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Consumer DSLRs "dead in 5 years"


Andrew Reid

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Convenience, Cost, Quality. That is what drives the general consumer camera market, in that order. If a camera company can find a way to fulfill these areas, they will control the market. Right now the big companies are quite good at Quality, but are loosing to Convenience and Cost as offered by the mobile market. Of course the mobile market keeps offering better and better quality as well, probably already more than the basic consumer typically requires.

 

It's the same reasons why so many indy video shooters get excited about the 5D. Convenience (not as good as dedicated video cameras, requiring more hacks and work arounds, but very workable) Cost (Excellent value compared to dedicated video cameras) and Quality (Quite Good and in some ways better than expensive dedicated video cameras)

 

Maybe Nikon and Canon really should start making camera guts and subsequent control/processing apps for mobiles to recapture some of this lost segment.

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Engaging the uninterested general public with dedicated cameras was never going to be sustainable - not with smartphones around. But I think the decline of consumer DSLRs wil

A really great article!Spot-on all around. Thanks

Don't underestimate the student, hobbyist, amateur photographer with aspirations of being a prophotog who invest thousands of Dollars buying and upgrading their Canon DSLR's to shoot weddings for a li

It's off topic, but here's a fact check:

Android Inc. was founded in 2003, was acquired by Google in 2005, and first released as a smartphone OS in 2007.

iOS was released with the first iPhone in 2007.

 

Update to fact check:

Yes, it's true Google acquired Android and was working on it in 2006... what most folks who mention this normally leave out the fact that back then, Android was a total clone of... the Blackberry OS (then the world's most popular smartphone). iPhone and iOS was released in 2007. Then Android was announced with the first Android phone on sale in 2008 sporting an interface that looked like...??? (Hint: nothing like the BB OS).

 

;-)

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I was just on Holliday in Victoria BC, and noticed my own photography behavior. I had my big DSLR with me, but didn't want to carry it around. I used my cell phone for snaps. I have been an enthusiast since the 70's, had my own dark room, etc.. I find myself wanting to slow down and enjoy the moment, the slo-photography corollary to slow-food. I talked to a young man who was shooting with an old Pentax, and he told me that he wants to learn about analog art. The market is changing...
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[spoiler]

Shooting on film is like collecting vinyl records, or buying the stereotypical "artisinal fair-trade organic locally-sourced small-batch hand-made" whatever.

 

It's an appeal toward something more authentic, and it's always a silly affectation when you look at it too closely.  People do these things as a form of conspicuous consumption.  You shoot on film not because it produces a better image, but because it gives you a story you can tell your buddies about how you like to shoot on film.  Same for buying vinyl records.  Same for buying hand-made beeswax zen candles at the farmers market, or whatever it may be.

 

Calling any of these things a movement or revolution is odd.  A revolution in targeted marketing demographics I guess.  Now McDonalds wants to sell you Angus, not a plain old hamburger.

[/spoiler]

 

Unhelpful meta-trolling removed by me. :)

 

It feels like the animosity in this topic stems from the marriage of video functionality onto the modern photo-DSLR.  Since this site is a DSLR Filmmaking blog, it's important to think about the problem from that perspective.  If you're angry about video features affecting your photographic camera of choice, you may have chosen the wrong place to complain about it.

 

At this time it seems like Panasonic may be the only maker prepared to experiment with reversing the traditional balance of video and photo features toward video.  What percentage of customers are buying the GH3 just to take photos?  We can call the Japanese makers incompetent until we're blue in the face, but surely Panasonic must know the answer, at least outside of Japan, is "nobody".

 

In a recent dpreview sewer thread, someone said "maybe in the future all cameras will just shoot video and we'll pull our stills from the video stream", which of course lead to a bunch of name-calling and "that will never work" backlash.

 

The new Lumix DMC-GX7 shoots full-res raw stills at 40 fps.

 

Let that sink in for a minute.

 

(The fine print is that it can only shoot 9 raws continuously, unlimited jpegs.  Almost certainly a buffer or storage limitation that can be addressed in various ways on a future video-oriented body.)

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Maybe I am just being imaginative and hopeful, but, I think Consumer DSLRs can’t die for many reasons (among others).

  1. That is possibly THE largest market for Camera makers. Point and Shoot may sell more,in some categories, but their profit margins may be smaller.
  2. DSLRs have a whole market of accessories attached with them. There are rigs, attachable mics, lens filters, tripods, inter-changeable lenses etc etc.
  3. Indie Filmmakers using DSLRs to shot films, still constitutes a tiny % of the actual users of DSLRs.
  4. Phone cameras, whether they do 120fps or 240fps, still have very poor photo quality. You obviously can’t shoot a pic from a DSLR at the same speed as that from a Phone’s camera, and, that’s why, they must both co-exist.

 

 

Also, I strongly believe, that accessories, right now, will be more integrated into bodies, and instead of having a JuicedLink pre-amp which juts out, or some mic, which attaches on the hotshoe, accessory makers will solutions will make solutions more integrated into bodies and forms. Whereas, this may seem difficult, since a lot of bodies are moulded from super-strong Alloys (like Magnesium), I feel, accessory makers, will open up cameras, and replace portions, or maybe make accessories, on the outside, so small in size, that, they would seem either un-noticeable, or part of the body itself. Maybe, camera makers, will allow for such meddling, with the basic camera, without screwing up with the mother-board. Maybe at access points, immediately before the mini-usb point, or somewhere close, accessory makers will be able to attach accessories.

 

I also feel, that this whole accessory race, and the emergence of Black Magic (and Bolex and GoPro etc), will create Custom Built DSLRs, which will be almost customised, like Desktop Computers, and one may be able to purchase almost exact specifications, based on your ability to pay, and your needs. Like mobile phone companies almost purchase components, and have them assembled, after some basic designing. This way, the scope for specifications could be seriously insane.

 

 

 

That’s just my imagination.

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The term DSLR means that the image is reflected from the closed mechanic shutter lid (excuse awkward english) and projected onto a ground glass. As EVFs will get ever better, with almost no latency, better resolution, true to the image they actually record, there will be no point in building a DSLR. I guess right now most photographers think a professional camera needs a mirror, although they never see what their sensor sees - but then again, that's an old tradition, because in analog times, they also didn't see what their emulsion saw. It's conservative thinking everywhere. What if they took the BMCC and changed the design so that it resembled, say, a Sony FX 1000? Many would think secretely, why, I need a rig anyway, the form factor isn't such a big issue. All 'reasonably' designed cams with exchangeable lenses and bigger sensor, such as the FS-100 or the AG-101, didn't sell as expected or even very poorly. Perhaps in ten years we will still buy video cameras that look like ancient SLRs, just because. Or our smartphones have Blackmagic-Apps for 4k raw, with LUTs.

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Very interesting article, however from my current viewpoint in Thailand, it seems that these big manufacturers might be making up their shortfalls in Asia. The amount of Chinese tourists sporting semi pro and pro Canons and Nikons is mind-boggling. Three or four thousand dollar cameras dangling around their necks. The new money in China must regard these big ass cameras as some sort of status symbol. The local cafes see them all sporting iphones and tablets , but unlike other areas in the world, you see them actually using the big cameras. Maybe its a passing fad,  maybe not - maybe a whole stream of photographic creativity will emerge from Asia in the next ten years. I also noticed at a local shopping centre  that Nikon was doing a big promotion for advanced DSLR's to a packed audience of local Thais and Chinese.

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I don't take out my 5D3 unless it's a paid gig. I used to rely on just taking snaps with my iPhone but lately have started taking my Olympus OM-D E-M5 as while obviously not as small as an iPhone does fit in my jacket pocket. I have even started to taking both my OM-D & Panasonic together with me in a bum bag (US trans. fanny pack) on my hip. 

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@Sanveer, There's some weight to this kind of argument - like the argument that petrol cars are obsolete technologically, but economic and military power forces the use of oil for propulsion.

However, to come back to earth, in the camera world you're more likely to see evolution along the same cultural demographic lines. Accessory makers (unlike billionaire oil and military power) can't dictate the market their in.

Accessories always follow camera types (rigs weren't that popular until DSLR video for example), and smaller mirrorless need arguably more rigging in some cases than bigger SLRs, as the bodies are smaller and less stable.

There will always be hobbyists, your average Joe and pros. Hobbyists are a transient market: a small portion move up to professional gear, the rest give up and drop down to consumer, though some do stay in the middle for a long time. So they can't really rule the roost. Their picky and nothing is ever good enough for them, they will pixel peep and rip apart your product more than the market that actually keeps you camera company afloat.

Phones may be poor BUT they're good enough for most people. Those who flirt with proper photography often have a brief foray then go back to the easy stuff.

So the idea of an entry-level DSLR is starting to look a bit silly.
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Marshall Macluhan said sometime ago, 

"the medium is the message" 

Steve Jobs,  pulled a Macluhan here,

 

he invented a device (iPhone) that made several devices obsolete. One of them is the DSLR camera together with smaller format cameras for the masses.

Don't forget Canon wants to sell a lot of cameras, to alot of people. All these people are now having cameras, HD quality cameras,that can produce video! as a result of buying a phone.

 

Enter the global economic crisis. No one is going to spend 2000+euros for a hobby camera. Not where I come from.

So who will buy all these top of the line DSLRs; put the lense modifications that allow you to keep your camera and use all type of lenses and what do you get? A drop in sales.

 

Magic Lantern actually pushes MARK III sales, so thats why you dont hear Canon complaining..just an opinion.

Sales are going to drop, until CANON NIKON SONY can produce an Iphone size DSLR CAMERA.... :D

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Have to say also mainly allot of people jump to the DSLM bandwagon as they keep on getting great stuff. Have to say Sony is bravest in innovations but quality wise had been lacking, they are able to fund these crazy new concepts as other products  sales funds its. Same goes for Panasonic as they also don't only sell camera and other products. As for Nikon and Canon whole mainly sale camera related products they don't dare add all needed feature in one go as they have a planning. But due to those lack of speed and upgrade it does feel quite annoying. I myself jumped from Canon to Panasonic cause I feel like it would take forever for them to make a 1080 60p camera and I am starting to shoot more action stuff and need to be able to even add a bit of slomo plus features without having to hack my camera for it. As also feel like Panansonic seem to listen more to their consumers for what they want in the camera's than anyone else. Canon seem to be most sluggish currently in everything or wait till Nikon does something and trail behind them. Even Nikon have great ideas with their upcoming waterproof camera. 

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The local cafes see them all sporting iphones and tablets , but unlike other areas in the world, you see them actually using the big cameras.

 

Go to NYC.  You'll see plenty of DSLRs.  They won't necessarily be $2,000 models but they are there.  The problem is all the speculation on this thread was based of of a few months of NEW camera sales data.  All the cameras changing hands on craigslist and ebay are totally ignorned.  I just bought a 50D off of craigslist.  According to the industry reports that sale didn't happen.  That 50D I use to shoot raw movies is "dead."  I sold my old Rebel on craigslist to a mother.  Apparently that sale didn't happen either and that camera is "dead."  I guess the underlying assumption is once most people that want a DSLR have one and they are so good there is little reason to upgrade "the DSLR is dead."  Well as someone who shoots multiple film cameras that are "dead" by this definition I am glad people still make lenses, film, and do repairs for those "dead" cameras.

 

One of the absolute worst things about public corporations is their sick need to live quarter to quarter.  When a DSLR is produced that is perfect and can serve someones needs for 5+ years with no need to upgrade that is a boon for consumers and a bust for Canon.  We are consumers here fellas not corporations.  Having a perfect working camera that doesn't need to be upgraded (from a photo point of view) is not something to cry about.

 

 

Marshall Macluhan said sometime ago, 

Steve Jobs,  pulled a Macluhan here,

 

he invented a device (iPhone) that made several devices obsolete. One of them is the DSLR camera...

 

The bulk of the nice photography I look at is done on some kind of SLR be it film or digital.  iphones may rule the dross on facebook but that's where it ends.

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Just to add my 2 bit coins to the conversation:

 

I think if DSLR's are going out of business, Canon and Nikon have only themselves to blame. Lack of innovation and lazy development cycles has not gone unnoticed by consumers.  When the t3i, t4i and t5i are essentially the same exact camera with minor tweaks, what is the motivation to upgrade? Same could be said with the 5D2 and 3, I have too many friends with the 5D2 who don't feel any need to upgrade to the newer camera since the benefits are relatively minor all things considered. I suspect the 7D will follow the same path.

 

If Canon really wanted to see an upward swing in sales, they would need to be more aggressive with the technology. Imagine if 2 years ago the 5D3 had been announced touting a 36mpix sensor, built-in wi-fi, oled screen, 4K mjpeg and 2K raw and priced competitively? It would have sold like hot cakes. 

 

Apple is running a similarly dangerous game with their new Mac Pro. $3k for a 4-core Xeon with 12gigs or RAM and no internal expandability? WTF??? Next year they will shut down their whole desktop division claiming that consumers are no longer interested in big computers...but the truth is that consumers are no longer interested in being ripped off.

 

When I travel, all I see are tourists with DSLR's. They see the difference in the photos they take, the depth, realism and faithfulness of the images they show their friends back home is palpably better than what current smartphones or pocket cameras are capable of. I think the interest is there, but not at a premium price for basically the same technology from two years ago. 

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Just to add my 2 bit coins to the conversation:

 

I think if DSLR's are going out of business, Canon and Nikon have only themselves to blame. Lack of innovation and lazy development cycles has not gone unnoticed by consumers.  When the t3i, t4i and t5i are essentially the same exact camera with minor tweaks, what is the motivation to upgrade? Same could be said with the 5D2 and 3, I have too many friends with the 5D2 who don't feel any need to upgrade to the newer camera since the benefits are relatively minor all things considered. I suspect the 7D will follow the same path.

 

 

First of all most people that buy a Canon rebel either rarely or never shoot video with it.  It is for most people almost solely a stills camera.  Having said that what "innovations" could canon bring to the stills features of the Rebel line that would revive sales?  If Canon called me up and said we noticed you bought a refurbished T3i a few months ago; what could we have done to get you to spend $600 instead of $350 from a stills point of view.  My answer would be nothing.  The camera is already 18 megapixels.  24 megapixels is not worth almost double the price.  Faster frame rate?  Well they already sell models with faster frame rates.  What else?  The thing is a mature product.  Every product has this life cycle.  Innovation slows down and the market is saturated.  Adding a cup holder won't make people spend $600 on a new one.

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We'll have to agree to disagree Damp. I think you're totally wrong in your estimation, consumers thrive on innovative products that are worth it. The car industry is a good example with increasing safety standards and better gas mileage, people buy new cars every few years because they feel that the newer models have compelling new features that simply weren't available a few years back.

 

Look at GoPro, those guys are innovating mofo's, if you owned a 1st gen GoPro, upgrading to the latest model is a very compelling proposition. The fact that years have passed and Canon cameras still can't manage to shoot 60fps at 1080p is ludicrous. On the photography end, even if resolution is not compelling to you, how about built-in wi-fi and a GPS? How about a higher quality screen that is easier to see in direct light? How about built-in support for remote operation through a smart phone? How about a freaking built-in intervallometer for chrissake?

 

No, you're wrong, Canon's been sitting on their lazy corporate butts for far too long and now the sales are dropping. If they begin to innovate once more and offer true reasons to buy new cameras, the sales will rise once more.

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Many people here overestimate the importance of DSLR video for companies like Canon. It's just a very small if not fringe part of their sales and customer base. And even this niche is shrinking to likely a fraction of what it used to be only a few years ago ever since large sensor camcorders took over the high end of the market and Blackmagic cameras compete on the low-cost side.

 

Just look at the number of websites and blogs that are still truly about DSLR filmmaking. This one here is among the last ones standing, but it's not exclusively about DSLR/mirrorless photo camera filmmaking anymore either.

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I think you're totally wrong in your estimation, consumers thrive on innovative products that are worth it.

 

I never said they don't like innovative products but I haven't seen anyone come out with an innovative spoon or fork in my lifetime.  Sometimes things are just mature and you have to differentiate with price, fashion, and/or just marketing.

 

 

 

The car industry is a good example with increasing safety standards and better gas mileage, people buy new cars every few years because they feel that the newer models have compelling new features that simply weren't available a few years back.

 

Most people get a new car because their old one has too many miles.  Hardly anyone gets a new DSLR because the shutter is worn out.

 

And cars are not a mature product.  Most cars on the road work on the exact same principle as Ford's model T.  Any DSLR is on a fundamental level doing things that you couldn't even explain to the people that used the first cameras.  And besides it's a car.  There are infinite uses for it and infinite things to change and improve.  A camera is a box that exposes light to something that records it.

 


 

Look at GoPro, those guys are innovating mofo's, if you owned a 1st gen GoPro, upgrading to the latest model is a very compelling proposition. The fact that years have passed and Canon cameras still can't manage to shoot 60fps at 1080p is ludicrous. On the photography end, even if resolution is not compelling to you, how about built-in wi-fi and a GPS? How about a higher quality screen that is easier to see in direct light? How about built-in support for remote operation through a smart phone? How about a freaking built-in intervallometer for chrissake?

 

The video stuff is immaterial.  Most Rebel users don't use it extensively.  I've already posted many rants about what I wish Canon would improve about video.  My remarks were about the Rebel's main market photo.

 

 

The GPS thing would be nice if it worked all the time when you instantly turned your camera on.  And the wifi thing could definitely have some mass market appeal.  But like I said they are already available in certain Canon models and I don't know how well they work (battery drain, locking on to a signal).

 

The stuff you listed was either irrelevant to the majority of Rebel users or had some substantial negatives for a very dubious amount of upside.  I would be very hesitant to put an intervalometer into a mass market product.  The shutter is only good for about 100,000 snaps.  I can see tons of aholes ruining their shutter within the one year warranty period making inane time lapses just for fun.  I guarantee if you ask the average Canon Rebel owner how long their shutter is projected to last and 99.9% of them won't give you an intelligent answer.

 

Megapixels.  First of all I do care about resolution.  The problem is once you get to 18 megapixels you have to increase the megapixel count A LOT for it to make a substantial difference in the print.  Going from 18 to 20 megapixels is meaningless.  And I'm glad someone at Canon HQ realizes that.  I shoot a Rollei 6008i medium format film camera.  I've looked at digital backs for the thing.  Trust me I care about resolution.  But wasting your time and resources cramming an extra two or three megapixels onto an 18 megapixel aps-c sensor is not going to impress me.

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First of all most people that buy a Canon rebel either rarely or never shoot video with it.  It is for most people almost solely a stills camera.  Having said that what "innovations" could canon bring to the stills features of the Rebel line that would revive sales?  If Canon called me up and said we noticed you bought a refurbished T3i a few months ago; what could we have done to get you to spend $600 instead of $350 from a stills point of view.  My answer would be nothing.  The camera is already 18 megapixels.  24 megapixels is not worth almost double the price.  Faster frame rate?  Well they already sell models with faster frame rates.  What else?  The thing is a mature product.  Every product has this life cycle.  Innovation slows down and the market is saturated.  Adding a cup holder won't make people spend $600 on a new one.

 interesting topic of discussion, really respect the opinions of everyone, each head is different and it is obvious that we can not all think alike in terms of technology, but on this particular point, I can not agree for several reasons : if sales of DSLR cameras from Canon soared overnight was thanks to the HD video recording function, which is of such high quality (despite being compressed to 8 bits) that the world is talking about the "Digital Cinema EOS". Already several people have said something to my understanding is true, for all those people who were going to buy DSLR cameras to film (or still photography) most of them already bought at least one camera (I'm one of those millions case, I have a 60D and 7D for 2 years and the 7D body I have not shot the first photograph ...), so I have no need to buy a new body to make films because I'm very pleased with I have obtained quality with these cameras, and I think that I feel, so feel millions of DSLR users worldwide. Now I invite you to analyze this: how much profit has earned Canon lens sales worldwide? I invested 2.4k buying two bodies, but I have invested a lot more than that amount buying Canon lenses (and remember that BlacMagic like the GH2 can also use Canon lenses and many prefer them over Zeiss lenses) and if you add to that the rigs, you will have a large market motivated by the video function. But there is something you feel your Items reason, the amateur that have these cameras rarely use the video mode, but they are a minority in this market, an amateur can buy maybe a good 1k maximum body , but never going to invest in premium lenses, which professionals are required to do so before crucifying Canon, I'd like to know what has been the lens sales revenue internationally, perhaps there is the missing part of the "secret" that has Canon walking slowly with their cameras (for me lens sales added to Magic Lantern is the key that has quiet technology that can be invented revolution within five years maybe) but this just my opinion, I can be wrong ...

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Many people here overestimate the importance of DSLR video for companies like Canon. It's just a very small if not fringe part of their sales and customer base. And even this niche is shrinking to likely a fraction of what it used to be only a few years ago ever since large sensor camcorders took over the high end of the market and Blackmagic cameras compete on the low-cost side.

 

Just look at the number of websites and blogs that are still truly about DSLR filmmaking. This one here is among the last ones standing, but it's not exclusively about DSLR/mirrorless photo camera filmmaking anymore either.

 

DSLR video isn't shrinking. If it was shrinking, my Google Analytics would tell a very different story. At the height of the DSLR revolution in 2010 - 900,000 visits. So far in 2013 before the year is even out - 6 million.

 

2 million of them unique!

 

Yeah tiny market yada yada!

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