Nikon and Canon will be Marginalized in the next five years, so say the tea leaves

How much longer will they last?

Almost two years ago I wrote an article that said DSLRs are a dying breed, and many people thought I was crazy. Let’s be honest. Many still do.

Three months ago I permanently shelved my Nikon DSLR system and switched to the 6x-smaller Sony NEX system. See Hello Sony. Goodbye Nikon. (many sample photos there too!)

Even though this data is anecdotal, I can also be very objective and tell you that the camera doesn’t matter (with certain exceptions). For example, if you’re doing hardcore animal or bird photography, then you’ll probably want to keep around those specialized DSLR systems. But that is the whole point of this piece – that use cases for giant camera bodies and glass will become increasingly marginalized to the point where Nikon and Canon are on the edge rather than the hump of the bell curve.

I have a very good friend that is high-placed in the industry — I won’t repeat his name — but he had the lovely prescient quote: “Nikon and Canon will become like Lionel trains – for collectors.”

The Camera doesn’t matter

So, I see you’re sitting there saying, “Trey, the camera doesn’t matter!” Yes, I’m here to tell you the camera doesn’t matter — I agree! And, assuming you’ll be buying more camera equipment in the next five years, then why, pray tell, do you think that you’ll continue buying giant DSLRs? You’ll have ever-increasing superior choices that enable you to a) buy a much smaller camera that has superior performance and b) spend a fraction of the same amount.

And you can look at me and a few other pros that have made the switch. I don’t compromise on quality. Sony didn’t pay me to switch or sponsor me or anything. They even offered to send me unlimited cameras and lenses and I told them no. So that’s not what drove my decision – I simply want the best. When I travel around to awesome locations, I only want to use the best because I may never get back there again. My Sony cameras are a mere fraction of the size and a mere fraction of the cost. Look, you can easily spend $4,000+ on a big DSLR system, but my little NEX was only about $1,000. I can also buy all the lenses I need for a song too.

Furthermore, who knows what Sony will announce next? It’s just 2013… this is the most exciting time ever in the history of camera technology.

Look at the scary numbers

Okay, so let’s say you don’t like my anecdotal extrapolations. Let’s look at some of the actual numbers. Nikon makes 78% its profit from Camera sales. Yearly sales of DSLRs have dropped 10.9% percent (according to IDC’s Christopher Chute research director of worldwide digital imaging). Canon’s in the same boat, but at least they make printers and have other businesses to fall back on. But their DSLR line is in the same boat as Nikon. And to think, the DSLR market used to be one that was growing by double digits for the last ten years.

Even scarier, the rate of market decline is accelerating each quarter.

Nikon shares are down 33% on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Interesting that people outside of the camera industry see this trend better than those of us in it.

Shooting with the NEX system in Tokyo

So, while I’m here in Japan, the executive teams at Nikon and Canon are continuing to bury their heads in the sand. I have wondered why Sony seems to be so much more on the ball and making such interesting cameras and systems. I think it is because they have a younger management team. Also, I notice they are much more engaged with social media. I know this Sony guy here in New Zealand named Tim Barlow that totally gets social media and how it is tied into product development, marketing, and the photography community as a whole. I never really got that feeling from Nikon or Canon.

Don’t feel threatened

I notice that when I write these “Death knell of the DSLR” articles that people come out with pitchforks. Hey man, I’m not telling you that you have to get rid of your camera — I’m here with good news! Since you’ll undoubtedly be buying more equipment for the next X years (you will concede this, yes), you’ll be able to upgrade in every possible way that matters: smaller size, more flexibility, better software, lower cost. Every single trend line points to this.

The current DSLR system you have will serve you very well. In fact, you can of course make the argument that you’ll never need anything else for the rest of your life! But com’on… let’s be honest… most people that are into digital photography also enjoy buying new stuff every few years. Just keep an open mind…

I know I’m pretty much alone in these thoughts. I go set up my tripod in a popular spot and I’m surrounded by 20 other dudes with DSLRs. They look at me at my little camera and scoff. Whenever people give me those wonderfully condescending looks, I take solace in the lucid truth of their own insecurity. Furthermore, for years, photographers have been brainwashed and told that the only way to take a professional photo is to use a DSLR. That’s rubbish. And I’ll Hemingway fight anyone that wants to fight about it.

So many options with smaller, mirrorless cameras!

There is an amazing community around these mirrorless cameras now – and we are all so excited it is crazy. Have you seen all the vim and vigor around the micro-four thirds cameras like the Olympus OMD and the Panasonic Lumix? Those are also awesome cameras and they can do some things no DSLR could dream of. They even have one feature that I wish my Sony had! I was with my friend Gage here in New Zealand when he came over for a week’s photo adventure, and he showed me this feature that blew my mind! We were shooting some fire dancers, and he opened up the shutter and showed me the photo developing on the sensor as time moved forward. I saw the light trails building section by section! He can just stop it whenever he wants. And this is just one of a thousand different cool things this new technology brings.

Soon, DSLRS will go the way of the Blackberry.

There is so much disruption in this space. Another reason for the decline in DSLRs is the rise in mobile phone cameras. Androids and iPhones now come with some amazing little sensors and great software. Many people who once opted for a DSLR are now happy with their mobile phone cameras. I think that these mirrorless systems are still vastly superior to mobile phone cameras, but this delta may decrease over time as well.

Nikon and Canon have released mirrorless systems but they have been generally considered quite weak. I don’t know if this is because of a generally bad design ethic and lack of innovation, or if they were worried about creating a mirrorless system that could cannibalize their sacred cash cow. I worry it is the latter.

More on the switch away from DSLRs

I sat down with Frederick Van Johnson from This Week in Photography to go through all the various reasons and dispel misconceptions. He asked a ton of different questions and we got into the meat of it all. “‘To take an interesting photo, some may choose to carry around a lot of metal and glass and mirrors and silicon. I choose to carry around less metal and glass and silicon. Oh, and no mirrors.’ – Me, quoting myself.” – Trey Ratcliff

Small cameras on a client job?

Heck yeah! In fact, regular readers know that I don’t do client work — I’ve been a professional photographer for a long time, but I’ve always said no to client work. There is nothing wrong with it of course, but I instead prefer to take whatever creative photos I want, own all the rights, then license them out later. Clients will hire you based on the quality of your portfolio, not the size of your camera. Or, at least, they should (and increasingly will).

However, I have made ONE exception! Air New Zealand came to me with an incredible situation. So I said yes! This is my new home-country and I think it’s gonna be an awesome shoot. In a few days, I’m headed up there with my little Sony NEX cameras. I’m sure the crew and the 20+ people on the ground there will be aghast! I love it. I’m just gonna own it and blast in there with all my chakras pointing forwards.

I’ll have a film crew also coming to record a behind-the-scenes of this whole shoot, so you can see what it’s like. I’ll get that up here on the blog ASAP, but I think the whole thing will be a lot of fun and hopefully continue to dispel all the irrational fears people have about smaller cameras. You can look for that new video here on my YouTube channel too (subscribe for free).

Sony NEX-7 Review

If you want to find out more about this camera I’m using, see the full-on Sony NEX-7 Review here on the site. Enjoy!

Daily Photo – The Lower Antelope Canyon

This was my first time into the famous slot canyons — I’ve always wanted to go! Look, here’s the honest truth. You just can’t take a bad shot in there. That’s nice, really – lay up after lay up… so then I guess you can goof around and try to do something interesting and unique and have fun with it… that is what I did here at f/11 exposure and playing with multiple shafts of light streaming in from above.

(and yes, of course I used the Sony NEX!) :)

The Lower Antelope Canyon

The Lower Antelope Canyon

Photo Information

  • Date TakenAugust 22, 2013 at 7:46pm
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/10
  • Aperture11
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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The Mighty Walls of the Glacier

Unsolicited Jet Lag Advice

This gentleman gave a comment here that I did not want to go unnoticed! It was so strange… and I have not actually tried this yet. Has anyone tried this trick? I’ll paste it here:

David Stickney
Yesterday 7:11 AM

+Trey Ratcliff the vodka jet lag remedy works like a charm. The shot before you go to bed produce enough lactic acids in your blood as an entire day’s muscle usage. The vitamin c help kick start the liver and the extra water and salt help with the metabolism. Getting outside while the sun is still coming up resets the Circadian rhythm of your sleep cycle and get your penal glands set to the time.

Try it next time, I used to take 2-3 days to get into a new location using this method the next full day I feel adjusted.

the science behind it is pretty well documented

Daily Photo – The Mighty Walls of the Glacier

This Alaskan was a very pretty glacier to see after seeing the rather dirty glacier near Mount Cook in New Zealand! I mean, the NZ glacier was awesome because we were out in a zodiac and pretty close, but this one was so clean and blue… just exactly how you would imagine a glacier to be!


The Mighty Walls of the Glacier

Photo Information

  • Date TakenJuly 19, 2013 at 12:30pm
  • CameraNEX-6
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/1600
  • Aperture7.1
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length210.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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Questions Answered Regarding the switch from Nikon to Sony

Questions about switching from Nikon to Sony – Jump to the answer!

I’m not going to embed the video here, because the Q&A Interface won’t work right, so Go Watch The Video Here.

After you press click on the link above and press play, , you can click on the questions on the right to jump forward to the answer! Actually, this is REALLY COOL that you can do this… this Q&A layer on top of YouTube is really slick!

If you want to know more, go ready my Sony NEX-7 Review.

Some of you may have already seen some of this, but if not, once inside, here are some of the questions & answers you can jump to!

- How are you able to get the quality of images you are getting with such a tiny camera?

- What was the impetus behind you deciding to try switching to the NEX?

- Why go with the NEX / APS-C size sensor? Why not go down to the Micro Four Thirds format with a slightly smaller sensor but with a better lens selection?

- What about photographers with clients? Is the perception of carrying a big camera vs small camera an issue?

- Bokeh…Talk about the differences there.

- What are the quality trade-offs?

- Durability…what are some of the differences there?

- I’ve noticed a different look to your edits since you’ve started using the mirrorless system. Is this intended or just the way your photos have come naturally?

- Did you find yourself shooting more with the NEX once the firmware update for auto bracketing was released?

- Trey, in your article, you stated you use the NEX6 for day to day and the NEX7 for your epic landscapes. Do you find the NEX7′s slow focus the cause for that?

- How do you carry your gear?

- Going back to your Nikons, with companies releasing adapters for lenses for other brands, do you see yourself grabbing a Nikon to NEX speedbooster to use your lenses on your NEX system?

- In your article you mentioned apps on the Sony. Do the new Android cameras like the recently announced Samsung NX1000 excite you in that department?

- Parting thoughts. Regarding advanced amateur photographers, what would you advise them if they’ve already spent thousands on DSLR gear or not , should they switch to mirrorless?

and lastly but not leastly:

- What would you rather photograph – Tennis or Water Polo?

Daily Photo – NEX in China

Here’s another photo I took while in China when in the middle of my Sony NEX experimentation. We went to an older area in the middle of Beihei to see this ancient scene, like time had stopped hundreds of years ago…

China Girl

NEX in China

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 27, 2013 at 7:57am
  • CameraNEX-5R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/100
  • Aperture5
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length65.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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Night in Arches National Park

Getting Light Trails

I’ve recently changed how I get light trails. It’s a minor change, but I’ve had more success with it. I used to take a series of bracketed photos when cars go by and just hope for the best. This actually worked quite a bit, but sometimes the very short and very long exposures in a bracket would be useless. The short one would be too dark and the long one would be too bright. Anyway, now I turn off the autobracketing and switch over to manual.

It honestly takes a lot of guesswork, but I usually get my f-stop quite low and my ISO around 100 or 200. I play with these so that my exposure is at least 5 seconds. Sometimes 5 seconds is all you need for a car going by. But if I want a lot of cars and need 20 or 30 seconds, I’ll keep moving the f-stop to a higher and higher number to balance. It’s actually kind of fun to guess and then experiment with different settings. You can simply press play after you shoot to see if you guessed right, then make the adjustments accordingly.

Daily Photo – Night in Arches National Park

Okay well here is yet another amazing place in Utah. Yes, I know all you people in Utah are saying, “Yes we know Utah is awesome, Trey — it’s about time you figured that out for yourself!” Well I have… and now I lament that I was only in Arches National Park for a day. But I tried to make the most of it, even squeezing all the light out of dark here after an amazing day of sightseeing.

Night in Arches National Park

Night in Arches National Park

Photo Information

  • Date TakenAugust 21, 2013 at 2:59am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time30
  • Aperture4
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length11.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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Taking the Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station

Into Old Ships?

If you’re really into ships, you may enjoy reading more about the TSS Earnslaw on this page.

Daily Photo – Taking the Earnslaw to Walter Peak

This great old steamer ship was originally commissioned in 1911. It’s a regular sight on the lake here in Queenstown, going back and forth between Queenstown and Walter Peak High Country Farm. Back in the day, it used to take gold down to Kingston. I’ve actually never been on it! This is something I’ll remedy soon. I have flown over it in a helicopter a few times, and on this particular day, I got a shot of it as it was pulling into Kingston…

Taking the Earnslaw to Walter Peak

Taking the Earnslaw to Walter Peak

Photo Information

  • Date TakenAugust 15, 2013 at 4:41am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/60
  • Aperture5
  • ISO125
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+0.7

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