Canon recently announced two new mirrorless cameras ̵1; the EOS R5 and EOS R6. They’re set to be Canon’s best cameras ever, but are they good enough for people to buy a mirrorless camera? We believe…. Perhaps. But probably, yes. Here’s why.
DSLRs are dying
In recent years, Canon’s all-in has gone on mirrorless cameras, while the DSLR line has largely disappeared. Just watch when the DSLR series in full screen was last updated:
- Canon 1D X Mk III (2020)
- Canon 5DS and 5DS R (2015)
- Canon 5D Mk IV (2016)
- Canon 6D Mk II (2017)
As all of its complete DSLRs (bar 1D X Mk III) have been updated, Canon has released four brand new full-frame mirrorless cameras:
- Canon R5 (2020)
- Canon R6 (2020)
- Canon RP (2019)
- Canon R (2018)
And even though there was once a Canon 5D Mark V in the pipeline, development has apparently stopped. Sure, the Canon EOS 90D crop sensor was well received when it was launched last year, but it’s clear that Canon’s focus is on its mirrorless range. Even the 90D is best when used as a mirrorless camera, which is not surprising since it largely has the same internal features as the mirrorless (and cheaper) Canon EOS M6 Mk II, which was released at the same time.
So why is this happening?
Mirrorless Is the Future
DSLR cameras are built on old platforms. Canon debuted the EF mount in 1987 while Nikon’s F-mount was first released in 1959. It’s a full decade before the moon landing!
Both Canon and Nikon benefited greatly from their old lens platforms. They have iterated and evolved on them, but they have mostly seen the limits of what they can achieve within the physical limitations. There are hundreds of EF-mount and F-mount available – and there is not much more to do.
One of the most popular lenses used by professional photographers is 24-70mm f / 2.8 zoom. It is a fantastically working lens with a range and aperture that allows you to shoot most things. There have been small developments and adjustments, but both Canon and Nikon’s offerings are at the limit of what they can do optically – and have been for several years.
When Canon and Nikon launched their first mirrorless cameras, they both debuted brand new lens mounts, without the same old limitations. This meant that their existing lens set was not compatible with their new cameras without an adapter, but they could also do new and interesting things. Canon’s 28-70mm f / 2, for example, is widely hailed as one of its best lenses ever – and that could never be done for DSLRs. In almost every way, it’s a better lens than one of Canon’s 24-70s.
In the coming years (and probably decades) we will see the camera manufacturers push the new lens mounts to their limits – but they will not beat them for a while. Future lenses will have wider apertures, sharper images with higher resolution and take advantage of all the other technology that comes down. It is these technical advantages that guarantee that mirrorless cameras will win out.
Mirrorless matures quickly
All the crazy lenses that Canon and Nikon talked about were exciting back in 2018 when we last looked seriously at whether mirrorless cameras were worth buying, but they were mostly unavailable. The future looked cool, but the present looked … difficult.
Canon had just released a mirrorless camera and four lenses while Nikon launched two cameras and three lenses. Sony had been developing mirrorless cameras for a while, but switching formats still seemed like a tough sale to anyone but the earliest adopters or professionals who wanted some of the benefits of mirrorless gear and were willing to pay big bucks. Now things have changed.
Canon has just released its second generation of mirrorless cameras, and the lens lineup has gone from four to 15, including some more affordable options. Nikon has just announced the launch level Z 5 and is expected to release a new advanced mirrorless camera soon. In addition, the lens array is expanded in a similar manner. It will take a while before there are as many options as there are with DSLRs, but things are no longer so limited.
Which means it’s time to move on.
If you buy new, buy mirrorless
Let’s be clear, if you’re looking for a new high-end camera, you should probably go mirrorless. This is where all the development effort is put. Both Canon and Nikon may continue to release DSLRs for a while, but they will be exaggerated and underperforming compared to a similar mirrorless camera.
For example, Canon’s recently released $ 2500 R6 uses the same sensor as the $ 6500 – 1D X Mk III flagship DSLR. R5 does things that no DSLR on the market comes close to matching. They are better cameras and they are better hosts.
Yes, it is a cost to change camera platforms. You’ll need to replace your lenses or use an adapter that puts you back between $ 100 and $ 250. To make things more complicated if you shoot at least Nikon, the adapters may not be fully compatible with your older gear. But still, it is now really difficult to recommend that someone pay thousands of dollars for a brand new DSLR – especially when they are four years out of date.
If you want a deal, go for the other hand
But just because new DSLRs are getting worse does not mean that the platform is completely dead. There is a great opportunity for anyone who does not need the latest equipment and has an eye for a deal.
Cameras last for several years and lenses last for decades – which is why there is such a healthy second-hand market. Professionals may feel the pressure to upgrade every two years, but most can get past a five-year-old (or older) body. I do all my work with a Canon 5D Mk III – it was launched in 2012.
When professional and wealthy amateurs switch to mirrorless cameras, there will be a lot of relatively new DSLRs and advanced lenses for sale in the used market. If you are not able to make the switch yourself, there is a lot to be said for taking advantage of the opportunity created by the people who are. I will surely keep an eye on a used 5D Mk IV or maybe even an EOS R.
But do you need to buy?
You may have noticed that I have focused on advanced cameras in this article, and that’s because it’s the camera market that remains.
In the last decade, the camera market has collapsed. Sales have decreased by 87% since 2010, largely due to smartphone cameras. As they become more capable, there has been less and less reason for the average person to buy a dedicated camera. The only part of the market that is strong, or at least not collapsing so fast, have been mirrorless and DSLR cameras. Manufacturing even shows signs of moving away from its entry-level boundary sensor cameras to focus exclusively on equipment and professional equipment.
Unless you are willing to invest a little cash and a lot of time in an advanced camera, it is not really much points to get one. Smartphone cameras are now so good that for most things you can not really see the difference between the pictures – especially if you only share your work on social media. If anything, the extra hassle of using a large camera is more likely to bother you to get the picture.
So now it’s really time for mirrorless cameras. DSLRs will hold up for a while and will have a very healthy second hand market, but the platform is on its way out. If you are going to buy, it should probably be a mirrorless – if you were to buy at all.