Will the DSLR die? Will small cameras rule the world?

Gear & Apps June 5th 2012 7:30 AM 15 Comments

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.

Advertisement

About

Joe is a rising fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs. Be sure to check out his work at www.fotosiamo.com and connect with him on Google Plus and on Facebook

15 Comments

  1. nerdybails

    The only reason that the mirror-less SLR(EVIL) cameras are not the dominant force is that they are in their infancy. When most people think of an SLR these days they probably think of a 5dmkIII or a d800. The higher end DSLR cameras with the fancy autofocus systems, rugged bodies and prograde features in “small packages”.
    The performance of AutoFocus is nowhere near what high end DSLR cameras have to this day. The day will come when the tech inside an EVIL can give an autofocus performance along with sensor technology, that will make them competitive to high end DSLR’s; but it isn’t now. Camera companies clearly see the EVIL as the replacement to the mid to low end DSLR market. It also replaces the point and shoot market since camera phones have made them obsolete. They are also not developing cameras that are of a professional grade, the lenses demonstrate that, as well as the lack of rugged setups with magnesium bodies and weather sealing. You can’t replace a weather proofed camera with a piece of plastic.
    It will take a lot of work to break the stigma that the “best camera” is a full frame or bigger sensor with a huge body and massive lenses.

    • Joe Gunawan

      The Olympus OM-D is about as close to a pro-performance EVIL that you get. Its single autofocus can match or beat practically any high-end DSLR. Continuous auto still lags behind, though. Plus, reading focus directly on sensor is more accurate.

      It’s also fully weather-sealed with magnesium body, along with some lenses and its battery grip. If it has the same weather-sealed capabilities of its bigger brother, the E-5, it probably can also be buried in a foot of snow for an hour and be ready to shoot.

      The ability and technology to come out w/ the “best camera” w/ pro-spec full-frame sensor that is mirrorless is that. Just gotta break that stigma.

      – Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo.com

  2. Richard

    I agree. I think the issue is going to be as much about the lens as the camera body. Nothing beats great glass, and you can’t put it on the end of a point and shoot. Whether Sony’s mirror less technology will be a success is still an unanswered question. Personally, i moved away from Sony (to Canon) because i saw no commitment to top end bodies and lens..

  3. Anonymous

    I couldn’t care less about what the body looks like. As long as it allows me to do what I want to do, it’s fine with me. Nothing beats a good sensor, good control with a good lens, whatever they look like… 

  4. Drdeane711

    I too embrace technology’s advancements. How does the Sony alpha 77 with OLED EVF and full frame sensor measure up in your opinion?

  5. Shane Fellows

    There will always be pro and semi-pro level cameras that have more features than the consumer-grade cameras.  These companies aren’t going to cannibalize their high end product lines, they will just keep coming out with better and better high end products, which is good for everyone ;). Will they get a bit smaller? I would think so… just look at the 5D Mark III and D800. They pack features into a smaller body that weren’t even available on the 1D and D4 a few years ago.  So will the high-end dslr change as we know it? Yes. Every time a new version comes out these days, it is pretty much groundbreaking. Will they go away? I wouldn’t think so.  

  6. Rod

    I dont see how this will work not only with the tens of thounsands of dollars spent on SLR lenes and other accessories for the full sized cameras. How will to get the type of clarity and zoom from a tiny camera and lens? How will the ease of the functions be accessible to photographers with hands that are larger than a child? IMO, pont and shoot cameras are good and useful in many situations, but they will never be dwarf the quality of the SLR/dSLR cameras

     I think there is a market for the amateur camera but it’s doubtful that there will be a pont n shoot professional class camera that will catch the professionals eye.

  7. Ziggy M

    I don’t mind a smaller size as long as the capabilities are there. The problem is if you put the capabilities of the D4/1Dx into the body size of a D3200/T3i, people will still add the battery grip to have that extra bit for control. In the end making the body big again. There’s a “need” for the large bodies besides the perception of professional status, it’s a bit of necessity.

  8. Joe Gunawan

    I fully believe that you can have great glass with mirrorless and some of the primes that have been out for the mu4/3, like the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and Olympus 75mm f/1.8, plus the upcoming Panasonic 12-35mm constant f/2.8 proves that.

    Plus, the Olympus OM-D’s single autofocus matches or beats practically any phase-detect DSLR. It’s only the continuous auto that contrast detect sensors still can’t match phase-detect.

    What I want to see is a Full-Frame mirrorless with a state-of-the-art EVF, pro-spec sensor and electronics, weathersealing (OM-D proves you can still stay small w/ weathersealing), and great glass.

    That’s the hard part with the camera industry sometimes, the desire to play it safe and not really shake the grounds partly due to to tradition and partly due to worry of cannibalizing its own products.

    That’s one of the reason Nikon didn’t come out w/ a mu/43 or APS-C mirrorless camera in fear of eating up its entry-level system. We’ll see what Canon has up its sleeves and whether it will come out  with a mirrorless that will be competitive not only against its competition, but also against its own line.

    – Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo.com

  9. Joe Gunawan

    I fully believe that you can have great glass with mirrorless and some of the primes that have been out for the mu4/3, like the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and Olympus 75mm f/1.8, plus the upcoming Panasonic 12-35mm constant f/2.8 proves that.

    Plus, the Olympus OM-D’s single autofocus matches or beats practically any phase-detect DSLR. It’s only the continuous auto that contrast detect sensors still can’t match phase-detect.

    What I want to see is a Full-Frame mirrorless with a state-of-the-art EVF, pro-spec sensor and electronics, weathersealing (OM-D proves you can still stay small w/ weathersealing), and great glass.

    That’s the hard part with the camera industry sometimes, the desire to play it safe and not really shake the grounds partly due to to tradition and partly due to worry of cannibalizing its own products.

    That’s one of the reason Nikon didn’t come out w/ a mu/43 or APS-C mirrorless camera in fear of eating up its entry-level system. We’ll see what Canon has up its sleeves and whether it will come out  with a mirrorless that will be competitive not only against its competition, but also against its own line.

    – Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo.com

  10. Hahahaster

    I already gave my opinion to this on Trey Tathcliffs site ;)

  11. Anonymous

    Not an slr but don’t forget the Leica M9/Monochrome. Small form factor, wonderful controls, no reflex mirror, OVF, full-frame high quality sensor, and some of the best glass around. It’s the perfect system for anything besides macro and super telephoto. For those type of shots, Olympus/Panasonic/Sony just needs to release some pro grade macro and super telephoto lenses and then you’ll have the perfect light weight combo.

    I don’t see Canon or Nikon pushing for mirrorless any time soon. Not only because it can eat sales from their DSLR’s but also because they have a vast legacy of SLR lenses that no other company really has. The only other company with a comparable line of lenses is Pentax, but they seem to be experimenting with whatever system they can to gain some footing in the market.

  12. Zach Holz

    I am a few days away from buying into the 4/3 OM-D system from Olympus.  I’ve done a lot of research, and I think I’ll be able to do a lot with it.  I have a D3S and a good stable of lenses, but it’s SO DAMN HEAVY that it keeps me from wanting to take it out.  The OM-D is a game changer, and I think I’m up for the new game.  

  13. DSLR or Mirrorless Cameras: Which One is Best for Beginners?

    [...] in the year, we released a post about the future of DSLR and mirrorless. It is also a good read if you are contemplating between the two camera [...]

  14. Andy Vo

    Well fast professional zoom lenses are always going to be big. A 70-200 f2.8 physically must have a large entrance pupil. So if we’re stuck with large lenses why not have a larger body to make handling a bit more balanced whether that body has a mirror or not.

    For the time being I like having a mirror since EVFs don’t feel responsive enough yet. It’s still obvious you are looking at a little screen rather than the real world. But once the technology gets even better I can see the benefits of being able to use features such as focus-peeking and punch-in focus without taking your eyes off the viewfinder.

Leave a reply

Advertisement