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/et.al.), 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? 

Looking for gear-specific information? Check out our other Web sites:
mirrorless: sansmirror.com | general: bythom.com| Z System: zsystemuser.com | film SLR: filmbodies.com


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