Not so long ago, whenever someone insisted that mirrorless cameras will be the dominant format going into the future of photography, DSLR users responded with incredulity. As long as Canon and Nikon are still making DSLRs, they argued, mirrorless cameras would always take a back seat.
No one was suggesting that mirrorless cameras are bad, just that they couldn’t keep up with DSLRs in terms of autofocus performance and build quality and lens selection.
Sure, mirrorless systems are compact and sometimes incorporate innovative features, but DSLR traditionalists refused to take mirrorless cameras seriously.
Then, seemingly all of a sudden, Sony, thanks to its Alpha series, became the best selling full-frame camera — mirrorless or DSLR — in the U.S. This announcement was made a month or so before Nikon and Canon were set to release their first mirrorless cameras.
Yes, Nikon and Canon, those DSLR stalwarts had succumbed to the demands of an evolving photography landscape.
It remains to be seen exactly how the Canon and Nikon offerings stack up against the more established mirrorless bodies by Sony and the pending full-frame camera from Panasonic. And it will be some time before anyone can make a fair assessment of Canon’s and Nikon’s impact on the overall mirrorless market, disregarding sensor size, which also includes highly respected gear from Fujifilm and Olympus.
The fact that Nikon and Canon finally introduced mirrorless cameras doesn’t prove DSLRs are dead, but perhaps it’s a hint that DSLR production will slow down. I’m not an industry insider, so that’s just a guess on my part, but history has shown that technology generally makes no effort to outlive its usefulness.
If and when mirrorless cameras take over, DSLR loyalists will remain and I’d hope those photographers have access to new gear when they need it. Because I personally don’t care what kind of camera sells more or what brand is most popular.
The availability of options is what matters to me. But I’m also aware of the possibility that DSLRs could go the way of the floppy disk. The difference is I don’t know a single human who misses floppy disk storage. I know a few who would miss using a DSLR, though.
Looking at all this from a purely technological perspective, my gut says mirrorless should be the future of photography. There’s no reason for it not to be — in due time, mirrorless cameras will embody all of the advantages once held by DSLRs and none of their disadvantages. Plus, you know, all the good stuff that mirrorless cameras already do.
Are mirrorless cameras the way of the future? I don’t know. Ask me again three years from now.
As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below
This is interesting because I have just read an article that mirrorless is on its way to death. There are two issues that Nikon and Canon will have to come to terms with: Mirrorless gear is a shared technology in sense that the lenses can be used across brands. It was a brilliant decision the companies made to encourage emerging technology. Canon and Nikon like to be very proprietary. I think those days are gone. The second issue is the inclination of mirrorless manufacturers to update software. Again, not something the Old Guard felt they had to do. I think Nikon and Canon will have to learn new ways or they will go the way of dinosaurs. That is the power of the marketplace.
I just ordered my 2nd Olympus OMD E-M10 (type II this time). I’ve been involved in photography for over 50 years, and I have yet to find a camera I have liked better. It is the perfect compromise between size, weight, image quality, and lens availability.
I said it will be the future in 2009 when Olympus 1st mirroless was launched on the market in commemoration of the brand’s 50th anniversary. Some people only say that now that the Dinausaurs Canon and Nikon launched they…sorry