Is Mirrorless Really the Future of Cameras?

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Photo of Canon R3 and Sony A1

I recently teamed up with my colleagues at Outdoor Photographer and Imaging Resource to discuss the future of cameras and, specifically, whether the era of the DSLR was coming to an end. The lively virtual roundtable discussion was precipitated by Sony discontinuing its final DSLR models earlier this year and the fact that there was only one new DSLR introduced in 2021, the Pentax K-3 Mark III.

You can read some excerpts of the discussion below but if you’re a DSLR fan, you may want to look away. On the other hand, as the saying goes, when one door closes, another will open. And when it comes to the future of cameras, that new door would seem to be mirrorless.

While DSLR introductions have faded, fancy new mirrorless cameras have proliferated. Earlier in the year, Sony introduced the Alpha a1, a fast-shooting, 50-megapixel camera that was responsible, in part, for the Associated Press switching to Sony for all its photo and video journalism needs.

That buzzy camera introduction was followed by Canon’s slow strip tease of the EOS R3, which was “secretly” tested at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo and finally fully introduced last month. To demonstrate the level of interest in the Canon R3, one of our most popular stories in recent months was Team USA photographer Jeff Cable’s review of the camera based on his time shooting with the R3 at the Olympics.

Meanwhile, Nikon is set to introduce its new Z 9 flagship mirrorless camera and a new 30-second teaser video on the Z 9 has already racked up tens of thousands of views.

Photo of Nikon Z9

All of which begs the question: is the future of cameras really mirrorless? The obvious answer would seem to be yes. Canon, Nikon, and Sony are now putting most, if not all, of their resources into mirrorless camera and lens development as DSLRs fade into the sunset.

But how long will mirrorless cameras be top dog until another technology comes along? We’ve already seen how much the quality of smartphone cameras has improved with advancements in computational photography, more powerful processing engines, and the miniaturization of camera parts, specifically lens elements.

Will there come a day when someone pens an article titled “The End of Mirrorless Cameras is Nigh”? It’s not only possible, it seems inevitable.

In the meantime, check out some of our discussion about the end of the DSLR below and let us know what you think about all of this in comments section at the bottom of this story.

Wes Pitts, editorial director, Outdoor Photographer:

“Both Canon and Nikon have updated their flagship DSLRs in the last few years and introduced a few consumer models, but development has clearly shifted to mirrorless, even for the DSLR stalwarts. There are millions of Canon and Nikon DSLR lenses out there, so from that perspective, it’s unlikely those brands will completely discontinue DSLRs in the immediate future, but apart from support for pros who have yet to move to mirrorless, it’s also hard to see them putting a lot of effort into future DSLR releases.”

Dan Havlik, senior editor, Digital Photo and Digital Photo Pro

“DSLR still work fine for many photographers. Whether camera manufacturers will continue to make new DSLRs though remains to be seen, but I’m guessing they will be much fewer and further between. And I have little doubt that at an NDA meeting in the near future, a PR rep will put a new DSLR in front of us, either across a table or during a Zoom session, and we’ll all wonder, ‘Why?'”

Jeremy Gray, reviews editor, Imaging Resource:

“The DSLR’s time at the top is ending. In many ways, it’s already passed. There are not many new DSLRs in the pipeline, if there are any at all. However, I’m confident that many photographers are still getting their start with DSLRs and will continue to do so for years to come. I hope their first camera means as much to them as mine did to me.”

Dave Etchells, founder and editor emeritus, Imaging Resource:

“Competition in the mirrorless space is fierce, and manufacturers need to pour every last dollar of budget and hour of engineering time into that area. It’s hard to imagine a justification for anyone to spend time and effort developing new DSLR models—unless, as in the case of Ricoh/Pentax, they don’t have any products in the mirrorless space. I do feel a bit nostalgic about SLRs and DSLRs, but even I have to admit that their era is fading.

William Brawley, managing editor, Imaging Resource:

“It’s hard to know for sure if we’ve seen the last new DSLR, but I have to agree with my colleagues here that the ‘age of the DSLR’ appears to be coming to a close. I do think that both Canon and Nikon, who still have large customer bases of DSLR camera and lens owners, will continue to support their respective DSLR camera platforms for many years to come in some form. Still, I can’t see them spending much time or resources developing significantly newer DSLR cameras—especially when a large proportion of Canon and Nikon’s DSLR lenses work surprisingly well with adapters on their new mirrorless camera systems.”

Read the full story on “Is the era of  DSLR camera coming to an end?” here.

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