TECH’d IN THE HEAD
Curiouser and curiouser: welcome to the camera format wars, final rendition.
By MICHAEL PERKINS
IF YOU WANT TO SIMULATE THE EXPERIENCE OF LEAPING OUT OF A PLANE WITHOUT A CHUTE, then get into the business of predicting trends in photography. The boneyard of critical writing is crammed with the carcasses of wizard wannabes who boldly pronounced what the Next Big Thing in camera tech was going to be. Still, even given that caveat, there are some big tectonic shifts in Camera Land that even a dullard like me can see coming.
Smart people call these shifts “inflection points”. These are the folks who get great grades on term papers. Me, I just say, “hey, is this anything?” Whatever your wording, we seem to be at such a place as of this writing , which is early 2022.
Little more than a decade after the introduction of the first mirrorless cameras, prognosticators great and small now seem uniformly confident in predicting that this is the year that DSLRs go on life support and the family calls in the priest. Recently, no less a cadre than the venerable PetaPixel predicted that both Canon and Nikon would end their commitment to DSLR development and model introduction in 2022. And, suddenly, they are far from alone. The argument goes that, just as SLRs were a forward leap in convenience and performance over rangefinder cameras, so mirrorless does what DSLRs do more accurately and far easier. Normally such forecasts would be largely a matter of opinion, but something new has been added.
That “something” is the fact that more manufacturers than ever are closing the DSLR product line on both ends, both discontinuing older models with no comparable successor and in bringing fewer new models, especially entry-level-priced models, to the market for the first time. And then there is the raw science, which says that, minus the bulky box-and-mirror part of DSLR’s viewing apparatus, lenses in mirrorless cameras can be placed extremely close to the focal plane, affecting sharpness, low-light performance, chromatic aberrations, and, yes, the total curb weight of the unit. This also means that your older DSLR lenses, with adaptation, might well work better on a mirrorless body. Other factors in this sea change include people like myself who are going to mirrorless in order to upgrade to full-frame for the first time, and figure they might as well go with a format that manufacturers are now throwing their full weight behind.
You and I both know several “I’ll never” people who will stick with their chosen format until the last dog is hung, and mazel tov to them. Shoot what you want, love what you shoot, etc. However, when the makers of a particular tech are cutting back on new models of it, even going so far as to reduce choices and support with the existing models in that format, including their best sellers, it might be time, as they say in Hollywood, to strike the set.