Do D-SLRs Still Rule?

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De­spite the mir­ror­less cam­era hordes mass­ing on its bor­ders, the D-SLR world con­tin­ues to hold out with healthy sales over­all and con­tin­ued dom­i­nance of the pro­fes­sional sec­tor, es­pe­cially at the top end. Un­doubt­edly one rea­son is that Canon and Nikon have es­tab­lished long tra­di­tions – and de­served rep­u­ta­tions – for build­ing high per­for­mance D-SLRs for pros which are rugged and re­li­able. They get the job done ev­ery time. Be­hind them are ex­ten­sive sys­tems of lenses – still far big­ger than any mir­ror­less mount so far – and, per­haps more sig­nif­i­cantly, many pho­tog­ra­phers with ex­ten­sive in­ven­to­ries of ex­pen­sive lenses (such as big tele­pho­tos). Both the tra­di­tion and the ex­pense are very good rea­sons for not chang­ing cam­era sys­tems even if the mir­ror­less tech­nolo­gies – such as elec­tronic viewfind­ers – have now caught up with real world de­mands, and key per­for­mance ar­eas – such as aut­o­fo­cus­ing and con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing speeds – now match or ex­ceed the best that D-SLRs have to of­fer. Yet the fastest D-SLRs are still very fast, and the op­ti­cal viewfinder has its ad­van­tages even if the re­flex mir­ror is ef­fec­tively a me­chan­i­cal de­vice that slows down any elec­tron­ics (for ex­am­ple, both the Canon EOS-1D X II and Nikon D5, have faster frame rates when their mir­rors are locked up).

Ad­di­tion­ally, while size re­duc­tions are touted as a key ben­e­fit of a mir­ror­less sys­tem, in the full-35mm for­mat these are com­par­a­tively small – es­pe­cially as far as lenses are con­cerned – and even some ‘APS-C’ mod­els aren’t sig­nif­i­cantly more com­pact than a com­pa­ra­ble D-SLRs. Fur­ther­more, the fact re­mains that for some pho­tog­ra­phers cam­era size still isn’t a big (ahem) is­sue, but dura­bil­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity most cer­tainly are, par­tic­u­larly in the ar­eas of sports or news gath­er­ing. As just noted, the track records of both Canon and Nikon count for a great deal here.

How­ever, change is hap­pen­ing (this directory is al­ready quite a bit smaller than that for proori­en­tated mir­ror­less mod­els – which was in our Vol­ume 74, Num­ber 1 is­sue) and it’s hard not to see the mo­men­tum gath­er­ing as the likes of Fu­ji­film, Olympus, Pana­sonic and Sony con­tinue to work at build­ing their pro cam­era cre­den­tials, es­pe­cially among users who shoot both video and stills. Ul­ti­mately, it’s very hard to see D-SLRs dis­ap­pear­ing al­to­gether es­pe­cially in the pro­fes­sional sec­tor, but gen­er­a­tional change may well see fewer tak­ers in the fu­ture even with the ob­vi­ous at­trac­tions of mod­els like Nikon’s re­mark­able D850. Right now, ev­ery D-SLR listed in this directory is a hugely ca­pa­ble cam­era and mostly even more so in sys­tem terms. So, if it works for you, ul­ti­mately that’s all that mat­ters.

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