Are Full Frame SLRs Obsolete?

Started Jan 4, 2014 | Discussions thread
chironNYC Senior Member • Posts: 2,408
DSLR or ILMC? Ask why SLRs replaced rangefinders.

Mirrorless 35mm cameras like the new Sony ILMCs are quite similar to rangefinder cameras in many ways.

Why did SLRs replace rangefinders in the 1960s and 1970s? I think that may tell us whether DSLRs will be replaced by ILMCs.

I think that the major reasons SLRs replaced rangefinders were: extended lens selections for SLRs; much better viewfinders that matched the lens being used; greater shooting and focusing speeds with motorized and autofocus SLR cameras; and extensive system opportunities made possible by the greater size of the SLR bodies.

How will these issues play out with ILMCs?

So far, ILMC cameras are somewhat lens limited; there are problems at both the long end (the size & weight of the lens) and the wide end (loss of sharpness and light). DSLR will, I think, continue to have strong advantages in terms of lens choices. There will be many more types of lenses available for SLRs. This will matter a lot to photographers.

In terms of viewfinders, electronic viewfinders on ILMCs already offer advantages over optical viewfinders. One of the most useful advantages is that you immediately see the effects of exposure changes. EVFs will continue to get better. So ILMCs may have an actual advantage in terms of viewfinders.

ILMCs will eventually have no trouble matching DSLRs in terms of speed of shooting (focusing, frame rate, etc). They are not there yet, but they will get there fairly soon.

In terms of the size and range of the systems for each camera type, because the era of electronics has replaced the era of mechanical devices, I think ILMC will eventually be able to have systems as extensive as DSLRs but in a more compact body. Already the Sony NEXs and phone cameras have attributes that are not yet offered on DSLRs.

Conclusion: I think the main advantage DSLRs will have over ILMC will be in the range of lenses that are available for each type of camera. This will be enough, I think, to keep DSLRs very popular with enthusiasts and professionals. And DSLRs will continue to get lighter and smaller, to some considerable extent. But ILMCs will become increasingly important for more casual use and for travel where they will offer very high quality images and lots of electronic processing options but more limited lens selection. So they are here to stay and will be more and more used.

Most photography enthusiasts will have both camera types, for different purposes, just like we now all have tablet, notebook, and desktop computers in our lives. And we are the better for having all of the options.

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