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Hindsight is...

One interesting matter for historians to consider will be how Nikon handled the film SLR to DSLR transition versus how they handled the DSLR to mirrorless transition. In both cases, insightful forward-thinkers were clearly able to see that transitions were necessary and inevitable. In the case of the end of film, the user benefits of DSLRs were immediate results, no (obvious) on-going supply and processing costs, and at higher examination levels things like finally having a guaranteed "flat" focal plane (film tended to crinkle or bend). With mirrorless the obvious user benefits were previewed results, fewer parts and complications, somewhat smaller size and weight.

From the manufacturer's viewpoint, the transition from film to DSLR was actually not particularly to their benefit. The only real simplification for them was losing the transport of the film within the camera, but that came at the expense of extraordinary complications in terms of sourcing and dealing with things they didn't need to deal with before (like coming up with an image sensor and all the things that implied in the camera). By contrast, the transition from DSLR to mirrorless was highly in favor of the manufacturers, as it reduced parts count, simplified manufacturing and alignment issues, and allowed for differentiation.

Here's how I looked at it in simplified form:

bythom hindsight

In both transitions, customers get benefits, but that comes with cost, complexity, and re-learning issues. In the film-to-DSLR transition the odds were stacked against the camera makers, but in the DSLR-to-mirrorless one, there was literally no friction for them to move to mirrorless, just lots of benefits.

So, given the above, why was Nikon the first to fully attempt a transition to DSLR but last to move to mirrorless?

Simply put, it's due to top management decision making, and one that is fraught with self-examination angst. Nikon was down to a 25% market share in the 90's with film SLRs, with Canon completely dominating the market with at least double the share. Nikon's pride was hurt. Having entered the camera market prior to Canon and having had initial success with the F bodies, now they were a very distant second. The whole autofocus fiasco—Nikon being asleep at the wheel let Minolta suddenly push Nikon down to the #3 position, at least for awhile—didn't help matters. If Nikon thought that DSLRs were the future—and it was clear to many of us even in the early 90's that they were—they decided that they could pull a Minolta and get there first, and thus upset the market balance in Nikon's favor.

 Which is exactly what happened. Even once Canon fully responded, the market had been reset with Canon in the 40-45% share range typically, and Nikon in the 30-35% share range typically. Indeed, in some particular categories of camera, Nikon tended to be first at times (especially true once full frame appeared at Nikon with the D3). 

The question, of course, is if being first to transition worked once for Minolta (autofocus), once for Nikon (DSLR), why is it that when there was an obvious next transition—remember, I started writing about mirrorless in 2008 and started shortly thereafter—that Nikon was the last to transition?

That's a good question for future researchers and scholars to answer. Nikon did attempt mirrorless in 2011, using some of their D3 engineering staff, however they seemed to put a dozen handcuffs on them and forced incompatibility with their main lineup, something that runs against Nikon's brand reputation. I suspect that the failure of the consumer-oriented Nikon 1 coupled with the success of the full frame DSLRs and the eventual one-camera/lens success of the D3xxx (which as a single model outsold multiple Canon models) was one distraction. Nikon simply rode their horse too hard and long and it faded on the backstretch.

Canon wasn't particularly better at this, though they did put their toes into the more serious mirrorless waters earlier, at least at the bottom, crop-sensor end. Unlike Nikon, Canon didn't make the mistake of incompatibility.

So why did Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony all transition early to full mirrorless lineups? Look at the above matrix. They had small market shares, so how do you think you establish profitability against a duopoly? Play a different game (again, classic Reis and Trout strategy). And in playing a different game you get cost and manufacturing complexity benefits? What's not to like about that?

It was inevitable that the market for DSLRs would fade. Everyone saw that, some just acted on it earlier than others.

Most DSLRs made in the past decade are highly functioning products. Could I still do great work with a D800 (launched in 2012)? Absolutely. So getting DSLR owners to update/upgrade/iterate has become a tougher and tougher problem. Note that duality in my matrix: use benefits come with cost problems. The primary marketing issue for the camera makers has been and will continue to be that they need to somehow convince potential buyers/upgraders that the use benefits of mirrorless exceed the cost problems for a user. If they don't, no sale. 

That's becoming more and more the DSLR problem: the D800 was a great camera, the D810 was a better camera, and the D850 was a still better camera, but the benefits have been getting tougher to market and the cost hasn't gone down, so sales tend to inevitably go down with each generation. Indeed, it's the D880 update problem in a nutshell: will Nikon change enough to show true user benefit over the previous models and justify customers paying the upgrade cost? (I can't answer that question other than in abstract. Nevertheless, I believe there's still enough lingering upgrade market in that category, as well as at the D500 level, to justify doing. Ironically, Nikon upgraded the D750, and there wasn't enough lingering upgrade market in that category as customers at that level were increasing shifting to mirrorless.)

Neither Canon nor Nikon has said much about their continued support of DSLRs. Canon did update two DSLRs in 2020 and two in 2019. Nikon updated one in 2020 and one in 2019. 

The question that dedicated DSLR owners are all asking themselves is this: have we been abandoned? The matrix, above, would suggest that the camera makers would like to move on, as there are clear benefits to them that accrue by stopping making DSLRs and transitioning fully to mirrorless. 

The only problem with that notion is that we've got over 200 million lenses out there that live best on the two primary DSLR mounts. While these can be used with adapters on the mirrorless models, that's not an optimal solution, just a pragmatic one. 

What many serious users face when we consider the DSLR-to-mirrorless transition is this: during our transition we're likely to be half DSLR, half mirrorless, and that in itself poses issues. We keep our top DSLR as our backup body, use our DSLR lenses on our mirrorless camera to keep costs down short term. Not optimal.

It's becoming clear to me that there are three camps of DSLR users, and neither Canon nor Nikon is catering to any of them. Wow, talk about making your business problems bigger. What are the three camps?

  1. Dump the DSLR. One set of folk are dumping their DSLR and moving to mirrorless. They've determined the benefits of doing so are worth it and they have the disposable income, apparently, to do so. I have noticed that this group tends to be more one-camera, few lenses, though. If the DSLR makers were fully catering to this group you'd see far more DSLR-trade-in offers than we currently do. 
  2. Straddle DSLR/mirrorless. This group is akin to what I used to call Samplers/Leakers, though their intention is now more determined. They're sticking their toes into the mirrorless waters because they've determined they're going to eventually go ahead and get completely wet, they just want to know on which beach. These folk tend to have more gear than Group #1, and they're reluctant to abandon it all at once because of the cost implications of having to replace everything. If the DSLR makers were really catering to this group, you'd see more transitioning offers (free adapters, mount conversions, complete-your-set bundle offers, and trade-ins).
  3. Keep the DSLR. Certainly at one level DSLRs and their lenses are so good that you could ride them right 'til they no longer work and can't be repaired. There's no real cost to the customer to do so, and they don't see a benefit that would trigger them to spend lots of money to transition to something they think is either the same or marginally better. If the DSLR makers were catering to this group, we would have seen (or soon see) a 5D Mark V, D580, and D880 with sensor stabilization, pixel-shift capability, on sensor phase detect for Live View/Video, and more. 

A lack of confidence also played into decision making in Tokyo, though. For example, Nikon's 2020 Annual Report says it right up front: "ongoing market shrinkage projected." Here's Nikon own chart for the last 10 fiscal years of camera sales:

bythom nikon 10-year

Down by more than half in ten years. And yet they also say "ongoing market shrinkage"? That means that they're making their bets based upon even lower unit volume. How low? My guess is 300k units annually. I don't see Nikon (or anyone else) surviving profitability long-term below that level. 

Nikon clearly sees that higher-end cameras and attracting upper-level users are necessary to survive on lower volume. That's because you need to sell at a high unit cost to get gross profit margin up high enough to cover fixed costs. Nikon keeps giving that lip-service in almost every executive pronouncement or financial report. And yet then we get a camera such as the Zfc, which is designed for casual use (those are Nikon's words, not mine). Where's the Z90 that competes with a higher-end Fujifilm X-T4? 

The good news is that the next camera from Nikon is the Z9, which is most definitely going to be a display of everything they can do at the very highest end of interchangeable lens cameras. But I'd argue that we're a long way from seeing exactly how Nikon finally navigates the mirrorless transition. Nikon has too many gaps they need to still fill, and it's unclear how they'll fill them. So while we have some hindsight—Nikon transitioned late and didn't sustain the right DSLR models—we don't have complete hindsight yet. 

The DSLR User's Greatest Fear

Petapixel recently had an article entitled "The Camera Industry is Trapped: Demand is There, But Products Aren't." The ongoing supply chain issues are creating quite a problem, from customer to dealer to camera maker.

But what wasn't said in that article is something that DSLR users are starting to fear. Basically, it boils down to this: with parts in short supply, the camera makers have to pick and choose which products they put them in. With Canon and Nikon both trying to transition to mirrorless and match up better against Sony's Alpha lineup, that means that critical parts are headed to mirrorless cameras, not DSLRs.

I suspect this problem has been around for a bit in different guises. The D500 and D850, for instance, have been in short supply for some time. We get small periodic batches of them hitting the shelves in the US, but they don't stay in stock for long. Indeed, B&H has started once again actively selling imported D500's, probably to make up for the lack of supply from NikonUSA. 

Both the D500 and D850 use older versions of image sensors where the mirrorless cameras use newer ones. For example, the Z50 and Zfc use the same 20mp sensor base as the D500, but with enhancements. Thus, if Nikon has a fixed limit to the number of sensors they can get produced in a time frame and the combined Z50/Zfc/D500 volume exceeds that, guess which camera is going to get the short end of the stick? 

This is one reason why I've been advocating for a D580 (and D880). By simplifying down to one image sensor as Nikon did with the Z6/Z6 II/D780, you have more flexibility to pick up some of those dedicated DSLR users who aren't going to switch to mirrorless any time soon. And I remind you (and Nikon): the D500, as it sits today over five years after being introduced, is still the best overall APS-C camera you can buy. Quality images, high performance, top focus system. Why would Nikon ever want to cede this Top Dog spot? Making a better D580 that holds the crown seems like a fairly trivial engineering exercise. The fact that it hasn't happened points to a strategic policy that dismisses the D500 over something that doesn't even exist in Nikon's mirrorless lineup.

Coupled with the on-going supply chain issue, that is what is now driving DSLR users' fear: that the current DSLR products are it. There's not enough parts to make new ones, and by forcing the issue of getting people to transition to mirrorless, Canon and Nikon are driving DSLR demand downward at the same time. At some point, this all becomes self-perpetuating. 

It's not just cameras we're seeing dry up. EF and F-mount lenses are getting the same short shrift. Nikon recently cut production of the 70-300mm AF-P lens (it seems this might be temporary, but that's known for sure). Why? I suspect it's because it uses the same stepper motors that Nikon needs to deliver Z-mount lenses. 

When DSLRs supplanted film cameras, that transition happened fast. Part of that was that DSLRs offered immediate review and didn't require constant media replacement. Customers caught on quite quickly to the advantages. Indeed, film SLR sales had not just peaked, but had dropped down to a lowish plateau in the decade prior to DSLRs appearing. DSLRs generated a whole new wave of buying, and DSLR sales quickly rose to far higher than film SLR sales.

The same thing isn't quite true of the DSLR to mirrorless transition. Not everyone sees clear advantages, and technically it's been eight years of (mostly) Sony trying very hard to get full frame mirrorless to DSLR levels, let alone above them. Moreover, what also doesn't get discussed much is the difference between consumer and prosumer/pro trajectories. Consumer DSLR has been in a nose dive, just like film SLRs made once DSLRs first came along. But the higher-end DSLR has not been in such a nose dive. Down some, yes, but I'd also argue that the camera makers themselves have been partially responsible for some of that downward trend. As in: today you can't buy a D500 off the shelf, so of course sales are down. Duh.

Another background point comes into play, as well: Canon and Nikon would rather stop making DSLRs. Why? Because the manufacturing process is so much more involved and costly. Sure, if we measured it dollars per unit we might still be in the single digits, but have you noticed that Nikon is saving less than pennies wherever they can (no hot shoe cover on the Zfc, for instance)?    

So put all these things together and you get the great fear that dedicated DSLR users have: the camera makers are moving on, leaving the DSLR user behind. To put it into MBA-school terms: they've stopped milking the cow. 

I really hope this isn't true. As you may recall, Nikon surprised the world with the F6 film SLR, which came after (and was based on) the D2h DSLR. For years this was not only the best film SLR you could buy, but it was about the only one. Clearly Nikon made not only money but brand reputation off that camera. I'd argue that they should do the same with a D580 and D880, and point to a DSLR road map that is solely D580, D880, and D6 as long as demand warrants. Last call on everything else, pointing to mirrorless for the rest of your needs.

What Will You Be Using Two Years From Now?

One recent dpreview post included a survey asking the question in the headline about Nikon cameras, but it’s a good overall question for any DSLR user to be asking themselves in general. 

The answer for most of us, of course, is “the camera I currently use.” In fact, you might be able to change the question to four years from now and get the same answer. After all, the cameras introduced in 2016 and 2017 include the Canon 6D Mark II and 5D Mark IV, and the Nikon D5, D500, D7500, and D850. Uh, those are really good cameras even today. You need a new one why? I’m pretty sure that these all have another four productive years of life left in them. Heck, you can't buy a better crop sensor camera than the D500 today, and I still believe you can only buy one better all-around full frame camera than the D850 even today.

I wrote recently on that "FODE (Fear of Dead End) is gripping many of you.” 

Even if a camera model comes to a dead end—and I shouldn’t need to remind you that every camera will—your photography doesn’t need to. 

Unfortunately, I can come up with a couple of reasons to be slightly fearful of the future of DSLRs, the primary among them being repair or replacement should you drop yours. Of course, you can drop a mirrorless camera, too ;~). I just had someone send me the Z7 II that they managed to submerge briefly in the ocean so that I could do an autopsy teardown. He was able to get a new copy at considerable expense because the Z7 II is a current camera still. Had this been a Nikon D3 he dropped in the ocean, he would have found that it wouldn’t be true that he could get a new replacement.

However, even that problem can be dealt with, and guess what, it may be a less expensive solution! A D3 in excellent condition goes for about US$800 at the moment, not the US$6000 that the original cost. If you’re using a camera for 13 years (the D3 was introduced in 2007), that was the equivalent of US$500/year in average cost. US$800 to replace it would imply that you need to use it for another two years to level out your costs, which seems perfectly do-able.

So I’m not really fearing dead ends, myself. As a(n infrequently) working pro, I really only fear not being able to do something that my competitors can, and not much else. It’s a rare piece of gear that causes that to happen, though. Very rare. 

So let me talk about the camera pair that comes up the most in my emails at the moment. In particular, D850 users wondering if they need to shift to the Z7 II. 

My answer would be no. In terms of image quality, I’d judge them to be as near identical as possible, subject to sample error. Yes, the 14-24mm f/2.8 S in the Z mount is a better lens than the 14-24mm f/2.8 in the F mount, but not enough for me to start mortgaging the house over. With my 19mm PC-E, the results are essentially the same, and that’s my goto landscape lens for full frame at the moment. 

Are there things that the Z7 II does better than the D850 that make my life simpler and my work faster? Yes. The Z7 II’s Live View EVF allows me to adjust the PC-E faster and more reliably than using Live View on the Rear LCD of the D850. 

Are there things that the D850 does better than the Z7 II that make my life simpler and my work faster? Yes. If I need faster than 5.5 fps, the D850 is just easier to manage and keep focus with. No, this isn’t “focuses faster or follows subjects better”. It’s solely due to the ability to handle the camera better with moving subjects above 5.5 fps (the Z7 II viewfinder changes to a slide show at faster speeds, and you can't keep your focus sensor properly positioned, let alone compose well).

You’re probably already starting to see where I’m going with this: each of these two cameras has a slight edge over the other at one type of work. But if you’re looking for a general purpose camera, I’d say those slight edges just cancel each other out. Simply learn the camera you choose as well as you can. They’re both excellent all-around cameras.

Nikon wisely chose to put out some really excellent lenses for the Z mount. Basically all the S-class lenses outperform the G/E versions in the F mount in some easily observable way. This, of course, tempts the DSLR user to make the switch to mirrorless, this time due to Fear of Missing Excellence (FOME). 

In my experience of watching thousands of photographers over the years, I’m not sure that the majority of them would see the real difference the Z-mount lenses can make over the F-mount ones. After all, the F-mount ones weren’t slouches to start with. What quickly comes into play is how you handle the camera. Handheld? Unstable support system? Poor choice of shutter speed? Missing focus? The list of things you could improve in your handling before you see optical gains at the level we’re now getting in mirrorless goes on and on. Indeed, “always on” stabilization is actually the bigger contributor to the gains many people are seeing, not the lens optics. 

Focus and stabilization are what really have been driving mirrorless sales. Focus as in “I didn’t take the time to really learn the DSLR focus system and master it and thus the all-automatic focus mode on a mirrorless camera achieves better results than I do.” Stabilization as in “not all my DSLR lenses were stabilized, but I didn’t take the time to improve my camera handling, while the mirrorless camera just always stabilizes things so I think I don't have to." 

Okay, I get that. But why are you reading this site? ;~) Buy the best all-automatic camera you can find and enjoy taking photos. Stop obsessing over “latest and greatest.” 

Those of you not taking that advice—which is probably most of you reading this—need to answer the headline question, and specifically be able to illuminate why your answer is what it is. 

Nikon full frame DSLR users probably should always answer the question with “one of the current Nikon full frame DSLRs.” Current, as in Df, D750, D780, D850, D5, or D6. If you have a D810 or D4/D4s, I’d still tend to say just stick with what you’ve got. Canon DSLR users have a more restrictive list: current as in 6D Mark II, 5D Mark IV, or 1DX Mark III. 

Will you eventually move to mirrorless? Maybe. But you shouldn’t be in a hurry. 


The camera makers think differently than you, unfortunately. I believe they are thinking incorrectly. Nikon, in particular, has plenty of runway left for DSLR takeoffs. I've stated it before, but Nikon should quickly create D580 and D880 updates, even if that would only bring the Live View components of mirrorless over to the cameras. Both are state-of-the-art cameras today, both still sell in modest quantities, so why would you let them age into irrelevance? Moreover, a D580, D780, D880, and D6 lineup would say to DSLR aficionados that Nikon is there for them. Nikon already dominates that range of DSLR now that Canon has shut down their new offerings, so why not continue to cater to them? It's low-hanging fruit for Nikon, but they're currently not picking.

Canon, though, seems to have taken the approach all the previous camera makers have made: don't let the user decide. Simply drop your DSLR development and go all-in with mirrorless, forcing the customer to follow. That's a risky proposition, as the cost of replacing a DSLR system with a mirrorless one is high enough to allow the customer to consider starting over in a competitor's system. I suspect the reason why we have approximately ten <US$1000 lenses already in the RF lineup has to do with the fact that Canon knows they need to give their user base more affordable migration options, or risk losing them to Sony.

Pentax, of course, stopped marching in the camera parade a long time ago. The few DSLR drummers still beating in the aging heart of Asahi, are working at such a slow, faint beat now that if you're not listening for it, most people don't hear them.

The Number One Question Being Asked...

…is “are DSLRs dead or will we see continued development and sales?” It seems an hour doesn’t pass by without some variation of this question appearing in my email.

I’d say that this question requires a tri-modal answer for the moment, so let me provide that:

  • Consumer, crop-sensor DSLRs are probably dead. The huge drop in DSLR unit volume is mostly in the sub-US$1000 category. While both Canon and Nikon still see some sales in this category, those sales have plummeted faster than any other category of camera and continue to go down. Equivalent cost mirrorless consumer cameras are smaller, lighter, focus better, and in some cases produce better images (not all cases). If you’re waiting for a new Rebel/Kiss model or D3xxx/D5xxx model, or new EF-S or DX lenses, it’s highly unlikely you’ll see them. If you do, it’ll likely be “last of breed.” On top of everything else, the parts supply shortage has forced the camera makers into putting what parts they can get into the cameras they really want to sell. And that isn’t a consumer, crop-sensor DSLR with low margins. I expect a consumer, crop-sensor DSLR sell-off this holiday season as the makers squeeze the last they can out of this segment.
  • Intermediate model DSLRs are dying. Here we have products such as the Canon 90D and Nikon D7500. These models aren’t far above the group I just mentioned, and I suspect that Canikon believe that the disease currently impacting sales of the consumer cameras will soon carry over into this intermediate group, if it hasn’t already. And again, the parts shortage has had the camera makers putting more effort into their favorite on-going products, and these DSLRs don’t tend to be in that list. Still, as long as sales hold up to some reasonable degree—no, I don’t know what that is—I’d think that Canon and Nikon would want to keep these models around for awhile longer because the margins are better than those for the above group. But I’m also not expecting to see any more EF-S or DX lenses, so these models will wither on the vine.
  • Top-end DSLRs are a bit like many of the elderly: assumed to be in bad health, but actually doing just fine. Yes, their years are probably numbered, but that number is not currently up. Canon and Nikon seem to differ a bit here. Canon appears to have given the “we’ve given up on this category” signal and wants you just to buy a mirrorless ILC. I wrote “appears” because I don’t know if that was a real signal or just a few manager’s opinions that got amplified. However, Canon’s on-going full frame DSLR sales were not holding up as well against Nikon’s as the Canon’s crop sensor models were. I suspect that Canon has decided that “if we’re going to tackle one full frame competitor head on, let’s make it Sony in mirrorless, not Nikon in DSLR.” Nikon, meanwhile, has been on an “upgrade to full frame” quest for the last decade, and had excellent success with that. If you think about the models they still have available (Df, D610, D750, D780, D810A, D850, D5, D6), you probably come to the conclusion that Nikon wants to milk this category even as Canon appears to abdicate it. Likewise, in the last three years we received three significant F-mount telephotos (180-400mm f/4, 500mm f/5.6 PF, 120-300mm f/2.8) while >200mm telephoto in the Z System still doesn’t really exist yet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another F-mount lens or two in the coming years, though the pressure to release Z-mount lenses is considerable within Nikon. I wouldn't be surprised to see another Nikon DSLR, either.

I mention all this because I get a constant stream of questions from people wondering whether or not they should (1) upgrade their older DSLR to a new one, (2) just keep using what they have; or (3) reluctantly give in to mirrorless. (See today's other article.)

For Canon DSLR users, I think the answer probably has now shifted to #3, but only RF mirrorless, not M. I’m just not seeing energy in the DSLR lines from Canon that would indicate #1 is a realistic option. Remember, warranty laws in California basically dictate repairability in the US. Those laws require that a maker has to retain parts for repair for seven years after final production. How many of those Canon DSLRs have seen final production already? We don’t know, as Canon won’t say whether current sales are coming from inventory or new manufacturing. Cameras last a long time, and they’re all highly capable, so you’d really want to know that you can get it repaired for a long time, too.

For Nikon DSLR users, the answer for anyone not currently owning a D500, D850, D5, or D6 would tend to be #1 (for those owning the four mentioned cameras, it’s clearly #2, as those cameras are still all near state of the art). In a few cases not in that select four cameras—the D7500 and D810 come to mind—perhaps #2 is the right answer. But I don’t see any issue with a D800 owner upgrading to a D850 or even a D4 owner upgrading to a D6. That’s a huge change in performance and ability in both cases, and Nikon’s still making those models, so you should be able to get a D6 and D850 repaired for the foreseeable future. 

Of course, none of the above answers questions such as “will Nikon produce a D880?” or “will Nikon produce a D580?” I’m confident that Nikon has explored what new D7xxx, D5xx, D8xx, and even the pro flagship body updates would look like in DSLR trim. I don’t know what their conclusions have been. We’re significantly overdue for a D500 update, slightly overdue for a D850 update. Nikon seems to be in a position of soul searching at the moment (again). at least with DSLRs. They keep giving lip service to the high-end enthusiast and professional as their target customer, which, if they walked the talk would imply future high-end DSLRs, as well as future mirrorless models, because the market is still clearly there for them.

Unfortunately, just concentrating on the top-end user base would mean a far leaner Nikon, and perhaps a slip beyond #3 in unit sals (to Fujifilm, the only candidate currently positioned that could really pick up any further Nikon slippage). Nikon’s pride is hurt. They’ve always coveted getting the #1 position back (though strangely they never went full in on getting it), and they believe that they should be in the #2 position (even though their delays in mirrorless lost that to Sony). So I’m pretty sure that we’re going to see Nikon producing consumer mirrorless cameras. Indeed the recent Zfc seems to confirm that. But those consumer cameras won’t be DSLRs because the volume for consumer ILC is now in mirrorless, and the cost to produce a mirrorless camera is lower. 

Thus, Nikon finds themselves in a challenging position: continue their success in full frame DSLR in addition to doing everything they’re doing in mirrorless, or not? After all, margins on the D500 and D850 are excellent, so if those lines continue selling, why wouldn’t they update them?

The problem is the D780. Nikon did update the D750, one of their best selling higher-end cameras. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to attract a lot of updaters. While the D780 did pick up the Z6 Live View and video capabilities (good), it didn’t really have much in the “advancing the DSLR” category (bad), so why wouldn’t you just get a Z6 II? Unfortunately, because the D780 didn’t sell as well as Nikon thought it would, I’ll bet this has them rethinking their DSLR strategy moving forward. Personally, I’d argue that the lack of D780 sales was mostly a marketing problem, not a product problem. 

Because Canon and Nikon aren’t sending out any specific “DSLR future” messages, they’re letting customers imagine answers and get paranoid while doing so. Paranoid is never good in a customer base. The problem for both Canon and Nikon is simple: because they were late to serious mirrorless, the minute that a potential customer—return or new—decides that they need to go mirrorless, the cost of switching out of DSLRs suddenly means that those customers can more easily consider Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony. Fujifilm has a clear and extensive lineup in crop sensor; Sony has a clear and extensive lineup in full frame. So, to compete in mirrorless, Canon and Nikon have to knock one or both those competitors off their pedestal.

The proper message Canon and Nikon should be sending out today is really simple: “We’ve got you covered if you want to stick with serious DSLRs, and we’re ready for you if and when you decide to move to mirrorless.” Then they should do everything they can to deliver on that message. 

At the moment, not only has that message not been delivered, but for whatever reason, everything that needs to be done to deliver on that message is not being done.


Okay, that didn’t really answer the number one question I get, did it? But that’s my point: the only ones that can answer the question are Canon and Nikon, and by not answering it, they’re leaving their considerable customer bases wondering whether to stay a customer or not. I’d love to have management at both companies explain to me how that’s beneficial to them. 

What I suspect is that both Canon and Nikon are fearful of your response to the actual answer they’d give. In other words, we have camera companies who are paranoid, but in so being, they’re driving their customers towards paranoia! 

It really doesn’t matter what the real answer is, as any answer has the potential to drive off a few customers. If Nikon said, for instance, that they’ll continue to iterate DSLRs, someone who’s decided to go mirrorless might suddenly decide Sony is the better answer (more mirrorless gear already, #1 in that market). If Nikon said instead that there won’t be any more DSLRs, the entire F-mount customer base would be forced into a “ride out the end” or “go to mirrorless,” and they might consider themselves abandoned by their original choice and thus pick another maker for full frame. 

Nikon’s problem (and Canon’s) is that they have to help their customers feel comfortable about both their present and future situations. The only way to do that is through clear, consistent, and constant communication. Yes, the danger is that some customers might peel away and buy a competitor’s product. But the ones that do stay on brand will be thankful and loyal because of the clarity that the company provided. 

Particularly in Nikon’s case, I fear that their decision making has completely turned to dollars and cents (or yen and bhat, if you will). As long as their ROE number is 8% they’ll just end up the size they end up, customer be damned. The problem with this approach is that the brand value goes down with customer dissatisfaction, and purely following the dollars and cents approach generates such dissatisfaction. The brand value going down, however, will ultimately determine how many future customers they can get, which impacts that ROE. The circle is not unbroken. It’s all about getting balance right, and neither Canon nor Nikon are doing so at the moment. 

My advice to my readers remains the same as ever. A Canon 5D Mark IV or Nikon D850 are great cameras capable of most anything you’d like to do. Extensive lens sets are available for either, so there’s really not any kind of photography you can’t attempt with them. Will you miss out on something using those cameras instead of tomorrow’s latest and greatest? Perhaps, but not much, at least not in the foreseeable future. As I’ve written for a long time, spending the time to make sure you’re completely utilizing your current gear is the best bang for the buck in improving your photography, not buying new gear. 

Where Did the D850 Go?

bythom d850 blur

Hmm. This weekend the D850 disappeared from B&H's Web site, and a discontinued notice was sent to anyone who had signed up for an email notification about when the product would be in stock. Other dealers just list "out of stock" on their Web sites, and NikonUSA says "backordered." 

B&H removed the D850 from their Web site because they have an automated system that removes products that haven't been available for a certain period of time. They corrected the situation when they came back to work on Sunday. The D850 is now listed as "More on the way," and imported models are available. 

The real question here is "what the heck is Nikon doing?" 

Even as I write this, I believe that the D850 is the second-best all-around camera that you can (almost) buy, and the best all-around DSLR that you can get (or can't get ;~). Unfortunately, the D850 has been pretty much out of stock now for almost two months here in the US. As one US poster wrote: "Is the D850 discontinued? No. Can you buy it? No."

Here's my best guess: Nikon doesn't have enough D850 sensors to continue full production at the moment. Note that the Z7/Z7 II sensor, while similar, is not the exact same sensor as in the D850, as it has a different microlens pattern. Sticking that sensor into the D850 body would require a new D850 model number (e.g. D850s) and slightly different firmware. My guess is that continued demand for the D850 coupled with not being able to get any additional low quantity sensor run onto any fab at the moment has Nikon between the proverbial rock and hard place. 

Just in time (JIT) inventory techniques are coming back to haunt a wide range of companies around the globe, and I'm pretty sure that Nikon, with all their cost cutting, cut themselves right to the bone on this one. Coupled with Nikon's dumbfounded insistence on building the same product serialized for different specific markets—regionalism versus globalism—they can't even move any inventory they do have without breaking their systems.

The best answer was simple: up the Z7 sensor production and release a D880 (along the lines of what Nikon did with the D780: mostly mirrorless additions to Live View and video, which make an already great camera better). 

I'm just going to state this bluntly: we're seeing the result of Nikon mismanagement running smack dab into real world problems that they somehow convinced themselves would never happen. 2011 should have taught them otherwise, but the bean counters just wanted fewer beans to count and have mismanaged Nikon into sub-optimal execution.

I've written before that there's substantive demand for higher-end DSLRs still. A D580 and D880 would both sell decently enough to justify making. They'd be highly profitable models even in their modest volumes. A D6s would also likely be welcomed, though not as easy to achieve. Unfortunately, Nikon is so focused on the fact that their mirrorless market share isn't where they'd like it to be that they've ignored the fact that they could have completely owned the high-end DSLR market (and still managed sufficient mirrorless product). 

"But at least we're profitable" the bean counters counter. "You're not as profitable as you could be" I'd bean them right back with. 

And now Nikon has another messaging problem: I've been getting periodic emails about "why was the D850 cancelled?" The lack of confidence among Nikon's most faithful is taking another blow. How many of those hits does Nikon management think they can endure before the perception becomes locked in that Nikon is no longer a leading camera brand and has stopped supporting top-end DSLRs?

NikonUSA, if you're reading this: you need a clear and direct message about the lack of available D850 stock and what you're doing about it, and you needed it 30 days ago. It's easy to lose the confidence of your best customers. It's much more difficult to attract entirely new best customers. Stop taking the easy route.

Update: D850’s continue to trickle into the US (as do D500’s). What I’ve been seeing happen is that a monthly shipment comes in, but before the next shipment arrives, it sells out. My recommendation is that you just get in line at a reputable dealer if you find the D850 out of stock. Typically the wait is significantly less than 30 days to receive a back-ordered D850. 

Where Are the DSLRs Going?

You'll see a lot of analysis of the CIPA statistics focused on just the dynamic of decreased camera sales plus the shift from DSLR to mirrorless. Sometimes you'll see a slightly more analytic approach that notes that the average value associated with continued DSLR sales is now lower than that associated with mirrorless (implying that the Z6/Z7 type of mirrorless camera is taking over from the D780/D850 type of DSLR camera).

What you don't often see is a discussion that goes a little deeper. Consider this: through the first five months of 2021 there's been 1m DSLRs shipped versus 1.3m mirrorless. And to the point I made in the previous paragraph, that was 32b yen worth of DSLRs versus 79.3b yen worth of mirrorless.

But still, that's 1m DSLRs. Where did they go?

CIPA gives us information on that, too, though most analysis doesn't drop into that:

  • China — 124k DSLR, 272k mirrorless
  • Japan — 38k DSLR, 113k mirrorless
  • Rest of Asia — 160k DSLR, 188k mirrorless
  • Americas — 288k DSLR, 362k mirrorless
  • Europe — 426k DSLR, 324k mirrorless
  • Other — 18k DSLR, 47k mirrorless

The DSLRs are going to Europe. Almost half of them!

For a long time, DSLRs had great strength in the Americas and Europe. It appears that DSLRs lost that strength in the US in the last couple of years, but for some reason Europe remains the last region where DSLR shipments outrun mirrorless now. Prior to this recent change, China had also been a strong DSLR region, as well. 

What strikes me more than the regional shipment numbers are the regional value numbers. In the Americas we're at 9.4b yen for DSLRs and 37b yen for mirrorless this year, which reflects a widening disparity that started not very long ago. That's an awful lot of Z5/RP and higher cameras being sold to generate that number, and far fewer D780/D850s. 

Something that usually goes unsaid is that the Japanese camera companies are crafty at gaming the regions. There's a reason why CIPA reports regional numbers: every camera company has been looking for ways to use regions to boost sales for the last 20 years. As we got close to peak DSLR back in 2011/2012 you saw expansion into regions that traditionally didn't have a lot of camera sales support (e.g. India, Brazil, etc.), because they were viewed as potential new customers that could keep the volume up. The mirrorless camera companies first targeted Japan and Asia—and particularly with lower end models—because they originally thought they could make inroads to volume in those regions with smaller, competent ILC at low prices. 

DSLR volume is getting weaker everywhere now, though. It's only a matter of time before Europe also falls to below 50% DSLR. 

The question Canon and Nikon have to answer is this: is it worth it to sustain some DSLR production against this shift, and if so, what models would that be? 

I'm on record with my answer. For Canon, 90D Mark II, 5D Mark V, and 1DX Mark III. For Nikon, D580, D780, D880, D6. Unfortunately, the Sony A1 has put pressure on Canon and Nikon to respond with mirrorless equivalents (R3 and Z9, respectively, coming in September and November, respectively), which means that the 1DX and D6 are probably the last major iterations of the pro model on the DSLR side. If those models do iterate, it will likely be in minor ways (the old "s" version in Nikon-dom, ala a D6s). Canon seems to have dropped pretty much all EF iteration, which means no 5D Mark V. The jury is still out on what Nikon will do. An awful lot of Nikon D500/D8xx users are out there that could be upgraded into a new equivalent model DSLR if done right. 

The problem with a D580 is that there is no clear image sensor to move to. To fully satisfy the D500 user in terms of upgrade, you can't just add the Z50 Live View, you need "something more." As in 26-32mp, and maybe 6K video? But what sensor would that be? And if Nikon had such a DX sensor, wouldn't it make more sense to deploy it in a Z90? I see the prospect of a D580 update as low (<25% probability), and the easy option for Nikon would again be an "s" type update: A D500s would get Z50 Live View, USB Charging, and a few other minor bits. Is that enough to sustain the model?

But the D850 is Nikon's gem, and it still has the ability to wow. I'll now propose a different update approach to the one I proposed earlier (Sony 60mp or other higher pixel count sensor): just bring the Z9 sensor/processor over to the D8xx chassis. That ups the camera to 8K video, gets the Live View bits, and provides more horsepower for focus and other algorithmic work. Couple that with a faster mechanical shutter and you've got a new standard setter in the DSLR world, one that would keep many in the D7xx/D8xx crowd updating for awhile longer. I give this (or other D850 update) option a far greater chance of happening. I'd like to say it's more likely to happen than not, but I'll just put the odds at 50/50 right now. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic has not been on the side of us getting DSLR updates. I've had to downgrade my optimism for future DSLR iterations.

Beyond the fact that the camera companies became less productive in 2020 and into 2021, potential buyers had a chance to spend time considering what they really want and when, and to evaluate all brands. The current trend towards mirrorless was already in progress in 2019. Ditto the trend towards Sony. DSLRs outsold mirrorless in quantity in 2019, but the majority of the value of those shipments had shifted to mirrorless, and particularly Sony. Mirrorless passed DSLRs in quantity in 2020, and that's the way it will remain in the future (FWIW, I was a year off in my prediction on when that would happen; five years ago I went on record saying DSLR volume would stay above 50% until 2021). 

And beyond those things, the current parts shortage causes additional angst in the DSLR realm: if you only have enough guaranteed parts for X cameras, how many of those parts would you commit to making new DSLRs? The answer appears to be "as few as possible." Note that the D780 hasn't been going on deep discount as you might expect and is pretty much sticking to its slightly high price point. That's because Nikon wants to use those image sensors for Z6 II's right now. It also currently appears that Nikon is clearing out its parts commitment obligations for consumer DX DSLRs and starting to stop selling them into some regions as they wind down. 

By the time the pandemic becomes enough of a thing of the past that life worldwide reverts fully to normal—no I can't reliably predict when that will happen, but I'm looking at 2023 now—mirrorless is where all the focus will be, and particularly high end mirrorless, as that's where all the dollars are. Nikon is likely prioritizing a Z7 III (or Z8) higher than a D880 now. Canon already got there. 

So what's the good news for DSLR owners? Plenty, actually. There's nothing wrong with the cameras we currently have. Nikon's D500, D780, D850, D6 are spectacularly good. Best APS-C camera bar none, excellent DSLR/mirrorless/video crossover, 2nd best all-around camera you can buy, and best focusing sports/wildlife camera, respectively. Moreover, there are strong value buys now in the used Nikon DSLR market (particularly the D810, and maybe the D4/D5). The lens base for these cameras is excellent, and plenty of excellent condition used lenses are popping up as more customers transition from F-mount to Z-mount.

Serious Canon DSLR users probably would have liked a better image sensor (more DR) before Canon started shutting down the upgrade parade, but the 90D is a very good APS-C camera and the 5D Mark IV and 1DX Mark III are still right up there close to the D850/D6 in capability. The one downside on the Canon DSLR side is that EF lens choice is starting to wither a bit as Canon stops making some lenses. 

My advice: if you're using an older DSLR and want to upgrade, now's the time to do it while your choices are still many. If you're using one of the many recent excellent DSLRs, instead pay attention to your lens set and work on wringing everything you can from the camera you have (e.g. work on technique). 

Of course, if you're a Pentax DSLR user, nothing has changed at the moment. You simply wait for Pentax's painfully slow DSLR iteration to continue and that this hopefully gives you want you want. And be prepared for oddities from Pentax, such as the current APS-C camera selling for more than the current full frame one. 

What the Nikon DSLR User Doesn't Want to Give Up

In the previous article I outlined the things that might make you a DSLR user over a mirrorless user. But there's a sub-component to that: things that the DSLR user simply doesn't want to give up. 

I'm going to do this for the Nikon DSLR as it's what I'm most familiar with, but a similar but different list can be made for Canon.

Here's my take from my discussions from dedicated Nikon DSLR users. They don't want to give up:

  • The D500. For a smallish group—mostly wildlife and sports photographers—there's simply no mirrorless crop sensor camera that can substitute for a D500. Even some mirrorless traits, such as focus across nearly the entire frame, are present on the D500, thus mirrorless doesn't have much of a grab on the D500 user. The only two faults of a D500? It hasn't been upgraded in five+ years, and it doesn't have an extensive set of DX lenses (buzz, buzz). A D580 with a 32mp DX sensor and mirrorless Live View is the thing that these users want. Give it to them and they'll never change.
  • The PF lenses. Yes, I know you can put these lenses on the FTZ adapter, but it isn't quite the same thing. Autofocus performance drops a bit on large focus changes, and you have another mount to worry about. These lenses just "feel right" on a DSLR.
  • Optical viewfinders. This is a more subtle and extended desire than just "see real time view."  As a lot of studio photographers have discovered, mirrorless has some liabilities in a low-ambient light environment where studio lights are being triggered for the shot. 
  • Flash autofocus. Event photographers have come to rely upon the AF Assist lamp of the Speedlight flashes, something that doesn't work at all on the mirrorless bodies. 

I'm sure there are more things to add to this list, but those are the big four I keep hearing over and over. So, what would Nikon have to do to win over this group?

  • A D500 equivalent mirrorless, call it the Z90. Same premise as the D5/D500 combo: the Z9/Z90 would be a full statement of everything possible, with the Z90 mirroring that as much as possible with a crop sensor. We know the Z9 is coming, we don't know that a Z90 is.
  • Z PF lenses. If Nikon were smart, it would bracket the existing PF lenses when they make the first Z versions. In other words, a 400mm f/4 and a 600mm f/8. Simply duplicating the 300mm f/4 and 500mm f/5.6 in the Z mount wouldn't actually entice a DSLR user to switch to mirrorless, as they already have that lens and don't want to pay for it again. 
  • Fix flash. The last two items in the above bullet list have a common element to them: using a mirrorless camera is more of a pain when using external light sources like strobes and flashes. Nikon would need to completely fix all aspects of that pain point. That won't completely satisfy the optical viewfinder lovers, but it might be enough to entice a few more of them to move to mirrorless.

What is it that you don't want to give up that's keeping you a DSLR user?                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

You're a DSLR User For Life if...

Personally, I'm liking mirrorless the more I use it, though it obviously takes some adjusting to. A lot of dedicated DSLR users don't want to do any adjusting. The typical DSLR user is older and set in their ways, so it is probably a good idea to set down some of the reasons why these folk don't (won't) want to move to a mirrorless camera:

  • Optical viewfinder — The usual complaint about EVFs is that they lag the actual scene being depicted (though they've gotten far better in recent years). But other aspects of an optical view also come into play for some. In particular, not seeing the view at an artificial brightness (happens at dawn and dusk and in other low light situations, where an EVF generally is brighter than the scene being looked at). This has implications on holding onto night vision for some. Other issues some have are due to EVF frame rates and poor presentation with continuous frame rates (though again, this has gotten better in high-end mirrorless offerings lately). Plus then there's the "viewfinder is always ready" thing that DSLR cameras have over mirrorless.
  • No adapters — While Canon, Nikon, and Sony all have excellent adapters to make most DSLR lenses work on their mirrorless systems, using adapters introduces issues. With autofocus lenses, it may mean that you have to fine-tune the lens because focus motor speeds/accuracy aren't quite the same with the extension of communication signals. Nikon made the mistake of not supporting screw-mount lenses, of which their dedicated DSLR customer probably has more than one. But the big issue is having multiple mounts in the first place. This makes for a weak point in the lens/camera handling, and the more mounts involved, the more likely that there are mount alignment issues. 
  • No conversion cost — Most long-term DSLR users have a full system; multiple bodies and many lenses. The cost of replacing perfectly good gear with "different" gear doesn't justify the potential gains in a dedicated DSLR user's mind. Nikon, in particular, needs to pay attention here: these folk would opt for a new D500 or D850 body upgrade in a heartbeat, but not for the full cost of moving to mirrorless. Moreover, there's a sizable group of these folk who are one or two items away from having a complete DSLR system (e.g. missing a lens or flash or two), and buying a couple of new items is far cheaper than changing entirely to another system.
  • Longer battery life — While generally true that DSLRs sip from the battery while mirrorless cameras suck from it, things have gotten better in the mirrorless world with many higher-end models lately. Still, there's no mirrorless camera that can be used for a week on safari on only one battery charge (I've done just that with a Nikon D5). 
  • No missing features — Yes, mirrorless does gain some features, such as IBIS, that DSLRs don't currently have. But Nikon, in particular, made a mistake by not bringing over all the D750/D850 features/controls to the Z6/Z7. In particular, buttons and customization options are missing in the Z System at the moment. Once you start to rely upon controls and customizations, going back seems like a bigger step backwards than it actually is.
  • Right size — This one is contentious, but a real issue for many: they simply don't want smaller/lighter cameras, and the lenses they use with their DSLRs make for what they feel is a good balance (particularly true for birders and sports photographers). Quite a few folk who've moved to mirrorless all comment about pinkies falling off the bottom of the grip, restrictive space for big fingers/hands around the mount, and other size-related issues. 
  • Won't deteriorate your photography — The camera companies don't get this one, and never have, frankly. Still photography is about a moment in time. You have hundreds of decisions you have to quickly make to get the best possible image. Once you've learned how to use your tool (camera/lens/flash/, forcing you to relearn a new system does deteriorate your photography, at least until you fully master the new tool (and it has all the things you need; see "no missing features," above). Who wants to go backwards in their work? No one, really. Some of us tolerate it from time to time when we realize a step backwards might eventually take us two steps forward. But the died-in-the-wool DSLR crowd isn't interested in that. 

As I was preparing this article, one thing I started to put in the above list was "No missing lenses." Unfortunately, just a few moments of thinking about that (buzz, buzz) made me realize that we still have plenty of missing lenses in the EF and F mounts. And quite a few lenses that are in need of updates. Oops. 

Other things that some think should be in the above list no longer belong there. In particular, one that keeps coming up is "Best autofocus" (in DSLRs). Nope. That ship has sailed, and will continue to sail more briskly in the future. The Sony A1 now matches my Nikon D6 in focus consistency and accuracy and control, but can do so across the entire frame, not just the central section. (Oh, and you folk using the long telephoto lenses on DSLRs realize that you're often limited to an even smaller central area, right?) Even the Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II are underrated in this respect, mostly because people aren't taking the time to learn how the new autofocus system differs from the one they've been using (see "Won't deteriorate your photography", above). 

I'm still a strong advocate for some limited DSLR upgrades in the future. By limited, I mean you can write off the consumer DSLR users who value price and convenience, so no new Rebels/Kisses/D3xxx/D5xxx). But Canon and Nikon would be well advised not to try to push too hard on dedicated DSLR users in the upper product range by ignoring all DSLR updates and just saying "move to mirrorless." Canon should create a 5D Mark V, and Nikon should create a D580 and D880 for the customers that feel strongly about the bullet list above. No, these models won't be best sellers in the future, but they'll be consistent, profitable products for several (if not many) years if made correctly. 

So. Are you a DSLR user for life, or did something in the above text make you start to rethink that position? 

What the DSLR Companies Failed to Do

Since it’s looking as if Canon and Nikon are winding down DSLRs, it’s probably a good time to consider what the companies managed to accomplish and what they failed to do. Every company should do a post-analysis of what did and didn’t work, so that they learn from their product past. 

I’m going to be tough in my analysis here. Very tough. Because I see a lot of things that weren’t done well and caused both companies to execute poorly at times. Certainly less than optimally. Which means that money was left on the table. That's actually one of the worst sins a company can commit (leaving money on the table), as ROI/ROE impacts what they can do in the future.

Let’s start with some positives:

  • Both Canon and Nikon quickly recognized how fast and how much that DSLRs would take over from film SLRs. Nikon moved more quickly and more organized initially, but Canon quickly caught up. The Nikon D100, D1h, and D1x was a rock solid introduction that offered some clear choices for the first DSLR purchasers. 
  • Canon pushed to full frame early. The number one question in the 00's was "what's this crop factor thing?" and by simply making the image sensor the size of 35mm film, that stumbling point went away. Nikon didn't get to a full frame emphasis until about 2009, when they went full in (full range of products from D600 to D4 within three years). So Nikon thus made a committed and organized attempt at transitioning as many people as possible to FX in the second decade of DSLR, starting with the D600. 
  • Nikon continued to support film SLR users for a long time during the transition, even to the point of introducing a top end film SLR with their second generation of their DSLRs.

But the negatives are a longer list:

  • The missing Nikon D400 totally lost all the momentum that the D100, D200, and D300 progression made. A lame D300s update didn’t help. By the time the D500 rolled out, many of the people who would have been in line to upgrade had gone elsewhere. Couple that with a very short term marketing effort on the D500, and the D500 underperformed in sales despite—to this day—being arguably the best crop-sensor camera on the market. 
  • Neither company did much with crop sensor lenses in the last decade, despite the fact that crop-sensor DSLRs were the bulk of their sales. Nikon, in particular, seemed to stubbornly emphasize FX lenses because they wanted to sell FX cameras. This, too, didn’t help the D500. 
  • Canon’s Rebel/Kiss lineup got 100% confusing. I couldn’t tell you the difference between any two cameras with those names without consulting a chart, particularly once we started getting deep generational overlap. This couldn’t have been efficient, particularly once peak DSLR was hit. But it continues to this day.
  • Speaking of peak DSLR, it seems that neither Canon nor Nikon correctly anticipated there being a peak, let alone when it would occur. Remember, I predicted peak DSLR with an accuracy of within six months almost a full decade before it happened. That wasn’t a random guess on my part. It was based upon both historical data and examination of household penetration potential, using a methodology I developed in my PhD work. Both companies were late with a strategy to thrive post-peak. Some might say they still don't have one.
  • Both companies have apparently punted on making further DSLR sales by updating bodies, and simply are concentrating on forcing customers to transition to mirrorless. When you do that, you’ll always lose some customers. I’m not suggesting that Canon or Nikon should continue making full DSLR model lines, but by not telling customers what will continue onward and some idea of how long, that is basically the same as telling them that nothing will carry on. I know plenty of folk that want a D500, D850, or 5D update, for instance. The minute you hint that there won’t be one, they lose confidence in their chosen brand and feel free to consider all competitors. That alone will change the duopoly from Canon/Nikon to Sony/Canon. 
  • So let’s consider what updates haven't happened in DSLRs that should have. Until the D780, no one made a DSLR whose Live View was as absolutely as good as the mirrorless choice. Pentax is the only one that’s put sensor-based IS into a DSLR. Pentax is the only one that’s put pixel-shift shooting into a DSLR. The list goes on and on of things we never got in a Canon/Nikon DSLR, and now probably never will. 
  • Removing DSLR lenses from the lineup while still trying to sell DSLRs is a really bad signal to customers, and counter productive to selling off DSLR inventories. Moreover, failing to talk about that discontinuation strategy is even worse. "Shun me now, shun me later" is what that customer is thinking. They'll go elsewhere instead of migrating with you.
  • Ironically, the parts shortages and other issues caused by the pandemic make the inventory of DSLRs more viable, but the camera companies haven't picked up on that, let alone done any marketing to adjust their sales balance. After all, that would be counter to the "transition to mirrorless" strategy they've been pursuing with customers. Unfortunately, it's difficult to sell DSLRs when the message you're sending (see above) is "no more DSLRs or DSLR lenses coming."
  • Nikon NX Field is a good example of "well, we finally got around to it for the few of you still using your top-end DSLR." Only works with a D5 or D6. Was needed five years ago when the D5 was launched. Worse still, I'm an NPS member and still don't know exactly what it will cost me, let alone when I could start using it. Terrible execution.
  • Do we have any Ambassadors or Explorers left who aren't shilling for mirrorless now? It was inevitable that once the companies decided to transition from DSLRs that they'd enlist their closest pros to help them with that. But they neglected to leave a few "Hey DSLR users I'm still here and here's why" spokespeople around. (This also points to the previous bullet: had NX Field been introduced and touted as a top DSLR improvement at the time of the Z mirrorless launches, the lack of an A9 competitor wouldn't have been so painful. In other words "pros we're still helping you with your top-end DSLRs, but you in the middle without such high needs might want to transition to a new experience.")                                                                                                                            

Yearly Site Cleanup

I've just finished my yearly site maintenance for, including a fair bit of site cleanup. Here are a few of the main tasks I did this year:

  • Removed the sidebar from all pages. This will clean up some responsive Web site issues for mobile users.
  • Since search was in the sidebar, a search form was added to the home page (also in About).
  • I'll also be adding "buy the book" buttons on reviews and data pages for cameras on which I have a book.

Because I removed the sidebar, that removed the B&H presence on each page. To compensate for that, I've added a B&H banner ad at the bottom of each page. I really do appreciate you using that (or the other B&H links on data pages) to start any shopping you do at B&H, as it helps support this Web site. I'm trying to keep site clutter to a minimum, but if this B&H ad move changes this site's buying traffic to B&H I might have to re-consider. 

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