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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.
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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