Why the World's Best Photographers Are Sticking With DSLRs

Why the World's Best Photographers Are Sticking With DSLRs

Following the announcement of the winners of the World Press Photo competition last week, Spanish photography website Photolari.com compiled the metadata to examine what the leading photojournalists are using to capture their images. The results are quite interesting and demonstrate that the mighty DSLR is going nowhere. Here's why.

In terms of brands, there are no great surprises when it comes to the most popular choices: Canon leads the way, with Nikon close behind. More surprising is the fact that only one finalist was shooting on Sony — the same as the number working with Leica, and significantly behind Fujifilm. Sony may have produced one of 2018’s most popular full-frame cameras in the shape of the a7 III, but photojournalists seem to prefer to stick with what they know.

In line with this, the overwhelming majority of photojournalists are using DSLRs (71.1%) with only a tiny fraction having switched to mirrorless (4.4%), and it’s interesting to reflect on why this older technology is still the preferred choice of the working professional.

Firstly, many will be working with gear provided by agencies, drawing on a bank of thousands of bodies and lenses that are swapped in and out according to the demands of the job and when something needs a repair. Typically, agencies are heavily invested in certain systems and while mirrorless technology can offer many advantages, swapping out such a huge stock of gear for incremental changes is simply not worthwhile. In addition, not only would this mean replacing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment, switching, say, from Canon to Sony would also mean abandoning long-standing relationships with suppliers and repair services and, as an agency, this involves huge upheaval and a potential threat to the consistency with which images are delivered.

At this stage, mirrorless may bring some great benefits but when it comes to getting a shot with gear that’s reliable and incredibly familiar, it’s definitely a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” For example, switching from EF to RF would mean huge investment and countless adapters, and until there is a more compelling reason to implement a change, things will stay as they are. Evolution certainly comes more slowly when such vast amounts of money are involved.

As I noted in this article discussing Canon’s plans for the next iteration of the EOS 1D X Mark II, reliability and familiarity are essential to press photographers, especially when working in high-pressure circumstances that require a quick turnaround. The 1D X Mark III may prove to be Canon’s last flagship DSLR, but the demand remains, despite every brand ambassador now singing the praises of an electronic viewfinder and a slightly smaller body. Switching to a different camera — even from the same manufacturer — can be an unnecessary hindrance when shooting fast-moving events.

The Sony a9. Amazing autofocus. Enjoy cleaning that sensor, however.

The Sony a9. Amazing autofocus. Enjoy cleaning that sensor, however.

Durability is another concern. The Sony a9 may have demonstrated its resilience in the field but as a photojournalist, would you stick with a system that you know to work or switch to a system that is said to work, given that your livelihood depends on it? Again, professionals are staying with what they trust for getting the job done and however good the weather sealing is on mirrorless cameras, their reputation is not fully established. And despite the gaskets and IP ratings, a missing mirror means an exposed sensor, and having to worry about dust when you’re out in the field is not a pleasant prospect. The odd spot of dust on the occasional shot can easily be dealt with during post-processing, but multiple spots when ingesting hundreds, sometimes thousands of images can be a nightmare.

The heralding of the mirrorless era may seem noisy but it seems that the humble DSLR will be around for a lot longer than many might think. While agencies and their photographers need reliability and familiarity, the single lens reflex is here to stay.

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Previous comments
Eric Salas's picture

No, not special. I couldn’t care less what an ambassador said, I’ve got my own experience. You stated a “speck of moisture” and are defending comments from a person you don’t know and a camera you don’t use.

You must also have plans for making the Avengers Endgame movie better without ever being involved in film work... don’t be mad because someone called out your bullshit

Mr. Salad: you definitely are special as your waterproof Sony that operates in "all conditions". Keep living in your delusional bubble. I am very aware of Pulitzer prize winner Brian Smith -- you can check his blog from whatever country or planet you are currently visiting.

A camera I don't use? Lol, I use both my A9 everyday to make money. Very good cameras but it is well documented that they are not as weather resistant as you claim and nowhere near the 1dx-series which I used without any worry in bad weather.

I am not mad just sorry that Sonys are not as weather resistant as you claim. I wish they were close to the level of Olympus. Judging from your photos you hardly are someone whose opinion I would consider regarding durability in extreme situations.

Even Sony manual states you should leave the hotshoe cover on to protect the fragile contacts.

If you have internet on the planet you are on you can check this issue has been going on for a while:


Mr. Smith says the same thing about the Sony back then as he says on his blog now:

"That error can be caused when moisture shorts out the contacts at the front of the Sony Multi-Interface shoe.

The manual warns you to always keep the plastic cover on the MI shoe unless you have a flash, microphone or other accessory in the shoe - and this is why."

Eric Salas's picture

218 comments and no photos. Sounds to me like you should use your camera more than your mouth if you want some respect around here.

If I can go from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite and then end my week in the Marin Headlands without water damage to my camera I must be a God considering all of those stops I had water around my gear. I'm sure Brian Smith is smart enough to take precautions with his gear. You however, like to paraphrase and exaggerate to bolster your claims with no experience to back them up.

I have no need for your respect when you are clearly delusional.

You definitely think you are God especially since you say you"couldn’t care less what an ambassador said" -- an ambassador who is widely respected and has accomplished many things not just bikini shots that any GWC can shoot. First you insult mr. Smith then upon seeing the facts make the claim he "takes precautions with his gear".

Get help. Before it is too late. Water damage denial is the least of your problems. You are a sad man and the opposite of an accomplished ambassador like Mr. Smith.

Eric Salas's picture

I didn’t insult Brian, I said I have my own experience and it doesn’t match. Untwist those panties girl, don’t get mad because you speak when you should stay quiet.

Speak after you have some work you can bring to the adults table.

Taking precautions with gear is what a professional does... which Brian is so I’m unsure if you’re just typing in a frenzy or legitimately incapable of grasping the concept.

You can drive a car off a cliff but you take precautions not to because it’s not smart, right ? Same idea here.

Sorry, Salad. You insulted Mr. Smith by saying "I couldn’t care less what an ambassador said, I’ve got my own experience." He has clearly stated there is an issue with the hot shoe contacts corroding under moisture conditions. Maybe study his work and you will learn humility and learn from an accomplished photographer.

Next you will claim there was no a9 hotshoe rattle recall because your a9 hotshoe never had an issue when you did crotch shots in136 nations and 9 planets.

"I couldn’t care less what Sony said. I’ve got my own experience." - Salad 4/28/2019 on Sony hot shoe advisory.


Taking precautions is one thing. Having a vulnerable spot like the multi-interface on the hotshoe on the top of the camera protected by a hotshoe cover with no rubber gasket is asking for trouble.

A9 hotshoe is the equivalent of bald tires in the rain. You can be a safe driver and you will still be in danger. Same idea. capiche?

Eric Salas's picture

Photographers without work on FStoppers are like hemorrhoids with voices.

Mr Salad, you are a very sad man with some serious problems. I hope your clients see what type of person you really are. Your lame and vulgar similes about hemorrhoids do nothing but reinforce the fact that you will double down on your denial about a well documented problem when presented with the facts.

I hope you will not bring up cancer patients next in your quest for the next putdown.

I do not need to put up photos on a third-party website to be in agreement with Sony ambassador Brian Smith about a documented problem.

James dewet's picture

I read very few posts where one or other Sony user either lose their personality completely or go on a tangent insulting either those who comment or the person who wrote the original article or blog. Some feel they need to justify their purchase or choice of equipment. Normally gets to that stage when your equipment defines you or the work you do.

Geeeeeeze. Hemorrhoids that speak. That's a frightening thought D:

dale clark's picture

I must be special as well. I've shot in all harsh conditions, cold temps, wet rainy, snowy, etc. with my A7Rii and III...not one single issue.

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

Mee too: A6000, A6300, A7RIII
Never had a problem...

Thanks for no video. I read the entite article in the time it takes video to load and get through ads.

More familiar. Even changing dslr bodies within a brand can slow you down

Scott Hussey's picture

Why does anybody even care who's using mirrorless or DSLR? At the end of the day, a camera body is a little black box that records photons. Nobody...N.O.B.O.D.Y... can look at a photo and see the difference between mirror/mirrorless.

As far as obsessions go, this seems to be one of the more pointless ones.

Jeff McCollough's picture

It's because we are tired of these hipster Youtuber photographers who push sony.

Scott Hussey's picture

I thought the hipsters were all walking around with Pentax K1000s ;)

Apparently a hipster is anyone who uses different equipment than you do. (Collective "you" not personal, though Jeff above is a good example).

Eric Salas's picture

Considering you shoot llamas and ukulele shows I’d stick with a point and shoot.

Jeff McCollough's picture

And you use a Polaroid?

Jeff, as you can see there is something very wrong with Mr. Salad. He needs help. Pray for him.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Yeah I see that. He's not the first to poke fun at my llama...I don't know why though as it is one of my most licensed llama photos globally. And clearly I didn't use a point and shoot for that image.

ERIC SALAD definitely has a screw loose. Glad you made bank on that image. Anyone who knows two bits about photography can tell that was not shot with p&s just looking at bokeh.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Thanks and yeah the depth of field and sharpness alone tell us that it wasn't shot with a pointy shooter.

James dewet's picture

Maybe mr Salad has his identity defines in his brand of Camera. "Hi Mr Salad, Please to meet you". Hi Jo, I shoot with a Sony".. How do you know someone is using Sony?? They normally tell you..

Michael Clark's picture

You can always tell a Sony owner, but you can't tell them much.

Will Murray's picture

What's with the constant expressions of superiority? Your work simply isn't that great.

Eric Salas's picture

Did you read the original comment? Classifying all Sony shooters as hipsters doesn’t warrant a reaction?

If you speak up, expect to be judged. Our community has plenty of narcissistic people by nature but don’t come play if you aren’t prepared for it and don’t have enough balls to post your own work.

Will Murray's picture

I don't really care about the OP, Eric; you're all over the comments, in multiple posts. Frankly, you just aren't a very nice person; and your work does not justify your arrogance.

Eric Salas's picture

You called David an asshole 4 days ago. Seems you’re quite the hypocrite...at least I’m consistent. Have a great day!

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