Why Nikon and Canon have given up DSLRs

Why Nikon and Canon have given up DSLRs

The biggest news in the camera industry this month is that Nikon reportedly stops the development of new SLR cameras, marking the end of a 63-year-old series. From now on, it will focus exclusively on mirrorless Z-mount models such as the Z6, Z50 and recently launched Z9 flagships.

This is a seismic industry change, as Nikon has a history of SLR cameras dating back to the iconic Nikon F launched in 1959. But it’s not the only company going in this direction: Canon has already confirmed that the EOS-1DX Mark III will be its latest flagship DSLR, and Sony went on to sell only mirrorless cameras last year.

Until recently, SLRs were seen as a better option than mirrorless action photography, so what happened? Simply put, mirrorless models have improved so dramatically over the last couple of years that they have obscured the DSLRs.

Many professional photographers hold onto their DSLRs, and the main reason is speed. As we explained several years ago in our Upscaled series, SLR cameras have dedicated autofocus sensors under the mirror. They are extremely fast, so they allow high continuous shooting speeds with precise focus on each shot. The Canon 1DX III, for example, can shoot at up to 16 fps with AF and auto exposure enabled.

Many serious shooters still prefer an optical viewfinder as well. They want a motive view they can trust and believe that a physical view via a prism and mirror is superior to an artificial electronic screen. The downside, of course, is that you can’t see the picture when you take it because the mirror is raised to block the screen.

The last big thing is battery life and handling: Flagship DSLRs have heavy bodies and large grips that provide stable photography platforms, especially with the massive telephoto lenses used by sports and wildlife photographers. They are also covered with washers and buttons for easier handling. And the optical viewfinder obviously does not drain the battery, so DSLRs can take many more pictures at a charge.

Why Nikon and Canon have given up DSLRs


This has been true even until recently, but the latest mirrorless cameras have allayed most of these concerns. The most important change has been the introduction of stacked sensors. They have much faster reading speeds that enable fast continuous shooting and more accurate autofocus. They also produce smaller rolling shutters in electronic mode, which reduces skew in images and wiggle in video.

Canon’s EOS R3 is a good example of this. It is slightly slower than the 1DX Mark III DSLR in mechanical shutter mode, but much faster with the electronic shutter, and provides more resolution. Sony’s A1 is even more impressive, allowing you to shoot 50 megapixel RAW frames at 30 frames per second.

Perhaps the most vivid display of stacked sensor power is Nikon’s new flagship Z9. It allows you to capture 46 megapixel RAW images at 20 fps with the electronic shutter and does not even have a mechanical shutter. By comparison, Nikon’s flagship D6 DSLR can handle 14 RAW frames per second, but with 21 megapixels they are less than half the resolution.

The applicant problem is also largely solved. Not long ago, mirrorless EVFs tended to be laggy, low resolution and choppy, while sharing a problematic problem with DSLRS – the viewfinder turned black when you took the picture. Now all three models above sharp and fast OLED screen switches have smooth refresh rates of at least 120Hz and up to 240Hz. And all offer blackout-free photography in most conditions. All of this undoubtedly gives professionals a view that is superior to an optical viewfinder.

Why Nikon and Canon have given up DSLRs


Finally, cameras like the Nikon Z9 and Canon R3 are as large as the DSLR cameras and match them with control for control. And if you want a professional camera that is not huge, Sony offers small cameras with good handling such as A1 and A9.

Battery life remains an issue for mirrorless cameras alongside DSLRs. The Nikon D6 can take a whopping 3580 photos on a single charge, while the Z9 is CIPA rated for just 770 – and that’s very high for a mirrorless camera. For the time being, mirrorless will always be a disadvantage, but the situation is improving.

All in all, with the major improvements in stacked sensors, improved EVFs and better handling, mirrorless models can now go toe-to-toe with DSLR cameras. In almost every other category, they are actually superior.

Ta autofocus. Although DSLRs have fast dedicated phase detection AF sensors, mirrorless models have many more phase detection pixels directly on the main sensor. In Canon’s case, every single pixel is used for AF. It provides faster and more accurate autofocus, in theory.

Why Nikon and Canon have given up DSLRs


With their hybrid phase and contrast detection pixels directly on the sensor, modern mirrorless cameras also win on AI-smart. Most people can recognize the subject, face and eye of people, birds, animals, cars and more. It is especially useful for action photography to track fast-moving subjects – an area that has traditionally been dominated by SLR cameras. And with the latest processors and stacked sensors, these features are finally good enough to use in professional photography in the real world.

As mentioned, some of the best mirrorless cameras now eliminate the blackout of the viewfinder that bothers DSLRs. And the stacked sensors also greatly reduce the rolling shutter, which can result in skewed, distorted images. They are now good enough to allow photography of fast-moving subjects, with the advantage of being quiet if, for example, you are working in a golf tournament.

Perhaps the biggest benefit is video. Photographers in many different areas are asked to do so on top of the photos, whether they are holding weddings or working for major news and sports agencies.

Why Nikon and Canon have given up DSLRs


Special SLR cameras like the Canon 5D helped drive the trend of capturing high-quality video with consumer cameras, and newer models like the 1DX III can handle video well. But by and large, mirrorless models are superior. Nikon’s Z9, Canon R3 and Sony A1 can withstand most cinema cameras, making them real dual threats. This is thanks to the incredible video autofocus systems, resolutions up to 8K, RAW video recording, premium audio features and more.

On top of all that, most mirrorless cameras (unlike DSLRs) have in-body stabilization, so you do not have to worry about having that feature on the lens. And when it comes to lenses, those designed for mirrorless cameras tend to be smaller, lighter and optically superior, because the back is closer to the sensor.

Then there is the question of price and cost. Mirrorless cameras are less complex than DSLRs, so they tend to be cheaper. For example, the Nikon Z9 costs $ 1,000 less than the D6, and the Canon EOS R3 is $ 500 cheaper than the 1DX Mark III.

Finally, with the downturn in the camera market started by smartphones, it does not make much sense for manufacturers to build both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Now it seems that they are concentrating on one technology for the sake of profitability.


Why Nikon and Canon have given up DSLRs


Photographers may feel sad that DSLRs seem to be nearing the end of the road, especially if they have just purchased one. Do not panic yet – while Nikon and Canon seem to have stopped designing new SLR cameras and lenses, they will continue to produce and sell existing models.

The key that drives this is that mirrorless has not only caught up, but will soon blow past the reflective mirror technology. For example, Sony recently unveiled new sensors that can collect twice as much light as current stacked sensors, paving the way for fast shooting, even in low light. And you can expect much faster image processors, better EVFs and smarter AF systems in the near future.

In other words, future mirrorless technology can make you forget that digital cameras have ever had mirrors inside. Then we may see them only in their original glory – with a film roll inside.

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