Boy, doesn’t it just happen with haste. When change takes afoot, that is. It seems like only an hour ago, digital mirrorless cameras were for the uninformed, the careless, the anti-artist, the utter amateur, or those who like to adopt early to say they did, and those who valued form over function.
And truth be told, they were. Early Olympus, Epson, Panasonic offerings were little more than big ambition running in a race before their talent could walk. Even up to two years ago and after they became good, they were good for what they were – new tech – but not good enough. It was an interesting idea, news-in-brief, at best.
Thing is, that was then and this is now, and the world is a very different place. It’s with confidence I say that the most sought after cameras right now, for pros and amateurs alike, are mirrorless. The A7 and the X-T1 are leaving all those who try them but don’t have them, breathless with envy.
The Sony A7 came out of the gates with the same sensor and same sort of bewildering resolution you’d get from a D800, and about the same FPS. But it also came in significantly cheaper, significantly smaller, and with a EVF that took some of the guessing away. Then, the X-T1 came out and assured us that even cropped sensor mirrorless were items of performance and desire, being more handsome, more affordable, and even cooler. To have gone from the Sony NEX system to the A7 in one leap is kind of like Henry Ford after finishing up building the Model T then saying, “Well done. Now, let’s make a GT40.”
The digital SLR, in its own mirror, is witnessing its own end of days, and the rate at which it is happening is blistering. There may be a group of you who will keep clinging on, and fervently voice in forums how much better they are than mirrorless, saying how the feel is different, and the performance still isn’t matched, and on and on, but you’ve got only a little time left to do that.
If you think back into history, even of only a hundred years or so, or even 30, isn’t it incredible how short the transition period is between the present and the next big thing? Steam to combustion, candle light to electricity, Backstreet Boys to Mumford & Sons. Humans, and markets, waste no time in relentlessly moving forward when a better option is presented. When we are suspicious of a better option, maybe there’s hesitation, but when something better truly comes, the recognition is fast, and it’s like change straps a jet-pack to its back and takes off. A day ago, you were mailing Christmas cards to your family, and then in a blink it was email. A week ago, your phone was attached to your wall with a spiral cable and now it’s in your pocket…while you’re sipping Rum & RedBull on a beach in Jamaica. Or just rum.
I mean, how long does it really take you to see what’s going to be the better option (for a majority) after spending time with a D800 or A7, or a Canon 60D and an X-T1? 3 shots?
Let’s keep in mind that the A7 is essentially a first round go at the full frame mirrorless game, equivalent to the early cell phones in the late 90s. Now, look how far they’ve come in such a short time. The rate of evolution there is Concorde fast, and it will be the same for cameras because photography now is a digital endeavor. The incremental advancements in mechanics of analogue kept its rate of change slower, but digital evolution is exponential. Imagine where mirrorless cameras will be in 3 years? 5 years!
So why are there still DSLRs? Well, posterity for one, and I’ll admit now that the high end DSLRs still have some things over the mirrorless grasshoppers. When I, personally, would be on a proper shoot, I’m still tempted to go for the DSLR, but how long do you think it’s going to take for mirrorless to catch up? Especially when the needs are changing, and things like editorials built for Instagram are happening. Even if you’re a hardline DSLR shooter, you must admit you’re curious about mirrorless, and want one. That may produce some guilt, and isn’t it funny how guilt increases pleasure? Maybe that explains why so many of my colleagues walk around with Cheshire cat grins after switching.
I recently reviewed Nikon’s latest hot shot D750, and it is marvelous. It’s all I could really hope to have in one camera body. Nikon listened. But what it made me feel, was a bit retrospective. Because due to a myriad of things, the economy, the changing pace of technology, the change in demands of our industry, the change in the big players in it and who wants cameras now, a camera like this will soon be consigned to the annals of photographic history. I had a feeling that what I was using, was an ending.
[REWIND: The D750 Review | It’s Achilles, Less His Heel]
Sure there will be a few more to come, for a few years to come, since breaking up is always hard to do, and it will be even harder for cameras because it’s the big names, the ones we grew up with who are behind now, and they’ll surely cling on as long as possible. But really, the DSLR is over, and this year will sway the vote if not already. Ironically, the film SLR will live on, maybe not as a thing for work, but for pleasure, just as we still drive vintage cars for fun. The DSLR though, won’t even be used for that.
I wish you all the best for the year ahead, and many returns.