Wired Still Predicting the Demise of DSLRs

Back at the beginning of the year, Wired stirred up some fierce debate when it published an article titled, 5 Reasons to Ditch Your Digital SLR.

Unless you have a specific use that these cameras can’t meet, or you need the very highest level of performance only a Canon 1D or Nikon D3 can bring, you have no reason to buy a DSLR.

Today, they’re at it again with a new article titled, Do Mirrorless Cameras Spell the Death of DSLRs?.

[…] what does it mean for the DSLR, which has for years been the fastest growing sector of the camera market? A DSLR used to be the only way to go if you wanted a camera that had a big sensor and a reasonably responsive shutter. The other benefits, like interchangeable lenses, are arguably only there for the more serious. Take a look around you next time you’re in a tourist spot and you’ll see mostly sub-$1,000 SLRs with the kit zooms still on the front.

The argument is that the large sensors, small camera size, and interchangeable lenses on the newer cameras will steal all but the most serious photographers from the DSLR market. Their view is summed up nicely in the last sentence:

The DSLR won’t die. But it could become a niche product, and the specialist tool of the professional.

What do you think about this debate? Will DSLR cameras start to decline in popularity, or does Wired not know what it’s talking about?

Image credit: novoflex meets gf-1 by icedsoul photography .:teymur madjderey

  • teachj

    I don't think so. It may edge out some low cost DSLRs for not-so-serious amateurs, but DSLR says “I am a serious photographer.” Plus I just don't like the feel of any other type of body. When you have a heavy lens, you want a substantial camera to hold on to.

  • magic6435

    I agree with almost everything teachj says but “DSLR says “I am a serious photographer.”” is the worst reason ever. Use what ever you need to get the job done. Not using a DSLR when the job does not call for it makes you no less of a serious photographer and actually means you know enough not to carry everything around for no reason.

  • insuranceboy

    I,m old fashion ,give me a pinhole and an oatmeal container ,so high tech lol Just after my vision how I get it does not matter high tech or low use what I have

  • jordan1313

    As a person with a collection of expensive professional-grade lenses and a top of the line professional DSLR (Canon 1Ds series), I can say: yes, I agree. I will continue to want a DSLR with a full-frame sensor, extremely quick autofocus and top notch image quality. I also prefer the view of a really quality optical viewfinder. That said, for the most part, I see the VAST majority of current DSLR owners going to the mirrorless camera. I own an Olympus E-P1 for when I travel light and it's wonderful. I feel comfortable taking it and two lenses for most casual shooting and for my 'everywhere' cam. I get great image quality and a compact size. While for someone as serious as me, a DSLR is still the way to go for any really important shooting, for the average Joe, it's overkill. I see the compact market staying strong for most people, the mirrorless camera being the way for other casual snappers who want higher image quality (and serious photographers who want a smaller travel cam), and DSLRs continuing only for pros and very serious amateurs.

  • hobbangr

    I don't agree with teachj on the DSLR = “I'm a serious photographer,” since they're so affordable now, but I do agree that a bulky lens on a tiny body would feel way unbalanced. I don't think DSLR's will die within the next five years (or, ever).

  • mikehigdon

    I've always thought people not serious about photography should lay off the DSLRs. They tend to be more complicated to use and like Wired said, the kit lenses stay on and they are usually the worst lenses. You're better off getting a Canon Powershot for half the price with just as much power and better settings. Plus all the Smile Detection, Blink Detection and Ugly Aunt Detection software on those things are awesome.

    That said, obviously if you're going to change lenses and use PASM settings, then a DSLR is the way to go. A Canon Mark III or D3 being the only viable option is a huge exaggeration not only because of the price but the function. I shoot portraits professionally as a freelancer and my D80 works perfectly fine. But I also think the D40 and lower are pointless. They're tiny and hard to use. Anything with one dial is too slow for manual work in the field outside of still shots. IMHO.

    DSLRs should be niche products. It's annoying when people think they are pros because their mirrors flip up.

  • mikehigdon

    I agree with magic6435 though too. Almost any camera can do good work. I've been working on a project where I'm using my iPhone camera and Photoshop App only to prove that photography is about vision and toning, not gear.

    But user's intention and the interface need to mesh. And it's a sin to put DSLRs on auto. It's a sin because you wasted your money and the camera's technical abilities.

  • DrGroove

    If you get a compact to the reaction time of a DSLR, I think the 'kit lens/entry level body' consumer identified here would probably prefer to use a compact, and enjoy the more compact size, and potentially less-compromised lens. I think the traditional push-focus-shoot delay of compacts is the main reason lots of people turned to DSLR. Plus “I have a friend who takes awesome shots with their 5D, so I'll buy a 1000D, and get the same shots.” Excepting skill, sensor size, quality glass…yeah, sure.
    I see plenty of people with both hands on the body, nothing on the 25-400mm f6 lens with image stabliser working its butt off…No doubt frustrated with the results, and blaming the camera.

    However, a lot of people will still buy DSLRs based on the same premise as buying 4WD vehicles for driving to work (One day I might want to go off-road): one day I might want to lock up my cash in a more specialised lens I'll only use occasionally. So just in case, I'll stretch to the DSLR and make do with the kit lens for now.

  • Serij

    It really depends on what you're photographing. I can see mirroless cameras replacing DSLRs for portrait and landscape photographers. But for sports or even wildlife photography it's probably not gonna happen.

  • Newtonfan

    I think people who buy DSLRs, especially those who stick with their kit lenses, are a pretty deluded lot. “Look how cool I am with my large camera that is such a cow to bring along” No thanks.

  • Jason Black

    A few points:

    Having a nice big DSLR doesn't necessarily say “I'm a pro”, but sometimes it gets you access because the average person who doesn't know a lot about cameras will take a large camera more seriously than a small one. On the flip side, sometimes you get better shots by not being noticed (when carrying a small camera). I've been on both sides of this.

    One advantage of the micro 4/3 format is the small size. Yes, I can get adapters to use my expensive and heavy Canon glass, but that defeats the purpose. On the flip side, being able to use basically ANY lens with a micro would be nice.

    At this point, the micros are only trying to catch up on things like sensor size and megapixels. Even the “pro-am” DSLR's still rule on things like autofocus speed, light sensitivity, burst rate, and useful niche features like lens correction, one-touch RAW when otherwise shooting in JPEG, and accesibilty to the many manual features.

  • mike ricca

    I actually kind of hope that the new trend of EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) cameras takes a chunk out of the “consumer dSLR” market.

    Back when we were all shooting film, average consumers didn't go out and drop thousands of dollars for Blads and Mamiyas. They had simple little Minoltas and Pentax SLR cameras, and that was all they needed. The current crop of dSLRs are so far beyond the basic SLRs folks were used to, and they're more camera than a lot of people need.

    Most consumers don't need that. They'll be more than fine with a simple EVIL camera and a decent all-around lens. The GF1 + 14-45mm (28-90 effective) lens would be perfect for sooo many people out there still fumbling with their d80s and d5000s because that's what someone convinced them to get.

  • QuBe

    Wired just trolling for traffic.
    Their next bait will probably be: “Is Canon really better than Nikon?”
    Probably followed by some story about having a dead bigfoot in a freezer…

  • Nicolas

    I don't agree with Newtonfan at all. I own an entry-level D3000, I'm very very happy with it, I'm satisfied with my shots, and I don't care at all about what other people might think of it.

    To each his own; if a mirrorless micro does the job for you, fine! I'll stick with my gear as long as it delivers.

  • Miles

    I don't think they're predicting the demise of DSLRs, just pointing out that a large number of current DSLR users would be better off with a compact or bridge camera, which I think is true. They have overstated the idea that DLSRs could become marginalised, consumers are not rational and manufacturers keep piling on features that make them an easy sell to the earnest buyer, but the theory isn't unsound.

    Almost everyone reading this is at least a hobbyist and has an interest in cameras and probably approaching photography in a way that would justify using a DSLR or other non-compact digital. There will *always* be a demand for DSLRs from non-professionals, it's silly to say there won't be. Enthusiasts have always owned professional-level gear, whether digital or not, and made use of it.

  • Steve

    If there's a benefit to having a mirror box then they'll stick around, otherwise they won't. Given the move to hybrid video DSLR's this seems the obvious next step. But regardless there will always be professional grade cameras and consumer grade cameras because no one camera can cover the gamut of needs. Over time you'll get more for less in bodies but optics are always going to cost you.

  • Lou

    I don't see the DSLR market dying out. There will be plenty of people who won't like the smaller micro 4/3rds-ish cameras because they're TOO small. However, what we'll see is a segmentation of the “high-end consumer/hobbyist” camera market. You'll get the artsy emo kids who get whatever sony or oly is small and “cool”, meanwhile as the people into the “craft” even just a bit, will probably go to the DSLRs because of the amount of control and awesome buttons on a camera that size.

    They're just easier to control and hold. Plus, it'd look dumb to have a 300mm+ lens on an ep1. hehe

  • ninotamburri

    I love my heavy expensive DSLR. Nothing Comes close.
    And as Kirk Douglas said “pry it from my cold dead hands!!!!”

  • Kevin Pack

    Given the problem facing street photographers getting hassle in the UK because they have a DSLR and therefore must be a terrorist or pedo, street photography may be easier with using an EVIL camera like the E-P1.

  • teitr

    Never buy or use a camera for what other people might think. These days most of the time I walk around with a 45 year old rangefinder, I also take it too shoots and hook it up to my flashes.
    I see what they're trying to get at with the article, it might still take some time but I do think the entry level dslr market is going to get smaller due to those new style rf like digital compacts. I'm also in the market for one so I can leave my heavy dslr stuff at home and go with two light bodies, one film and one digital

  • Bergur

    I'm probably just saying what all the others are saying:

    These might replace the lower-end DSLRs, but not the serious amateurs, the hobbyists, semi-pros and ofc pros won't change anything.

    I knew a few people, who have bought DSLRs because the want a little more control than a P&S can provide. Also I know people who have bought the most expensive P&S they can find, because they wanted quality, but not the size of a DSLR…

  • D.H.

    To be honest, it's only serious photographers that think about things like this. The proverbial man-on-the-street will fall for marketing and general perception.

    I think that smaller cameras *should* be the name of the game for 98% of consumers out there. But as long as the camera companies market DSLRs as something that will magically ramp up your image quality, people will still buy them and wonder why their kit lens results suck.

    I shoot a DSLR, and love it. But, I often just carry around a really cheap Nikon P&S. And, frankly, many of my P&S shots rival stuff from my DSLR. And, beyond that, the simple fact that the P&S is small means that I have it with me all of the time, whereas I generally plan ahead if I am carrying my DSLR around.

    Now, I'm no Ansel Adams, but I do have half a clue about photography. And, thus, I can force some reasonably OK stuff out of a crappy P&S. The average Joe out there who just takes snapshots (but wants to be Adams) can't get anything that he likes (other than snapshots) out of a P&S, and is easily bamboozled into thinking that a DSLR (rather than practice) will solve his problems.

    That marketing ploy is $$$ in Canon/Nikon/Sony's pocket. So, unless someone comes along and convinces consumers that a smaller camera is at least as good – if not better in some cases – than a DSLR, people will continue to buy DSLRs.

  • drgroove

    Bear in mind the retailers have become accustomed to selling DSLR body + lens sets, and may struggle to feel comfy flogging the same customer a lower priced item (which is probably why the camera companies will need to rationalise their range for them)

  • rangefindergordon

    I think that dslr sales have been driven by people wanting to buy cameras that look professional regardless of the image quality. I think there will be a return of rangefinder-esque cameras that out shoot low end dslrs for most tasks. I'd kill to have my m-mount lenses on a digital body.

  • Todd Eddy

    I've been taking pictures for years with various P&S cameras. When I got a 40D last year I don't ever want to go back to a P&S. The benefits far outweigh any inconveniences of being “too big / heavy” I actually enjoy having something with some heft to it that I'm not afraid would crack into a million pieces if dropped a foot. Although I'm still saving up for a lens to replace the kit lens…

    that said, I'm pretty excited about these EVIL (awesome acronym btw) cameras. They would make a good backup camera or to use in places I don't need a larger camera or if I'm saving space. If I go overseas for a vacation I'd seriously consider an EVIL camera. Although if I'm traveling for the main purpose of taking pictures I'd probably stick with the 40D

  • Jim

    I've been shooting photos for almost 50 years now. I started with a Canon Pellix, got a Leica IIIc to learn about light, speed and apertures. Then for 20+ years I used a Canon F-1 before getting a Leica M6. I added a Canon 30D and last week got a 5D MkII. Ok. So what does that mean? I've never worked as a paid photographer but I've had dozens of photos published in various media. What I believe is that the camera won't give you a good “eye”, but if you have one, good equipment will give you superior results. Everybody today considers themselves some kind of photographer even if they are just using their crappy little cell phone camera. The truth is, immediacy counts in the digital world. Events occur and appear on line in minutes today. Quality is not an issue for those folks, news is news and photos help send the message. That said, there will be a market for the digital DSLR for a few years yet as they add more features (DSLR video for example). Bluetooth functions will be next and so on.

  • Whenvel33

    In many contexts, DSLR says “I want you to think I am a serious photographer.”

  • Doug Wittrock

    They once predicted the demise of film SLR’s when cheap film cameras became available. The bottom line is that cheap cameras take cheap pictures. Even relatively expensive point and shoot’s take decent photos because the quality of lens just isn’t there. You want sharp images? Then get a DSLR and even a middle of the road quality lens. There will always be a market for ‘snapshot’ type cameras, as well as DSLR’s.

  • Pudding Time

    I work at an extremely successful camera store (near Penn station in Manhattan), and I see what people leave with, and trust me, the DSLR is alive and well, and not going anywhere. While the growing number of adapters and great primes for mirrorless systems is enticing, the smaller systems are still not quite there yet. For every Olympus, Fuji, and Sony mirrorless system that leaves the store, at least 5 SLRs do as well.

  • Carlos J Encarnacion

    Agree. Today’s i-phones can use interchangeable lenses and have features dreamed in pro cameras of yesteryear, Still, I love the feel of an SLR or DSLR in my hands and all the added features are tools I use to capture images. If you want to get someone hooked on DSLRs get them one of these on the second video, next step will be a serious camera.