The death of the DSLR has been predicted for years. With each new mirrorless camera model brought to market someone on the internet is playing TAPS for the DSLR camera format. But what is meant by DSLRs are dead?
In this well thought out video by Jared Polin of Fro Knows Photo, Fro goes all-in on the death of the DSLR camera format. No spoiler alert needed here as the title of the video is "DSLRs are Officially Dead". However, Fro focuses on professional photographers in this video and makes some well-supported arguments of why professional photographers are/will be moving from the DSLR format to the mirrorless format. And I agree with many of Fro’s points regarding the future of the camera format professional photographers will be using. You will have to watch the video to hear Fro’s valid points.
However, there is one point that I have to disagree with Fro and so many others when it comes to mirrorless replacing the DSLR format. And that is when they draw the analogy that DSLR to mirrorless is the same game changer as film to digital. It is not. DSLR to mirrorless is a small step and is not the paradigm shift that film to digital was. As of now, there is nothing a mirrorless camera can to do that an equivalent DSLR can’t. When going to digital from film, there were numerous things that digital cameras could do that film never could or would be able to do.
Keeping with Fro’s focus on professional photographers, let’s look at editorial photography as an example. Digital permitted the editorial photographer cut substantial amounts of time getting an image from creation to publication. Images could be sent almost instantly from source to publication anywhere in the world. The image could be received within minutes, and seconds in today’s world, by the publisher. No more need to handle a physical item from source to publication. No need to wait for the development of the image in a lab before publication. For publications such as newspapers or websites, it has always been critical to be the first to publish, and this speed advantage of digital wasn’t just a nice thing to have, it became mandatory if you were going to survive as a professional editorial photographer. Professional photographers made the switch because they needed to, even if it was going to cost them much of their hard-earned money to acquire new equipment.
That brings me to another point why I don’t believe professionals will be so fast to switch to mirrorless as they were from film to digital: money. Yes, professionals do demand to have the best equipment that is needed to get the job done. They also need to make a living, and the ones that survive know that keeping expenses down is what keeps them in the game. Without any significant advantages of mirrorless over the DSLR format, I see a more extended transition from DSLR to mirrorless for many professional photographers. I’ve shot professionally with both forms. I have nothing against the mirrorless format, but when I needed another body in the Nikon system, I chose a lightly used D500 instead of the Z6 or Z7 and earned myself a bunch of money by not spending more on the Z6 or Z7. Remember the only difference between professional photography and any other photography is making money.
So are DSLRs dead? I say no. Will mirrorless become the dominate format of the two? Yes, I believe it will but not overnight more like years, many years.