Kirk Tuck of Visual Science Lab wrote a pretty thought-provoking article on whether big DSLR will eventually be replaced by smaller, equally capable cameras.
To paraphrase parts of Kirk’s argument: In 2002, the early days of digital, the top end 6MP Nikon D1X and the Kodak DSC760 were behemoths because compared to today, electronics and batteries require the big space inside. Form follows function. Others, like Canon, noticed the success in that niche market and decides to copy the size because it has started to become one of the status symbols of high-end professional cameras.
Today, reduction in electronic sizes can potentially mean that Canon and Nikon engineers can probably stuff as much functionality of their high-end cameras in a smaller package, but refuses to do so because of size = professional status. Kirk akins this to GM in the 1960′s assuming that everyone wants a V8 engine, since they put their V8 engine in a lot of their cars and people continue to buy them.
In the ten years since the introduction of the big professional digital cameras the top models have remained the same size and weight even as technology has advanced considerably in every metric. The batteries have ten times the capacity of the early ones (measuring in shutter actuations). They weigh less than half of their predecessors. SD cards hold hundreds of times more files and write them thousands of times more quickly than their predecessors. And the engineers have had a decade to leverage the efficiencies of scale for processors, shutter mechanisms, etc. So why do people still think they need to tote a brick to be taken seriously?
If the current technology advances would continue in the right path, EVF (Electronic View Finder) would become even more advanced than they are already today (Sony NEX7 OLED EVF) and would pretty much replace OVF (Optical View Finder). That means, reflex mirrors would go next since everything is going straight to sensors, which in turns reduce flange distance and help with making smaller, lighter lenses.
What’s compelling in this argument for me is Kirk’s comparison to the film industry, where directors and DPs (director of photography) “have abandoned the moving shutter, moving film cameras of just a decade ago to embrace (now 50% or more of all new movie production) digital video cameras with EVF’s and direct-to-sensor technology.”
So what do you think? Are we stuck with the paradigm that professional cameras must be big and carry an OVF and a reflex mirror just like how GM was stuck on the whole big V8 engine in every car syndrome?
Is the mirrorless revolution just around the corner or are we already seeing the changes starting to happen? I for one, am embracing this revolution and cannot wait for a full-frame mirrorless camera with top of the line sensor, EVF, and performance in a much smaller package than today’s D4 and 1D-Xs.
Be sure to read the rest of Kirk Tuck’s article on the death of DSLRs and the rise of the mirrorless cameras. Thought-provoking, indeed.