Over recent months I've read many articles which state or elude to the statement "The DSLR is dead"... I couldn't disagree more with this. The DSLR lives on and lives strong, and with that being said I have completely moved away from DLSRs.
A few months ago I purchased a Fuji x100s. A very neat little fixed lens, retro looking 23mm (35mm equiv) and immediately fell in love with it. For the first time in a long time a camera was more than just a tool for me. Size isn't the issue here as I've carried a cell phone with camera with me at all times for over the past decade. Image quality? Megapixles?
Everything that makes the x100s an x100s and a bit something else, something unexplainable, unquantifiable...a personality, a bit of, dare I say it..."soul" gave me this love to something I've looked at nothing more than a tool in over two decades. It rekindled the amazement I had as a kid seeing a Polaroid coming to life saving a once in a lifetime moment for eternity. The feeling I had the first time I watched a white piece of photographic paper have an image appear on it while sitting in developer from a pin hole camera I made using a Folgers coffee can in junior high. I was giddy, I was blown away and most importantly, I was having fun.
The fast auto focus, while not perfect, does what I want. The built in ND filter allows the freedom of shooting at open apertures in conditions that would otherwise require a screw in or square ND filter. The leaf shutter allowing super high flash sync speeds without high speed sync. The beautiful optical view finder with a heads up display style LCD overlay. The fantastic optics in the fixed 23mm f/2 lens. I've always been a fan of shooting prime lenses and shoot at 35mm on full frame cameras quite often, so this focal length was very familiar to me.
I found myself shooting the x100s more and more. I only took my Canon 5D3 with me if I needed to shoot with long lenses or ultra wide. All of a sudden, my Sigma 35mm/1.4 wasn't getting any use, and that was one of my favorite lenses. The only thing ever mated to my 5D3 was my 17mm TS-E, 15mm Fisheye, or a super telephoto.
Now I can't help but think...why can't someone come out with a small camera with a amazing full frame sensor, with the ability to adapt almost any lens, doesn't cost a ridiculous amount and has a good feature set with thing like WiFi. I start looking around at some of the mirror-less cameras out there from various manufacturers and don't find anything that suited me.
So lets digress for a minute and discuss the three things that are keeping the DSLR alive.
1. Accurate auto focus tracking.
If you've taken pictures of birds, of any action sports, or anything that includes fast movement, you know how vital this is. I haven't seen anything that can even come close to competing with a Canon 5D3, 1DX or Nikon D4 when it comes to tracking a moving subject accurately and consistently. "What about pre-focusing Sebastian?" Not the best solution if you're shooting professionally trying to do event coverage. In the photo below, there was no time for pre-focusing as Ken Roczen came over the hill at Zaca Station sideways. But the 5D3 tracked him like a champ as he flew at and by me at high speed. Something like this could have been pulled off with some coordination, but when you're shooting sports and sporting events, you don't have time for coordination or the ability to guess where that spectacular moment is going to happen. Possible? Yes, obviously people were shooting sports when Manual Focus was the only kid in town. But times have changed and to stay competitive, this gives you the edge.
2. High frames per second.
This ties into number 1, so before you NEX users start spouting off that yours shoots 10fps, it's locked into the first frames focus while doing so. In the sports world this translates into "worthless". A lot happens in the action world in a fraction of a second. This isn't JUST limited to sports either.
I largely blame the marketing world here. 99% of camera users (and the public in general) out there are under the impression that big expensive looking cameras take better pictures than smaller cameras. (Ever been asked what kind of camera you have as a precursor to the much adored "Oh "IT" takes great pictures" comment.) A few years ago, I would argue that it was a pretty true assumption. With the exception of Leica's, there was really nothing that could compete with a DSLR on a professional level. Today, I have zero doubt that a capable photographer could shoot anything that doesn't rely on points 1 and 2 with a Fuji X-Pro1. Wedding? No problem. Fashion shoot? Hell yeah! And I really hope that someone out there already is. I know Zack Arias already does (though he does shoot medium format PhaseOne as well) and I'd like to hear about any others too.
Enter the A7/A7R
A few months ago I came across a link about a new rumored full frame, compact, mirror-less, e-mount camera being released by Sony. I've always been a fan of Sony cameras (most Sony products if I'm being honest). My first two digital cameras were Sony. My Dirty videos were shot on a Sony FS-700. My interest is peaked. As the official released neared, specs were starting to come out.
Magnesium Body (anyone who's held an RX1 in their hand is looking forward to that build quality)
Electronic View Finder
3" Tilting rear screen
WiFi and NFC
I'm sold. This is exactly what I've been waiting for. I mainly shoot people and landscapes/cityscapes. This is perfect. And I can mount my 17mm TS-E with an adapter? So I ordered it and I spent an entire battery charge playing with it as soon as I unboxed it. The 35mm FE lens was a few days behind so I had some time to play with the menus and get used to the feel of the body and buttons.
The build quality is simply amazing. It just feels rock solid in your hands. The electronic view finder is fantastic. I can set the 3 custom buttons to do pretty much anything I can reach via a menu and even a few other buttons can be customized. The quick menu can be customized. The Eye-AF works as advertized and with the custom buttons I don't have to change focus modes. As soon as the Zeiss/Sony 35mm/2.8 FE lens arrived I took a test shot off of my balcony.
Today some adapters arrived in the mail so I will have some additional shots coming soon. My Canon gear, with a few exceptions will be going up for sale soon and there will be no looking back. Is this the best camera on the market? No. But it's the best camera for me, and paired with the Fuji x100s, I am extremely happy with my current arsenal and hopefully can extend my vision thru these cameras to my clients and fans.
I'm sure the DSLR will go away one day. Not anytime too soon, but as more and more "big name" photographers move away from DLSRs in favor of mirror-less systems, the public opinion of them will change, they will be respected and the demand for DSLR's will decrease. The mirror-less cameras will gain more support by the manufacturers and will continue to improve. Supply and demand. Until this happens, those fat bodies are here to stay.