Stick with DSLR? Switch to mirrorless? This is not another David vs. Goliath debate. But how come DSLRs still outsell mirrorless, even though mirrorless offers that convenience factor and optics are on par with the very best DSLRs. DSLRs, however, focus and track like no mirrorless, they offer wider depth of field leverage and have — even though that’s debatable — higher quality pixels. A main difference, however, is an unfortunate misconception; something Sony clearly stated about its new A3000, a disguised mirrorless in a DSLR-lookalike body. Sony felt it had to design a camera that appeals to those who want the perception of professional quality offered by the DSLRs of other manufacturers.
Here’s what Engadget says about Sony’s A3000 marketing strategy:
Amateurs looking to step up from a point-and-shoot often opt for a full size DSLR. The reason, according to Sony reps, is that these users simply assume that a larger camera with a familiar design offers better image quality and performance. So, to suit these misinformed customers, Sony created a mirrorless camera that looks like a DSLR.
I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that the A3000 paired with Zeiss E glass will deliver outstanding images. Hey, it’s an affordable point-and-shoot with large sensor and viewfinder. Add the good ergonomics. It’s troublesome though that a innovative camera maker has to deceive the market to counter the lethargy and lack of ideas Canon and Nikon are increasingly known for.
Let’s face it: NEX, RX100 and RX1 are niche products. Sony could offer more the next generation of cameras. The mass market though doesn’t seem to be ready for it. Market forces curb innovation and press Sony to offer new wine in old skins.
Or asked differently: who needs mirrorless. There is no question that many young photographers today are perfectly satisfied with smartphone photography. Ironically, many of today’s young people (who pave the way for generational change!) think DSLR when they think about serious photography, no matter what technology is inside that camera. To them, mirrorless and smartphone photography are synonyms.
This shouldn’t surprise us. What a camera looks like is incredibly important to many photographers. And people buy the cameras Canon and Nikon want them to buy. And Canon and Nikon still sell hordes of cameras not because of superior quality, but simply because of the name printed on the front.
Who cares whether the mirror is old technology. For the big names it’s still more profitable than their mediocre mirrorless attempts. This mirror, invented to solve the problem of the parallax error between the viewfinder and what the camera saw, is the past. It’s big, it’s clunky and prone to mechanical failure.
Electronic viewfinders are already good enough to replace optical ones. There is no reason why the Canon 5D Mark III or Nikon D800 can’t be made without mirror. Both are excellent cameras built around obsolete technology. The future is mirrorless, but the gap is closing at a snail’s pace.
It’s not that the market isn’t ready for change. I’d be surprised to see a D900 or Mark IV with pentaprism. Yes, old habits die hard and are CaNikon’s cash cow. DSLR dominance will gradually die, that’s easy to predict. But first and foremost mirrorless has to match this dying breed’s advantages such as AF, buffer and processing speeds.
IQ-wise, it’s already hard to tell the difference between bigger and more compact cameras. In fact, the DSLR vs. mirrorless debate is not about either’s supremacy. It’s about the best of both worlds. It’s about improvements like faster flash sync, better battery life, light sensitivity, dynamic range and more accurate EVF. And a larger sensor will always be king.