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The DSLR Camera Isn't Dead Yet, But Is It Time to Ditch Yours?

The DSLR Camera Isn't Dead Yet, But Is It Time to Ditch Yours?

The DSLR camera market has truly been struggling with the growing popularity of mirrorless cameras. They may not be dead entirely, but the ones you have are getting hit even worse.

For the past couple of years, due to the emergence of faster and higher-resolution mirrorless cameras, along with the exponential growth of lens lineups for most major brands, people have been anticipating the death of the DSLR. But what are the parameters to be able to pronounce it dead? More importantly, who pronounces it dead? The truth is that no one can really tell until we all realized that it truly has died. It is most likely that we all only begin to realize it’s death when we notice that no new DSLR camera model has been released in the past few years. But for now, we know that it is still alive, but we have to think of our longevity as photographers with this camera format. 

Signs of Life

We know that camera manufacturers still have not entirely given up on the line because of the development of the Canon 90D, the Canon 1D X Mark III, the Nikon D780, and the D6. But we should admit that about six years ago, the rate at which new DSLR models were released was at least three times faster. You would expect that by now, we should have at least the Canon 5D Mark V or VI or something similar. We must also acknowledge the fact that lens development for DSLR cameras has gravely declined. Canon and Nikon may have already established their DSLR lens lineups by now, so that is acceptable, but if we look at the third-party lens manufacturers previously aggressive in the DSLR game, namely Tamron, Sigma, and Tokina, we know that they could have developed more lenses (like a more affordable tilt-shift lens, for example) but got sidetracked by the rapid growth of demand in mirrorless camera lenses. In the past year alone, they have barely released anything for the DSLR system, and for the one brand that did, it was a mere update of a really old lens variant.

There was a time that I stood by my last few DSLR cameras, because it's what I thought fit my hands best. But recently, for economical purposes, I have had to let them go before their value gets any lower.

Is Yours a Dying Investment?

Because of the so-called "mirrorless revolution" that boosted the demand for the newer cameras, demand for DSLR cameras rapidly declined. Since people were more interested in the lighter and more compact cameras, there are consequently fewer people interested in used DSLR gear as well. Because of that, the used market for DSLR cameras and lenses suffered as well. Depreciation of value for such cameras and lenses accelerated. With a random search for used gear on B&H, Amazon, and even Craigslist, you would see that most high-value DSLR gear released in the last three years and in good condition is, at best, 40-60% of their original price. That means that if you have gear that is about five years old and up, its value has definitely gone down very quickly, with the exception, of course, of not-so-common pieces of gear.

Is It Time to Adapt?

If you are a DSLR user who still hasn’t gotten one foot through the door into the mirrorless ecosystem, you have quite a limited number of choices on what actions to take in response to this. First, you can shift now. Get that new mirrorless camera body and its native lenses. That way, they don’t depreciate as fast, and your money’s worth won’t go down as quickly. Doing so would also allow you to sell your current gear. That may not give you any significant profit and won’t really decrease your expenses since prices for used gear have gone down, but at this point, you can, at least, prevent any further losses rather than waiting for what you have to lose even more value.

Another option, of course, is to upgrade to a new-old DSLR camera or lens that was much more expensive a couple of years ago. This way, you can actually take advantage of what is happening and upgrade to something that you may have been wanting for a couple of years now. Of course, if you’re going to get it cheap, keep in mind that it’s only going to get cheaper in the future. Don’t expect to sell it for a good price in the future.

Making economical decisions for your gear are usually debates over being sentimental and being smart about financial decisions. This was the camera that I used the longest and the camera that I started my professional career with. It was hard to let it go, but the depreciation was just too fast.

Lastly, of course, you can opt to stick to what you have right now and let your gear live out its life. Especially if you don’t do photography professionally or if your line of work doesn’t really require so much on the technical aspects, then, of course, you can survive the rest of your life without having to upgrade. It is just important to realize early on that if you ever do upgrade, selling or trading your current gear for an upgrade can be quite helpful in decreasing the amount of money that you spend on your next camera. Older cameras are obviously also less likely to be accepted for such deals.

Planning Long-Term for Your Gear

Let’s face it. After everything discussed, the reality is that 99% of us can survive life without an upgrade. If your gear has delivered the images that you’ve needed in the past few years, the chances are that it can still deliver what you need in the next three years. Camera models turn over pretty quickly, but this is not in any way due to a certain need or requirement for most of us but is instead simply driven by the desire for new gear.

The past and next couple of years are quite crucial for photographers in terms of making gear choices. It may be tempting to shift to a mirrorless system of the same brand or maybe even shift to a new brand altogether. Know that every choice you make should always be 10 steps ahead of the game. Unless you have unlimited resources, you should think of how feasible your gear choices are and how quickly they might depreciate in the coming years. On the other hand, you should also know which pieces of gear you are willing to keep for the long haul. Many photographers (including myself) have one or two lenses in their lineup that are only used about 3-5% of the time, and it’s important to remember that no matter what, they will depreciate. Lastly, we are in a time of rapid development, at least for the mirrorless systems. If the need is not that compelling, then it may be prudent to wait things out and weigh your options once more of them are available.

As for the DSLR, who knows? The chances are that it won't really ever die since we've seen so many camera formats survive the advancements of technology and digital cameras. Heck, film is certainly not dead. They may be reduced to the bare minimum, but the DSLR format will always have its value. 

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73 Comments

Deleted Account's picture

I don't own any guns so they'll have to pry my DSLRs and lenses from my cold, dead hands! ;-)

Przemek Lodej's picture

"Let’s face it. After everything discussed, the reality is that 99% of us can survive life without an upgrade." What is the point of the article? Just to write something that ultimately doesn't really matter?

Przemek Lodej's picture

Still doesn't matter.

John Ellingson's picture

Mirrorless is not an upgrade.

Nitin Chandra's picture

I cannot really figure out this one...Make little to no sense to me...That's just me :)

bob young's picture

Sorry.... But this is a load of trollop, its like saying we all should go out and buy EV's sure they are nice but all my equipment works just fine thank you (Canon 1D's and 1Dx's)

Mike Robinson's picture

Yes, I’ll be tossing mine in the rubbish bin.

Deleted Account's picture

Where do you live and when's garbage day? :-)

Mark Bohrer's picture

"Don't be an equipment junky. You can shoot salable stuff with s $99 Yashica MAT-124 [TLR film camera]." I was offered this piece of advice before I started shooting various subjects professionally in the 1990s, and it still makes sense. You don't need the latest and greatest gear to shoot satisfying (and profitable) pictures. The client doesn't care what you use. He wants pictures depicting his product or service the best way possible. no matter how you got them, in timely fashion.

The appearance of new equipment doesn't instantly render your existing gear useless. And unless you're a Leica user, any lenses, like cars, will lose resale value the minute they're delivered to you from B&H or Amazon. You don't buy optics for an investment. You buy the tools to do your job. And if they continue to work for you and your clients, keep them.

Charles Mercier's picture

I'm not speaking for the author but I assume that he is speaking to the budget minded, equipment junkies.

Rick Rizza's picture

I still invest in new EF L series lenses. Even this year I already purchased 3 new L lenses because of a price drop. Sacrificing a camera is not a big deal for me. I still have my film EOS 3, EOS 350D, 7D, and today I use an EOS M10 with the same old ef that I bought in 1998. I will switch to EOS R system when I'm ready and there's a pretty good converter that was guaranteed by Canon for EF lenses to work on RF mount.

I remembered reading something like this about the death of film cameras 15 years ago. Absolutely nothing to worry.

Ed Sanford's picture

The EF L lenses are exquisite. You are absolutely wise in doing this. I don't get the whole mirrorless thing....

Jason Frels's picture

I don't really care whether someone else shoots with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but I am interested in when click-bait will be dead.

Malcolm Wright's picture

As my gear is second hand (apart from one lens and my camera bag), I love these articles that are designed to lobby folks who are beginning to contemplate an upgrade into doing so.

JEFFREY LANE's picture

for me as people dump dslr equipment, it look at as good time upgrade lens and other gear for my Canon 7d mk2

Rick Rizza's picture

You should start now. With 1k$ in hand you can buy 2 nice second hand L lenses. Many people falling for this hype and we should be wise to grab what they left.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Well...that can mean only one main thing.....there will be lots of cheap DSLR's for me and others to choose from. Still have and use many 35mm film cameras too. I also have a mirrorless (a very good one), but I always grab the DSLR or film camera first. Thanks for the article, which is useless to me.

Juan Angiolini's picture

Let me see
*picks up DSLR, still shoots amazing photos*
Well, guess no ditching time then

Michael Krueger's picture

Personally I've got a Nikon D3200, D5600, and D750 with a collection of about 20 lenses. Mirrorless may be the way to go for someone new to photography, but it costs money to replace everything, I'm not giving up my DSLRs any time soon.

I did buy into the Panasonic M4/3 platform over the holidays when everything was on sale because I wanted something to shoot 4k that was also more compact so I recognize some of the benefits to mirrorless first hand but still not an excuse to dump the DSLR and replace it all.

Ed C's picture

Is yours a dying investment ... and they say there's no such thing as a dumb question. If the tool you are using ... ANY tool that is still is fulfilling the task you bought it for it isn't dying.

Don't bother to point me further down the article I stopped reading but thanks for tipping me off not to read anything by this click baiter again.

Peter Reali's picture

I only get new gear when what I have doesn't meet my needs. Getting new equipment just because there newer than what you have is a waste of money. My Nikon D850 is an amazing camera that will last me for a long time before I need to upgrade. If I can get some used DSLR lenses that are discounted in price that will be great. The fact that Camera companies are struggling due to the shift away from high end cameras and using their phones has made it hard for Camera companies bottom lines so they are going to focus on the installed base. The fact is the installed base is mostly DSLR's so they will be making new releases for this base to stay in business for quite some time.

Deleted Account's picture

I hope you're right.

jim blair's picture

How does these crap articles get approval for posting? I better get rid of my gas car because electric is going to make my drive so much better. Every camera today is a depreciating asset, just like brain cells of this author.

Scott Julius's picture

In the first paragraph..."emergence of faster and higher-resolution" .....really?

Getting rid of my D850 or D500 for mirrorless is joke in the wildlife photography world.

I really question this kind of crap journalism and who the writers are pandering too.

There are no benefits whatsoever of a mirrorless Z6 or Z7 other than the drawbacks of an EVF and poor battery power.

Nobody wants to recognize what started the mirrorless revolution and that was FF compactness. To take the mirror out of the way and say the focusing systems got better and the pictures did too you just have to wonder have any of these writers know what they are talking about?

jay holovacs's picture

Absence of mirror noise. During at least one of the presidential candidate debates, only mirrorless cameras were permitted in the press area because the mirror was being picked up on the TV feed.

Certainly this could apply to wedding photography (who wants clack clack during the church service?) as well as some wildlife photography (animals tend to get spooked)

Deleted Account's picture

I've never had an animal be spooked from that. You would think that would happen but I've never even heard of it being the case with anyone else. Most don't seem to mind daytime flash, either.

David Pavlich's picture

I was out this past winter and 5 or 6 deer walked up quite close to where I was sitting waiting for birds. I fired off about 20 shots and the deer didn't flinch (5DIV). My son's been shooting weddings for about 5 years and has yet to be chastised for his cameras making noise (5DIII, 5DIV).

Do you happen to know if at that debate, the photographers were warned in advance? I hope so because most press photographers still use dinosaur cameras.

Mike Ditz's picture

Yeah , but would it not be nicer to shoot weddings without shutter noise?

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