Jun 142013
Cameras with mirrors - soon a thing of the past?

Camera mirrors – soon a thing of the past?

The DSLR is dead, long live mirrorless! This remark isn`t exactly brand new and similar discussions have been going on in numerous photo forums (like on dpreview or on Flickr) and all over the net for some time. Editorial and commercial photographer Zack Arias started it all off again reopening old sores with his musings on the death of the DSLR, accompanying his strong praise for the Fuji X100s (see his Fuji Istanbul Video below) and his follow up on “…life without DSLRs“. All very entertaining, nice video and a good read. It may be a little daring to claim the demise of the DSLR at this stage in time. But truth be told, it will not take a lot more to make it happen.

Maybe the proclamation (and also the stated headline) simply is not precise enough. Rather one should say – sticking with Zack Arias`s basic tonality and none too prosaically: the good old DSLR is on its deathbed stricken in years. The royal household is waiting near by saying prayers. The end is near and the next generation of MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras) are waiting to take over the reign.

In the good old days there was no way around shooting DSLRs. To take professional grade pictures, these machines were a must have. Nowadays it has become more or less indistinguishable whether an image was snapped with pro Nikon or Canon DSLR gear or a mirrorless Fuji X, Sony NEX or even a smaller sensor Micro Four Thirds camera (just to name a few).

The movable mechanical mirror system plus necessary pentaprism and even the pellicle mirror solution (as seen on previous Sony models) seems like some sort of residue left over from an ancient world. There is no real use for it anymore. The next generation of electronic viewfinders will make it even more obvious. With resolutions between 2 and 4 million dots, you will almost have to strain your eyes to see much difference compared to the optical solutions that come with clackety clack mirrors in the package. And that is just for starters.

And don‘t forget there are mirrorless cameras out there right now that feature optical finders that are quite nice too. The Fuji X-Pro 1 and Fuji X100s both have hybrid viewfinders. Using the optical viewfinder you can still frame each shot with bright frames projected by an LCD panel with all the digital information you choose to have displayed. You can switch between optical and electronic finder at will. Whatever you need, whatever you feel like. It will be exciting to see what the next iteration of this invention will bring. The Fuji X-Pro 2 might pleasantly surprise some people.



Any arguments in favor of the mirror? I can`t think of one. A clear and bright 100% viewfinder frame coverage is nice to have. But what`s the fare? Larger camera bodies with gigantic lenses need to be carried. No one really wants to carry a wagonload of  equipment these days. In fact a lot of people are quite happy using their smart phones to do the job. When I read about the Chicago Sun-Times giving up on professional photographers in favor of the remaining journalist staff equipped with iphones, I was taken aback at first. Then it dawned on me, that most photographic images in newspapers or the net might already have been taken with comparably simple photo tools. You probably would not notice the difference anyway. It may be a sad thing but photojournalism probably will have to adept to the new mindset.

Today everyone can snap images on the go anyplace and any time – equipped with smart devices, affordable portable cameras or at best mirrorless system paraphernalia. A new trend will undoubtebly be a dual combination of smart phone with emphasized camera functionality incorporating a high quality lens and bigger than usual sensor. Future cameras in general may look more like small computers e.g. running on Android with apps to make things easier. Just look at the promised new Samsung Galaxy NX. You can see first pictures of that device (scheduled for June 20) on engadget .

There may still be room for professional grade gear in some cases: if you like to do art or shoot weddings or fashion gigs, for sports, birding, architecture or for some other special photo application. But let`s face it: even those strongholds of old are being undermined rapidly. Prominent features that are incorporated in DSLRs today will soon be adapted and developed further to fit the mirrorless crowd. Better AF speed, more frames per second plus some new tele lenses may be all that is needed in the end. Coupled with new wireless capabilities and GPS, a new breed of cameras might well rejuvenate the whole market.

More and more pros are seen using alternative gear, very happy to break the rules and to distinguish their work from the nondescript photography face. Maybe instead it will just be the medium format that will thrive next to diverse Compact System Cameras (CSC). Maybe megapixel giants from the dinosaur-like DSLR world will in turn challenge the medium format champions. But IMHO it is a fight that cannot be won in the end.

On the other hand DSLRs are hard to destroy – as proven by the guys at DigitalRev TV. A word of warning: this YouTube video is real painful to watch. 🙂

Zack Arias may have exaggerated and polarized a bit to start a discussion. But in a few years time no one will question his initial remarks. Today you can`t venture to go anywhere without encountering all sorts of photo amateurs proudly presenting their DSLRs with kit lenses or big zooms attached. Soccer moms and even kids that hardly know the difference between aperture and shutter speed are lugging around their huge camera kits. Pros are looking for unobtrusive alternatives that just work without fuss. Times are changing.

  9 Responses to “The DSLR is dead, long live mirrorless!”

  1. […] With the X-Trans CMOS sensor the new Fujifilm X-M1 will again deliver outstanding image quality. A tiltable screen for nicer on-screen previews and Wi-Fi to enable quick and easy transfer of photos and videos to mobile devices and computers are features that are highly welcome. Small dimensions and the ability for one-handed camera operation makes the camera more attractive as an alternative to point and shoots or as a backup device to accompany DSLRs or existing Fujifim X series cameras. This new product might steal some more market share away from previously dominant top dog manufacturers. Especially Nikon with its 1-inch sensor mirrorless offerings may lose out on sales in future. There are no preeminent size benefits to justify small sensors anymore. Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and now Fujifilm show headfirst what can be achieved using great sensor technology coupled with highly appealing design. Nikon may not want to jeopardize DSLR sales but they will have to watch their back. DSLR-class image quality is now possible in a far more compact package. Check my article on the death of the DSLR. […]

  2. […] Cameras (ILC). In my opinion this is a development that can hardly be choked off any more. See my article on the death of the DSLR for further reading. But if you are happy using DSLR equipment and need a […]

  3. […] Of course there may be users that prefer more compact full-framers in future and in general photographers may soon prefer mirrorless solutions. See my article on the demise of the DSLR here. […]

  4. […] See my relating article “The DLSR is dead, long live mirrorless!” […]

  5. […] So why am I convinced, the Nikon D7100 will be my last ever DSLR? That is because I truly believe, the more compact mirrorless camera systems will only need a few more years to evolve. In only a short time manufacturers like Sony, Fuji and Olympus will be able to perfect their offerings. There will be no more benefits left for DSLR users. I will use my Nikon for special purpose work until this time. But for hiking, street photography, and to carry everywhere I go…there will always be a more compact mirrorless camera at my side. I just would not want to schlepp a heavy backpack all the time anymore. For further reading please refer to my previous article “The DSLR is dead, long live mirrorless!”. […]

  6. That video is a pain to watch indeed 🙂
    My DSLR is still quite useful for sports and flash photography. I won’t be selling it that soon.

  7. […] will not be the death of the DSLR (also see my previous article) but many casual photographers will no doubt ditch their heavy equipment in the end and settle for […]

  8. […] camera is a nice one and can probably hold its own against the fierce competition from both the DSLR and mirrorless crowd. Priced at € 1.249 for the body alone it is going to be tough to sell next […]

  9. […] there be a stampede killing off all DSLRs driving potential buyers towards mirrorless offerings? Read this if you fear the end is near […]

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