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Will consumer DSLRs be 'dead in 5 years?'

What's behind the decline of the DSLR?

Is the DSLR on its way out? A recent article from Andrew Reid on sums up the reports from the last year and offers some reasoning behind the DSLR sales slump.

DSLRs may still be standard for professional photographers, but consumer-level photography has shifted. Whether it is the emergence of mirrorless compact cameras or the increasing quality of smartphone cameras, consumers are not buying DSLRs the way they used to. 

Reid points to the importance of sharing over image quality. Sure, that DSLR may take better photos than your iPhone, but can your Canon EOS 100D post to Facebook? Meanwhile, the economic downturn has made the less-expensive mirrorless cameras a more appealing purchase for those who think that a cell phone is insufficient. 

Here's a clip from Reid's article:

Canon especially has sold 23% fewer cameras so far in 2013 than at the same point last year.

Nikon have sold 18% fewer.

Investors are taking fright. Shares in Nikon who are the most camera orientated of the big manufacturers are down the most; a 33% fall.

Sony and Fuji’s sales are down a huge 35%. Although Fuji’s X line has revitalised interest in the brand from enthusiasts and pros, both company’s have suffered at the low and mid sections of the market.

Christopher Chute from market intelligence firm IDC predicts Nikon may be out of business in 5 years if the trend continues.

“You’re talking about a 10-15% decline in DSLR shipments all over the world. Which is kind of shocking because that market’s been growing double digits for almost ten years. Nikon recently said they have a five year plan to address this. And my view is, that five year plan should have come out five years ago. They’re not going to be around in five years.”

That may seem alarmist, but clearly the kind of customer a low end DSLR is aimed at now uses their smartphone far more than they use a DSLR. Even speaking as a massive camera enthusiast, for a quick snap I have to literally force myself to use a DSLR for it. Almost everything I share on Facebook and Twitter is shot with my iPhone.

Let's hear from you: What will become of the consumer-level DLSR?


Total comments: 139
Ioannis Doukakis

After using SLR and DSLR (F70, 3OOD, 20D, 5DMkII) for ten years and living with an X100S for a couple of weeks, I do not know if dSLR is dying or not but the mirror and the optical viewfinder are.

I know that today EVF cannot compete with Optical Viewfinder in terms of responsiveness and dynamic range, but I believe that they are already "good enough" for many people. Assuming that they will get faster in next generation, then the low-end "Pentamirrors" will not justify the complexity and cost. Add to this digital "goodies" like "artificial horizon", live histogram, focusing aids etc... and I believe that the Optical Viewfinder will either disappear or stay only in high-end machines with its image blended together with an internal LCD to show info on picture.

Is it possible that Leica and Sony are already going the correct way with their full-frame mirror-less cameras?


Cameras are definitely evolving as they always have. It's exciting times but certainly scary as well for those used to the status quo.


OVF will always be there for users who do not want power-hungry cameras...


For a long time, people have been replacing film SLR for Digital SLR. Then they've been purchasing better quality escaping the very first affordable 6Mpx, SLRs (EOS 10D, EOS 300D...).
Then came Full Frame DSLR, people started activities as photographer.
But now the crisis, unemployment, too many photographers on the market, prices too high on gear, people start thinking they don't sell enough to afford buying constantly.
The rest is point and share, social networks and tourists.
The future is 24x36 for average at aps-c price and move enthousiasts to medium format (Leica S2, Hasselblad) new decade of selling t'ill the next stuck.
1st of all is employment then comes spending.


I try there is much truth in that article. I think they will still be around but much of the development will go into small higher quality all in one cameras. I have shot SLR's and DSLR's for years and after hauling multiple lenses all over the world find myself very interested in smaller cameras. But that is personal, Sales figures are telling and it is clear .

Most of the DSLR gear heads I know buy for specifications, dying to get a D 400. A good photographer does not blame his camera.

1 upvote

Of course not, they 'll switch to FF sencors get smaller with an old (retro) look and keep on selling like they do (maybe even better).


Are smartphones killing the consumer-level DSLR?
No !!! Smartphones and instagram are killing photography in general !!!

Joe Ogiba

Exactly how are smartphones killing photography ? Photos taken by clueless consumers are better quality today compared to the film days.

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Smartphones on the hands of those clueless consumers is what killing photography.
Most of the photos taken today from smartphones are by far worst compared to film days, for the rest of them we have instagram.
"Clueless" consumers do not care on taking a photo, they do not print photos, most of them care on how they'll upload them on Instagram, Pinterest, twitter or Facebook or how many likes they gonna get.
I disagree about the quality of the photos taken from a smartphone (at least most of them), there are some that can get decent photos, but they can cost you as much as your DSLR did (and will not deliver the same image quality).

Edited 1 minute after posting

Speaking of clueless is pretty much the same as speaking of narcissists. Or do people worry they will forget what they look like?
After spending the last two months travelling the uk and USA, I still cannot comprehend the barrage of goons placing themselves in front of the view and shooting, er, snapping away. This is far worse than film days but these idiots were never the market for real cameras anyway.
As far as people buying dslrs as a status symbol, Cankon should consider themselves lucky. How many useless models do you need anyhow?
While a "real" photographer can take photos with anything, the control offered by dslrs and the extended battery life is invaluable, so power sucking, image degrading EVF's are hardly desirable whatever the features they offer.
What p's me off with them though are the appalling interfaces and the operating lag in manual modes.
With manual slrs, I could shoot so much faster than these over featured models around now with all the "smart" controls.


I am having a real problem shooting stunning Telephoto shots with my cell phone. I never have these issues using a DSLR with a 100-400mm Lens. Secondly, in bright day light I can't see what is on the LCD screen to know what I am shooting. So exactly how am I supposed to replace my DSLR with a cell phone. Next problem, if I am trying to get a gig as a second shooter for a wedding photographer or any modeling photog jobs, they just are not taking me seriously when I say I have a great cell phone to do the shoot. Oh genius of the photography industry, will you hire me for a $1500 wedding shoot, I will bring my best cell phone camera. Hey I can do stunning videography with it too. Forget the Red One Hollywood, I have a 40 megapixel Nokia with 4G.


Entry level type DSLRs like my D5100 help me to take outstanding photos. I would love to buy a second body (D7100/D610). In terms of updating my D5100 I think manufacturers must realise that a DSLR is not an item I am going to change every year or every two years.

People like me are looking for deals and spending $1000-2000 every year just to take slightly better looking photos is not going to happen. Instead what for e.g. Nikon could do is to produce more affordable accesories such as cheaper 2.8 zooms. Right now that 17-55 cost way to much for a prosumer. They did a great job on the pricing of those 1.8 primes though!

Right now its all about value/cost. The economy is just only righting itself in some parts of the world and I think many manfacturers (not just camera makers) are really overestimating our pockets. After that recession most people like me are not gonna spend like crazy.


Quite possibly. The keyhole-sized viewfinder in the Rebel won't be able to compete with electronic viewfinders for long. Unless they make it a lot bigger I guess!


The boom in DSLR sales has in large part been to gadget geeks rather than people with a genuine interest in photography. Double digit sales growth was always going to be unsustainable. Growth has passed its peak and the economic climate is now causing a rapid sales contraction. For most people a mirrorless camera is plenty good enough and will get more use but they're more likely to get a new iphone anyway.
We are just going back to a smaller, more stable market. Revenues and rates of technical development will decline. Canon are probably better placed to withstand this as a company because they have a much more diversified business.


No it won't be. People buying mirrorless want it to be so they can justify buying a stupid camera.

1 upvote

So you shoot a badly composed, out of focus image to view on your 3" x 2" screen and then upload it so that other non-discerning people can download it to view on their 3" x 2" screen? Wow - what a great future photography has with the clown phone set.

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For the average consumer, the days of lugging around a fat DSLR, only to take a bunch of photos that no one ever sees, are dwindling. Sharing images is, rightly, more important now than pixel peeping.

And for those people who still think that you can't take great photos with a smart phone, go check out National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson's photos shot with the iPhone:

Most, but not all, of the images were shot with the iPhone. But you'd be hard pressed to tell which ones were shot with his DSLR and which with his iPhone just by sight.

Those images look great, which goes to show that you don't need to be weighed down by a lot of fancy equipment to take great photos. And for the average consumer, these images are certainly good enough! But just as important as capturing great images is the ability to share them with people. Images are meant to be seen and enjoyed, not anally pixel peeped at 100% in Photoshop.


The reason people "pixel peep at 100%" is because quality matters, at least to people with actual taste it does. Only a peon would dare travel to beautiful areas on a generous budget & then dumb down his/her excursion by using a stinking PHONE to photograph it, especially with better tools at their disposal (heck a Sony RX100 if nothing else). "Windshield tourists," that's all well & fine, someone who fancies themselves a pro or enthusiast--you're a laughingstock to do such a thing.

No, it comes down to what the article says--people not only don't care about quality, they think it's a BAD thing. That sentence about how you come off as "aloof" for sharing a high-resolution image of yourself--well excuse me, I guess I better borrow my kid's Fisher Price 0.3 kilopixel and do a "selfie" so that people with no taste will like it better. No, thank you. I'll aim for the best quality I can muster & if people find that offensive, that's on them for being morons, frankly.


For the average person it makes sense since they can hardly tell the difference between what is a high quality image and what isn't.

For people who can, enthusiasts and pros, quality still matters a heck of a lot. There are pixel peepers and then there are people who genuinely care about quality. For example, an iphone shot looks great resized down to 1000 pix but if I want to full screen it, it looks terrible.

I consider 1000px to be a glorified thumbnail & with screen resolution inching higher and higher, people like me want to be able to view pics in their larger view.


My logic said that the two digit of DSLR sales increase in the last decade was from people that want to be a photographer, from those who like to take picture for fun. Meanwhile the real photographers who adore quality are still chasing the DSLR Technology. So just like myself that only shoot to share...we agree to migrate to smartphone, and I think that explain the 2 digits of DSLR sales decrease. Next five years? DSLR is still for Real Photographers.....and smartphone is replacing point&shoot and prosumers camera....just food for thought.

1 upvote

Two things I have to say...
1. I don't think in 5 years time Shamoo will go for a scheduled wedding photography with an iphone or tablet instead of a DSLR
2. I don't even have a cellphone...:) , No,..really !

1 upvote
anthony mazzeri

So why doesn't Nikon just make their own smartphone? They could even make it operate as a plug-in LCD/control screen on their DSLRs to get up/downgraders.


Shouldn't this article be on the 'other' dark side? I mean on Digital Photography Review instead of in Connect?
Now, what's behind the decline? Most obvious, their huge weight and lack of ergonomics.

Edited 2 times; latest 6 minutes since posting
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One thing that SLR manufacturers could easily do is offer built-in wi-fi and gps in their cameras. It doesn't seem to be a very expensive addition but a rather conservative attitude at what are "real" photographic characteristics. Smartphones have changed the way (and speed) we share our photographs and that is not something to ignore.


The "professional" DSLRs (I am using quotes because the professional/consumer distinction is fairly arbitrary) will not go out of business, because the higher image quality, even if by a small amount, makes a big difference in a winner-takes-all market. That market might shrink, but I doubt it.

The ease of migrating from a "consumer" DSLR to a professional one (consider how many FF lenses are mounted on small-format sensors) means that consumer DSLRs also will not go away. Small-sensor DSLRs may go away, though, if FF becomes cheap enough (which it should). In any case, the low-end DSLR market is more likely to shrink than the high-end one, given the other options.

Ultimately, light gathering ability and bokeh depend on the size of the front element of a lens. When the lens is large, there is little point in making the body small. And TTL viewfinders will always give more information than digital ones.

I am not worried we won't have DSLRs. But they may become costlier.


"Look at this Instacrap . . . "


I don't think I'll ever give up my DSLR for a smartphone. Maybe with falling sales, there'll be some good deals on DSLR.

I don't think smartphones are very smart; It seems to take forever to read a new SMS or make a fresh voice call, but the phone is ever-ready to go on the Internet or open some App. Dumb thing only lasts for a couple of days on one charge.

I'm sure the camera ability of phones is to encourage data usage; most users don't download, they just post; -or lose the lot. I did see a tourist waving an iPad around trying to take a picture. Quite comical.

If anyone is worried about phones replacing proper cameras, just take a look at photos/movies taken by phone in war zones.

1 upvote

If this is true, it's because people don't have taste in good photographs. I can't tell you how many "likes" a God-awful iPhone photo gets on Facebook, even when it's horribly out of focus and with a HUGE orange color cast or red eye, while a photo of actual quality merits a mere shrug from the crowd. People will call the iPhone photo an "awesome picture," even as it's hugely blurry, has tree trunks growing out of their head and there's all manner of clutter in the background. I see it ALL the time.

It's frustrating sometimes, it's as if you're a chef competing in a market full of people who prefer McDonald's hamburgers, not just in terms of affordability or quickness, but they actually PREFER them. You can only shake your head.


yea I sorta shake my head why people prefer electricity to candles damn all those new products

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Your sarcasm and ignorance is misplaced here udris.

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Your consistent use of the word "iPhone" instead of just phone or smartphone, indicates that your annoyance is brand based as much as anything else. I'm not certain if that was your intention, but it just reads like that unfortunately.

Also, any suggestion that every iPhone/phone photo is rubbish would be pure silly. Sure, there are technical aspects to consider, but I'd rather look at a well composed, imaginative iPhone photo than the "pet in the back garden"/"little Megan eating chocolate" shots from a high-end DSLR.


Cue the camera snobs that claim smartphones can't take good pictures. There are new luddites every generation.


The phones cant at the moment, they got plenty of noise even at iso 50 (including my nokia 808) and 99% who use them suck at it.

The truth is they cant take good pictures, just okayish snapshots.

1 upvote

I don't know why but for some reason ... thoughts of Kodak come to mind?!?


Portability is the name of the game, enthusiast compacts must continue to get better and address needs. Easy to stick a serious compact in your pocket vs. a DSLR. For serious shooters and pro's they know a DSLR, film camera, or medium format camera are the way to go - and always will be for professional work.

Nikon won't be out of business in 5 years, its just that the point of diminishing returns on DSLRS has pretty much been met and the market is equalizing. Make the DSLRS better and for less cost will help.

All in one cameras like the new RX10 also, will remain popular as long as camera companies continue to improve upon them. I still see a lot of old super zooms hanging around tourist necks and photographers necks. Make them better. Keep buyers engaged and laughing at cell phone output.


Holger Drallmeyer

People are already tired of meaningless food shots from their smartphones, Just because it's convenient it's not necessary good. Although I have to admit that high end gear doesn't make images any more creative. I like to believe that folks who invest in better quality gear are more enthusiastic about their photography and at least try to produce better quality work.
Just my 5 cent ;)


What about optics ?
Smartphones must be thin. There is no volume to fit a set of optical lenses inside.
Every smartphone user would love to have a way to zoom in his or her subject optically, without loosing quality with the today "pixeling" zoom.
I see in the future similar lenses as today, just instead of a DSLR camera at its back, there will be a smartphone attached.
This will surely and soon be the market for any ex-DSLR maker.

1 upvote

I'm not sure why quoting declining entry level DSLR sales is a sign of a shift to mirrorless systems when the article also points out a similar decline in such systems.

Rather it seems that the higher end(by that I mean higher than compacts/phones) camera market as a whole has taken a hit.

Edited 34 seconds after posting
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Most won't lament the loss

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The nature of photography and its tools has changed. Today pictures are taken on smartphones, not to frame on the wall but to share with the web or mail to friends. Photography has become part of the throw-away society. Most users don't care how many pixels the tool has, nor about exposure or IQ. Traditionally, to take pictures you bought a camera, now your phone does it. Only those who wish to do more with their images will now buy a specific tool for the job, and the nature of that tool is in question. The "serious" photographer aspires to get the best tool for the job: most are now waking up to the potential of newer technology so it's a foolish man who is going to back the old horses. Cost is a red herring. The "movers and shakers" in recent years have been the mirrorless boys. The mirror box for decades remained unchanged and unchangeable but electronics has changed that: it’s difficult to see budget SLRs continuing when economies of scale can make electronics cheaper.


I agree 100% with the article.
I was shocked when I bought a new Canon DSLR and realiased what bad 'kit' lens they sold with a "supposedly" good camera.
That is DEFINITELY not the way to cultivate new or to keep existing clients! I sold it as fast as I could get rid of it, and bought a new system where they either sell ' body' only, or proper, good lenses when in a 'kit'.

1 upvote

Wow, so you sold your lens and camera so you could buy a new system, smart move! Why not sell the cheap kit lens and purchase a high quality lens instead. Canon sells all their camera bodies without a lens if you choose to go that route.

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Nikon has been in business since the 1950s and will be around for the foreseeable future. The company more diversified than suggested. They are an important manufacture of semiconductor etching equipment, microscopes, binoculars, rifle scopes, eyeglass blanks and frames, and other optical goods. While the consumer market for pure cameras may be weak, at the professional and prosumer levels, Nikon and Canon are the only real choices.


With the sophistication of mirrorless cameras these days, outside of the pro market DSLR's are looking like dinosaurs. But mirrorless are in decline too, so overall this is a worrying situation for photo enthusiasts like myself.

I'm upgrading to a X-E2 sometime over the next month or so, and I'm going to look after it because 'proper cameras' might not be so readily available in a few years time... if these doomsday predictions are accurate?

Edited 1 minute after posting
Ed B

" Meanwhile, the economic downturn has made the less-expensive mirrorless cameras a more appealing purchase for those who think that a cell phone is insufficient."

Not sure I agree with this statement. Naturally, some entry level mirrorless cameras are less expensive than some entry level DSLRs but, generally speaking, mirrorless doesn't seem less expensive.

Mirrorless lenses, for brands like Sony, are more expensive than equivalent DSLR lenses so when you talk about a camera system, mirrorless can easily exceed the price of a good DSLR.


What you say is technically true, but for the majority of DSLR owners never venture past the kit lens. Your average consumer who decided it was time to buy a "real camera" when they were expecting their first child is not the same consumer as a photography enthusiast, hobbyist, or professional. For most of these people, the one-time cost is what they're looking at, not the cost of the system.

I agree with your point , though. I also disagree with the bit you quoted, but on other grounds: it's not true. It makes a certain intuitive sense to me as a mirrorless owner, but it doesn't jibe with what data we have on mirrorless vs DSLR sales.

1 upvote

Nothing is replacing my dSLR, certainly NOT a cell phone camera, that's for sure.


I think Canon will be more likely to survive because they are "vertically integrated". If necessary, they can subsidize their photography division with their hugely profitable ink sales.

Perhaps they are already subsidizing? Their COGS has to be more than the excellent Pro-100 you can get for $100, especially after margins for distributors like Adorma, BhPhoto, etc..

Years ago, it was supposedly the case that HP's printer division was the only profitable division of the company, and that was specifically their sales of ink and toner supplies. The rest of the company was a net loser of money. Or not? Changed?

"Give away the razors, and sell the razor blades?" King Gillette.

Edited 2 times; latest 4 minutes since posting
Daniel Lauring

"You'll get my DSLR when you pry it from my cold dead fingers." :-)

Sorry, that is what your post reminded me of. I don't think we are seeing the end of DSLR's...just the end of them as consumer devices. We are going to see a divergence of the consumer and professional cameras. Only the companies that can provide small quantities of high end cameras profitably will survive. The mass consumer camera is all but dead.

Think of it this way, Porsche doesn't need to sell as many 911's as Ford needs to sell Fusions to survive. The companies that will survive are the ones that can survive at the smaller high end level.

Edited 3 times; latest 4 minutes since posting
1 upvote
Total comments: 139
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