The SLR has been the iconic pillar of “serious” photography since the 1960s, and its digital version, the DSLR, has fulfilled that role in the 21st century. But a 50-year run at the top seems to be peaking as cameras with mirrors and penta prisms are pushed aside by mirrorless cameras. What now?
“You get a lot more computer brains in a mirrorless camera,” says Stephen Shankland, CNET’s senior reporter and longtime avid photographer. “You have all the light information on the image sensor all the time and one of the great things you can do is much better autofocus.” DSLRs usually only send the image from the lens to the sensor when you press the shutter button, which reduces the time the sensor has to adjust and capture the image. It is a derivative of the movie camera design that mirrorless cameras can supposedly turn in circles.
It’s a handful, but despite its cost, weight, and complexity, the DSLR is the first choice for those who want the best of photos. Now comes the mirrorless camera to unbalance the DSLR with more phone-like features and less volume.
in favor of mirrorless cameras, but DSLR giants Canon and Nikon still have to cut and run, instead placing new ones or the Nikon Z series while their old DSLRs are in use. Mirrorless cameras tend to be more compact than known chunky DSLRs, but often require new lenses or an adapter if you want to keep your DSLR lenses, negating any size and weight improvement.
The last Sony DSLR cameras were tacitly discontinued in May. The company has completely switched to cameras that eliminate the mirror at the center of the DSLR design, as seen in the center of the above snippet.
Of course, the market for interchangeable lens cameras, a category that includes both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, has not yet fallen out of the market, according to data from Japan’s Camera and Imaging Products Association. Thanks to Video for much of this boost, as DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are the first choice for several generations of video producers. Still, the DSLR exit has begun, which Shankland says will be a long one, as the technology still offers a compelling combination of image quality, lens choice, and the inertia of a large installed base that has invested a lot of money in equipment.
“I don’t think you’ll have to go out and grab the last DSLR on the shelf,” says Shankland. “Canon and Nikon are gradually making this transition.”
Shankland had many more insights into the camera market from his coverage on CNET. Hear them all in the video.
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