16th April 2024

A Virtual World of Live Pictures

Technology and Computer

Digital Dinosaurs: Are DSLR Cameras Considered Old News in 2024?

It’s 2024 and you’re still shooting with a full-frame DSLR? Me too. Here is why I feel no pressure to switch from my DSLR camera body to a mirrorless system any time soon.

Digital photography has come a long way since the Fujix DS line came to the fore in the late 1980s as one of the first fully digital cameras featuring a tiny 0.40 MP capability. Fast-forward to 2024, photographers and enthusiasts are spoiled for choice with the amount of digital camera systems that are available on the market today. From DSLR and medium format, onwards to mirrorless; your budget and area of practice will have largely determined which system you have bought into over the years.

On one end of the spectrum, there are photographers who covet the rapid evolution of technology and upgrade their gear whenever they can, which can be compared to those who regularly upgrade their phones with each new release. Driven by enhanced features and the promise of cutting-edge innovation, these photographers find excitement in staying at the forefront and maintaining a current edge in the industry. On the other end, which is probably where I sit, another group of photographers adopt a more pragmatic stance, viewing their cameras as indispensable tools that are integral to their profession—taking a measured approach and upgrading only when their current equipment no longer serves its purpose.

Everyone is different, and I don’t expect all who read this article to agree with me on this. In terms of my equipment, I feel invested, and it’s more than just a financial investment. I chose the Nikon D850, and it was a deliberate and calculated upgrade from my previous Nikon D800, as there were features of the D850 that attracted me, such as 45.7 megapixels of effective resolution, far superior low light performance, and the focus shift feature for product and macro photography. The tilting touchscreen was a bonus too. All of these reasons for choosing the D850 still stand today – they haven’t gone anywhere just because new cameras have been released, so why would I upgrade before the camera ceases to meet my needs? I am not a gear-driven photographer; for me, it’s all about the image.

For full disclosure, I almost switched to mirrorless during the pandemic, but held off, and I am very glad that I did. This was the first time that I was tempted by a mirrorless camera as my main body. Nikon announced the Z9 in early 2020 which, I must admit, really piqued my interest. Delay after delay, the initial excitement around the release faded as I continued to use my trusty D850. When comparing the spec of the Nikon D850 and Z9 side by side, there just wasn’t enough to justify the switch. I realized that the main draw of the Z9 for the majority of photographers who were switching was the 8K video resolution. At that time, I rarely shot video.

By the time the Z9 was finally released amid the pandemic, I could not get my hands on one anywhere to even feel in my hands. Online retailers quickly sold out of the limited stock that they had, so I took the money that I would have invested in the body and lenses and upgraded to a new kitchen instead! I am still satisfied with that decision today.

The images I make are very intentional and important to me. Upgrading my equipment is not something that I do more often than is necessary because I form an attachment of sorts to items in my kit. My favorite lens, for example, is the Nikkor 70-200 2.8E FL ED VR, but this is not because I use it the most often, this is because of a specific series of portraits that I shot using the lens back in 2014. If I upgrade to mirrorless, I have to deal with parting with that lens. Yes, adapters are available, but if I’m switching, then I’m fully switching, and that lens is too costly to just hang on to as an ornament. I only just sold a camera I had hung on to since 2008 last year, the Fuji S5 Pro, because that’s what I used when I started studying photography at college. I hadn’t used it in years, and it is better off in the hands of someone who will use it than being packed away in storage.

A camera becomes a part of your routine, and finding your way around it becomes automatic, meaning you can just concentrate on what the camera is pointed at. Knowing your camera intimately can only be of benefit to the photographer and whatever the lens is pointed at. I like to think that this is similar to learning how to drive; at first, you have to think about every motion from controlling the gearbox to indicating, and which way to turn the wheel when reversing. Once you are an experienced driver, there are many parts of your process that become second nature, allowing you to concentrate on the road ahead.

Mirrorless camera advancements have come thick and fast in recent years, with more rumored to be released in the months ahead if you look at some of the recently filed patents and discussions of leaks in various Reddit threads. There have been rumors of a Nikon Z9H circulating since late 2023, and I would bet on some new fast shutter systems being released to coincide with the Olympic Games, which will be held in Paris this summer. Do I need to shoot more frames per second than I am currently able to? I do not, and so I can’t imagine that there will be any camera released in 2024 that will cause me to switch.

I still appreciate the optical viewfinder too much to make the jump to mirrorless, which provides a direct optical view of the scene, as opposed to the electronic viewfinders on mirrorless cameras. DSLRs have longer battery life compared to mirrorless cameras, which can be advantageous during extended shoots, which I find myself in often. In a market dominated by high-spec mirrorless cameras, ultimately, the decision to upgrade or stick with a DSLR will be decided by camera manufacturers and what they choose to bring to the market. The Nikon D850, although first released in 2017, is still in production today, which lets me know that I am a long way from being labeled a dinosaur. I will switch when the time is right for me.

Have you switched or stayed with your DSLR system? What is your reason for doing so?