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Author Topic: The Last Flagship DSLRs  (Read 3216 times)

distant.star

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The Last Flagship DSLRs
« on: June 10, 2012, 05:06:23 PM »
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Predictions based on generalized long-term knowledge of the history of technology with neither scientific basis nor specific speculation. Intended only to provoke thought and discussion. If you're response is that I'm an idiot, fine, I'll say that right up front and save you the trouble. So...

1. The Canon EOS 1DX (if it ever becomes reality) is the last 1-Series flagship DSLR Canon will ever make. Like the EOS 1V was/is the last 35mm film SLR from Canon, the 1DS will be the last DSLR. Like the 1V it will be around a long time. Its "obsolesence buffer" will be plenty of room for "upgrading" through software application.

2. A new "flagship" version of the APS-C line will be introduced (e.g. a 7D2), and like the 1DX it will be the final flagship of the APS-C line. It also will be around a long time and see upgrades through software. Given Canon's predilection for super pricing I predict it will be over $2500 U.S. And most people who have a 7D today will buy one! It will seem spectacular.

Meanwhile, Canon will lead a transition to new formats that require far less mechanical apparatus than the tradional SLR. I'll leave speculation about exactly what that may be to others.

The fundamentals of a camera are pretty simple. A lens focuses light on a sensor (chemical using film previously and now a light-sensing semiconductor) and there has to be a means for recording and converting what is sensed into something the human visual apparatus can discern. What we consider a "camera" is a device that enables and manages operator variables between that lens and sensor. Photographic composition drives the decisions that create those variables. Few people buy a camera and just start pressing the shutter button with no concept of a "picture" in mind. That's where need for most of the mechanical and electro-mechanical stuff originates in today's cameras. The operator directs all that electro-mechanical stuff to do different things to fulfill his "vision."

The "mirrorless" design concept has already begun to transform the mechanics inside cameras. I think it will not be long before the flapping mirror and mechanical shutter will be seen as whimsical relics of a primitive age. Since we seem addicted (many of us anyway) to seeing exactly what is seen through the lens (in contrast to rangefinders and today's electronic "viewfinders,") manufacturers may adapt this in new ways. A shutterless camera, for example, might have nothing between the lens and the sensor-- except for maybe a lens cap. When power is turned on, the operator sees exactly what the sensor is seeing (ala today's "live view" projections). I can see this being done through a classic viewfinder and/or using an extremely hi-def display that is part of the camera body as we now have. Pressing the "shutter" would only tell the sensor to save that particular instant. This will likely require different and better sensors than we are using at the moment, and some lens "focus" adaptations may have to be made. I'm guessing most of the fundamental research has already been done, allowing this to be seen as viable options for a camera manufacturer.

I don't know that any of us can predict exactly how this future technology will work, but I do believe it will happen sooner than most us us can imagine. It was less than 15 years ago when I was recording visual images chemically. I could then see that the silicon revolution was going to somehow overwhelm this process just as surely as it was doing with audiotape and videotape and print media, etc., etc. I couldn't
say how, but I knew, sure as shootin', that is was coming.

Perhaps 20 years from now there will be discussions on these kinds of forums about how the old shutter and mirror systems "couldn't be beat" as a recent poster here has posited about film. And ebay may be full of old 1DX cameras for those who want to try their hands at old style picture taking. And, as always, there will be old timers telling newcomers how tough things were in the good old days. "Why, we had to manually clean the dust off our sensors in those days. We didn't have that refractive oxidation process you take for granted today!"

Anyway, that's my sunny Sunday afternoon contribution to the intellectual process here at CR. May the force be with you!
« Last Edit: June 11, 2012, 11:54:04 AM by distant.star »
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The Last Flagship DSLRs
« on: June 10, 2012, 05:06:23 PM »

pwp

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2012, 07:23:25 PM »
Yes I often wonder how the ancient mirrorbox design has survived so long into the 21st century. It was a terrific breakthrough from the fixed mirror of the old twin-lens reflex cameras of last century. But I agree here, the mirrorless bodies are the future. And once EVF's have reached suitable resolution and refresh rate, the optical viewfinder will be consigned to history too.

As for the current Canon DSLR's being the last in the line, that's a mighty big call. We'll see won't we. In any case, thanks for your thoughtful "sunny Sunday afternoon contribution to the intellectual process here at CR".

PW

briansquibb

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2012, 08:26:28 PM »
I am surprised that the EVF doesn't run as a feed straight from the sensor, the fps would be video like - once the storage is sorted we could have a video comprising of 8mb frames

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2012, 09:30:27 PM »
I'd like to take your money on that wager.  Mirrorless cameras are approaching 6% of digital camera sales world wide, less in Japan, more in Asia, and someone is predicting that manufacturers will stop making DSLR's??  So far, sales of DSLR's are growing rapidly.  Mirrorless has been taking away sales of point and shoot cameras, not DSLR's.  This means that beginner DSLR's need to add some new eatures, or see some sales slippage.
 
I'd say that point and shoot cameras are more of a endangered species.  Camera phones are cutting into low end P&S sales and mirrorless into high end sales.  Still, they sold almost one billion point and shoot cameras last year, so they are not going away soon either.
 
1 Series DSLR's are made for professional photographers who need weather sealing, ruggedness, fast autofocus, fast FPS, and so on.  So far, mirrorless cameras really do not come close.   When you see them being used by 50% of the professional photographers, then we will know that they have at long last arrived.
 
 

unfocused

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2012, 10:29:13 PM »
I think you may be a generation or two premature.

Eventually, DSLRs may be replaced by something better, but I think the alternative technology will have to mature first for that to happen.

I do agree with Mt. Spokane, I don't see mirrorless being the replacement. They seem more like FrankenCameras to me: cobbled together from today's technology in an attempt to create something new, but not really doing anything better than existing cameras. They remind me of Instamatics or, at best, Polaroids. Polaroid being an interesting technology that had some good commercial and artistic uses, but never really challenged mainstream cameras.

The only mirrorless I find remotely interesting are the Fuji X series and they are more of a "back to the future" technology rather than cutting edge new.

Still, I agree with some of your basic premise, but I tend to come at it from a different perspective.

I agree that as DSLR technology matures, the improvements from one generation to another become ever more incremental. In addition, I suspect the development cycle will increase, simply because there won't be rapid and significant breakthroughs. The current 7D is almost three years old now. Compare the development cycle between the 40D, 50D and the 7D. The 40D came out in 2007; the 50D in 2008 and the 7D in 2009.

It is almost three years later and the 7D is still very competitive and compares favorably to any other APS-C camera in the market. It's entirely possible that the 7DII and the 5DIII could each have a shelf life of four to five years. The 7DIII and the 5DIV? Maybe five to seven years.

This is not just a function of DSLR technology maturing, though. It is also a function of diminishing returns. The lowest cost Rebels now meet 90% or more of most photographers needs. The 7D and 5DII probably pushed that to about 95%. The 5DIII and 7DII, maybe 98%.  As anyone knows, meeting those final numbers gets tremendously expensive, requires significantly more time in development, and is only marginally important to most customers.

I'm old enough to remember that when the F1 came out, Canon actually promised they would NOT make changes for a decade. (That was a selling point then because professionals wanted that predictability.)

It's premature to predict the "death" of the DSLR. But the dizzying rate of replacement we've grown accustomed to in the last decade may be dying.
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Daniel Flather

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2012, 02:47:56 PM »
I am surprised that the EVF doesn't run as a feed straight from the sensor, the fps would be video like - once the storage is sorted we could have a video comprising of 8mb frames

Suddenly my 2tb externals seem tiny.  Think of the CPU needed to edit that video —wow.
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Daniel Flather

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2012, 02:49:03 PM »
I'm not a video shooter, but on my 5d3 in the "less" compressed setting I can only fit 16+/- minutes on an 8gb card.
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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2012, 02:49:03 PM »

briansquibb

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2012, 02:54:59 PM »
I'm not a video shooter, but on my 5d3 in the "less" compressed setting I can only fit 16+/- minutes on an 8gb card.

I guess there will be a rush on the 64gb cards then  ;D

jrista

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2012, 03:31:30 PM »
I think this is rather naive, as most of the "End of the DSLR era" commentators are. There is a hell of a lot more to a camera than "a lens that focuses light on a sensor". Of significant note is the ability to preview what your going to be taking a photograph of, and focusing the subject(s). Both of those areas are currently areas where DSLR designs are supremely strong, and mirrorless designs are rather weak. I think it will take a good couple of generations...at least...before mirrorless starts to intrude into the territories that DSLR designs currently cover to near perfection (thanks to the fact that they are ancient, established, and well-proven designs.)

I've tried out a few mirrorless cameras, both with and without optional OVF's. One thing I can say with GUSTO is that EVF's are terrible, for a couple reasons. One, being electronic, they have to transfer information from the sensor to a small screen, which has its own inherent limitations. Despite fairly high refresh rates on the EVF screens, transferring information from the camera's sensor and processing it such that it can be displayed on the EVF takes time, often limiting your frame rate. Even at a frame rate of 30-60fps, EVF's are not immediate-mode devices...there is still a certain amount of lag. Add to that the resolution of EVF's, which is actually rather low, and often involves cycling the full set of pixels between red, green, and blue channels, results in far less than ideal results. For mirrorless cameras that have an attachable OVF, you have parallax issues, AF point selection and AF confirmation issues, etc. At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, mirrorless cameras have a very inferior viewfinder story. As I shoot action most of the time, I'll take a true optical viewfinder that shows me exactly what the lens is projecting in real-time and in full detail every time. No contest there, not yet anyway.

The other area where mirrorless lag DSLRs and need more proving is AF system. SLR designs employ a dedicated, high speed, extremely low-light sensitive sensor capable of nearly instantly detecting phase shift and adjusting lens focus in one step. Even with the advent of FPPD-AF (focal-plane phase-detection AF) built into sensors like Nikon 1 mirrorless or Canon's new 650D hybrid AF sensor, they need a LOT of proving and perfection before they could become an acceptable replacement to the proven track record of dedicated phase shift detection AF sensors. Currently, a mirror assembly is required for a dedicated PS AF unit to function, so I don't see DSLR designs going away any time soon, even as the necessary major strides in FPPD-AF designs and capabilities make leaps and bounds over current first generation ones. Again, as someone who shoots action, I'll take a DSLR mirrored design with optical viewfinder and dedicated AF sensor any day.

Finally, there is the issue of ergonomics. Mirrorless is, as I see it any way, very much a fad. Its part of a larger fad, the fad of miniaturization. There are definitely certain benefits to that...cost and weight being a couple notable ones. However tiny cameras have their definite drawbacks as well. One of the most significant that I believe will prevent many current and long-term DSLR users from switching will be ergonomics. Modern DSLR camera bodies are nearing the pinnacle of ergonomic design. Particularly Canon, I think hand fit and form, button placement, and balance are all reaching a pinnacle, where further significant improvement will be difficult to find since there are few improvements left to be made. The small form factor of mirrorless cameras does not work well with the way I use cameras, and the disproportionate size of longer lenses makes for some odd ergonomics that hinder using current generation mirrorless cameras for what I shoot....birds, BIF, and wildlife. It may be that Canon releases a mirrorless FPPD-AF camera design that uses EF mount lenses in a standard DSLR-sized body...in which case mirrorless would definitely become a more appealing option. But I don't see such a thing in the near future...it doesn't fit with the fad.

Finally, I've said this before, and I'll probably say it again many times. New options don't mean the elimination of old options. New options simply mark further diversification of markets. Film is not dead, and while it may not be as front and center as it was a decade ago, it is still used by a not-insignificant number of consumers. Film, both stills and movie film, is the single largest consumer of silver today, and use of silver in film doesn't seem to have slowed much at all despite the larger digital market today. Similar to film, digital SLR camera designs will never cease, and will probably maintain a larger significant use by consumers than film does today. Mirrorless is just a new option, that will appeal to certain users over and above DSLRs for a variety of reasons. It'll certainly gain market share, and in a decade it may indeed have the larger share (as the average consumer who just wants a good camera is more likely to buy a smaller, easier to handler mirrorless than an entry-level DSLR.) I don't believe the DSLR design will disappear from the market alltogether, not in the next couple of decades at least, and while it may take second place to mirrorless in the future, it will remain a significant option for the long term.

briansquibb

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2012, 03:52:33 PM »
Shutterless cameras will have inherent reduced cost and increased reliability.

With good firmware the shutter speed range will be dramatically extended

moreorless

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2012, 05:57:11 PM »
As jrista says there are a number of reasons why a camera like the 1DX being replaced by mirrorless seems unlikely to me.

If any part of the high end SLR market gets replaced by mirrorless my guess is that it'll be medium format not action focused FF like the 1DX, MF rangefinders were always popular and if one of the big names get involved and makes CMOS work(Samsung seem like they might have) the same potential big size savings are there. Unlike FF DSLR's where your competing with ultra fast AF and users with massive tele/zoom lenses to balanace MF AF on SLR is much more modest and much of the use is in the wide/normal range where lenses easier to balance.

wickidwombat

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2012, 06:23:54 PM »
people seem to be forgetting ergonomics completely in all of this the DSLR form factor has evolved over time for comfort of use too, and any extended shooting you need to be comfortable as cramps in you hands are a nightmare, could imagine trying to shoot a wedding with sony nex or pens, way too small and fiddly

even if they go evil i bet the form factor of the pro bodies are not going to shrink for this reason

(also big camera have more cred than little ones :P)
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jrista

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2012, 07:30:12 PM »
Shutterless cameras will have inherent reduced cost and increased reliability.

With good firmware the shutter speed range will be dramatically extended

With the digital sensors of DSLR's, there isn't any reason you couldn't drop the shutter. I wouldn't consider that a unique factor to the mirrorless market.

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2012, 07:30:12 PM »

briansquibb

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2012, 03:03:28 AM »
Shutterless cameras will have inherent reduced cost and increased reliability.

With good firmware the shutter speed range will be dramatically extended

With the digital sensors of DSLR's, there isn't any reason you couldn't drop the shutter. I wouldn't consider that a unique factor to the mirrorless market.

Why would you have a mirror with a shutterless body?

I dont believe there is such a thing as a mirrorless market. Do you actually believe a consumer would only buy a camera if it was mirrorless?

Personally I am not going to get fixated on a particular technology - that would preclude potentially better options - look at the limitations of APS-C and the opportunities missed by moving on. Even a move from 1.6 crop to 1.5 crop would improve the IQ of the image - and the image should be our focal point.

hollybush

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2012, 05:40:17 AM »
Add to that the resolution of EVF's, which is actually rather low, and often involves cycling the full set of pixels between red, green, and blue channels, results in far less than ideal results.

265,000 hits on a Google search for "temporal dithering headaches".

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Re: The Last Flagship DSLRs
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2012, 05:40:17 AM »