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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. 

Nikon's NX Field System

Nikon has partly announced something they call the NX Field System. Why do I say "partly announced"? Because there are costs and back-to-Nikon firmware updates involved that haven't been disclosed yet. Nor is it clear that the system is truly available today, even though the NX Field System user manual is publicly available. (Update: Nikon now says it will be available starting June 17th for the D5 and D6.)

But D5 and D6 users should soon be able to use this new triggering and remote software system.

Let's start with triggering: the NX Field System connects up to 11 cameras via either Ethernet (LAN) or Wi-Fi (WT-5 or WT-6 only). Ethernet is preferred (and that's repeated several times in the manual, which means that Nikon really means it ;~). You can trigger multiple cameras via either a Master camera or via a mobile device (iPhone or iPad only at present). 

Moving on, we also have automatic uploading (via FTP) to servers, synchronization of camera clocks, setting adjustments for remote cameras, previewing of remote cameras, reviewing images stored on remote cameras, and defining groups of cameras, with more capabilities likely in the future.

Nikon seems to be initially promoting the NX Field System through NPS (Nikon Professional Services), and that's likely due to the complexity of setup. If you haven't configured an FTP server or wired networks before, you may need some handholding to get through all the possible complexities. Things like NAT Traversal add additional layers of complexity that might limit what you can do, too.

While Nikon demonstrated NX Field System with several sports examples (both indoor and outdoor), it obviously is a system that could be used for events, weddings, and more. That said, if you don't have real venue access—e.g. the ability to set up and wire LAN connections to your cameras—you might find that NX Field System isn't the right solution for you in the short term. 

Commentary: can't say that the roll-out of NX Field System has been exactly confidence building. It seems like the cart is before the horse here, as details slowly leak out for something that was already announced. I suspect this is another of those things that was being readied for the Tokyo Olympics that Nikon felt they had to announce before people discovered it was available to use there. 

Are We Looking at this Wrong?

Lately I've been hearing a lot of comments that go along the lines of "I don't want to abandon DSLRs, but Nikon's making me do so." 

Well they're certainly encouraging you to move to mirrorless ;~).

But the complaints about no D850 replacement in sight and feeling abandoned by Nikon probably are over-wrought. See if you can follow my logic here.

The D850 is, to this day, still #2 on my best-all-around-camera-you-can-buy list. It's a dang good camera, and it is still more well-rounded than that Z7 II Nikon wants you to buy. 

If you had to buy a D850 today—or continue to use the one you already have—it's going to last you easily five years as a go-to camera. Yes, we all would like a new D880 that's designed along the lines of what Nikon did with the D780 (e.g., the Live View capabilities of the Z7 model along with some other modernizations of features). But we don't really need it yet. 

Meanwhile, all the folk that rushed to the Z mount from the F mount have been rapidly disposing of F mount lenses (disclaimer: including me, though only of some select lenses I don't feel I need duplication of on the F-mount side). That's depressed the used lens prices far enough that it's a buyer's market for F-mount lenses in excellent condition right now, particularly for best-selling lenses for which there's an abundant supply. 

Nikon's reverted the D850 price back to US$3000 again, but for awhile there you could pick up a new D850 at a nice discount, and then dip into the excellent used market and pick up some key lenses for it at really nice prices, too. Sounds good to me. What DSLR death? 

Meanwhile, the D780 is at US$2000, which is about the right price point for that very good DSLR.

In other words, there's nothing terribly wrong with the Nikon full frame DSLR lineup at the moment (well, Nikon could discount the D6 considering the upcoming Z9). Even the D610 is still available at US$1000, and the D750 at US$1500. That's still arguably the best full frame DSLR lineup we've ever had from anyone, and most of those cameras are competitive today and into the future. 

Do I wish we had a D880 replacement out? Absolutely. It would send the message that high-end DSLR will stick around for awhile if you want it. And Nikon would be the only company sending that message, thus would have the new top-end DSLR market to itself.

Of course, D500 users might be thinking a little differently. But even there, I'm not so sure. What APS-C camera is better than a D500 today? I can't think of one. Moreover, the D500 is currently US$1500, which is less than a Fujifilm X-T4 by US$200. 

Unlike the FX DSLR users, the DX users haven't quite made the same large, quick dump of DX lenses to water down used prices. First of all, Nikon didn't make all that many DX lenses (buzz, buzz). And second, many of the dedicated D500 users were photographing mostly with FX exotics. 

Still, I guess the conclusion I keep coming to is this: the D500 and D850 (and D780 and D6) are still all long-haul cameras that can provide usefulness and enjoyment for some time to come. And they're not breaking your bank right now should you choose to hop on (okay, the D6 might drain you account ;~). 

Another One Bites the Dust

Sony has officially discontinued the last of their DSLRs (the A99 Mark II, the A77 Mark II, and the A68). Some lingering inventory may be out in dealer/distributor hands, but we’re basically past “last call” on the A-mount DSLR.

Of course, many of you thought they were already gone and are wondering why it took so long for the coroner’s results to be published. What tends to happen is that a few clients regarded as key still have a product being used in production. If they break the product they have, they want to replace it directly, not with something else. 

For instance, several Nikon DSLRs were used in various traffic systems over the years (red light monitors, speed traps, etc.). The vendor who bought all those cameras doesn’t want to have to rewrite any software or do any new testing if they have to replace one, they just want to replace like-for-like. 

So some cameras end up with lingering availability, even though the manufacturer isn’t actively selling them any more. Eventually, though, the inventible happens and it isn’t viable for the camera maker to continue to supply something, typically because of parts.

Nikon Rebates are Back

Nikon has some new rebates in effect for the month of May for DSLR users. Let’s start with the cameras:

  • D780 — US$300 off. Well, finally. That puts the price for the very good D780 where it should have been in the first place, US$1999. Since the Z6 II is now the same price, you have the choice of DSLR or mirrorless using the same sensor technology without paying a premium for either. I like the D780, but it’s definitely a DSLR with the reduced area in the center of the frame for autofocusing except in Live View (mirrorless tends to use the full frame). Great camera, now at a much more reasonable price.
  • D850 — US$500 off. A pretty steep discount for a camera that, to this day, is still one of the best all-around cameras you can buy. Of all the folk that have tried both the D850 and Z7, you’ll find that some like the Z7 better, some the D850 better. I agree with that split decision. Some will prefer a D850 over a Z7, some will prefer a Z7 over a D850. They use the same image sensor and have very similar feature/performance sets. 
  • Lenses — The usual suspects have the usual discounts. There are two that stand out, though: (1) the 16-35mm f/4G is now US$799 (US$300 discount), so if you’re interested in that lens at all, now is the time to pick it up; and (2) the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E AF-P lens is now US$399, which makes it a clear bargain. For the more casual shooter, the 16-35mm, 24-120mm, and 70-300mm make a reasonable DSLR travel lens kit. 

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Pentax Still Hanging onto DSLRs

While Canon and Nikon continue their wind-down of DSLRs, Pentax, meanwhile, continues to chug along on a few remaining lumps of coal and has once again iterated their APS-C flagship, the K-3 III.

In terms of specifications, the K-3 III now goes to the head of the APS-C class: 26mp image sensor, sensor-based stabilization, 12 fps burst rate, a bigger brighter viewfinder, USB charging (and USB-C), and much more. Wouldn’t a Nikon D500 user want to see a D580 with those stats, or a Canon 7D Mark II user see a similar 7D Mark III? I think so.

Of course, Pentax has been lagging on autofocus performance for a long time now. The K-3 III does have a new AF system that seems to have all the right stats to it, and Pentax talks about subject recognition AI helping, so let’s hope it does. But until I can test it, I don’t know if they’ve even gotten to D500-level performance yet. So there’s that.

Still, it’s nice to see Pentax iterating this DSLR. I don’t know how big the market will be for the K-3 III, but it’s clear that Pentax is no longer chasing after lots of new customers, just trying to satisfy their existing ones (see previous article about Canon ;~). 

Total new DSLR count in 2021: 1. 

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