DSLR's still rule. OK.


There is a piece over on 43rumors that seems to indicate that sales of DSLR's are rising and the predicted mirrorless takeover isn't happening. Now whether this is a true representation of sales, who can say, but DSLR's and 'traditional' camera shapes and styles show no sign of the decline that many expected. 

As someone who both champions mirrorless cameras and has bought and used many, but still continues to use and sing the praises of DSLR's, I thought I'd throw in some ideas about why the old-fashioned, heavy, big and ugly DSLR still holds sway.

Firstly there is "if it ain't broke don't fix it'. A mirror that has to be shunted out the way every time you take a picture probably isn't the ideal way to design a camera from scratch, but companies have been manufacturing them for years and know how to build a camera round it that works well and comes in at a decent price point.

Secondly the price is very important. Some mirrorless cameras and their system lenses are just too expensive. You can currently buy a Nikon D5100 + 18-55mm combination in the UK for under £300. You get a hell of a camera for that price. Same pixel count as top of the range m4/3 and most of the NEX range, flip out screen, great image quality and decent build quality. I would mention that its a superb video camera too.

Thirdly, manufacturers have to learn that people who are serious about photography really do appreciate traditional features like viewfinders. Its high summer here in the UK (at last) and everybody will be out with their cameras. Those using screen only cameras will engage in the usual struggle to see what they are photographing and what they have taken. If the viewing experience is no better than your phone, why not just use the phone? People taking photographs also like something to hold on to, and a lot of mirrorless cameras are uncomfortable and fiddly. The harder and more unpleasant it is to take a photograph, surely the less people like a camera and will swap to something that works better.

Fourthly, manufacturers have to make up their mind who they think buys these cameras and decide whether they are going to be gadget fests or picture taking devices. If the above graph is true, it seems obvious to me what choices people are making. The Samsung 'camera with a phone inside it' may seem like a good idea to the suits, but does anyone else agree with them? I suspect not many people do.

Finally, there is the notion that a DSLR is a 'proper' camera and takes better pictures and makes you look like a 'real photographer' if you use one. And while of course this is nonsense, if it is a genuinely held widespread belief that doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, then the companies with their mirrorless offerings have a problem. Who do they sell them too? Its interesting I think that all the fuss recently has been about the GH3, OM-D and Fuji X Series. All are much more traditionally styled and sized than the bulk of the mirrorless options and I can't help thinking this is what attracts peoples interest. I often mock the 'It won't fit in my pocket' brigade and I'm convinced that if most people spend a decent amount on a camera, then they don't want to hide it in a pocket, and most are sensible enough to realise that its by no means the best place for it anyway. Most people don't carry a camera at all times anyway, I certainly don't, and the idea that everybody wants some portable micro camera to stash in their jeans pocket just waiting for some breaking news story to appear in front of them, is I believe erroneous. Isn't that what mobile phones are for?

Two and a half years ago I started the prestigious (NOT!) Soundimageplus Camera of the year. First winner was the Sony NEX-5n, which I thought at the time was an amazing little picture taking machine, but I'm not convinced that things have moved on much from there. Last end of year it was the Nikon D800E and this year my frontrunner (by quite some distance) is the Nikon D7100, which is an incredible camera, with extraordinary quality for an APS-C sensor and great handling and features. For me, mirrorless has somewhat lost its way, not helped by the constant release of only slightly upgraded models. And while some DSLR manufacturers are guilty of that too (mainly Canon) it is less common. DSLR's also can cherry pick mirrorless technology and advances and incorporate it into new models, while it strikes me that often mirrorless cameras throw out the baby with the bathwater. I've written extensively about why the traditional DSLR still works for me and despite them getting less column inches than the latest miniature marvel, it seems that people, when they vote with their wallets and purses, still appreciate the value, functionality and design of what are supposed to be photographic dinosaurs. As the title says - DSLR's still rule. OK.

As ever your views are welcome over at Google+