Are DSLR Cameras Already Dead?

Are DSLR Cameras Already Dead?

Currently, one of the most discussed topics in our photographic community is if DSLR cameras are already dead. The Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras were indisputably the preferred ones until the mirrorless cameras step ahead into the game and showed how good they could be.

Since cameras become an electronic device, the changes are enormous. Basically, we are using a mini computer that allows the engineers to program anything that is thinkable. In a way we are all winning because it means that cameras will be better, cutting some rough edges quickly to be better and better. Though it will come with a cost on the financial side of it. Cameras will devaluate quite considerably in a short period of time, no matter the system they are using. 

Decision Day

Although it is always a joy when we make our mind up and start searching for a new camera, for me it was really a need. At this point in my career, the tools became much less important then they were in the beginning. I always had a couple of bodies because when you're doing a job there's no margin for imponderables. A backup body is recommended. In my case, I sold a versatile Canon 6D and in my bag, it was only a specialized 5DS

                                                                                      

While I hoped to migrate to another brand, with a full frame sensor, it would be a costly change. The investment made during the years of Canon L glass, and many accessories, was too big and would dictate a huge loss. The option was staying on the actual brand, or at best switch to Sony with an adapter. Doing the math, it dictated that a Sony A7 III plus a Metabones adapter would be in the same price range of a Canon EOS R, with the EF adapter included, in Europe.  I asked many friends, read all the reviews, and saw all the videos possible. On the body side, the R convinced me more than the A7 III due to some facts: the upper LCD is a feature important its ergonomics (especially the handgrip), the use of the  LP-E6N batteries since I have plenty of those. According to the reviews, the native adaptor for EF works flawlessly. Over five thousand AF points and fully articulated screen were also some appealing features. So my decision was made, I would be a proud owner of the first Canon mirrorless model!

A Second Thought

I'm one of those who evaluates his purchases by trying to make it as least emotional possible. The cerebral side of me told me that the 5D Mark IV would be a safer bet. Being dragged by our heart, or impulses isn't wise at all. In the short term, it will be stressful to be thinking that I could manage the situation from another angle. So instead of pulling the trigger and placing the pre-order, I rethink my real needs. That's generally the way to go when you have a doubt of this magnitude. You need to ask yourself which features will be the ones you really need. Don't enter into a hype or trend just because everyone tells you that is the "future today". It is your money, so the decision must be between within your budget and respecting a ratio cost/ effectiveness. . 

Maybe DLSR Isn’t Dead Yet

First, let's face reality. Everything suggests that mirrorless is the future. The EVF capabilities, size/weight ratio, silent shutter, endless AF points, and other great features are deal breakers for many, even more with the unstoppable improvements of each new generation. Just think how good the Sony A7 series or Fuji models have become in such a short time. Still, they are not yet there, at least for my needs and way of using the gear. For me when you face challenging situations, a DSLR is still easier to use, especially in low light conditions. Today an optical viewfinder has still a slight advantage over EVF. Generally, an Electronic Viewfinder needs a strong contrast to make us perceive the dynamic range we are getting. On one hand, we have a great step ahead, seeing the overall image without having to look at the camera rear LCD, a gesture that characterizes the digital camera era. So here the key is just the need to get it in a more natural way and not much dependable of the maximum aperture of the lens you're using. Again, in my experience, I already see differences between the superb Fuji X-t1 EVF (my fun camera) and the X-t3

Another downside is the still limited offer of native lenses and accessories for the mirrorless bodies. If you are like me, collecting stuff for my EOS bodies over time, you'll see the differences on the accessories side. Naturally, it will be solved in the next year or two. We can solve the lens situation with the excellent Canon native adapter. As far as I know, it works perfectly, even with the EF-S mount lenses. Then I realize a potential problem… will give a perfect sealing to the body? My previous EOS bodies always performed flawlessly when dealing with the elements. No matter how harsh the conditions were, paired with L glass I had zero issues. 

Construction and Sealing

So, a  personal concern is always how well my camera is built and its level of sealing. I prefer having the best possible, instead of some new feature I would never use. Why do I lean so much to that side? Curiously I use the same principle when buying watches. A diver will last much more than a regular model, due to the use of gaskets. Humidity is the worst thing for our gear. Even if the furthest we go is to the beach or the coffee shop terrace. 

According to Roger Cicala, from Camera Rentals, the EOS R has “well-sealed buttons and dials, not much else. That means, I think, that it will be fine in a misty rain for a while, but don’t get it saturated and don’t set it somewhere wet”Mr. Cicala also adds that today “I don’t know enough yet, and I try very hard to avoid Generation 1 technology.” 

Image by Roger Cicala | www.lensrentals.com

This information after the teardown they made of this fine camera was illuminating to me. It helped me make my mind about my next purchase. 

Handling and Ease of Use

When you hold a camera for long periods of time you need something substantial that really feels good in the hand. Due to the continuous use of the same layout during the years, the EOS series become like a natural extension of my hands. The controls are used without even thinking, or with the need of entering on endless menu/ submenu. Also, love the response that each button has. By including the touchscreen, the experience is superb. I would just love if it swiveled at least. Basically, the DSLR bodies have better ergonomics.  

The mirrorless systems, due to the less bulky and smaller bodies have fewer and smaller buttons. If you have bigger hands it's not as comfy and fast as you would like. Another argument in favor of a bigger body is that it feels more balanced when using long/heavy lenses. Getting a balanced body is important. Other downsides are the battery life, still shorter, a need of a better autofocus system especially for fast-moving subjects, and a larger buffer. The last is compensated by the lightning fast shutter of many mirrorless models.

Now we must talk about the absence of two card slots on the Canon and Nikon. On my side, I really cannot live with only one since I had a card slot malfunction during an important job. Luckily I work carefully and did not lose the images. Since that day I see that system as a life saver. One feature I love back then in my 7D was the joystick. What a pleasure to use while selecting my AF points manually, a technique I use about in 90% of my shooting. The R doesn't have it. We can work around by using the customizable M-Fn Bar or the touchscreen. For now, I prefer having a physically dedicated joystick. But I guess it could be just a matter of being used to it. 

Image Quality

Nowadays the vast majority of cameras on the market deliver a fantastic quality, no matter the size sensor or price. Even mobile phones have usable stills and videos. The difference here could be due to technical differences between both systems. The mirrorless can suffer from the Color Dot Pattern "syndrome". When using smaller apertures facing the sun, some color pattern grid can occur. On the Canon side, some users are experiencing banding when pushing the shadow areas around 5 stops, with luminance values around zero. This is a situation that needs further work, though it doesn't feel like a deal breaker to me. I also guess that some firmware can solve that problem.

Final Thoughts

We live in a fascinating era. I recall 30 years ago when my parents had to wait for a week to see the printed photos of the family trip. Then we reviewed it on the back LCD after pressing the shutter. It was magic! Now we can see it without removing the eye from the viewfinder. I know that in a near future it will be time to abandon ship. I choose DSLRs because I need a quick AF for some jobs, dual card slots, rugged construction, a sealed body with no interference of an adapter. Also, I'm not in a position yet to sell all my L glass and buy the expensive RF mount lenses, if I consider continuing with the same brand. As some users told me, Canon needs to update the face detection and eye-AF, because for now its only available in wide AF mode. In a word I need my tools to focus and meter like I expect, and survive in a harsh environment, being quick and reliable. Maybe this sort of features will all appear on the Pro EOS R and the subsequent generations. On this point, there's also an opportunity. I constantly see good deals from users that are switching systems. So look at the second-hand market and you might be pleased. Why not grab a stunning camera with a mirror (or some lenses) for a great price? So think wisely if you need to move to a new camera and if so, ask yourself the real advantages you'll get when migrating to a new system. Personally, I will continue for a while using the "old school" DSLR until the day comes. As we heard and said a thousand times, the final work depends much more on the photographer than the gear. At least for me and many more, the DSLR is not dead yet!  What do you think about this subject, DSLR is already dead for you? Share your thoughts on the comments below.

Log in to post comments

138 Comments

Previous comments
user-156929's picture

You were but he thoughtfully excluded that photo. ;-)

user-128252's picture

This is becoming annoying, guys. How many times the same title of the article is going to appear here on fstoppers? Nothing else to write about?

Yeah I am somewhat embarrassed I even clicked on this article.

user-128252's picture

This is becoming annoying, guys. How many times the same title of the article is going to appear here on fstoppers? Nothing else to write about?

user-128252's picture

Such a usless post

Mike Gillin's picture

I really hate the term "dead." No, the DSLR is not dead. There are many people still using them, and they will continue to use them. While digital is more popular today, and may the "norm", film is not dead either. Eventually, mirrorless may be the more popular choice, and eventually something else will replace that. However, even then I doubt the DSLR will be dead.

Pedro Quintela's picture

Maybe a transitional moment, between both systems, is an easier way of dealing with that potential loss. I also hate that term "dead" but keep in mind that for a part of our peers DSLR is dead, or will be very soon.
Sincerely, I hope it will never get discontinued on the camera companies.

Mike Gillin's picture

Transitional Moment is the perfect way to describe where we are. Even personally I shoot both mirrorless and DSLR. I can definitely see the strengths to both. I wouldn't be surprised if eventually dslr are totally phased out, or there's a single niche model. Similar to 35mm film, tslr, etc.

Przemek Lodej's picture

No. Now go write something relevant.

Ed Sanford's picture

Each time I have the opportunity, I look very closely to what the press is using in the Whitehouse news conference, on the NFL and MLB sidelines and in combat. I see nothing but DSLRs. These people are working pros whose livelihoods depend on the right gear to capture things accurately the first time. I haven't seen a mirror toy out there yet.

Pedro Quintela's picture

That´s a true fact. Let´s see what happens in a couple years.
I just hope it never dies.

dslr is "best" for "photography" and good for videography and mirrorless is best for "videography" and good for photography. I prefer DSLR. dslr is for professional photographer. and mirrorless is good for videographer or new photographer or for home use or for peoples that take camera only some times in a year. and of course for camera companies because for low cost laboring and for selling new lens. that's a new game for selling cameras and gears. I don't think that removing mirrors is important for photographer, but perhaps sensor stabilizer is good for videography. do u think mirrorless is good for wildlife photography or time laps or long exposure at night or in very cold weather or for long sport match (90 mins football match) and for long time of wedding photography??

Pedro Quintela's picture

Thanks for participating in the discussion!

vik .'s picture

DSLR ARE DEAD! Now gimme your 1dxII :)

Pedro Quintela's picture

I want one as well! :)

Scott Wardwell's picture

I hope not as i just upgraded to an 850; my 5th body. No regrets.

Pedro Quintela's picture

You bought an amazing camera. Trust me it will be alive for a long time!

Jeff McCollough's picture

Far from dead.

As a fast action wildlife photographer, l have yet to see a mirroless that has no evf lag and also, has the battery life needed in the field. These continuous articles of the DSLR going away is so dumb. Photogs who shoot nothing but static images will never understand.
Right now, the Nikon Z6 l couldn't use for long exposure milky way shots if l wanted to, because of batt life. I still would need the D850 for real world use in the field.

user-156818's picture

Great image! Osprey are beautiful raptors.

And yes, I agree with you. In the field for wildlife, mirrorless fails to deliver. These articles are silly. We are fortunate to have choices so that we can pick the right tool for the job.

Pedro Quintela's picture

If you read the article, basically I say that to each his own. For now, the mirrorless cameras don't match entirely situations as Scott talked about. So maybe this article isn't that silly.

user-156818's picture

I did read the article and the content was OK. The title was intentionally meant to cause a stir. Therefore the purpose of the article was to capitalize on a non-issue, making it unnecessary and silly.

Ryan Davis's picture

If Canon came out with the 5dr mkii DSLR, I would buy it. So is the DSLR dead? Not yet. But as soon as Canon comes out with a mirrorless that matches the 5dr, The the DSLR will be dead for me.

Pedro Quintela's picture

I agree with you. A mirrorless 5ds will be amazing. Let´s cross fingers and wait for it.
Meanwhile... let´s keep listening to that mirror clap. :)

Photo Reflections's picture

For me, Dslr is alive and doing well. As you say in the article, some rough edges need to smoothen.
Keep up the good work brother!

Pedro Oliveira's picture

Love these discussions. For me, mirrorless is the future today.
As an amateur, I don't need more. Love my A73!

user-156929's picture

Yes, mirrorless cameras are good for amateurs. I'm not saying they're no good for pros but amateurs benefit the most from their features.

More comments