DSLRs are a dying breed – 3rd Gen Cameras are the Future

“‘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

Interview about the Sony NEX vs. Nikon in July of 2013

I know the update above has been a controversial decision, so Frederick Van Johnson, host of This Week in Photo, wanted to get me into this interview. Now, here’s a cool thing. If you go to This Link For the Interview, you can scrub forwards and back in the video until you see the question you want answered. Man, it is a long interview, but everything you ever wanted to know is in there! 🙂

Update – the Transitions is Complete

In July of 2013, I decided to switch and stop using DSLRs as my main weapon. To see more, come read “Hello Sony. Goodbye Nikon.

No More DSLR Equipment for me – Trey Ratcliff

I can’t picture myself investing any more money in DSLR bodies and lenses. The new Nikon D4 that is coming out? Not interested.

3rd Gen Cameras are already here, and they will only get better according to all the laws of size and speed we’ve come to know and love.

What are 3rd Gen Cameras?

These are the new line of cameras that don’t use the 20th century technology of a mechanical mirror inside that flips up and down between photos. In a few years, we’ll all look back and smile, having fond memories of using these Da Vinci-esque mechanical devices. Charts of how cameras used to work with their flipping innards will look like some of Leonardo’s unrealized steampunk inventions.

Example Camera – The Sony NEX-7

I’ve recently reviewed a mirrorless camera I bought and really like – see my Sony NEX-7 Review.

Video: Watch this video below by Scoble, and jump ahead to 35:25 to see me talk about this new generation of cameras…

Naming: Mirrorless = Horseless Buggy

Some people have called this evolution “mirrorless” cameras. In my judgment, that is a ridiculous name. You don’t name a category of technology by what it is not. I suppose we did use to call an “automobile” a “horseless buggy,” but now we look back on that quaint term and laugh. So, of course we will not call these cameras “mirrorless” for long.

And so the term “3rd Gen Cameras” is much better for this new phase of digital photography. It also encompasses the other nonsensical names out there like “Micro four-thirds” and “EVIL” monikers. Gearheads talk too much about the tech, and it simply confuses the common man. The “3rd” bit pays homage to the first generation – those innovative but weak first forays into digital. It also puts all the current DSLRs into the “2nd Generation Cameras,” since that’s when digital photography really got its legs under it. Heck, even most of the old-school film curmudgeons have crossed the Rubicon. To think that DSLRs with gesticulating mirrors and spinning gears are the future is to have one’s head in the sand.

The Pain of Choice

Look, I hate to say it! I’ve spent loads of money on DSLRs and lenses for my Nikon. I’m not going to be using any of it in five years.

This is why the first decision is always a big one. Canon or Nikon. I don’t really get into that argument. But, I do agree that once you commit to one, you’ll be buying a lot of lenses and just swapping out the body. That’s why that first decision is so key — and it is the reason that I won’t buy any more Nikon bodies or lenses — because I won’t be using any of them in the future.

If you’re not familiar with these 3rd Gen Cameras, you may ask, “Why can’t I use my current lenses on these new camera bodies?” The answer is because those lenses are designed for bodies with a mirror that flips up and down. Those bodies need to be _extra-thick_ to make room for that medieval reflective trapdoor. So, your current lenses focus the light too deep for the new supermodel-thin 3rd gen cameras. Yes, there are converters that let you use them, but it defeats the purpose and advantages of having an ultra-small flexible lens system.

HDR Photo

Caption: I didn’t use a DSLR to get this. In fact, in looking at this site at StuckInCustoms.com , it may be hard to know which images I got with a DSLR and which ones I didn’t.

I won’t go into all the tech about these cameras, since this is an article about the trend rather than the finer points of the tech. If you want to talk tech and learn more, head over to one of the best sites on the net for learning all this stuff, CameraLabs.com. It’s run by the brilliant Gordon Laing, and he is one of the world’s foremost experts on this stuff. Plus, he creates amazing camera reviews and everything — written and video. Think of it as Top Gear for cameras!

But, look – it’s not all roses. Let’s talk about some disadvantages before we talk about the advantages. I’d like to think I’m pretty objective about it. By the way, Nikon doesn’t pay me or anything. Neither does the camera industry, whatever that is. You can make the case that Best Buy is in cahoots with TV manufacturers to “hype-up” 3D TV just to sell more TVs… or to make people feel like they really need to own a 3D TV. In reality, most of us know that is just marketing nonsense and not necessarily the future of all TVs (maybe just a strain of them).

Disadvantages of 3rd Gen Cameras (note: all will be overcome with time and iterations)

Sensor Size: You can’t quite get “Full Frame” sensors yet, like those available on the more expensive DSLRs. The current 3rd Gen Cameras, like the Nikon V1, will have a cropped sensor. What this means, in the case of the V1, is that the 10-30mm lens will actually be 27mm to 81mm. So, that’s not the end of the world, but something to consider. *Most* DSLR users are currently on cropped sensors, by the way. Only the high-end pros use full-frame sensor DSLRs.

Gordon Laing from CameraLabs.com chimes in: Sensor size. Most mirror-less ILCs have smaller sensors than pro DSLRs. The exception is the super-expensive Leica M9 which does squeeze a 36x24mm full-frame sensor into a relatively small, mirrorless body, but the rest are smaller than full-frame.

Of these, the largest are the APS-C sensors deployed in Sony’s NEX and Samsung’s NX ranges. These are the same size as most DSLRs, including Nikon’s DX range. After this come Micro Four Thirds models from Panasonic and Olympus, followed by Nikon’s CX format in the J1 and V1, and below that the Pentax Q. As the sensor gets smaller, it typically becomes less sensitive to light and easier to saturate – so less dynamic range and more noise. It also typically means a bigger depth of field, which is no good if you like your out of focus bokeh effects. But on the upside, the smaller, the sensor, the smaller the lens.

Of all this, the important thing is to remember a Sony NEX or Samsung NX has the same sensor size as a Canon APS-C or Nikon DX body.

So, for the vast majority of DSLR users, this is not even a consideration, as they are used to these sensor sizes.

For the high-end pro DSLR users that want the equivalent full frame sensor, well they will only need to wait a little while. Maybe, like me, you already have good enough equipment to wait until those full-frame sensors are on the 3rd gen cameras.

Now, the current 3rd Gen Cameras have 10+ megapixel cameras. It’s not full-frame, but you’re certainly not skimping on image resolution. I know sometimes beginners get these things confused (frame size vs. resolution), so, don’t worry about that.

Gordon Laing from CameraLabs.com chimes in: Resolution. Be careful here, as some ILCs have the same or even higher resolutions as DSLRs. The Nikon 1 may only be 10 Mpixel, but Panasonic have a 16 Mpixel micro four thirds sensor, and Sony uses 16 and even 24 Mpixel sensors in its latest NEX models. So resolution is comparable to DSLRs.

BTW, I can say this with certainty: a full frame sensor will not necessarily give you a better photo. I can show you hundreds of thousands of amazing photos from beginner to advanced photographers that are not full-frame sensors. Anyway, don’t complain. Just wait — it’s coming – obviously.

Gear-heads will really give me a hard time about this. Let them. Most fully-formed artists know that the goal is to create an _interesting image_, and that has little to do with sensor size and resolution.
A Morning with a Strange Method of Fishing

Caption: I took this photo with my Nikon D3X, but I could have captured the exact same image with the Sony A77, for example. There is nothing about this image that required a DSLR.

No Optical Viewfinder: This is a good one. The path to getting around this disadvantage is a tricky one, filled with misconceptions and habits/baggage.

Here’s the thing. I, like you, am used to looking through the optical viewfinder. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, this is when you peer through little window on top, and the light you see is reflected off a mirror. So, you’re seeing what is really there – real-time.

Many new 3rd Gen Cameras also have a viewfinder window up there (sometimes as an attachment), but it is an electronic viewfinder. That means you’re seeing a little LCD display at extremely high resolution.

Many DSLR people have an irrational fear of this based on lousy, slow, laggy LCD “live” displays on current DSLRs. I agree! But this is not a fair comparison because it uses a different rendering tech than the 3rd Gen Cameras. These new cameras have very y fast LCD displays. It’s as real-time as real-time. You may see some slowdowns and tearing during panning, but those disadvantages will be overcome soon enough.

And, remember, you don’t have to hold out the camera in front of you to see the back display like a tourist at Trevi Fountain. You can still pin the top of the camera to your eye, old-school, and get a nice little dark, framed, area for taking your photo.

So, it will actually be kind of awesome — you know, like those binoculars that Luke used at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back to see the droid. You can have all kinds of read-outs a HUD information.

Hardcore action-photographers (which is a small percentage, btw) may choose to stick with DSLRs until the electronic viewfinder gets even faster. But that won’t be much longer.

You Won’t “Look” like a pro: Imagine showing up to a paid gig with a little camera. Won’t that be a little embarrassing? Yes, I suppose. But, if you have a killer portfolio, who cares what people think? Ideally, clients will chose you based on your portfolio, not on the size of your camera.
Fourth on Lake Austin

Caption: This Smithsonian photo was taken with very early digital technology — many years ago with the Nikon D70 – a camera with arguably less functionality and features than this first wave of 3rd Gen Cameras.


Scary FPS: Do you know how many frames per second you can shoot on these 3rd Generation Cameras? OMG. I know I sound like a teenage girl when I use that acronym, but I kind of feel like one.

Of course, the reason they can take so many frames per second is because you don’t have this old mirror flipping up and down all the time. The Nikon V1 can do 10 FPS with autofocus or 60 FPS (!!!) with fixed focus, and that’s now in the beginning of 2012. Just wait for the end of 2012! I used one of these for a few weeks from BorrowLenses.com.

And, for those sports photographers that really need the action, maybe this will outweigh the optical viewfinder situation above. These cameras can buffer a lot of frames before you first push the shutter button. So, that means you’ll get a bunch of extra frames before and after that decisive moment.

Of course, this changes post-processing a bit more… you’ll just spend more time in Lightroom finding the best 1 image out of 200 instead of the best 1 out of 20. But, to me, this is a good problem to have! Maybe it’s just me, but I love hanging out in Lightroom, drinking good tea or coffee, and flipping through the day’s shots to find my favorites. Good times!

Size: 3rd Generation DSLRs are smaller, thinner, and lighter. So are the lenses. A possible disadvantage of this is you won’t look like such a stud anymore in front of clients. Anyway, I won’t say any more about this topic. Smaller is better. There’s nothing noble about carrying around a bunch of heavy equipment.

Cleaning: Since the mirror doesn’t flip up and down any more, you’re not flinging a bunch of dust and junk around the inside of that barn. After each trip I take, the sensor on my D3X and D3S needs a good old-fashioned cleaning. I look forward to the day when I don’t have to do that any more. Call me lazy.

Nikon and Canon (and big magazines) won’t tell you what I am telling you

Why? They want to keep selling DSLR bodies and lenses. It’s not a conspiracy or anything – it is just good business.

Also, big camera manufacturers are all in cahoots with magazines to continue to sell products. Magazines will continue to talk about them too, since their advertising is the lifeblood of the magazine. I have a longer article on that topic: “Stop Advertising in Magazines – Head West to the Web” – enjoy!


Personally, I’m not going to buy any more DLSR bodies or lenses. I’m waiting on the descendants of this first phase of 3rd Gen Cameras. Even though you can make a good case for great cameras like the Sony A77, the new lines of Nikons, Panasonics, etc etc — I want to wait for a few more iterations — but I won’t be waiting long.

3rd Gen Cameras are the clear future category for digital photography. Objectively, these cameras have more advantages than disadvantages. As Moore’s law clicks along, the disadvantages will dissipate like fog in the sunrise.

Final Note: The below was taken with…. drumroll… the mirrorless camera (the Sony A7RII)! For more, see my my gear..
A Polar Sunbow Erupts Over An Iced Volcano

  • Very interesting article. Enjoyed the video too. I too think these new cameras are the future, but a bit too expensive at the moment.

  • Hmmmm… This is all very interesting. But I still think there is gonna be a clear differentiation between “consumer” and “pro” – and I honestly doubt that this new generation will offer a seamless merger of the two without there being at least some distinction between hardware. That being said, the new mirror-less technology could (and most likely will) be transferred in part to the “DSLR” style of camera. I use the word “style” here because there is a lot to be said for a large and easy to work with camera body that packs a truckload more processing power and capability into its frame than one designed to fit in your pocket. This is the same distinction that I apply to the likes of iPad vs MacBook Air/Pro – I use the latter cause it can do a hell of a lot more than the iPad, whereas my mum has a completely different set of requirements and chooses the iPad as her main platform.

    I guess it all comes down to what the industry demands – both on the consumer and professional front. Somehow, I can’t see the existing DLSR product line abandoned in a hurry… Thats something that will take many years, in the same way that products like the iPad are slowly replacing certain areas of the portable computer market.

    If the execution is right, and the products offer a balanced feature set that appeal to the masses on both sides of the fence, the same phenomenon may indeed occur. But photography has been around a lot longer than the computer – and by virtue of that, takes a lot longer to adopt changes to its internal infrastructure.

    Just my two cents worth 🙂

  • Trey – thank you so much for giving some pro credit to the new system cameras. I got into photography just as the Lumix G2 m4/3 camera came out, and while my other gearhead friends like to make fun of my “DSLR dwarf” camera they all have that jealous look on their face when they see how small and light my gear-pack is, and the quality of the shots I can take. On the “electronic veiwfinder” discussion, I agree completely. I also might add that looking through a mirror system does NOT give you a better idea of what the camera’s sensor is actually seeing – in fact you’re mostly guessing, based on what all the histograms and exposure meters are telling you. In fact EVF solutions give a BETTER indication of what the shot will be like, especially if they can give shutter speed preview, exposure preview etc.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm!  I just invested in a new DSLR (Nikon D7000) and lenses.  Of course it’s a DX camera – not one of those full frame babies. It was a big investment for me so I’ll no doubt stick with it for a good long time.  Maybe I’ll even skip the “3rd generation” and wait for the fourth.  Generations of gadgets seem to be coming along faster than ever.

  • Wolfgang Maennel

    Best article ever on your blog. Made me cancel any thoughts about upgrading my D300.

  • Just want to remind all DSLR users that there is a plethora of adapters out there that allow cross-platform lenses. But choose you future system camera wisely if you want full compatability with your existing lenses. I chose Micro 4/3 format (Olympus/Panasonic) for compatability with 4/3 system lenses. I use an 70-300mm Zuiko Digital on my Lumix G2 the hardware is fully compatible with the camera’s controls and firmware. As you all know lenses tend to cost as much or more than the camera, so it’s not the end of the world or a waste of money,  if you have a large assortment of lenses. 

  • Bernardo C

    It doesn’t get out of balance with your 70-300? I have a hard time seeing my Nikon 14-24mm, which weights 1kg  (2.2 pounds)  on a much lighter body.

  • While I agree with you, the one thing you missed is that the systems like NEX will never have smaller lenses than DSLRs. So though you might not invest in a DSLR ever again, the lenses are still good with adapters. In fact, Nikon lenses on the Panasonic M4/3rds are a lot of a fun!

  • oh, hell yes, a very heavy lens makes it quite nose-heavy 🙂 When using that combo, I tend to carry the lens instead of the camera, which is fine and allows for less shaky hand-held shots. Also, the adapter makes it into a 140-600mm lens and I need a tripod for max-zoom shots, but that’s pretty much the same when using such a massive zoom on any camera. 

  • what do you mean by “smaller” because the Nex can have some pretty small prime lenses attached, (like the Sony SEL16F28 Wide-angle lens – 16 mm – F/2.8) and th otherss have smaller diameters and weight than many DSLRs

  • You definitely have a point Trey and these cameras are certainly going to eventually take over the DSLR world. I also think you have the foresight to realize that it’s not the time to be drooling over the soon to be announced D4 or any other flagship DSLR as those cameras will certainly be surpassed long before they’ve paid for themselves.

    However, I do think we are still 3-5 years away from getting these cameras to where they need to be and more importantly a good collection of lenses for various situations. The main hurdle right now is that all these camera manufactures aren’t ready to canibalize their DSLR inventories quite yet so these 3rd gen camera will be geared more towards avid amateur photographers and not so much the pro photographer. 

    Five years from now we will see a huge inventory of lenses with camera bodies in all shapes and sizes with features from entry level to pro level. Weather sealing and maybe even completely waterproof! As with any technology there does come a time when the old stuff becomes cool conversation pieces and the new futuristic stuff is where it’s at.

    Nice post!

  • Awesome video of you guys in Yosemite. Very cool write up and interesting take on it. You’re right about the progress of technology, so it’s definitely worth thinking about seriously before committing to a new camera. Thanks for explaining the 3rd Gen cameras!

  • What is the tripod head that you are using in the video? Please share, thanks. 

  • Thank you – very thought provoking discussion. Especially as someone who is considering a refresh/upgrade to a top end DSLR from an older model. Interestingly one of the things frustrating me about my older DSLR is frame rate for shooting wildlife (bumblebees) and in fact the Sony SLT technology looks like it could be a real winner in this area.. 

  • Interesting observations Trey .. I am beginning to think the same way. I purchased a really nice Panasonic 4/3’s camera for my wife for Christmas and I am amazed at the quality of the images that it can produce. Now as I get ready to pack for the first global trip of the year I’m looking at it’s size and weight and wishing I could shrink my Canon.

  • Great blog post (I want to call this an article though since it is so well thought out and written).
    I am a gear head and I completely agree with your assessment.  We are getting close to where there will be virtually no advantage worth worrying about to keeping DSLRs in our bags.

  • You make some great points John.  Canon and Nikon won’t go all in on 3rd Gen cameras sales until competitors like Sony and Samsung who have nothing to lose by releasing amazing 3rd Gen cams start outselling their DSLRs.  Like Trey says, it’s good business for them.

  • Great Article. A few days ago I bought and saw a video from the photographer Bert Stephani who likes to shoot with light gear and made many videos about it. In his last one he did a portrait series with a Panasonic GF1. (here’s a trailer – 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fO3Ez8maL20 ) Nobody would see the difference to pictures taken with a DSLR.

    P.S: Too bad he isn’t really active at G+ now. Would like to see him in one of your hangouts. He has a nice sense of humor and published many interesting videos about strobist and light gear shooting on Youtube. 

  • Some great points, and I agree that as technology marches on, we all reap the benefits.  Absolutely true that gorgeous photos can be made on any type of camera, from iPhones to pinholes to large format.  Some of these things are matters of opinion, however, like your point of “smaller is better.”  One of the reasons I prefer my D300 to my D90 is because it is larger, which means it fits my large-ish hands better, and I have easy access to all the controls I need without my hands having to do weird contortions hunting for small, closely spaced buttons.  I’m not really interested in tiny bodies without most of the dedicated controls to which I have become accustomed.  I don’t want to be spending time digging through menus for stuff that is immediately accessible with a button or dial.

    Some things that are not opinion, however, include the physics of the cameras.  While electronics improve, giving faster and more accurate EVFs with no lag, and the ability for 60 fps with electronic shutter, the laws of optics do not change.  Yes, a 10-30mm lens has a “35mm equivalent” field of view of a 27-81mm lens, but it still has the depth of field of a 10-30mm lens.  Depth of Field does not change with “crop factor.”  So the larger sensors will always be needed for better control of depth of field until we start seeing obscene apertures (constant f/1.2 zooms, anyone?) in these new-style lenses.  With apertures that large, the lenses will not retain their current small form factor we’re seeing with this first wave of “3rd gen” equipment.  Maybe that’s not a big deal for landscapers and casual shooters, but for portraiture and weddings (among other things) that will continue to be important.  And as you get to smaller bodies with larger sensors, like the APS-C in NEX or even full frame sensors in Leicas, you will still need larger, heavier lenses to project an image circle large enough to cover that sensor.  So the body size shrinks, but the lens doesn’t necessarily shrink, or at least not nearly as much as the body.  Then you have large lenses on tiny bodies, and the balance and ergonomics of the system goes all wonky.

    So sure, change is inevitable, the future looks exciting, but I’m not ready to write off the “old skool” stuff quite yet. 

  • Michael Fraser

    There is no question that “mirrorless” (or 3rd Generation, if you prefer) cameras are the way of the future for most users.  

  • I see multiple sizes of 3rd Gen cameras coming from manufacturers.  This means two iterations from now, the successor to the 1D may not have a mirror assembly, but is probably going to have a shape that is in a form factor that is similar to that today.  Why???  Compatibility to all those wonderful EF lenses as well as allowing for better connection points for accessories.  In addition to a hot shoe, we could have an external microphone mounting point for collecting sound for video.

  • You are (also) absolutely correct – though I think it’s also a question of sacrificing some things to gain the advantages of other things. As for the DoF, I think “silly fast glass” is precisely the solution we need. The reason there are so few fast lenses about, is this strange need to make thing small for  system cameras. Panasonic and Olympus are going out of their way to make lenses more compact while forgetting that what we also need is sheer performance. But that’s because the primary consumer for 3rd generation cameras is -currently- not pro enough. 

  • Stacy O’Dell

    OK Trey now I am as confused as ever.  I am a complete newbie who wants to learn more about photography and move into the world of interchangeable lenses and away from my “super zoom” point and shoot Panasonic DMC-FZ28.  Up until now I have been researching and debating the whole Nikon vs. Canon DSLR thing (and leaning towards Canon honestly because quality HD video is also important to me as well), and now you’ve thrown a monkey wrench in my works. 🙂

    For a non professional like myself just working his way up to the starting line, what would you recommend I look at?  I would also mention I have an initial budget in the sub-$2000 for body and starter lens(es).

  • Alastair Westgarth

    Trey great article and I agree with your premise.

  • Bruce Achterberg

    As a (fun) aside, I love the shot of you from the video talking about 3rd gen. cameras, holding your 3DX and tripod like Gandalf might hold his staff. 

    In full RPG fashion, it only makes sense that there would come a time for us to upgrade our gear to items with even more 1337 properties. 😀

  • William Tobin

    Trey, Thank you for sharing your insight. I have learned very quickly to pay attention to your instincts and perception. 

    Question: In relation to the quality of optics and elimination of interchangeable lenses. What ranges of optics do you think we can expect in relation to wide/telephoto? Will it be a one lens fits all? or will there be a need for multiple bodies with multiple lenses?

  • Don Schulte

    Thanks for the article.  I have some hard decisions to make this year as I move off my Nikon DX system.  I thought I wanted to go FF with a D800 but with my hiking and wanting a small/lightweight system; I just don’t know.

    You and Kirk Tuck should get to together for Austin Photography Summit.  I have seen both of you at different times address the Austin CAPMAC group — both of you have interesting perspectives on Photography with a capital “P”.  It would be like the old Bill Gates – Steve Jobs summit events.  Kirk says much of what you say above  in his 2012 predictions on his blog – you should check it out.

  • William Barnett-Lewis

    Interesting. You might wish to cut back on the caffeine  and not write at quite such an OTT level, but accurate enough. This old fart film user skipped the DSLR completely without feeling I had missed anything. Of course, I was also waiting for the new/obsolete cycle to slow down to a semi-sane level 😉 and that easy to do while shooting a Leica IIIf or a Nikon F2. Now I do have a nice 12mp mu4/3 camera with evf & I can use all my old Leica, Nikon and (finally!) Canon FD lenses as well. 

  • Filip Farag

    I never thought about it like this…very interesting!

  • Anonymous

    We will not have to wait too long, panasonic is coming out very shortly with “fast” zoom lenses for the micro 4/3 platform (rumor is f2.8 but may go as low as f2 for both a 12-35 and a 35-100 zoom lens).  Others will likely follow fairly quickly, sony will need to get significantly more good lenses out soon or risk losing out with a fanatastic set of cameras but few native lenses for new people to look at.

    Looking forward to the next year or 2 to watch the landscape change.  Panasonic, fuji and sony all could become much bigger players in the overall game if canon and nikon keep on this wait and see business line.

  • Anonymous

    Most of what you are saying is for pros or super intense hobbyists. For kids starting out and most users, this does not apply. Indeed, there might be some incredible buys on lenses and DSLR bodies coming up in 5-10 years. Perfect for college students who want pro results at low cost.
    In that sense, some of the “old” Nikon, Sony, Canon, et al DSLR bodies will become like old two and a quarter and large format cameras. Not antiques when used by students and pros.
    Sure, some incredible stuff will be jammed into super light weight bodies for pros in the future. But one can do amazing stuff post process with just shutter speed and aperture adjustment and knowledge while shooting.
    The speed advantage will be good when needed for those that shoot sports, etc. but, the idea of contemplative photography will still be valuable to many. Then the advantages are less so, making future “older” bodies and lenses still, good stuff.

  • OMG!  (haha!) I loved this post and that you are in touch with your teenage girlie-ness. This was so well written, informative and entertaining.  Thanks so much for taking time to share. 

  • Nuno Cruz

    Nice article, I like it all  but the beginning … it looks bad to me. My opinion is biased although I want to tell myself it’s not, because I like mirrorless cameras, but from what I understand let me do this comparison: you don’t see electric cars as an evolution because they can’t perform, on all fields, as good as petrol ones. Same goes for mirrorless vs DSLR’s.   

  • Wow… we all knew this was coming. Personally, I would love to carry lighter stuff. Switching over will be costly though. It may be tough to get much out of your old DSLR stuff as time goes on. We’ll all have to decide if and when to make the switch. Better start saving now!

  • Rob-L

    “Third generation camera” isn’t accurate either. Photography has been around since 1839 – we’re WAY past the third generation of cameras!

  • Philip Horger

    From what I gathered, interchangeable lenses aren’t going anywhere. Rather, the existing lenses won’t fit the new cameras because the new cameras are smaller, requiring the manufacturing and purchase of a whole new series of lenses that DO fit. I’d like to see manufacturers take advantage of the opportunity to set up a standard so that Canon’s lenses will work with Nikon cameras, vice versa and et cetera, but I’m not sure they would go for it.

  • Greg Steiner

    I don’t believe the current makeup of the third gen cameras could replace a DSLR for a professional for one reason, and that’s lighting.  From what I’ve seen 3rd gen cameras do not support off camera lighting which is the most important thing for most professional photographers (especially studio photographers).

  • Chris Lehman

    Hi Trey – once again interesting perspective. And while agree with you I would like to add that those (like myself) that are getting ready to buy the successor to the D700 DSLR it is not a bad thing. This 3rd generation (as you call it) is to new and by the time that I am ready to switch it would be 3-5 years down the line anyways. Now a pro like you that has already invested in all of your gear it makes total sense to not buy any more and wait for this great new technology to be refined. 

    A lurking question that I have is – will you get rid of all your SLR gear and use mirrorless exclusively? I also liked in the video where you made mention of the “noise” coming from the mechanics of the camera – we will all miss that!! I love that sound! 

  • Anonymous

    Actually the cameras we had before SLRs were third generation cameras, no mirrors. I remember when Nikon came out with the F, their first SLR and it was so great to actually see the entire  scene no matter what lens without frame lines which were only approximate. I also remember the first Canon in the 60s that had a mirror like the new Sony that didn’t need to flip up. The Sony is popular now because everybody forgot how much light was lost with the fixed mirror and how delicate  the mirror was.
    Do you really believe there will be a LCD viewfinder that will be as god as a SLR viewfinder or we be taught by the manufactures to accept what we are given because it is the “new generation”?

  • J.L. Williams

    Thanks for putting the cat among the pigeons. Personally, I’m pretty much already there — the Nikon DSLR never comes out of the bag anymore unless I need something specific (usually the ability to shoot tethered — hey, Sony/Panasonic/Olympus, when is THAT coming?!?!)

    Yeah, yeah, the DSLR would give me more RMS megabits of DxOmark goodness. But for me, PICTURE quality trumps IMAGE quality, and a camera setup that doesn’t tire me out lugging it around — well, that helps me get better pictures.

    An additional thing you could have mentioned about these “third generation cameras” (although I admit I’m with Rob-L; in terms of viewing system generations, we’re up to eight or nine by now): They work a lot better for video than a DSLR does. No, of course, Oskar, you’re not a video shooter. Neither was I. But there would be so many times I’d show up to shoot still photos of something, and somebody would say, “You know, it would be great if we could get a little video clip we could put on our Facebook page…” And it’s so great to be able to say, “Sure, I can do that for you” — and get really high-quality results — without having to bring any extra stuff!

  • J.L. Williams

    What?? I use off-camera studio lighting with my Lumix GH2 all the time. Shove a PocketWizard in the hot shoe and it’s just like shooting with anything else (except lighter and smaller.)

    If you mean “strobist-type” lighting with small DC-powered flash units… Sony and Olympus offer wireless TTL, same as their DSLR systems. With Lumix you can get off-camera TTL if you use a long cable. I’d like to see more development in this area — such as the ability to use the PocketWizard “Control TL” system — but the basics are already there.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for a nice article on new generation cameras. I like your point on “mirrorless” :))

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for a nice article on new generation cameras. I like your point on “mirrorless” :))

  • What are your thoughts on light field cameras?

  • Anonymous

    meh meh meh. I kind of like my viewfinder how it is at the moment…

  • Trey, I checked the places that you have been for shooting, there is almost each country of the world 🙂 that’s really great lucky you.
    I don’t know if you ever heard about Kosova or Albania (countries in southeastern Europe)  here are really great places (nature beauties and also very old towns)  etc, if you interested I can show you some photos but also you can find on any page on fb, but if you want more information’s It will be great to help you. All the best to you 
    PS: I’m infected with “SLR disease”  since I’ve seen your photos 😀

  • Anonymous

    Trey wrote about this awhile back.  In short, thumbs down.

  • Your article clearly stated my thoughts on this matter, on where camera designs are headed for.

    I used my Canon 20D twice since getting the Sony NEX-5 2 years ago.  I had to use the 20D when I needed fast crisp Autofocus, and a Canon 5D Mark 2 when I needed the full frame bokeh.
    Most other times, it’s the Sony NEX-5 for me.  Very liberating.

    The tipping point for me was Disneyland–there were times I wanted to chuck my DSLR in the trash.  When I got home, I looked around for a lighter alternative, and I ordered the Sony NEX-5 as soon as it became available.  (The sensor size was a big factor in my decision.)

    The Sony NEX-5 was so light I didn’t mind carrying it with me all day.

    The external flash for the Sony NEX-5 proved weak and inadequate for my needs, so I got the Sony NEX-7.  

    I was pleasantly surprised by the Sony HVL-F58AM external flash design that I ditched my plan to use my flash bracket.

    However, the Sony NEX-7 is not perfect.

    My Wish List for the Sony NEX-7:
    1.  Fast 2.8 Lenses.  
    I had been spoiled by the bokeh of full frame and crop frame DSLRs.

    2.  Accurate and Fast Autofocus.  
    The Sony NEX-7 sometimes misses in good light, and will usually fail in low light, even with its Focus Assist Lamp (FAL).  For some reason, Sony disabled the FAL of the Sony HVL-F58Am when it’s on the Sony NEX-7.

    3.  Radio-Controlled Shutter Release.  
    I don’t like having to be within line-of-sight of the IR sensor to remotely trigger the shutter.  
    I’m hoping Aputure will come out with the Gigtube Wireless Digital Viewfinder (http://www.aputure.com/en/product/gigitube_wireless_digital_viewfinder.php) for the Sony NEX cameras.

    4.  Wireless TTL Flash.  
    I’m hoping PocketWizard will release the FLEX TT5 for Sony.

    5.  I want a full frame Sony NEX.

    I did not like Canon’s deliberate withholding of features from its cameras–like the Autofocus system on the Canon 5D Mark 2.  Shooting a Nikon DSLR beside the Canon 5D Mark 2 showed the sluggishness of the Canon Autofocus.

    I think Sony will be a major player in the camera market in the foreseeable future–Sony doesn’t skimp on features on its cameras, and I like its Flash algorithm more than Canon’s.  

    However, Sony has to set up a fast and reliable support system for Pro users.  There are a lot of threads/posts in various Internet fora about poor support for Sony cameras.

    These are exciting times to be a photographer.

    Expensive, but exciting.

  • R R

    Very interesting and informative post Trey.
    I sold all of my DX (D300) equipment and lenses several months ago. My plan was to upgrade to FX, possibly with the D800, but now I have a new option. I look forward to seeing what develops with “3rd” gen cameras, as well as your future input.
    I like the M9, but since it’s one of the “first” and $7000, I will wait for more options. 

  • With all due respect, your view is not an objective one.

  • Phillip Reed

    ” As Moore’s law clicks along…”

    Moore’s Law doesn’t help when it runs into the physics of optics, or signal/noise ratios. Pixel sizes on camera sensors are already well below the theoretical diffusion limit of lenses, so cramming more pixels into a smaller space is counterproductive. The sensors for the highest-quality imaging are unlikely to get much smaller, which means the lenses won’t be getting much smaller. I suppose the camera bodies will be able to continue to shrink somewhat, but there’s still going to have to be room for a modicum of controls and a battery in there someplace.

  • Rishi O.

    Hasn’t film consistently gotten smaller and smaller over time? I see ‘full frame’ sensors replacing the medium format line and becoming more niche where as I see the aps sensors replacing the role of ‘full frame’ cameras of today and becoming the ‘full frame’ of tomorrow. For those who want extreme shallow depth of field (me being one of them), I hope to see more ‘silly wide glass.’ The other thing we have to keep in mind is that the faster processors and smarter software in cameras should take more of the burden of enabling creative potential than it has in the past – thus the large sensor size becomes less important. The size of full frame dslrs have gotten ridiculous. Anyone remember how they used to be? See the first image. And want to know my favorite thing about the nex 7 line? see the second image. Thanks for the great article and perspective.

  • I have not had the budget for a DSLR yet, though it’s been on my wish list for a while. But now I’m contemplating the new Sony NEX-7. Only pitfall is, as of right now there is a pretty slim selection of glass for the Sonys. If what you say is true, by the time I can actually buy a camera, perhaps there will be a whole slew of lenses to choose from.

  • I’m a novice, still playing and learning with my little dinosaur XTi and 50D, but I appreciate the heads up.  And (insert squeal) 10-60 fps!!!  When I’m in the market to upgrade in the next year or so I’ll be looking at these gems.  Who knows . . . if I wait until just the right moment, they might even do my dishes!

  • Existing lenses can be used with an adapter. So if you, for example, currently have a quiver full of Nikon lenses, you can use them with a mirrorless body with an adapter. Your current lenses would be larger than the ones made specifically for the body you’re shooting with. That’s the point Trey made in the article: Why would you want to use large, bulky lenses on your tiny mirrorless body?

  • It’s a Really Right Stuff BH-55.  Stellar ball head, but not cheap.

  • Rishi O.

    Don’t forget that with technologies such as ‘organic’ sensors, light will be able to strike the sensor at sharper angles. This makes the NEX mount, in my opinion, more future proof in that they will be able to make smaller wide lenses without having to keep the rear element as far away from the sensor as they currently do.

    BTW, I just received the 24mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens for the NEX. Do you know it’s as light as the canon 35mm f/2 lens?  It only weighs about 200 grams. It baffles me how everyone call this lens huge! In fact, the size is just perfect for me as my thumb fall naturally over the focus control ring. It’s super light.

  • You cannot change the laws of physic, of course. A full frame mirrorless camera will still need lenses of the same size and weight as before. And for fast operation the AF will still have to be integrated into the lens. If you want to replace your pro gear with mirrorless cameras, you will be  a bit disappointed for many years to come, I’m afraid.

  • Interesting article and while there’s probably truth to it, you could say not to buy many current tech products because what will be available in 5 years will be so much better.  Why buy a new car now when in 5 years many tech experts are predicting that self-driving cars will be commercially available?  Why buy a 1080P HDTV now when 4K TVs will be available in 5 years?  Why buy a regular hard drive today when solid state drives are clearly the future?  It could definitely be that DSLRs and their lenses may be obsolete in the future and investing a ton in lenses now may not be the best investment but with technology you also can’t always be waiting for the next best thing to arrive because there’s always something new on the horizon.

  • Anonymous

    Although I agree with most of what you’ve said, higher-end SLRs (pro/prosumer) have – and will likely continue to have – quicker shooting ability. I shoot a lot of concerts, and I can’t imagine having to rely on “3rd generation” AF and lag when it’s all about split-second timing. I suspect the same goes for sports shooters. No doubt the next few iterations will get there, or closer, but that would be the #1 criteria for me.

    Also, I think you have a typo: “Now, the current 3rd Gen Cameras have 10+ megapixel cameras…” I’m sure you meant sensors.

  • Trey – since you are no longer using it,  please send me your D3x.  😛

  • I’ve been a fan of the MILC/EVIL genre ever since I got my Oly E-P2. Yes, I also have a pair of DSLRs (a Canon EOS 5D and an Oly E5), but my main walkabout camera body is the E-P2. I like the light weight (I should say “my neck likes the light weight”), and the image quality is fine for the type of photos I like to take. The most hopeful sign is that Olympus has released a pair of tack-sharp prime lenses with wide apertures – the 45mm f/1.8 lives on my E-P2 pretty much full time!

  • Totally makes sense.  I’ve been holding off on replacing my 20D (nearly bought a 7d last summer), looks like I’ll wait a little longer.  Maybe I’ll get a 4/3rds setup from BorrowLenses next time I go on a trip…

  • This wasn’t nearly as inflammatory as the headline suggested.  Yes, cameras are transitioning from using mirrors to not using mirrors, and that does mean some changes with things like viewfinders, in exchange for a lot of benefits.  But I see it as nothing more than a natural transition, and not an especially earthshaking one.  Sure there can be a newly created categories of advanced cameras like the NEX, but I think that the future of cameras probably looks a whole lot like current DSLRs, just with a different imaging system inside.  It’s not like all of the pros are going to be okay with shifting to things that look and handle like a point and shoot.  The big makers will just pop mirrorless systems into slr-style bodies, preserving the advantages of those form factors.

    Also, you say that you’re not going to buy any more nikon/canon lenses, and make it sound like those companies will fade away.  They’ve been laggardly, because it’s not worth cannabalizing a thriving business until the replacement is solid, but I have no illusions that this will lead to some great shakeup in the industry.  We might see some new companies, but I bet that canon and nikon will still sell the majority of advanced 3rd gen cameras, and they will be compatible with current DSLR lenses.  No one’s going to throw away fifty years worth of lens tech and existing lenses.

  • Different jobs, different tools. Sure, landscape photographers won’t need a snappy LCD or clean high ISO performance, but others will. While I agree with the general concepts, anyone commenting needs to realize that Trey is also saying that 3rd Gen technology is not ready yet. Sure, in 5-6 years the technology will finally be there and he is making the point that his D3X/ and D3S with top level glass will last him the next 5 years. The original Nikon D3 came out in what, 2007? That was 5 years ago, and it’s still going strong with many professionals. I don’t see DSLRs going away in the near future, long term maybe, but not in the next 5 years. For people that shoot weddings, like myself, the advantages of a full frame sensor for low light are hard to compare to the current 3rd generation mirrorless cameras. I would say buy this year’s new cameras: the D4 /D800 and whatever Canon brings out with the 1DX to replace the 5D Mark II, then maybe you can rest long enough for technology to catch up.

  • 3rd generation camera is directly referencing digital, as he mentions in the article, which I’m assuming you skimmed. 

  • Anonymous

    Partly agree, partly disagree with your thoughts.
    To start with, a lot of “advantages” claimed for “mirrorless” cameras orbit around “smaller, lighter”. One forgets that the 35mm SLR size and format emerged from long fight with larger (and later smaller) formats. Why? – because it is optimal. This applies both to ergonomy and to artistic abilities, enough of each meets at about 35mm frame and camera of the size and heft of traditional SLR, as well as lens spectrum appropriate for it. Part of Ansel Adams attraction is in his genius, part in using lenses that compress depth while catching wide angle of view, because it was large format. We can’t  lug around large format cameras to be effective. We too can’t get certain feel and expressions from cropped formats (yes, there are applications, like sports where cropped format ergonomy and camera size do real benefit). 35mm wins, well optimizes these issues. To get away from abstract musings, recently I rented Nikon D7000 for a trip. Excellent camera. For the purpose I didn’t care about angle of view/depth compression or other benefits of larger format in capture. However, I was very uncomfortable with it. Too damn small (and it is LARGER than “3rd Gen” cameras). In small cameras you must cram controls. Even holding D7000 brought my hands way too close… 
    Lenses appropriate for 35mm format will persist, bit larger, bit heftier,… but not too much to upset ergonomy vs. added artistic abilities. Having their size as a part of a camera makes one question – why further compress long optimized physical 35mm SLR camera size? Would you be comfortable with 70-200mm on a iPhone sized camera?-NO. This does not exclude  removing the mirror! So, I’d bet some potatoes that future “mirrorless” cameras with full frame sensors will adapt lens-to-sensor scales of 35mm SLRs and that you’ll be able to use old and new lenses with them just fine. Also, if of any sanity manufacturers will make better use of the space released by mirror removal. As Astronomer I think first about what our cameras have and DSL(R)’s do not – some form of active cooling. Practical example: Nikon D4 improvements in material and sensor design increased abilities vs. old D3 generation for about 30%… Remove mirror, add active cooling and you can make the same improvement – it is worth the whole generation of the product betterment. Active cooling is not the only new feature that can be shoe-horned in the space of the mirror… Imagination should run wild with new features.
    I’ll now goto the further future and tell you my prediction where the real revolution will happen: Lenses. 4th generation cameras will be built around a single lens. Imagine lens similar in proportion to modern 100mm. Just it has no moving parts, only one piece of glass and can do anything from optically zooming over 10-1000mm, tilt-shifting, doing special effects,… you name it – it can do it. That is coming. That will be the revolution. In your lifetime. (Nonlinear crystals and control of their optical properties via electric field). Mirror-or-not – small evolutionary potatoes.

  • Trey, good article and some food for thought.  I’m not sure I completely agree with all of your points.  I guess the first question is why is this 3rd gen?   I’m not sure why one would lump all modern digital cameras into 2nd gen.  Why is mirrorless a new generation?  My Canon point and shoot is mirrorless, why is a 4/3 cam or a Nikon 1 much different?  Because it has interchangeable lenses?  I wouldn’t call that a new generation, it’s just taking a point and shoot body, and adding the lens mount from an SLR and coming up with a new product.  To me, a new generation needs to be revolutionary, not just the next step in evolution.  Maybe lightfiled will be 3rd gen?  Hard to say, very early in the new tech development.

    Right now, I’m shooting a D90 and have been pondering a jump to FX.   I already have a bunch of FX lenses and have been impatiently waiting on a D700 replacement.  The D800 should be out this year, and will be a tempting body that will serve me for several years.  In 3 years, maybe I won’t want a DSLR any more, but for now there is no camera on the market that is tempting me away from this style of body.  Sure, I would prefer a smaller and lighter camera and lenses.  It would also mean I could use a smaller and lighter tripod as well. However, the small cameras just can’t compete today with the big boys.

    Also, I don’t see Nikon and Canon moving quickly to replace their pro models with small mirrorless alternatives.  They are making too much money from these cameras to replace them with small, low margin models.  I don’t see anyone paying $8000 for a small mirrorless camera, I may be wrong.

    Finally, given the speed of sensor evolution I think it will be some time before we see small sensors with the same capability as the full frame sensors we have today.  It will happen, but not in the next few years.  Look at Nikon’s first full frame DSLR, the D3.  It came out in 2007 and in 2012 we will have the D4.  In 5 years, we have a better sensor but not revolutionary.  I don’t see a small 4/3 type sensor getting better any faster.   

  • Trey, whats all of a sudden this shift and attacks on Nikon? Have they stopped sponsoring you for the year 2012? Just curious. In all, I agree with what you are talking about. But with new technologies, we don’t have to jump on it right away always. Lets keep our DSLRs, and spend money on charities, donations, and stop spending it always on crap we don’t really need.

  • uksnapper

    It depends entirely on the end use of the Image,your observations are seriously flawed.
    If I could afford a Hasselblad digital camera I would get one,the images are far superior, along with the accompanying software than my D3.
    Having said that I produced some very good work with a Minolta Dimage7 some years ago!

  • Anonymous

    Well, you forgot the main reason why the mirror exists at all: phase-detection autofocus. All current mirrorless cameras have contrast-only focus which is slower and annoying. Sony came with an alternate design for the Alpha series but it still requires a mirror, just not a moving one.

  • Having shot with both Mirror-less and Mirrored DSLR’s I think FPS figures are in contention. Yes, some Mirror less systems offer crazy FPS rates, yet they don’t always deliver. I often find mirror less systems often only deliver in good light, and are limited in how much control you have over them. A mirrored DSLR system fires at the speed its capable of under complete control in any light I fire it in. Sure, if your shooting a stationary target or making a HDR image then this isn’t going to effect you too much, but for high speed shooting in an unpredictable environment then I will be sticking to my conventional DSLR.      

  • Your Subject heading is way too premature.  Give me some evidence where they have become a dying breed.  You know, statistics? 

    Also,  showing processed examples of images from camera’s you shot several years ago have little or nothing to do with your argument. 

  • I’d rather spend my time & energies on making tons of money (rather than contemplating what is and could be and will be and won’t be and and and) so that in 5 or 10 years, the $2k that I spent this past year will be a drop in the ocean.  So, who cares what might happen in a decade.  Use what tools are here today, make images, let the engineers and designers worry.  In three years, replace some of the tools.  It’s ONLY a real ‘issue’ if you bought a tool and didn’t bother to make good use of it – like most people’s gym memberships!  😛

  • PAC

    I can tell the first pix wasnt a DSLR

  • “Gear-heads will really give me a hard time about this. Let them. Most fully-formed artists know that the goal is to create an _interesting image_, and that has little to do with sensor size and resolution.”

    …or whether there’s a mirror that flips up, or if the body weighs less than the previous offerings, or if it takes 200 pictures as opposed to 20, or if the photographer looks like a “pro”… etc. etc. None of these things has a lick to do with taking an interesting image.

    It’s fascinating to me that most ‘fully-formed artists’ will freely admit that equipment has little to do with taking a good or interesting image, and yet will continue on to discuss the merits and disadvantages of newer, spiffier technology. I guess I don’t get it…

    The issue for me is that chasing the latest technology is an unnecessary, never-ending cycle of consumerism and timed obsolescence. If one’s creative vision and talent does not depend on the gear, then what does hot-s||t  technology really matter? I have neither the time nor the money to stay on that hamster wheel for long, nor would I want to support one of the major gear manufacturers while perfectly good, older gear rots in the closet. 

    In the end, my advice to others is as it has always been: Get what you feel you can afford, then learn your gear to the max. (That’s certainly not new advice.) Spend more time looking over books on perspective, composition, and light, than spec sheets for yet-to-be-released equipment. Spend more time on Creating, rather than Consuming. 

    As for what I might be shooting with in five years, I don’t know, as it’s not yet 2017. Perhaps I’ll be using the same equipment as today; perhaps not… who can say what will happen in five?

  • Interesting points. I recently upgraded from my A700 to the A77 and have found that the switch from OVF to EVF to be a blessing.

    However, having said that, like any tool, it’s a matter of personal tastes and selecting the right horse for the course.

    The term “3rd gen” is probably inaccurate when you consider the various “generations” that have elapsed for film cameras and the many “generations” of DSLR(s) that have come and gone.

    I’m more inclined to refer to the new breed of cameras as having a static optical path. Ie, no moving parts between the lens and the sensor. Though even that is not 100% accurate.

    While professionals and serious amateurs will see and understand the difference between a DSLR, DSLT, or EVIL/etc. cameras… to the layman, a “DSLR” is a “full sized” camera. I still refer to my A77 as a DSLR-type camera because it is a big honking interchangeable lens camera. Just like making a “xerox” is synonymous with photocopying, DSLR is in many minds, synonymous with a gripped camera with interchangeable lenses. At least, that’s my experience.

    Then you get to the compact interchangeable lens cameras, of which the NEX, PEN, etc. are part of. Calling it by it’s technological name vs its size/form categorization seems less helpful to the average person out there regarding other practical concerns,like how big is it? Will it fit comfortably in my hand? etc. 

    All of the cameras will have their place. Especially large investments in lenses and gear for a particular mount and form factor will play a larger role in whether one will switch or commit to a new fledgling format than whether there is a moving mirror or EVF/OVF.

    For me, it comes down to the ergonomics of the camera. For a given size of sensor and a desired focal length and aperture of lens, you will have a particular range you have to work with for the lens. You aren’t going to get a tiny 70-200/2.8 lens for your small form factor body, if the sensor is still APS-C sized or Full Frame. You’re just not. So you will be stuck with a tiny camera mounted on a huge lens, in relation to one another. How is that going to feel using it for a few hours? The words “sore”, “torquing”, and “pain” come to mind.

    The larger form factor of the DSLR+VGRIP or full sized DSLR(s) is well suited for larger or heavier lenses. A serious factor, especially for working pros who have to hold/heft/shoot with the gear for hours on end, day in and day out. A smaller camera body  CAN be better, but it depends on the rest of your kit and what you intend to do with the kit.

    If I was going on a long long hike with limited space, sure, I’ll use the NEX-7 with some smaller lenses, maybe just a handful of primes. But that kit isn’t the same as bringing the A77 with the contingent of larger lenses. They won’t cover the same range or have the same usability.

    Use the tools that are best suited for the job/environment/you. Not just what’s the next best thing… 
    Btw, the Sony A77 rocks. The 24MP APS-C sensor captures details like you wouldn’t believe. The only caveat is: the camera likes light. Once you start shooting video, you’ll want to change all your lenses to SSM lenses because the screw drive motor will get picked up by the mic. 

  • Of course “Mirrorless” is the future, it’s just the path of technological evolution.  Maybe not this year, next or the one after that, but eventually.  Right now IMO we’re probably at the 80/20 split of the evolutionary curve away from DSLR’s.  80% of the time the “Mirrorless” system will be perfectly fine.

    I have 5D2 and Panasonic M4/3, loving the freedom the M4/3 system gives.

  • One thing I have not seen talked about much is ergonomics of this. Sensor size, resolution, etc play a large part in the image quality and the dynamic range which for me, plays a large part in my choice of what I can print – yeah I actually like to do more with my shots then post them online 🙂

    Anyway, I think this tech is great if they could marry it to the current design of SLR bodies. I personally would stay clear of a 4/3 system and go at min with an APS-C sized chip, but then you get into the actual physics of the lenses; they are still going to be a decent size. Don’t get me wrong, you can get amazing shots with anything really. My 4/3 Olympus E500 was able to help me produce some amazing  looking images.

    For me, and for my personal needs/taste I think I am not going to worry to much about my future purchases for a few years to come. IF Canon and Nikon decide to go this route, it will be a few years to come and prob be on a body that looks nothing like the current mirrorless point and shoots.

  • Funny posted this almost same issue at the almost the same time. I think you said much better than me though. Exactly my thoughts. 

  • Eric Hann

    I tend to think of the modern mirrorless as Pellicle II

  • Thomas Rubach

    If you look at the Olympus OM 2N, a real mechanical flip-the-mirror SLR, you wonder why normal DSLRs cannot be as small and lightweight that that.
    I don’t need 3rd generation – just make them darn DSLRs smaller and lighter!

  • As a dSLR photographer who does shoot full frame and would never even think about buying a non-full-frame dSLR I disagree with you on some points. For instance, I would not use a 3rd gen camera to be a wedding photographer. However, I do agree that 3rd gen cameras will be significant and important in the lives of photographers and the tech should not be discounted. The average person with a camera would do very well to be carrying around an iPhone 4S or micro four thirds camera right now. A D3 is not a needed expense for the majority of people desiring to take good photographs. It’s more about natural ability than about equipment anyway (in my book).

  • Anonymous

    I pretty much agree with you and are more interested in what is happening in the mirrorless market of ILC, but it is easy to focus on why not like DSLR instead of what mirrorless is lacking. Sensor size is one thing, and I wish Nikon had been bolder and actually introduced a mirrorless camera that could compete with some of their DLSRs. The problem is that most camera manufactures seems to think these smaller ILC should be targeted at people stepping up from P&S. They forget DSLR shooters that want a lighter camera with more or less the same IQ (whether they actually need it or not). 

  • Trey-Thanks for your thoughts on this.  If I were going to try out one of these “3rd gen” cameras. which would you suggest?

  • Thought provoking article Trey.  For me smaller is just smaller, eventually (like some mobile[cell] phones) becoming too small to be useful.  I’m currently considering a new DSLR having used a bridge camera for the last 3 years as my first digital camera.  The S100fs is one of the largest bridge/hybrids available and I’d not want smaller.  Indeed I would be buying a grip to go with the body for hand-held shooting to improve the handling!  I’m sure that such considerations are not important to you as you shoot from a tripod most/all the time.
    The important point is that a camera body and or lens is just a tool for a photographer to express his/herself.  For all of us it is important to choose the tools that suit our needs/wants and ability to use them.  In the end a good photographer with a 2nd rate camera will produce better images than a 2nd rate photographer with the latest/best equipment.

  • Call me old school but i actually like the sound of a real shutter.

  • MFT (Panasonic/Olympus) great selection of lenses, worth a look for sure.  Sony NEX-7 looks fab, but twice the price of MFT bodies and more limited and expensive range of e-mount lenses, IMHO.

  • Jason Tupeck

    I have an A77 and am glad to see it getting some well deserved recognition from someone so respected in the field.  Its a great unit and I am loving every bit of it so far. No, it’s not exactly a 3rd gen camera, taking on the form of a traditional DSLR/SLR but it does have the transfixed mirror, which reduces the mirror slap effect. The Alpha NEX series is getting some rave reviews too, from what I see, though I have not had the opportunity to use one, yet.

  • Luca Lombardi

    “Cleaning: Since the mirror doesn’t flip up and down any more, you’re not flinging a bunch of dust and junk around the inside of that barn. After each trip I take, the sensor on my D3X and D3S needs a good old-fashioned cleaning. I look forward to the day when I don’t have to do that any more. Call me lazy.”
    I think that the dust war owes more to lens-swapping than it has to the “mirror” being there. As long as you’ll be swapping lenses out there, you are bound to have dust on your sensor. Mirror or not. The only way to avoid that is, well, have your lenses put in place all the time. I won’t comment on the rest, as it’s your personal opinion, which I don’t share, but, hey, it’s me 😀

  • Call me crazy, but looks to me that “early” D70 is handing that 3rd generation photo its ass.

  • Jason Tupeck

    Isn’t the NEX7 using the APS-C chip from the Alpha a77?  I agree that the ergos of the 4/3 cameras is a bit offputting, but again, I haven’t actually used one yet, so I can’t say for sure how comfortable they would be for a lengthy shoot.

  • Andrew Dodd

    In fact – mirrorless cameras make this problem worse.  Normally, when the lens is off, the mirror is down, protecting the sensor.  Not so in a mirrorless device.

    Also not covered:  People usually don’t claim about viewfinder lag, even very old cameras have no issues with viewfinder update rates unless they’re horrible.  The usual complaint is focus lag.  The problem is that phase detection autofocus always blows contrast detection autofocus out of the water in terms of focusing speed.  CD AF can perform some neat tricks, but it simply can’t under any circumstances lock as fast as a phase-detect system can.  CD AF always has to do a hill-climb search for optimal sharpness, passing beyond optimal focus at least slightly in order to determine the optimal focus. PD systems know in which direction focus needs to travel, and also by how much, and can confirm correct focus without needing to “wiggle” the focus to search.

    A DSLR can always have CD AF added for those times when it’s beneficial.  A mirrorless device can never have a PD system added on.

  • Greg Jordan

    Good article, Trey. I agree that new photography technologies will trump the older ones. It’s just a matter of time. And as for the next generation of photography equipment, I think we’re right on the cusp.

  • The technology is probably he wave of the future, but to say the DSLR is dead is a bit premature.  I used one for sports and they are not ready for prime time just yet.

  • Thomas Rubach

    Hmm, third gen not necessarily meaning “mirrorless”. Could also be fixed mirror.
    With that phase detect is possible.

  • Ahhhh a real shutter, like my great grandfather used – a lenscap!

  • As someone new to the DSLR world I would have to say that I hope you are right Trey. Why you ask? Not because I want to have to go out and drop another 3k in camera gear and lenses but because a competing technology may serve to drive down the price of the current technology for end users like myself. In other words my DSLR upgrade in a few years may end up being cheaper if there is a migration to “3rd Gen” cameras by alot of photographers. Think about what DSLRs did to the price of film cameras, what Point and Shoots have done to the price of DSLRs, what BluRay has done to traditional DVD, what PS3 has done to PS2. In the end, the hobbyist like me may be able to upgrade to different technology for a much cheaper price as 3rd Gen sales drive down the cost of DSLRs. One can always hope.

  • “A DSLR can always have CD AF added for those times when it’s beneficial. A mirrorless device can never have a PD system added on.”

    LA-EA2 α NEX Camera Mount Adapter (http://store.sony.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=8198552921666375279&tab=featuresTab) for $399.99 gives you the ability to

    “Attach α A-mount lenses to your E-mount camera body and enjoy continuous Phase Detection AF while capturing stills and video with world’s first mount adaptor to be equipped with Translucent Mirror Technology™.”

    You can take it off when you do not need PD AF.

  • Jessica Pena

    Ok I am a bit confused because I have been looking into this a lot lately and have found that most of these new mirrorless camera manufacturers are indeed making adapters for those of us that already have our lenses…. which in truth is one of the only reasons I have considered it at all. Yes eventually if all pans out the lenses in my bags would go by the wayside, but honestly, isn’t that not already the case? 

    The biggest disadvantage I really see is that the art behind photography is being lost as we become more and more dependent upon easier fixes.  Photographers are losing there followings because technology is making it too simple for any Tom Dick or Harry to snap a cool picture… Equate it to paint by# vs. Picasso, in essence it is the same thing. 

  • Saer Ford

    I want a Late Gen 3 as well.  In the days of being able to take a video of a photon (http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/trillion-fps-camera-1213.html) not needing to focus on any particular object (https://www.lytro.com/science_inside) and nearly infinitely adjustable lens’ (http://www.varioptic.com/technology/liquid-lens-autofocus-af/) its only a matter of time before all we will need is a cell phone sized camera to work for literally everything.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent points. Moore’s law applied to photography. I’d hope it’s a few years off enough to get some good use of my 24-105 Canon I just acquired. Long term this is welcome as the smaller lighter equipment is more mobile and easier to carry for those of us with bad backs.

  • Maybe.  I think and hope that the forthcoming Fuji (named LX10? X1? Pro-something?) will come the closest to what you’re talking about.  However I really don’t see DSLRs going away any time soon.  The auto-focus of a 3rd Gen isn’t there yet for sports.  Nevermind the Nikon 1 – the DOF is too deep to know if the AF really works or not.  Besides, what is the point of a small camera body when you are shooting a 70-200/2.8?  Or a 300/2.8?  Or an 85/1.2?  Even the slow kit zooms for NEX cameras are too big to matter.  I agree a 3rd Gen camera will be great for any time you want to be discrete and don’t need a lot of focal length, and I want one for that.  But there are a whole host of uses for DSLRs that are not even close to being addressed by 3rd Gen.

    By the way, I think 3rd Gen is about as meaningless a name as Mirrorless.  These cameras need a distinct, descriptive name.  I like CSC – compact system camera.

  • Myself, I’m waiting for 4th generation.

  • While DSLRs may eventually be replaced by mirrorless or whatever the next technology is going to be after that, I don’t think DSLR style bodies will go away.  Yes, there is a time and place for smaller camera bodies, because sometimes hauling around a DSLR isn’t always convenient.  My biggest issue isn’t carrying it really, I have no problem carrying my 1D and 70-200  2.8 all day. But sometimes it’s a pain when I’m out and about and done using it and then I still need to still carry it around (I’d never leave it in my vehicle), whereas carrying around a smaller camera at that point would be nicer.

    In terms of smaller style cameras I can’t stand their  tiny controls and having to use the LCD to access different menus features.  All features that are readily available as buttons/dials larger DSLRs.  My wife has a Canon T3i and the few times I’ve used it, I can’t stand it, it’s too small, it doesn’t fit/balance nicely in my hands, and the controls are too small.
    This is all over and above one of my main uses for my DSLR is to shoot sports (often in low light) and from what I’ve seen 3rd generation cameras right now can’t come within a mile. 

    The fact is technology evolves and changes so fast, buy what you need now today to meet your needs.  Don’t worry about what might be coming out in a year, two years, or 5 years.  Because, as soon as that time passes, there will be something else then that newer and better and that everyone is raving over.  The cycle never stops.  I learned that long ago with computers, there will always be something better coming down the road.

  • While DSLRs may eventually be replaced by mirrorless or whatever the next technology is going to be after that, I don’t think DSLR style bodies will go away.  Yes, there is a time and place for smaller camera bodies, because sometimes hauling around a DSLR isn’t always convenient.  My biggest issue isn’t carrying it really, I have no problem carrying my 1D and 70-200  2.8 all day. But sometimes it’s a pain when I’m out and about and done using it and then I still need to still carry it around (I’d never leave it in my vehicle), whereas carrying around a smaller camera at that point would be nicer.

    In terms of smaller style cameras I can’t stand their  tiny controls and having to use the LCD to access different menus features.  All features that are readily available as buttons/dials larger DSLRs.  My wife has a Canon T3i and the few times I’ve used it, I can’t stand it, it’s too small, it doesn’t fit/balance nicely in my hands, and the controls are too small.
    This is all over and above one of my main uses for my DSLR is to shoot sports (often in low light) and from what I’ve seen 3rd generation cameras right now can’t come within a mile. 

    The fact is technology evolves and changes so fast, buy what you need now today to meet your needs.  Don’t worry about what might be coming out in a year, two years, or 5 years.  Because, as soon as that time passes, there will be something else then that newer and better and that everyone is raving over.  The cycle never stops.  I learned that long ago with computers, there will always be something better coming down the road.

  • i have always wanted the viewfinder to work in two modes. the usual mode and one in which it mimics the sensor so if the shutter speed is slow, it would the same streaking that the sensor would capture. what a slr camera does is show us the angle and focus that the sensor would capture but in a digital camera esp one with a digital viewfinder it is possible to see what the sensor would end up capturing

  • i have always wanted the viewfinder to work in two modes. the usual mode and one in which it mimics the sensor so if the shutter speed is slow, it would the same streaking that the sensor would capture. what a slr camera does is show us the angle and focus that the sensor would capture but in a digital camera esp one with a digital viewfinder it is possible to see what the sensor would end up capturing

  • The Leica M9 is mirrorless and full frame and has extremely small and exceptionally sharp lenses.

  • The Leica M9 is mirrorless and full frame and has extremely small and exceptionally sharp lenses.

  • Ashley Walters

    Interesting read.
    I have been thinking about the exact same thing over the last few weeks. I need/want a new camera, love my A700, but can’t think of any reason a NEX could do the exact same thing in a smaller package (which is the biggest drawback to a DSLR for me). Well, aside from the lens issue, which is a big one but still…I am trying to find a place that has a NEX-5n or Nex-7 on the shelf so I can get my hands on one to seal the deal.

    The only thing I am not sure of right now is if when or if I will sell my A700 due to lack of use.

  • My interpretation: If you look at cameras like the RED One (red.com), even though they are considered [today] as video cameras, they can shoot full 5k resolution stills at hundreds of frames per second — all in RAW and HDR (by fusing multiple exposures). The idea here is that one day soon you’ll just point your camera at a scene and click and hold the shutter a few seconds. You’ll then have hundreds of RAW images to work with. No need to capture multiple exposures with a small set of stills. The camera will just ‘see’ the scene and capture all the data it needs giving you potentially orders of magnitude more exposure and color data. The camera will see the entire ‘song’ as opposed to just several ‘notes’.

  • Heh… I still own a D70, as well as a Nikon D200 and a Panasonic GF1 m4/3 camera. The GF1 more than equals the output from the D70, it’s even better than the D70 at ISO 1600 (where the D70’s images disintegrate into a chroma noise mess). The D200’s older APS-C sensor has a slight edge over the GF1 at 1600… maybe by a stop. 

  • On my oppinion, no mater how great the sensor and display will be, they wont match live view through lense with mirror. I sometimes make shots that my camera is opened 5min or more, and strait through sensor you can not even compose it because the display is just black….

    Another drawback for me is a gozilion of shots… my D3X is a slow camera and many times I find myself having too many photos. What would it mean to have few thousands more…

    And another thing is a photography where strobes or speedlights are used… in that case you can only shoot as fast as strobe recycle… many times in studio…

    The lenses will have to improove quite a bit to match the quality of present lenses, and no matter what the body and the lenses will have to be different for 3rd generation FX sensors…. so the existing 3rd generation cameras are still in pampers and in 5 years will be ready for amateur use, but longer time will pass before professional photographers will use smaller bodies 🙂

    I ll most deffenetley go ahead with technology, but for now I dont worry about the 3rd generation

    Greetings from Slovenia
    Samo Trebizan

  • I use a simple Panasonic TS3 for one handed shots while riding my motorcycle and I am looking at the Panasonic GF3 for my off the bike easy to travel with next camera.  I am not in any means a pro but want great shots with ease.  That is why I like the 4/3rds cameras.  Smaller than the DSLR, still take great pics/videos and all I would need to bring would be a decent zoom lens and wide angle.  So, I agree for most the micro 4/3 will satisfy the majority of holiday picture takers.

    For the pros…not sure what will happen but I am sure glad the cameras and ability to change the lens are coming in smaller packages.  Remember I ride a bike and space is minimal while traveling.

    advgrrls.com is our BLOG from our Alaska summer trip.  We borrowed 2 Triumph motorcycles from Triumph Canada but had to give them back…2 grrls and a whole lot of fun for 44 days.  June 29th – August 11th 2011.

  • I shoot with both a Nikon D200 and a Panasonic GF1. The GF1, with a lens like the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 or 14-45mm kit zoom, can lock focus just as quickly and as accurately as my D200 with the AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8… even in low light with the 45mm prime. Newer m4/3 cameras like the EP3 and GX1 focus even faster. You would never call any of these slow to focus if you actually used one. Where these cameras do fall behind is when it comes to continuous AF tracking and in respect to viewfinder blackout (which is only an issue when shooting burst shots), but again newer cameras are improving in these respects and I suspect that they won’t be issues a few years from now.  You are correct about viewfinder lag when it comes to normal shooting… simply not an issue. If you compare what is on the LCD/EVF with what is happening outside the camera, you will see there is no delay.

    But for now it is definitely correct to say that continuous AF tracking and viewfinder blackout during burst mode are issues that make mirrorless cameras less than ideal if you shoot a lot of sports and action photography (although the Nikon 1 appears to be much better than m4/3 and NEX in these respects). Outside of action/sports photography I feel that my m4/3 gear is capable of equaling the output of my DSLR gear for most shots. I have 13×19 prints hanging in the same rooms from both cameras and you’d never know I used different cameras.

  • Ian Leslie

    Nice summary of the direction things are heading.  Of course this year I went out and bought one of those old DSLRs and I carry it around pretty much all the time.  Trying to look like a stud:-)

    Another site that has a lot of information on this transition is http://www.bythom.com/ He writes about all things Nikon (also not paid by Nikon).  Recently he has been writing a lot about the new smaller mirror less cameras he has been using.  He has been use quite a few. So much so that he has started a new site for his writings on that topic http://www.sansmirror.com/.  

    Ooops there’s that mirrorless name that will be going away again:-)

  • I’ve been shooting with APS-C DSLR cameras since 2004, including professional lenses like f/2.8 zooms and faster primes. In January 2010 I bought a Panasonic GF1 with a 20mm f/1.7 pancake and 14-45mm kit zoom. I expected the m4/3 gear to be for travel, dog walks, and commuting by bicycle…times when my DSLR felt like a burden. Surprisingly I found that I abosolutely loved shooting with the GF1 and it has become my primary camera of choice. I even use it at home when my DSLR gear is easily accessible. I still use my DSLR gear, but I consider it to be specialty equipment that is unnecessary for most of the shots I take. I’d hate to give up my DSLR gear just yet. Continuous AF tracking is better on my DSLR, Nikon’s creative lighting system makes using multiple flashguns a breeze, and then there are the f/2.8 zooms. Once f/2.8 zooms are available for m4/3 it will be a tough call. I will be very tempted to sell the lot of my Nikon gear and put that money into a Panasonic GF1 with the fast zooms that are rumored to be announced this year. 

  • So… here is just described what Sony made 1n 1yr. ago. No comments.

  • What about the Sony A77? Isn’t it considered mirror less? It’s my understanding that it’s mirror doen’t move but becomes translusent and this is why it can shoot 10 – 12 fps. I was also under the impression it has a APS-C sensor with 24mp.

  • You FINALLY caught on. Bravo! I have long disagreed with your comments on this blog telling your followers that they have to go “buy a real camera” if they wanted to make great images. Glad you finally discovered the whole deception the industry marketers have been slingin’ for years to try and convince folks that all they need is to buy all their stuff instead of keeping the focus on the photographer’s vision. 

    I’ve still got my Nikon dSLR gear, but to be honest… for what I do, I get by just fine with a little Oly XZ-1. 3rd Gen hasn’t quite caught all the way up with dSLRs but they are very close. I’d guess your 5yr estimate is likely on the money, if not sooner.

  • Anonymous

    I made the transition from a Nikon D300 to a Panasonic GH2 last month. The reason? I wanted to shoot video and didn’t have neither the budget for additional equipment nor the desire to carry it. So, I looked around and saw some videos shot with the GH2 on Youtube and Vimeo. I was sold on the spot: small equipment, cheaper, excellent video and still photography. What’s not to like?

    I put all my Nikon gear on Craigslist, replaced eveything and had money left!!! The wife tried to instill some caution in me, suggesting I wait a few months before selling my Nikon gear, but I’m so sold on the new technology of hybrid cameras that I was afraid the prices for ‘traditional’ gear would begin to crumble at some point and I would not get top dollar for it. Needless to say, I had a great Christmas with my new toys.

    Now, to keep the conversation honest, I’ll list the things I don’t like:

    1. The EVF on my GH2 has a little lag. Milliseconds. But it feels weird to this day. I’m getting used to it, but it feels very strange at the beginning. The closest I can come to describing the ‘sensation’ is that you feel the picture you take is not exactly the one you composed for. It’s like there is a slight delay on the display, so that you are taking a picture of a situation that happened some milli-seconds ago. Not a big deal in practice, but a weird feeling.

    2. No good options for hi-speed Flash sync off-camera. Not a big deal for me because I’m used to shooting manual, but it could be an issue for many people used to Nikon’s excellent flash system. The good news is that I replaced my 3 Nikon flashes and Pocket Wizards with 3 $80 Yongnuo Flashes and a couple of $20 Cowboy Studio radio trigger/receiver combos and have a perfectly fine flash system that cost a total of less than $400 versus my previous $2000+  Nikon/PW system.

    I think the writing is on the wall: DSLR’s as we know them (big and mirrored) are on the way out. Get top dollar for your equipment while you can. YMMV.

  • Almost jumped for the GH2 as well, but stopped just short of pulling the trigger mostly based on your cited issues. It’s awfully close though. One or two more revs and I’ll be unloading my dSLR gear as well. Might even go ahead and get it over with while it’s still got value. 😉

  • Christopher Neumann Ruud

    I feel like I have just thrown away my life now.

  • Anonymous

    One other thing worth pointing out:  I tried some ‘regular’ Nikon lenses on the GH2 using a Novoflex adapter. But I didn’t like the results at all: there was a lot of purple fringing on highlights and, quite frankly, there is no point having a small camera with big lenses. But I needed to find out by myself, I guess. In the end, I find that, at least for the GH2, there is a group of lenses covering a very decent focal range. I bought the Olympus 12mm, Panasonic 20mm, Olympus 45 mm, Panasoic 45-200mm zoom, GH2’s 14-42 kit lens and it covers all my needs (I’m just an advanced, passionate hobbyst who started with a Pentax K1000 some 30 years ago).

    I would say the mirrorless cameras are 80-85% of the way there. A few wrinkles to take care of, but it is clearly the future. I suspect that Canon and Nikon have no real desire to push the new format because it would effectively kill their cash cow: the ultra-expensive lenses.

    Good luck with your decision (whatever it is)!

  • You really nailed it, even by identifying the 3rd gen cameras shortcomings. It’s a matter of time until all pro cameras, more or less compact, will loose their mirror.
    The viewfinder is a great example how things have evolved but still need to evolve even more, but for me a great example of what a great viewfinder should be is the Fuji X100: simple and clear!

  • Yeah, I have a D70S, here. Grain gets nasty anything over 400 ISO. Certainly the GF1 is going to be a champ in those terms. (That camera produces some really good looking images.) I think the point, though, is it’s more than just sensors. The glass of the lens, the processing of the data coming off the sensor… on and on and on.

    I played with a D700 some years ago. Talk about crazy good looking images at high ISO… I can’t imagine what the current crop of high-end DSLRs are doing these days. 

  • Oh, I’ve already decided. My first camera was also a K1000 about 30 years ago. I’ve shot everything from 5×7 to 4×5 to 6×7 to 35mm, etc. Never got a chance to shoot one of those giant Polaroids in NYC but I’ve been around the block a time or two. And I have to say that if you’re creative and focus on your personal vision first, there’s no reason to spend all your time collecting more and more gadgets. 

    I really don’t want to change lenses any more either. So, I might have a bit longer to wait. I did a motorcycle trip from Austin to the west coast. Took the long way zig-zagging through New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California and back again. 

    While on that trip I wrote a book about it and shot images along the way with a Panasonic LX-3 and also a Nikon D300. As I was going through and editing, there was certainly a difference and some of the more challenging shots simply would not have been possible with the little LX3, but I’d say the LX3 sufficed well for at least half of the shooting. 

    I needed more focal length and wanted a bit of control over DOF so I tried the XZ-1 as a travel cam. It’s not perfect either but it’s much closer to not needing the dSLR at all. Like I said, a couple more revisions and I don’t think I’ll need a dSLR for anything. I’m also not any brand fanatic and pay attention to all of them. Have seen some very nice stuff from the V1 Trey mentioned, but you still have to change lenses. The Fujifilm X10 looks promising, but I think I’ll wait and see what the next crop or two brings. For now, I can get by fine with what I have. 

  • Great article–thanks!  I was *very* skeptical when I read the title, but think you’ve convinced me.  Well-written for all audiences.  I think I’ll wait for 3rd Gen, gen 3+ to make the switch though.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Thanks everyone for your comments….

    I wanted to underscore a point that might have gotten lost in the bulk of the article.

    Remember that I am saying that DSLRs are dying — not that they are already dead. In fact, that’s in the title of the article. I already have DSLRs and will continue using them for the next 1+ year. Since I already have lenses and stuff — I’m simply saying that I won’t spend any more money on DSLRs since the 3rd gen cameras are coming up faster than anyone realizes.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Yes – good idea… I’ll wait for, well, maybe the next Sony NEX

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Hehe – yes – but I am in a quandry now about my Suggested Camera page…  I don’t know what to suggest!

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Yeah – that camera is incredible…  I am interested in the A99  (rumored)

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Thank you for those comments Samo – interesting

  • Trey Ratcliff

    It is a vexing problem!

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Remember I did not say it was dead… just dying…  maybe quicker than we all notice.

  • I use my Olympus EPL1 with off camera lighting all the time.  It’s fully compatible with Pocket Wizards, CyberSyncs, Phottix, etc.  The only thing it doesn’t have is a PC-sync slot but most people are using pocket wizard type wireless triggers now anyways.

    I’ve triggered off camera speedlights and mono lights with it just fine.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    I won’t give you stats — I am simply saying that this is a trend that I see.  If you do not see it or agree — that is fine.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    The SLT system from Sony does phase-change

  • Trey Ratcliff

    What?  No – Nikon has never sponsored me or advertised.

    And – further – you’re entirely missing the point.  I’m telling you about this trend, and how I will NOT be spending thousands of dollars on existing DSLR equipment for the next few years… it will be wasted money.  Maybe this will help other people save money too.  

    It’s kind of a foregone conclusion that MOST people will be buying  a new camera in the future.  Maybe a bit of foresight will save everyone money.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    hehe sure!

  • Cynthia Hawkins

    oh man! i am just a beginner and was looking to your suggested camera page for guidance! would you still suggest a g11 for a new photographer?

  • Yeah, I do get where you were going with that. Too many want to get in the fun and games with something that doesn’t allow for any adjustment at all. And, if they want to learn how to control the various elements beyond framing, they need something that at least gives them a little control. 

    It just read wrong I think, or perhaps I just read it wrong. Hell, you know as well as I that stunning images that print very well can be made with an iPhone. You really don’t even need the apps. Though, I still prefer something a little more dedicated for most outings. 

    Good article! I’ve seen some images that Kirk Tuck has been getting out of the V1 and the quality looks very good to me.

  • So you dismiss low light sensitivity and bokeh, both related to lens speed and sensor diagonal, just like that? I’m not a pro photographer but those happen to be my strongest needs from a camera, portraits of my daughters performing in theater lighting. Looking forward to upgrade from a D7000 to a D3s or D4.

    Perhaps “mirrorless” cameras will have decent full frame sensors and lenses in 3 years. Now? Nah.

  • This will be cool then. At first I thought it would be retarded to replace current DSLR’s with these much cheaper made, low-tech, toys. Well, I continued reading on them and realized that they’re none of those things. Aside from the few problems why some people will hold out on them (like sensor size) the main problem that I would have with them is that they wouldn’t make me look as cool. I’m not that cool of a person, so I rely on the [email protected] factor that a DSLR provides in order for me to look cool. But anyways, these new cameras are pure sexiness. I looked up the Sony NEX and that thing made me drool. Also, it seems like this would be an opportunity for smaller camera manufacturers to capitalize. Okay, not small manufacturers, but ones that never had the market share that Canon or Nikon do/did. If camera manufacturers other than Canon or Nikon devote a significant amount of resources right NOW to these new cameras, that company may be the new Canon or Nikon of the future. Remember, it’s all about getting there first. Why do you think Microsoft is so successful? Even as a PC user, I don’t think Windows is the best operating system (I prefer Ubuntu Linux). Microsoft Windows is what the world uses because everyone else uses it BECAUSE Microsoft just got their first. And by first, I mean they had a much greater reach than competitors. I don’t believe Windows was even before Mac OS chronologically, but they were, in terms of ubiquitousness. They got more people to use their product over someone else’s. Try competing in the world of operating systems today. You’ll fail. You got to be there in the beginning though.

  • Ced Bennett

    Trey, this is a very interesting and thoughtful perspective on an emerging photographic technology.  Thanks for sharing it. 

    FYI, here is another [opinion] article with a similar perspective but described in a somewhat more market-based way by axlotl at dpreview.com called “Mirrorless ILC, Gap Filler or Disruptive Innovation ?”  Find it at

  • I like the ideal of a mirrorless system, but I don’t quite understand why it’s no longer needed. I’ll have to go check out the link for details on the tech. I am at the stange now where I am just starting to aquire lenses and DSLR gear. I hope I can still get some life out of them before these 3rd generation cameras are so compelling that I want to ditch that investment. 🙁

  • Mukesh Singh Rawat

    Nikon D3100 is good  for Beginners …..Can anybody suggest me which DSLR   camera is good…..

  • You’re absolutely right… it’s more than just a sensor. People get so excited about the latest sensors these days, but I still have absolutely stellar photos printed even at 13×19 from my D70. I still shoot with it as a second camera to my D200, although it has unfortunately developed an intermittent problem in the last year where it fails to record a shot every 20 shots or so. I have put a lot of mileage on it though, but not as much as I’ve put on my D200, which is still going strong. 

    I almost bought a D700 a couple of years ago, but after thinking about it long and hard got the GF1 instead. I’ve scarcely thought about the D700 since, although I sure wouldn’t mind having one. I guess more than full frame I just wanted a small and light camera with a few lenses that I wouldn’t mind carrying on a daily basis. Any of my cameras (D70, D200, GF1) yield great results for most of what I shoot. 

  • Mark T

    I was just mentioning this to a friend the other day – showing her the Micro Four Thirds cameras. And while they aren’t the future, I think they are a link to it. However, I don’t feel pressure to lurch into that future just yet. Just as their are still people making fantastic images with film, I don’t think dSLRs will die off so swiftly. I’d rather let that new tech bounce around a bit and mature. But I’m rarely an early adopter for this very reason. The one thing we can count on is that there will always be something newer “better” around the corner with technology. It’s a race you can’t win, so I see no reason to be at the front of that wave, personally, but I applaud those who take the lumps for the rest of us.

  • Anonymous

    Yes.. this article is true.. 
    My last week experience to use first generation of mirrorless camera is quite capable to shoot in almost any situation . The image quality is amazing and hard to believe that delivered by small camera body with big sensor 🙂

  • CM

    Nice to see you bring this up.  I know some folks who have them already.  I’m waiting for various reasons.  Cost and quality first.  I want to see what the bugs are and if they get them worked out and hopefully the cost will drop some.  My A550 is only a year old so it isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.  What is great about the new cameras is that they take the same memory cards, so it won’t be like film to digital where the camera still works but you can’t find film.  While waiting on how these work out – I did pre-order the Lytro

  • I bought the Panasonic GH1 last year, and love it. One perk is that all Micro Four Thirds lenses are interchangeable between manufacturers. It takes great pics, and I use them here: http://www.locophotogblog.com 

  • Glenn Mire

    As goes the mirror, how far behind will be the shutter?  Technology exists to ‘turn on/off” the sensor pixels now in any sequence or timing.  We could even have pattern activation to create special effects.  Think wave switching.

  • Trey, hope all is well.  You are 100% correct.  I’m unsure what the current dSLR market share is but within 5-10 years your so called “3rd generation cameras” will far surpass dSLR’s (I just told a few friends this over a month ago).  I switched from a Canon 5d MrkII and L series lenses to a Leica M9 and Leica M-mount lenses in 2010 and fell absolutely in love.  I literally carry my camera everywhere now because of how small it is and how wonderful the pictures are.  I can’t see my self ever going back to a dSLR on a regular basis again.  Keep up the good work!!!

    I don’t shoot a lot of HDR but I’ve attached 3 HDR’s taken with my Leica M9 using 7 exposures.

  • Michael Rasmussen

    You point out bodies come and go but glass stays with you.  Who has the lens quality?

    Disclaimer:  I bought a GX1 instead of a NEX because of Panasonic vs Sony lens comparisons.  Now if MFT primes would be available longer than 45mm…   

  • Peter Stokes

    Agreed.  Photographers go to great extremes for low light sensitivity and quality of bokeh.  Can’t dismiss those too quickly (or put another way DSLRs will increasingly have a unique advantage as more people move to “3G”).

  • Very smart, Rob, and well put. As much as DSLRs haven’t replaced middle or large format cams, the next generation won’t replace DSLRs. It’s a new segment and there’s use for it as well as DSLR will have its use in future. I loved to use my F4s for 10+ years but feel ashamed to carry my 2006  D70s. I’m looking forward to get a cheap D3s from one of the switchers … any offers as of yet, folks? 

  • Michael N Sutton

    Trey, a fantastic article, one area that really stood out to me was the caption for the photo of the boat, put any digital camera in the hands of a “good” photographer and he/she could produce a much better image than a “Gear Junkie” with the best DSLR body and all the lenses. I unfortunately know a few photographers who fit right into the “Gear Junkie” circle and they dont produce anything special at all, just saying.

    I have a Nikon D90 with only three lenses, and my trusty iPhone4, if I had the money would I buy a more expensive body? Possibly not. Would I like a better DSLR body and more lenses? Sure I would. But, I dont really think it would make a dramatic difference to my work.

    from Sydney Australia


  • Michael N Sutton

    Its not the camera, its the photographer

  • What about the RED you got? that camera is epic

  • I’m don’t think we’re going to see the current DSLR form factor disappear, nor I do think we’ll see the demise of the current F, A, or EF lens mounts. In my opinion  DSLRs will keep their mirrors and optical viewfinders. Instead of moving parts we’re going to see translucent mirrors replace the current mechanical mirrors we’re all accustom to. They might not be able to call them DSLRs anymore, but the concept is the same. The Sony A77 is nothing like the Sony NEX or any of the smaller interchangeable lens cameras in that regard. It still takes full size A mount lens and it still has an optical viewfinder. The future pro and semi-pro camera will not be moving to a micro 4/3rds lens mount. Asking photographers to give up film for digital was rough. Asking them to give up optical viewfinders and thousands upon thousands or dollars of glass? I just don’t see it happening. Also manufacturing smaller glass with the same optical quality would be prohibitively expensive.

    I don’t believe  EVFs will evolve quick enough. That technolgy has been around for a long time. While the resolutions and refresh rates have improved a little bit, they still suck at color reproduction, power consumption, and low light capability.   The Sony Nex gets about 330 shots per battery. That’s not even 1/4 of what you get with an old Nikon D80. A lot of EVF screens won’t work when really cold. Wrapping hand warmers around a battery is one thing, wrapping them around the whole camera might not work.

    I believe Cameras like the NEX and Nikon1 will slowly replace the superzooms or bridge camera of today and lower in price. They will kill off cameras like the Nikon P7000 and the Canon SX20IS. You can already pick up cameras like the Olympus E-PL1 for less than $300. The micro 4/3rds lens prices will also drop, and their build quality and performance will never be quite up to par with their full size cousins.  Not to say they aren’t good cameras, but I don’t think they aren’t the future enthusiast or pro camera.

    I’m betting in a few years we’ll see a Nikon D5, full frame, with a translucent mirror,  F mount, that shoots 20 FPS, at 30 MP. As long as they’ve been holding off on the D4, we might see it sooner than we thought.

    Obviously we don’t agree on how cameras are going to evolve, but I think we agree changes are coming fast. Even though I don’t completely agree thanks for posting this Trey. It got us all thinking about the future.

  • I’ve always wondered about this topic. I’ve tried out various 3G cameras and found them to be almost as responsive and fast as entry-mid ranged DSLRs, which made me question “why would I opt for a bigger, bulkier body, when I can have something much more compact?” I’m not really a pro, just a beginner who loves taking photographs so perhaps the technical pros and cons are lost to me. Either way it’s nice to see an authority of the subject comment on this. I was thinking of going for the NEX-7, but given its price I was thinking if maybe a DSLR would have been a smarter choice, but I think I have my answer now. Thanks Trey! =)

  • Anonymous

    I think you’ve caused me to change my wish-list. My T2i has been satisfactory but I need more lenses. my goal was to slowly purchase EF lenses from here on out to go with my future camera body. I think I may go ahead and purchase the 50 prime but wait on anything else to see what develops. A quick scan of B&H leads me to believe that Canon isn’t into the game just yet. I’d be curious to know who you think may emerge the leader in the technology. Maybe not one of the big two. 

  • Lee Highsmith

    Hey Stacy – I don’t think Trey is saying you shouldn’t buy a DSLR today.   I think he’s saying that the next platform is 3rd Gen/Mirrorless, and he’ll be adopting that.

    That said, with your budget, you could  take a hard look at the Nikon 1 system.  Check out Andy E.’s blog at nikonandeye – some good comparisons there.  I think Andy and Trey should get together and go on a shoot!

  • Golden Qi

    How about the flash ? You don’t mention any flash. You can’t have small body with a big flash, unless you can squeeze that flash smaller. I think that perfect 3rdGen cam as your term is not going to happened in near future. 3rdGen cam are still in beta state. But it might happen in future., lets say 5 more years or less.  I’ll keep future minded 🙂

  • Gunter Punter

    Sorry Jim.  I am waiting for the 5th generation.  I’m pretty confident that 5 comes after 4 and that the 5th is inevitably going to be different than the previous generation.  Also, on a serious note, I think Trey has a good point.  But, he is not looking at things the the way I see as correct, and so his opinion about what will happen is flawed in my humble opinion, fundamentally.  Smaller isn’t better.  It’s just different.  The camera manufacturers have different sizes for a reason and not the reasons he mentioned.  They still make the same size and larger size, cars compared to the original Model A Fords.  Bigger engines, bigger bodies, bigger cup holders.  This is because bigger is (let’s use it again) fundamentally less restrictive, because bigger means more of something.  If they can fit a full frame sensor (which of course already exists in the form of a Leica M9) in a  more compact body, then the bigger DSLRs, which might no longer be called DSLRs in the future, but are still within reason, the same form factor (sorry Trey, I know you built this into your article as an escape hatch but no one expects that DSLRs need to keep their viewfinders or mirrors in order to still be considered a DSLR class camera, just as you kindly pointed out that mirror-less cameras should really be called something else, but we call them this, because that’s what we do for now and we cannot reference the future because you never know if the false acronym will stick or not) will in fact, have larger sensors, closer to medium format size.  They also, like cars, have more features, bigger batteries (sorry Trey, battery space ranks higher in reason for the larger size of DSLRs than the mirror, and will batteries get smaller, sure, but then they will always have the +$800 to purchase price option for pros that want even more battery and therefore size),  more manual external buttons, etc.  I’m being very cautious not to say power for strong on camera flash, larger pro lens, etc., because I know we are talking about the future here, and in the future we must give reasonable doubt as to the usefulness of a large lens against some new fangled lens that is 1/8th the size, but gives better results, or the usefulness of flash with in camera capabilities.

    The reason why we don’t have full frame sensors on every point and shoot from here to Oshkosh is the cost of the sensor.  The cost of the sensor is just a side effect of the previous paragraph.  When more sensors in the 36mm range are being made, the cost for that size range will eventually find a way to become cheaper.  And then?  Larger, medium format sensors will be the thing for pro-sumers, because those will be more affordable.  But bigger will always give you more.

    So.  In closing, I think we can all agree than my point of view is correct, and that Trey’s is definately not a good enough point of view to continue to talk about.  It’s certainly not good enough to say that in the future, we will have the future, and so he will someday stop using his old stuff, and start to use new stuff.  But, since this is his site, I’ll go ahead and point out that it is probably futile to have enough respect for everyone to completely disagree with Trey.

    Let me also point out Trey, that if you do feel that once the shift really takes place to the point where you will buy that first transition camera that you were referring to, whatever it ends up being, besides what you explicitly mentioned, then that’s great for you.  But here’s what I think.  Anyone that makes that move, is moving down to where they natually should have been to begin with, but for some reason, were not compatible (in some way) with the category.  What was it Trey, the price of DSLRs?  The size of a DSLR?  Here’s what will really happen.  People like Trey (perhaps) will shift over to that some-day 3rd gen or whatever, and some others will shift (or as I mentioned before) actually stay in the same DSLRish (see above for why I call it  DSLRish) category.  Then there will be even others who will go up a category to where they should be, because once one category changes, all do (why?  because they are all the same product, but different categories within the same product).

    Let me just add that I think the place where Trey went wrong was when he innocently assumed that there is no business in the business of cameras.  Well, actually, let’s give him some credit.  He did for a brief moment, I think it was for about 5-8 seconds, talk about the business behind the tech.  You see, the camera manufacturers are purposely, but innocently, trying to figure out there own market can be set up for the future, and it is all built around the cost of sensors.  And it has nothing to do with flapping mirrors.  If they wanted to, they could do without those right now, and as Trey mentioned, in the future, they will not need mirrors for the viewfinder at all, but even right now, the reason they don’t go without mirrors in DSLRs has to do with a conscious business decision based on price and what consumer A. A soccer mom who doesn’t have the justification for a $800 camera to do snapshots of the kids.  And B.  The professional model photographer who can justify buying a more expensive camera because it leads to making money.  It has nothing to do with the fact that viewfinder lcds are a bit slow, that wouldn’t stop them btw.  That’s not the type of businessmen we are dealing with here.  They just don’t have that complex of a decision making process.  Think basic but innocent, and restricted by things that they think they cannot influence yet, like sensor prices.  Also, don’t forget the Japanese business model and how when the price of silicon goes down, chip prices go down, etc etc, and every Business from here to some Japanese town that manufactures chips is effected, yet may be supplying Nikon with chips (Japanese business model – several businesses actually make up one big business – I blame the compactness of the country and the density of corporate headquarters in such a small country).

    In closing, I feel that there will be a new class of consumer brought into the world of cameras.  But as usual, this new class brought to cameras is the same class that is brought into every improving product.  Drum roll please…..teenagers.  Why?  Smarter than their predecessors (some would say without the ability to harness it however), brought up with the technology therefore inherent and not limited by ability or traitor or socially forced cast (even the blond cheer leader expects that it’s normal to be out with a top of the line 3rd etc gen camera).

    And to conclude, here’s what I see:  A DSLRish camera, same round about size as now, viewfinder with all of the future upgrades, all features of the future, same form factor (as mentioned) with many buttons and nobs, some more on the lcd, but still physical, large battery as there are now, no on camera flashes on any DSLRish cameras, smaller lenses, bigger sensors, as in full frame or above in DSLRish cameras, faster fps by far, but not far above what the human eye can see or usefully process or organize around to get the right shot for sure on set (pro set or sons bday party set).



  • pl capeli

    like the difference between mirror box 43 and mirrorless m43 they use identical sensor 
    7-14 f4 lens for the mirror version is about 2 lbs …… 7-14 f4 mivro 43 for mirorless same sized sensor? 10.5 ozs

  • Anonymous

    When I need low light sensitivity I bring out my dad’s old Yashica Electro 35 and then cross my fingers. I really want to get my hands on one of these 3G cameras. As you can see I have never been comfortable with the whole SLR system and prefer a mirrorless system. 

  • Anonymous

    Great article, Trey!  I saw a snipit of it this morning before leaving for work and it was hard to keep my eyes diverted from my I-pod at work.  Now that I’m home, just wanted to weigh in on the topic:

    I just got a new Canon 7D a few weeks ago and I’ve been struggling to overcome the learning curve between that and my older 40D.  (After one frustrating night, I actually told my husband that I thought it would be my last camera as I’m getting older and sometimes feel a little overwhelmed with technology.)  I almost bought one or 2 new lenses this Christmas, but held off and now I’m glad I did.  After reading your topic today, I’m now thinking of selling my 40D off. The idea of lugging the heavy thing with another heavy camera and heavy lenses just doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather haul a 7D and a lighter camera for a backup. 

    Secondly, yours were not the first words I heard that predicted this trend as my local photo guru said the same thing to me about 2 weeks ago. I guess amazing minds think alike.  (And it take 2 of them to get thru to mine!)

    I may need to re-think my comment the other night about my last new camera.  I’m hoping my husband was too busy reading or something…

  • Gotcha Trey. Thanks for replying. It was only a question about the sponsoring with Nikon. And thanks, you got me re-starting a little bit with HDR. So merci again. Keep up the good work. I am still learning as you can see…

  • Bill Dodd

    Fantastic write up Trey!  

  • Um… so, lens quality? Are the current crop of lenses for cameras like the Sony NEX-5 sharp? These 3rd-generation cameras sound appealing, but we all know that lenses are incredibly important. I’m just not seeing too many reviews of mirror-less cameras. 

  • Gordon Laing

    The Nikon 1 system also employs phase change and does so without a mirror by integrating it into the sensor. And it works a treat.

  • Scott Jackson

    I generally agree that the DSLR as we currently know it will die, but does that mean purchasing a new lens  These new “3rd Gen” cameras don’t have the full frame size — as has been pointed out — and photographers will likely still want that bigger sensor (“FX” size in Nikon-speak) for the low light quality and bokeh.  As technology advances, it gets applied to both small and large sensors approximately equally, so someone that’s happy with a point and shoot (or 3rd gen) gets the advantage of light weight while someone else that can afford the weight gets the advantage of the physics in a larger sensor.   I know guys that aren’t happy with DSLRs that own $20,000 medium format Hasselblad digitals.  My guess is that this format will die out first and you’ll see the high end guys switch to full frame in mirrorless camera that are basically DSLRs without a prism or viewfinder, but still use the lenses (there already is the widest variety and selection available currently — telephoto, wide angle, perspective control, true macro, primes with large apertures (f/1.2), etc.) which are already built to handle a full frame sensor.  Cameras are tools and you use different tools for different jobs.  Blasphemy on this site, I know, but not every picture requires HDR processing.  Not everything requires perspective control, scheimpflug, macro, or insert-your-technique-here.

    I recently purchased and started shooting with a 4×5 view camera that uses film.  I can take a group photo at a family reunion with 150 people in it, and after I develop and scan the film, I can blow it up big enough to clearly see every individual face in a way you can’t do with a DSLR — but I can’t shoot sports with it.  You can get the equivalent of 100 megapixels by shooting large film and scanning it (relatively cheaply, btw), but it only makes sense if you are going to print something the size of a wall.  A view camera is technology that is 150 years old, but still works great for specific applications.  Each tool according to its purpose, right?  Advantages and disadvantages always.

    The viewfinder and prism  and mirror don’t play any role in the physics of getting a good image out of the sensor, so I certainly can see that going away — the term “DSLR” will likely have less meaning, but does that mean we’re all just going to shift to smaller cameras with smaller sensors and smaller lenses?  I think it’s more likely we’ll just see camera bodies that take current lenses but drop the components that are anachronistic.



    About the attached image:  Composite of 400 images of the Amgen Helix Bridge (Seattle) shot at 1am using colored gels on the flash with very fast shutter speed (to defeat the abundant ambient light from the numerous white lights present).  Not HDR, not film — needed wireless flash system, tripod, timed-multiple autoexposure in the camera, and Photoshop.  A different technique and a different tool to achieve a different look.

  • Gordon Laing

    There’s a lot of people commenting that smaller and lighter isn’t necessarily better, and it’s true that ergonomically a nice big DSLR with a fat grip does feel a lot more secure than some tiny cameras. But again I keep coming back to the fact I only take my DSLR out when I intend to take photos, whereas I’ll take a mirrorless ILC with me at ALL times – like a phone. And as the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. It’s also worth noting that a smaller, lighter camera can also mean smaller, lighter accessories. I can get away with a much smaller and lighter tripod when supporting an M4/3 or NEX than a large DSLR, and again that means the tripod is more likely to be taken with me.

    Either way, I love that so many people here are into the idea of mirrorless-ILCs or even own them. I’m convinced that they are more appropriate for many buyers of budget DSLRs. I personally believe pro level DLRs will remain for sports or very low-light shooters who really need an optical viewfinder, and of course those who simply love the ergonomics of the body, but at the lower-end, I think budget DSLRs culd be wiped-out by mirror-less ILCs quite soon.

    PS – since I suspect many of you may be into bracketing (!) you may be interested to know the Panasonic GX1 offers 3, 5 andf even 7 frame exposure bracketing up to a stop apart. And as a shameless plug for my site, my next review will be of the GX1.

  • Gordon Laing

    Good point, but as for not seeing many reviews of mirror-less cameras? Where are you looking?! All of the major photography review sites have been doing loads of reviews of them. As for mirrorless ILC lenses, I’ve reviewed a few at Cameralabs and will have some more coming very soon!

  • Oops! I meant to write “reviews of lenses” for mirror-less cameras. I see a lot of reviews of the bodies or the bodies with the kit lenses, but not too many reviews of the available lenses (though they are few, but the Carl Zeiss 24mm 1.8 for the NEX cameras is one example).

  • Current DSLRs are horse carts where the horse has been replaced with a steam engine. The cart will also have to change a lot when the engine gets better in the future. I’m also waiting for the revolution that software brings to cameras.

    Our current cameras are still crippled by the film age legacy that doesn’t allow us to see the true potential of digital.

  • Scott Jackson

    I’m glad you said that about the lens changes and dust.  I wasn’t sure why Trey said that in the article since I would think the mirror slap is just as likely to dislodge dust off the sensor as throw it onto the sensor.  The issue is that dust gets into the camera in the first place, which is a function of removable lenses.

  • Scott Jackson

    Good post.  As I said in my post earlier this evening, I started shooting with a 4×5 view camera (film) recently, and the tech is pretty low.  I’m still learning how to use it, but you can make some pretty spectacular images with one as anyone who has flipped through an Ansel Adams coffee-table book could attest.  You have to learn how to use the equipment you have.

  • 12 frames per second? WTF is wrong with you people? 
    Capturing a thousand frames is insane- this is Art!

  • Thanks, Scott. Another friend of mine moved back toward film and a view camera, and he has produced some stunning images. It just goes to show…

  • I like the feel of a bigger camera.  However, give me the body of a DSLR, the optics of the mirrorless 3rd generation camera and come up with a “through the lens” system of an eye-level viewfinder (get rid of parallax), and I’m on board.  I cannot stand taking eye-level shots with an LCD screen.

  • Thank you, Norbert. Here’s hoping that you get that D3s!

  • It’s hard to do an apples to apples comparison, since Leica’s lenses are all (?) manual focus primes.  But looking at a couple similarly spec’d lenses, there isn’t a substantial difference.  I don’t think it’s fair to compare autofocus vs. manual or vastly different max aperture lenses.  I doubt that just because the industry is changing to these 3G bodies/lenses, the vast majority of users are going to be willing to give up autofocus or zooms.  So saying that Leica’s small, sharp primes are small isn’t the best argument, IMO.

    Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH = 56 x 46/58mm (diameter x length with/without hood), 320g
    Nikon 35mm f/1.4 manual focus = 68.6×60.9mm (diameter x length), 399g

    Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH = 53.5 x 52.5mm (diameter x length), 335g
    Nikon 50mm f/1.4 manual focus = 63.5×40.6mm (diameter x length), 246.4g

    Note I’m not at all saying these particular Nikon lenses are the equal of the Leicas; I’ve never used any of the four.  As I said it’s hard to find direct comparisons due to AF and the popularity of zooms, especially for “consumer class” cameras.  I’m just saying that no, the Leica lenses are not “extremely small” when compared to similarly spec’d DSLR FX lenses.  So going mirrorless does not automatically shrink lenses by the same ratio as the bodies.

  • Anonymous

    That doesn’t answer his question.

  • Anonymous

    Not all photography is art. It can also be journalistic. Sports photographers, news photographers, and even wildlife photographers would love to see fps exceed their current limits. Some paint brushes are used only on canvas, while others are used to paint houses.

  • Steve Kalman

    The biggest issue for me is weight. I’m getting too old to lug around a DLSR and zoom lens on my shoulder or a backpack full of gear all day.   I have a Canon 60D and an assortment of lenses that I use in studio, but I carry a G12 on a daily basis and on vacation.

    However, your gear = good photographer stereotype is spot on. On our recent vacation to Costa Rica I took the G12. Some others on the trip with DLSRs dismissed me a as a know-nothing beginner and ignored some useful advice/comments. OF course, the proof is in the Flickr streams afterwards, but while I think my pix are better, I doubt if I convinced them of anything. Not that it matters to me, of course.  Still, a pro on assignment might not get the cooperation from a client that he needs if the client doesn’t take the photographer seriously.

  • I too am confused.  I’m looking  to “invest” in my first system.  Trey I believe someone could generate a lot of traffic by offering advice on this dilemma.

  • Pentax has the right idea with their Limited series of high quality compact lenses. A K-series dSLR + 3 Limiteds weighs only 3 lbs!  Coupled with a carbon fiber tripod like the Gitzo GT1541, I’ve got a superlight 35mm system that is as capable in the studio as it is in the backcountry.

  • Capturing the right moment is essential in many types of photography. Why not use all the tools available? In the future software will assist us more when selecting the perfect moment from the many frames.

  • Gunter Punter

    I am waiting for the 5th generation.  I’m pretty confident that 5 comes
    after 4 and that the 5th is inevitably going to be different than the
    previous generation.  Also, on a serious note, I think Trey has a good
    point.  But, he is not looking at things the the way I see as correct,
    and so his opinion about what will happen is flawed in my humble
    opinion, fundamentally.  Smaller isn’t better.  It’s just different. 
    The camera manufacturers have different sizes for a reason and not the
    reasons he mentioned.  They still make the same size and larger size,
    cars compared to the original Model A Fords.  Bigger engines, bigger
    bodies, bigger cup holders.  This is because bigger is (let’s use it
    again) fundamentally less restrictive, because bigger means more of
    something.  If they can fit a full frame sensor (which of course already
    exists in the form of a Leica M9) in a  more compact body, then the
    bigger DSLRs, which might no longer be called DSLRs in the future, but
    are still within reason, the same form factor (sorry Trey, I know you
    built this into your article as an escape hatch but no one expects that
    DSLRs need to keep their viewfinders or mirrors in order to still be
    considered a DSLR class camera, just as you kindly pointed out that
    mirror-less cameras should really be called something else, but we call
    them this, because that’s what we do for now and we cannot reference the
    future because you never know if the false acronym will stick or not)
    will in fact, have larger sensors, closer to medium format size.  They
    also, like cars, have more features, bigger batteries (sorry Trey,
    battery space ranks higher in reason for the larger size of DSLRs than
    the mirror, and will batteries get smaller, sure, but then they will
    always have the +$800 to purchase price option for pros that want even
    more battery and therefore size),  more manual external buttons, etc. 
    I’m being very cautious not to say power for strong on camera flash,
    larger pro lens, etc., because I know we are talking about the future
    here, and in the future we must give reasonable doubt as to the
    usefulness of a large lens against some new fangled lens that is 1/8th
    the size, but gives better results, or the usefulness of flash with in
    camera capabilities.

    The reason why we don’t have full frame
    sensors on every point and shoot from here to Oshkosh is the cost of the
    sensor.  The cost of the sensor is just a side effect of the previous
    paragraph.  When more sensors in the 36mm range are being made, the cost
    for that size range will eventually find a way to become cheaper.  And
    then?  Larger, medium format sensors will be the thing for pro-sumers,
    because those will be more affordable.  But bigger will always give you

    So.  In closing, I think we can all agree than my point of
    view is correct, and that Trey’s is definately not a good enough point
    of view to continue to talk about.  It’s certainly not good enough to
    say that in the future, we will have the future, and so he will someday
    stop using his old stuff, and start to use new stuff.  But, since this
    is his site, I’ll go ahead and point out that it is probably futile to
    have enough respect for everyone to completely disagree with Trey.

    me also point out Trey, that if you do feel that once the shift really
    takes place to the point where you will buy that first transition camera
    that you were referring to, whatever it ends up being, besides what you
    explicitly mentioned, then that’s great for you.  But here’s what I
    think.  Anyone that makes that move, is moving down to where they
    natually should have been to begin with, but for some reason, were not
    compatible (in some way) with the category.  What was it Trey, the price
    of DSLRs?  The size of a DSLR?  Here’s what will really happen.  People
    like Trey (perhaps) will shift over to that some-day 3rd gen or
    whatever, and some others will shift (or as I mentioned before) actually
    stay in the same DSLRish (see above for why I call it  DSLRish)
    category.  Then there will be even others who will go up a category to
    where they should be, because once one category changes, all do (why? 
    because they are all the same product, but different categories within
    the same product).

    Let me just add that I think the place where
    Trey went wrong was when he innocently assumed that there is no business
    in the business of cameras.  Well, actually, let’s give him some
    credit.  He did for a brief moment, I think it was for about 5-8
    seconds, talk about the business behind the tech.  You see, the camera
    manufacturers are purposely, but innocently, trying to figure out there
    own market can be set up for the future, and it is all built around the
    cost of sensors.  And it has nothing to do with flapping mirrors.  If
    they wanted to, they could do without those right now, and as Trey
    mentioned, in the future, they will not need mirrors for the viewfinder
    at all, but even right now, the reason they don’t go without mirrors in
    DSLRs has to do with a conscious business decision based on price and
    what consumer A. A soccer mom who doesn’t have the justification for a
    $800 camera to do snapshots of the kids.  And B.  The professional model
    photographer who can justify buying a more expensive camera because it
    leads to making money.  It has nothing to do with the fact that
    viewfinder lcds are a bit slow, that wouldn’t stop them btw.  That’s not
    the type of businessmen we are dealing with here.  They just don’t have
    that complex of a decision making process.  Think basic but innocent,
    and restricted by things that they think they cannot influence yet, like
    sensor prices.  Also, don’t forget the Japanese business model and how
    when the price of silicon goes down, chip prices go down, etc etc, and
    every Business from here to some Japanese town that manufactures chips
    is effected, yet may be supplying Nikon with chips (Japanese business
    model – several businesses actually make up one big business – I blame
    the compactness of the country and the density of corporate headquarters
    in such a small country).

    In closing, I feel that there will be a
    new class of consumer brought into the world of cameras.  But as usual,
    this new class brought to cameras is the same class that is brought
    into every improving product.  Drum roll please…..teenagers.  Why? 
    Smarter than their predecessors (some would say without the ability to
    harness it however), brought up with the technology therefore inherent
    and not limited by ability or traitor or socially forced cast (even the
    blond cheer leader expects that it’s normal to be out with a top of the
    line 3rd etc gen camera).

    And to conclude, here’s what I see:  A
    DSLRish camera, same round about size as now, viewfinder with all of the
    future upgrades, all features of the future, same form factor (as
    mentioned) with many buttons and nobs, some more on the lcd, but still
    physical, large battery as there are now, no on camera flashes on any
    DSLRish cameras, smaller lenses, bigger sensors, as in full frame or
    above in DSLRish cameras, faster fps by far, but not far above what the
    human eye can see or usefully process or organize around to get the
    right shot for sure on set (pro set or sons bday party set).



  • Ashley Walters

    To update my previous thought about things holding me back from a NEX-5n…besides lenses the flash issue is a big one. I don’t use one often, but when I do I never use tiny fill flash on the camera. My current flash set up will not work with a NEX-5n without some Rube Goldberg style fix. Maybe the next gen cameras will address that. I think the NEX-7 already does.

  • Wow. You’re quite the controversy stirrer Mr. Trey. =) Who even knew??
     I personally enjoyed your insight and look forward to the new horizons in photography equipment.
    I have one question why are these beta 3rd generation camera that are now available so inexpensive? Because they are smaller? 
    ps love your blog

  • Trey, David Brommer here from the Event Space and respectfully, I must disagree with you a few notes. 1. the ergonomics of the DSLR is a time tested device that promotes form and function. While for traveling, the small size of what ever you want to call them is fine, but for serious shooting, the placement of buttons and grip of a DSLR for pro’s is tantamount. 2. Large sensors = less noise, and this is true for at least the next 3 to 5 years. 3. Tele Photo Lenses, SLR’s can use high focal length, especially fast ones. So for sports or wildlife, you ain’t gonna see mirror less make any headway. The aforementioned ergonomics of the DSLR also make using the big glass much easier.  and when are you coming back to the B&H Event Space? We could continue this in front of 75 attendees… 🙂

  • Holy Sweet Mother!

    Trey, shame on you for poking your stick into the trolls nest.

    I feel as you do – it’s the picture that you sell that makes the money that puts the food on your table, the shirt on your back and your offspring through school, that matters, not the size of your camera/lens.

    If a smaller less expensive and good quality camera does the job better, great.

    All other flagellating is just a bunch of hormones driving around in a car with fat tires and an itty bitty steering wheel – what we used to call the “big-penis” car, because the driver had such a small package he had to show it next to a tiny steering wheel to make it feel big.

    I guess now we’ll have to talk about big-penis cameras.

  • Flagellating … love it! @Daleus:disqus

  • I suppose it’s easy for Trey to wait and see what happens because he already has the two best Nikon cameras ever made (D3X, D3S) along with a bag full of high-end lenses.  Waiting to see what happens with Sony et al is not going to hurt his ability to shoot anything he wants.  To be honest, I don’t think the D4 is a worthwhile upgrade for him given what he shoots.  The D4 is a sports/wildlife/photojournalist camera and Trey doesn’t really do any of that.  He likes, and maybe needs, the resolution of the D3X so that is a keeper.  Maybe he can replace the D3S with the D4 if the new body has better low light performance though to be honest that upgrade is unlikely to be a huge jump and it will cost $6000.  The value of making the switch is questionable at best.

    If the D800 really is 36MP and you can get one without the anti-aliasing filter I bet Trey would be tempted to at least try it out 😉

  • Michael Connell

    I totally agree!  It’s hard to get the motivation to lug my Canon 5D beast around lately since acquiring a Fuji X100.  Check out my review of this neat camera: http://texasshooter.blogspot.com/2011/12/fujifilm-x100-review.html

  • Some valid points but you used “in closing” twice and didn’t close then finally “to conclude”…

    I don’t agree that bigger is always better.  I’m happy my iphone is much smaller than the previous generation of phones.  It does much more, does it better, and is smaller than what came before.

  • I agree with yoru point that the new mirrorless models will erode the market for low end DSLR cameras.  Most users who want a basic camera would prefer smaller over bigger.  They also want basic features and a few lenses to choose from.  Maybe Trey is right, but I just don’t see any of these mirrorless cameras replacing a D4 type body in the next several years.

  • Hi Trey – Happy New Year (sorry I missed you this year for the Driskill Photowalk).

    Provocative article!

    While I like the way you are thinking, and my hands, arms, and back are really hoping you are right, there is a bit of a problem that I think you may be over looking… the Moore’s Law you reference (and possibly physics as well).

    More to the point chip fabrication is starting to run into both technological limits as well as economic ones, people in the industry sometimes refer to this as the End of Moore’s Law (something Intel will deny, but is obvious to anyone who remembers their 8GHz road map back in 2000).  Moore’s law used to mean you could produce 2x the transistors at the same cost every 2 years.  This was gained through fabrication process shrinks – transistors getting smaller.  What’s now broken is we are starting to approach the hairy edge of how to make these transistors any smaller as some of the wires are already down to a molecule in width, and the insolation  is likewise that thickness which leads to electrons jumping – sometimes referred to as leakage.  Beyond the technical barriers, there are economic ones.  Fabrication of fabrication plants are rising in crazy ways – you might have noticed fewer and fewer people in the business, this is one reason.  It may well be that unless the volumes are in the 100’s of millions that jumping to smaller process fabrication isn’t worth the benefit it brings for a great number of products. 

    All that is a way of saying, I’m not sure the technology road is unlimited as you think it may be… and sensor size (or rather pixel size) is likely to still matter far into the  future and advances in them may come to the same kind of sputtering halt that glass technology has.

    Now I do agree the days of the Pentaprism and Flip up Mirror are certainly numbered (and 5 years is as good a guess as any), and I’ve already found myself using my iPhone 4s to replace my point and shoots simply because it is “good enough” and always ready and in my pocket.   I suspect the true 3rd generation units will simply be phones (killing point and shoots and likely camcorders), and that the 2nd generation will slowly become a 2.5 generation keeping the interchange lens and getting rid of the mirror.  And likely used for those occasions where the quality of the colors, dynamic range, low light or shutter speed performance, and creative options via lens choice matter (as well as the size you can blow it up to).  

    (It also remains to be seen if the user base will support a move from the existing investment in lens – the value of an ecosystem and connector can’t be understated – as Apple as shown with their iPod connector.).


  • Andrew Dodd

    As I said, a mirrorless device can never have a PD system added on.  The item you link above adds a mirror – so it’s no longer mirrorless.  Once you add that gadget, it’s a frightfully expensive DSLR with horrific ergonomics.  (I consider translucent-mirror devices to lie far more towards the DSLR end of the spectrum than the MILC one.)

    Translucent-mirror cameras will remain a niche for 14-16 more years.  (assumption: patents were only granted or applied for 1-3 years ago to Sony.)

  • It looks like you are talking, in part, about the return of rangefinders – technology that predates SLRs and dates a century. The Leica M9 is the latest in a long series of such cameras, also called telemeters.

  • Kyoshi Becker

    Fuji is smart and playing with em too 🙂

  • so what do we do with all our old equipment? what about the thousands of dollars we’ve invested in lenses??? at least with moving from film to digital, we could use the same lenses. this sucks!

  • Anonymous

    I thought I’d put this out here people!! I’ve still got my Canon 1D Mark II. It’s got 8.5 fps, and 8mp. Really, I don’t need anymore than that. Sure, I’ll upgrade to the Mark IV or the new 1Dx, but for right now, it accommodates my purposes perfectly! Not to mention that the release date of that camera was in 2004; 8 years ago!!

  • William Zhang

    I feel sorry to let you that the SONY A77 does not have an optical viewfinder. It is in fact EVF. The translucent mirror only reflects as little as 5% total light to make phase detect AF work, there is no way that a translucent fixed mirror can be used to give you an optical view finder.

  • William Zhang

    This reminds me of the lame phones and toy cameras which plays a shutter sound through their built in SPEAKER when you take a picture!

    A well built mechanical shutter does give you confidence when taking shots.

    Also, A true next gen camera should have no moving parts at all. If there is no mirror but still a mechanical shutter, I would only call it a 2.5Gen camera (Like SONY SLT). The part that has highest wear and tear and failure rate is the shutter blades not the mirror.

  • William Zhang

    Waiter’s gonna wait. Maybe after 10 years you are still waiting… on the 10th Gen Cameras. sigh

  • Nice piece. For our blog, we shoot with both. DSLR results are always better, but the Olympus pen E-p1 holds its own as well. Will be interesting to see where this all goes.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting article Trey,
    I’m just about to invest in an intermediate DSLR and while I think you are correct, for the average punter out there, unfortunately perception is reality. Turning up to a gig with less than ‘expected’ gear may be frowned upon until the results are shared. Like film vs digital, there will be room for all types, but the bulk of the market will shift ‘with time’ and when the technology is good enough.   

  • Anonymous

    This is no surprise and is nothing really new. Photography, electronics and digital media have fully merged. I have been there already, I use full frame DSLRs, crop frame DSLR, M4/3 , NEX, Leica M9, Fujifilm X 100 and iPhone 4s. I use them all at different times for different effects you can do some things with any of the camera but if I want nice bokeh, long fast lenses,  fast shooting or high ISO (X100 and NEX are exception for high ISO) still the only choice is DSLR, but I can’t walk around   for 16 hours with a 30 lb bag or cameras so sometimes I’ll just go out with x100 and M4/3.  I’ve been into photography for 40 years, I love cameras, I love photography and I look forward and embrace it’s growth and changes. Camera manufacturers need to look toward the future look at software (not just making more megapixels) as well as social media and avoid getting in a situation the the former King of 20th Century Photography Kodak has gotten itself into by ignoring software. Cameras need to be more like iPhones or communicate with iPhones. It’s all a journey but I don’t feel I made mistakes with my camera choices and continue to look forward to the future of photography. The next gen DSLR still may be the best choice for someone  even if it is not for you.

  • Andrea Boyle

    Hey, Trey, have you ever thought of running for President some day?  Love your forward thinking… 

  • Moore’s Law can’t apply to photographic sensors, where physical size does matter. A die shrink for a photographic sensor means a smaller sensor, and that doesn’t make any sense; the sensors still need to be big enough for light to hit them in meaningful ways. Better lithography gave us higher megapixel counts, and tiny little sensors, but the megapixel race (in consumer cameras, at least) has been over for years.

    We’ll still get quicker and more efficient data processing and storage, as Moore’s Law generally states.

  • marguerite brainerd

    Your video in Yosemite was quite interesting and I was fascinated to learn more. I am only an amateur using Canon point and shoots.

  • I enjoyed your thoughtful & controversial post.  

    I had been thinking exactly the same thing up until earlier this week.  These cameras will open the door for more photographers to take better photos, but they are still only tools.

    The Segway didn’t replace the motor car & I don’t think this next generation of camera will replace the DSLR… well not yet anyway…

    Love your work.

  • I will be sticking with my current gear until it burns out on me because I simply can’t afford to keep up with the speed in which any technology moves these days.  I think that most new technology now removes need for the user to have a good understanding of the product and the discipline that goes with it. I also think that a big part of the “art” of photography is the preparation for your photo – not just hitting the shutter button and with these 3rd Gen cameras much of that will be lost. They also offers a lot of unnecessary options like 60 FPS – I do sports photography and I do well at 4FPS – anything more and my memory cards are gunked up with images I  don’t need. I’ve also seen adverts for cameras that start taking photos before you even hit a button which totally defeats the point of photography for me. Part of looking back on the memorable images i’ve captured was thinking about the effort i put into taking them. I also have a better appreciation of my equipment to and have no problem whatsoever swapping lenses, cleaning sensors and all these sorts of things because to me that’s part of the fun. The day that I don’t need to do anything to take a great photo because the machine does it for me, is the day that I give up photography. I’m a believer that if something works then it doesn’t need fixed – i won’t buy into something (expensive)  unless I have no other choice in the matter – sadly though that’s the way technology companies push us now. I’ll still be using the same gear in 20 years time (fingers crossed) and I’m sure that the difference in quality will be marginal – it’s not a machine that knows how to capture a great image – it’s the person looking through the lens that does. Any comments about me being a dinosaur will be acceptable because I like dinosaurs 🙂

  • I agree with everyting you say here Mike – i think anything over 10fps is overkill – all hail the 1DS MK2

  • go forD 5100 or even better D7000 if you want nikon

  • Anonymous

    I have only found this site recently, I have never written on a “forum”, and have listed your site as a favorite………..that’s all just changed. What absolute “waffle”. Talk about selling out. Since when has photography been about making money? I always thought it was about creating “Art”. If you can make just as much money using these 3rd gen cameras, well done. I don’t have the money to throw away all my hard work collecting lenses and gear. Do you really think that once these 3rd gen cameras catch up the the quality produced by a DSLR and the quality of the current lenses out there, that the DSLR will not also improve? Big lenses are for optics, not for looking like a stud. Big cameras produce big pictures, not big egos. Do you really think dust won’t get into your 3rd gen camera? Thats like ‘saying dust does not get into a weather sealed DSLR. Stick to what you do well, taking photos and editing them. SLR / DSLR have been around for so long because they work. Yes, they have room for improvement, but 3rd gen??? Show some respect to the gear, and the people who have made you what you are. And guess what….. I heard about you through a magazine.

  • Gekke Henkie

    Interesting reading material, especially now I’m considering to upgrade now.

    On a more lighter tone, I’d like to mention that I am way ahead of you. I’m taking the “less gear, more vision” to the extreme. I go for a PERSONAL upgrade instead of a gear upgrade. On my shopping list are 
    1) better eyes and
    2) a connector plugged directly into the visual centers of my brain. 

    After that operation I can use my eyes as lenses and my brain as the sensor and storage. Why this maddness? The advantages far outweighs the disadvantages as I seen it:
    – I never have to worry about loosing gear, empty batteries or misplaced data cards
    – I always have my gear with me without any extra bags
    – I’ve got my hands free (dont underestimate this)
    – My eyes are more light sensitivity than any sensor
    – My viewfinder is over 100% (fovea and parafovea)
    – Instant autofocus and object tracking
    – Shutterlag? What is that
    – Built-in option for high-res movie, stereoscopy and REAL HDR
    – Lomography? A little alcohol does miracles! 
     – No more pesky menus to find one setting 
    – And one for the pro’s: you cannot get any more intimate than this, because there is no more box to hide behind
    – Of course, this also applies to movie, but then I’d have to get my ears done as well
    – Did I mention that I am opting the wireless version.  Then I can continuously stream my images to every possible surface and bore the hell out of everyone. Forget about cat pics on FlickR!  

    The only disadvantages I:
    – Current state of the art in the field of direct human-machine interface.
    – The price. It won’t be cheap. I accept donations of course. But if more people are interested, we can probably get a discount.
    – Old age. Your eyes and brain slowly deteriorate over time. 
    – Malware. That is probably gonna upgrade ass well. I don’t want any ads on my screen, let alone in my head.
    – External flashes. I’d probably need a ocket/brain wizard trigger as well.

    Still  I say: bring it on!   

    PS: This is me just thinking aloud. Jules Verne did the same over a century ago.  

  • Nathan Robert

    Quick, somebody tell Leica and Zeiss that their small lenses are not up to the standards of the “big lense” optics!

  • Hmmm. And here I was waiting for Canon to put all the goodies from the 7d into the next 5d whatever!

  • I don’t agree with you but I like the way you wrote and I think you have a good attitude.  🙂

  • Anonymous

    Trey, Thanks for the forum and topic.  For some of us, this could lead to some good prices on quality used DSLR gear, including those long lenses.  Hurry up you “leading edge” folks, upgrade and sell your older stuff. 

  • Jeremy Adams

    Scott Bourne just linked me over to this post, Trey, and I’m glad you posted it. Really cleared the air for me on why the Leica M9 is so popular. Since my Nikon D40 will need to be replaced some day, I now know what to look forward to – lighter, mirrorless, LESS EXPENSIVE, 3rd Gen cameras! Thanks again for writing this article.

  • james m

    Nice article. I love my 7d, and don’t like the micros, but would love to see some of the older tech. Rangefinder, diaphragm shutters, sturdy bodies that are somewhat smaller, etc, go into an affordable camera. That would be sweet. The old Voigtlander Vitomatic II as a digital, with interchangeable lenses would be a big hit, I think. Especially for folks who like old school photography. I’m not an expert or pro, just saying what I’d like to see.

  • Thanks Michele i’m glad you liked my writing style – I don’t know if I have a good attitude or not. I think that being less open to new technological ideas is probably not a good idea these days buts that’s just who I am I guess. I like a challenge so getting the chance to use my hands and my brain and solve problems  is important and I would get so very bored if I had a camera that did all that for me.

  • Sean Walsh

    Hi Trey – love your work, although I’m as much a fan of LDR as I am of HDR.  I really appreciate your view of the world, though.

    I wanted to chime in on this one – I think you make a great case, and in light of how uninspiring I find the new D4 to be, I can’t imagine the need to upgrade my D700 until an overhaul is done to the design of the DSLR.  In the case of 3rd gen, I think that might really be the tipping point for what can be done next.

    However, I have to disagree with the notion that all/most/many  photographers will eschew the heavy, bulky pro camera in favour of portability.  I know of several photographers who made the switch from one camera brand to another because durability was of paramount concern.  When the 3rd gen cameras start getting built with that in mind, then I think the pro market will start to seriously consider it.  Not to mention the fact that many of the photographers I know have big hands – I can’t imagine something so small in their mitts that makes it harder to push one button with out accidentally hitting another.  Size matters for beefy North Americans.  The Japanese know this. 

    Now, I’ll be opening a can of worms with this next statement, but hear me out:  There’s something to be said for using gear that looks like pro-level gear.  I’m a wedding photographer, and I carry 2 primes and a wide-zoom on my D700 w/grip.  When people see me working, they know that I’m “THE PHOTOGRAPHER”.  If I were to show up with a 3rd gen camera that is the size of everyone else’s point and shoot, people are going to mistake me for one of the guests.  In the wedding industry, word-of-mouth is just as important as advertising in wedding magazines, and if you don’t look the part of a wedding photographer, other potential clients at the reception won’t approach you for a business card.  Yes, I whole-heartedly agree, portfolio speaks louder than gear, but sadly 99% of the non-photogaphic community don’t get that, and when you need to be visible as a pro, the size of the gear helps sell that. 

    Finally, and I think most importantly, Nikon and Canon would be absolutely brain-dead if they embraced the new technology in their pro lines, but abandoned their current lens mounts because the bodies can be smaller.  Think of the number of photographers that would abandon brands they stuck to for years, even decades.  To flip the bird at your pro-market in such a way would be suicidal, and they know that.  I suspect that they’ll go the route that Sony has with their a77 – or develop similar tech – and we know that the Minolta A-Mount is supported on Sony’s translucent-mirror cameras.  So I think that, while the consumer end might lean towards smaller and lighter cameras with new lenses to match the bodies,  Nikon & Canon will re-engineer their existing pro bodies to be lighter and more agile, yet retaining their respective mounts so as not to lose the customers they already have.  ‘Cause if Nikon stops making F-mount bodies, I’ll ditch my system and go Leica.  Nikon doesn’t want that, neither does Canon.

    My final thoughts are this – hold on to your lenses and wait to see what CaNikon do next.  One or the other will adopt the new tech, the other will follow suit and we’ll back to where we were a decade ago, fighting over who has better-this or worser-that.  Fun.

  • C

    Red has been saying for a few years that the future of the still camera is…the video camera.  Their tag word is DSMC.  

  • Jorge Martinez

    The future will tell who is right. I bet Trey is. In any case, many thanks for sharing your thougths, I’m sure it is not easy because it may upset some of your audience

  • Michael,

    There is a better name for “Gear Junkie.”

    It’s the term Measurebator.

    Google it and get a great laugh from it.

    I soooo know a few! 

  • Don’t like it  – but I think you are completely right! (and that “don’t like thing” is just because I am used to the feel of a SLR, my kids probably will think of that as a maybe interesting but quite old fashioned thing, like how I look at tech stuff my father had in his youth)

  • Anonymous

    That’s funny…..I didn’t mention that small lenses were not up to the standard of big lenses. Maybe you replied to the wrong post? WTF

  • I dont know, you can go fast on a Nissan GT-R and can go fast on a Buggati Veyron, comparing them is useless even though they serve the same purpose, they are made for two different kind of people and both have benefits for both, and you know what, I truly believe the world can keep using both. I think a blanket statement like “this is the future” is kinda arrogant, I like the “Da Vinci” mirror thingy, but thats me.

  • I certainly agree. I do not want to carry a heavy equipment around when I go traveling.

  • Don’t agree. I think it is the image leading the camera, by which I mean that by lowering the expectation of what can be pulled out of an image, a lower spec camera will do the job.

    But if one wants to make phenomenally detailed images, use a top of the range dSLR.My D700 (I sold it and replaced it with a  D7000 because the D700 was too heavy and I wanted a long lens option) produced detail that was several ranks above any other camera I have owned.My Panasonic GF1 with 20mm lens makes flat images that require pumping up (I am not talking about HDR – just straight RAW images) and it never makes images with the detail of the D700. 

  • DSLR cameras will be around for a while, along with the lenses that come with them. Whether it’s a DSLR, mirrorless, point & shoot or an old school Kodak Fun Saver film camera, the best camera you have is the one in your hand. Buy a Nikon 1 camera and an ad adapter and you can use the Nikkor DSLR lenses. People will continue to buy bodies and lenses to fit their professional needs.

    Who needs 60fps? Might as well shoot video. There’s a camera and lens for that too. 

    And as long as Costco continues to sell Nikon and Canon DSLR kits, amateur gear heads and “guy with cameras” will continue to fuel the need for more gear, more lenses, more bodies, more whatever. 

  • Anonymous

    I think things will happen pretty much as you
    say they will, though I take a slightly more commercial view – 
    photographers may influence the market, but it’s the guys holding the purse
    strings that call the shots, and though we talk about innovation, it’s
    innovation dictated by the need to incur revenue, and how you do that is all
    about outflanking the other guy to create Unique Selling Points.  So if
    producing a mirrorless (3rd Gen if you like) camera costs 40% less than one
    with a mirror-box, the former is going to take precedence.  Really, Mr.
    Nikon or Mr. Canon don’t care how much weight you lug around, it was never a
    matter of that, in fact the big guys have played for long enough on the
    “Macho” character of their big cameras.   But if you can make
    cost savings by fitting an EVF rather than an OVF, and save material cost by
    making cameras 30% smaller and lenses 50% smaller, then that is what they will
    For two years I’ve been trying to get this idea across to people in UK and France, that photography is moving on.  At least UK managed to agree on a name – Compact System Camera – for the breed since, as you say, “mirrorless” is meaningless, though ‘CSC’ doesn’t cover all bases.  Whether “3rd Gen” as a title will register is doubtful, until Canon and Nikon swagger properly into this market and then we’ll all adopt the cute little acronym that someone at Canon decides!

  • Andrea Baggio

    I like this article, but I think you’re a bit arrogant.

    Like someone else wrote, who needs 60fps???  I’m making good images with my Nikon D40 and I’m really happy with it.  

    Yes i like the new Nikon 1 cameras, but it’s not what I need as a photographer.  I’m actually going back to film photography to learn more and to get better at taking photos.

    that’s my thought about this article.

  • Just realized I forgot to post my key point on the phones and why I see them as the 3rd generation.  I’ve the removal of the mirror as a 2.5 generation because the picture taking process itself isn’t changed (changed as in jumping from film to digital), but an aspect – the view finder – has been improved.   For me the phones represent the 3rd generation because of the realtime applications which change the photo you are about to take.  Application customization pre-process and real-time I think is fundamentally new and will change the way pictures are done forever.  We’re already seeing it and not realizing it.

    (P.S. at   Juanito – As explained above, Moore’s law is an economic law about fabrication process shrink and the rate of innovation – if it has wires (like those that come from the Phosites) it applies.  If it is made of reactive materials that need to be placed, it still applies. So on and so forth. )

  • While I don’t disagree with your own decision to no longer buy DSLR bodies or lenses for yourself, I do take umbrage with idea that any of us who choose to cling to our DSLRs (like clinging to our guns and religion) are doing so just to “look like a pro.” I will probably buy one of the 3rd Gen cameras to carry all of the time, keeping the big guns for most professional jobs. (Yes, DSLRs are big and heavy and cumbersome.)

    I also believe that Canon and Nikon will come out with digital camera bodies that look and function like a DSLR but without the mirror. Then those of us with our old-school glass investments will be able to take advantage of the technology without having to buy all new lenses. No, they won’t be as compact and light as the 3rd Gens, but smaller packages are not the be-all and end-all for everyone. (I also really like my full-frame sensor, I can’t see what I need to see from the digital LCD monitor on the back of a camera without some sort of hood and I really don’t want to sift through 100 images to find the one good one.)

    If money was no object and all things being equal, I’m sure most would jump to take advantage of the 3rd Gen cameras and abandon the DSLR world. But for most photographers, money is a BIG consideration.

    I do love your work and believe that someday Photomatix Pro will be inside all of our cameras. I also believe that our cellphones will be little more than the bluetooth headset and glasses that will contain our projected OLED screen.  I hope that we’ll be able to choose a focusing sensor with our eye (like the old Canon EOS film cameras) and that the images will be wirelessly sent to the cloud, then to our home desktops, where they will be automatically processed in Photoshop and waiting for our review.

    A hui hou (until then)…

  • Brilliant article. I think the author hits the nail on its head. 

  • English-speakers have a fixation with the mirror since term DSLR indicates that there is one. In Finnish DSLR is järjestelmäkamera (a camera system) and it doesn’t make any assumptions about the technology. Mirror or no mirror? Who cares as long as it works.

    Järjestelmäkamera was järjestelmäkamera also during the film era. 

  • On Advantages – you left out “Superfast Flash Sync Speeds .. mirrorless cameras won’t be limited by the mirror and shutter for flash sync – 1/1000th max sync speed will be common – and more common will be a “shutter speed” so fast that current flashes will be too slow.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Thanks for the comments… Well – I know MANY Wedding photographers that would be very embarrassed to be seen NOT holding a DSLR.  So, my remarks were meant in that light… many of these people really want to look like a pro.

  • Anonymous

    I hope “Maui Photo Festival” comment is correct — and it sounds very likely — that Nikon and Canon will be offering “same size” DSLR bodies without mirrors — placing the sensor at the present focal plane location — so present lens will be usable. My guess is that Nikon and Cannon — and others — will be offering some assurances of that policy to encourage continued present sales.

    Bottom line, the sensibility and logic of  a “mirrorless” future is most exciting.

  • I bow to you, Trey Ratcliff – true words spoken – specially with Canon and Nikon pushing their new “top-models”. Whatever your readers do – at least you have given them something to consider.

    Those who don´t agree – who cares!

    I will buy a Nikon V1 with their mount adapter – so I can use my nikkor lenses on this thing, too and give it a try.

    Your advice for all those who have top bodies like the D3x or D3s to lean back and use the equipment they have – a sound one!

    And for all who are dying to spend their money on the new D4: for the same amount you can buy a Linhof or Alpa – and you can go back to the roots – have a look at the amazing pics that have been shot with these bodies on such an archaic medium like “FILM”! Ever heard of it?

    Trey, that article has elevated you onto a different league – at least for me!

  • Raj Refined Reflections

    your article is interesting, but lacks a lot on detail. 

    The nikon D70 had a lot of short comings (especially with long exposure).Image quality  Depends on who is behind the camera and the quality of glass in front of the sensor.  I have an APS-C camera (7D) and I haven’t found the need to go to a full frame image as it really has no advantages that I haven’t overcome with lens choice.  Sure I have only a few L-grade canon lenses as they are designed for full frame – but my workhorse lens is pretty good (17-55) and my Efs-60 macro is the sharpest lens I own. 
    No mirror yes, but you will still have the issues of shutter speed, depth of field, Sensor gamut etc that you had before you took the mirror away.
    Removing the mirror really only makes the camera faster for FPS and sync speed. It does nothing else. You might have better electronic focusing or exposure methods: but I largely work in full manual mode, often with AF and IS off, so no appreciable advantage with facial recognition focusing and metering really.

    Also I am not a big believer in conspiracy theories, Canon and Nikon will bring out mirror-less cameras too so they can sell you more stuff, and lenses to match.

  • Great article Trey.  I really am wanting to get an upgrade from my Rebel XT, and am seriously considering the 60D, BUT this certainly makes a case for maybe holding on a little longer and seeing what happens with this third generation of cameras.

  • Vlad Mihailescu

    Not all DSLRs are as monstrous and heavy as the D3x or the 1D series from Canon. I personally find these rangefinder cameras nothing more than expensive toys at the moment. First of all, they are uncomfortable to hold. Being so thin and small will eventually cause strain and will start to hurt. I have the Sony NEX 5 and it is a pain after about 30 mins of holding. Second, nearly every single function has to be accessed through a menu system which means by the time you adjust your aperture, shutter speed and ISO, the subject will be halfway around the world. I am not saying these cameras won’t be successful but to say they will replace DSLRs is a pretty amateur statement. Don’t get me wrong, I love my NEX 5 but it lacks so many benefits of a DSLR.

    I will list them:
    – Ruggedness; a single drop would likely be the end of your “3rd gen” camera
    – Lack of ability to add flashes (on most rangefinders) / battery grips etc. The toy flashes that come as accessories to some of these are laughable
    – Few or none easy to access controls. I love the fact that DSLRs have every major function accessible on the outside of the camera (especially Nikon). Rarely do you need to scroll through the menu to access them. 
    – Lack of weather sealing; let’s be honest, you wouldn’t be taking an NEX 5 or 7 to Mt. Everest anytime soon.
    – Lack of viewfinder will make it difficult to compose your shots in bright sunlight. 
    – Battery life – My NEX 5 goes through a charge quite quickly since the screen needs to be on all the time and since I can’t attach a second battery, I will need to carry one on me and fiddle around with changing it.

    Yes it is small to carry around and very light but this isn’t worth everything you lose. Give us a full-sized mirror-less DSLR and maybe we’ll talk but at the present moment these things are nothing more than expensive point and shoots with interchangeable lenses. I agree with Trey that DSLRs will eventually lose their mirror but I don’t agree that the current small 3rd gen cameras will replace the DSLR form-factor. They are simply not functional enough and to say otherwise is just silly.

  • Daniel Isaac

    Full sized mirror-less DSLR’s DO exist.  Look at the last 2 generations of Sony Alpha.  Especially the newer Sony a77.  It’s a shame that DSLR’s lock you into their lens mount system.  If not, Sony could create greater competition against “Canikon”.  Competition is always great for us consumers.

    In deed, Sony  is light years a head of Canikon right now.  Unfortunately for them, people stick to their guns.  Why waste all the money spent on your current Nikon lens lineup?  It just perpetuates this this idea that Canon and Nikon are the best DSLR manufacturers, when they clearly are not when it comes to the new generations.

  • Daniel Isaac

    I don’t know why Canikon are so slow to act.  Sony has released an amazing range of transluscent mirror DSLR’s (practically the same as mirrorless).  The alpha series is perfect for those with old school glass (if it’s Minolta).

  • Anonymous

    I have the NE-5N.   I love this camera for its size, functionality and transportability, but I agree with nearly everything you say.  I am not displeased with battery life – the batteries are small and easily changed and I carry extra batteries.  I am waiting for my NEX-7 with the new OLED viewfinder, hot shoe, and the additional controls on the case.  

    Like you I do not like having to scroll around through menus to make minor adjustments although from a product design standpoint I can understand the difficulty of getting that kind of usability into/onto smaller product – tough call.  Maybe the NEX-7 will mitigate it to some degree).  

    However my biggest complaint are the overly sensitive controls on the case.  The multifunction scroll wheel is WAY  to sensitive.  I find it difficult to use the scroll wheel to adjust speed/aperture without mistakenly pressing it and changing something else.  I also find the to control buttons on the back far to sensitive.  Much to easy to “click” by mistake when moving your hand.

    As for holding the camera you are right.  So I attached one of the new Op/Tech neoprene wrist straps to my NEX-5 and it works wonders.  The strap allows you to hold the camera with the tips of your fingers while it’s securely fastened to your wrist.  Wonderful.  Small price to pay for not needing to carry my 3.2 lb. Canon anymore.   And it is easy to carry on a tripod!

    All in all I think it is a great camera.  Not perfect, but great.  I’m hoping the lenses are good – I can’t tell yet because the camera is far more capable than me.

  • Vlad Mihailescu

    Yeah, I do like Sony but it’s not just about the body. The reason Canikon is where they are in terms of market share is due to the extensive ecosystem of lenses and accessories. They pretty much fit any kind of photographer out there whereas Sony is more like the newcomer that also likes a slice of the pie but doesn’t have quite the muscles of the big boys.

  • Maybe this is why Fuji is stuck in the world of bridge cameras…. they know eventually no one’s going to want to swap out a lens when it’s possible to have the full spectrum sealed to the body. There is something that will never go away though. Quality images come from larger sensors with low pixel density (6-18MP). A micro 4:3 isn’t going to compete, and to top, these thin little cams with barrels on them will likely never exceed the consumer market. I’d laugh if I saw a pro using a wallet size camera with a ho-ho poking out of it.

  • Sean Korsan

    Size is one disadvantage to me, not because I want a larger camera to look like a pro. To me I prefer a DSLR sized camera to a compact point and shoot just for comfort in my hand and the ergonomics of the controls.  I would trade in the weight anyday but prefer to have a larger body size just for grip comfort.  Just my opinion of course.  I am waiting for the day when autofocus becomes as responsive as DSLR’s as well, my kids will not sit still long enough for me to focus on them…

  • Does a tennis player need a racket? hitting the ball is essential. Why not just swing a humongous net around? you’re bound to hit it eventually….

  • …and we all know that paintings on canvas are the ones that make it into a museum. Why not just shoot video if you want to rid yourself of capturing the moment?

  • There is a fascinating difference in how people respond to the size of cameras, it is far easier to control and organize a large group using a large camera than a small one. People just respond differently, they become more serious and more formal when faced with larger more formal cameras. While I can see that everything will change and that the trend will be towards smaller and lighter cameras I think it will be a relatively long time before DSLRs go the way of the dinosaurs ( said while thinking crocodiles and turtles are still about ) For every advance and improvement in small cameras there will also be advances and improvements in DSLRs. even the ergonomic of handling smaller cameras is difficult for many of us. Things will change but like the predications from the 1900s http://www.yorktownhistory.org/homepages/1900_predictions.htm not everything will go the way people expect that it should 

  • In hindsight the D70 has a lot of shortcomings 
    When it was released it was pretty revolutionary !
    An affordable DSLR that gave as good or better image quality as pro cameras that were far more expensive.

    ( it was capable of producing very saleable images with the speed and quality required for most customers ) 

    The D70 was the turning point for me and digital it was the first time it became more economic to run a digital camera rather than a film camera.

    For me at least it will always be somewhat iconic.

  • True in a way, but here you’re drawing a conclusion based on one brand/type of CSC–m4/3. If you were comparing your D7000 to the NEX5N I would take issue with you as both camera use effectively the same sensor. So your argument of the “image leading the camera” doesn’t really apply to the phenomena of CSC, or 3rd gen cameras if you will, in general. It just applies to certain subset (m4/3) which compromises sensor size. With a NEX, Samsung, or XPro it is possible to get equivalent results with less bulk and no mirrors. 

  • I didn’t know that the Nex5N used that size sensor. Does that mean the lenses are bigger? If so, then the camera plus lenses is going to be bigger as well.  Everything is moving on rapidly, so I guess whatever we say will be overtaken by events.

  • Darren Coleman

    No the Sony translucent mirror doesn’t flip out of the way, it stays in place when you take a photo or shoot video.

  • Anonymous

    i have to say after almost 2 years of using the Nex 5 one thing you cant say about it is: its not rugged enough.. its almost a tank, mine has been dropped on rocks, been in rainstorms for hours on Iceland and even worse.. and it always clicked away happily. the only thing thats annoying in those conditions is that the lenses don`t come with a automatic wiper 😉

  • Anonymous

    the Nex 5n is not using the same size sensor but EXACTLY the Same sensor 😉 even though Sony might have worked on it a bit more for the Nex..  and yes the Nex lenses are bigger than M4/3 but still smaller than the DSLR lenses.. i think this might be due to the shorter flange distance

  • Anonymous

    All I can say is that an afternoon shooting with a Sony a77 will change the way a photographer thinks of his or her camera forever.  An optical viewfinder shows you what the lens sees.  That’s how it’s always been.  An electronic viewfinder shows you what the camera is DOING.  It literally puts the photographer inside the camera, giving you a level of feedback and control you’ve never had before.  I was skeptical when Sony released the a33 and a55 camera bodies.  It seemed like a gimmick.  But the a77 changed my mind in a very big way.  Until you actually shoot your style of photography with an EVF, you simply cannot understand the difference it’ll make.  There’s so much less guesswork and so much more control.  I switched from a D7000 to an a77, and I’m loving it.

  • Roger Greenwald

    Canon had the Pellix SLR long ago. It had a semitransparent mirror and was a joy to use. Of course  you lost a stop of light, not a great thing. The 3rd gen cameras or perhaps their successors (4th gen anyone) will certainly transform what we do.

  • Trey, I agree with your point of view, in fact not long ago I was hoping to upgrade to a Nikon DLSR from a 3rd Gen Camera. But I too came to the realization that things will only get better and in the near future I would say that cameras will continue to slim down. I’m no pro, but I am very interested in low light performance, it just so happens that I enjoy photographing when there is little light available (thus the interest in a DSLR – bigger sensor and far more options as far as accessories). You mentioned not purchasing anymore DSLR gear because you have a very nice DSLR. And while your not investing in a 3rd Gen Camera now, is there a particular 3rd Gen Camera family that you think is ahead of the curve or closer to what you envision the future to be? Especially for the sort of photography you do?

  • Anonymous

    I’m tired of having to pay extra for the stabilization feature found in lenses and like seeing it in the camera where it should be.  A lens should be for optics not a set of gears to smooth out my shakey hands.  The extra cost is, well, costing me a fortune.


    Have not read all the comments, so don’t know if anyone made this point already: do you think that future dslr camera bodies will just employ the 3rd generation technology while retaining the slr body? Seems like that would satisfy people’s need for using a larger body (the feel of it and the distinction it carries from point and shoot) as well as using their current stash of lenses. Without the mirrors and related hardware, the body could have room for other things like perhaps built in storage, wi-fi, kitchen sink, whatever.

  • Everybody, regardless of equipment or skill level still wants to capture the moment. That requires being in the right place at the right time to apply your photographic skills.  Always has and always will.  That said, if you have expended the effort to get to the right place at the right time, and if you are taking pictures of something that moves, or only happens once, you are much more likely to capture the moment if your camera takes 8-12 fps opposed to 4-5 fps.  More to the point, if you are trying to sell your pictures you are in competition and are putting yourself at a real disadvantage by limiting yourself to a camera that takes half as many frames of an event as your competitors.

  • Anonymous

    I read some of the comments, some make sense and some are just rants.  Here’s mine. 

    For me, purchasing a new camera depends on what it will be used for.  Sports shooters and others that NEED a FAST camera will need the new mirrorless camera.  David Hobby (the Strobist) is not upgrading his DSLR nor is he going mirrorless – he opted to get the Phase One P25+ (for around the same price) because he wants more quality, not more speed.   Some won’t get it because of the price (another consideration).

    In addition to my DSLR, I have a small 12MP camera that I carry almost everywhere – it doesn’t do fast very well though.  But that is generally OK as I don’t do fast very much.  The only thing I don’t like about it is the electronic viewfinder (same as the mirrorless).  The DSLR comes out for serious stuff where I need the specialty lenses (so far, no little camera can give me what my specialty lenses can give me).  And I understand that getting a mirrorless would require getting new lenses ($$$)I am not quite ready to put my lens investment on the shelf to gather dust.

    For those that need a FAST camera, a little mirrorless camera sounds great – so far I haven’t needed anything faster than what i have.  

  • Anonymous

    I’d rather be down from a broken image stabilization build in my lens than in my camera. I had a buddy using a Sony with the in-camera stabilization that couldn’t use his camera at all because of the stabilization to sensor multi-function malfunction. The sensor’s cradled onto a frame that houses the stabilizer. It may have been part of a larger problem, but the stabilization quit completely and for some reason, his camera would power on, but not take any pictures. So, I just don’t want to take a risk such as investing and relying on that newer technology for image stabilization. In the future there might be better versions, but right now, I’m relying on fast aperture lenses that have various stabilization modes. 

  • Anonymous

    I have had the opposite happen to me. I always carry a second camera to a second shoot.  I don’t carry a duplicate set of lenses due to bulk and weight.  Especially when carrying the massive 500 or 600 mm’s.   The added gearing in the lenses has made them heavier and with the tightening of airline restrictions it has become a bit of an art to bring this extra weight/bulk on board.  I am sorry to hear about your friends camera. Both my canon cameras and lenses have been very reliable.

  • Well said!
    The Nikon D2x was my last brick camera. My current go-to camera is the lovely compact Fuji X10 Speedy, fast zoom, great image quality even in very low light.

  • A lot of the comments here refer to the issue of Canon / Nikon and the carry-over of their respective lenses. I would seriously expect Nikon to continue with the incredibly faithful F mount, but I doubt very much that Canon would continue with their existing mount. I shot Canon for thirty years, then when it was time to add DSLR to my repertoire I determined that I should switch camps, even if it meant – rather, especially because – I would have to switch out my extensive collection of lenses; I did not want to rely upon an electronic SLR and I will always shoot film (35mm, MF, & LF4X5). I chose to change my kit to Nikon and include DSLR and SLR (F3HP & FM) in my toolbox. Now I can shoot commercial or fine art in any and all conditions (-30 degrees, under rotor wash from flying helicopters, on extended back-country trips where batteries won’t last long enough for the duration, etc.. Try that with a fully electronic SLR!). 

    As I get older and have less energy for chasing assignment work, my emphasis will undoubtedly gravitate towards fine art collections and self-directed projects. Sixty frames per second represents way too much time staring into a monitor and trying to select apples from apples, my passion is photography – not post-processing! Working with precision machinery is a part of that passion. For the price of changing my “Little Format” 35mm equivalence AGAIN, I will choose instead to invest in a better scanner, enhancing my wet darkroom, and oh yeah, acquiring really good glass  being dumped at low prices by those who must needs chase the newest technologies, regardless of how capable the tried and true can be in the hands of a competent practitioner. 

    Go ahead upgrade. I’ll be watching the online auction sites.

  • Anonymous

    That is true, but I’m not carrying large cumbersome lenses everywhere I go, (at least not that large). I’ve got a 1D Mark II, a few primes, and a 70-200 2.8 IS II USM. I do nothing but portrait photography, I’d love a full frame camera, but my time will come when I can order the 1Dx. 

  • Anonymous

    I agree with having extras like stabilization (if present at all) in the lens makes a lot of sense. I’m also sorry to hear about your friend. Being a location shooter since ’88, I’ve had the occasional failure in the field, and since the early 90’s have always carried a backup of EVERYTHING (lenses, body, flash, whatever).

    One of my assignments back in my 35mm film days called for me to be a 30 minute drive from my base camp, and a 20 min hike up a cliff. My trusty body, which had never failed decided in the middle of the shoot to slip the film advance cog so film wouldn’t advance. I patiently called down the cliff to my assistant, who brought my spare body up to me…  I finished the shoot without further problems, and ended my day. (then send the broke body off to repair).

    The point being, as a pro, I can’t depend on NOT having a failure, I carry my own insurance in the form of spare equipment.

  • Though I’m a long-time, happy Nikon user I tend to agree with this post, and will be taking a very close look at the Fujifilm X-Pro1 as a possible replacement for my DSLR equipment.  Really enjoy the website, images, and information, Trey — thanks!

    Mark D.

  • Anonymous

    It was fun couple of months ago I show up in a party with my little Fuji X100 point and shoot. Everyone is asking where is my big 5D Mark II with the 24 – 105 lens that I always bring to party to take pictures. Although Scott Kelby  and RC Conception give it a lot of undesirable features, I do love that camera for its size, portability, and image quality. And I do believe it is the future of this Digital Cameras. Lately more and more am using  my iPhone and Fuji X100 as it doesn’t hurt my neck, shoulder etc.

  • If anyone is interested, I have decided to get the D800 instead of the D800E.  Seems to fit better with my shooting style.  More detail can be found here: 

  • Travis Juntara

    I believe that only fairly recently have the mirrorless market started catering towards the prosumer/professional/enthusiast end, with the GX1, A77, NEX7 whatnot. I’m also sick of all “good” cameras looking like a smaller or larger but nonetheless Canon T90 (Face it, ALL DSLRs (Olympus E-300/330 omitted) look like this camera). mirrorless cameras are a good opportunity to move away from that, but hopefully we won’t have it so that they ALL look like a rangefinder.

    Finally, low-light photography/available light photography that could only be achieved using lenses with fast apertures. I’ve never seen anything faster than 1.2 on (D)SLR, but 0.95 is possible on rangefinders and mirrorless (Leica’s Noctilux, Voightlander Nokton, SLRmagic Noktor). A bit of a niche/specialty lens, but I’m sure those well intrenched in (having spent all their money on) a Canikon system drool over this kind of stuff once in a while.

  • Ebrahim Badahdah

    Interesting information 

    You R awesome 🙂 

  • Anonymous

    Just a couple small points

     – the A77 isn’t mirrorless, it’s a DSLR. It’s a revision of the fixed semi silvered mirrors used previously by some Canon and Nikon models. It just uses an LED viewfinder instead of a dim optical finder.

    – there is no technical reason that SLR lenses can’t have maximum apertures faster than 1.2. It’s just easier and cheaper to make them as rangefinder types and they are expensive enough. The increase in aperture is unlikely to be worth the extra size, weight and expense in the minds of most SLR users but if they did want one all the lenses you name can be used with an adaptor on APS sensor DSLRs. 

  • Anonymous

    What do you need image stabilization for? A manfrotto 055CXPro weighs about 1 1/2 kilos.

  • Anonymous

    DSLRs use the system they do because it has been developed over the years and they do most things well. Other cameras will do some things better but they are all a compromise. 

    For example, how do you cope with the image freeze when you are using the high speed continous frame rate on an A77? With an SLR when you pan you get confirmation as the mirror swings back and forth that your subject is still in your field of view. When I tried the Sony A77 the viewfinder froze and showed me the first frame until I released the shutter release by which time the subject could have been anywhere. 
    The electronic viewfinder in the Sony is a huge improvement with no bleeding when you are just viewing and I’d be really tempted by the Nex7 if it had a range of decent lenses available, but removing the mechanical mirror isn’t the solution to everything. It’s horses for courses and some of the mirrorless cameras seem to be meeting a need since they are selling so well.

    I do have a micro 4/3 camera (Panasonic GF1) that I bought because it fit a particular need. It allows me to take photos at concerts and live shows where SLRs are barred, although I do doubt the average bouncer’s ability to tell the difference. It is also small enough to carry with 2 zooms in the pockets of my jacket. This system may make way for a Nex7 or the new Fuji system if the right lenses become available but I will keep my DSLR for a while yet.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps you should google Ken Duncan. He has had images taken with a Lumix compact published and sells prints. I wonder how hard his bank manager laughs?

    I wonder will I become a world class chef if I buy a bigger and more impressive frypan? It’s the photographer who makes a good image not the camera, although a good lens is a good start.

  • Interesting article and point of view.
    I have yet to be in a good enough financial position to purchase a decent DSLR so for years I have been yearning to upgrade my Finepix Point and Shoot camera. But I kept getting impatient and just buying a newer and slightly better P&S. The image quality has been good, exceptional in some cases, especially for such affordable cameras.
    I recently decided to pull my finger out and started really saving with the idea of purchasing a Nikon D5100 because I thought that it’d be the best camera for me in the price range I wanted spend. But I wasn’t 100% convinced. I had a wondering eye, so to speak. I was continually researching and looking at other options. Truth be told I was wishing that Fuji still made DSLRs.
    Then I stumbled upon the news of the upcoming release of the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and looked into it. The X-Pro1 really appealed to me.
    I love the idea of being able to get top quality images from a camera that wont leave me with serious RSI in my wrist (a problem I am prone to) or a sore neck. 
    The more I read about it the more convinced I became that this will be my perfect partner in crime, er photography. I always follow my gut instinct so as soon as I was able I put down my deposit for pre-order. 
    Judging by all the images and reviews I have found I am convinced that this camera will exceed my expectations and seriously satisfy my imaging needs. 
    Only time will tell.

  • Marcus Wolschon

    > who needs 60fps
    Everyone shooting animals, race cars or other sport events.
    Think 200kph falcons, moving dogs, …

  • Marcus Wolschon

     With a mirrorless all you need to use your old lenses is a spacer-ring that has the length of your old mirror-box.
    I’m using lenses made for SLR all the time. Works great.

  • Marcus Wolschon

     Does it matter how small the area your lens is focusing the same light on actually is?
     It’s still the same number of photons you are focusing onto the sensor.

  • Before I continue expanding my 5DM2 with huge lenses etc. I have been giving SERIOUS consideration to a “3rd Gen.” camera a la Sony NEX 7 or the Olympus OM-d. I could use the $ from the Canon kit and purchase a body & SEVERAL lenses for the 3rd gen. Curious as to what you’d purchase if you were to replace your DSLR right now – today (ish!). I’ve been asking and asking for recommendations and no one is willing to commit their “suggestion” to me. I shoot landscape, water, local farm life, and “street” (in a rural environment if that’s possible). 

    And THANK YOU in advance!

  • Giulio Daprelà

    While it’s intriguing the idea of this “mirorless” cameras, I think that you missed an important point, or maybe you didn’t consider it important while I do. What I don’t like about point and shoot cameras is that they are too small and therefore difficult to handle. Adding heavy and big lenses to a small body would make them even more difficult to handle. Small buttons aren’t good for serious photographers. When I shot a photograph I want to feel a solid and big button under my finger. When I adjust the settings of my camera for the next picture I want a big screen with menu easy to read and easy to operate buttons. If you watch the “console” of a mirrorless camera, it’s that for an amateur camera, not for professionals.
    Give me the mirrorless camera, but with the body of an SLR. That would be reasonable.

  • Janardhan Kumar

    As far as i am concerned I am using a DSLR because it gives me the best possible image for the money i spend for the same. In future if some other CAMERA is going to serve my purpose better then i will go for that.

    Photography is all about framing, lights, and being there at the Right time and place with a good CAMERA. Camera is just one Factor. PHOTOGRAPHERS should learn to release there biased attitude towards  Camera brands and technologies. 

    If you think you are talented in PHOTOGRAPHY, then go for a good camera for the money you plan to spend Keep on clicking and sharing, Enjoy!.

  • asiafish

    Or a system like Ricoh’s that has the sensor as part of the lens assembly.

  • What was this? Interesting though..

  • Julius Buma-at

    Great article.  Have you seen the new Olympus OM-D EM-5?

  • Sergio Gardoni

     The Canon Pellix was a flop because of the dust settling on the fixed mirror. With DSLR we have the problem of the dust on the sensor: why add another surface to capture further dust? The A77 design is really more than fifty years old and I don’t think it’s a good one.

  • roy norris

    Hi Trey, I agree with your comments about the future of cameras (3rd Generation etc) I have already taken the leap to micro four thirds although I have retained my Nikon D7000 and 70-300mm lens for the time being. Here is a link to a post on my blog that shows what a Lumix G3 and 14-42 lens achieves. I have also a Lumix GX1 with a 14mm lens for scenes. Regards Roy


  • Tom Herbert

    Great Article, Trey.  Very informative.

    I’ve used large format equipment, medium format, 35mm and digital equipment, and have taken pictures that please me and others with all of them.  Different people have different needs depending on the subjects they like to shoot.  I like landscape and nature photography, and therefore have no need for high frame rates.  High shutter speeds are nice, expecially if you want to shoot animals.  Currently, I shoot a Nikon D40x, and  I like it.  But one of the best reasons for staying with Nikon bodies that use the F-mount is 30+ years of collecting Nikkor glass.

    I’m of the opinion that others have voiced here — the major makers will probably start coming out with bodies the size of the current DSLRs, in a mirrorless format, with a high-speed LCD viewfinder, that will allow all of their loyal customers to continue to use the standard lenses that they’ve been collecting (and that the mnufacturers have been making) for decades.  These bodies can be lighter, because they lack tne mirror mechanism, but still retain their comfotable-to-hold size as well.

    A few years ago, my home was burgled, and one of the things that was taken was my camera bag, with my D100 body, my 35-135 and 70-300ED lenses.  In the interim, while I was deciding which body I wanted to purchase to replace the D100, I bought a Lumix FZ50, which is very close to the camera I describe above.  And the 35-420 (35mm equiv) Leica lens is pretty hard to beat, although not detachable.  If it had been wider, I probably wouldn’t have bought the D40.

  • Pradosh Sinha

    Excellent take, at last someone has written something bold. With chip technology becoming more sophisticated as ever  and AI improving. Can’t see the reason of having old outdated  mechanical technology. Hats off to Olympus for being bold again and now the not so pioneer ones are becoming followers again. Wish Olympus lenses were cheaper or at least its 3rd party counterparts were more readily available. Seems Sony is breaking new grounds and might be my new no 1 choice. The new iPhones are taking excellent photos even better than DSLRs especially in not so friendly conditions

  • In that case, care to explain what you mean by ” Big lenses are for optics, not for looking like a stud.”

  • agrokid

    You’re right, DSLR should die, but just remember that back in December 2003 Leica introduced the Digilux-2. It had everything you dream about, and then some more. However, photographers are a gullible lot. So Nikon, and the others, have continued to sell DSLRs even though they are overweight, overengineered and overpriced. I see nothing to make me think photographers have grown up.

  • Dennis Lichtchouk

    Hilarious Article. Although you make some valid points to back up YOUR argument, you totally discredit the need and demand for a high quality (pro quality) 35mm photo and video camera all in one. Of course in an affordable package. There is NOT ONE small camera on the market right now (april 26th 2012) that can do all this in a small package. The most affordable is the classic Canon 5D Mark II. That is the camera I am going to purchase to pursue high quality photography AND amazing video all in one package. Of course there’s the more expensive mark III, the Nikon D800 and 5-7 models that are way out of anyone’s price range. It’ll take many years to create a small body that can do 35mm at an affordable price. The leica m9 can, but it’s nearly 10 grand with lenses and it can’t do video. Lame. 

    So…although pro-sumers have some nice options for a small carry on camera. You simply can’t package everything (and some) in a small body at an affordable rate. ESPECIALLY if we’re talking 35mm quality sensor size. 

    So, if you are like me. You want AMAZING digital video, and an all around great digital photo camera, the smallest and the best price camera on the market is the nearly 4 year old Canon Mark II. This will be a timeless camera. 

    Lastly, don’t assume EVERYONE wants a tiny camera to fit in their pocket. Professional photographers and videographers don’t care how much equipment takes up in terms of space, as long as the final product is amazing.

    my two cents. 

  • I probably won’t personally purchase a “3rd gen” camera for many more years. I had a chance recently to play with a V1 and to be honest, it just feels like a P&S to me. I will likely never feel comfortably professional with a camera so small. Hell, if this is the direction that professional photography is going, I might just have to corner the market on full size camera bodies that you can stick your EVIL in. Cause that’s what I’ll be using.

  • laikanuki

    I was in China recently with my DSLR Canon and big lens and it really was a pain to carry it everywhere and really cumbersome when I was clambering up the Great Wall.   Then I bought a Sony NEX-5n in Hong Kong for a mate and next thing this was the camera  started using, light, powerful, great ISO and could even fit into my jacket pocket.   And the photos and video were better than my Canon.   Now I realise for the average enthusiast, the current DSLR’s with a big lens are just too big and cumbersome, so much so that they quite often are left behind, just too much hassle to cart the beast around all day, whereas the Sony is a go anywhere camera with great results to boot.    So I bought a Sony NEX-7 with 18-200mm lens, still nice and light and I get great results, I lose a little to the big Canon in a couple of features, but it also has plenty of other features that the Canon does not have, especially the quick auto focus video with the ability to adjust the video on the go.   As for HDR, the Sony only has max  – .7  +.7 EV for HDR, but no problem, just do another two brackets using the  EV adjustment of up to  -5.0 +5.0 to get a good dynamic range.   Now the Canon and accessories have gone, no more big lumpy clunky DSLR’s for me.   And a point to consider for those who travel a lot with their big DSLRS with all the heavy duty lens, tripods etc. many airlines are cracking down on carry on and enforcing the maximum 7kg limit, you may be forced to leave some at home or pack it into the checked luggage – beware.  No more of, I wish I had brought my camera along, now the nice light Sony goes everywhere with me.

  • Rama Sivamani

    Although if you know a sport well then the 60fps is unnecessary, you know how to predict and time your shots. I’ve shot triathlons and since I race them also I know enough of the timing to get a good shoot in 2-3 bursts, and if you are panning action that 60fps is also not needed. In regards to animals, having a small lightweight camera is really negated if you are going to put anything with a focal length longer than 300mm. To be honest, and you would probably know this better than me, I don’t think there are lenses longer than that made for the 3rd Gens. If you are toying around with shooting animals it might work but for a true serious wildlife photographer they need the big long glass to do what they do.

  • Dee DoubleU

    I agree with the OP.   Too many people are fixated on 35mm.  The truth of it is that you can have a 35mm full-frame sensor that picks up less light than an APS-C sensor or 4/3s.   Sensor technology will improve as well (as per Moore’s law) – so the 35mm may no longer be required.   If your lens is built for your camera/sensor – and both are designed with quality in mind ..  I’m fully confident that a compact digital solid state camera (C-DSS) with a smaller sensor has just as much potential as the larger heavyweights (ie Mk3).   

  • Dee DoubleU

    Well the idea is to replace your lenses in time with smaller lenses of equal function.

    I seen a side-by-side comparison of equal function lenses recently.  One for the A77 and one for the Nex-7.  I couldn’t believe how much more smaller it was – and it had the same if not better functionality.

  • I am sorry to have to say this, but this article is wrong about image quality. Google “solid body angle” to understand why f/2.8 will ALWAYS collect more light than say f/8 lens…  What you do with that light will depend on the sensor, but the more light you have the more you can do with it, no matter how small of a sensor you concentrate that light onto. The same advances that allow you to improve IQ of a 10MP small sensor will equally improve IQ of higher resolution, larger sensor with same pixel design and more pixels…

  • Olivier Lombardi

    “The new iPhones are taking excellent photos even better than DSLRs especially in not so friendly conditions”

  • Matt Breeding

    The statement about an iPhone taking better photos than a DSLR is: 1. Generally ridiculous and 2. Very vague. There are tons of DSLRs out on the market. Some of which [like my Canon 5d mark II] takes pictures that are far superior to that of any iPhone.

  • M

    I don’t now anyone who strives for quality who can work without an optical viewfinder. I will wait until one of the big companies wakes up to this and delivers what is needed and wanted.

  • RealKids

    It seems that in the world of photography the technology is changing so rapidly you have to be wealthy in order to keep up with the latest cameras.  My passion is creating creative photos of children doing what they love, and I rely upon my good old Canon DSLR to get the job done!

  • Wilson Chao

    The ideal 3rd generation camera system
    would be: 1)body size like the olympus om-d or Samsung NX 20, 2)APC sensor use
    by Fujifilm X-Pro 1, 3) verity Lens system of Conon / Nikon but in a
    smaller size like the Fujifilm X series (Sony NEX-7 is a very good body but the
    lenses are big and there are not much quality lens to choose.)

  • Wilson Chao

    The ideal 3rd generation camera system should be: 1)APC
    sensor use by Fujifilm X-Pro 1 (a good sensor is very important), 2)body size, design
    and weight like the Olympus Om-d, 3)availability of quality lens like existing system
    of Conon / Nikon but in a smaller size.

    Sony NEX-7 is a very good camera body but there are
    limited quality lenses and those quality lenses are heavy and big.

    Samsung NX series is ideal in the size/weight as well as
    lens design area but the final output of the photos are not yet up to high

    Fujifilm X-Pro 1 is approaching the ideal standard in
    terms of good sensor and suitable lens, but the camera is a bit too big.
    Besides, its autofocus as well as camera operation is not appealing. Look
    forward to a new model from Fujifilm in the similar form of Olympus Om-d form that
    brings us the benchmark of 3rd generation camera.

  • I’ll stick with my old 40D and the primes I have for now but the smaller size of these cameras is very appealing. When they develop to the point in price and IQ of my DSLR kit I’ll probably leap. Of course if I win the lottery tomorrow you can scratch all that – I’m getting the Leica M9.

  • No such thing is a mirror-less DSLR lol

  • John Smith

    AHAHAHAHAHA, AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, Oh… what would I do without hilarious trash like this filling up the internet.

  • Markus Arike

    Mirrorless is not the future as long as they can’t do things professional or even prosumer DSLRs like the D7000 can do like track a subject in AF. NEX-7, OM-D, X-Pro1 et al cannot follow a moving subject very well at all. This is the huge deal breaker for many.
    It took Nikon to put PD-AF on the sensor in the Nikon 1, something no m43, NEX, or any mirrorless vendor was able to do in the years they’ve been selling their respective formats. EVFs, even the top specified one in the NEX-7 is nowhere near as nice to use as a real optical viewfinder. Grainy in low light, lagging, no thanks. My X100 is set to OVF over EVF 99% of the time as a bright, clear OVF is significantly nicer to use than the cartoon images in an EVF.

    I also get a bit embarrassed for grown men who complain that a DSLR that weighs 600 or 1000g is too heavy. Seriously? An RB67 is heavy, a DSLR is nothing to carry.

    No, DSLRs aren’t going anywhere and it isn’t photo magazine who are telling lies to protect DSLR sales, it’s the mirrorless vendors PR machine and the m43 fanboys who appear too lazy to carry a 600g camera and a tripod, preferring miniaturized bodies with IS and slow zooms. If that’s the future, I’ll take the past. I have a D800 which has by far the best IQ of any camera I’ve ever had, and I just bought a Nikon F2. It has nothing to do with being a luddite, it has to do with usability and images. Sorry if such bodies are the too “last century” for the author, but if your images are important to you might want to rethink mediocre IQ quality cameras as with all things of lasting quality past is prologue.

  • Pellix got completely different type of mirror flawed in many many ways (technology back then didn’t allow anything better). Right now with SLTs like A77 the mirror PROTECTS your sensor from dust – and it does much better job then any anti-dust system available on the market currently. Moreover: the dust on mirror isn’t visible on a photographs – it’s in out of focus areas being essentially less visible then dust on a rear your lens (which at extreme aperture might be caught on a photographs). Additionally it’s more resistant and completely different then pellicle mirror, so cleaning it is very easy – you can use the same equipment as for cleaning sensor, and if you got some trouble – you can just take it off and clean outside of camera (additionally: if you scratch a mirror you can order replacement for more or less 80$ from Sony and fix it yourself – now imagine a cost of scratching a sensor while cleaning it from dust…)
    Also the Pellix was a flop because of horrible viewfinder. Not because of a dust on a mirror. Here you don’t have this problem thanks to OLED EVF (it’s actually better in many ways then OVF, but that’s a topic for different, very long, discussion).

  • Mirrorless cameras like NEX actually do have a real shutter.

  • Nice, well put post. Only thing I disagree with are viewfinders – if your EVF doesn’t work then your DSLR won’t work either as electronics went down. Modern EVFs like these in A77 are sealed packages that are in fact more resistant to weather conditions then sensors, especially to cold temperatures.

    And yes, I agree that mirrorless will replace bridge cameras – to a degree in last 6 months since you wrote this post: they already did. But I also think that they won’t go much beyond that. Pros and enthusiasts shooting other stuff then street photo need a real, solid camera, not just tiny crippled body without half of full-sized camera efficiency and capability.

  • Who needs 60 fps? Who could use it, you mean? Sports photographers, dance photographers – fast action. If you don’t shoot this, no, I don’t think you need it.

  • “Since when has photography been about making money? I always thought it was about creating “Art”.” That is beautiful, darlin’ but for people who make their living this way money has to be a big factor. It’s a fascinating idea. When they first came out with digital cameras the quality was AWFUL and people said they’d never improve and never have professional use……..

  • TheBrownHornet

    My point in “Big lenses are for optics, not for looking like a stud”. I always thought people bought big lenses for their optical qualities, eg sports and wildlife photographers. I have since learnt that there are indeed people that buy big lenses to “look like a stud”. Mind you, these people I have met have no idea how to take a descent photo. Maybe this needs to be re-quoted as “Big lenses are essential for Sports and wildlife photographers. They are not designed for wankers who want to look like studs”.

  • TheBrownHornet

    You are right, sorry, I had a bit to drink and was just offended and upset by Trey’s comments. Trey came across as though “I can make just as much money with a cheaper camera”. I was trying to say, it’s not ALL about making money, yes, making money is great, but we must use the best product we can to make our money. Just look at the crap coming out of china these days. Yes, its smaller, lighter, CHEAPER, but is it any good? What has happened to quality these days? It just seems everyone is trying to produce cheaper products to make more money, at the expense of quality. I know that’s the way business works, but I just don’t like it. Anyway looks like Trey has eaten his “waffle” – “Personally, I’m not going to buy any more DLSR bodies or lenses”.
    How is that D800 going???

  • John Beebe

    A few years ago I meet a Washington Post photographer who told me that past 9 frames a second you will go blind looking at your screen trying to find that perfect photo. Learn the game anticipate your shot, running and gunning sounds great until you get to post.

  • John Beebe

    If the future is the 3rd gen camera why do you need a Really Right Stuff Tripod 😉

  • Roger Bong

    PAGE NOT FOUND! Please update the links to your Sony NEX7 review, thank you 🙂

  • Thanks for the heads up – fixed.

  • Great content and great pictures. Wish I were here right now!

  • rs1123

    60 frames per second! No more having to try and compose or really know what you’re doing! Just point and spray! Several hundred frames of which at least a couple will be great! I can’t wait.

  • Rudy Mas

    Well, if they really want to move on to the 3rd generation cameras, there is a very quick sollution for me. Make one that looks like a DSLR, feels like a DSLR and can use the lenses of the current DSLRs so we don’t have to start investing in good quality lenses again, because most of us already have them. If they can’t do that, I won’t be moving on to the 3rd generation cameras. I need some weight in my hands to stop me from shaking! That’s why the Nikon V1 didn’t work for me.

  • Chris Helton


  • The whole argument about staying on the cutting edge of technology is nothing more than a marketing gimmic. If it works, continue to use it. Once it no longer works, replace it. This does not mean that the camera or equipment no longer functions, it probably will, but that it no longer provides what you need it to. No one except the ruling class can remain current with technology, everyone is going to have antique something-or-others from now on, even if it’s just a 2 year old camera, or if you still drive a gasoline powered car.

  • I don’t agree with you, and you didn’t write enough for me to learn much about your attitude :p

  • It will not be merely five years and 3rd gen digital replaces all previous professional equipment. New lenses must be designed and produced for these smaller bodies, which will take decades for Canon or Nikon to reformulate their 50+ lenses at their slow rate of adoption via high expense. Canon has only now begun their EOS M line for 2013 with a 22mm lens, meaning year 1 on Trey’s timeline is mostly over and there is only one piece of glass debuting from the most popular camera maker. The poor Nikon 1 series has perhaps 4 cheaply-materialized lenses available by its second year. Another hurdle is the fact that camera-makers would have to incorporate professional-level performance and features in compact body designs, an adoption that is still not on the horizon. It will take more than five years for compact digital systems to become designed for professional use, although the Sony NEX is demonstration of viable concept.

  • dp_blogger

    Well, Bob, you, sir, take the prize for THE MOST sensible post of the many that have been posted on this topic. Although Trey makes some highly valuable observations, and does so with masterful communication skills, he makes the erroneous assumption that MOST EVERYONE wants a smaller photographic footprint.

    In a world where soccer moms drive Suburbans, when they could easily get by with sedans, Trey pushes the notion of SMALLER IS BETTER. No, Trey, sorry: smaller and larger should still be a matter of CHOICE and if I were the betting type I’d wager everything I own that “large” DSLRs will continue to coexist side-by-side with whatever else is out there; whether it’d be mirror-less technology or the latest and greatest.

    I understand that you’re a travel photographer, snapping pics of whatever stirs your fancy, having the need for ultra-light, responsive equipment, but not everyone falls into that category; and the marketing folks at the Canikons of this world understand that better than you and me.

  • dp_blogger

    I’ve come late to the party, but nevertheless find the conversation(s) intriguing and informative and…for the most part….thought provoking. Thanks to Trey for having the insight and foresight to raise the issue to the forefront of the search engines 😉

    My opinions are based on three issues:

    – Speed: Does everyone need higher frame rates?

    – Size: does it matter? And if it does, to whom?

    – Quality: what is the threshold of quality and where when will that threshold be reached?




    First and foremost, I’m mostly a landscape, architecture and portrait photographer. I have little to no interest in shooting street scenes(ala Cartier-Bresson or Trey!), or anything that moves to the degree that I need a system that captures more than 4 frames per second. I don’t have the time or passion to try every aspect of photography, and I find that landscape and portrait pose enough challenges that it would take me several lifetimes to master either discipline. I can’t fathom introducing, say sports photography or auto racing into my already overloaded brain.

    The aforementioned was stated to help others understand that NOT EVERYONE seeks ultra speed from a photographic system. In fact, the thought of looking at HUNDREDS of frames of the same image sickens mean; really. My philosophy is very simple, based on the subjects I shoot, that if I can’t NAIL a shot in 2-4 frames, then I should move to a new subject.



    I’ve dabbled in most every format since the early 1980s: started with a
    Canon A1 film camera and corresponding lenses; moved to medium format
    Pentax 645 and 67; gave 4×5 a shot via various cameras, to include a
    highly regarded Linhof Master Technika; and now shoot Canon digital
    DSLRs. Suffice to say that even though the resulting image quality was
    SUPERB, 4×5 was, by far, the most intrusive and less gratifying to
    USE(notice the emphasis on USE) than any of the others. The Pentax 67
    ran a close second; weighing more than the aforementioned 4×5 system. Carrying such systems while backpacking in the Rockies proved an unsustainable way for me to work…hence, the move to the Canon DSLR.

    Would I want a smaller system than my current DSLR, if it meant less weight and the same, or even higher image quality?
    My answer may surprise you………..Perhaps I would. But I’m not ready to say YES.

    Why do I answer in that way? Because the answer cannot be firmly stated as YES without taking into consideration the following topic….namely, QUALITY…….




    Sure, quality is subjective, so I’ll spare you having to remind me. But, when shooting landscape or architecture SIZE DOES MATTER and for that kind of photography QUALITY AND SIZE go hand in hand. It’s one thing to snap a hundred pictures with your new mirrorless camera, at 24MP, that will be blown up at Cosco to place above your fish tank, vs. composing 2-5 well thought out large or medium format images that will be hung on the wall of a mansion or a skyscraper in NYC.

    For as much as I HATED lugging the 4×5 and 67 systems, through snow storms and mountain passes, the QUALITY of the resulting images FAR SURPASSES anything that’s available today in the DSLR or mirrorless world. Yes, even better than the D800.

    I’m sure you will say: “Oh, but we’re at the Genesis of the mirrorless movement…wait and see…we’ll have mirrorless systems that will surpass large format and will FIT IN OUR CHANGE POCKETS”.

    While true that mirrorless technology may migrate to the medium and large format digital world, those systems will NOT FIT IN A POCKET! There’s not only physics involved, but mechanics, too, in the form of LIMITED SPACE. If the goal is to go smaller, well, it doesn’t take Euclid to figure out that smaller spaces have LARGER limits while larger ones have SMALLER LIMITS.

    That said, Trey, while I don’t have an issue with your statement “DSLRs are a dying breed”, I do have issue with the over-emphasis on smaller footprints being the norm of the future. In a world where larger, stronger and faster are the things that people strive for, I can’t see the camera world making a drastic move toward camera-pen systems.

  • Trey, Appreciate the thoughts. However,. I have had similar thoughts for a two or three decades as I have switched between SLR / DSLR and compact cameras. First film, then digital. There are form factors that make sense and as tehnology advances, manufacturers pack as much technology into those form factors as they can. So, maybe the mirror will go away, but for serious… prosumer / Pros, the curent form factor will stick around. It may be 250mp,. 36bit color depth, and shoot 1000 frames a second, but for those that are serious, the larger form factor will take “better” pictures and offer more control, than a smaller camera. I have a D200, D700, D800, Leica X2 and a whole bunch of little Canons. I pull out the most advanced DSLR when I really want to put my skill into it, and I get the best shots. Don’t think it’s going to change any time soon.

  • First of all. Everyone knows expensive gear doesn’t equate ” Artist ” or not! That said, any photographer ” Artist ” reaches a point in which gear does mater. You’ve mastered your craft and now you continually strive to improve. In order to do so the tools needed do change. It isn’t pixels but it is available information in order to transfer vision into images that reveal one’s talent and artistic abilities!
    If the piece only needs a few pixels to create the vision then so be it if it takes 36.3 then so be it. Your gear are just tools. And sometimes you must have the right tool in order to get the job done! It’s really that simple! Great Blog Guys! Thanks !

  • ian

    that you include images taken with DSLRs – and that those images are far more impressive than the ones taken with “3rd-generation” cameras – appears to defeat your argument. that’s my $0.02.

  • ian

    i find it amusing that the article includes two not-very impressive images shot with mirrorless cameras and two amazing images shot with DSLRs whose captions whine, “well, i *could* have taken this with a mirrorless camera if i wanted to!”

  • My gut feeling is telling me to go with the mirror-less3rd-gen DSLRs. The camera technology is rapidly advancing nicely. Thanks for this post, it has solidified my decision.

  • MrEdw

    Though I see you’ve pretty much abandoned discussion on this topic, I nevertheless thought it could use one observation that you didn’t express: The tendency (for photogs who shoot with a viewfinder–optical or electronic) is to have the majority of their pictures taken at standing or sitting eye-level. Sometimes this is good, but pics taken from this position can be less interesting (even boring) as opposed to photos snapped from an unusual or less-common perspective. As with pictures taken with a long telephoto lens, or with an extreme wideangle–the technique is evident, especially when it is used for the majority of one’s portfolio. Variety is good, predictability not so much.
    Gen 3 cameras, by forcing us to get the camera away from our faces, can help us to better engage with our subject matter and enable us to raise or lower our cameras above or below the “usual” angles, as well as to become more aware of changes within the scope of our vision. Having the camera in front of our faces means we may miss something going on that isn’t visible in the frame of our viewfinders.

  • MrEdw

    Pete, I haven’t seen much in the way of comparisons of low-light sensitivity and bokeh between APS-C and full-frame. But I don’t think there’s much difference, especially with regard to the low-light sensitivity. A NEX-5N for example (APS-C) can capture excellent low-light exposures at high ISO with little noise/grain.

  • MrEdw

    laikanuki: Respectfully, I think you’re mistaken about the HDR function. The Sony HDR function goes as far as +6.0 or -6.0 EV, not Zero-POINT-Six. I have used a NEX-5N rather extensively so I know this is correct.

  • MrEdw

    Sorry Cab, but I carried around 35mm SLRs for years, then a Sony R1 digital camera (APS-C sensor, body/lens as big as an SLR, and a fabulous–though fixed–zoom lens). The NEX-5 and NEX-7 are no more unbalanced than my SLRs were with 80-200 tele or 500mm cat lens, or even the 24-40mm zoom I often used. I held the camera in balance by cradling the lens in my hand while the body rested on the back of the palm or on my wrist. Some of film-SLR lenses had tripod mounts because they did indeed “unbalance” the camera.
    I should say the only time I felt the film-SLR was “balanced” was when I had a 50mm or 85mm. But in both cases,I did not hold the camera only by gripping the body–I cradled the lens with my left hand . . . as I do now with the older Sony as well as the NEX-5.

  • Kerem

    The aggressiveness in your wording leads me to believe you are being paid for this article.
    Instead of presenting points for people to think about, you try making them believe what you say is true with big flashy capital letter headlines and screaming arguments so loud that I can almost hear them. A bit too much effort is given for just a person’s humble opinion. This is textbook advertising…

  • Hi Kerem,

    Sorry you read it that way – not every writing style is for everyone – but I can tell you that you are wrong in your assumption that this is advertising. Trey received no compensation of any sort for this article – it’s 100% his opinion.

  • Markiesha

    I am an art major and when I decided to take a photography class, I began researching cameras and decided to go with the Sony Nex5n. I have been very pleased with the shots I have been able to capture , however, in my class we are restricted to using the Canon Rebel T3i. I have become partial to the Nex5n and I’m considering buying additional Nex lenses. So my question is what are your thoughts on Sony’s Nex series as a professional tool? My professor seems to think my camera is a “toy” and compares it to a simple point and shoot because it doesn’t have a mirror.

  • I say each to his own. I am a photographer and just switched to digital about 3 years ago. I still have my Nikon N90s. Would continue to use them but find it hard to find “good” film processing locally anymore. And I do like the digital if for only one reason, the ease of being able to see that everyone actually smiled when I pressed the shutter button. Great Photographs are not made by equipment, they are made by the artisan, either at the click of the shutter or in post processing, or both. I’m not a big name, but my clients love my work. And that is all that matters to me

  • Can we focus on better sensor tech rather than smaller? The new Sony full frame with the flip out screen thats compact is genius. I’d love to even see like a 48x36mm sensor….call it “Overkill” but it wouldn’t make wide angle shots a pain in the ass when your crop factor is pushing 2x (cough Micro 4/3rds) don’t get me wrong I really like 4/3rds and I might even get me one my self to carry since my iPhone just completely sucks and all the photos I see on Facebook all suck because people think an 8MP iPhone matters when the sensor is smaller than my pinky’s finger nail, yeah its 8MP but its 8MP of nasty digital grain in a situation I can put my DSLR on ISO 200 EASY with a clean shot….grain basically reduces usable resolution…just like film stock on older movies maxes out at a 2-3.5K digital scan bad grain renders an image a much lower resolution. full frame should be the focus and the standard….I’m honestly considering going to a full frame 35mm film camera in addition to my 1.6x crop Canon 550D which does great but I know a 48×36 sensor would really push low light (and don’t say that I should go to medium format) I feel as though we’ve pushed the limit of the 36x24mm sensor pretty close (we’ve got more time) but Canon should release a nice 48x36mm sensor on their high end line and maybe push 36×24 down to cheaper prices (like the 6D).

  • kokain

    I also don’t agree with you because I
    don’t find the current gear superior. Like you I’m an old school guy
    who believes that new technology is 1 step forward 2 steps back.
    However, the camera concept whether analog or digital, has been
    trapped in a body that people want to get away from. I had no idea
    what a 3rd gen camera the author was talking about until I googled
    and realized it’s just a point and shoot body with a big lens. That
    is the stuff nobody wants to see. I hope one day all I can buy is a
    lens and say HDMI cable that connects on the back of the lens and
    onto my laptop/phone/portable device that process the raw data into
    an image based on the performance of the device’s CPU/RAM and
    physical capability of the lens. I hated editing photos, I like the
    concept of what you see is what you get, but I slowly started to
    learn that no matter what you do you will always end up in Photoshop.
    “There are no great photos these days, there are great photoshops”.
    At least when connected directly to my laptop I can get exactly what
    I want without waiting to find what the final results will look when
    I get back in the light room.

    Do you remember in the film “The
    Jackal” when Bruce Willis takes out the big gun, he uses a laptop
    to control everything? I want the same thing done via cable connected
    to a lens (no body). If you have a sniper rifle, why have a scope if
    nobody is going to look through it, why have a stock if rifle is
    mounted on a tripod, why have a trigger if no finger is going to
    touch it. Just a barrel and the firing mechanism.

    Of course I know this is long way from
    possible because Canon and Nikon likes to play politics and they will
    not allow any software to touch their beloved proprietary chips. You
    may have not noticed up until now but how many custom firmwares do
    you know by hackers that unlock or provide better features on a dslr?
    I know like 3-4 max, yet mobile phones have thousands.

    I’m not saying bodies are completely
    useless because they are people who will travel and need portability
    but I want options for those that don’t need it.

    The first thing when people say to me
    who want to get into photography, is how they want to buy a DSLR and
    make better photos. As soon as they see the prices (upwards of 1000$)
    they forget the whole. And those who purchase something find out next
    year a new model is coming out and it’s another 1000$. Photography
    needs to become affordable for people to stop using point & shoot
    and iphones who wish to take extraordinary photos.

  • Does any one believe that the 5D Mark 111 is worth $3500.00?

  • I want to buy a camera to shoot low budget indie films on. LEANING TO THE BLACK MAGIC CAMERA,
    5D MARK 111 because I have $4000.00 worth of lens.
    6D because it shoots the same HD video.
    Any advice will be appreciated.

  • John Deacon

    Samsung NX20 is so nice model of Samsung.

    Samsung NX-20

  • John Adams

    No, a bigger sensor comes with a bigger lens.

  • VolumeSavings

    TR: can u tell us why this camera and some shots with the 5D3 and D800 are able to push the subject out to the foreground w/o the usual requirement to use a fast lens which gives the ever popular bokeh. The shot of the boy jumping into the water reminds me of photos of the 50’s – 60’s using strictly amateur equipment which rendered the scene as seen not as the camera wants u to remember it? Is it a lot of post editing? Have u increased contrast dramatically around the subject?

  • chrisdao

    I’m looking for a d90 body. Anyone know where I can get one for cheap?

  • Some of my best shots at weddings are with a nex7 because people are more natural actin when they don’t have a huge Dslr in they’re face. For posed shots maybe a Dslr. Also if u need huge gear to make u feel like a photographer and look important at a gig u might be doing something wrong.

  • ThinkDefyUnite

    Hey Trey. Have you been rethinking your stance on the future of DSLRs? I see that you have using a D800, so I guess you did decide to invest in a new DSLR after all. I recently upgrade to a full-frame D600 so I know where you’re coming from! Dynamic range and IQ is unbelievable…

  • SmarterEnu

    While I agree DSLR technology is a dinosaur, manufacturers still limit image excellence and noise free dynamic range to them.
    I also agree not to chase technology, just great lenses…
    However, a camera does not take great pictures.
    A great photographer does.
    Owning a gret camera does not make you a great photographer.
    It’s like saying anyone with paint brushes can make a Mona Lisa.
    All you are is just a dude who spent a lot af money.
    Take a few courses from a pro and learn about lighting and camera control.
    You can take some awesome photos with a point and shoot when you know what you are doing!
    That being said, the best camera is the one you take with you and not leave at home.
    Be it four thirds, full size or an old Kodak box.
    I carry a DSLR when out for my artsy shots and a pocket camera 100% of the time for everything else.

  • SmarterEnu

    Ansley was a photographic and darkroom genius. His boxy, old school camera took an image limited in quality by film of those days, but he was able to tweak and squeeze out those amazing works of art in the darkroom.

  • I don’t know about any of this. I think digital has made photography just that more accessible for enough people that there are already a crap ton of disinteresting photos. Allowing people with limited imaginations or creative power 10x the exposures is unlikely to help the situation. Would Ansel Adams have ever created his master pieces without spending the time to appreciate all of the beauty his eyes were drinking in? You digital shooters can keep at it, I don’t expect to stop you. Spend your hours in light room. I too love the benefits of digital photography but when it comes to making art, I rely on film. Laugh all you want. It’s a gorgeous medium that forces me to slow down to shoot. To think about what the exposure will look like because there is no way to look at it immediately. I get a chance to live outside of my camera while I shoot and be in touch with my subjects and the world around us. You can keep your 200 images to my 2. By the way, you won’t get any appreciable DOF on those tiny sensors anyway.

  • Interesting points, but the case being made here isn’t really digital vs. film, as it’s assumed that the majority of Trey’s audience are on digital – it’s about mirrorless vs. DSLR.

  • heggmona

    Don’t understand why you say small size is fine for travel but not for serious shooting. I do most serious shooting when traveling. I travel to take pictures. When I don’t travel I only take snapshots.

  • Yes film gives you the obligation to think about what you want to tell excactly and how to accomplish that. The biggest advantage of film outdoors is that it can handle contrasts more naturally, but the third generation now has something called hdr which makes film obsolete technically. That said I am considering buying a second hand Bronica for landscapes. The advantages of speed and zero film costs don’t really count when you want to make well composed photographs and wait for the right lighting conditions.

  • A bigger sensor doesnt make sense because the lenses we own are designed for 35 mm. Hasselblad has digital backs that are bigger, but that would mean carrying around bigger lenses. The only real advantage of bigger is the long wavelength of light, which gives bigger better theoretical limits considering diffraction. Medium format film camera’s can be more stopped down.

  • It is a bit toy like in the buttons (have the nex c3) compared to my D200. That makes it more of a toy than a tool. Other than that they are both cool.

  • I happen to use a nex and a nikon and I came to the same conclusions. Real third generation (or fourth) is light field analysis however.

  • Maybe he did not yet have the opportunity yet to go to China with the Nex and wait for the boat and lighting conditions. With a large portfolio there is just more to pick from. Also the nex shots seem to be meant to show how the camera handles difficult lighting conditions.

  • For your particular style size matters of course due to the wave length of light, bigger is in fact better. The presence of a mirror is however indeed a heritage from the past, that will be phased out pretty quickly, because it was then the best solution to see what would be on film, but doesnt really serve a purpose anymore.

  • yolo

    The great thing about dslr’s is that they are workhorses where the high end model’s can take a lifetime of battering and still work well. I have owned a nex camera and even though it has a lot of conviniences over your average dslr, if I was to drop a nex camera from a 2 story building, it would fall apart immediately…

  • have a good one man

    from a 2 story building…

  • I was in Munich, Germany looking at a used Canon 1D (Mk whatever) back
    in 2008. I asked the salesperson why I should consider it over any
    other P&Ss and DSLRs out on the market. In his awesome German
    accent he replied, “Ven you show up to take photos vith this, people
    vill get out of your vay.” I recently had a similar experience in
    Yerevan, Armenia where I was taking photos of a two-year-old with my
    Canon 5D Mk III while his mother was struggling to use a P&S. I
    quickly set my Canon 5D Mk III to the high speed frame rate, looked at
    her and said, “Sorry if this makes you feel inadequate with that thing”,
    before blasting 15 shots. The sound of the mirror doing its rapid fire
    business filled the surrounding area as people stopped to stare.

    matters. If it didn’t, the Tournament of Roses would stop arranging
    for a B2 bomber to fly over the Rose Parade route every year and replace
    it with a Predator drone. People complaining about DSLR camera sizes
    have their logic backwards. DSLRs are big and that is a “good thing.”
    And just as some people will prefer the rumble of a 1973-74 Porsche 911
    Carrera RS over a Toyota Prius, some of us will always prefer a DSLR
    over whatever the camera companies come up with next.

  • alaanile

    I am an art major and when I decided to take a photography class, I began researching cameras and decided to go with the Sony Nex5n. I have been very pleased with the shots I have been able to capture , however, in my class we are restricted to using the Canon Rebel T3i. I have become partial to the Nex5n and I’m considering buying additional Nex lenses. So my question is what are your thoughts on Sony’s Nex series as a professional tool? My professor seems to think my camera is a “toy” and compares it to a simple point and shoot because it doesn’t have a mirror.

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  • I hope new photographers will read my response, and maybe I will inspire the next Ansel Adams. Ansel is one of two photographers who actually amazed me.

    Resolution, pixels, electronics, the glass, nor film determine the quality of your product. Quality of everything, an artistic eye and mind, and a basic understanding of the physics will separate the amateur from the great photographer.

    A true photographer is an artist, and part genius.

    This author tries to teach you his canvas is better than your canvas.

    But, the author forgot to teach you about the brush, the lighting, the paints, and the masters before you.

    Study Ansel. He had a crew with for every shot. And not every shot was a masterpiece, but he was still one of the best to learn from.


  • If you do not understand physics …. buy photoshop and hope you can fake the shot ….


  • So true.

  • Too bad …. he should have been paid.

  • LOL

  • Thinkinginpictures

    1)We don’t need the mirror, but OSPDAF offers nothing over it. It’s like switching from corn flakes to the store brand’s version- it’s all the same in the end. The mirror has also been greatly refined over the past three decades. Yes, it’s no longer needed- but it’s far from antiquated…it’s far from outdated. It gets the job done and heck- some cameras are sporting over 10FPS with it. That’s just crazy.

    2) Nikon’s new D750 is selling like hot cakes. There is no reason the current crop of DSLR’s can’t adopt tilt screens, EVF’s and other mirrorless offerings. SLT technology essentially proves that “DSLR’s” aren’t dead at all.

    3) Manufacturers would absolutely love to have you ditch all of your well functioning glass for the same thing with a new mount. Why not? The market is flooded with lenses and it’s hard making money off of selling glass.

    4) Bulky? Heavy? Are you kidding? Have you tried picking up a Canon 6D? Any lighter and it’d be a freaking feather. The new Nikon D750 is selling like hot cakes on amazon. New technology isn’t always as “new” as the market would have you believe. There is also a balance between weight, size and ergonomics- DSLR’s are finally striking that balance.

    5) DSLR’s don’t have to big big either- just look at an old Minolta 7000. It’s almost the same size as a Sony A7- but with a better grip and overall ergonomics. It’s 30 years old! An extra inch in the flange distance doesn’t matter- that’s a complete fallacy. Sony can make their A mount bodies almost as small if they wanted too. That doesn’t make them as much money as convincing users to buy into a whole new system.

    Mirrorless is probably the future- but not for the reasons you’ve stated. It’s much more multi-faceted than that.

  • Travis

    I’m excited to see them age a few years and become more widely used which always brings price down and better innovations after a few years, being a slr film user, i’m interested in making the jump over dslr to these!

  • RAM500

    None of these is on my horizon until these become more affordable. For what I actually want to accomplish now, a properly functioning film SLR is far more cost-effective, even allowing for the cost of film and processing.

  • BC10

    Yes, have to agree with you. I love my digitals since my Nikon D1 up to my D800 but I just cannot replicate the quality of a wedding done using my Nikon F801s with any of my digital camera’s. Sorry but that’s just the way it is whatever anyone says or does. It’s very unfortunate that most people have never had the pleasure of using film in the same way that we have. I recently did a wedding and a guy was there using a EOS D1-C for the video. When he “paused” to take a few stills, I was absolutely amazed. He allowed me to pose the bride and groom and guests, then rattled off a few hundred shots. Me – I took just 9. I don’t do this even with my digital camera’s – never saw the point. I feel it lacks a certain professionalism to simply HAVE to take such a large amount of images in the hope that at least one comes out! I have gone off the original subject and I do get the point of this article though; I have to say that I tend to agree with the author. I just feel that film has still so much to offer and I hope that people who have never tried it – give it a go and see what happens.

  • Scott S di Vincenzo

    okay but let’s remember mirrorless cameras are useless with DRAGGING / NIGHT FLASH

  • Dimi

    Just a tiny additional reason against the mirror:
    The design of a lens for an SLR camera is severely hampered by the presence of the mirror, particularly at small focal lengths, due to the clearance required. It may be done, of course, by putting more glass, more weight and more money. Still, some people will hardy ignore that such zoom lenses will never be rectilinear at the entire zoom range, i.e. free from barrel or cushion distortion. Accidently, the latter can be easily done for all other type of cameras, in an optical package of a lighter, cheaper and sharper lens!


  • neoplatonist

    what a douchebag article this was. I hope this idiot loves his crappy SLOW AF and needing to pack 100 batteries.


  • The design of a lens for an SLR camera is severely hampered Diwali 2015by the presence of the mirror, particularly at small focal lengths, due to the clearance required. It may be done,New Year 2016 of course, by putting more glass, more weight and more money. Still, some people will hardyTeachers Day 2015 ignore that such zoom lenses will never be rectilinear at the entire zoom range, i.e. free from barrel Raksha Bandhan 2015or cushion distortion. Accidently, the latter can be easily done for all other type of cameras, in an optical package of a lighter, cheaper and sharper lens!

  • The whole argument about staying on the cutting edge of technology is nothing more than a marketing gimmic. If it works, Rakhi 2015continue to use it. Once it no longer works, Rakhi 2015replace it. This does not mean that the camera or equipment no longer functions, it probably will, but that it no longer provides what you need it to. No one except the ruling class Rakhi Imagescan remain current with technology, everyone is going to have antique something-or-others from now on, even if it’s just a 2 year old camera, or if you still drive a gasoline powered car.

  • tom rose

    Strange logic. It is best FOR YOU, therefore it is the future for everyone??


  • Viisshnu Vardhan

    This is a bunch load of garbage. Most mirrorless cameras have awful/slow autofocus. They are just hyped by gear pimping websites because these camera companies cant compete with the big dogs. Can the Fuji XT1 or OMD compete with a Nikon D4 or D810 in quality??? I doubt it ..mirrorless cameras DO NOT provide any qualitative advantage over DSLRs. They are far slower and clumsier than DSLRs. Please stop peddling this bullcrap. DSLRs rock. mirrorless cameras are for hipsters, girls and girly men.

  • Viisshnu Vardhan

    absolutely bullshit bro

  • Viisshnu Vardhan

    cutting edge is just a marketing gimmik bro. you are right. my 10 year old D70s kicksass even today. the fastest autofocus of any camera..

  • Viisshnu Vardhan

    You nailed it bro. Macho men need big heavy cameras with big ass lenses. mirrorless are for hipsters, girls and girly men. Cheers.

  • tom rose

    To put this in perspective, here is what Ken Duncan himself says on his website (and this is still current in late 2015)


    My main camera is a red bodied Linhof Outdoor 617 III with three interchangeable lenses – 180mm, 90mm and 72mm. It uses 220 roll film and gives 8 shots to a roll with an image size of 6cm x 17cm.

    I also use a 60 megapixel Phase One digital back on a Horseman SWD 24mm fixed lens and also on the Phase One camera with four interchangeable lenses – 35mm, 80mm, 150mm & 500mm.

    Seitz has been another new edition to my camera kit with the Roundshot Super 220 VR with two lenses to create 3D images. This camera gives me the ability to set the angle I want to shoot, from 45 degrees right through to 360. This has enabled me to create my new range of MegaPan images.

    When it comes to point and shoot cameras, I can’t go past the fantastic range of Panasonic Lumix cameras”

  • Brad Larsen

    “Horseless Carriage” would be an apt analogy if (and when) “Mirrorless” cameras surpass DSLR. For those of us living in today’s world, DSLR still equates to “superior”. When that changes, I’ll embrase it wholeheartedly.

  • Brad Larsen

    That said, I’d like a smaller, lower profile, and quieter camera that delivers similar results. One major advantage not mentioned in your article would be the silence, particularly for sacred events or clandestine situations.

  • I really loved reading your blog. Normally Mothers Day 2016I don’t come across such contents. This one is good

  • Leslie Dellow

    Mirrorless cameras were initially hyped for being much less heavy than DSLRs. But now Sony are turning out lenses which are heavier than their Canon or Nikon equivalents. The only system which seems able to make good on its promise of lighter gear is micro four thirds, and they are currently stuck at around 16mp for sensor resolution. 20mp is my bottom line, and that is likely to increase in coming years.

  • Grant58

    Don’t throw away those old Nikkor lenses yet — at least not the really old, really well-made ones. I just got an A6300 and using its ‘Focus Peaking’ makes using old MF Nikkors a joy. Of course, you need an adapter. As you pointed out in your article, the lack of a mirror creates extra ‘space’ between the rear lens mount and the camera flange. While this can be filed with something as simple as a $13 Fotasy Nikkor-to-EMount adapter, there are other, much more interesting uses for this ‘space’: 1) The Metabones Speed Booster. This 0.71X adapter condenses the light cone from full frame size to APS-C size — so a Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 AI-s becomes a 60mm F/1.0 (with an effective focal length of 90mm). The Metabones product has excellent optics and actually improves the lines-per-millimeter resolution of the lens (which is important on a 24 MP APS-C sensor). Coupled with the good high-ISO capability of the A6300 and and handheld photographs by moonlight are possible. The weight savings still exists. 2) The Kipon Nikkor-to-Emount Swing-Tilt Adapter. Since the old full-frame lenses have a larger image cone than the APS-C sensor, they can be swung or tilted without vignetting. Any lens become a swing-tilt lens with this adapter. This isn’t just for architecture and while tilting to limit depth of field can be just as easily done in PhotoShop, tilting to increase the apparant depth-of-field by changing the orientation of the focus plane cannot. This is very useful for macro and for long telephotos where limited DOF is a problem. Speaking of macro, the old MF Micro Nikkors are beautiful tack-sharp lenses that can be had for pennies on the dollar these days on EBay. I admit I’m an old-school guy who never really moved away from my old Nikon F’s into DSLRs — one of the reasons is that I thought it was dumb for these things to have clunky mirrors and prisms — CCD/ CMOS sensors aren’t like film that would be ruined by exposure to light — imho, the only reason DSLRs had the R in the name was to look the way people thought ‘pro’ cameras should look. So now I have a Sony A6300, a few different adapters and a number of old Nikkors. So don’t throw away those old lenses yet — this newest tech is also old-school heaven.

  • tom rose

    You said it yourself:

    “Most fully-formed artists know that the goal is to create an _interesting image_, and that has little to do with sensor size and resolution.”

    You are right that IN PRINCIPLE a design without a mirror is better. No need to extend the back focus of lenses, so they can be smaller and with fewer aberrations and no mirror to cause vibration. But in the real world the DSLR has been engineered so well that these are defects only in theory. Real world performance is excellent.

    So we are left with only one advantage, MSCs can be smaller. If that is of no interest to you, then you might as well carry on using your “dinosaur” DSLRs and their “massive” lenses for as long as they work!

    The so-called battle between the DSLR and the MSC might matter to camera makers and might be a good topic to draw readers to internet articles but people that are photographers will just continue to choose whatever is BEST FOR THEM!

    Some of us even have hands that find tiddly little things like the latest offerings from Olympus too fiddly and uncomfortable to be our main cameras. But one thing irritates me above all. Will fans of the new wave of cameras please shut up about one thing. Yes the new designs are small and light, but carrying a 1-series DSLR or a N ikon D4 and 2 or 3 lenses is not a problem, at least not for many of us. Any fit male of normal size that struggles to carry 2 or 3kg should be embarrassed to admit it.

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  • Why? They want to keep selling DSLR bodies and lenses. It’s not a conspiracy or anything – it is just good business.

  • Brian J

    5 years on and you are looking pretty foolish. With my meathook hands, i will never be comfortable with a tiny little camera. I will keep my DSLRs, thank you, unless you can redesign my hands.

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  • Anne Jones

    Only faggots use those little mirror-less camera. Plus the shutter lag is unbearable.

  • Anne Jones

    Exactly. Only faggots use them.

  • Viisshnu Vardhan

    are you related to Dawn Larsen from Texas ??

  • charles

    The new Nikon D850 is such a good camera…

  • Vich Bradley

    Not that I know of. “Larsen” is the “Smith” of Denmark.

    This could be a total children’s story, but I heard the king decreed everyone
    to have a last name designating trade. “Larsen” (son of Lord) seems
    high & mighty but the kicker is that’s what all the field workers
    got because they had no trade other than essentially being the Lord of
    the Land’s property (quasi slave). In short; there’s a lot of us and
    we had humble beginnings.

  • Konrad Mroczek

    5 years later Dslrs are not dead but nex is 🙂

  • Stu – SIC

    NEX evolved into two things. Mainly the A6000 series but more importantly the A7 and A9 series…

  • Konrad Mroczek

    So Nex is dead 😀

  • Konrad Mroczek

    Also DSLRs are still on the market 5 years after the article and in the PRO world are going strong.

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