Welcome to my second blog of Photography Bluff.
Sorry for being lazy these days and this is only my third publish this month and it’s nearly the end of it already. I have been very much tied up with my photography work and even though I have lots to bluff about, I just don’t have the time to put my thoughts into words. But here I am, talking about something that I want to say for sometime.
THE DEATH OF DSLRS…
Ok, many may disagree but it seems like a denial from those who believe in the long history of SLR development. Yes, Single Lens Reflect system has been around for many decades and it’s one of the longest surviving ‘platform’ in any photographic format since ‘photography’ was invented in the late 1800’s, and certainly the most popular! So I don’t blame people who disagree with me. I do not intend to hide my feeling towards this great platform. But just look at how SLR destroy other platforms before it, such as the rangefinder camera (thought this platform seems to have reinvented itself and becomes a quirky trend in modern days). SLR really helped to popularise the 35mm photography worldwide. Yes, Leica may have popularise the 35mm format but even in the old days, Leica was expensive. SLR on the other hand, because of its affordability that many had a taste of being a photographer at some point in their lives.
So SLR was important and even more so when things turned digital in the early 2000’s. This platform continued to propel ‘affordable’ photography to many, from uncle Bob to professional Joe. Stable as this platform seems, every good thing always comes to an end at some point. A new platform is about to take over.
Let me reiterate the design of SLR, which hasn’t changed mechanically since this platform started. There’s the film pool, a lens mount, a shutter with a mirror in front of it at 45 degree that reflects the image from the lens right upto a pentaprism and perfectly transmits through a tunnel and finally hits our eyes. That hasn’t changed even in the digital world, just that the film has been replaced by a digital sensor, pretty much.
So this design is indeed… old school. It may seem cool to anyone who is new to DSLRs but for those who started using SLRs back in the 60’s or 70’s would think that this isn’t right. Why they haven’t changed anything, yet, all these years? Well, the answer is NOTHING… much.
Ever since the Canon EOS 5D entered the market, the word just screamed at this magnificent camera, it’s the first affordable full frame DSLR in the world! Then the mark II brought videography into the hands of photographers with cinematic effects. Nikon provided the highest pixel counts in recent years for 35mm digital format together with the best low light performing sensors. Yes these two big boys are cats and dogs in the DSLR stadium but look closer at what they actually did in the past few decades for the revolution of SLRs? Umm… focusing speed, metering, ISO developments and squeezing more pixels to that sensor? But underneath all these ‘technologies’, it’s still an old school camera. A film SLR photographer will have not much trouble ‘digitizing’ himself. However, try asking him to pick up a mirrorless camera is another matter because it can be a different beast and feel strange to some senior photographers.
There isn’t doubt that DSLR still triumphs in terms of ruggedness and high end image quality. But this gap is closing with the introduction of full frame mirrorless cameras such as the Sony A7 series. I think both Nikon and Canon are both confused of their own doings, either have tried mirrorless with limited success. Unlike Sony, which was a company that I truly hated when it acquired Konica-Minolta. But it’s a company that I started to admire recently for doing something bold. I personally believe that the A7 series is the beginning of a new era in 35mm digital format, much of the same revolution like the original Canon EOS 5D did in the digital photography market.
For now, I can’t see any evolutionary breakthrough in the DSLR designs. For instance, the fastest burst rate of current DSLR – Canon EOS 1Dx may hold the crown for now but for how long? Mirrorless can use digital shutter that can easily beat that 14 fps ten folds. Pro-grade DSLRs may have the body to take the knocks but what about the newer and improved mirrorless bodies such as Panasonic GH4, Olympus E-M1 and the A7R and A7S? I haven’t even mention Leica, which is another maunal-only full frame with a tank-like built body. There’s not much that a DSLR can improve these days but there’s still room for the mirrorless cameras to improve and while the gap is now very close, I will soon see this new ‘platform’ overtake DSLR as a tool for most professionals. Many, including myself, have already own and use mirrorless cameras for professional work though it’s more of a supplement kit to their DSLR setups until that ‘overtaking’ is taken place.
I know DSLR supporters will argue that DSLR is here to stay and I wouldn’t agree more but for how long and how dominant will it be? I don’t think it will disappear until I am long gone from this planet but I can see that the market will continue to shrink and mirrorless will take over and becomes the most popular platform very very soon. In this new platform, micro 4/3 is the most matured format with enough superb primes and zooms to appreciate the most demanded. APS-C sensors mirrorless are growing fast enough that almost all my friends have one. Full frame?? Well, there’s only one choice at the moment, Sony A7 series. But I can see the bells ringing for more from Sony, or even Nikon and Canon. Will they do it? No one knows but all I know that neither want to sacrifice their DSLR marketshares by cannibalising sales by introducing something greater than DSLRs. But the truth is that mirrorless can be great, and greater than DSLR could ever achieve. It’s time for the big boys to think deep and start becoming a leader again. While Leica is a niche on its own, a camera that I love and use professionally, the RED dot is still trying hard to be relevant in today’s changing photographic landscape. It’s on the right path by introducing the Leica T, which is a very beautiful smartphone-like mirrorless that allows M lenses. I do think Leica is brave enough to try something different and why Canon or Nikon do something similar?
Now I am excited to see what’s next in the mirrorless development. I am still a happy Canon photographer but I’ve seen switching my usage in the SLR platform in my jobs. The next 5 years is going to be interesting. I am prepared to see major advancements in mirrorless technologies such as better EVFs and better high ISO performance for smaller sensors, more nice glass too. What we may see is the revival of Nikon and Canon if they both are deciding to do something about it. At the end of the days, there isn’t a PERFECT platform or system for everything. I would love to have ONE camera system that I can rely on for all the jobs I do but there simply isn’t a choice like this. I have to mix and match for everything I do these days. Yes, many and I know many photographers still use a system exclusively but I also know a lot of photographers who are starting to experiment mirrorrless as part of their setups, either as a back up or complimentary system. This just shows how everything has changed in recent years.
But despite all said above, I am still a photographer. I use cameras as tools to create my images but sometimes, I do get excited about gears just to see how much more I can create with the latest advancements! Share your thoughts and I would like to hear them!