Canon’s EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens? Version II on the used market will get you most of the way there for a lot less money.

These lenses won't be paperweights when you move to mirrorless though. Both Nikon and Canon make converters that give up little in the conversion, and in some cases add features to the lenses (such as an extra control ring with Canon's special Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R).

They Just Feel Good

Even though it's an older DSLR, even the original EOS-1D X was a beast of a camera, in a good way.

Even though it's an older DSLR, even the original EOS-1D X was a beast of a camera, in a good way.

While electronic shutters and viewfinders work fine, there’s something to be said for the visceral feel of a mirror and optical viewfinder. Optical viewfinders show the world as it is, not as interpreted by the sensor. The feel of a mirror and shutter curtain working in concert is something that can’t be duplicated by a mirrorless camera. The larger cameras often mean better ergonomics that have also been developed over a long time since the film camera days. Personally, my hands feel less fatigue after a day of shooting DSLR versus most mirrorless cameras, though my back often doesn’t from the weight, unfortunately. That said, DSLRs have formed a sort of muscle memory for me. They just get out of the way and work.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Are DSLRs still a viable purchase in 2020? Will you buy one? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Photograph of the author by Sam Levitan, www.samlevitan.com, used with permission.

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32 Comments

Nick Viton's picture

They should make big mirrorless cameras, for people like us. Big mirrorless cameras that fill our hands and still work with F mount lenses.

Jon The Baptist's picture

This is a big reason why I love my E-M1X. Amazing camera, it's like a mini D5!

I love my single digit bodies. Love the size ergonomics and weight. Never say never but im not certain ill be moving to mL anytime soon. Those z cameras look ok but lack a few features that are critical to me

I am planning to do video as well and i have a feeling ill be getting sony a7iii 's

Didn't i just write im not getting any ml soon 😂😅

Robert Nurse's picture

If you already have a DSLR and aren't planning to upgrade any time soon, fine. If it works for you, why change it? But, if you're in the market for a new body, why would you start out with a DSLR? A better solution for that mirror has been found. No more lens AF micro adjustments. Better AF. IBIS is likely. A downside to mirrorless, though, are those native lens prices! You can get adapters. But, from what I've heard, having that shorter flange distance is supposed to make images sharper at the edges with those native lenses. I'm not sure if you can get that with an adapter. I'm personally waiting for Canon's 5D Mark M, LOL, or whatever they'll call it. I was hoping the 1DX Mark III was going to be mirrorless. But, a las, no. So, I'm parked on Canon's door step waiting to see what they'll do.

Robert Nuttmann's picture

What "micro" adjustments? I have never done any of those and I have old and newer cameras and lenses. I shoot all kinds of macro and have no issues getting very sharp perfectly focused photos. On the other hand I have had a Sony A7iii, Nikon Z7, and Nikon Z 50 and still check focus visually with macro and critical landscape shots. Frequently the mirrorless AF systems do not get the subject in perfect focus. IBIS, I have had two bodies with IBIS and several with VR lenses. Both seem to work about as well as the other. But then I learned how to take photos before any of that was available and rarely have problems with non IBIS and non VR cameras and lenses either.

Przemek Lodej's picture

Why are so so hung up on micro adjustments? I have 5D MK III with five lenses (24-104mm f/4L, 16-35mm f/2.8L, 85mm f/1.2L, 135mm f/2L and the 70-200 f/2.8L) and have NEVER done any micro adjustments, not once, on any of them. I never thought or felt I'd needed IBIS, no problems shooting portraits and travel. I've been trying to figure out what is the big deal with all this mirrorless tech. A camera is a tool. If you get results that both you and your clients like why change? I'm sticking with my 5D MKIII until it dies or a seriously radical technology knocks on my door.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I've had hit or miss experiences with microadjustments. My 6D and D750 never have needed it but my 5D Mark III needed it constantly and it drove me nuts. That said, for the sports stuff I shoot, most Mirrorless models still don't hang in there with decent DSLRs for my purposes. While the microadjustments are a downside of DSLRs, they certainly make up for it in tracking autofocus in most cases.

Duffy Doherty's picture

I have 3 bodies. I micro adjust each lens on each body, and they all have different settings. Once it is done correctly, the cameras remember the setting for each lens, know which lens is mounted, and automatically adjust. I do this for every lens, third party and native. I have really good glass, and every single lens has needed some micro adjustment...

Robert Nurse's picture

Basically, all my lenses were back or front focusing to some extent and the process of performing the adjustments were tedious and boring.

David Pavlich's picture

My Canon lenses haven't needed micro adjustments, but my third party lenses have. But, it's not difficult and when finished, you have the big ole' brick you've come to know and love working just fine. :-)

Robert Nuttmann's picture

I do not think we are seeing the last couple of new DSLR bodies from Nikon and Canon. I switched to mirrorless back in 2018 for my digital cameras. Z7 & Z50. I just used one of my two SLR film bodies a couple of hours ago and still really prefer a good optical viewfinder and mechanical lenses. I really like Nikon's new D780. For me the OVF viewfinder and Z type back screen is a great solution. I tend to take videos (this is for casual work I am not a pro photographer) with the back screen as it is. I learned to take videos using an iPhone. I would guess Nikon will upgrade the D850 with this style system too. My guess is 60+ mega pixels and call it the D880. Maybe early next year. If they do that I am going to pre order. I have used both F mount and Z mount lenses. Both are great as far as I am concerned and there are lots more F mount lenses. I don't like using adapters.

Tony Clark's picture

I owned every 1Ds and 1Dx camera before switching over to a couple 5DIV's a year ago. Yes, it was because of the weight not the features and I've been happy with them. If I thought that I needed mirrorless I would buy one but the EOS R hasn't become a mature system at this point. The R lens offerings do not impress me, their prices do not motivate me to switch and I hate using an adapter to use my L's.

Steven Hille's picture

Both DSLR and Mirrorlesses have strengths and weaknesses.

Robert Nuttmann's picture

Huh? I have never cleaned a pentaprism and maybe only cleaned a DSLR or SLR mirror a couple of times in the last 40 years. Note of that is a problem because none of it shows up on the film. Light goes direct through the lens to the film.

Ansel Spear's picture

Wow, you've read far more into the comment 'Both DSLR and Mirrorlesses have strengths and weaknesses' than I could ever do!

The original comment has been heavily edited. It went on a nearly incomprehensible rant about dust on the mirror and prism showing up on the final image in DSLRs and how this wasn't a problem for mirrorless. This is probably why it was removed by the original commenter.

Stuart Carver's picture

Sadly it seems you and Robert have been victim of the ever increasing edit/deleting of comments on the internet. People should either back what they type or just not bother at all in my opinion.

Kirk Darling's picture

For 2019, DSLR.
For 2020, that's yet to be seen, because we don't know what the mirrorless offerings will be for 2020.

Michael Kormos's picture

I just need 1 reason to buy an dSLR. It's an SLR :-)

Michael Bottari's picture

DSLR sind wirklich sehr gute Kameras und war sollen sie jetzt auf einmal schlechter sein nur weil es ebenfalls sehr gute spiegellose Systeme gibt. Die Bildqualität ist genauso gut wie bei den Spiegellosen. Die Ergonomie über Jahrzehnte gewachsen und optimiert, solide und ausdauernd. Ja, die Spiegellosen bieten mehr Infos bei der Erstellung des Bildes, sie sind kleiner und leichter. Sie werden sich sicherlich auch gegenüber den DSLR durchsetzen, aber deswegen sind diese keine schlechten Kameras. Ja man kann auch in 2020 eine D780 kaufen.

John Hernlund's picture

"...probably the last prosumer and professional DSLRs that will ever be released..." Nonsense. The SLR format camera has dominated photography for 60 years, and you think they're simply going to throw it in the rubbish heap after just a couple years of mirrorless fan boy hype? Mirrorless is just a gimmick. The SLR is a proven tool. Nikon will be making DSLRs and profiting from them 10-20 years from today.

Kirk Darling's picture

I suspect back in the 50s someone was saying Rollie would be profiting from the TLR for that next 20 years.

Canon has been making flapping-mirror cameras for 80 years. As quickly as technology moves today, it seems unrealistic to predict that nothing can eclipse the flapping mirror by now.

Your comments about bigger bang for the buck is true of course.
Personally, I love the EVF and mirrorless aps-c because the cameras are lighter and smaller and so are most lenses.
The main reason is however that I like the fact that I can review the picture immediately after shooting without having the need to chimp.

Nick Viton's picture

Not everyone prefers shooting with a small dainty camera though. Some of us have big hands.

https://youtu.be/jGozJwiEy4o?t=33

Duffy Doherty's picture

I think I'll stick with my DSLRs for awhile. If you can't get a good image out of a D810 and fine glass, a mirror-less camera isn't going to help you...

Christian Lainesse's picture

You know what I just bought, in 2020? A Fujica GW690.

jim hughes's picture

Yes DSLRs do just sort of 'feel good'. But so does mirrorless, just in a different way. I recently wrote a blog post about how some possibly unexpected ways in which mirrorless really made a difference for me.

https://jimhphoto.com/index.php/2019/12/10/mirrorless-its-the-little-thi...

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Didn't even think of the glasses thing. I just got an eye exam for the first time in my life a few weeks ago and discovered that I could use glasses, so I'm sure I'll notice this point soon. Great post!

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