The demise of the DSLR

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Five years ago, while I was writing for a local photo magazine, I was mostly in charge of the ‘big’ cameras – DSLRs and the like. There was no mirrorless category, with the exception of Leica; compacts meant serious image quality or lens quality compromises, and every serious photographer was typically also on first name terms with their chiropractor. You could still get film with relative ease, and better still, develop it. Not long ago, my desk had three cameras for review/ testing on it (the Olympus E-P5, Leica X Vario and Sigma DP3M – none of them were DSLRs. I now routinely travel without one; in fact, most of the time I do a lot of personal photography with compacts. And pretty much the only time my D800E comes out is when I’ve got a commercial job to shoot.

How things change.

This may or may not come as a shock, but I’m predicting the slow death of the DSLR has already begun; firstly, quality of smaller systems has caught up; technology is mature enough that there are few, if any, compromises involved in using a mirrorless camera. If my OM-D had phase detect AF and a few more pixels, I’d probably be using that exclusively for my professional work – in many ways, it’s more flexible than the D800E, and for 99% of intended end use, there isn’t enough difference in image quality. It’s not just me, either: a lot of my other pro friends are either using the heavy gear (including medium format) solely for work, and anything personal is whatever fits into a pocket.

The last few bastions held by the DSLR form factor are being slowly overrun: like image quality, EVF quality has passed ‘good enough’ and is well into the realm of very good to excellent, especially with the new Olympus VF-4; it’s so good that I prefer it to any of the non-full frame DSLR optical finders, and that’s before we even think about other advantages like MF enlargement, focus peaking, highlight overexposure warnings and data overlays, or the ability to set things without taking your eye from the finder. Oh, and there’s also the ability to shoot from waist level by swivelling the finders. Full frame optical finders frankly appear to be the victim of severe cost cutting, even at the pro end of the market; the D4 is nowhere near as good as my F6, and let’s not even talk about the Hasselblad’s 6×6 prism finder – now THAT’s live view.

What else remains? Ergonomics, I suppose – even that’s being improved to the point that it’s hard to argue that the larger cameras are more comfortable to carry. My one minor complaint with the OM-D is that it’s tough to use with gloves, but a slight redesign of the buttons would solve that. No such problems with the Ricoh GR or Coolpix A. The elephant in the room is legacy lenses: it’s tough for a DSLR owner to give up his glass collection, because a similar depth of offerings simply does not exist in other smaller formats. Even the most mature of the mirrorless formats – Leica M and M4/3 – both lack any sort of perspective correction lenses, other than using a DSLR lens with a tilt or shift adaptor; there are no native solutions despite them being ideally suited to this kind of work because of live view. And this is a complete non-argument for most of the user base anyway, who have no more than perhaps the kit lens and a fast 50, or no lenses due to upgrading from a compact. In fact, it dawned on me today that I haven’t bought a new lens for my DSLR in over a year: for me, this is unprecedented. But I did add several mirrorless lenses this year alone – the Panasonic 14-42 X pancake, the Olympus 75/1.8 and the Leica 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH.

Part of the reason for this is that the matched lens-sensor pairings in the large-sensor compacts are so good, it’s difficult to match them with anything for a DSLR; the optics on the Sigma DP series, Ricoh GR and Coolpix A are at least on the level of the very best DSLR optics, and perhaps even slightly better – simply because the lenses were designed to match the sensors. And the reality is that it’s much easier and more compact to carry two DPs than a DSLR and pair of primes, or as I do, a Ricoh GR, OM-D and two lenses – all of this takes up less volume in a bag than a D800 and one moderately-sized fast prime. Even this assumes that you care enough about image quality to not just use a M4/3 camera and kit or pancake zoom in the first place; as the baseline for sensor and lens quality rises, fewer and fewer people will feel the need to get any more serious. I’m pretty particular about my pixels, and I’m already at the point where I feel I’m getting enough quality for most uses without having to resort to the big guns*. Perhaps Leica was on to something with the X Vario after all.

*But admittedly I do have the Hasselblad and digital back for those situations.

There’s another reason DSLRs are in their twilight, and one slightly more insidious than any of the photographic reasons we’ve discussed above: mirrorless is simply much simpler – and therefore cheaper – to produce, and this of course translates into much better profit margins for manufacturers. Once the camera companies run out of natural evolutionary upgrades – more pixels, more ISO, more fps – all of the things that marketing people can easily hock – we’re going to see forced changes to survive; hopefully with some innovation rolled in. It will be painful, but necessary to move away from legacy lens systems; it’s clear that new lenses designed for digital significantly outperform legacy optics anyway – even Zeiss is redesigning its F and EF mount lenses to deal with increased resolution and corner demands. And these are not small or cheap lenses, either – the forthcoming 55/1.4 is about the same size as a 24-70/2.8! By comparison, even the poorest performers in the M4/3 lineup are pretty excellent by DSLR standards. Full frame mirrorless, anybody?

Put it another way: even the most complex of the mirrorless cameras – the OM-D with it’s 5-axis stabilisation system suspending the sensor – it’s still significantly simpler than the mirror and viewfinder assemblies required for even the cheapest DSLR. I was told by one of the manufacturers that a mirrorless camera has approximately 60-70% fewer parts than a DSLR, and can be produced in significantly less time. Having stripped several Sony NEX-5s for multispectral conversion, I can attest to that: I can strip, remove the UVIR filter pack and reassemble in about fifteen minutes. I tried to do the same to a Nikon D50 once: it took me three hours the second time, partially because of the number of parts, partially because of the testing required during reassembly.

I think perhaps the most interesting consequence out of all of this is that few will notice or mourn the passing of perhaps the most significant era in photography; over time, there will be a decent number of these cameras that survive simply because there were so many produced to begin with; however, unlike mechanical cameras, over time, these may well prove to be unserviceable. Already first-generation D1s are mostly paperweights because of failing batteries or unrepairable IC errors. We’ll see a much more fragmented, niche market – unlike the end of the film era; there are a lot fewer physical/ mechanical constraints with the design of digital cameras. I might not miss my D800E specifically, but whenever I feel like peering through an enormous viewfinder, there’s always the Titan. MT

Cameras mentioned in this post are reviewed and available from the various sources below:
Nikon Coolpix A – review B&H Amazon
Ricoh GR** (Digital V) – review B&H Amazon
Sigma DP1M (B&H, Amazon); DP2M (B&H, Amazon), DP3M (reviewB&H, Amazon).
Leica X Vario (Typ 107) – review B&H Amazon.
Olympus OM-D** – review B&H Amazon
Olympus E-P5 – review B&H Amazon
Nikon D800E** – review B&H Amazon


One last seat has opened up for the Prague workshop (2-5 Oct) due to a participant’s conflicting work commitments. Now available at the special price of $1,900 instead of $2,150!For full details and to make a booking, click here. Thanks! MT


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  1. Why selling your Sony A7RII? If mirrorless is the future and you want top notch image quality, this would seem to be a natural. Main drawback in my experience is that it sometimes STOPS for a minute to write to the card, costly in a studio shoot or anything time critical. Harder to choose a focal point yes but the face recognition is so strong that I find that easier to work with anyway. Eager to hear your opinion.

  2. Thank you for sharing this blog, I am new in photography so this article really helps me in many ways specially in choosing camera. My new DSLR is D800, the resolution is really good, unlike my last DSLR which is already wearing out. My friend told me that E-M1 is really cool, can’t wait to try it and see how good are these new babies. Again, thank you for this informative blog, really appreciate it.

  3. There are plenty of good arguments for smaller cameras, but I am not persuaded by those people, that say their DSLR kits were so heavy that they got back problems or exhaustion. I admit that when I was much younger I was nuts to go everywhere with THREE film Nikons and five heavy lenses in a Billingham bag that itself weighed a ton, but right now a Canon 1Ds ii N, a smaller Canon DSLR as back-up and three lenses (wide angle prime, standard prime, tele-zoom) + flash, filters and spare batteries weighs in at under 10lbs. Put that in a properly designed backpack and you have to be very small, very frail or just a weedy, wimpy sort of person to find it an onerous burden. I have no problem carrying it all day. My weekly shop at the Supermarket – which I also bring home in a rucksack – weighs several times that. Heck, soldiers jo=g for miles over rough terrain when they are dead tired wearing full fighting gear, carrying a pack that can weigh 60 lbs and a heavy rifle or machine gun as well!! And carrying just one DSLR, two lenses, and a pocketable compact as backup halves the weight= I need to carry.

  4. Hi, I read all the comments and my conclusion is that I would say “MFT is the New APSC”, rather than “mirrorless has killed DSLR”.

    I feel like DSLR manufacturers are upping their games with FF only ranges, and maybe one day better OVF to create more differentiation, while MFT format is now technically better than DSLRs, the same as Point and Shoot being killed by smartphones.

    I think it makes no sense to compare OVF to EVF only: for example a Sony A7R is not much smaller or lighter, when equipped with a good lens, to a FF that is actually much cheaper and versatile as of today… So I think the reason why people love MFT is the combination of EVF AND smaller sensor + well designed bodies, which creates a well-balanced and attractive line of products. I also have a feeling that many people who now own a MFT compare it naturally to their past DSLR instead of current models, which are better than a few years ago too 🙂

    Here’s my experience within the DSLR realm: i have a D700 with a heavy but optically better Zeiss 35mm and a lighter but less performant 50mm Nikon 1.4. While I am going lazy overtime and try to prefer the Nikon 50mm, each time I look at my pictures, I can see that the Zeiss, no matter how bothersome to use, just makes better pictures, and thus I curse it and keep shooting with it 🙂

    • No question that MFT and live view is a lot more versatile and certainly portrays final exposure and focus more accurately than an OVF/DSLR. Image quality-wise, we don’t have much choice – the bigger the better and the OVFier 🙂 No free lunches there…I will pick up the 645Z or D810/Otus whenever I’m chasing the ultimate, but a lot of the time that isn’t the case – and when I’m off duty, a D750/50G is enough.

  5. Jeff Allen says:

    I dont know whether this is just me or the way it will spin but I was an early adopter of Olympus 4/3rds and then Micro 4/3rds after being Canon for years. I have the wonderful Olympus OM-D E-M5 and a raft of micro & regular 4/3rds lenses from Olympus and the system is great for casual photography. However I was never completely satisfied with critical landscape shots so bought a Canon 6d full frame camera. Wow what a difference this camera is with L glass it leaves the OM-D E-M5 for dead. This camera has GPS and Wi-Fi and is smaller & lighter than the Canon 5d MKIII.
    The Sony A7R / A7 is not much different in size to Olympus & Panasonic Micro 4/3rds cameras, yes the lenses are larger but a 36 / 24MP camera will always outperform the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 so I would not be so quick as to write off DSLRs I think they still have a lot of legs and CSCs equally have a place for different reasons.

  6. Enjoyed your article. But one thing you said doesn’t make sense to me. You said ” mirrorless is simply much simpler – and therefore cheaper – to produce.” If this were true, why is the OM-D E-M1 body $300 more expensive than the Nikon D7100 body? Mirrorless should be cheaper for the reasons you state. But the fact is, APS-C bodies are still cheaper than mirrorless generally.

    • Partially because of marketing, and partially because you’re not suggesting a direct apples-to-apples comparison. The D7100 does not run at 10fps or have full weather sealing that can withstand showers and standing water. It’s closer to the E-M5.

  7. How true is this! My dad’s D90’s kit lens stopped working recently, and I advised him to look for a nice mirrorless like the E-PL5 mad forget about repairing the lens/ buying another kit zoom. With micro 4/3’s image quality being so damn close to APS-C’s, there’s no need for enthusiast shooters to lug around big and heavy DSLRs anymore. Meanwhile, I can complement my Nikoon film SLRs with a digital body 🙂

  8. Hmm I’ve thought about these issues before when the G12 first came out. Apart from international/national print advertisements, I thought that even a G12 would suffice in most studio settings. Added benefit was higher flash sync speed and greater DOF i.e. less watts for studio strobes outdoors and indoors.

    But nowadays the more I think about it, the more I doubt that it can or would be done – not any time soon at least. You certainly have more experience with international clients than most of the readers here, but how would these clients feel if you brought an OM-D to shoot their high budget adverts? Added to the fact that mirrorless is so much cheaper than DSLR, it might become so commonplace that pros will be distinguished by using the DSLR. Benefits in photographic terms may be negligible, but the association of DSLR to professionals may still compel most photogs to stay with DSLRs. Isn’t that pretty much why medium format still persists?

    Objectively speaking none of the everyday shopper would be able to tell apart an advert that’s shot with a D800 versus a Hasselblad. I know my ex-client can’t even tell her current photog’s studio images vary 100-200 kelvins shot to shot…

    That all said and done, I’m very interested in using the EM-1 for event shoots. The thought of clients cringing in my face, and the inaccessibility of ISO 4000 that I’m used to with my D700 are the only things stopping me now. It’ll definitely be interesting to have as a silent alternative/backup.

    • Actually, they don’t really care so long as the file is sufficient for their intended uses. I’ll use the OM-D for reportage work; the expectation for the file there isn’t as high as a studio/billboard shoot, and I’ve never had any complaints. My clients don’t cringe so long as I deliver the images they want.

      Sometimes medium format is required because of the intended output use: large size and close viewing distance. Here, there’s no substitute for resolution.

  9. Eskimo Micronian says:

    I recently traded in my last Nikon, a D3X, and a 24-70mm for my E-P5 and a bunch of other equipment. I now own the GH3, the E-P5, and all of the Olympus fast primes. I don’t miss my D3X, D3, D700, or any of my old Nikon cameras. As a video shooter, it makes so much more sense to shoot with a hybrid camera. I actually stumbled into mirrorless by accident, when I bought a Lumix G5 as a play camera because it used the same lenses my AF100 does. I quickly found I was shooting with it a lot more than I was with my Nikons, or my Panasonic HMC150 video camera. What is amazing is the E-P5 has image quality worlds better than the G5, and the E-M1 is better still.
    That being said, I don’t think DSLRs are going anywhere anytime soon, at least not in the U.S. and Europe. Don’t get me wrong, I think they should be obsolescent, but the truth is, they aren’t. I say this because Nikon and Canon are so deeply entrenched in the U.S. market, U.S. photographers own tons of Nikon and Canon glass, and because Americans like what we like. Just look at V8 pickup trucks. We like things unnecessarily big.
    When the industry made the transition to digital, photographers could carry over most of their 35mm lenses. In turn, new digital lens could be mounted on older film cameras. The transition was relatively painless and carried with it a streamlined digital workflow.
    When I transitioned to mirrorless, I was getting pennies on the dollar in terms of what I bought my FF equipment for. For me, it was more than worth it. For most U.S. photographers, they can’t see the wisdom in it.
    I have tried to evangelize to my photographer friends, burdened under their heavy equipment, mostly to no avail. They think I am nuts for trading in my FF equipment for MFT. The only success I have had has been with working photojournalists who shoot with office equipment and didn’t have any equipment at home. They see the light. It will be a long time before others do.

    • I think the only way to believe it is to try it for yourself…go in with no expectations, and suddenly the big gear is left at home or packed only for assignment when you’re going by car.

  10. For who do not use medium format, it is probably hard to understand what Ming says here…

  11. Hi Ming, you wrote “I wish […] that we could choose between AF/ AE lock and AF ON”. Do you mean this: , then look at “The Perfect Auto-Focus Setting”.

    • No, I just like to have my cameras set up in a slightly odd way with the ability to use both AF-ON and AE/AF-L…but you need two buttons for that.

  12. I would have agreed with you, until I spent a week in Paris earlier this month. With the exception of one man with a Leica, I only saw people with DSLRs, compacts, iPads and phones.

  13. Surprised that there is not more mention of the RX1 in this thread. Mine has showed me just how great and just how much fun mirrorless can be. I have barely picked up my 5D3 since it came through the door.

    Curious about your take on the RX1R Ming. Slightly OT but would you mind a couple of quick words?

    • Can’t say much about it because I’ve never used one! Requested a loaner to review after the first RX1 was released, but to this day Sony has not replied. They are a pain to work with here and frankly, it’s not worth my time for a camera that doesn’t interest me – 35mm is not at all my preferred focal length…

  14. Daniel Bliss says:

    How about mirrorless F-mount? I don’t think the idea is as crazy as it seems, given the huge base of F-mount lenses, and given that it would save Nikon an immense amount of trouble in manufacturing while improving overall performance of the system and maintaining support for old lenses on new bodies.

    Nikon 1 and the Canon 70D show what’s possible. On-sensor phase-detect AF that blows away the conventional variety. Live, 100 percent EVF viewfinder coverage that doesn’t require expensive alignment in the factory. Seamless transitions from stills to video and back again. Silent use, previously inimaginable capture rates, and almost no shutter lag or viewfinder blackout. All while leveraging the largest base of lenses in the history of photography.

    • I don’t think it would make any sense: the mount to sensor distance would have to be the same if you want to retain compatibility. The cameras wouldn’t be much smaller, if it at all – that dimension dictates thickness. You’d still have to have a similar size handgrip for ergonomics with larger lenses, and the flash and EVF would still have to go somewhere.

  15. plevyadophy says:

    Well, with today’s announcement by Sony, along with commentary from Sony system guru, David Kilpatrick, it appears that the demise of the DSLR will be much sooner than we think.

    And the announcement seems to tie in with what i said earlier in one of my comments above, namely that Sony seems to have the camera market completely surrounded; no matter which way the market eventually goes, Sony are already there with a product or the “embryo” of a product.

    By they way, just in case anyone is thinking it, no I am not a champion for Sony; I won’t EVER buy a Sony system camera, I am just giving my impartial view of the state of the camera market.

    • Iskabibble says:

      This Sony has a 1.44 mp viewfinder. Hardly good enough to replace an optical viewfinder.

      I’m sure it is a good camera but I am not even remotely interested in looking at a tiny tv screen as a viewfinder.

      • And of course it means you can’t make a good image with it, right?

        • Iskabibble says:

          Not if you cant see. The 1.4 mp viewfinder in my X100 is pathetic.

          • I had an X100 and agree; I think it’s because that EVF has to be reflected off a couple of prisms, projected onto something and has issues with both size and clarity as a result. But like OVFs, there are EVFs and there are EVFs…

      • plevyadophy says:

        Well, yeah, one can resist change and pick holes in this minor flaw and that minor flaw, just as no doubt film cam diehards did; and I am sure the stagecoach man picked flaws in the first motor car; now both the horse drawn carriage and film cams are relics brought out for special occasions.

        I happen to own both dinosaur technology flip-flop mirror DSLR cams and live view cams, not only do I find the advantages of a glass viewfinder minimal to non-existent but I can clearly see the demise of the DSLR; really there is only one, and arguably two, benefit/s to a glass viewfinder that might remain an advantage for a good while yet. The main, and in my view, only, real flag waving advantage for a glass viewfinder is the ability to see things at the speed of light i.e. fast moving things get seen in real time (but given the limits of human reaction time, when the refresh rate of EVFs gets to say four times faster than the best ones of today, this advantage will be of no practical relevance). The other minor advantage I have encountered when shooting say a catwalk show, is that the OVF of a DSLR gives me a better 3D view of what’s in front of me so I can more easily time shots where for example I want an image where two models are positioned at a certain angle/distance from each other (but I can do a similar thing with an EVF if I change my technique slightly, but admittedly it’s not as easy).

        But for those two advantages, an OVF has no advantage over an EVF; all the important advantages lay with the EVF.

        The bigger is better mindset of some camera buyers can easily be addressed by keeping the width and height of medium format and 35mm SLR cams the same, whilst ridding them of the dinasour tech flip-flop mirror and replacing that antiquated mechanism with a live view system; the peeps who have that bigger is better mindset will still buy the cams, and benefit from all the advantages that come with an EVF.

        I remember having this kinda debate with desktop PC fans. To me it was patently obvious, way back in 1993 or thereabouts when I got my first laptop, that an ugly bulky desktop computer was on it’s way out as the mainstay of computing. The desktop brigade would have all these arguments about not being able to change this or that on a laptop, nearly all of which have now been addressed. Well, not long ago (in 2009 I think it was), for the first time, sales of laptops outstripped sales of desktops; something that was a ridiculously obvious outcome in my view. Now, that time span (1993 to circa 2009) of 16 years, if played out in the camera world is quite a long time and gives many lovers of dinasour tech many more years to enjoy their gear; the only thing is though, when I got my first laptop (an Amstrad PPC) I was buying first generation kit but live view cams have gone way beyond first generation so I doubt DSLRs have 16 years of life left in them.

        The writing, in big ten foot/3 metre high letters, is on the wall for DSLRs.

        • Tom Liles says:

          Plevyadophy, you’ve been on fire in this thread. I’ve enjoyed your comments. But listen, I think you overlooked one thing about optical finders that is so large it’s hard to believe you over looked it –> dynamic range.

          The optical finder isn’t transducing anything [not going light –> signal –> digitize –> remap –> output as light again]; the optical finder just redirects light into your eye, which in combination with your brain has unbeatable [literally unbeatable] dynamic range. I can’t see how EVFs will ever outdo this.

          The best they could do is match it. And then, congratulations, you’ve invented machine vision equal to the human eye. And still the optical finder wins –> zero battery, only the cost of glass. Would human-grade machine vision be as cheap? Doubt it. Perfect machine vision is completely impossible so pointless to even consider, at any rate.

          I’ve read some pretty convincing stuff, on both sides of argument, in this thread. I fall on the “SLR will not die out or become a minor niche” side of it; but the good arguments, like yours, from the other side definitely give me doubt.

          Be interesting to come back in a decade and see where we’re at.

          We might be on a completely different sensing medium which transcends all these formats yet again by then. I plan to move in the opposite direction, and hopefully by 2023 I’ll be making wet plate collodion photographs or something 🙂

          • plevyadophy says:

            Hi Tom,

            No I didn’t overlook dynamic range (DR).

            I regard that claimed advantage of OVF as nonsense.

            The only thing that matters is that your EVF should have a DR equal to that of the sensor to which it is mated; I have an EVF cam where the DR of the EVF is nowhere near what I can produce with the cam, so I am always having to have a mindset that second guesses what I am seeing through the VF.

            Use a slow lens, in low light on a DSLR and an OVF’s DR ain’t that great.

            Furthermore, what on earth is the point of having such a huge DR via the OVF if you can’t record that?!!

            I often hear some, usually landscape photographers, talking a pile of junk about how the OVF is better because they can see the wide DR of the landscape in front of them. But my question to them is: for what purpose? How does that help you? And with an EVF, I can see exactly the same wide DR of the scene before me, before looking through the EVF. So the real question is, what on earth is the supposed super duper benefit of being able to see the wide DR through the OVF before capture rather than seeing the DR prior to looking through the viewfinder where one is using an EVF, especially if the EVF and OVF cams have sensors with similar dynamic range and if one is lucky enough to have an EVF with a DR that matches the capture device?

            With the greatest respect, I find it a silly claim of OVF lovers; just clutching at straws.

            The best thing in my view, is to be able to see like the camera sees; being able to see with the world’s best image processor (the human eye + brain combo) isn’t that helpful if the device I am using can’t match what the world’s best image processor can see. In my view, it’s best to look at the scene before you with the naked eye, and then look through the viewfinder and see exactly how the camera will interpret that scene prior to capture (rather than the irritating old-school method of shoot-chimp-shoot-chimp-shoot-chimp, delete, delete, delete, delete).

            So like I originally said, the OVF has nothing on an EVF except for viewing at the speed of light (but human reaction times often makes that of little benefit) and the 3D look.

            In my tabloid style summary of the differences I would say that: OVFs are the best for LOOKING through, and EVFs are the best for WORKING with.

            Warmest regards,

            • The EVF is limited by the same tech as normal displays – and these at best have 6-8 bits per color channel, which is a far cry from the 14 bits of dynamic range captured by the sensor. Yet we can still manage to allocate out those 14 bits rather well…by extension, if the tonal response of the EVF is well calibrated, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do the same…

              Being able to see like the camera sees takes the guesswork out of the result (and somewhat devalues the skill of being able to previsualize your end result) – but remember that the final image of course also depends on the output medium…

            • Tom Liles says:

              No, that’s a very reasonable point, Plevyadophy: the EVF’s DR only has to match the DR of the sensor. Will it ever though? We were talking about shadows on screen and in prints—light emitting diodes or whatever just will never be able to do your shadow areas as the sensor senses them… But I get what you mean and think your point stands.

              Furthermore, what on earth is the point of having such a huge DR via the OVF if you can’t record that?!!

              Well, we could just turn this argument against the entirety of photography itself, couldn’t we? Wouldn’t stop me taking photos.

              But, I suppose some people might say: so I can make a decision about where to put what tones [i.e., zone system]. Though the response to that is: get your head up and eyeball the scene then!
              These arguments and resistance is a kind of Luddism. You’re right. I’ll be honest and say though I’m usually quite forward looking, I’m firmly a luddite here. EVF is the photographic equivalent of making coffee in a microwave to me; but I am supremely comfortable with technology marching on and people being free to choose what they want and voting with their wallets.

              I dropped by a camera shop today because my friend Andre Y has been talking hotly about the Olympus Pen E-P5. I went into Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku, Tokyo, had a play. The display E-P5 had the VF-4 attached. To me these VFs are wow in every way except one. Nothing I don’t like there. Except that it just doesn’t sit right, to me. I want to look at what I’m looking at.

              Not work tools to me, so maybe this explains a lot.

              Cheers Plevyadophy 🙂

              • plevyadophy says:

                Yeah, like I said: “OVF for LOOKING through, and EVF for WORKING with”.

                The thing is, when you are working with EVFs you don’t notice the difference, but as soon as you use a OVF side-by-side with an EVF you soon hanker after the view of the OVF …………………until you start using the damn thing and then it’s irritating that you can’t see White Balance, clipped highlights, exposure compensation etc etc.

                I think for the studio type situation, where you may be shooting at X-sync and at a fixed aperture and your strobes are doing the “exposure” I would much prefer the 3D look of an OVF and really in such situations an EVF doesn’t have any advantage at all really (well, there is the exception of macro work and perspective control work where EVFs still have an advantage).

                I think Fuji got it right with their fancy dual OVF EVF X Series viewfinders. That viewfinder is the only reason I want one of those cams; I think I will need physiotherapy for severe muscle pain due to smiling so much whilst using one of those cams (I am holding off though, until all the major software vendors have got raw processing of the X-Trans sensor sorted out; it’s got much better but it still needs fixing in my view).

                Wouldn’t it just be too cool, if Fuji could get the optical part of that fancy viewfinder to work TTL (through the lens)?! 🙂

                • Tom Liles says:

                  Morning Plevyadophy, morning Ming and morning all 🙂

                  With you on the Fuji. At first it was the idea behind the X-Trans that impressed and interested, for me, but as time has gone by I don’t think it’s actually different enough [as Foveons are]; to dull the luster even more, yet still the RAW issues persist. A real head scratcher. Someone somewhere at Fuji must have a bloody clue: this is priority #1 –> the reason more high value users don’t pick up and buy into the system. Sort it and that’s a major reason for not buying one kicked right away from under everyone’s feet. The IQ is there, no doubt. The lenses are gold. The haptics are good. Maybe they could make them a bit heavier and less flimsy feeling [real pro grade build]; but that’s small compared to the other stuff that helps it fill its purpose in life (good pictures). I just don’t get how they haven’t done something about the RAWs… I mean the camera obviously knows what it’s doing: it makes those great jpegs.

                  TTL OVF would be the holy grail (especially for the consumers like me). I have a Panasonic DMC-L1 which tried to ape RFs and dropped the SLR hump for a “poro poro mirror” and flat top plate. The result is a very handsome camera and a HIDEOUS viewfinder: tiny, dark, plenty of blackout seconds when you make a frame… but I love that camera and forgive it everything. True love if you like 🙂

                  Now that I understand the concept, twin lens reflex makes a lot of sense to me. Just as a design concept, I mean.

                  I think the feature I’ve liked most so far and really want to see more of is another Fuji x-pro thing: the digital overlays on an optical finder in hybrid mode. That is awesome. Unrelated but another finder feature I think I’ll do hard to live without now is the focus box implementation in the clear finder space of the single digit Nikon flags: F6/D3/D4 etc…
                  All the data in the EVFs, overlayed on an OVF—the holy grail for me. I’d always want the option of turning everything off and just having a clear MF fresnel & split prism screen. I wouldn’t be against them simulating it with overlay. If it was convincing enough!

                  Been a pleasure Plevyadophy. And let me just finish on how useful it is to hear the thoughts of working pros in the game. Always an eye opener [pun intended] 🙂

                  • plevyadophy says:

                    Hi Tom,

                    I am in agreement with you except where you talk of the goodness of the Fuji X-Trans JPEGs.

                    Under close scrutiny, you see they too have the flaws in them that are found in conversions from a raw workflow, just to a much less obvious extent (Lloyd Chambers (, and a few others (in the face of hostility from fanboys) have pointed to these flaws in both raw and out-of-camera JPEGs).

                    So clearly, even Fuji can’t get it right.

                    It’s something that HAS to be sorted out. Once sorted, I am first in the queue to buy one!! :o)

                    I’d be like a little child; i’d be flicking that switch back and forth from OVF view to EVF view whether I needed to or not, just for the sheer fun of it. I bet Leica (once described as being a company with “decades of tradition unhampered by progress”) were kicking themselves when that clever viewfinder first appeared in the X100.

                    But if Fuji could do a TTL version of that viewfinder, then I think I would need to be placed on medication due to the excitement. :o)

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      I was guilty of repeating second hand hype there. I’ve never critically inspected Fuji jpegs myself, up close, in the detail necessary. My Boss owns an X-E1 which he let me play with a few times. Couldn’t get into it, and it was before I knew what I was looking at/for when opening files up on the computer [iPhoto at that time]. I still don’t, I suppose. They looked very nice and the internetz were raving about them, so like most beginners I just took it for truth. So it’s interesting to hear that the jpegs are not actually all that: it’s reassuringly bad actually. It certainly makes the whole ACR issue a lot more understandable. And even still, as we’re all saying JUST SORT IT ALREADY FUJI!

                      If I were the camera honcho there, I wouldn’t spend a penny on another thing in the meantime; get it done—everything you have pointed at this issue. There’s a huge business chance at the end of this rainbow, I’m sure.

                      I’d be like a little child; i’d be flicking that switch back and forth from OVF view to EVF view whether I needed to or not…

                      Ha 🙂 Wouldn’t we all! Even, maybe especially, those stoic “tool for the job/means to an end” people. You know they would!
                      Anecdote time –> I got a toy watch some years ago, a rip off of the Rolex Daytona. When you stopwatch, the reset sends the second hand swirling back to twelve in THE most satisfying way. Every time that watch comes out, much pointless and uncalled for stopwatching goes on. This kind of stuff is what we live for. Christ, that Arca cube Ming reviewed: all the precision machined metal with marked gradings and knobs and gears and the NASA looking feel of it. I went weak at the knees—and I didn’t even know what it was for 😛

                    • Some of the watches I get to photograph make the Cube look positively Victorian in engineering…also, they tend to make you wonder if your bank balance suddenly got translated to a high-inflation high-zero currency like Vietnamese Dong…

                    • Peter Boender says:

                      What a start of my day. That anecdote really made me laugh. Brilliant! Thanks Tom!

                    • plevyadophy says:

                      Ha, ha, ha.

                      Don’t mention that Arca Swiss Cube, PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAASE!!!

                      When I first saw that thing (unfortunately, not in the flesh, but in reviews), I thought I died and went to heaven. God only knows how I would cope if I saw the thing in real life. I don’t think i could be held responsible for my behaviour!! 🙂

                      As well as being extremely functional, in my view, It’s also a piece of engineering art. If I bought one, and I think I probably will one day, I would just have it on display in my living room (as I don’t need all that wonderful precision). I reckon, sat in the middle of your living room, it would arouse the curiosity of one’s guests and be a great topic of conversation; and I think kids would love it, especially boys who would immediately spot the clever mechanics of the thing.

                      It’s just soooooooooooo awesome. Yeah, it could do with one or two little tweaks but it’s awesome all the same.

                      Now, owning that thing AND a Fuji X Pro (with the raw conversion issues fixed) would be just too much excitement for me; I think I would need to be placed on medication. 🙂

                      Well, actually, there is also something else that would cause me to to be on meds, and that’s a Leica S with electronic viewfinder.

                      And having all those three may lead to me being detained under the Mental Health Act as my excitement would be a threat to public safety. Ha ha ha!! 🙂

                    • Well, the same thing happened to me. I made the mistake of requesting one to review, and now my credit card has a truly enormous hole in it. If it makes you feel any better, after replacing the QR clamp with a simple screw clamp, this thing is near perfection.

                      If it was a piece of playable art – I’d be worried about my guests’ children getting their fingers caught in things…which is why it stays on top of the Gitzo 5-series in my study instead, for me to appreciate 🙂

                      Perhaps I should put the F2T or ‘Blad on it permanently 🙂

                    • plevyadophy says:

                      Hey Ming,


                      The Cube atop a Series 5 Systematic; that’s just way too much awesome engineering.

                      Do you find that you need to take a sniff of some smelling salts to stop yourself from fainting as a result of the awesomeness you encounter upon entering your study and glancing over at that rig?!! 🙂

                    • I have a geared column to top things off too 😉

                    • I have to agree with plevyadophy: the Fuji JPEGs are nothing special. I don’t think their film simulations are all that true to the actual films themselves either. I’ve read a couple of academic papers that talk about the theoretical goodness of a 6×6 non-uniform color filter array like Fuji’s, and everything makes sense, but I haven’t seen that come through yet, and the papers were a bit coy about the proper way of interpolating the colors from the array.

                      Having said all that, Iridient’s converter is said to be the best out there, and having seen a couple of samples on the Internet, it does look much better than either Adobe or Silkypix. The other advantage of Iridient is that it can also convert Foveon RAWs. Its one big weakness (for some people) is that it only runs on Mac OS X.

                      The user interface of their cameras are fantastic though, and I never thought its menu system was confusing. My two favorite features of the X20 are being able to review pictures without turning the camera on, and being able to turn off the LCD screen for normal camera operations, except when chimping. That last feature made it a truly stealthy camera.

                      So Tom, what did you think of the E-P5?

                    • They’ve come a long way from the earlier models. The original X100 was very usable until you had to enter a menu…

                      Agreed that whilst the jpegs are pretty darn good, they aren’t very faithful to the actual films. I think that’s more of a limitation of digital technology and sensor response, though.

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      E-P5 was good, Andre. I think a certain someone in my circle recently liking it has completely colored my opinion on it. If one of my friends says “good” to something then even if it’s not for me, that thing goes down in the book as being good. This said, I did actually think the E-P5 was good! 🙂

                      1) Surprisingly weighty, in a good way. Solid feeling [as digitals go]. As I was telling you over at Flickr, my muscle memory is tuned for Charles Bronson and the D3, which I carry about, no strap, in hand, for hours and hours at a time. So when I handle a D800 or something they just feel like hollow toy cameras. And this said, I still love tiny little things like the DPMs. I guess I have a very polarized sensibility with not much room for grey –> give me man-sized and reassuringly heavy, or give me solid little one hander boxes; but don’t give me plasticy middleweights. The E-P5 body definitely felt like the small solid box type [more like a tightly packed, heavy wallet, actually] and right at home in my hand, but… but… the lenses. Are too small and toylike for my liking. I’m not talking IQ — the only thing that actually matters — just plain aesthetics. I know it’s stupid. But I’m stupid, so there it is. These little silver things would just grate at me and I’d end up shunning the camera [with one of them on]. As you know though: I’m only interested in these bodies for compatibility with my 4/3 Leica-Panasonic glass: which have proper aperture rings and searingly sharp images and luxurious, but not over saturated, rendition. They’d look silly hanging off the u4/3 body, but — in true hypocritical fashion — I wouldn’t care. I would care about the autofocus system incompatibility. Well, not incompatibility, but certainly not optimal function. So, yeah, no problems with the body [don’t even need to interrogate the IQ—I already know from MT’s reviews this sensor is way way, way better than me].

                      2) EVF [VF-4] was prettay prettay good. But not for me. No rational or interesting spiel here. I’m a luddite. That’s all there is to it.

                      3) Handsome

                      4) Quick. You couldn’t operate it one handed, but in rear-screen LV mode my right hand was trying to go solo and use it P&S style. The same thing that the GR/Coolpix A size encourages you to do [wrongly, as with sensors this dense that’s shot discipline and critically sharp images all out the window, isn’t it… a bit of blur and energy is nice every now and then though]. I’m a bit ambivalent about this. When using the Bronson and looking down into the WLF, I get all serious and painstaking and patient. Shooting with film that costs 2,000JPY+ for 5 rolls of 12 has something to do with that; but I wouldn’t discount the heft and presence of the machine itself. The tiny little E-P5, doing the same thing [rear screen folded out horizontal, camera held down near the waist] doesn’t feel like this at all, and I’m not sure it would outside of the camera shop either. I think you’d just be endlessly “snapping” in this configuration rather than it inculcating routinely stopping, slowing down, and taking a measured controlled exposure. Again, this is a “just me” thing and not a mark against the camera. It’s a plus for the camera, if anything—I couldn’t have this nitpick with the non-articulated and washy refresh of rear screens in other cameras, to even start with.

                      The new OMD with a battery grip [to cut the tall, house-like figure I like most in cameras] and its PDAF system is probably the one for me, should I go for it. Though as you know, Andre, I’ve a hell of a shopping list to get through before that! 🙂

                      P/S Andre, Ming, all: please commiserate with me. The F2 is in the wars. Using its neat little timer yesterday for some flashed portraits [with PanF 50; roll goes to lab tomorrow], Cromagnon wouldn’t reset to normal shutter button operation after the timed shots. Shutter button just dead. Fiddling about with the back open got the shutter back to life again. Tested the timer release once more. Shutter button locks and fails again. Repeat, same fix and same fail again [and that fix is useless to me because it involves opening the back up!]. So Cromagnon is out of commission 😦 😦 😦
                      This and some other small stuff—film sprocket slipping? –> sometimes mid-roll when I wind on I notice the rewind crank not turning. Yes I make sure it was turned to be taut when film was first loaded, etc. But it just seems to get looser and looser as the roll progresses. I usually find I have to twist it taut again every few shots as lots of play appears, usually followed by it not turning when I wind film on. I’ve managed to catch it a few times; but been stung last couple rolls 😦
                      So I’m taking it out to Shinagawa this afternoon — in ten minutes in fact — to a little camera repair shop run by seven Nikon retirees who fix up Nikon film cameras and lenses and are very reputable. The official Nikon Service in Japan still accepts Fs, F2s, etc., etc., for full service and repair, even now in 2013 [part of why I like Nikon] and I could take it there. But I’d just like to try these old guys. Especially with the older camera—I dunno, just another of my non-rational aesthetic choices.

                      If I had a shield, I’d rest Cromagnon atop of it, and solemnly make the procession to the camera shop. Maybe murmuring some rites as I go…

                      [and here I go, wish me — and Cromagnon — luck!]

                    • Good luck with the repair! First dead F2 I’ve heard of; I suspect it’s nothing more serious than a worn part not engaging something properly. Despite the extremely tight tolerances required, they tend to be pretty darn robust.

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Yep, just got out of there. Simply a component not clicking back into place after the timer fires; but they are thorough guys and love these cameras so will take Cromagnon in and give him an overhaul [with my permission]. They old chap who served me said my F2 looked barely used and it’d be fine for another fifty years. And I believed him.

                      Really great fellas in there, and an wealth of Nikon knowledge and experience. Eight (not seven) ex-Nikon engineers, all lifers, who just couldn’t sit idly in retirement and take care of the film Nikons of Tokyo and beyond. They can do the more serious digitals too, but not really their preference.

                      Amazing though, I stood and had a good chin wag for 20 minutes. Been the highlight of my day—from such lows come such highs eh 😉

                    • Awesome. Glad to hear it wasn’t anything serious. Could you do me a favor? Ask them if there are any good MF screens they can modify and swap into a D800E…

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Plevyadophy> Hahahaha 🙂

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Peter> you’re very welcome! Let’s get stopwatching 🙂
                      What are you packing? Breitling? One of those Swedish Air Force things? The Heur? The ‘lex? Oh god, not a Panerai!? Seiko Astron? Something digital? What’s a man without his stopwatch!! 😀

                      [a: half a man!]

                    • Oh no, not another one into watches! I use a Speedmaster 9300 coaxial to time my film. Or a $1.50 Daiso beeper. 😛

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Ming> re: focussing screens = will do.

                      Going back next week and will ask then. I was actually going to be asking after F2 screens so that ties in well 🙂

                    • Thanks!

                  • Peter Bowyer says:

                    Hi Tom,

                    If you’re on a Mac, can you try this RAW converter? It’s not perfect by any means but it’s taking a different approach to processing the Fuji files compared with SilkyPix, LR, PH etc: According to its author there are more artifacts int he result, but they often don’t show when resized for the web or printed.

                    I don’t own a Fuji X-camera yet (AF too slow, shutter lag, all the rest that is missed in the hype) but I’m a software engineer and RAW decoding is a fun little problem!

                    • Hi Peter,

                      I’m sorry, I completely missed your kind reply. And it’s so late after the fact now, I’ll probably miss you again.

                      But thanks for that Peter. The Fuji I had access to was my Boss’s; an X-E1 he’s since traded. I’m a hopeless gear nut though and will probably have a Fuji in the future (I’m also a movie nut and have deep respect and admiration for the word “Fujinon”). The X-Pro would probably be the one to go for, though an X100s, if they only made them in black, would be ace. And the price would have to be right. Give it another couple of years, perhaps.

                      I own a Sigma DP1m and a 2m, too. X3F RAW issues have caused a lot of consternation online; I don’t find the Sigma software (Sigma Photo Pro) too bad myself and can’t see many faults with its mapping of the RAW; though my eyes are completely untrained and incapable, it has to be said 🙂
                      Iridient Developer apparently supports the Merrill Foveons now. And the Fujis too, if I remember rightly.

                      RPP looks interesting—I’d like to see if he can add the Foveons to his list in the future 😉

                      4 Channel WB though? Does that mean balancing for the Luminance channel as well as RGB? Didn’t compute.
                      It’d be fun to ask you while I’ve got you Peter — someone with a clue! — why is WB the first step in the RAW workflow? I do it first unquestioningly and recently wondered about it –> before I convert that RAW to a more permanent format, mostly usually jpeg for web, isn’t it all up in the air? I could just as well do it last…

                      In actual fact, this is pretty close to how it plays out for me because curves — especially the highlight to high end — definitely alters saturation and color balance (one part of that seems to be because digital sensors clip color channels independently; or more noticeably so than the rolling shoulders of film). Do an ETR shot of a blue sky; load up in ACR or whatever; now stretch of the highlight area of histogram –> highlights pulled up lights pulled down (putting lights darker into mud tones, lights lighter); you see blue skies go aqua or cyan even, magenta tints in clouds => this hue shifting is thanks to the way digital captures and clips? So, anyway, back to RAW workflow, I find it’s:

                      1) Set WB –> but precision is not the word, “ballpark” more like it
                      2) Tonal adjustments, curves, etc., –> “make” the picture I want. Colors mostly right, light and shadow areas basically the finished article by here…
                      3) The WB will definitely have shifted so go back and season to taste; also attention to HSL, especially reds and greens (on my Nikons)… [I find the red of a traffic light or car’s tail lights is nigh on impossible on Nikon, you always get orange, unless you’ve exposed for the red lights and so the rest of the pic is dead! With film cameras and the Foveons, you get a nice true red, often blown, but at least red 🙂 I digress again]
                      4) Ready for export

                      Why can’t all the makers just get around a standard RAW description? I know there’s DNG. It obviously hasn’t worked… Can’t we try again??

                      Inquiring beginners would like to know!

                      Cheers Peter

                • Wouldn’t it just be too cool, if Fuji could get the optical part of that fancy viewfinder to work TTL (through the lens)?!

                  Mechanically impossible without a mirror – and we go back to a DSLR again – but YES. Parallax is a pain, and that’s one problem EVF cameras do not have.

              • None of the clip on EVFs do; in addition they’re all made to tilt which adds another 5mm or so of height to the whole thing. I’m always afraid I’m going to break one of them off.

    • I’m just worried I buy a Sony system product and then in a year or two, it’s an evolutionary dead end and no longer supported…

      • plevyadophy says:

        Well, Ming, you may well have read in between the lines of my remarks about not wanting anything Sony. Sony do tend to suffer from extreme attention deficit disorder; they just can’t seem to stick to a theme for any length of time. Their other major problem is that if you buy any of their gear (cams, laptops etc), you better also have a sum of money equal to three times the amount the main item costs; because, Sony accessories are ALWAYS expensive and they NEVER have the accessories inventory available for any great length of time; so don’t be thinking to yourself “oh I will buy this now, and save up and by the accessories in say eighteen months time”.

        Having been stung by Sony far too many times, I now give anything Sony a wide berth; I now don’t care what Sony make, I ain’t buying.

        • Not reading between the lines at all; it’s my personal opinion. That ADD – as you so accurately put it – together with the truly abysmal support here means that it’s a no go for anything other than stand alone items like compacts.

          • plevyadophy says:

            Yeah, I know it’s your personal opinion.
            What I meant was, you may well have ALSO read between the lines of my remark and realised that I share the same opinion as you.
            Sorry for the confusion.

            • Ah, no worries. 🙂

              • Agree about Sony and their 2-year ADD, pre-mature evolutionary dead-end, and vastly overpriced accessories. I actually vowed a long time ago to never buy a Sony product ever again, but RX1R is a niche version of a very niche RX1 which actually meets a specific photographic style that I’ve been developing, so never say never. Now that I’ve taped up every part of the body with the word “Sony” and bought a Leica-style lens hood to use it as a “poor-man’s Leica” I don’t feel that bad anymore 😀

  16. There should not be any doubt that DSLRs are dying, though very slowly. It is just a matter of how slowly. 5-axis IBIS, VF-4, PDAF sensor, and other high-end features in the best mirrorless cameras can only get even better with technology. No need to dump all your lenses onto the market, but the days of mirror flapping cameras are numbered.

  17. IMHO, things like depth of field, versatility and quality are still better in DSLRs than compact cameras.
    Compacts maybe will catch up in DOF when they use a bigger full frame sensor (cause I don’t foresee a compact with a 1.2 or a 0.95 :P), in versatility when a wider range of lenses become available for them and quality, back again, to the sensor of the camera. We can already see pros working with compacts, like Ming, Zack Arias between others but if it’s just a trend or it is the future is yet to be seen.

    • Mirrorless and compacts aren’t quite the same thing; we can get reasonably large sensors in mirrorless that have the same rendering properties as larger cameras…tiny sensors have significant technical and image quality limitations that restrict their practical usefulness.

      • And what are your thoughts about the rest of things I said as well? Versatility is still an area of development I think.

  18. Hi Ming. Thanks again for spending the time to write this article and promptly answer all the comments! I feel like I have gotten quite an education on photographic history/systems/usage and the possibilities going forward just from the high quantity and high quality commentary here from you and your readers. It’s refreshing to read such thoughtful, mature discourse on a photography blog.



  19. Remember when the great yellow father ( Kodak ) didn’t want to jeopardize it’s film business. They ( the stock holders ) pressured Kodak to put digital on a slow back burner so digital wouldn’t cannibalize it’s film business. They were not willing to sacrifice a few quarters of dividends in order to insure bigger profits in the future. I just hope Nikon and Canon have seen the handwriting on the wall!

    • Iskabibble says:

      This analogy does not work. When digital arrived, the high price kept people from migrating over and away from film. Once the price dropped, the exit from film was pretty fast. Mirrorless right now is affordable, yet there is no stampede away from SLR’s. In the last two years we have seen mirrorless sales stall heavily and prices on barely 1 year old cameras drop substantially, indicating to the consumer that the quality just is not there. Further, the mirrorless manufactures are *ALL* in serious, and I mean serious, financial trouble.

    • The Kodak debacle is recent enough that I think it won’t be forgotten. That said, Canon did the great big mount change once – FD to EOS – and it’s possible that was responsible for its current dominance.

  20. After over four decades of photography, including a brief spell earning a living with it, and acquaintance with a dozen or so people who still do or are just retiring from it, I can only praise your analysis as spot-on. Canon and Nikon will, of course, try to pretend that nothing has changed as long they possibly can offering oblique solutions like their smallest-ever DSLRs’s and pushing existing technologies to their limits (this is what gave us the D800’s amazing resolution and the 70D’s two-sided pixels.) But the handwriting is on the wall – the DSLR is well on the way to becoming a specialist and a niche product.

    I actually started with a Leitz M4 and a single 50mm lens. Had to sell that ca 1973 to buy Om-1’s and macro, and fast WA (24 and 35f2) and fast short tele (85f2) and tele (200 f3) lenses. All the resolution, bouquet, etcetera in the world could not compensate for the need to “get the shot” from a distance of very close, “to see what I was getting* and also to properly meter it. (Leitz rangefinders did not offer TTL metering until the M-5 and the Leitz/Minolta compact CL).

    This is why serious photographers – especially pros – moved to Nikon and Pentax and soon also Canon single lense reflex in the late sixties and early seventies. Maitani and Olympus leapfrogged ahead with a small, light SLR system in 1973, that forced nearly other dslr maker (Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Fuji) to develop similar model, but fell behind because this could not be adapted to AF.

    Digital photography started with expensive Kodak and then also Fuji sensor systems grafted onto and into Nikon and Canon SLR’s and then evolved into both makers finding ways to modify their film camera chassis to somewhat smaller/more affordable sensors. Olympus was, again, revolutionary in pioneering a designed-for-digital system tied to a somewhat smaller still Four Thirds sensor for which Kodak promised much. It was less of a flop than Sigma’s somewhat similar attempts, but failed to allow another technology that Olympus pioneered, Live View, for which Olympus had to turn to and partner with their supplier of medical sensors, Panasonic.

    Live view, initially derided, has become an essential DSLR technology, both because it allows for video (a feature Olympus was aware of, but decided not to implement because of the extra cost) and – its, as you point out, more comprehensive ability to show the photographer exactly what she or he will get, It also poses the simple question of why one should ALSO need a complicated and bulky flip- mirror and expensive and heavy pentaprism system in order to see the same image as it comes into the camera.

    Olympus and Panasonic – whose DSRS had failed – took the logical step of eliminating both, to produce a much shallower flange that allowed smaller camera bodies and lenses, and Sony trying to find a way into a market its DSLR’s were penetrating incompletety, and Samsung trying to find a way in from the outside soon followed.

    In the 1930’s, W. Eugene Smith was fired from his first real photography job because he violated Newsweek policy by using a 35mm roll film camera rather than ia 4×5 Speed Graphic. There are many other examples. At every stage of photography there was resistance, as there has been to every innovation. Japanese cameras, SLR’s, through the lens metering, auto-focus, digital sensors, etc, etc. Every new develo0pment tended to be derided

    And the old, to some degree, does live on. There is the huge Clyde Butcher trudging through the everglades with his 16×20 camera and .75 ton enlarger making his huge, beautiful prints.There are a dozen or more Ansel Adams work-alikes (and sometimes look-alikes) photographing Yosemite and such. And there are even still a Beseler 45 (coverted from a 75) and a Leitz Focomat enlarger, trays. etc still in pieces in boxes in my basement.

    But time marches on, and the great majority of serious photographers – whether they earn all or a part or none of their living from it – will, inevitably, seek the most practical, trouble-free and convenient device to realize the images they want to show others. This will, in four or five years, only occasionally be a dslr. And within a decade,seeing a photographer using a DSLR may well be as unusual as seeing one using a twin-lens reflex is today.

    • Thank you Erich – very well said and referenced! Time advances. Technology changes. Some stay the same, but the bulk move on. And there will always be resistance and denial…

      • Iskabibble says:

        The denial is from the mirrorless advocates as there simply is no data to support their suppositions. Sales data supports SLR’s, profit data supports SLR’s, marketing budgets, support SLR’s. It’s endless and getting worse as all of the major mirrorless companies are in serious financial difficulty.

        “But time marches on, and the great majority of serious photographers – whether they earn all or a part or none of their living from it – will, inevitably, seek the most practical, trouble-free and convenient device to realize the images they want to show others. This will, in four or five years, only occasionally be a dslr. ”

        I’ve iCal’ed this quote. 4 years is a short time to wait and I strongly suspect that the prediction here will have fallen flat on its face. I predict many millions of SLR sales in 4 years from now and one or two failed mirrorless companies which have closed up shop.

        See you in four years for the review!!

        • Who knows if I’ll still be doing this in four years?

          Don’t forget to also report mirrorless sales alongside DSLR sales for a balanced view. Undoubtedly a couple will pack up or consolidate though.

    • Good article! I wouldn’t be surprised if the DSLR disappears in 15 years. I still think that pros will be shooting the Super Bowl with big cameras for quite a long time. Those folks will probably be using mirrorless Canons and Nikons with flange distances that are identical to today. The EVFs will be crystal clear with no lag. New battery technology will allow thousands of shots per charge. There might not even be a physical shutter, and the flash sync speed will be virtually unlimited. 99.9% of people don’t need a 600mm f4 or a 400mm f2.8. Heck, 90% of people don’t need a 70-200mm f2.8. But, what those highly visible pros use has a halo effect for those brands. More than a few people dream of shooting the Super Bowl or other major sporting events. There is often an impetus to buy into a lens system with great future upgrade possibilities.

  21. I have been shooting SLR for 30+ yrs, and DSLR for about 7 yrs, and I LONG for the day they come out with a mirrorless camera that makes me fall in love and never look back. The D200 made me leave film as I could achieve a similar quality to film with the extreme flexibility of digital. The D800 I use today was purchased because of the herculean advances over the D200, not to mention the ability to blow up to 24×36 with no loss of detail.

    We’re almost there with 4/3 and mirrorless, but I think there is a ways to go. I wonder what the financial and business analysts at Nikon, Canon and other manufacturers of DSLRs (not to mention the marketing and sales people) are arguing about cannibalizing a market that has served them well for MANY years, not to mention the stockpile of DSLR lens’ they have accumulated. The shift will happen, but it will be Fuji and Olympus and Ricoh that will drive the change because they have very little to lose and so much to gain.

    So while I came very close to buying the Fuji x100s after playing with a friend’s for a while, I just couldn’t pull the trigger because I felt like there were still too many compromises. Once those are reduced or eliminated, and I’m talking about: focus speed and accuracy, YES megapixels matter to those of us looking who enlarge LARGE, lens options (I’m talking 1 good 14 or 20 prime f/1.4 or even 2.8, 1 good 35 or 50 prime at least f/1.4, and 1 good 85 or 100 prime at least 1.4 with a lovely telephoto zoom), and a large sensor at least 1.5/6, with the option to add a body at full frame. And yes, I’m describing Leica, but Fuji and others are gaining on them quickly.

    And why do we think the form factor should look like a camera today? Anyhoo… ending my stream of conscious. Bottom line, not yet.

    • I think those analysts are the very reason we’ve yet to see a truly competitive offering from C and N: there’s too much legacy at stake in the way of sunk development costs, installed user base, etc. I’m sure the technology exists for them to make a very compelling case to go mirrorless if they want to; eventually they will have no choice as the existing DSLR markets reach saturation and the only way to make people buy more cameras is to artificially engineer a paradigm change.

      It’s not happening now, but I think it’s coming…

  22. I’m afraid, Ming, you just tested a new Oly E-M1 and this article is under its impact 😉

  23. John Leung says:

    I like taking night time photography, so that means tripod. I am a Pentax shooter, and have found myself using the controversial and defunct K-01 more than my DSLR since it’s easier for me to shoot from the LCD vice a viewfinder when mounted on a tripod.

    • Agreed on tripod mounting – I use live view all the time when I’m on a tripod so I can precisely control the focal plane; especially useful for work with tilt/shift lenses or tricky exposures. The optical viewfinder is not so critical for this, and actually less useful.

  24. The word Demise seems harsh & brutal for our close to heart & beloved piece of creativity equipment & Technology served entire two generations of Photographer.. Whilst I appreciate and understand new shift , unable to accept and come to term with a thought of composing a picture on a Screen or without a SLR Viewfinder which seems to real and tangible —
    – Unable to welcome Brave New World

    • Reality is harsh. Who’d have thought ten years ago we’d be editing all of our images on a LCD panel, and seeing proportionately almost zero hard copy? But that’s precisely what’s happening today, even for pros. I print more than the average photographer, but even then it’s a tiny fraction of what I shoot. Make the most of the new technology, I say; there will be things it can do better than the old, and things that are worse. It’s the same with the SLR…we choose the right tool for the job. When that balance shifts, the new tools dominate.

    • Iskabibble says:

      Don’t worry Ajay. There is very little to no evidence that SLR’s are in a state of demise. They still sell millions of SLR’s each year and what’s more, unlike mirrorless SLR’s produce profits.

  25. I don’t know… this reminds me a little of people who predicted the end of the laptop when tablets (read: iPad) really demonstrated their viability. I just don’t see that happening anytime soon… and the reality is, what may be happening is simply the creation of a market where people assume the need for both, because of the distinct advantages each has. I use my iPad a LOT (and have since the first gen came out) – but have never questioned replacing my laptop (which I use for distinctly different purposes and ‘convenience’ when I have to do serious work). If I can travel knowing I don’t have much actual ‘work’ I’ll need to do while gone – the iPad may suffice. But if I need to actually get real, productive work done… laptop is the only option. I feel similarly with the DSLR/mirrorless debate. If I have the time or need, I think I’ll always default to a DSLR – if for nothing else, the aesthetic feel of a DSLR is vastly preferable to me for creating images, as is the flexibility and creative control with interchangeable lenses (which I don’t think we’ll see soon with mirrorless). If I HAVE to travel light, or just want to grab something small to take out on a date night, or have ‘on the fly’ for a shot that might catch my interest – then mirrorless is perfect.

    To me, the benefits of lenses and the increased size (allowing for more robust control layout & easy adjustment) is to a DSLR the ‘keyboard’ and ‘more robust software/application support’ that is missing in a tablet/iPad (which, of course, are made up for in the convenience of reduced size/weight). Each has created its own function and need in my life and workflow… and I would see the same trend converging for both DSLRs and Mirrorless systems (at least in my future). That being said – I’m not pro… and as mentioned above, pro/prosumer/consumer opinions on this may vary… interesting article though!

    • I think the emergence of tablets has certainly changed the laptop landscape though. The evolution of the laptop into today’s form – ultrathin, all-day battery, desktop power – is certainly something that wasn’t expected ten years ago. My 11″ Macbook Air has replaced a 15″ Pro with more power, more speed, and better battery life. Sure, I could go for a new 15″ pro, but I’d never carry it around – I might as well buy something more fit for purpose, i.e. a desktop unit.

      Bottom line: we’re seeing more options, and more specialization. There’s an interesting parallel to be drawn here:
      Tablet = compact/ fixed lens – the scalpel
      Compact laptop = mirrorless – the Swiss army knife
      Big laptop = DSLR
      Desktop/ workstation = medium format.

      Pick the best tool for your needs…I agree that none of them will disappear entirely, but the balance will probably shift significantly.

  26. Hi Ming,

    Great article. I think everyone has their reasons for ditching a DSLR but for me it was so that I could take more street and travel photos without carrying a large D7000 and several primes. Aside from saving on space and weight, I feel that people just tend to act differently when you point a large black camera at them, it’s as if they are on the defensive straight away. With my OMD, the only comments I have gotten where questions on why I was still shooting film. I am now more discrete than ever with my OMD at waist level, hiding within my hands, as I use the tiltable screen to click-focus-shoot which has given my great and more intimate results.

    • I think those are reasons enough for most people – if the smaller size isn’t enough motivation, then the spontaneity and lack of perceived threat definitely is.

  27. I think at the pro level those prisms and mirrors will still be around for many years. Of course those cameras sell in low volume compared to more consumer oriented gear. At the lesser level of gear, I think far fewer consumers read that many reviews, beyond a few high traffic websites. So manufacturers can look at consumer perceptions to guide marketing and manufacturing.

    The number one request in average consumer surveys, done by one of the prominent manufacturers (I have to withhold the name), was “megapixels”. After that was size and weight. Cameras with interchangeable lenses were thought to be higher quality, despite that industry figures show few lenses being bought beyond the kit lens. I think this validates years of marketing, that attempted to quantify differences in cameras through numbers. Just by being able to change a lens, the quality perception is enhanced.

    The other thing is how the average (non-enthusiast) person uses a camera. Often viewing and composition are done with the rear LCD. Hence the importance of Live View, because people want to use cameras at arms length. This also matches the smartphone experience. So whether there is an electronic viewfinder, or optical one, I think matters very little to the average person, just so long as it works quickly without glitches, and allows viewing in bright sunlight.

    My own feeling on this is that the camera makers need to go after the obvious solutions. Making a DLSR shaped and sized camera with electronic viewfinder is one way to bridge the transition. Eventually a move towards more practical designs with electronic viewfinders, and a move away from DSLR-like shapes, will become more common. In the future, seeing someone using a large body DSLR may seem nostalgic.

    • Spot on, Gordon. Consumers may not read reviews, but are influenced by the people who do – serious enthusiasts and pros.

      Megapixels can be applied to any sensor; especially since nobody seems to care too much at the pixel level, especially for consumers. Size and weight – advantage to mirrorless; ditto LCD/ LV composition. It’s a lot easier and more seamless without faffing about having to press a button to put the mirror up etc – plus, for the most part, AF is faster anyway (we’ll see what happens when the on-sensor PDAF battle shakes out). Interchangeable lenses is a no brainer; jack of all trades/ master of none and all that. Plus you can go after two markets – consumers and enthusiasts – with the same base product, and drive higher margins with the accessory lenses.

      Sony tried the DSLR-shape with EVF in their SLT, but I really don’t see that catching on. Maybe a case of too much tech?

      • I think the biggest problem Sony has is that their name is not Nikon nor Canon. At least they are willing to try different ideas.

        Faster viewfinder refresh, faster autofocus, and generally faster operation, is the idea behind Nikon 1. Probably a great example of “negative” enthusiast influence. While the Sony RX100 with 1″ sensor, no built-in eye level viewfinder, and slower autofocus is highly regarded, the Nikon 1 system with interchangeable lenses is universally panned on the internet (quite often by people who have never used one).

        I think the undue influence of enthusiasts on-line has worked the opposite direction too. Recently one of the founders of the RED video camera system stepped down due to constant badgering. If we let rude people dictate choices in gear, we may be in serious trouble in the near future.

        • Quite possibly so. The Nikon 1 failed for two reasons: size and price. The sensor wasn’t big enough for the body and lens size, and the price wasn’t cheap enough. At launch, a V1 was the same price as a D7000 – what were they thinking? Technically, it was a very clever camera though: one of the best AF implementations of any system to date; blistering fast AF and frame rates; ‘good enough’ sensor. If it’d launched with the RX100’s sensor, it might well have done better. The RX100, on the other hand, is a good example of ‘right sizing’ – even if the price is pretty darn stiff.

          As for influences, the people who shout the loudest are almost never those who have anything worth listening to. Most of them aren’t even photographers! Nothing changes, really.

  28. Ron Scubadiver says:

    I don’t see DSLR’s going away yet. Consumer DSLR’s are still pretty cheap and less than the better mirrorless cameras. Mirror reflex systems still outperform EVF. Mirrorless sales have stalled outside Asia. I think system cameras with sensors smaller than micro 4/3 will eventually fail. Just my opinion. It is a thought provoking piece as always, Ming.

    • But, we’re not comparing like to like. Consumer DSLR performance isn’t necessarily better than mirrorless, nor are the viewfinders better either – have you tried using an entry level C or N APS-C DSLR these days? The finder is like peering through a drinking straw; it’s worse than the film compacts of the 90s. Mirrorless EVFs are not size-restricted, so they at least can be larger than the body size suggests.

      Agreed on smaller sensors than M4/3 though: there isn’t enough IQ advantage, and to go up a sensor size doesn’t change the overall physical size of the system that much. For a compact system, M4/3 or APS-C seems to be the sweet spot both in terms of body size and lens size; any smaller and you run into ergonomic problems anyway; any larger and you lose your advantage over FX DSLRs.

      • Ron Scubadiver says:

        A drinking straw, ouch! I must be too spoiled by my D800. Occasionally I get the urge for a Fuji, but raw processing glitches in ACR keep me at bay.

        • Agreed on Fuji and ACR – it’s a shame, since their lens lineup makes the most sense out of all of the mirrorless systems – there isn’t an optic in there I don’t want.

          The D800 is in another league compared to the consumer cameras of course. That said, the Olympus VF-4 has pretty much the same effective size…I was rather surprised, to say the least.

    • I agree, I love my 60d and believe dslr’s will be around a long while for video

  29. I do believe that the relative market share of DSLRs will shrink when it comes to “serious cameras” (large sensor cameras?) simply because alternatives are in many ways compelling (fooling around with focus fine tuning, focus point selection or guesstimating manual focus is not much fun all the while carrying several kilograms of gear). However, the change seems to be quite slow and DSLRs will most likely still remain the tool of choice in certain kinds of photography for a while.

    I’m actually waiting for something high-end in mirrorless, like a rumoured Sony full frame Nex — would be very compact with M-mount lenses and offer high image quality for the applications that demand it. I’m sure there are other niches to be filled too.

    As a side note, I think that while the point itself is correct, the IR conversion comparison might be misleading; converting a Nikon D70 was really a piece of cake, my Nex-3 was a lot more work with many fiddly thin film cables — a huge difference in disassembly time.

    • I wonder how many of those high end FX mirrorless things they’ll sell though. The price is likely to be prohibitive for most, and the size advantage won’t be that much over a DSLR because the lenses can’t shrink that much either; they still have to cover a large image circle. Even the Leica M9 didn’t sell more than about 45,000 units over the course of its 4-year lifetime – again, fewer than Nikon makes D800s in a month…

  30. Michael Matthews says:

    Seems to me the future for the larger market lies with cameras like the Samsung Android device being introduced to great fanfare this week. If one looks at the website devoted specifically to that model it’s clear the people behind the design listen to a wide range of prospective users and (if it works well) manage to appeal to a very broad base of customers.

    For the traveler and occasional shooter the size is right. For the insatiable social networker the combination of Wifi and smartphone capabilities is right. It offers a large screen in the aspect ratio most flatscreen TV viewers and widescreen computer users are used to, making it instantly familiar and therefore “friendly”. And for those enthusiast photographers who can get over themselves and make use of a camera which can also store recipes, play games, and watch movies it’s very possible the image-making capabilities are — or will become — equal to anything short of a full-frame mega-megapixel DSLR.

    The army of professionals Samsung has enlisted to work with its predecessor NX300 have been turning out photography that stands without embarrassment right beside their existing work. And that one doesn’t even offer an EVF. It also looks as if a suite of appropriate lenses will be available at the same time as the camera’s launch; if they measure up, the enthusiast won’t have to grind his or her teeth for two years waiting for good glass to materialize.

    This camera may or may not be the one that sweeps the field. It may be the next model or something similar from Sony. The entire approach may grind to a clanking halt on the vagaries of the operating system. The explanatory new product website may be simply a pack of lies dressed in an attractive looking suit. But I doubt it.

    • Samsung certainly has the money to throw at it, and some interesting/ clever designs, but very little commercial success so far – I attribute that to them not being perceived as a camera maker. You see almost no Samsung cameras here whatsoever; the Android things only get attention from first-adopters and gadget freaks. It’s as shame, because they’re perhaps the only manufacturers who really started with a blank slate and no legacy hangups.

      • Actually, there are many companies without legacy hangups. Off the top of my head (so correct me if I am wrong) Panasonic’s M4/3 line, Sony’s Nex line, FujiFilms X line, Olympus M4/3 line, Pentax Q line, as well as Samsung. The sad part (I am putting my turn signal on here to change subjects) is that all the above have “focus by wire” making nothing interchangeable or future proof.

        • Correct; notice how all of them are mirrorless, too. Correct again on the focus by wire – I can understand it being necessary for the fast direct-drive coreless DC motors we’ve become used to for focusing, but it’s a shame that there’s no mechanical connection at all between focusing ring and lens element motion; not only are we not futureproof, but there’s also no easy way to set hyperfocal distance consistently.

          • Sorry I keep mentioning the E-P5 — I swear I don’t get a commission on them, but I love that little beast!

            I had it set up so the video button on the back would activate AF, and the shutter button did only AEL. The camera also maintained focusing distance, as well as its manual exposure settings, when switched off. Because of this, it was easy to meter the scene once, pre-focus, and then just wait for the right moment to come along. And because it didn’t have a manual focus ring or manual exposure controls, I didn’t have to worry about accidentally knocking some control out of whack: just turn the thing on, raise it to your eye, and take the picture.

            The point is that while perhaps new technology may shut off certain ways of working, it may also open others that are as convenient or more so. Not all cameras are as well thought out as the Olympus — the Fujis for example are said to have a wandering focusing point, and the Sony NEXes have their AF on all the damned time — but there is definitely opportunity to make things much nicer for dedicated shooters.

            • Agreed; nothing is perfect, not even the Olympuses. I wish the 1/2 positions on the switch could be configured, for instance; and that we could choose between AF/ AE lock and AF ON; but I suppose they do that so we’re forced to buy another version. They do get it more right than most, though.

          • I wonder that none of the mirrorless camera manufacturers have implemented a Hyperfocal setting. Perhaps I am incorrect but a focus by wire system should know the focus distance the camera is currently set to. It would then require simple mathematics to calculate the f stop necessary to keep that point as the near focus limit while maintaining focus at infinity. The speed of the AF motors in these lenses ought to then allow the camera to stop down and refocus at the distance previously calculated with minimal lag.
            Alternatively if shooting in aperture priority the camera could adjust the focus point for the given aperture to maintain the subject in either the near or far limit of focus.
            I am just speculating, but given my experience with hyperfocal distance calculators the steps required are quite simple.

            • They are quite simple. I suspect it’s because a) most of the target audience wouldn’t know how to use it and blame the camera for being ‘soft’, or b) they’ll sell it to us in the next one…

              • I agree, there are many features I would love to see implemented. Though the recent Sony announcement to open up a developer API might encourage lots of interesting developments on this front. If it allows me (or others) to add niche features might be enough to get me to invest in their cameras.

                • This was something I was actually looking into as part of another project some years back – we were going to create the first 100% customizable open- source professional mirrorless camera system. But alas, funding was an issue and out local tech partner screwed us over, so it never happened.

    • I thought about this before, that is, cell phones taking over… but I believe that no matter how much technology improves, it will not cut into DSLR or Mirror-less cameras sales — I think it may even improve them. Point and shoots will be replaced by cell phones, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one coming. But, for ‘real’ cameras, it may be a boost in sales as folks want more.

      A few things will remain true in the future…. Technology will always improve, and photography will always be about light. No fancy new tech can fake or improve light, so… there will always be a need to manipulate light for great photos. It may be in the form of multiple lens elements or treated glass lenses, which cell phone users will not be enjoying. Even if you were to slap the best sensor in a cell phone, the best software, the best processing engine, and the best bokeh, fps, and low light handling — you will still need to walk up close to take a shot of a person, and backup to a door/wall to take a shot of the room. 🙂

      • I think you’re right about phone cameras – they’re sufficiently far removed from larger sensor formats that there won’t be overlap UNLESS perhaps Nokia’s larger sensors take off.

        Technology advances equally for all similar applications – but it gets applied to those that have the highest returns first. This is why mirrorless and DSLR sensors are seemingly several generations ahead of medium format despite the price differential…

  31. I’m struck again after reading all the comments about the effect that generational change will have. And demographics in general. There’s no question that my own grown kids are perfectly satisfied with current smart phone and web posting photography. Forget printing and mounting on a wall. But what will they do later. Or rather, what will some do later and how many will that “some” be. Life stage matters as well. I set my Pentax SLR aside when I was raising kids and shifted to a very nice Olympus point and shoot with built in flash (the key advantage over the Pentax). Photos were “okay.” But I was happy after they grew up to shift back to the Pentax SLR, then the autofocus Nixon (film), then the Leica M6, M8, and now M9, with the Olympus OMD as a mere “backup” that has gradually taken over. And now the Sigma DPM3, which is so much fun to use. This is a generational as well as a technological trend. They have to match, no. So, forget my kids for now. Too busy to worry about quality. But my baby-boomer friends with old Nikon film cameras are really ready to get back into it again. Asking for advice. What will they buy. Once they pick up the Nikon D800 to replace their old film Nikon, that will be the end of the line for them. Then they’ll follow my advice and read Ming Thein’s and other quality web sites to figure out which way to go. They also look at my photos and wonder what I used to make them. And who want to buy a whole new computer system AGAIN just to be able to process a 36MB photo file. 16-24 has to be the max for most of us as long as the quality keeps improving.

    • Not just your kids; my mum, too. That said, looking at what passed for ‘good’ not so long ago, I’m not really surprised – technology has both moved on and our demands have gotten higher and higher. Both points were driven home when I was restoring some images of my late grandmother’s for my parents, made on 4x5s and printed to perhaps 8×10 – what I thought was a fairly ropy 135 film print I did at 14×20″ looks worlds beyond those 8x10s, let alone the 36″ prints I’ve done from the D800E, CFV-39 and 6×6 film…

    • There is a glass half full (ie. optimistic) model too: phones will kill off the low end, but will expose more people than ever to photography. Maybe some of these people will get sick of Hipstergram filters and want something better because they look at sites like Ming’s and see what is actually possible. They’ll want to upgrade to a serious camera, which might be an entry level DSLR or mirrorless.

      I see this happening with my friends especially as they start families and they want to record important memories. Bokeh, low light capability, and fast AF seem to be the 3 most important features for them when they start, but most end up stuck there because to go beyond that actually starts requiring real work, and a huge proportion of Internet discussion tells them those are the endgame features of a camera.

  32. All said and done there is an window of opportunity for mirrorless companies like Panasonic/Olympus to capture market through price, size and weight. But for whatever reasons all these companies seem to have loosing focus on advantages mirror less offers. Think about it they are already charging premium on price and if you look at recent cameras and lenses they are loosing size advantage as well. Think GH3 which is as big as Canon Rebel rather SL1 is much smaller than GH3. Ad recent upcoming Olympus 12-40 is 62mm filter size vs 77 for FF C/N. Olympus 75mm is 58mm vs Canon 85mm which is also 58mm but at half the price

    Come on I would rather have FF DSLR with few lenses at slight disadvantage of size and weight but much better value for money and flexibility

    • Yes and no – the smaller cameras are very small indeed, and with pancake zooms or primes, not much larger than the premium compacts.

      You can’t compare the Oly 75 and Canon 85 – EFOV is 150mm vs 85/130mm (FX/APSC). It’s also a much better lens optically and build-wise…

  33. Fernando Luciano says:

    ming thein, today i use a small mirrorless camera also for security reasons… . unfortunately I have been robbed last year … and now in some areas i like to keep a low profile … Is just me with those problem ?

  34. Personally I think that people underestimate the power of the dslr. For me it is very much about the joy of the OVF. The slr has always been a somewhat clumsy technology – yet slr:s were able to out-compete the lighter and more portable rangefinder cameras, although these cameras had the same IQ as slr:s. At the end of the day it is the photographic experience that is the most important factor. Only if mirrorless are more enjoyable to shoot with will they be able to out-compete dslr:s. It is the same with cars. People don´t need BMW:s or MB:s or Audis to travel around – but people buy them because they are more enjoyable to drive. Personally, my ideal camera would be a hybrid camera, with a evf-ovf hybrid viewfinder that may be able to take silent pictures, and with dual af-systems (look how Canon is already implementing this). The major fault with the dslr is that sometimes you want to be able to shoot in silence. With regard to size, I have a hard time enjoying cameras that are smaller than a D7000, say. Imagine a future hybrid FF D9000 that is the size of D7000 with the build of a D800, and with a hybrid viewfinder/AF-system. This, in my view, would be a very tough proposal to beat.

    • Rangefinders have serious limitations that cannot be easily overcome – alignment/ calibration issues for focusing; imprecise framing; limited focal lengths. Yet they’re still popular because of that photographic experience, even if the price tag of a digital Leica makes no sense whatsoever.

      Sounds like you want Fuji X with PDAF on sensor…that may well come.

  35. Don’t you think Nikon may move toward some kind of FM3-D concept? wouldn’t it be the right move? Actually how many functions do we really use of our cameras? 10% ? Maybe less. I still dream of a very simple (and smaller – I wrote about it years ago that the next significant move for DSLR makers would have been reducing size instead of adding other features) DSLR possibly made by Nikon – so I won’t have to change system – which is much more than the actual V2. I’m also available to keep less MP (everything above the magic number of 13.5 MP (3000×4500) usually exceeds any daily need for a relevant part of us) and improve SNR, high iso etc I’m also available NOT to have a battery consuming LCD, or eventually an optional one and I wish every time I shoot I might “recharge” manually my camera by “cocking the shutter” as I did with my FM3A. If every cock would enable enough energy to aim, focus and shoot, batteries might be no longer necessary (or smaller ones, eventually) and save other space and weight. Autofocus? yes, why not but PLEASE give us back the option of a GREAT GREAT viewfinder truly able to work with MF lenses when necessary. Technology is already there, some use focus peaking, other dual split prism images as once (visually better for me) but this is not the point. Camera makers should give us the possibility to exploit their products at best, and this is not done inserting impossible shutter times (D1 worked up to 1/500s flash and 1/16000s for common exposure) or other fancy in camera retouches. These are kids play, not serious stuff.

    • I hope they will, but I think it’s unlikely. Or it will be priced out of reach of the intended audience.

      Completely agreed on the viewfinder, though. The last great one Nikon made was the F6, in my opinion.

      The closest one can get to ‘the film experience’ in digital now is pretty much shooting with a digital back on a MF camera – I ignore the LCD on the CFV for the ‘Blad and just treat it like film. So far, so good – other than the odd 645 aspect ratio instead of my beloved 6×6…

      • plevyadophy says:

        Hi MIng,

        I have been meaning to ask.

        What’s the point of the CFV backs? I mean, isn’t the crop ratio (as apposed to sensor size) not that much larger than 135 format? Or am I confusing things with one of the first V series digital back which had a square frame and “just” 16mpix?

        If I am correct then, is there REALLY that much difference in image rendering (WITHOUT 100% view on a monitor) between the CFV and 135 format (of reasonable pixel count; by that I mean, a sensor not packed with pixels (as I think the D800 is getting worryingly close to the point of diminishing returns).


        • 39x49mm vs 24x36mm – quite a bit larger, and it shows – at least in low-ISO images anyway. Short answer: yes, there’s a difference. I wouldn’t bother otherwise.

    • Peter Boender says:

      Hi Dino,

      Funny you mention the Nikon FM3D (which by the way, is as much vaporware as is the much longed after D400).
      When Thom Hogan wrote “Of course, the Nikon faithful who frequent this site want a different small DSLR: the FM3D.”
      in one of his articles on his website in the beginning of this year, I mailed him the following reply on 25 March:

      With the current line-up of Nikkor lenses I don’t want an FM3D DSLR. FX lenses (either zooms or primes) are too big, bulky, heavy and expensive. DX lenses are either non-existent (wide-angle primes), lack quality (the plethora of 18-something zooms: slow, not-so-sharp, dull) or too big, bulky and heavy (17-55).

      So, while thinking about an FM3D (if Nikon is doing that at all; BTW, I prefer to call it an FM4D to distinguish it from its venerable predecessor, whilst maintaning a link to its heritage: hello Olympus…), Nikon should also think about their lens line-up (and there we have the DX discussion again…).

      If I were Nikon, and need to design an FM4D and supporting lenses, I’d not go DSLR but m43! That will make it very compact, easy to travel with. Maintain compatibility with DSLR accessories (Speedlights!!). Strong proposition against the baby Canon, whilst directly competing with Oly and Panny.

      Wouldn’t this be sweet: 16mp FM4D m43 body, MB-DFM two-part grip (just copy the HLD-6 idea) with Nikkor 12mm f/2.0, 17.5mm f/1.4, 42.5mm f/1.4 and 67.5mm f/1.8 and small SB-FM speedlight. I’d be sold!

      To me, this would be a much better choice for Nikon than their Nikon 1 series. Just keep the superfast on-sensor PDAF and imaging pipeline. This could be so sweet!

      But then again, like Ming said, unlikely…

      Note: sorry for the double posting, but a large block of text was mysteriously removed from my first post…

      • Hmm: aren’t we back to square one here? What you want sounds suspiciously like an OM-D with PDAF on-sensor.

        • Peter Boender says:

          Yep, square one indeed. But I like it when things come full circle 🙂

          The absence and lack of prospect of a Nikon FM3D is one of the big reasons I went with Olympus and the OM-D E-M5.
          (BTW This corroborates nicely with your predictions on the demise of the DSLR). Do I have anything to wish for?

          With a high risk of going way off topic, I can answer that with a definite yes! Indeed, like you said, PDAF on-sensor. If Olympus can manage to design this particular aspect along the lines of the Nikon 1 Series, together with a matching high speed imaging pipeline, that would be awesome! Further I’d like ISO 100 and a 1/8000 shutter for better DoF control. Bigger (programmable) buttons in better locations for better dexterity, so decoupling AF from metering will suddenly become a viable option (and yes Ming, I’m still using spot metering with AF about 95% of the time, like you taught me in New York, but still..). And last but not least a better MySet implementation (renaming, allocating MySets to dial positions).

          So, let’s see what this Olympus OM-D E-M1 will turn out to be 🙂 I’m a big believer in a two body setup. With all the right specs this E-M1 may well pull the trigger to abandon my Nikon DSLRs altogether (but I’ll still hate that E-M1 grip design as it is currently leaked). Anyone want a couple of well-looked after Nikon D300’s…?

  36. I agree with the sentiments in this article. Having my D600 undergoing repairs finally spurred me to purchase an OM-D and a couple of lenses (20mm and 45mm) and they’re just great. So nice not to feel like I’m giving a piggy-back ride to an elephant. Not the best AF for wildlife, but I managed to eke out a few nice shots with my first excursion with the camera. The lenses are plenty sharp. If they keep the size as is but one day stick a FF sensor in there it’ll blow the competition away, IMHO.

    • I didn’t have problems with it for wildlife, but then again I used to use a MF 500/4 because it was a lot cheaper and lighter than the AF version – so AF of any sort is a bonus. But for tracking things in flight, it’s pretty lousy. Wait for the PDAF on sensor to come…

      Not sure about fitting an FX sensor to that mount, it simply isn’t large enough to let the rear element clear it. That, and the image circle of the lenses isn’t big enough so you’d have to buy them all over again anyway.

  37. As usual a very well thought out piece and it’s hard to disagree with you. As someone who uses their DSLR and MILC about equally I am not biased either way.

    The point I would make is that for MILC to compete as a whole there will need to be significant consolidation in the manufacturers. This has been mentioned above but I think it will be more extreme. There are some (weak admittedly) parallels with my area of interest, aircraft manufacture, where the market has determined that two main players is the norm in each major sector (Airbus & Boeing for >100 seat and Embraer & Bombardier for <100 seat) although there will always be room for other smaller players (e.g. Sukhoi). The biggest unknown is China Inc at the moment and they could emerge as a significant third competitor even if only to fill their own huge demand.

    As for camera manufacture we have Canon & Nikon for the DSLR sector, Apple and Samsung for the camera phone sector which leaves the MILC sector as the glaring oddity with multiple different manufacturers. It is my strong belief that they will reduce to two with possibly one M43 and one APSC. Again there will always be room for niche manufacturers (e.g. Leica). As with aircraft though watch out for China, both as a consumer and a potential manufacturer. This is a market which is huge, confounds trends and is very hard to predict.

    I will leave it to the MILC aficionados to figure out which manufacturers they think will survive but I think through mergers and failures it will end up with just two.

    • Actually it’s interesting that there hasn’t been a serious domestic competitor I’m the digital market; they’ve copied everything else up til now. Maybe the overall economics really are poor.

      • Iskabibble says:

        I think that is very true. Clearly there is not much money to be made in camera manufacturing compared to the enormous capital investments required. Canon has branched out of camera making and gets a substantial amount of profit from that. Fujifilm gets barely 10% of their revenue from cameras. They make more from selling cosmetics to women for god’s sake!

        By the way, the new Kodak mirrorless cameras are all designed and made in China, so there is a fledgling industry here, which will sap even more profit out of the others as China has much lower costs than Japan.

        I agree with Mark. In the future there will be serious consolidation. For the life of me I just cannot see Olympus, Panasonic, or Fujifilm surviving making cameras. They will still exist as they have other profitable businesses. It will be up to Sony, Canon, and Nikon to carry the mirrorless flag.

        • Retailing is a bit of a disaster, too. I know several of the big dealers here quite well, they all sell far below RRP, and sometimes even below cost. The manufacturers provide volume incentives; ever since one dealer started making that their business model, everybody else has had to follow suit or die; real margins are as thin as 3-5%. This is a terrible business to be in – one gets more referral commissions from Amazon!

          It’s not just Kodak. A good chunk of the Japanese cameras are made in China, too. Yet strangely we haven’t seen any clones yet, unlike the rest of the IT/mobile/computing industry – the only reason I can imagine is because critical components like sensors are a limitation.

          • Iskabibble says:

            5% margin is a death sentence. No one can live on that for any length.

            Yes, many cameras are made in China, but the Kodak’s are designed there too by a Chinese company. That’s a first. Of course, these cameras are not out yet and could be vaporware for all we know.

            • Agreed. Which is why those retailers push lenses and accessories heavily; the margins there are much, much healthier – obviously enough for them to survive and expand, which is what I’ve seen happen to my regular dealers over here. Even then, they’re admitting current markets are tough because of lack of innovation and oversaturation from the last few years…

  38. Iskabibble says:

    “What else remains? Ergonomics, I suppose – even that’s being improved to the point that it’s hard to argue that the larger cameras are more comfortable to carry. ”

    Ever try holding a mirrorless camera with a 300mm f/2.8 lens on it? More comfortable than an SLR?

  39. I’ve just returned form three weeks in Greece and toured three different islands. Those places were full of tourists from around the world, yet I only saw one mirrorless camera the whole time I was there (Sony NEX 6 with zoom lens attached). Most people were using either bridge cameras, DSLR’s or phones. Maybe the situation is different in Asia, but not in the US.

    I like using some mirrorless cameras, especially when you are somewhere where you don’t want to stand out, be noticed or look too serious about your hobby (friends social event etc), but I think they are a little over hyped. As others have said, the sales of mirrorless cameras have stagnated.

    A few annoying things for me are battery life and start-up times. You either leave them on all the time in which case the battery dies quickly or have the power saving on in which case you have to wait. If you switch to EVF you have a further delay and if you leave them set to EVF on, you can never tell if the camera has switched itself off and often have to take your eye away to look at the power switch and turn it back on. In contrast, my Nikon DSLR’s go all day on a battery and are always ready to take a shot immediately I see something. If you put a zoom lens on them then the size saving isn’t really that great and they don’t feel comfortable to handle.

    Yes DSLRs are heavier, but with Nikon, the 28mm, 50mm and 85mm f/1.8 primes weigh very little. The new 18-35mm is extremely light, and the 70-200mm f/4 also weight much less than the f/2.8’s and all those lenses are excellent.

    Then there’s the pricing. Many of the mirrorless cameras are launched at a higher price than a cropped sensor DSLR and after a year or so they practically give them away. In my local stores they always have the old models on display are they are constantly bringing out new versions.

    • DSLR sales too have stagnated. We’re looking at a lot of legacy purchasing…thought the DSLR might be light enough, you mention you still went mirrorless…

    • Iskabibble says:

      Very good post. It is the same here in China, mirrorless is very hard to find.

      And your mentioning of the collapse in mirrorless camera prices (after starting out dramatically overpriced) shows how little support there is for mirrorless in the market place. Specifically Olympus and Panasonic see to have severe problems marketing these cameras.

  40. Garry Lee says:

    Speaking as a man who has mirrorless AND big slr systems, there’s a fatal flaw in all of this.
    The sales of mirrorless are dropping…

  41. Dave Sanders says:

    A very interesting article, Ming. I’m an ESL teacher in Vancouver by training and trade but I’m a serious hobbyist photographer and teach a photography class in the afternoons at my school. I recently updated a bunch of my gear and my thought process in doing so may be of interest here because I think, long term, I’m one of the customers that companies covet.

    I had been using a D2X in the studio I use to teach students the basics and had been considering an upgrade to a D800 but I picked up an OM-D in December when a local store put them on for $850 body only. That honestly changed everything. It was too small for my big hands but a RRS L-plate and grip fixed that. I was quite surprised by how much I loved and still love shooting with that camera. When i seriously sat down and thought about it I realized that the features I was most pleased with were size, IBIS, size, tilting screen, size, touch-to-focus and, yeah, size. Carrying a very capable and well-made camera with three primes (14/20/45) in a small Domke F803 shoulder bag was liberating. My D2X sat on the shelf and even in my photo classes, my students liked using the OM-D a lot more…it better fit their paradigm of camera usage (composing using a screen) and the touch-to-focus was indispensable. And, of course, the OM-D leaves its hot shoe free for a radio trigger.

    So, when I was given a couple of thousand dollars to upgrade my photo equipment, I thought long and hard. I could finally afford that D800 I coveted but the thought of a photo trip I took to Hong Kong two years ago with a D2X, D700, a number of primes and a rented 14-24 and 24-70 was still fresh in my mind: it was a lot of gear for me and my 70 year-old dad, my main photography companion. And it was heavy. But I wanted FX for DOF control and long exposure work so, in the end, I bought a refurb’d D600 for a great deal and put the rest into a small FLM carbon fibre tripod on the new Lee Sev5n filter system. Why? Because I know that I’ll never need a big tripod or filters because I will never again own a camera big enough to justify it. The D600 is smaller and lighter and, from my experience so far, actually produces a cleaner file than the D800 at any exposure over a minute or two (so clean, actually, that it doesn’t really need long expsosure noise reduction). And I think that I’ll eventually not own a big system, so I wanted to invest as little as possible in a depreciating object. I sold my D2X and a few of my big Nikon lenses and, honestly, that money is going to buy a Sigma DP3. Photography for me is, yes, about results too, but mostly fun, and that is the camera that I’m most excited to own right now. The next lens I’m saivng up to buy? The Olympus 75/1.8. I use my old Ai-S lenses for the bulk of my FX use and, really, the D600 is my specialized tool and my OM-D is by a large margin my camera of choice for my classes in the studio and everyday life/kids/street shooting. My dad? He just bought an X100s. His D700 still gets used, but it’s usually just to mount his 70-300 to take photos of fast-moving grandchildren at baseball games and swim classes.

    So there ya go. Two serious photographers with the time and money to buy a rather substantial kit and both of us have relegated our DSLRs to the category of specialized tool. If my dad replaces his D700, it will be with an m4/3 camera as he loves my OM-D. Is my D600 still better than my OM-D? Yes, but I’m better with my OM-D and, as we all very well know – but don’t always practice – the photographer is gonna win out over the gear, every time. And my students? Now, I send them to the local photo store and tell them to try out the NEX-3n or the EOS-M or EPL5 or something like that. And they love them. They love that they’re small and jewel-like and, importantly, that their friends back in Colombia or Brazil or Korea don’t have them.

    Interesting times ahead…

    • I’m not surprised at all by your choice. I’d advise your students not to go entirely screen-composition only though; viewfinders bring an added degree of stability, and force you to have tunnel vision and focus solely on the composition – in my opinion, anyway.

      • I agree, Ming. I try as hard as I can to get them to compose using a viewfinder. It’s amazing, though, when teaching people with zero SLR familiarity, how hard it is to get them to actually put the focus box on the the object they want to focus on and take a sharp photo. They get too excited about what is going on in front of the camera. The touch-to-focus on the OM-D is a godsend for getting sharp shots for our month-end 3 minute photo class video.

        On the OM-D, when I’m shooting in the studio, the feature that surprised me most was just how much I loved the EVF when working with models, especially inexperienced ones. I’m still very much a viewfinder guy and I thought I’d hate not having an OVF but being able to view a histogram and review an image without ever taking my eye away from the camera seems to keep people ‘in the moment’ more as they don’t relax as I take the camera away to chimp. Something great that I totally hadn’t expected.

        • I use the LCD for video work too – but because it’s much easier to pull focus on a large LCD than the EVF. For everything else I prefer an eye level finder.

      • When it comes to guessing trends, it really pays to remember that the “new generations” keep coming and they are very different. You can almost hear them saying, “What mirrors?” Why on earth would a camera need a mirror? And, as is often the case, they would be right.

    • Great post Dave.

  42. The mirrorless camp has been predicting the demise of the DSLR for several years now, but this year both DSLR and mirrorless sales are down worldwide. Mirrorless does not seem to be making significant inroads against DSLR’s market share outside of a few countries in Asia.

    I think it comes down to price and value. You mentioned that mirrorless is cheaper to produce which is true, yet the prices that Olympus/Panasonic/Fuji/Sony are asking for their bodies and lenses are still comparatively expensive to Canon/Nikon DSLR offerings. If there are cost savings, they haven’t been passed down to the consumer.

    Also, the companies don’t spend a lot of money on marketing mirrorless; it’s hard to find a wide range of mirrorless offerings except in specialty camera stories in the biggest cities; and on top of that the companies are cutting costs to stay afloat. For example, in the U.S. Olympus shut down their repair center and are now outsourcing the repair to a 3rd party, which slowed down repair times considerably. Canon may be churning out uninspired products lately but their service in the States is still top notch, which makes it more likely that I’ll spend the next several thousand dollars on my next system with them rather than with a system with an uncertain future.

    True, a system that takes great pictures now will still take great pictures several years from now, but I don’t want to invest thousands of dollars into lenses only to find out that the company is no longer around to service them, or the company has abandoned that mount because of a lack of sales.

    Ultimately, I agree that mirrorless is the way of the future, but I think it will still be the big players (Canon, Nikon, and Sony) that will dictate the terms unless they royally screw it up (i.e., continue to offer half-hearted releases).

    • I suspect the current pricing of mirrorless is due to a couple of factors: 1) upfront R&D cost to recover; 2) a false attempt at charging a premium for size; 3) #2 going against every single ‘bigger is better’ push the camera companies have made in the immediate recent past.

      I agree on not undervaluing service – it’s definitely influenced my decisions in the past, and more recently with medium format. The systems I use are dictate in part at least by what level of support I can get here – important given that downtime directly costs me money.

      Can’t help but wonder if C/N at least are being half-hearted because they have significant interests in seeing DSLR formats survive given their already-sunk R&D spend; Sony is releasing some interestingly innovative products but doesn’t really seem to have a strategy, nor are the products photographer-centric (as opposed to gadget-centric)…there’s too much product overlap, odd pricing, and poor lens selection. They are also good at championing odd formats that don’t survive long term – Betamax and Mini Disc, for example…

      • plevyadophy says:

        Re Sony,

        Hi Ming,

        I think you are wrong about Sony; I think they know exactly what they are doing.

        My take is that the digital imaging market is currently at a crossroads, and what Sony have decided to do is surround the market; so no matter which way the market goes, they can quickly go too.

        Insides: they have the sensors (currently the best ones)
        Premium compacts: RX100
        Mirrorless small: they have the NEX system
        Mirrorless large: they have done that partially with the SLT system.
        Mirrorless large II: they have the RX1, which you could argue, in combination with the fullframe SLT cam, is a proof of concept (for 35mm mirrorless interchangeable lens cams)
        Multi-media: they have good video features in their SLT cams and also have the NEX based vid cams as well as being dominant in pro video.

        In addition to all that, they too have on-chip phase detection.

        So no matter which way the wind blows in digital they are ready to move in the right direction. In my view they are the only company we can be certain will get it right in the end. Canon will also get it right …………. eventually; but that’s only because they are an out and out imaging company with breadth in product range so they can, in an emergency, pull things in from various departments and make something. The worry is for all the other companies, who either don’t have the breadth or who have sunk time and money into a particular format.

        Medium format is interesting. Lets forget about Leica because they are a special case.

        My take on Hassy is that they, as far as hardware is concerned, are a primitive joke. However, at least from what I see in the U.K., the supporting infrastructure (web presence, marketing, tech support, wonderful staff, apps etc) is wonderful (they remind me of Canon in the UK, in that they are out there in the community pushing the brand and engaging with people). Phase One on the other hand are like Nikon, a bit snooty and aloof; you hardly ever (and in the case of Phase, never) see them at trade fairs or retailer open days. However, Phase One’s digital backs are wonderfully modern in feature set and ergonomics.

        There is talk, rumour actually, of Canon going into medium format. To me, either one of these two companies would be a good buy for Canon; which is the BEST buy, I guess, will depend on what the “bean counters” decide is most cost effective (my take is that both purchases would involve the need for new sensor development but Hassy wouldn’t need much work on marketing and support (due to brand recognition and the excellent work they already do in that regard), whilst Phase One’s team of designers and engineers are clearly first rate and Canon could make a little money from the Capture One product but marketing would need some effort).

        I don’t think moving forward, both Hassy and Phase can survive as they are; either one will collapse or both will be taken over by a small format company.

        Just my crystal ball at work ………………………… which like most crystal balls, could be malfunctioning. :o)

        Warmest regards,

        • Iskabibble says:

          From what I understand, only a few thousand medium format digital cameras are sold each year. I can’t see Canon wasting their time on such a tiny niche market, no matter how profitable it is.

          • I believe one of the Phase One execs was quoted as saying around 10,000 in a recent interview on L-L. If Canon were to do anything, they’d have to position the product to bridge the gap between high end studio DSLRs and low end MF – probably in the US10k range or thereabouts – that might well be a larger market. Still, the very small overall market begs the question why Leica went in at all; especially with a camera that has a smaller sensor than the competition in the same (crazy) price range…

            • plevyadophy says:

              @ Iskabibble, Ming Thein

              My take is that at some point (soon) larger sensors are going to be needed.

              Rumours abound that the continued upmanship between Nikon and Canon is such that Canon are developing a high Mpix full frame cam in the 40 Mpix region (my understanding is that if one scales up an Oly OM-D sensor to full frame one ends up with a ca. 55 Mpix sensor). At some point, this will get silly. Will people really want systems that are diffraction limited at a mere f5.6 or f4 if this pixel race continues?!

              And of course, as we have seen from the recent Zeiss announcement (new 55mm lens), the crazy pixel counts on tiny sensors (and 35mm is tiny in my view when you start hovering around the 40 Mpix mark) means having to make crazy good lenses which will inevitably cost crazy money. At that point, when you are having to engage in EXTREME shot discipline, spend shed loads of money on just the camera and ONE lens, doesn’t it just make sense to stop being silly and make a larger format?

              So if the decision makers at Canon are thinking like me,they may well decide that yeah medium format is worth going into. And besides, Canon may want to have “cradle to grave” customers who move up the food chain from puny pocket cams all the way up to mega large cams without having to leave the brand (as it stands now, as soon as you move into the big league, you have to look to Phase or Hassy or maybe Leica S)

              Just a thought.


              • We’re already hitting diffraction past f8 with the D800 sensor. Anything beyond that won’t resolve perfectly crisp pixels anymore, though there may still be benefit in increasing density further to the point of almost non-discrete/ irregular sensing areas, a little like film.

                Larger formats with higher MP/degree density still require better shot discipline. Try hand holding 50-60MP medium format and you’ll see what I mean; you’ll need higher shutter speeds than a D800 would for the same FOV.

        • What you say makes sense. But if educated consumers like myself already find what they’re doing confusing – and not very reassuring for support in the mid term, let alone long term – what are average consumers to make of it? Low end SLT? High end mirrorless? Or surprisingly expensive RX100M2?

          Hassy: enough said. I’m using a camera that was state of the art in the 1960s. But, the funny thing is I don’t really need it to do anything else; the rest is fluff (except perhaps a full frame 6×6 sensor with modern photosite technology which we will probably never see). But I continue to use them and bought a back from them knowing that they – or at least the local guys here – have my back if anything goes wrong. I was offered a H5D and lenses as a standby just in case for one of my upcoming shoots. Never had that from NPS!

          I’d love to try a Phase One back, or the Leaf internally rotating back on my V series – but there doesn’t seem to be any support here at all. And that is not a product I’m willing to buy blind online and take my chances with. Certainly not when big jobs and clients are at stake. Too bad the Hassy UI is extremely dated and slow…oh well, treat it like a never-ending film back with a histogram and everything seems to be fine.

          Canon were going into MF, but last I heard from my sources was they’re seriously exploring three layers.

          Hassy…will not survive if all they’re doing is rebranding Sony stuff and adding a zero to the price. There has to be something else to the relationship – hopefully sensor technology for the next generation…

          • plevyadophy says:

            It’s funny you should say that (re Hassy support), coz whilst medium format is out of my league (both financially and photographically), I often said that I hate Hassy cams and much prefer Phase but I just adore the who whole infrastructure around Hassy (they even have their own studio here in London for photographers to rent and where seminars are often given (both ideas copied by Leica for the S system) and ……………. if I was given an assignment in some remote or distant place ………………………. I would choose to use the Hassy system (and just grit my teeth when I feel a bout of rage coming on due to the primitive ergonomics) because I would just feel a WHOLE LOT safer feeling that Hassy have got my back; their support infrastructure is just awesome. By the way, do you have the Hasselbuddy support service over there in Malaysia?

            And as for Sony support, as someone who started digital photography with Sony way back in 2000, I can safely say, at least here in the U.K., that Sony support (and product reliability) is crap. I know of three excellent and well respected pro photographers who are Sony shooters, them notwithstanding, I would NEVER recommend anyone rely on building a system around Sony gear. And like you alude to, with Sony currently trying to be all things to all men, in terms of product offerings, I doubt they have much time to devote to pro level support.

            • No Hasselbuddy (what’s that?) but I do have the personal cell number of the chap in charge of Hasselblad here…which is even better.

              Remote assignment: I won’t take chances and go with something that a) fits the job and b) bring my own spares. Since having two digital backs is a little ridiculous, that means either Nikon or Olympus, depending on the job.

              There is no pro level Sony support here. Even their brand ambassadors here have trouble; let’s just say the individuals heading cameras in Malaysia are not the sharpest tools in the box.

              • plevyadophy says:


                You seem to have something better than Hasselbuddy!! 🙂

                Hasselbuddy is in essence (and Hassy users may wish to correct me here) what you have got but on a slightly larger scale. What happens is, you get a “buddy” appointed to you by Hassy and this is your point of contact. You develop a close relationship with your Hasselbuddy and the Buddy sorts out all your needs. That’s it (very) basically; if you go to Hassy UK you will probably get a better description of the service.

                • I suppose it’s like a relationship manager or something along those lines. Makes sense when support and convenience is one of the most important things for pros. The market for MF digital here is so small that I think pretty much all of the Hasselblad shooters here get the same treatment 🙂

  43. Hi Ming. Nice thought provoking article as usual. Here is my perspective/two cents worth as an old school “serious hobbyist”, one who continues to shoot film (I actually prefer to shoot film) and has only recently added a DSLR……

    I bought my first DSLR, a used mint Nikon D700, less than a year ago. I waited for a full frame DSLR at a decent price because, quite frankly, I have been spoiled over the years by my full frame FE, FM3a, and F6. I wanted a big bright optical viewfinder. So now I get excellent low light capability with my D700 and it complements my film SLRs and all the old Nikkor MF AI/AI-s prime lenses that I use on all these bodies, and everything is full frame. (As you have pointed out previously, why couldn’t the Nikon DSLRs have the same ergonomics as the F6? Sigh…)

    I agree that DSLRs will decline if only because it is cheaper to produce mirrorless cameras. Indeed my first DSLR purchase may be my last but I really don’t care. For me, it’s all about enjoying the actual taking of the picture. And I enjoy the ergonomics of these bodies and lenses and the big, bright optical viewfinders. All I really need in the viewfinder is focus and exposure data.

    If I don’t enjoy using the equipment and the picture taking process, than what’s the point? So for me ergonomics/tactility/etc. is paramount. So I will put up with extra weight for what is for me anyway a better shooting experience. Unless I’m climbing mountains all day I’ll be alright. Yeah the D700 is a brick but with a small MF Nikkor prime on it it isn’t too bad. You are going to have to carry a camera bag anyway even with your micro 4/3 equipment once you add a lens or two and some accessories. Yes your bag will be much lighter no question.

    I got nothing against mirrorless. In fact I think the best pictures I’ve taken is with my Leica M3! (Now that is a real camera.)
    But I don’t feel the need to go smaller mirrorless unless it’s full frame and then won’t that start to negate the size/weight advantage?
    Maybe I’ll buy a used Leica M-E in five years when the price becomes somewhat reasonable. 🙂

    Most people will just use the camera in their smartphones. So I see only high end equipment (DSLR or mirrorless) enduring short term and maybe just high end mirrorless long term (IF they can satisfy all the pro requirements) because they will be cheaper to manufacture.

    Keep up the great posts.



    • Your second paragraph raised a thought: it’s not the DSLR form factor per se that’s going to limit it; it’s the lack of evolution. We’re not seeing any real improvements in ergonomics, handling, etc. – only cost-cutting exercises. To me, that’s the wrong way to do it: no doubt early mirrorless cost more to produce because of the R&D amortisation; that’s certainly not the case now.

      I needed a bag for my D700 kit and small primes. I don’t for the mirrorless gear – everything fits in the pockets of a reasonably spacious jacket, and I don’t look like I’m carrying something suspicious. FF mirrorless would be nice – larger sensors are always better – but would you really want the cost of new lenses and whatever they’re inevitably going to ask for the camera itself? I’m not so sure.

      • Iskabibble says:

        Lack of evolution? How can you miss all this? Compare SLR’s from 5 years ago and say that there is no evolution! The Nikon D800E has a what would then have been unthinkably different AA filter system. Who was asking for no AA filter 5 years ago and seriously thinking that they were going to get it?

        Look at useable ISO values with the D800. Waaaay beyond 5 years ago and waaay beyond mirrorless TODAY.

        • I don’t use my DSLRs any differently today to the way I did five years ago. There have not been any real fundamental improvements to UI or haptics or interface – what I said earlier, NOT image quality (I’d be the last person to disagree with you there because I CAN tell the dfference). At least mirrorless changes the game in that I don’t have to carry a bag for a complete system!

          Please try to keep the discussion civilised and rational. We can agree to disagree, but misreading my comments, taking them out of context and picking arguments for the sake of it is not on.

          • Iskabibble says:

            There is nothing uncivil in my comments nor am I arguing just for the sake of arguing. Nothing I said is a personal attack and all my positions are backed up with complete ideas on why my position stands as stated.

      • You’re right. The price of entry would be daunting. I need to shoot more (and better) with what I already have anyway, right?

  44. Another well argued analysis Ming. I’m sure you will be proved right. I much prefer my Sony RX100 to my DSLR and use it more often. I’m not noticing any lack of IQ at all the normal settings I ever use. In fact I actually prefer the Sony’s IQ anyway.

    • Iskabibble says:

      A Sony RX100 is a profoundly less capable camera than a DSLR (yet still produces good IQ, I agree). It is astonishing that one could suggest that this is good enough, thus somehow proving that mirrorless is the future with regards to cameras. It seems an egregious overstatement to conclude that since you might not need the capabilities of a DSLR, then it is OK if the mirrorless cameras of the future lose these capabilities. What an enormous (and VERY short sighted) step backwards for photography!

      • I am not suggesting that an RX100 is as capable as a DSLR. I am suggesting that for the vast majority of photographers out there, a DSLR would hold no advantage because most users don’t use the full potential of a DSLR. And let’s be honest, a DSLR at home doesn’t take any pictures at all but a camera in your pocket can do (as long as you take it out of your pocket).

        The Sony RX100 is also capable of producing high quality photographs when enlarged and printed to 12″ x 18″. For most people, that is ‘good enough’ and to suggest so is therefore not astonishing. I don’t thing anyone is suggesting that DSLRs should lose features – they will and are, simply losing sales.

    • What struck me about the RX100 was how the files felt like a slightly ‘limited’ M4/3 camera rather than a compact; that thing punches way above its category. Just a shame the lens can’t quite keep up with the sensor, though.

  45. I really love the world class manual focus lenses that all fit my Nikon D700 and film bodies, and (with aperture rings and lacking motors and electronics) are adaptable and will continue to function for many many decades to come. The Zeiss 21/2.8 ZF, Leica R 28/2.8 v2, Leica R 50/1.4 E60, Coastal Optics 60/4 APO, Leica R 90/2 AA, Voigtlander 125/2.5 SL APO, Leica R 180/2.8 APO, and Leica R 280/4 APO (Leica R lenses all Leitax converted to Nikon F mounts) are some of the favorites that I’ve been fortunate to be able to patiently collect (mostly second hand at bargain prices) and am not willing to give up just because I’d prefer a lighter/smaller camera. So I’m still waiting for a compatible (at least with adapters) full frame mirrorless camera body, and won’t jump the gun and buy until that arrives. I really don’t want a compromise smaller sensor, and hate the idea of buying more lenses with a less common mount and no aperture ring, that all will be dying an electrical death and not capable of being repaired starting about five years after they go out of production. This all sounds a bit familiar to me, as I got my Nikon F as a gift from my father when I went off to college in the 1960’s, later to be upstaged by an EL Nikkormat that added aperture priority automation and was just fine for the next three decades. I’ve never been impressed with autofocus, as I’m not shooting sports, and am much happier turning a focus ring than continuously fighting with a camera over who is in charge of what to focus on. I really wanted a full frame digital SLR, but I had to wait almost 15 years for the Nikon D700 to come along, which I still use. So, much as I’d like a mirrorless camera right now to make it even easier to manually focus with a smaller and lighter camera, I’m going to be patient enough to wait for a full frame mirrorless camera with a superb electronic viewfinder so that I don’t have to replace my permanent set of fabulous lenses with expendable unappealing ones. Just my take, and I know I’m not typical. But don’t underestimate people’s resistance to switching away from a camera system that they have happily used for a lifetime.

    P.S. It’s not a matter of brand loyalty, but rather system compatibility. (I’m mad at Nikon for the lack of a proper manual focus screen for the D800 and the defective live view, ignoring my written request to Nikon that they include focus peaking, as well as their decision to refuse to sell spare parts to kill off the independent camera repair businesses.) I think that Sony never had a chance in SLR’s because they didn’t offer versions of their camera bodies that could mount Nikon or Canon lenses. Not being able to mount my lenses on a their SLRs, they never had a chance to sell me a Sony SLR body. But, I’d be happy to buy a well designed Sony full frame mirrorless camera with which to focus my manual Nikon F mount lenses.

    • That FF mirrorless you’re talking about isn’t here yet, but I think it’s only a matter of time. Though again I’ll point out that even if the body is smaller, you won’t get that much of an ergonomic/ weight benefit if you’re using the same lenses.

      Agreed on electronic-only lenses – at least the mechanical ones can continue to be recycled into the future, but sometimes we have no choice.

      The D800’s live view was fixed by the last update. Hitting OK toggles between set exposure and a viewable image.

      To me, Sony does not understand the ‘camera’ part. They get the technology side and the device side very right – often hitting one out of the park – but the haptics and usability just do not match up; they feel more like gadgets with buttons than cameras, even though their function is the same as a camera from anybody else. Maybe it’s control logic, maybe it’s me not ‘getting it’, but every Sony I’ve owned – and there have been several – has required me to consciously shift my thinking enough to make me pause and sometimes miss shots because of it.

      • I don’t think Sony or Panasonic understood the camera part very well. But Olympus certainly does, one reason why the m4/3 OMD was such a success, along with its Sony sensor. I think or hope that this will be a good combination for years to come. It may depend on how well the new cameras that they are launching during the next few months. I hope the new Olympus improves the menu system. The OMD does everything you want, but it’s very cumbersome. I have a Sigma DPM3 now and I continue to appreciate the layout of the buttons and the quick access to the main functions in addition the the full menu system. It’s very easy to adjust the settings on the fly.

  46. Very interesting piece Ming, I’ll most likely link to it.

    When mirrorless came out, or short after (now that I look at it, it was only 2 years ago), Marty, a retired engineer from the US called them the perfect digital back. Which – considering the short flange distance between the lenses and sensors – made perfect sense for me. The fact that you could mount almost every lens on the planet onto these little (and cheap) things was an exciting thought, at least for me.

    Plus I was rather jealous of my wife’s 20mm Panasonic lens which just didn’t exist for my “regular” Four Thirds camera, just because shorter focal length lenses are hard to make for crop-sensor cameras (for anyone who shouldn’t agree or have thought about/to this, just think of the flange distance vs. focal length, that makes it easier to see that we’re pretty much talking telecentric here). So I got an E-PL1 for myself. And later a VF-2.

    Viewfinders: first I thought optical ones are better, but that is very relative. The OVF of my OM-2N is gorgeous no question, compared to the tunnel-like small and dark one in my E-520. But over time I understood why people like Kirk Tuck said that EVFs are the future: you see pretty much everything you need to know even before taking the shot; no “chimping” necessary anymore. This, and the increasing lens lineup from the µ43rds side was interesting to see.

    Now I have the Panny 14mm and the Oly 45mm lenses and will add the PanaLeica 25 next week, which is pretty much what I need. I understand that pro sports photographers need much longer lenses and faster and even continous AF, but that’s not who I am. And mirrorless will get there soon, no doubt about that. For the wedding pros, the two Panasonic f/2.8 zooms and a fast prime or two should do the job now already, but that’s also not who/what I am.

    No question that a D800e picture can have a higher technical quality than one from an OM-D if everything is done right with both systems, but for me – and I think for lots of other people as well – it’s a question of what is good enough. If I’d need the best quality I could get, I’d rent a Phase One with the IQ180 back, or set up multiple D800 cameras on a rack like someone did lately. But for normal everyday photography? Even my E-PL1 does well, tho the E-PL5 from my wife easily beats it in its dynamic range.

    It’s rare that I’m craving about that shallow depth of field, but when I want it I can still take my OM-2N…

    Thanks for just another interesting article Ming. I appreciate the time and effort you put into this blog.

    best regards,

    • Feel free to. The ensuing discussion is equally interesting, I think. No question, technology is evolving. And I see a lot of photographers are responding here based on today – not what appears to be happening over time, and the technological trends. Take EVFs – early ones were a disaster. I think only with the 1.4MP+ units did we get ‘good enough’ and ‘cheap enough’; just like how we passed that hump with the 12MP Nikon FX cameras. The upgrade race seems to be quieting down, and people are getting on with making images (though sometimes I wonder about that too). Anything else is gravy…

      • Iskabibble says:

        My X100 has a 1.4 mp EVF and it is not even close to good enough. It is a miserable experience. I’ll take optical viewfinders any day. Less power consumed, more battery life, quicker response time.

        • I didn’t like the X100’s EVF either – I owned one – not because of resolution, but dynamic range and size. Try the Olympus VF-4 (if you can find one) – it’s seriously like moving from DX to FX.

  47. Hey Ming,

    Very forward-looking piece. Not sure whether there is really anything to add here since a lot has already been said.

    I personally have three DSLRs (D7000, D600, D800e), multiple Leica M bodies (including the M and the Monochrom), two medium format film bodies (Hassablad C/M 500 passed on from my dad, and a Mamiya 7II), one Canon S110, and my iPhone. I do not have a non-Leica mirror-less body.

    I take more photos with my iPhone than anything else.

    I used to use my D800E for landscape, but now that I have the Leica M and the Monochrom, it sits on the shelf for that purpose.

    I use the D600 for commercial shoots of people, weddings, low-light action, or anythings that move (including auto races). I do bring along the D800E for studio work for which critical focus is not an issue, but quite frankly has more megapixels than I really need for my purposes. I also use both for wildlife, coupling with my Nikon 400mm f/2.8, which is my favorite Nikon lens of all time and against which I have seen no equal. I haven’t tried the 200mm f/2.0 but am tempted to try. I use my D7000 for underwater wildlife, with my Seacam housing, fisheye and macro lenses, TTL-synched strobes. For these purposes (commercial, wildlife, and underwater), I don’t see the DSLR going away in the near future for me personally — but these are special purposes.

    I use the Leica M bodies for street and travel photography, natural light still photos or certain natural-light editorial portraits. I carry no more than two lenses at anytime.

    I never use the film bodies anymore . . .

    • Here’s the real question though: how much of the market does ‘special purpose’ represent? I’m willing to bet it’s small enough that this will eventually evolve into very specialized (and hopefully better suited) solutions.

  48. alan green says:

    Suppose as an aged photographer, over eighty, I just do not get modern camera design. Prime lenses from Panasonic without a distance and depth of focus scale. Micro 4thirds aspect cameras, which to me is the aspect I like, but screens on the back of these cameras are sized for video , even the view finder on the new Panasonic 7 shows 4thirds smaller with a black border. Then only one hot show used as in Pens by the viewfinder so you cannot use bounced flash. The cardinal sin bodies that are not waterproof. Finally the price, a case of far more expensive for less. There are even professional photographers extolling the use of cameras at arms length with no viewfinders at all.

    • Sadly, most consumers are so used to auto-everything that focusing and zoom rings are a novelty; they’re used to AF and buttons.

      Video screen sizing is idiotic, I agree; it should match the aspect ratio of capture or add a little border to hold shooting/ exposure info so it doesn’t interfere with the composition.

      The GH3 and OM-D are both weather sealed and have built in finders, leaving the hotshoe free for other things (which again, most consumers do not use).

      As for pros advocating arms’ length use – this definitely does NOT include me…

  49. All I want to know is what are you putting that 50 Lux on?

    • An OM-D, at the moment. But not that frequently; I’m starting to prefer the 75/1.8.

      • So from your DSLR fading away article and your favor leaning towards mirrorless I assume the M is out of the question? Too bad the new VF-4 is incompatible with it.

        Wonder if a future firmware update would solve that and allow Leica to rebadge the VF-4?

        • It took so long for an M to be even available to purchase, at a silly price, that it didn’t make sense – it would not add any new capabilities to my current gear and seemed like too much of a compromise – limited lenses, not as portable or low-risk as the M4/3 system, not as good IQ as the D800E. In the end I bought a used digital back for the Hasselblad for about 80% of what I’d have paid for the M, and went up another step in IQ. This is something whose costs I can justify commercially, i.e. it generates positive ROI; the M does not. At the end of the day, once the costs become significant, I have to separate out personal photography from business or I’d never break even!

          As for the VF-4 – who knows? The M in its current state has many more pressing things that require a firmware update…

  50. Rex Gigout says:

    Quoting Ming Thein: “Full frame optical finders frankly appear to be the victim of severe cost cutting, even at the pro end of the market; the D4 is nowhere near as good as my F6, and let’s not even talk about the Hasselblad’s 6×6 prism finder – now THAT’s live view.”

    I had noticed this about the D4, which I have handled a few times, and had thought it might be due to the diopter not being dialed-in to match my eyesight. I reckon my recent purchase of second pre-owned F6 is a bit more justified than I had previously realized.

    Thanks for your assessment of the VF-4! The OM-D is gaining more of my attention, both the current model and the successor that is a bit over the horizon.

    Interesting article; Thanks!

    • No, they’re definitely getting worse, sadly. Good optical finders are very expensive to produce because of the size of the glass element required. And LCD overlays etc don’t help with focusing snap or clarity.

      With all this noise about an OM-D replacement, I’d hold off a bit on your mirrorless purchase…

  51. Torbjörn Tapani says:

    I get the same feeling more and more. I’m pretty sure the D800E is my last DSLR. Makes me hesitant to get more invested in lenses for the system. There is still a use for DSLRs for birding and sports but for most of my tripod work that mirror flapping is more a nuisiance. One or two genererations of on sensor PDAF and no-one is going to look back. Imagine the frame rate of a mirrorless pro body. Manual focusing is worse now than before. That will change with a good EVF. What I want from the IBIS system though is perfect focus and tilt-shift / tracking / stitching options. Now that would be useful.

    • Well, we already get 9fps with the OM-D, and that still has a shutter flapping about – a global electronic shutter raises that to limits imposed by the image processing pipeline – look at the 60fps Nikon 1s…

      Tilt shift using IBIS is VERY interesting. And certainly possible if it’s moving the sensor in several axes already anyway. Question is whether the existing lenses have sufficiently large image circles to avoid vignetting though.

  52. Ming, obviously a thought–and comment–provoking article. Congratulations. I, however, want a camera to be able to handle a variety of situations, including moving subjects, “environmental” portraits with wide angle and shallow depth of field, etc. I’m all for compact, and M4/3 continuous autofocus will certainly improve, but M4/3 cannot offer the same ability as full frame to isolate subjects with shallow depth of field. Isn’t that an inherent and major limitation?

    • Thanks Peter. Shallow DOF isn’t everything. In fact, you just need *enough* isolating power to make the subject prominent but not so much that your background is rendered completely indistinct; that’s throwing away context and a lost opportunity to reinforce the story in your image. In that sense, M4/3 actually does have enough isolating power. Or you could always use a longer lens, I suppose. The 45 and 75mm lenses are excellent.

      • Iskabibble says:

        I find this argument (“Shallow DOF isn’t everything”) very unconvincing. It’s a veritable fact that going from FF sensor size to m4/3 results in a less capable camera. While YOU might not care about that, there are others out there who desire more control over DOF and are exceptionally skilled in its use. M4/3 cameras have less ability in this area and by definition, ALWAYS will.

        • All things equal, sensor downsizing does result in a less capable camera. But how many people can exploit the difference? How many people would actually even be able to see it, if the marketing division didn’t force it down their throats? More importantly, given the choice on price and device feel alone – how many would choose to go bigger? The pro market is a small part of overall sales. Serious amateurs are larger but still relatively small compared to mass consumer. Any business with scale is going to have to go for volume first to survive.

          Don’t get me wrong, I agree with your technical points – but the market battle here is being fought on business grounds.

          • Iskabibble says:

            The mass consumer is in the process of stampeding over to smart phones. Very, very few people are interested in a separate camera now for images and as smart phones continue to improve, this will only grow stronger, not weaker. Serious amateurs will be MORE important to the future of the camera industry for this reason.

            I was at the Great Wall of China early this summer. I saw smart phones and SLR’s. Virtually no compacts and zero mirrorless.

            The vast majority of people were using smart phones.

  53. I hardly use my D800 anymore. I bought myself an M6 at a temptingly low price and the joy in my back when I started carrying that rather than a nikon with a handful of primes led me to get an M9. The D800 is now sadly neglected – used only on the occasions I go beyond 90mm or wider than 28 – and only if I am planning to do that – i.e. never on walk around or when I am travelling, or when I know it will be very low light. But if I upgraded to an M 240 both those advantages would go as I could put longer R glass on it, and go wider without messing about with dual finders at it a CMOS too.

    I have used exclusively Nikon from my first slr 15 years ago until now, but am seriously considering selling it all, D800 + 5 gold ring lenses, and getting a V-system with a 40 mm, 80 mm and 150mm and in time buying a CFV. Also tempted by a Contax 645AF, and in time a Leaf Credo.

    Still not sold on EVFs, mind, but I am probably a few generations out on that – should see if I can get a look through the VF4. I love my F3 hp (the in in finder shutter speed indicator is bust so I got it at a ludicrously low price after a mix up over film. I’d asked a friend to pick me up a load of Velvia in 120 – he’d bought me a load in 135. The camera was cheaper than letting the film go to waste!) for the finder alone.

    • Out of curiosity, what’s the motivation for going medium format?

      • A few things:

        1) The way it makes you work. I used to have an old hassy 500c but I bought it very very cheap from old MoD stock, and it gave up the ghost (I bought 2 backs, an 80mm and the camera for 300USD, but I enjoyed the experience of shooting with it enormously, and think my photography improved as a result.

        2) I use my D800 pretty much exactly how I used to use the hassy most of the time (obviously not on the rare occasions when I am shooting sport or wildlife, but for landscapes, cityscapes etc, tripod mounted, live view to focus and so on) but it’s juts not as satisfying to use. I’d link to your haptics article – but that would seem a bit cheeky. Plus the D800 and lenses is nearly as heavy as an MF kit any way, and to get the best out of it, as technically demanding.

        3) The only reason I would consider digi MF rather than sticking with film, is that I love photography, but am time poor. The reason I haven’t just like for like replaced the 500C is mainly because scanning is such a hassle, and very time consuming. If I have time set aside for pictures, I want to be out shooting, not cleaning dust off negatives – plus getting good processing done is very difficult now, even in London, let alone Singapore.

        I, of course, don’t “need” the extra IQ it gives, and obviously buying a new camera won’t improve my pictures, but ultimately I grew up with film, and the physics does still mean that ultimately bigger is better (obviously limited by the fact that MF sensor tech is a generation behind at least) and I do like being in a position to produce big prints. It’s such a serious amount of money that I don’t have immediate plans to go that way, but the modular nature of the systems means you can start building up the kit and see when the back prices start to come down (22-35MP backs seem to be around a price not too different from high end DSLRs on Ebay now). At the moment my D800 kit ties up a lot of capital, and sees relatively little use. I’m not in a position where I need to sell it for other financial pressures, so if a V system or 645AF (both of which I have used and loved using) would see more use, they seem a sensible way to go, to extract as much joy out of the money as possible.

        • Makes perfect sense to me. As for the film portion, you could always develop yourself and use the D800 as a scanner – I know I keep talking about the rig, it’s coming…

          • I am completely shameless in admitting I have the cash for kit that outstrips my photographic ability. But then I work damn hard to get be in that position, so figure I can spend the money how I want. Holding a 645AF makes me smile, looking through the viewfinder almost gives me cheek strain! Given a choice between another camera and one of the nice watches my peers wear, I can admire the watch and appreciate the ingenuity, but when the card comes out, it’ll be in the camera store.

            On the rig, it’s a deal – you get the rig to market, and I’ll email Bellamy for an MF kit. The plan was to sell the D800 as part of the change, but guess I could just shift some of the lenses (and I guess I would need to pick up a 105 micro, or 60 micro for the rig?).

            Been having a hell of a time at work recently (as mentioned in my email school message to you) and have a job move in the offing, so my girlfriend has just signed off on the idea of buying myself a survivors present when I do leave. If it all works out I have a fairly clear idea of what I would go for. Hoping for a lot more time to shoot as the real present though, fingers crossed.

            • Try the 55 AI macro 1:1 – it’s cheap and excellent for the purpose.

              The rig is coming, we’re running through one final prototype stage to make sure everything is absolutely perfect before it goes out.

  54. Ming, I bought a Canon G-2 in 2003. I thought, this is the end of film. 2 years ago I bought one of the first Nikon V-1’s in my area. I thought, this is the end of the DSLR. My wife drowned her G-11, I bought her a Samsung Galaxy S-III. She loves it and it takes respectable photos under the right conditions. Now Google comes out with glasses with a video camera imbedded. What next, a camera in your pinky ring?

  55. Per Lodin says:

    I think you miss the large professional group of news,agencies and sports photographers. Those are in large part the publics perception and defintion of pro photographers – those you see in the news and at the sidelines of high profile sports games. This group is not served by mirrorless, and it is not likely that any of the mirrorless brands will be able to build competing lens systems.
    The only way this group will go mirrorless is if Canon or Nikon decides that they will shift to mirrorless in their top pro systems, but they have very little incentive to do that – there are serious drawbacks with EVFs for this kind of shooting.
    So, if DSLRs stays as the choice of the most visible professional group, most pro aspiring photographers will look at DSLRs first.
    As for the “smaller sensor is good enough” argument, it almost killed Nikon in the professional arena, when they bet on the smaller sensored DX. Going for FF with the D3 saved Nikon in the pro arena. Meanwhile Canon said for years that pros liked the 1.3x crop in the APS-H cameras, with the “reach” argument – a 300 2.8 could be used instead of a 400 2.8 and so on. But since they lost marketshare to Nikons FF they finally yielded, and ditched the 1.3x crop for FF.
    If we take the size argument – an easy way to go for the DSLR makers is to simply make smaller DSLRs. The size of Canon SL1, with an OVF the size of Nikon D7000 and a few compact lenses like those from Pentax, would be a very competive product and easy to make.

    • They aren’t served YET by mirrorless, at least not in entirety. Most didn’t even foresee the birth of mirrorless in the early days of digital. I’m not saying the DSLR is dead now, but it’s days of ubiquity are certainly numbered in the long run.

      I also want to add that the reportage work I used to do with DSLRs has been entirely replaced with a couple of mirrorless cameras. The ability to get in and out fast, be stealthy and still deliver sufficient image quality makes it a much better choice for me. It’s easier to run after a story or get a truly candid shot if your camera is small enough to fit in your pocket.

      • I see an opposite trend in reportage shooting ( I work with magazines). Photographers skillfully using FF and fast primes, like 24 1.4, 35 1.4 etc shooting at wide apertures, not to obliterate the background, but giving subtle emphasis to the main subjects. I saw a complete reportage shoot in good light with a 50 1.2 at 1.2 or 1.4. It gave a look that impressed the editor, even though she wasnt aware why. One reason for the photographers is of course to stand out from all the technically excellent but flat looking shots that anybody can take today.
        I can say that I agree about the need for smaller sized cameras, but not for smaller sized sensors. And personally, the EVF is a major stumble block for me.

        • The problem is most people/ viewers/ uneducated editors/ clients etc. are still obsessed with bokeh since it WAS the exclusive property of larger cameras and sensors until very recently. If images look flat from smaller sensors, put that down to photographer skill. I’ve NEVER been told ‘oh, your shot would look better with a larger sensor!’

          EVFs are improving…

          • Peter Bowyer says:

            > bokeh since it WAS the exclusive property of larger cameras and sensors until very recently.

            The only smaller sensor cameras I’ve seen good shallow depth of field from are the Fuji X-Series and the Sony RG1 IIRC – both of which had trade-offs I wasn’t happy to make. If there is a camera you know of with good bokeh/shallow DOF AND fast (Olympus speed) autofocus I’d love to hear.

            • RX1 presumably? That has a large sensor and 35/2. The Fuji Xs have APS-C sensors. Any equivalent FL and aperture lens on a Sony NEX or Samsung NX body – also APS-C – will have identical DOF properties to the Fuji. And I don’t think you’d hear anybody say these samples have poor bokeh – guess what, shot on M4/3:

              • Peter Bowyer says:

                RX1 indeed – forgot the name sorry!

                Your M4/3 samples are very impressive, I’ve searched photo forums looking for whether people can deliver shallow DOF with M4/3 and not found anything like these. While I am re-finding a photographic voice my previous one was arty and I made much use of very shallow DOF, at weddings and to isolate subjects. As the weight of my gear becomes a bigger issue it’s great to see that a M4/3 camera may suit. Sadly shooting at the camera shop doesn’t give much opportunity to test!

                • I think it’s because a) most people are using kit lenses or auto mode, and b) they’re forgetting basic physics doesn’t change – DOF is proportional to real FL, subject-camera distance, subject-background distance and physical aperture. If anything, even shallower DOF is usually too much because it kills your background context and weakens the story in an image.

    • I’d say M43 and Fuji X are both very competent lens systems. M43 has fast primes for almost every working focal length, and Fuji’s got a few very interesting pieces (f1.2 standard, fixed f2.8 zoom) just around the corner. Even Sony is getting there. They have a lot of consumer trash, but they also have Zeiss on their side.

      If either of these companies push their lens system at the current rate for 3-4 years, they’ll have quite an impressive arsenal, good enough for most, if not all pros.

      • Fuji X has actually got perhaps the most well thought out range of lenses at the moment; the initial launch choices were bang on for the serious amateur and a lot of working pros. M4/3 is fragmented, scatter-gun; you’ll find what you need with a bit of looking and adaptation. Sony needs help – three years of that system and no real progress, even with Zeiss as a partner (recent multi-format Touits notwithstanding)!

        • Sometimes Sony just loses me. I’ve been waiting since the NEX-3 for the Sony lineup to become something more than a sea of consumer super-zooms. Three years later I’m still relying on Leica and Zeiss for reliable optics. Same thing with their audio equipment and laptops, good idea/bad implementation. It’s the same story over and over again.

          I was pretty optimistic for awhile…back then I thought Sony was going to monopoly the EVIL market. Now I just don’t see why they aren’t using their Minolta and Zeiss connections for NEX. Tell me, if e-mount had flagship lenses like the 35mm Distagon, 85mm sonnar and 135mm stf, would you still be using m43?

          • I bought a NEX5 shortly after release, because it seemed like what I wanted. I could even live with the odd controls (mostly, better after the firmware update). But the lack of lenses and (at the time) 14-bit sensor with odd colour really did kill it for me, as did their proprietary hotshoes/ accessory shoes. I bought a cheap M4/3 camera for fun – the E-PM1 – and found the opposite: I could do serious work with it, and the lenses I wanted were all there…

    • Peter Boender says:

      Another glooming outlook: The demise of the agency photographer has started already as well. On 30 May 2013 the Chicago Sun-Times laid off their entire photography staff, all 28 of them. See Thom Hogan’s story here What will they do to still obtain the content they need? According to one reporter: iPhone training for freelancers.
      And let’s not forget that during that same time Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made the following unthoughtful comment: “There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because…there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.” Ouch…

  56. ernie marton says:

    Well…this discussion leaves me in somewhat of a dilemma. I’ve just about settled on a D7000 to replace my D80 after months of tedious Internet “research”, considering even the Sony NX, the pen series, possibly the OMD, the V1, etc. I have the Nikkor 18-200 which is just about my ideal lens (actually my only digital) which I was prepared to ditch for canon or one the others.
    I wanted at least the same (shallowish) depth of field, fast focus (hands on or AF) and a bright, clear viewfinder, preferably optical, not forgetting great battery life, possibly even useful HD video. The major problem being that going overseas shortly, I wanted better low light sensitivity and possibly a smaller kit, but the same (or close to ) lens coverage in one lens as I want to avoid changing lenses while travelling as photography is not the primary purpose…..what to do……
    Is the 7000 a suitable stop gap or should I just give up and go for the OMD? I don’t care what the Chinese are buying, even if it is a major market influence.
    Any same replies would be much appreciated, especially as this forum doesn’t seem to be full of anoraks and Asbys pushing barrows.

    • You’d be best off buying faster glass for your D7000. Switch to a couple of fast primes and you’ll gain several stops, a brighter finder and better image quality. You’ll spend less and won’t have to learn a new camera.

    • I’m totally with Ming here, Ernie. If you don’t have the D7000 yet, well it’s a steal now that the D7100 is already out. Keep your 18-200 as the travel zoom, but Ming’s advice to get at least a fast and cheap 35/1.8 or a “nifty fifty” is also a very good recommendation.

      If you think a bit further thatn just for your trip to Europe (or where is “overseas”?), Thom Hogan is complaing to Nikon since years about their obvious “non-love” for the DX lens line-up. So if you’re using your 18-200 more at the short, wide end, there’s hardly any good prime lens to replace that for the wide end, and while they also hard to make for mirrorless, at least there are some.

      The most economical approach for you – with keeping the 18-200 – would be to get that D7000 I think. Hope that helps.

    • Same here. I agree with Ming and Wjlonien. I have had the D7000 and currently use the D600. I also have owned or own several of the mirrorless mentioned here. Whatever you chose among mirrorless you will mostly notice poorer battery life, miss your optical viewfinder and to begin with also the handling. Unless you switch gear regulary and don’t mind the loss I wouldn’t dive into mirrorless without being prepared for some changes. I’d rather begin with a cheaper model to suplement my DSLR.

      Regarding low light sensitivity, I do think that it is easier to get a steady handheld shot with a mirrorless than a DSLR. Of course you could always look for support on a wall, rail or anything close by. And if you are going overseas on vacation (meaning lots of photos every day) I’d say you can live with the one battery in your camera the whole day if it is a D7000 (don’t know about video – I’ve never tried that). If you use a Fuji X camera I would have 3-4 spare batteries and with an E-M5 perhaps 2. I usually leave the camera on all the time so it is ready to use. A D7000 will fire right away but the other two (depending on your settings) needs some time (2-3 seconds?) to wake up and be ready. This is my personal experience and you may use it differently and not be anoyed about the same stuff. The DSLR may be bigger and heavier but you know what you get..

      • ernie marton says:

        Thanks everybody for your suggestions, it is much appreciated. I’ve been pretty happy with the D80 and the useful direct controls, even though I could shoot as fast with my FTb, frequently with less annoyances. The 7000 looked like it would fix many of the niggles with the 80 without the cost and weight penalties of rest of the semi and pro cameras.
        I was rather concerned that I might be “investing” in the wrong area, going with another SLR (probably my favourite format) so your replies have eased my doubts. Besides, 24meg seems overkill for a hobbyist, never mind the ridiculous amounts of storage required.
        Overseas in this case is the UK, then New England autumn and San Fran, so yes, many, many shots. Hopefully my six new 32gig cards will hold out.
        I’m constantly amazed by the VR of the 18-200. I can get good handhelds at full extension at 1/30 and even below. No chance of doing that with a full frame non stabilized 200mm.
        I almost got the 100D (SL1) but the small battery and relatively poor sensitivity bothered me, never mind not having a pentaprism, although I was trying to save weight and bulk. The touch screen looked quite effective though – I can’t believe Nikon didn’t do that with the 3200 and 5200 at least. The Fuji X’s looked promising as well, but huge! Bigger than the V1 I think and with rubbish AF but their classic design with the direct access controls was tempting, but then there’s the price. I wish I could decide whether to keep or return the V1 though.
        Thanks again for the great site Ming.

  57. “..I think the endless waiting and equipment speculation is really killing the whole joy of making pictures…” Amen Ming!

  58. I have been on a round trip from DSLR (D70) to m4/3 (OM-D) and back to DSLR (D600). And I know many photographers amateur or pro who did such round trip. Just check well known forums like FredMiranda, Nikon/Canon etc and you will find lot of people tried and then came back to DSLR. Here are my thoughts on mirror less:

    1. Cost, Cost Cost. Similar kit from end user prospective is much costlier in mirrorless world than DSLR. Just try to build D3200, 50mm and 85mm/1.8 kit in any mirrorless format

    2. People have concerns about future of mirror less companies. All of them are in financial trouble and while they may not go anywhere from perception prospective if I am investing 2-3K USD, I dont “feel” safe with these.

    3. Mirrorless is the future no doubt but I strongly beleive it will be lead by C and or N. I have done one successful transition from Film to Digital and thanks to their userbase will do another one to mirrorless. They don’t need to be the first one, but when both Canon or Nikon launch a serious mirror less it will eventually replace DSLRs. Just look at Canon latest 70D or Nikon recent patents and these are clear signs these companies are not sitting quite and they will launch mirrorless which can replace DSLR in a true sense.

    • Iskabibble says:

      Absolutely. Those who prematurely write off Canon and Nikon have a rude awakening coming. You are spot on in saying that they do not need to be the first. That is absolutely true. Why? Because they are earning money, while the others are losing millions of dollars year after year. Smart strategy, very long term thinking.

      • Both lost money this year. I don’t know if it’s so much strategy or corporate inertia and infighting; having been involved at senior levels of large MNCs, I can safely tell you what looks from the outside like strategically planned delays are usually the result of internal indecision and politics.

        • Iskabibble says:

          By my reading Nikon made 4.4 billion yen last year. Profits were down, but they were still profits.

          Click to access 14first_all_e.pdf

          One comment contained in the report was: “Non-reflex camera market growth shows deceleration.”

          They didnt say that Nikon mirrorless sales were poor, but that the whole market for mirrorless is not what it used to be.

          • It isn’t clear what they mean by ‘non reflex’ – compacts are dead. Not a bit dead, totally dead. The Nikon 1 made sense from an engineering standpoint, but was a marketing fail; too bad seeing as some of the tech was very well implemented (PDAF on sensor, for instance). And the pricing just killed it – on release, a V1 was nearly the same price as a D7000!

            Given the undoubtedly high R&D costs involved with the 1 system, I’d just have kept producing and selling D40s at rock-bottom prices to claim ‘mount share’ – the significant profit margins are all in the lenses, anyway.

    • Yes I would agree. I think Nikon and Canon DSLR’s will soon morph into mirrorless cameras, smaller size with robust evfs, same lens mount so users can use their old lenses, but with a new lineup of mirrorless lenses to go with the new cameras. Samsung have already demonstrated that you can make APS-C mirrorless cameras with smaller lenses and good pancake primes. Sony is making FF mirrorless. I really think this is where the market is headed, larger sensor mirrorless. I’ve just purchased a Sony Nex-6. I am really enjoying it so far but I’m not ready yet to give up my bigger DSLR gear. Image quality isn’t the issue, the Sony gives me the same image quality I’m used to with the bigger camears. I think it’s more habit than anything else. I’m just a hobbyist, but I still feel like a “photographer” when I’m using the DSLR, in my own mind more than anything. I suspect that will change though and the Sony has started that change, it’s a fun camera

    • 1. The 50/40mm and 90mm lenses for M4/3 are cheaper and sharper than their APSC equivalents. Like for like body – take your pick. You won’t get a viewfinder at that price, though.

      2. Regardless of what you buy, DIGIAL CAMERAS ARE NOT INVESTMENTS. Retained value is terrible because of continually falling prices/ improving tech, and will always fall. Buy what you need now rather than wait and miss the opportunity to shoot.

      3. C and N have incentives NOT to drive mirrorless because of their huge sunk R&D costs in existing lenses, tooling, design etc – if they were to do mirrorless properly, the R&D spend would be difficult to justify in today’s continually shrinking market, I think.

      Reality is we’ve hit and passed the point of sufficiency for most uses a long time ago, and people buy new gear both out of boredom and some odd sort of preconditioning that we must upgrade frequently – probably from the early days of digital when each generation did genuinely fix shortcomings of the previous one.

  59. Lord Zeratul (Stoica Paul) says:

    i used to be doing the same thing….. go out with a compact camera ……. that was until i got my first DSLR …. since then i do every shot with it and i enjoy it more …….. and all my friends prefer me taking shots of them with my DSLR instead of the compact cameras they have

  60. I wouldn’t want to make an argument against what you suggest, particularly as I have no experience with any of the new mirrorless cameras. but as I see it, it wouldn’t take much to simply drop a led display into the viewfinder of a dslr and lose the mirror – liveview through the viewfinder – as many hybrids have had. mirrorless in a dslr.

    • Iskabibble says:

      BINGO! That is exactly where mirrorless’ future is I bet. Olympus, Fujifilm, and Panasonic are on such shaky financial ground that their future is far from certain. Sony will hang in there but the others, I would not bet on.

      Canon and Nikon can make mirrorless work as you describe, just take the mirror out of their SLR’s and then all their lenses are still available.

      • But there’s no real advantage to this approach. All the size of a DSLR because mount flange distances can’t change or the lenses are useless; a good EVF costs as ugh as a good viewfinder. We may lose AF alignment issues and gain PDAF full time on-sensor; Sony has tried this with their SLTs and they haven’t exactly taken the world by storm.

    • That’s pretty much what the mirrorless cameras are, but with the important distinction of having lenses and mounts optimised for digital to begin with – the majority of DSLR lenses are legacy designs without consideration for the differences between digital and film media.

      • But they do have a viewfinder, which I find essential with my less than perfect eyesight.
        Time will tell (and the market will drive).

        • EVF technology has some ways to go yet, I think. But it’s definitely improving – personally, I think we reached the tipping point of ‘good enough’ not that long ago. It will come to a point where we get EVFs that are larger and higher resolution than an optical finder could ever be due to physical size limitations in an equivalent body.

  61. I think Zack Arias made the switch from DSLR to Fuji-X system, alltough his main body of work is done with a Phase One. For me, it’s like this: All work, when paid, is done with a DSLR. I don’t really care about the weight nor anything else. I care about the reliability, and predictable results. My Nikon system has been proved time and time again to work under any circumstances, and I can’t be arsed to learn anything new. Not now at least. Too much going on.

    But when I’m off work, I bring an X100 and Iphone. It’s enough for anything, I shoot mainly street in my sparetime anyway. I would like to get something for the 70-120mm reach though, and have been playing with the thought of getting a Nex 5n and Nikon 50 f1.2. Lens would serve me in both worlds, and Nex 5n is dirt cheap at the moment.

    • Amen to that. By no means y will show on paid event with anything less than a DSLR . In the other hand you wont make me carry my Canon on family vacation or any other family/personal trip. For me both system have a function in my photography.

  62. Well, I am not disagreeing with any particular point you make here, Ming. In fact I am just right now looking at whether the GX7 or E-M5 would be the better choice to either complement or perhaps even replace my D600. However, if you look at the market overall than you will see that mirrorless sales are stagnating, despite more and more system available now and an ever increasing range of lenses. So basically I think your analysis is correct for a certain range of professionals and enthusiasts, but it may be a while until that actually starts to make real impact in the mass market (especially as mobile phones are getting so much better that some who would have considered mirrorless or large compact do now just use their phones). Eventually it will, for all the reasons you mention, but it might be longer than reading your article makes it sound like.

    • There’s a good amount of inertia in the market here, too: what we see on the streets are all the cameras that have ever been sold up til now – and of course anything released in recent times, unless wildly successful, will be a small portion of what’s out there. Look at the early adopters as a guide to future trends…

      • Ming is spot on here. Many of the arguments being made in opposition to Ming’s essay are not so much about the technical or even the business merit of the DSLR format or CaNikon vs. the mirrorless competition, but rather mere observation of the obvious…the inertia of what has been.

        Granted, I am but a mere photo enthusiast who is humbled by the art and wisdom of Ming and the many knowledgeable followers of his excellent blog…but my 35mm film Canon EOS Élan 7e was a museum piece compared to my little Canon A95 out of its shear inconvenience. For a bit over a year I have been a delighted owner of an OM-D E-M5, four primes, and recently a GX-1 snatched up during its summer fire sale as my second m4/3 body. “Good enough” is a massive understatement. This system is all I need for the foreseeable future as I enjoy my hobby and slowly try to learn this amazing craft.

        Several people who have seen my gear and the photos these tools enable have ultimately picked up an m4/3 camera. After seeing the leaked photos of the Sony lens and sensor combo that attaches to a smart phone, I believe the m4/3 format maybe a nice sweet spot in the balancing act of size and performance. As soon as you slap a good lens on any smart phone no matter how big the sensors may become, I think the ergonomic benefits of the m4/3 and other mirrorless formats become obvious. The only threat from smart phones is on the wide angle lens/camera combo. I could imagine a Ricoh GR style high end smart phone camera, but normal to tele needs a real body.

        So that said, for those who would argue that m4/3 sits in the no mans land between compacts and FF, I might argue they are waiting for the market on both ends to collapse around their form factor. It just feels right in my hand…but hey I am biased as I now have a vested interest in seeing the format succeed.

        Regardless of what sensor format may become THE format in the years to come, I believe Ming has laid out a compelling case why that format won’t involve mirrors!

        • Thanks Hal, you give me more credit than what’s due. I’m merely observing what’s happening now as opposed to what happened in the past…in reality, it matters very little to the actual making of photographs – other than the simple fact that lighter/ smaller cameras also mean better images due to more opportunities simply out of convenience…

  63. Hi Ming,
    In my opinion DSLRs will continue to be a success because price/performance is much better than what you get from most mirrorless systems. Another thing that is absolutely certain, is that the usage of mobile phone cameras will continue to grow and become the biggest ever success of the “camera industry”.

    • On the first point: yes and no. If you’re counting pixels, yes. If you look at overall usability and image quality, no.

      On the second point: camera phones are killing compacts, there’s no question about that. The problem is, the camera makers aren’t the ones making them – this means that they’re not benefitting at all, and the phone makers frankly have no clue about photography – it’s almost like witnessing the early transition from film to digital all over again.

  64. Tom Liles says:

    I’m with Iskabibble on this. But I’ll just say, with a bit more divergence (evolution) I do think we will see some strong, money making, mirrorless brands emerge (models or makers, or both). Even then, they won’t be doing numbers like Canon and Nikon.
    [Just on a point of fact: Canon and Nikon’s camera divisions recently posted losses, so I doubt anyone is making money on cameras right now].

    Again from Iskabibble’s post, he/she mentioned this: Chinese customers don’t want anything that isn’t Canon, Nikon, Sony. I think this introduces what the real battle is: of brands in the marketplace and not viewfinder/mount design.

    Single lens reflex is king because the brands that are king produce and are most invested in them. The Nikon F came out in what? The 50s? So we’re talking five to six decades of investment in this imaging system. Five to six decades of marketing it. Five to six decades of consumers being on the receiving end. This much history does not disappear easily; in fact it does the opposite, it strengthens a brand and a market position.
    To draw a parallel—could Red Bull overtake Coca-Cola in sales? Not impossible. But certainly for now and the near to middle future, improbable: the consumer perceptual capital of Coca-Cola is hard to beat; it’s distribution and sales operations are orders of magnitude harder.
    And it’s a similar scale of task that mirrorless makers have, I think, trying to turn the market over in their favor. Though I applaud and enjoy their efforts. I own two Sigma DPMs and a kind of mirrorless half-breed, an ancestor of m4/3, the Panasonic DMC-L1. I know these systems aren’t going anywhere because the optical system is designed with digital in mind and it does show through in the results. Which are very pleasing.

    I don’t think of DRF as being part of the “mirrorless” thing, by the by. For one they do employ mirrors! For two the mount design is just the Leica m-mount isn’t it: definitely not designed with digital sensors in mind. If I ran Leica, rather than redesign my mount, I’d redesign my sensor. Like radically redesign, not just change from Kodak CCDs to Cmosys CMOS… like Foveon levels of paradigm shift. Anyway.

    From a selfish point of view, I would love to see the demise of the digital single lens reflex camera. Because just like I was able to swoop in and buy a soundly functioning and well kempt pro-grade medium format camera body, back and lens for only 250 USD — a camera that costed 4000USD+ in its heyday — I could swoop in for D3s, D800s, etc., etc. I can’t wait for some of the GOLD we’d have at giveaway prices on the used market if DSLRs died a death.

    They won’t of course.

    I don’t think we can ever discount the power of brands and the simple trick of looking, actually looking, through the lens you’re about to take a picture with.

    • C and N sell cameras at cost or close to it to shift lenses. That’s been their business model for some time now ever since the price wars started. Notice how DSLR bodies are getting cheaper – the D800E was a great example of that, a D3x successor in image quality at a D700 price – but the lenses are getting more and more expensive to make up for it! All of the updated lenses that are ‘recommended’ – and in some cases necessary – to extract full performance from the newer cameras – are significantly more expensive than their predecessors, sometimes to the point that the old models are not discontinued. Look at the 85/1.4 G vs 85/1.4 D, for example.

      What succeeds commercially is not what is technically superior; I think that’s been established many times (e.g. Betamax). Instead it’s what belongs to whichever brand who shouts the loudest – regardless of whether they’re telling the truth or not.

      • Tom Liles says:

        What succeeds commercially is not what is technically superior…

        Isn’t this to discount your own point, Ming?

        Mirrorless are Betamax here, not DSLRs… And yeah, I know first hand about brands needing to shout: this was my point with the storied history and business of C and N and their single lens reflex cameras—I’m saying they have the stadium tannoy level loudspeakers to mirrorless camera makers’ rolled up bits of paper [and they’re shouting from outside the stadium]. If you agree, as you do when you make your point, then you have to concede that unless it’s C and N themselves marketing the mirrorless, these cameras have a job getting really heard and leading the market.

        This said, they are divergence devices (not something we’ve seen before) and WILL be successful—I just don’t think they’ve found their “killer app” quite yet: it’s never going to be stuff involving C-AF, that much seems clear.

        P/S your Hasselblad, my Bronica –> these medF cameras, they are also SLRs. But you say that you’re gravitating toward mirrorless/CSC and medF (with digital & film backs, depending on purpose, private and professional)… and though I can’t relate I still really get this. But one is an SLR? With the CVF39 back on a DSLR. So perhaps what we’re really talking about the demise of is halfway houses (and we’re talking about the pros).
        Again, I totally get this and would second the point; not on technical grounds, on psychological ones. The end users for all this stuff are humans; human minds like definite, well defined clear and unambiguous concepts (human behavior is very different, of course); as soon as something looks like it’s in the “mulchy middle,” it’s not really this, not really that, and not really its own thing either… then that thing is a goner (as a sales proposition).

        And I still don’t see all DSLRs falling into this hole.
        ASP-C digital SLRs though? No, I think they are mass market toast.
        [not exactly a daring or insightful statement]

        So I suppose this is it: are we talking bottom line and the mass market? Or what pros will be using going forward? Two different answers, I’m positive. The thing about halfway houses is the same in both cases though.

        • Not really. The end result depends very much on consumer education, as always.

          I should have been clearer: I mean conventional 35-mm format DSLRs, not medium format. That has always been special purpose and that won’t change; the worldwide MF digital market is apparently below 10k units per year – that’s fewer than the number of D4s produced per month.

          Halfway houses, compromises, one-size-fits-alls, whatever – they products that are a result of technology and economics not quite making sense for specialisation. Look at the auto industry: ever shrinking niches are being filled for what is ultimately the same function: getting from A to B. Cameras are the same thing: they all make pictures. The proliferation of choice naturally results moving away from compromises…

          • Tom Liles says:

            Interesting on medium format; and its digital incarnations. And it’s not like D4s fly off the shelves, either!
            I’d very casually just taken a look to see if there were some years old digital back I could pick up cheaply to try on the SQ [just to see what’d happen and get a little more direct satisfaction from it; I haven’t been able to scan a single neg yet!]. Nothing doing. It was in essence a perfunctory search as, honest to God, I don’t really feel any motivation to make digital files with Charles Bronson.

            Just to fall back on my main feeling, a gut feeling, on this topic though:

            I don’t think looking, really looking, through the lens will ever go out of style. Or lose to another way of communicating to us what we’re taking a picture of.

            • It’s also why MF sensor tech is several generations behind consumer sensors.

              As for cheap MF digital – you’re looking at a crop factor so small you might as well use the D3.

              • Tom Liles says:

                Sure. For the brand of medium format camera I have, digital backs just seemed a bad, bad idea:

                1) what you mention (and IQ is the raison d’être to start with!)
                2) Spacer plates to fit the d-back on…
                3) …so focusing issues
                4) PC sync cords necessary between back and body—from shot to shot, will it sync, won’t it? etc
                5) Support: and not just maker support, user forums, up to date net information etc., is pretty thin on the ground for this sort of thing –> be prepared to be on your own if something goes wrong
                6) Price: those spacer plates alone cost in the region of 800USD, this is before I’ve even shopped for a back


                7) Just buy a box of Ektar 100 and go have fun instead

                [but have a headache trying to digitize afterward; an easier headache than 1~6 above though!]

                • Much, much easier than 1-6. And cheaper too, even if you buy a D800E*.

                  *I am NOT encouraging you!

                  • Tom Liles says:


                    I’m actually trying to get a flat bed scanner solution going at the moment. I dug up an old Epson scanner at home; didn’t work unfortunately. But God smiled on me: I found a surplus Epson GT-X970 in work’s equipment room [I think it’s called the V550 outside Japan]. It has no power adapter –> and not many third party 24v 1.4a DC solutions about! And it has no film holders… But the standard holders were pants, apparently, so I would’ve gone third party there anyway.

                    If I can crack the power adapter. Order a sturdy film holder (with ANR glass plate) from the states [be about 200USD inc. postage; I think I can get my company to pay, at least contribute to, it: it’s their scanner!]; with these two I can get upto 6400dpi. Be REALLY slow though. Better than nothing; and honestly for 135 I don’t think anymore than 3000dpi is necessary. For my medF shots, 4000dpi would be plenty…

                    Should keep me ticking over until your rig is ready for market 🙂

                    Here’s hoping

        • Peter Boender says:

          Tom, your “Betamax” discussion with Ming is exactly what I’ve been chewing over for some time now.

          I don’t see the demise of the DSLR yet. Not because they’re technically superior, but because of mass marketing. They are indeed VHS against mirrorless’s Betamax. What I actually miss in the mirrorless proposition is not technical achievements or design (there’s plenty of that), but proper marketing and support.

          Why are Olympus, Panasonic, Sony et al not banging harder on Canon and Nikon doors? Why don’t they exploit the many virtues of their mirrorless systems (m43, NEX, NX) in much better advertising campaigns? Put them up against the DSLR dinosaurs and chew their asses. With the small form factor, swivel back screen and low noise shutter of my OM-D E-M5 I can now be very unobtrusive and create completely new photo opportunities. And this is just one example. Do we ever see merits like these highlighted in marketing campaigns? No. It’s very much, like Ming says, a matter of consumer education. And the mirrorless manufacturers are forgetting to do that at this moment. Also, to gain some market presence (let’s not even talk market share), as a manufacturer you should be able to bring your products to market. For instance, I’m hearing ghastly stories coming out of the US on non-availability of many parts of the mirrorless line-up.

          Secondly, support also seems to be faltering in many markets. This doesn’t help consumer confidence.

          Now, marketing and support cost money and that’s something that Olympus, Panasonic, Sony et al are currently in dire need of. The classic Catch 22!

          Thirdly (and then I’ll shut up), what we shouldn’t forget is that we are amongst peers here. Well educated and well informed photographers with a specific affinity for mirrorless equipment and photography with high esthetics. Of course we want to see mirrorless prosper (against perhaps the DSLR’s demise) because WE already know and experienced what the advantages are. But this is not how the crowd feels. The crowd will use cellphone camera or DSLRs with kit lenses…

          • Actually, the mirrorless companies have one advantage: us. The crowd will use whatever their gurus tell them to use…do not underestimate the power of the influencers. Take this site, for example: I have north of 150,000 regular readers. I’m sure some of them bought OM-D’s because of me (actually, I know through B&H and Amazon referrals that quite a few did). Now how many of their friends did the same because of them? And so on.

          • Excuse me for butting in, Peter. Does anyone remember Sony’s recent anti-DSLR campaign? They’re all collected here:

            I think the problem is that I couldn’t relate to most of the DSLR users, who are made to look like idiots, or are using DSLRs in ways that no one, not even newbies, would use them (eg. selfies at the beach). This one was probably the best one, because the DSLR users seemed like regular people, but it took way too long to get its point across:

            • The second video – may or may not be staged – but I read between the lines and take away two things from it: firstly, education is really missing. Secondly, consumers still want tangible specs: size, sensor format, fps…

          • Tom Liles says:

            Peter, plenty to chew on there indeed. We’re in agreement, and especially on this: marketing is important. And it should be, what’s on the other end of all these products [any product] is people. People are not robots, they are not 100% rational, they carry tons of bias and weird stuff and personal idiosyncratic experience and they never, ever, see it straight on just the facts. I can’t pronounce on this as though I’m handing a verdict down from on high: I’m just a mammal like anyone else. But here’s the point: rational argument will get you far; but it won’t win the argument. This is why rhetoric still flourishes as an art today. The market is nothing close to a meritocracy; it’s more like a WWE wrestling match.

            So well done for bringing marketing campaigns up. And well done Andre for reminding us of those videos. I’d seen one, linked to on here actually, ages ago and it was really cringe inducing back then. That was when I barely even knew what reflex lens was; I still barely know now, probably. But the spots were bad then. They’re even worse now.
            These ads, and most marketing material, but let’s talk about these ads because they’re there and a good example—these ads were so obviously thought up by people who don’t take pictures. Bright young things, with quiffs, and snazzy offices where you can walk around in crocs, wear ironic hipster glasses and do your email on your phone in meetings with other people who might actually be wanting to look you in the eye when they talk. People who twitter. It’s so obvious. Andre hit on it too. The music, the set design, the quirky humor and basic premise. It’s WRONG WRONG WRONG. 0/10. And forget cameras, the following is how bad this is—did they even know what the Sony brand was about? It’ll be a good explanation to hear if they did –> how do you go from there, that branding, to these ads? Mental. And Sony, sigh… I mean Sony, Jesus, just give me a few thousand dollars [cheap because I love you] and I’ll think up an actual advertisement for you. I’ve bolded it because that’s what the bright young things don’t do, they can’t because they are one note and thick and worst of all, don’t know the product. Advertise. Yes: a product, someone wants to sell it, grab a punter, tell him what’s good about the thing, be convincing, be positive [talk about your product not others] sell in, invite him to buy one—see what happens. [They half went for this in the one you mentioned Andre; but still WAY too negative for me.] Modify approach, or product, or both. That’s what you do. It’s called ADVERTISING. I work with tons of these trendy media types and always find myself thinking are these people actually listening to what they themselves say?. And HOW do they get away with being completely useless at what they do [what they purport to be able to do]. Making a quirky ad is not the point: selling something is the point.

            Why would you attack SLRs?/DSLRs? Why would you do what they did in that ad?
            [You even have to wonder, on a side note, did they know Sony make SLR style cameras?]

            I own a mirrorless camera. I own two actually. Three if we include the DMC-L1 [a halfbreed]. Four if we add the iPhone to that. I like mirrorless. I’m a mirrorless user.

            I also, like LEGIONS OF PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS own a single lens reflex camera too. I use both. I like both. I’m aware of limitations of both. Because I ACTUALLY TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS AND USE CAMERAS AND DON’T LIVE IN CLUELESS TRENDY BRIGHT YOUNG THING WORLD.

            Now, I don’t know about everyone else — but I’d bet the ranch on this being true for everyone — I see the ad taking the piss out of SLR users and can only think, WELL EFF YOU AD [SONY]. That’s all I think. They took me from a sympathetic ear, an owner of this tech; to 180 degrees dead against the message. Am I supposed to be one of those guys in their ad? They’re most certainly telling me I am. They make me feel like I want to reject mirrorless, not buy into it—because who wants to be in with douchebags like that?
            It grates because the bright young things have tried to tell me what I know to be complete bullshit—SLR users and mirrorless users are different. No they are not. They’re, mostly, the same people. You stupid ad agency idiots. I’ll bet you at least half of the people [non-photogs included, by all means] that walk around with mirrorless cameras, have tried SLRs. Maybe even still like them. Maybe even still own them. Maybe not. Why would you even bring this up though? It’s about as stupid as stupid gets. Spending 30 precious seconds telling me what SLRs can’t do, showing me what’s so terrible and nerdy about SLRs — all negative — doing that hasn’t told me a SINGLE THING yet about what mirrorless can do. People do pick up on this. It’s why we hate the naysayer who does nothing himself. So the viewer is still waiting for that –> “well, so what can you do?.” And by this point, if the viewer is someone who has bought, owned, used or uses an SLR, they are in full on EFF YOU SONY mode. “No Sale” is putting it lightly.

            I wouldn’t even bring into SLRs into it. Because you make the conversation about them and invite questions: why is an SLR called an SLR? What do they do? What’s the point? The consumer [not being an expert] thinks like this… The biggest criticism of mirrorless — and forget what’s technically better, etc., we treated that above — the biggest pan they get is the EVF. I’d leave anything that invites this thought the f**k alone [technical expression] in my advertising. Leave the salesman to make that pitch face to face in a shop. Or trend setters like Ming to write about it and convince people this way or that in places like this. Don’t touch it in ads.
            Do touch all the positive stuff that actual people who take pictures and use cameras would nod their head at. I mean, if I had a penny for everytime the size thing comes up here—people wanting smarter, easier to carry stuff. Or the number of times sharpness, IQ, lenses that are clean into the corners, etc. Or, the big one, shutter sounds [how many lines written in the World on M8 and M9 shutter sounds]. Not to mention, live view implementation, rear screens and waist-level shooting for street, etc., etc. There are at least five or six SLAM DUNK pitches for this technology that differentiate it from SLRs without having to be ironic and trendy and negative and alienating a ton of people because you are thick and know nothing about cameras. Christ, just drop some hipster-dressed guy in a crowd, he walks through the crowd making crisp, color rich, beautifully rendered frames—all unnoticed and cool because of the quiet shutter and back screen and yada yada. Then he slips the camera in his trendy bag and disappears into the scene with his friends: one black, one asian, one girl, etc., etc.
            If someone paid me, or Ming, or any of us on here who actually use cameras, take pictures, etc., we could sit down and come up with a serious advertisement instead of the comedy thing I just did. But you know what I mean. Why even mention SLRs. Don’t half the people on here, the actual photography demographic, use mirrorless cameras as 2nd, play, personal photography cameras? Sell into that. Don’t tell me I’m a stupid nitwit with a stabilizer rack on my shoulder because I use a SLR. Quickest way to lose friends and alienate people or what? Sheesh… Yeah, you could work SLRs in if you wanted, in a nice way –> just use the second camera angle above. Have a tv ad: pro cameraman, shooting pictures for his newspaper or whatever, we join the action as he polishes the last work shot off, the light is still lovely and he spies something which peaks his personal/arty interest, he packs away his massive pro DSLR into the kit bag, pulls the small, sleek mirrorless out—off he goes and gets all HCB for a few tens of seconds. Cut to catch-copy. Cut to product shot. Job done –> mirrorless cameras, what the pros use when it matters to them, etc. J.Q. Public would be ALL OVER that. And it’s not even a lie. MT uses one for personal work, for example. David Hobby just uses one for professional work now –> how much easier do these companies need it to get?

            But instead they make ads like Andre linked to.

            Come on Ming, let’s make a photographic consultancy and charge these people gazillions to remember what they were actually in business for in the first place. Talk about DREAM JOB 🙂

            • We should seriously talk about this in Tokyo.

            • We should seriously talk about this idea of yours in Tokyo. Convincing those signing the cheques will be the tough bit…

              • Tom Liles says:

                Let’s! I’ll look forward to that 🙂

                Yeah, an uphill task. But a note of encouragement: someone signed a cheque for those Sony ads.
                [I’d have fired him by now, but still…]

              • Peter Boender says:

                Any date set yet? I’d like to try to be there and play fly on the wall 🙂
                This is a seriously good idea!

                • Yes, 21-27 November – actual details not yet – but you’re welcome to join the meet if you’re around. Tom, my production partner, Bellamy Hunt and another couple of readers from the site will be there 🙂

                  • Just as spies and international men of mystery used to hold newspapers or red roses or ask about the rain in Amsterdam this time of year… At the appointed time and place, you roll up with the chrome ‘blad; I’ll roll up with the black brick of a Bronson… Peter, if you’re going to be a fly on the wall, I think a Ricoh GR, or something no? 🙂 [But don’t be a fly on the wall—join us for Sushi why don’t you!?] And, crikey, the World is waiting to see what Bellamy rolls up with!

                    If I remember correctly, MT is coming sans better half: so camera shops of Tokyo: HERE WE COME.
                    Join in the fun Peter: it’s people like us that keep the world economy turning [or at least that’s the perverted reasoning I use to square it in my head]

                    • Haha. My production partner-in-crime behind the scenes of the site will be coming along too – we’re filming some video segments in Tokyo and meeting the folks at Zeiss later in the week – now, does anybody know John Sypal of Tokyo Camera Style well enough to invite him to come along too?

                    • Wow, this is very serendipitous, Ming. I might John Sypal for the first time, last week. I was walking to Yodobashi Camera, Shinjuku, with that Retina iic, running a test roll through it; and some tall westerner wanders over…

                      I think that’s their little spot for catching people for the piece [it’s a magazine corner in “Asahi Camera” as well as a blog]. They took my Retina and say it will appear in the mag. I wasn’t especially bothered about that; but it was an event to meet Mr John Sypal.

                      He was a nice guy. No doubt. Quiet and artistic, etc. We spoke in Yodobashi for a good 15min; I walked over to his exhibition later that afternoon, and we spoke again there. Have since swapped a single Flickr mail by request. He’d also asked me to FB him, which I did but he hasn’t gotten back to me on there yet. It did take him a good few days to get to me on Flickr… Which was annoying, frankly, because he was the one keen to email on Flickr and FB. So I haven’t written back to him since.

                      But there it is. Hopefully someone on here actually knows him well and can make the invites—if not, I’m happy to have a go! 🙂

                    • That’s great! Well, if you think he wouldn’t mind…we’ll give it a shot. I wonder what he does for a living, actually.

                    • And oh yeah. I noted your production assistant, Ming. But remembering how the cameraman was left out the group shot last time; I thought I’d leave him out, in keeping 🙂


                      Hopefully he’ll rock up with the camera harness on 🙂

                    • Nah. We’re moving to a pair of OM-D’s for filming in future; stabilizers are better, the whole thing is smaller, tilting LCD panel makes low/ high angles easier, and we’ve had issues filming with a really obvious rig; better to be as stealthy as possible.

                    • He’s an English Teacher, Ming. ESL — English as a Second Language.

                      Most westerners over here are English speakers and this is what they do—it’s tough because, traditionally, the Japanese government didn’t hand work visas out very readily at all. So if you wanted to work, it was Disneyland or ESL. The law had a statement in it that the work must be something that a native Japanese couldn’t or would find it extremely difficult to do, i.e., be western or speak English natively.
                      The other type of foreigner over here is the ex-pat type. Working for branch office of foreign bank, etc. Very well to do; don’t really mix in local life—because in another couple of years, they’ll be moved to HK or Singapore, what have you.

                      Back to John though. That’s his day job, but I’m sure he’s working his way toward being involved in photography in some professional capacity; though I’d guess it’d be more as a photographic artist than anything else.

                      Yeah, I’ll drop him a message sometime and maybe he’ll write back. I’d be interested to go for a coffee with him in the near future. We did have a great talk at Yodobashi and at his exhibition, and he was keen to converse more. We’re about the same age; but I think me being married and having three kids already puts a bit of a gap between us. I’m sure we will meet again. If nothing else because I spend so much time around Yodobashi camera! 😛

                    • Sounds good. I also spend a lot of time around that area when I’m in Tokyo, but I guess I don’t really stand out…my ninja practice is working!

                    • Peter Boender says:

                      Hey Tom! I’m currently trying to work things out schedule wise for that November time frame. I’ll let you and Ming know ASAP. It would be great to meet up. And I’m a sucker for sushi! As for Men-in-Black equipment: I’m packing an OM-D E-M5. Black edition of course 🙂

                    • That would be great!

                    • Great stuff Peter! Looking forward to it 🙂

                      And if you can’t make it in that time frame, please drop me a line next time you’re in Tokyo anyway—I live here so the window of opportunity is a little wider than Ming’s.


                      Or if you’d prefer FB, just look up my name, I’m listed as being in Tokyo [I think]. My picture is an old snap my wife took at a restaurant, with me all on the left of the frame. The background is an old English town, Rye, where I lived for two happy years and reminds me of “home” in a round about way [even though I’m not from Rye!!].

                      Ok, speaking of home, it’s my home time now! Cheers 🙂

            • Tom, I agree with you on the negativity of the ads. I might be in the minority on this next one, but the last 3 Apple ads in the US have done the whole positive benefits thing very well (“More people take/listen to/use Photos/Music/Facetime…”), and also tied it to positive emotion. I remember the 1st Facetime ad was quite a heart tugger as well.

              • Yeah, I mean the bog standard Apple Ads — just a simple product run through — are excellent. Like really really good [from an advertising, not necessarily artistic standpoint, though they were of course well done aesthetically, too]. That’s what people who are confident in the product do.

                It does this, it does this, it does this. Cool eh?

                No peripheral gumpf, or anything to distract from the perceptually clean and simple message: device is easy [I can show you in tens of seconds] and does neat stuff.

                This is in opposition to the grandiose “change your life” cringeworthy stuff that banks and etc go for. And the cute, ironic nerdy taste, and variations of, that everyone else does. The worst examples are often thought of as great ads. Really. The “Priceless…” series by a certain credit card company, for instance. Which card company was it? For everything else there’s…. Visa? Mastercard? Which? Some of us remember. Most of us don’t. And this is the point. We all thought it was a great ad, but who actually remembers what it advertised. If I was the guy paying the money for that ad, I’d be annoyed. If I was the guy who’s sales numbers were riding on it—I’d be supremely annoyed. Words beginning with “F” may be uttered, etc. No one remembers the card company’s name.

                The ad sold the ad. Not the product.

                99% of spots do this.

                Apple are a notable exemption. I don’t rate Steve Jobs; but give him his due, he really knew what he was doing when it came to this.

                • That’s an important fundamental of any commercial photography: after looking at the image of X, you have to want X. Nothing more, nothing less.

                  • /Tom high fives Ming

                    I mean it’s so simple isn’t it. Why do we have to get into water-skiiing squirrels and comedy vignettes about DSLR owners…

                    • Because the actual product has fundamental issues?

                      Belittling or downgrading other people is a very common tactic used here by mediocre people to make themselves look good. Why they can’t just put a bit more effort in and compete on merit, I’ll never know.

    • Peter Boender says:

      Hello Tom, as always, I really enjoy your responses and comments here.
      Your parallel example got me thinking: If Coca Cola are DSLRs, then Red Bull is what? Mirrorless? No! They’re cellphone cameras. And that’s where part of mirrorless’ problem is. Lots of people are shying away from DSLRs, not in the least because of their size and weight. But many of those people don’t use proper cameras anymore, they’re just using their cellphone camera (and I frequently see people using their tablet (!?!) camera). The most used camera on Flickr, for some time now, is the iPhone. That “young and hip” crowd is getting quite big. It’s no longer about esthetics, is just about plain and simple recording and sharing. Happy Instagramming…

      • Tom Liles says:

        Hi Peter,

        Thanks for the comment: I’m sure we’d all agree, but quality articles and writing are what make for good comment and conversation. As it happens, I feel like I haven’t written a good riff in ages; in a bit of a sleep-deprived slump here => so thanks for the encouragement! I’m glad Ming writes this stuff and you and me and the guys meet up down here to chew on it.

        Agreed on iPhones, etc. But it’s worth mentioning that the lion’s share of these users are not interested in photography qua photography. Or cameras. They’re interested in themselves. They’re interested in collecting “likes,” shares, reblogs and so on. They are the majority and the future; I think they are going to redefine what is necessary in a camera—which won’t be a machine many of us would go for: it will have gaudy filters, comedy lenses, instant net connectivity, and look cool (be more a fashion statement than an informed purchase). I’ve just described iPhones, basically, so your Flickr stat doesn’t surprise me.

        We are CDs, to their MP3s… The film guys are Vinyl.

        • Peter Boender says:

          Hey Tom, I think you just translated my sentiments very well 🙂

          • Tom Liles says:

            Can I just say it’s nice to see you back here Peter 🙂
            I’m sure you’re busy, but I enjoyed seeing and reading comments from you again—more please.

            What’s with flyers and photography? You, Mr Duane “miracle” Pandorf [I’m still in awe of that Duane], and Mr Roger Wojahn Esq. [well, Roger is more like the ultimate renaissance man thesedays: boats, planes, music, surf, cigars and M9s!].

            Doctors and pilots—seem to be quite a few in photography!

            • Peter Boender says:

              I don’t know what it is exactly with flyers and photography. For me personally, it’s just that my mind works very visually. That’s how I learn and remember the best. Turning your last statement around, Tom, I can’t say there’s an abundance of photographers amongst pilots. But those who do take pictures usually have a keen eye (which most certainly doesn’t mean I fall into that definition), and are well into serious enthusiast’s territory or even beyond. We’re probably very visually inclined 🙂

              • I’d like to think so. Flying from memory is probably a bad idea 😛

              • Tom Liles says:

                Just on how minds work: I’m the same, Peter. It’s a source of frustration for me as I’d really like to (and professionally need to) be able to have a literal brain, and write what I feel/think/envisage. Turn thoughts to words—to be read and turned back to thoughts again.

                Now that’s interesting that you don’t see so many pilots into photos. And you see more pilots than I do; if I’m likely to meet/see one, it’s probably on social media; most of my social media time is spent on photography –> this is perhaps where my bad correlation has come in 😉

                Can we agree on the doctors though?
                [/Ian’s shaking his head]

                • I certainly have a lot of doctors in my workshops, if that’s anything to go by…

                • Peter Boender says:

                  Don’t know about doctors Tom… Fortunately I don’t see many of them 😛

                  And Ming, please be careful with putting any amount of statistic meaning to any number of of people with a specific job attending your workshop. Like my high school mathematics teacher always said: “A raven is a bird, but a bird is not necessarily a raven”. But I’m sure you know this…

                  • No, not making any conclusions, just an observation.

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    I’m telling you Peter, the doctors are taking over. As if being insanely gifted to qualify as a physician wasn’t enough, they turn their hands to photography and are usually crazily good at that too.

                    Should’ve been a doctor… sigh…

                    Christ, wait, Ming! Didn’t you say your brother was studying medicine? I might have my wires crossed; either way, do the safe thing and get that 55 micro 2.8 Ai-s back! Next thing you know, he’ll be accepting glitzy photo awards and thanking his brother for the start. I joke, of course. Who thanks their brother before their Mum and Dad.

                    My younger sister has married a medic. My oldest sister married a vet from a line of doctors… They are everywhere I look, the walls are caving in, agh!

                    Etc 🙂

    • Frans Moquette says:

      “To draw a parallel—could Red Bull overtake Coca-Cola in sales? Not impossible. But certainly for now and the near to middle future, improbable: the consumer perceptual capital of Coca-Cola is hard to beat; it’s distribution and sales operations are orders of magnitude harder.”
      To draw an opposing parallel – Nokia was THE brand for mobile phones… nuff said.

      • The Nokia example is a good one: they simply got left behind, or weren’t able to compete, or decided that touch screens were a fad, or perhaps even made a ‘strategic corporate decision to wait’ – in the end, it cost them.

      • Tom Liles says:

        Hi Frans,

        You’re right: Nokia is good example of what not to do when you’re #1.

        But I can’t consider this a counter example: Nokia didn’t have the decades of branding and business behind them that Coca-Cola — and the SLR format — does. Nokia were a comfortable market #1, and when you’re in that position it’s pretty hard to fall off (though they, like Kodak, managed it!).

        Coca-Cola though is a whole different level. Their brand name has become the generic word for the product category [Nokia definitely wasn’t that]. Yeah, C and N aren’t that strong yet—but they’re close. People in my surroundings who aren’t interested in cameras, when they see me carrying always ask:

        is that a Canon? A Nikon?

        Even if I have a medium format brick in my hands.

        • Cola is a simple product – you either like to drink it or you don’t. There is no such thing as formats, subtle technical differences or drinker skill entering into the final result – anything with higher educational/ technical barriers to entry (but not high enough to be restricted to expert consumers only) – photography especially – is necessarily going to result in a lack of dominance by any single company, especially if that product changes every six months…

          • Tom Liles says:

            Point taken.

            Just before we get too carried away with Cola: it was really just a gesture toward the power of such an entrenched business and brand—most of all distribution network.
            [these things are all intertwined.]

            I see C and N as having this. The others, not so much.

  65. I’m a wedding photographer and honestly i believ for many reasons DSLR are the best options for working profesionals.

    • If you need continuous AF, I agree for the moment. But that will change (is changing).

      The whole client perception issue is something else entirely, of course.

    • Iskabibble says:

      Absolutely, and if you frequent wedding photographer forums, you’ll see that mirrorless is nothing more than gear for second shooters, not primary.

      • Again: wedding photographer bias. I suspect much of this is t give face to client expectations. You know as well as I do that the size of the camera really doesn’t matter in the final image; it’s how well the photographer composes and exploits the strengths of their equipment. I don’t frequent those forums because I’m not a wedding photographer. I shoot commercial, and except for some special purpose stuff that’s either tilt shift or large format, the big boys are all using medium format. But ask them what they choose to carry around on their off days, and I think you’d be surprised.

  66. I usually roll my eyes when someone announces anything along the lines of “the DSLR is on the way out”, but yours is an opinion I take seriously.

    I haven’t used one in a while (I shoot now with the Sigma DP3 and a film camera), and I would think that if you’re referring to people who shoot mainly for pleasure, then there could be something to your prediction. However, professionally it could be a different issue. I was watching the world athletics championships, and Canon were totally saturating the airwaves with advertisements for the 1DX. I did see a lot of Canons being wielded on the track.

    And, as someone said before me, I don’t know of a mirrorless which can track moving subjects like a good DSLR can, at least not yet. The OMD-EM5 certainly has nifty single AF, but the continuous is no use. I tried it during a marathon – hardly a challenge for a good continuous AF system – and it was all over the place. Behind the subject, in front, and (very occasionally) dead on. Like you say though, mirrorless continues to improve, so who knows what kind of tricks they have up their sleeves.

    Iskabibble’s comment about China is interesting. I’m in Japan, and I see the whole range from the top level DSLRs to almost every mirrorless that’s out there. Quite a lot of Fujis (the X100 and it’s brethren), the OMD-EM5, a few Sonys here and there. I saw on TV not so long ago that a DSLR is very much a status symbol for the Chinese – they asked them what they came to Japan to buy, and “DSLR” was top of the list. So maybe they’re into “bigger is better”, or they’re not aware of / interested in mirrorless yet, or some other factor.

    • Peter Boender says:

      “a DSLR is very much a status symbol for the Chinese”. That’s very much what it is! It doesn’t matter which big Chinese city I visit (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chengdu) every Chinese male tourist is toting a big DSLR with an enormous lens attached. And it’s the same in my home village in The Netherlands, where we have a lot of Chinese visitors (both mainland and Taiwanese). Now I come to think of it, it’s usually a Nikon (much less Canon). More specifically a D800 with a 28-300mm, which, to me at least, enforces the idea of the status symbol, much more than what these people know what to do photographically. But Canikon probably doesn’t give a rat’s ass…

      • Of course not, they just want to sell cameras!

      • Iskabibble says:

        Thanks Peter for corroborating the same experience that I see here in China. It is all SLR’s by far here. Canon and Nikon are definitely paying attention to China as it is quickly becoming THE largest camera market in the world, and b) THE most profitable.

        FYI, I shoot it all here. Mostly film (mirrorless w/a Fuji GA645), mirrorless with a Fuji X100, but also an SLR on occasion.

        • Did you say you mostly use mirrorless? My turn to ask you a question: why, if you believe so strongly in the DSLR?

          • Iskabibble says:

            I shoot everything Ming! I’m a scientist by training and am skilled in data analysis. What data I am able to view regarding mirrorless and camera companies in general show me that the future of mirrorless (as exhibited by the manufacturers today; not a theoretical concept of what we think mirrorless COULD be), is VERY unclear. The total lack of profits in the industry by those who make mirrorless cameras is an ENORMOUS red flag. The near total lack of infrastructure in distribution of these cameras, is almost as large a red flag. Not just in China, but in the US, mirrorless cameras are VERY hard to find in stores. I see comments all the time about how people wish they could try one in a store before buying but cannot due to no stock.

            I am not religious about my camera beliefs. I’m data driven and right now, SLR’s are still firing on all cylinders, delivering enormous value for the money. Mirrorless by contrast, seems quite over priced.

            • This is clearly an economic and manufacturer problem: why wouldn’t stores stock things people want to buy? Because the profit margin is poor. And why is it poor? Because of the relationship between dealer net cost and net selling price. And that is manufacturer dictated.

    • That’s because the one remaining stronghold for DSLRs is anything requiring continuous AF like sport or reportage (though even that’s somewhat offset by zone focusing). We’re not far off the point where PDAF photosites will be built into imaging sensors – look at Canon’s new 100D and 70D, most of Sony’s cameras – negating that advantage, too. The Nikon 1 is a good example of on-sensor PDAF implemented well – that thing can track at 60fps!

      I only use my D800E for studio/ commercial work, and even then only because my clients need resolution and sometimes the shots require technical movements. Everything else is mirrorless, or increasingly, medium format. I may well land up ditching the intermediate format altogether and going mirrorless plus medium/ large format digital for movements and even higher technical image quality. The more I use all three formats – mirrorless, DSLR and MF – the more I think that DSLRs are a compromise in both directions.

      China: DSLRs are certainly a status symbol, but equally likely is margin pressure/ incentives on dealers to push certain gear to gain market share. It has nothing to do with what is actually better.

    • Iskabibble says:

      Definately bigger is better is the rule of the day in China. Even crop DSLR’s are somewhat rare. It’s FF that’s in now, with L glass if they are shooting Canon. I live by Shanghai’s largest park, where all the wedding parties come and do shoots. On a good summer day you can see easily 30+ parties all across the park doing wedding shoots. Never once in 5 years that I have been here have I seen anything other than Canon or Nikon.

      • The more I think about it,the more I think the Chinese market is where the rest of the world was five years ago. Nobody cares about the outcome, just the means. The question is whether mirrorless will survive long enough to catch up once everybody gets tired of carrying around all that gear.

  67. Some years ago I had a nice compact high quality kit with my Pentax DSLR and little primes; a month ago I picked up an Olympus E-PL5 and am finding it noticeably easier to carry about town. The reduction in weight and volume means that it is easier to have a good camera with me even when I’ve just gone into town to do some shopping – I am finding the E-PL5 with the 20/1.7 a nice combo that leaves plenty of space in the cycle bag.

    • And that is precisely why I think mirrorless will win out: almost no quality compromise, easy to carry, fun to use, and you’re simply more likely to get a good image if you actually have the camera with you!

  68. Great article. I’ve moved on to mirrorless cameras for about three years now. My 7d is still around, but it only gets used 3 to 4 times a year, mostly for football games.

    I’ve done reportage, studio work and made 16*24 prints with the NEX7 and Leica glass, in terms of IQ and handling it is as good as any of the existing APS-C DSLR bodies. Sometimes I miss the optical finder, but not nearly enough to go back to Canikon.

    • 16×24″ is still reasonable – Olympus made 3×5 foot prints from my OM-D files at one of their recent events…

      • That is kind of pushing it…though you can’t always be too picky. 16′ is actually quite reasonable on the NEX-7 with base ISO and light processing, since the sensor delivers so much detail. Color noise is annoying though, and there’s a lot of it even at ISO 400.

        I’m really torn now – no FF body means a lack of superwides, but I won’t ever buy a $7,000 135 camera. I’d like to go full-size digital MF, but as a student doing that will drain up my income flow for at least two year. I’ve been pretty happy shooting with APS-Cs for years, and everyone I’ve worked for seems happy. But there are times when a NEX just doesn’t cut it and film turnaround is too slow…

        • Actually, it very much depends on subject and your own shot discipline. Something with fine detail will definitely look ropy, but choose your subject carefully and large prints are just fine.

          My experience with the 24MP APS-C sensors seems to be that they aren’t quite as good at the pixel level as the 16MP ones; I don’t see a resolution advantage in most cases, especially since you have to bump ISO to get the shutter speed high enough to avoid camera shake. This in turn robs your color info and edge acuity.

          There are a number of SW options for M4/3, not sure about NEX – didn’t Sigma have something?

          • I see a moderate resolution gain with the NEX7 compared to the Fuji bodies, and a *very* slight gain over the NEX6. Maybe it’s just bad raw support for X-trans, though.

            The NEX-7 is quite the paradoxical camera, it needs a tripod for the sensor advantage to show, but also has Tri-nav, which IMO gives the best street shooting controls for any mirrorless body. Exposure and WB is definitly more demanding, but rewarding when you get things just right. Too bad most SWs don’t really work on the body…I have a 10-18 which can be corrected in-camera, but performance is rather mediocre, especially when compared to the M-distagons

            • Almost certainly the workflow/ raw support for X trans sensors isn’t letting us easily make the most out of it. It seems we either lose on the initial conversion (ACR) or the rest of the processing (Silkypix). Combining the two is a pain.

              What the NEX7 (and frankly, pretty much every high pixel-density body) needs is the stabilizer out of the OM-D…

              I found none of the M-mount wides worked well on the NEX bodies because of corner softness, CA and vignetting; they really need the M9’s offset microlenses to perform well since they were not designed for digital (i.e. no telecentricity).

  69. Iskabibble says:

    Sorry Ming, but I think you are totally, totally off base here. I mean not even close. There are so many faults to your logic, and missed points of analysis. Nikon and Canon have the most comprehensive lens line up on earth. Mirrorless does not even have a tiny, tiny fraction of lenses available. It took Canon and Nikon decades to build up that many lenses and the likes of Olympus, Panasonic and Sony are not going to do that any faster, or any better. They are struggling to survive.

    Further, ever notice how mirrorless companies are losing enormous amounts of money? Ever read Olympus shareholder reports? Absolutely brutal. Not making money with cameras, instead losing fistfuls of cash. Panasonic, just as bad, if not worse. Sony, a horrible, horrible balance sheet, maybe at break even levels. Fujifilm, again, torrential losses year after year after year.

    Leica might be making money, but they are hardly a mirrorless camera maker available to the masses.

    Canon and Nikon, keep on making profits year after year after year. I suppose they might survive and make mirrorless cameras, but that is not likely.

    Sales for mirrorless cameras are down hard, very very hard. Here in China, it is ALL SLR’s, almost all the time. Every camera mall is stacked to the rafters with Canon and Nikon. Chinese consumers reject anything but Canon, Nikon, and Sony. SLR’s are by far, BY FAR, the biggest sellers here in China, producing enormous profits for this makers. Olympus, Panasonic, and Fujifilm fight for scraps and sink under their heavy losses. I suspect that we will lose at least 2 mirrorless manufacturers in the next 5 years because of their immense financial losses.

    • I interact with far more photographers than most, and the trends are clear: they’re all going mirrorless in one form or another. During my US workshops, out of ~60 cameras, there were only two DSLRs – TWO! The rest were mirrorless.

      Lenses: I agree for some systems, not for M4/3. That has almost all the lenses one needs – bar very special purpose like tilt shifts. And unlike with the D800E, I don’t have to be quite so careful of pairing the right lens to the body to maintain acceptable image quality since all of the M4/3 lenses were designed for digital to begin with. If it’s sufficient for a technically demanding photographer like me, can your really argue that having more (but unsuitable) lenses is better?

      I think the financials only tell part of the story. Canon and Nikon profits have been falling over the past few years; both companies do other business apart from cameras. Olympus has issues of its own. I’m not sure about Fuji. Sony is just badly managed: too many product lines, no consolidation, no focus.

      I also don’t agree that the Chinese market is representative of anything: the majority cannot afford cameras. Those who can are noveau riche who buy anything so long as it’s big and expensive. That will change, with time and education.

      The mirrorless market will consolidate, but not for the reasons you think – more likely because of internal corporate collaborations than profits. Olympus-Sony will fall into one camp, Fuji-Panasonic into another. Nikon and Canon will have to move or get left behind: if we get decent AF-C in the next generation of mirrorless bodies, I really cannot think of any good reason for the majority to continue using DSLRs.

      You might also notice that out of all the respondents to the thread, only you disagree; Peter seems somewhat on the fence, and the rest have abandoned their DSLRs…

      • Peter Boender says:

        Ming, I’m still on the fence because I have some serious doubts about the longevity of the m43 system. Is it future proof? Both Olympus and Panasonic are economically not in the best place right now… I think Thom Hogan addresses that doubt very well, backed up with some hard data; Iskabibble has the same concerns. I would very much like for m43 to mature a little further and obtain a solid and justified presence in the market place. I’m a big fan of the m43 system, and now shoot it almost exclusively. It’s a joy to go on holiday with just a small LowePro shoulder bag filled with an OM-D E-M5 and no less than 5 lenses, and still have room to spare.. Not to mention the fact that I don’t know my chiropracter’s first name 🙂 I hope PDAF and some serious long glass (where’s that Pany 150mm/f2.8?) are going to be introduced very soon. When that happens, it’s another step in the right direction.

        Note that the interchangeability of Oly and Pany lenses and bodies still have some issues. E.g. there’s a well-known problem with the Pany 7-14mm on the OM-D E-M5. The internal JPG software of a Pany body will take care of the (serious) chromatic aberration, but this is not the case on the OM-D E-M5…

        The Chinese market place is changing rapidly. I know, because I see it almost every month over the last 10 years or so… It’s true that “the majority cannot afford cameras”, but do you have any idea to what amount of people the minority constitutes to? The numbers are huge! And the balance shifts towards the able every day. Mainland China hosts the most millionaires on earth. Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini now sell most of their cars in mainland China. I could go on…

        • Bigger question: does it even matter if it’s future proof or not? Realistically, most of what we buy doesn’t stay with us more than a year or two anyway. If it does the job now, then there’s no reason it won’t continue to do the job later, even if something else comes out. I think the endless waiting and equipment speculation is really killing the whole joy of making pictures. I’m using a 25 year old camera now for a good chunk of my personal work, and I couldn’t care less about the specs: I just focus on the end image.

          If you shoot RAW, enable CA correction in ACR and the problem is moot.

          As for China: true…

      • Iskabibble says:

        Consensus means nothing if everyone is wrong, so I am unconcerned with that.

        Regarding Fujifilm, I *AM* sure about them, as I have read their financials, going back every year until 2005. Not a penny in profit from their cameras. Their entire Imaging Solutions business, which includes film and RA41 printing, is barely 10% of their business. Fujifilm makes nothing from this part of their business. Olympus has recently suspended their dividend payments to shareholders. Why? Because their imaging division is hemorrhaging cash. While Olympus makes money on medical equipment, their cameras lose so much money that the company is taking drastic action.

        I interact with plenty of pros. None of them use mirrorless. None. Wedding photographers always have Canon or Nikon gear here. I live by a very large art studio where I can see fashion photographers come and go, day after day. Never once have I seen them with any mirrorless camera. Their models would probably laugh at such.

        Further, I travel all over the world all the time, visiting UNESCO type tourist spots or other very popular locations. SLR’s easily outnumber mirrorless 30:1 or more. A few times I tried doing a census but gave up after I hit 100 SLR’s and not even finding one mirrorless camera.

        Incorrect that the majority of Chinese cannot afford a camera. When is the last time you have been here? Most who dont have cameras use smart phones, but there are over 250 million middle class (not rich) Chinese and this group is growing FAST. They can and do afford SLR’s and choose these by far over mirrorless. I wish you could walk down one of Shanghai’s camera malls. 10 minutes with me and you’d be stuttering trying to find any sign of mirrorless success. The amount of CaNikon stores I could show you would make your head spin. Not only that, but they are STUFFED with customers. After that I’d take you to the used stores to show you the real fun (film cameras).

        Ming: Pros use lenses like tilt shift. It’s important for architecture photography. Canon and Nikon offer this, Panasonic and other mirrorless companies do not. Where are the ultra long telephotos for mirrorless? Nowhere. Canon has how many different lenses? 70 or so? Pros have quite a choice there. They have very little choice with mirrorless and that is why pros consistently use CaNikon.

        Mirrorless’ biggest problem is it makes no money. Every last mirrorless company aside from Leica and Sigma (DPXM) are losing huge amounts of money. They are not turning a profit and what is worse, that is not projected to change any time soon. Sales are falling, the market is shrinking and that spells real trouble for the weaker companies.

        I agree with you, that there will be some consolidation/mergers. But I think we are going to lose 2 companies if not more as well. The market has no mercy on weak companies. Ricoh (their cameras, not the whole company) would be dead now if it were not for Pentax. They are down to a single model.

        • Wedding shooters are not all the pros in the world. Tourists and consumers don’t upgrade as frequently as keen amateurs. For both groups, there’s a strong element of ‘good enough, so why upgrade?’

          Concerning info about Fuji. If I were the board I’d start wondering why bother with X mount at all if it’s not profitable and not exactly a growing market?

          Developing markets are influenced by a) retailers, b) aspirational traditions, and ultimately, c) marketing and the brands. Retailers push whatever has the highest margins for them. The brands with the most advertising dollar have the highest mind share. That would be…Canon and Nikon. The outcome is not surprising.

          I agree about the missing lenses – but it would be a poor business decision to develop an expensive and small-volume specialized product before the rest of the range makes money. We may never see them. But in the meantime, there are plenty of adapters that take advantage of the larger image circle and longer flange distance of legacy lenses to offer T/S capabilities. I can now have a Zeiss 2/50 TS Makro-Planar on my OM-D, for example – that option doesn’t even exist for Nikon.

          Maybe I’m in a minority or an idiot, then. But mirrorless has both replaced the DSLR for a good chunk of my work, and others I know.

        • plevyadophy says:

          Re China.

          As I said earlier, they are suffering from what the old English colonies suffered from, namely “slave mentality”. Yeah, they are buying DSLRs, but that’s because they are unsophisticated buyers. They are slavishly mimicking each other in their purchases and doing so based on a need to buy something big and Western as it will, they think, give them kudos as the “cool and modern” member of their peer group or family; the bigger and more expensive the item the more status the purchaser has.

          This market is something that Canon, Nikon, and Sony can enjoy for a while (hey, they can even use the spare parts inventory left over from the demise of DSLR cam sales in other markets to cobble together cams for the Chinese) but in the long run, perhaps after a generation of Chinese chiropractors have made a good living from Chinese photographers, the Chinese will also give up on DSLRs and opt for mirrorless. In any event, mirrorless may be forced on them by manufacturers, eg. Sony, who are keen to rid themselves of the complexity of a mirror assembly.

          And no doubt, if Ming took up your offer of a trip into a Shanghai shopping mall, he would also stumble across one of those horrid Hasselblad Lunar-cy cams, which says everything about the unsophisticated noveau riche market of China (and by the way, when an economy/culture is going through that colonialist slave mentality phase, the noveau riche includes the middle class, not just the mega-rich corrupt officials and gangsters)

          And the talk of Canon and Nikon having a huge lens range is nonsense (and I say that as someone who has both Canon DSLRs and Panny mFT); take a look at that range (of circa 60 lenses for each brand), most of it is old junk just sitting there in the lens catalogue to boost numbers; Nikon had to produce a customer advisory as to which lenses to use with their D800 (cynical read: “the rest of our lenses are crap”) yet I have NEVER seen an advisory from Leica (who don’t boast of a massive lens range) as to which lenses one should select or reject for their M or S systems.

          So I think, Ming is correct in his analysis. We are witnessing the beginning of the end of the DSLR as THE camera to have.


          • These comments about China are way off the mark. The only rationale you need is “status and credibility,” which has nothing to do with ignorance or colonial status. Americans are also influenced by status, but nothing like what I’ve seen in Asia, not just cameras, but any product. Status among peers really matters. Having the best brand name is the way to go. Nikon, Canon, Leica, and Zeiss all earned the trust and credibility of the consumer over a very long period of time. The best products. So, why would you go against that and get what would clearly be an inferior product from Panasonic, Sony, and Olympus? Only for the quality of the latters product proving themselves over time and . . . gradually becoming the high status product to buy. Americans and Europeans who are not experts in photography would follow the same popularity trends. We just may have a few more people who get a kick out of being innovators out ahead of the crowd

            • Clearly inferior? I’m not so sure about that. Recent major product issues have been Nikon (D800/D4 AF, D600 oil spots), Canon (1Dx, 1Dc, T4i allergy); Leica (M 240 color, strap lugs falling off !) – not Panasonic, Sony or Olympus…

              Out of all of the cameras I’ve owned over the last two years, my mirrorless cameras are the only ones that haven’t been in for some sort of service. And it’s not because of underuse, either – the OM-D alone has more shots on it than the D800E and D600 combined.

              Early adopters? Definitely. But it’s a little more than that: we’re influencers too, directly or indirectly. How many times have you been asked what camera to buy by a friend or relative who sees you as ‘the expert’? I get asked that question at least fifty times a day. And then there are the people who read the reviews, etc. – all in all, hundreds of thousands over the course of a month, according to my stats package. Even though we personally may not buy that many cameras, our decisions have effects beyond the immediately obvious.

            • Iskabibble says:

              Well said Larry. Here in China brand awareness is MASSIVE. That’s not just photography related, it’s everywhere. Each time I fly back to the US my colleagues at work give me a list of American brand name stuff (cosmetics of all things) that they want me to buy and bring back. Same thing when I fly to Korea. Chinese companies have enormous branding problems when competing internationally. Sony is the only mirrorless brand that has any following in China. I think Sony’s smart move was to set up their own stores. You wont find Sony cameras in a typical Shanghai camera store. Instead, you will find branded Sony stores, similar to how Apple does it. That way Sony gets prime exposure and doesnt have to fight with Canon and Nikon. There are no such Olympus or Panasonic stores and as a result, they have barely 1% of the exposure (heh heh) that Sony does, and 0.1% of the exposure of Canon and Nikon.

              • We have Sony stores here, but they don’t do very well at all; unlike Apple stores, they’re pretty much empty, with the exception of a few tourists. I can only surmise that the brand presence exercise must be worth them keeping them open…the rental can’t be cheap at the prime locations they’re usually in.

              • Peter Boender says:

                Hey Iskabibble. You said “You wont find Sony cameras in a typical Shanghai camera store”.
                Just out of curiosity, what do you regard as a typical Shanghai camera store? I’ve yet to find a “regular” store over there where they sell multiple brands and can give proper demonstration or advice. Most of the stores I’ve found are of the “store-in-store” concept, I.e. a big building with a multitude of camera stores in there, with each individual store dedicated to a particular brand. I very much dislike the beehives of camera stores in the Xujiahui district. The only store I frequent is the Xing Guang Photographic Equipments Mall on the corner of Luban Lu and Xietu Lu. This one actually has a large display of all the Sony DSLR equipment right at the street level corner entrance and a Sony store on the right as you enter. That said, I would love to hear some other store opportunities from you! I’ll visit them the next time I’m in Shanghai 🙂 BTW I found the prices in Shanghai nothing to write home about. HKG has much better deals, and if I factor in the import taxes levied in my own country, than it’s cheaper at home. So I hardly buy anything there…

            • plevyadophy says:

              @ Larry Kincaid

              Yes, indeed you are correct; one only has to look at the slavish pursuit of getting an iPhone or iPad to understand that we in the West are affected too by branding and following peers (both products by the way, which I regard as a pile of junk, which i wouldn’t want if given to me for free).

              However, what happens in a lot of emerging economies is a lot worse. It’s often a slavish pursuit of popular Western brands without any ability to make out what the real differences are between the brands and a desire to have something large in size (hence DSLRs in China) so at to make it crystal clear to their friends and family that they have bought something expensive and Western.

              A silly example of the slave mentality is the consumption of sugar. Many of us in the West now know that white, and therefore processed, sugar ain’t good for you.But do you know that in India and the Caribbean, amongst those who regard themselves as “sophisticated” they insist on having white sugar; if you opt for cane sugar molasses they treat you as primitive (coz that’s what poor people use). Now here’s the funny (hypocritical) part: in the Caribbean, them same sophisticates, will use the proper sugar (i.e. not white) for baking cakes coz they jolly well know it works better in their recipes.

              That’s the kinda vibe/mentality i was on about; I wasn’t saying that Westerners aren’t subject to the same kinda forces, and you were right to pull me up on that.

              • Wasn’t there something ridiculous like people selling kidneys in China for iphones and ipads not so long ago? That’s complete insanity, especially given these things will be worthless and widely available in a few years.

        • If Fuji’s camera business is a very small percentage of their total business, perhaps they are in a better position than some other camera manufacturers. This at least means they may be able to afford to regard their X camera system as an longer term investment which does not need to profitable in the short term.

      • I also disagree with the overall message… My canon 6D is pretty much permanently stuck to a 50mm manual lens and I never want to go back to smaller than FF again. Unlike FF, APS-C and micro4/3 have too few fast wide angle lenses for a reasonable price. And the picture style and depth to images from those cameras at 35mm equivalents (on a micro4/3 that’s like 17mm) is similar to those that come off people’s iphones (albeit better quality). I think the FF isn’t going anywhere for pro. It’s the intermediate cameras that are going to disappear and be replaced by those 8 and 13 megapixel camera phones all posting to instagram and facebook. Of my non-enthusiast friends, I don’t know a single one who owns both a smartphone and a camera anymore.

        Not that the DSLR is here to stay forever. It’s going the same way as gasoline, paper and desktop computers – and at the same slow pace.

  70. I have to agree, amongst friends I’m ‘the photographer’, and 5 years ago I’d recommend a small dslr kit to my friends. But I sold all my dslr stuff last year, and only use an M, a compact, or an iPhone, so I can no longer tell them a dslr is what they need! Dslr’s will always have their place though, just like rangefinders and MF, but they are less and less becoming the ‘go to’ camera for the masses. My 2c anyway.

    • At the end of the day, the photographer’s skill still makes the most difference. I strongly believe that education will be the way to go long term as technology converges and condenses into ever-smaller packages.

  71. Yorkshire Mike says:

    Pretty much dropped SLR,s when I sold my D700. The writing was on the wall long before the D800 hit the market. I remember thinking that the pixel count was a statement by Nikon, to bolster up its core SLR market by saying if you want the most pixels your only pro option is an SLR.

    The only SLR’r the I didn’t sell was my F100 and 50mm g lens and my first nikon camera – a nikon FE. They where kept for sentimental reasons only.

    The turning point was a trip to London with a D700 and a 14-24 lens. Too big and too heavy. The pro kit was sold a month later for Leica M and an Olympus M4/3 camera.

    It’s unlikely that ill ever buy an SLR ever again.

    • The D800E basically changed the role of the DSLR, in my book. What we had to use an entry level MF camera for could now be done with DSLR cost and convenience/ usability; that’s a big change. I use the D800E like I would have done a MF camera previously, though it can be used in the DSLR role, too. That said, the prior role played by my D700s has now been replaced by the OM-D and Ricoh GR, and I don’t feel like I’ve given up anything in image quality – if anything, gained in some areas.

  72. I am not a professional photographer but I have been taking pictures since 1965. In the past 2 years I have hardly used my D800, the 24-70 or the 300/4 but instead the OMD E5 with various zooms and prime lenses with great satisfaction. I thought the switch was because of my age and the hassle to carry heavy loads the whole day but, as you described rightly, it seems to be a more general trend. What I like a lot with the PMD E5 is the ability to use Nikon, Leica M and R, even Contarex Zeiss lenses with an adapter. Manual focusing of course but all other functions work.

    • It’s not just you. Carrying less means you feel less burdened by your equipment and happier to explore more – thus leading to more photographic opportunities. Airlines becoming increasingly draconian have contributed to travellers favouring smaller gear, too.

  73. Very good article Ming. I ditched my heavy Canon and all lenses earlier this year for an OM-D (already had a Panasonic GF-1) and have never looked back. Now that I can actually carry the kit I need without damaging my back/shoulder I find I am out there making images far more. Here in the UK I sense a real shift is beginning to take place with a number of pros switching to mirrorless technology. Interesting post here which appeared in my twitter feed just before yours. Really enjoying all your posts by the way, keep it up.

  74. Peter Boender says:

    Although I mostly agree with you (and we’ve discussed this before), I still experience a few more areas where I use my DSLRs. One of them is action/sports/wildlife. When I photograph one of my daughters playing field hockey, I still take my Nikon D300 with TC14EII and 70-200mm/f2.8 VR or 300mm/f2.8 VR. I tried photographing flying birds of prey at a falconry during our recent holiday in England, and although I tried various AF modes, it was very hard (virtually impossible) to get a good picture with my OM-D E-M5. So, in this particular field the DSLR still reigns IMHO. Another thing: people did not only invest in (a collection of) glass, but also accessories like flash equipment. For flash (portrait/people) photography, whether it’s at my makeshift home studio setting or on location, I also still gravitate towards the Nikon CLS flash system. Multiple wireless flash is just a breeze! Now, admittedly, you can do something comparable with the Olympus flash system, but that again means more investments…

    • For the current generation, I agree: we’re still missing PDAF. Once that comes in, AF-C will be taken care of; shorter blackout times might well mean better tracking.

      You can use the Nikon speedlights with any system that has an optical flash – just put them in SU4 mode and control output manually. I use my SB900s with everything, including the Hasselblad…

      • Plus you could use non-TTL flash, Peter, like most studios do anyway. No need for a “system” if you can measure the light and set the best aperture yourself…

        The OM-D E-M5 is the best so far because it has an integrated VF *and* a free hot shoe for a radio remote, so it’s perfect for studio work. I don’t consider Panasonic because they didn’t have IBIS since lately, and the one in their GX-7 has to prove itself first.

        To Ming: I don’t consider the simpler two-axis IBIS in the lesser and older Olympus models as inferior. The E-520 DSLR and both our E-PL1 and E-PL5 are much better than any non-IBIS camera with a non-OIS lens (which means most of the CaNikon stuff I know of).

        • I’m not sure I agree with that last bit on IBIS – I found that with the E-PM1, E-P3 and E-PL5, under certain conditions you’d get double images from having IBIS on; critical sharpness hit rate was much worse than just using the burst technique. This may be different with eye-level cameras like the E-520, but for anything held at arms’ length, the OM-D and E-P5’s system is far superior. I’ve shot handheld video with the 75/1.8 on the OM-D which is something I definitely couldn’t do with any of the other cameras.

      • We’re also still missing the lenses. No prime over 75mm, and although the “consumer” m43 zooms are better than most internet pundits give them credit for (the Olympus 40-150 in particular) there’s still nothing like the fabulous, and come on, not _that_ expensive 50-200SWD, or indeed the 150 f/2 (which admiittedly is heavy and expensive, but it sure does deliver). There also seems no sign of the tele end of the range being taken seriously. Only Fuji with their 55-200 seem to be trying….

  75. Peter Boender says:

    “If my OM-D had phase detect AF and a few more pixels, I’d probably be using that exclusively for my professional work…”
    Well, the solution may be just around the corner! The rumors about the Olympus OM-D E-M1 are getting stronger. Apparently it will have sensor-based PDAF (and lots of other goodies), but still 16mp output. My first impressions when looking at the leaked pictures (and specs)? Functionality much improved, but that integrated grip is just butt-ugly! Stories can be found at and at .

    • It would be nice if it was true, and if the noises I’m hearing from within Olympus are right, it probably is.

      That said, rumors and speculation are just that until something materializes…sites that survive on innuendo and not real content don’t really need to be linked here 🙂

  76. I might just sell my DSLR. I tried the VF-4 and it is amazing. Can’t wait to see the new E-M1.

    • I am actually considering moving to mirrorless and medium/ large format digital only; the kind of things I used to use my DSLR for as a Swiss Army knife solution are either replaced by the mirrorless system (travel, personal, teaching) or have increased commercial client demands that justify going up a size.

      • funny, I’ve been considering selling the D800E lately too… to pay for the huge hole burned by RX1R, especially with EM1 coming up too, what is the point when it’s a paperweight that gets used 1% of the year?! Yes the demise of DSLR has started for me too.

        • Depends on your needs, I guess. I can’t sell mine just yet because my Hasselblad system isn’t quite complete, but I’m not ruling it out…

  77. Great article and I appreciate that you reply to the posted comments 🙂 It is interesting to compare your observations as a working photographer to some of the comments that appear on other sites, which at times appear to mainly consist of complaints…

    • I think it’s because most of the people writing online aren’t really photographers – most of them pretend to be, spend their time shooting brick walls and test charts, and not making a living from their images. Those of us who do don’t really care about the gear so long as it does the job…and that point was passed a long time ago; now it’s just down to personal preferences, and to a lesser extent, client perception.

  78. I can’t remember the last time I used my 5D Mark 3. I use my Sony RX100 however almost every single day.

  79. Well written, Ming. If I buy a D800, it will probably be my last DSLR and it will only be bought because of the resolution advantage. As my Nikon zooms are wearing out, they will be replaced by a small group of primes for low light and shallow DOF photography. Anything else will be covered by m4/3. The new OM-D (M-1) will probably be a very serious challenge to the DSLR industry, and if the rumours about AF are true, the only thing Canikon have to counter with is more megapixels.

    • And more pixels are precisely the last thing most of the market needs. C/N have lagged behind in other technology – the OM-D’s stabilizer, for instance, utterly decimates the competition and is genuinely useful.

      • plevyadophy says:

        And that Oly stabilizer is now found in Panny’s newly announced cam, the GX7.

        Out of curiosity Ming, how would you clean the Oly sensor? I mean, is the sensor on a “float” behind the sensor cover glass (making conventional wet sensor cleaning the same as it is for other cams), or is the entire assembly, cover glass and all, on a “float”?

        If the latter, then it seems that touching that sensor would be problematic (even if the “float” is parked when the cam power is switch off, because I would image that pressure applied to the sensor assembly whilst cleaning may upset the “float” mechanism).

        Thanks in advance.

        • Is it definitely the same mechanism as the OM-D’s? Even Olympus themselves have restricted it to the OM-D and E-P5 for now; the IS in their other cameras is pretty rubbish.

          I believe the whole sensor and cover glass is on a float, but I’ve never needed to clean it – it seems silly to touch it to find out. Whatever they’ve done with their ultrasonic filter, it works – in 40,000 exposures or thereabouts every single image has been completely dust-free.

          • plevyadophy says:

            I am not 100% sure that the Oly and Panny in-body IS are the same, but I would imagine that they are; I would be pretty disappointed if Panny tried to introduce their own version as I wouldn’t trust it’s reliability as a Version 1 in-body stablisation system compared to Oly’s experience in doing in-body IS.

            As to how Oly and Panny do the anti-dust thing, it’s just that the cover glass vibrates at a very high frequency. And yes, it’s VERY effective.

            I did have to clean the sensor of my Panny mFT cam once because of someone looking admiringly at the cam mount with lens off whilst talking and then splattering the sensor with spit.

            • The Panny OIS is different. Should an O-MD actually need cleaning it is done by the factory.

            • Trouble is, I don’t think the IS system is covered by their M4/3 tech sharing agreement; unlikely that Olympus would give away what is – at least in my mind – one of their biggest advantages to a direct competitor. Neither party is saying. I suppose we’ll have to wait til the actual camera is out until we can test its behaviour…

      • I’ve been using a borrowed E-P5 along with the VF-4 and the Panny Leica 25/1.4 over the last week, and that image stabilizer is almost like magic. I think it’s one of the few photo features introduced in the last few years that actually helps people make better images. I wouldn’t place sensor resolution or sensitivity in that list. Combine that with its responsiveness, and it’s a pretty great camera.

        If I had to get a new digital camera, this would be it, but I’d wait til whatever Olympus, Sony, et al. announce later next month in the hopes that there will be steep discounts on existing cameras.

        I do wish it had a program shift-like function for its manual mode, like the aperture-shutter speed interlock on the Hasselblad lenses. Once you set an exposure, it would be nice if you could, for example, press the top Fn button, and twirl the back dial to move through different aperture-shutter speed combinations that give the equivalent exposure. The image stabilizer was so good that I wanted to try different shutter speeds to experiment with motion blur. As it was I just had to count clicks on each dial to keep the same exposure.

        I’m not sure continuous AF is that important a feature unless you’re a service photographer at some major event. Pre-focus, with the low-speed advance mode (eg. the 3-4 FPS mode instead of the 9 FPS), and judicious tweaking of the focus ring to track the target can get a pretty good hit rate. If you anticipate your target, it’s not that hard. After all, lots of good sports photography was done for decades with manual-focus lenses.

        I think a lot of features are made for novice photographers who have not yet developed their skill so that they can produce somewhat acceptable images. The whole bokeh/FF obsession is an example of this: instead of thinking about how to light, frame, and/or place the subject so that it’s apparent what’s the subject, people rely on plain brute force to isolate the subject. There’s nothing wrong with using bokeh to blur out the background, but too many people assume that it’s the only or the best tool available to do that.

        • It’s no longer a case of whether people need it or not – they are comparing A-B and counting features…

        • Tom Liles says:

          Aha! Andre, let me pounce—the 25 1.4 D Summilux. Yours is the u4/3 version?

          Are you finding much CA [both planes] and fringing with it?

          I have the 4/3 original and use it on my DMC-L1. About four months ago, out with the kids in the park, I tried hopping a fence camera in hand –> the camera in my hand was the DMC and the lens was… and, yes, you guessed it: I ate sh*t.
          The D Summilux took a pretty good hit, but I had its lens shade on [which is stupidly large] and this took most of the blow, I think.

          So anyway, four months ago I was still new to photography and wasn’t really aware of CA — and certainly wasn’t aware of it before then — but very soon thereafter I became aware of it: almost every shot taken in sunshine with this optic was giving me fringing. Now:

          Premise: was it always there? Or did that drop do it?

          1) It’s a Leica lens, I’m sure they wouldn’t have put something that fringes like this out; or would they?
          2) I’ve never met anyone else with this lens to ask them
          3) It’s Japanese-German built and *was not* cheap [but probably not on the level of what they put out for m-mount or s-mount]—if anything is up to the drop test [well, fall with owner test] this is it…
          4) A bang to a lens would more likely give missed focusing? [I know CA is a product of rays not meeting at the common focus point, but still, a bang would have larger effects?]

          The 25D Summilux you’ve got is the smaller u4/3 mount version: they might have fixed some things; they might not have. Are you getting this behavior?

          Stopping down makes little difference for me 😦
          Frustrating, because I really like this lens. Very handsome. And otherwise deadly sharp.

          • Yes, I believe it’s the u43 version. There isn’t much fringing, even off center and on high contrast details. It’s certainly small enough that I hadn’t thought about it until you mentioned it! And then if I turn on LR’s auto defringer (look in Develop – Profile – Basic, I believe), it goes away completely. I love this lens as it seems to do nothing wrong. It’ll be hard to send this kit back.

  80. And here I thought only I would be so odd as to pick up my old doorstop of a Pentax Spotmatic from time to time just too look through the viewfinder. It’s like stepping into a room and seeing the world through a wall-size picture window.

    • Every generation of EVFs keeps improving. The Olympus VF-4 is as large as my D800E’s finder, and easier to focus because it shows true DOF not f4 equivalent. And you can use it to preview exposure and overlay other shooting info, which you can’t do with an optical finder. I think EVFs were a compromise in the past…not so much now. And that gap will continue to close – there’s no reason why better optical components can’t make the EVFs seem even larger than we have now.

      If you want a really big finder, try a 6×6 or 6×7 🙂

      • I absolutely love my VF-4. It says something when I prefer shooting my e-pm2 over my D600. Which goes to show how far the mirrorless has gotten, or should I say how behind DSLRs are.

        • Not surprising – the magnification is higher, and you have the advantage of an accurate preview

          • Having seen the VF-4 on E-P5, I can’t wait to have it integrated on the E-M1. For this reason alone, I would trade in my EM5 for EM1.

  81. Rain Santiago says:

    One thing I’ve noticed it seems like Asian countries have been embracing mirrorless cameras with more open arms than the folks in Europe and United States, here it’s still DSLR duopoly of Canon and Nikon it’s tough sell for Olympus, Panasonic, Sony even though it still has huge gaps in there lenses line up is actually doing a decent job trying to change perceptions towards mirror less cameras but a tough sell for those Canon-Nikon folks that have invested thousands in there lenses.

    • I wonder if it’s a size thing, a technology-geekery thing, or simply because the larger home market of Japan is swaying the numbers…

    • Peter Boender says:

      Look at what Thom Hogan has to say about this over on : and This may warrant a head-scratch or two. I thought m43 was from the start more accepted in the Asian countries, but I’m always surprised (and a little worried) that when I’m in Hong Kong (with a camera shop on almost every street corner) I never see much of m43. The latest bodies? Sure! Well stocked up on lenses and accessories? Nah, not so much. Over in my country (Netherlands) m43 availability at the camera shops is very good, but I wonder about market acceptance. You can buy a new Nikon D3200 with 18-55mm for less than an OM-D E-M5 with 14-42mm. What do you think people will do? All of this is to say I’m a little worried. I’m a big fan of m43 (and now shoot it almost exclusively sans a couple of situations described in another post in this thread), but I’d like it to be supported and developed in the years to come, and not go the way of FourThirds (technically superior, but no market acceptance).

      • M4/3 is what 4/3 should have been. The problem is that it might be too late to deliver on the ‘smaller, same quality’ promise – APSC has more volume, more development dollars, and thus can gain technological ground on miniaturisation at a faster pace. The reason why people are still buying DSLRs is the perception that bigger is better – the camera companies have themselves to blame for the problem they now face trying to sell smaller cameras to the same crowd they previously tried to convince of the opposite. A D3200 vs OM-D comparison isn’t fair; the D3200 lacks the stabilizer, 9fps and weather sealing. The D7100 is probably a better comparison, and that still favours the OM-D in both price, size and some specs.

        I disagree that 4/3 was technically superior: the bodies were huge, and the sensor quality lagging noticeably. The lenses might have been optically excellent, but cost a fortune and were also huge; there goes your supposed cost and weight advantage.

        • Peter Boender says:

          “A D3200 vs OM-D comparison isn’t fair… The D7100 is probably a better comparison…”
          That’s very true, but that’s applicable to customers who actually have some knowledge (and took time and effort to investigate) about the various photography equipment possibilities. For the rest of the crowd (and I have a gut feeling it’s the majority) it’s just simple perception. Do they care about stabilizer, 9fps and weather sealing? No, they just read “24mp”. Ooh, that must be better than “16mp”…

          • I’m not so sure: size, speed and robustness are very tangible qualities, too. I’m certainly seeing a lot more OM-Ds than D7100s…

      • Iskabibble says:

        If you cant find a mirrorless camera in Hong Kong, then you know the format is in SERIOUS trouble. As you said, there’s a camera store every 50 feet in Hong Kong. And as usual, it’s all SLR’s as Canon and Nikon are totally dominate in Hong Kong.

    • Iskabibble says:

      Not here in China. Mirrorless is being utterly slaughtered by Canon, Nikon, and Sony SLR’s. It’s not even close. A 10 minute walk through any camera mall will show a 25:1 store ratio, SLR’s vs mirrorless.

      • Another possible reason is margins: the stores will sell whatever makes them the most profit, not necessarily what is the better device. It’s the same thing here; trends change depending on which brand is offering what incentives at any given time.

      • plevyadophy says:

        That’s because the Chinese are now acting like the old colonies of Africa and Asia used to (and still do in many respects); that is to say they have something of a “slave” mentality and are mimicking what they see (or think they see) from Europe as epitomizing sophistication; and the larger that piece of “sophistication” the better as it shows to their family and peers that they are “progressive”.

        That’s all really.

        Eventually, when the Chinese population gets more accustomed to their new market economy, and the communist controlled command economy is a distant memory, they will be less inclined to look over to the West for prompts as to what is cool and will then come to their senses and ditch the big cameras.

        Russia has a similar problem too, with the wealthy in their country having absolutely no class whatsoever. Just take a trip to London, go to Hamstead and take a look at the tatty garish houses built by the Russians. Or watch them shopping in Bond Street. In photographic terms, they are the ones most likely to buy those horrid new Hasselblad cams the Lunar-cy and so called Stellar.

  82. But surely you would concede that when it comes to continuous AF, mirror less has a bit farther to go?
    I have used the Nikon v1, which is indeed fast in bright conditions, but I could never trust it in a dim room.

    Thanks. Keep up the great work.

    • Yes it does. But then again, I’ve been surprised by how fast single AF is on the OM-D – under a lot of the situations under which I’d have used continuous AF, simply pressing the shutter all the way in focus-priority has yielded an in-focus image with minimal lag. If that could be made even faster, the hit rate would go up again – not perfect for all situations, but certainly a workable solution for most until we get full PDAF-on sensor. Actually, full PDAF on-sensor would be better than a separate AF sensor because it would allow focus over the entire image area and eliminate calibration issues with the focusing module; the D800’s problems would not exist anymore. Let us see what the next generation of mirrorless brings…

      • plevyadophy says:

        You won’t have to wait long Ming, the update to the EM-5 has already been announced. It has PDAF on-sensor and is compatible with those insanely wonderful Oly SHG lenses.

        • Rumored, not announced. 4/3 lenses defeat the point of mirrorless: they’re too damn big, to the point I might as well carry a DSLR – and if I’m going to do that, I might as well add maybe 20% more weight and carry the damn Hasselblad and digital back, which is another step up from the D800E. To me, the biggest advantage of M4/3 was size – or rather, size with almost no compromise.

          • plevyadophy says:

            The update to the EM-5 is a FACT. I have seen it. Just wait a little longer, erm shall we say, WAY before the end of the year. ;o)

            As for lens bulk, before Sigma’s recent announcement, Oly had the boast of producing the world’s fastest zoom lenses. Now, those lenses, if you want that awesome f2 constant in your zoom, would be big on mFT anyway (not only on full 4/3); they after all f2 lenses; it’s a bit like the difference between the Canon 200 f2.8L and the 200 f2L, with the latter lens being HUGE (and Oly SHG lenses covering a smaller image circle are never gonna be THAT huge)

            The 12-35 f2 and 35-100 f2 SHG are regarded by many as the best zooms ever made. And that 150 f2 is another sexy bit of glass. If you want that, and many do, then having the new Oly cam compatible with them is a good thing in my view (and yes, I am aware that in terms of d.o.f. one is getting “only” f4, but if one is happy with that then the extra speed is nice and certainly nicer than the Panny f2.8 equivalents).

            But at the end of the day, it’s all about making the system such that it has a wider variety of choice e.g. like you rightly point out, no native perspective control lenses currently exist.

            • Let’s just say I respect my NDAs and leave it at that.

              Choice is great but I still think putting a DSLR-plus sized lens on a small body completely negates the point of the small body because it will require similar packing considerations anyway. Their fast primes on the other hand, are very much the way to go…

              • “””Let’s just say I respect my NDAs and leave it at that.”””

                You come off as a prick with these responses. First it’s only “rumored” and then “[of course, I knew it but] I respect my NDAs”.

                Also, beating the dead horse about how you’d never use a large lens on a small body. Who cares? Is this page just about your specific use cases or does it try to speak to an audience? The title “the demise of the DSLR” and not “the demise of the DSLR FOR ME” suggests the second case.

                So you have to consider that other people might like to combine a large-ish lens with a small body, and would in fact HAVE TO, if a small body is their main camera and don’t have a medium format lying around like you.

                Plus, it’s disingenuous to say that instead of using a larger f2 lens to a small body one might just go all the way and shoot a Hasselblad. For one, the second costs like tens of thousands of dollars more. Second, drama queen much? 1 kgr more is not the same as the much heavier Hasselblad+back+lens. It’s like saying “If I was to use a 17″ Macbook Pro, I’d rather carry an iMac with me”.

                • No, I’m saying I can’t confirm or deny. You bringing your ignorant, critical and illogical responses here is even worse.

                  I didn’t say I wouldn’t use as large lens on a small body: I said that would defeat the point of buying a small body for system compactness. I’m not sure how you can really argue otherwise. If they want to for other reasons, then it’s their choice.

                  As for your last paragraph, now you’re just being an idiot and taking things out of context. I said there was not a lot of weight difference between the D800E system and the Hasselblad system. Your ignorance in “the second costs like tens of thousands of dollars more” statement shows you haven’t bothered investigating: a second hand 39MP digital back costs about the same as a D4. Not ‘tens of thousands of dollars’.

                • I think if you read into Ming’s opinions with a little insight “foljs”, Ming’s (completely valid points) champion the democratization of the image making process (especially regarding size and cost of contemporary compacts/systems). Size can be a turn off for many as well as costs. Technolgy simplifies the image making process and shortens the gap between thought and realization. I have a sneaky suspision your “need” of large lenses may corralate with your linguistic approach to argument.

          • Michael Matthews says:

            Uh oh…”the biggest advantage of M4/3 was size…” Past tense? Do you see M4/3 going away anytime soon?


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