Speaker 1: It's been the mainstay of serious photography for about as long as most of us have been shooting the Sr, which then became the DSLR, the digital version. And most of us don't even know a serious camera that doesn't have a little prism on top it's signature physical feature. But now that whole family of cameras, if not leaving, is starting to fade now what Steven shanks got some good insights on this. He's a senior reporter at CNET, longtime colleague of mine and quite [00:00:30] the photographer. And he's been documenting an interesting and major shift in the serious photography business where the DSLR perhaps is no longer king of the heat shank. What's going on big picture in the primacy of the DSLR, the
Speaker 2: DSLR that stands for digital single lens reflex camera is a digital adaptation of a film era camera design. It did very well for a couple of decades, but what's happening now is we're taking another step toward digital. [00:01:00] And that means we're getting rid of the mirror inside the S SLR cameras, and we're going to something called mirrorless cameras. The mirror
Speaker 1: Thing you're talking about is such a key and a lot of folks don't even know what that is. Can you show us sure what this apparent piece of minutia is, but it's actually key to the camera design. You can, you you've got a DSLR there. So this
Speaker 2: Is a digital S SLR. This is my cannon five D mark four. It's about five years old. It's a digital S SLR. It's got an interchangeable camera lens up front. [00:01:30] It's got this big hump on the top with a mirror inside it. The light comes through the lens through this prism up here and out the view finder. So you can compose your photo. The way the light gets from the lens to the view finder is with a mirror. I'm gonna take this off. Yeah. Now in here, you can see the mirror it's right in there and I'm gonna flip it up. That's the mirror flipped up, ah, and down
Speaker 1: Now, when that mirror moves, it goes from sending [00:02:00] the image to my eye, to letting it pass through to the
Speaker 2: Sensor. Exactly. So in the old days, when the mirror flipped up out of the way, the light would go through to some film back here. When they went to digital S SLRs, they got rid of the film and they put an image sensor in there. That's a big chip. Now what's changing here in the industry is we're getting rid of that mirror altogether. There's a new class of cameras called mirrorless. They completely lack that mirror. And instead of having a view finder here, they have an [00:02:30] electronic view finder. All the data comes in onto the image sensor, which runs all the time. A little tiny version of that shows in the view finder. So you can compose your
Speaker 1: Photo. The mirrorless camera gets rid of the mirror, but what's, what's the point. What's the benefit for me? Why do I care if it gets rid of the mirror? Well,
Speaker 2: The cameras do get a little bit smaller and that's nice, but especially with the big lens attached, that's not a huge difference. The biggest improvement that comes with mirrorless is you get a lot more computer brains in there. Instead [00:03:00] of having an auto focus system, that's grafted onto an old film camera design, you have all that light information going straight to the image sensor all the time. That means you can apply a lot of computer processing to that image. And one of the biggest things you can do, there is much more intelligent auto focus. So for example, the in R five, which I rented for a week last year, it can detect eyes. It can detect faces. It can detect bird, eyes, animal eyes. This is something that Sony is pioneered with its mirrorless, uh, its mirrorless cameras [00:03:30] that makes auto focus so much smarter. And if you are a wedding photographer, if you're shooting kids running around, uh, wildlife photo auto focus is key because it is so important to have that sharp image focused on what you want to
Speaker 1: Shoot. Focus alone is such a big deal because while you can fix a lot of things after you've taken a shot, as far as I know, there's no way to take a blurry shot and put it in focus. Yeah,
Speaker 2: There are a couple little algorithmic tweaks you can do with some specialized software, but it's never to be as good [00:04:00] as getting the focus right. The first time.
Speaker 1: This now leads us to, as you talk about computational photography and the ability to apply, uh, you know, those techniques all the time, because the sensor is always working. How much of this is a battle between mirrorless and the phone to see who cannibalizes DSLR or is the phone still a completely different, more casual market?
Speaker 2: The phone is definitely the mainstream market. It's definitely the casual market. There are always gonna be people who are [00:04:30] more serious, who are gonna be willing to spend a lot more money on a camera. And that's where mirrorless, uh, falls in. I, I don't think that, uh, at this stage you can come anywhere close to the image quality of a muralist or S SLR camera. Even my old five year old can still is vastly better than my brand new iPhone, 12 max pro. And I, I, I think that the progress in smartphones is incredible. I use them more and more often. I am more willing to leave my [00:05:00] big clunky camera behind, but the, the big, uh, serious amateur and professional cameras are still several steps ahead. One of the big advantages is the lens flexibility. There's so many different types of lenses you can put on to get the look that you want, whether it's some bird that's super far away and you need a big telephoto lens or some landscape where you want really ultra wide, the, the, the, the real cameras still have a big edge over the smartphone cameras. I
Speaker 1: Think in portraiture, it's particularly striking, even though the phones have made [00:05:30] huge gains in, as you've pointed out in a couple of your articles, computationally, creating that nice portrait look with a blurred background than all of that. Uh, there's nothing like a longer lens on a DSLR or a mirrorless camera to create that optically as opposed to digitally.
Speaker 2: It's still better with, with the real thing that said, uh, the question is not necessarily whether it's as good as an S SLR or as an expensive mirrorless [00:06:00] camera. The question is, is it good enough? And it's definitely good enough for most people. So the smartphone photography with computational photography mixed into the technology there is, is really impressive these days, not just for portrait photography, but also for digital zoom, that's getting more intelligent and for shooting in very low light conditions, there are a lot of situations actually, where my, uh, I have a Google pixel phone and they have something called night site that is really remarkable. And it's captured photos that I really [00:06:30] couldn't catch cap capture with, uh, with my expensive Sr. So, you know, the, the computational photo free technology is really impressive and is improving fast for decades.
Speaker 1: People who took a picture with whatever their camera was, you know, average, we, we should call, you know, these to be point and shoot cameras, snapshot cameras. It's not even a market anymore, but they would take a picture and say, ah, this isn't very good. I should go get a good camera. And that led them up the SLR or DSLR ladder today. [00:07:00] I have a hard time imagining most people taking a picture with their phone and feeling like they need a camera. Hasn't that entire ladder into the camera market just kind of gone away.
Speaker 2: I don't think it's quite that bad. So what's changed here is that, uh, smartphones have democratized photography for sure, because everybody needs a smartphone these days. So everybody has a camera these days. And while the cameras on smartphones are getting better and better and they meet most people's [00:07:30] needs just fine. I think they also open up access to some creative ideas to people. Some people might get hooked on photography might not have gotten hooked before. So if you imagine the number of photographers walking around with smartphones these days, it's a lot larger than the number of people who were serious enough to walk around with a camera 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 40 years ago. So I think there's kind of a, a larger population base who can upgrade to cameras to real cameras. But that said Mo for [00:08:00] most people, the smartphone is good enough.
Speaker 1: And then when they do upgrade, the hunch I'm getting is that that's increasingly gonna be to a mirrorless. So as we look at that, uh, what are the big makers doing? You've been documenting so many of them that are not necessarily bailing on DSLRs though. Some are, but they're kind of saying we're done developing new ones. Is that kind of the headline right now?
Speaker 2: Yeah. So one of the pioneers of high-end muralist cameras is Sony. They tried for several years to get into the digital S [00:08:30] SLR market. They really didn't do very well. They had credible technology, they acquired Cono Minolta. So they had a big head start of a large installed base. Lots of people would lenses that worked, but they didn't really make a big impact. But what they did was they went to mirrorless faster than the two big S SLR companies, Nikon and cannon. And that really helped them a lot. They were in a situation where they didn't have as much of an existing business to defend. They had a lot of experience in electronics. They pushed that hard and they actually made a, a really [00:09:00] impressive, uh, progress with mirrorless that really forced Nikon and cannon to follow suit. So what we've seen more recently in the last couple years, Nikon and Canon both now have very credible mirrorless, high end professional grade, or advanced amateur grade cameras. And so it's really become apparent. That's where all the R and D is going, their new lenses being developed for them. It's, it's pretty clear that that's the future. You know,
Speaker 1: When people look at a mirrorless camera, they tend to [00:09:30] see something more compact. Um, and they think, oh, this can't be as good. It's a simplistic, strange reaction, but let's face it. Most of us look at a camera and see if it's bigger, it's gotta be better. It's the strangest thing. Uh, what should one make of the more compactness of a mirror list? Well, there are
Speaker 2: A couple of factors here. The first is the bigger is better rule for cameras actually still does apply to an extent. And that's because the size, the image sensor is really key. The larger, the image sensor, the better the [00:10:00] image quality, the sensor is gonna be able to gather more light the size of an S SLR, full frame image sensor. It's about that big, uh, and it's, uh, you know, it's a, it's a pretty big slice of, uh, of processing Silicon. That's expensive. The bigger it is of the more expensive it is. So there are some mirrorless cameras that you'll see from companies like, uh, Olympus and Panasonic that are smaller. They use smaller sensors. Those are much cheaper to manufacture, but they just don't have the same [00:10:30] image quality as the big full frame image sensors, you'll see from Nikon, Sony, Canon. So totally discount your reflex that bigger is better.
Speaker 2: It still does make a difference when you're trying to capture. Um, now that said there are some trade offs when you go to mirrorless. Uh, a lot of people don't like moving from an optical view finder. That's kind on my camera here. This is just optic. So the light just goes through, bounces off the mirror through a prism here and out. This it's, it's a, it's [00:11:00] a very true to life image of what I'm seeing. Yeah. When you replace that with the little screen, you get pixels, you get a lag, you recompose, and the, the scene you see through the view finder lags, it's not this it's not immediate like it is. And also when you take a picture, it can black out for just a second. So the optical view finder they've been getting better and better, but there's still work to be done there for sure.
Speaker 2: Another big problem with mirrorless is because you're running that image sensor all the time, and maybe an electronic view finder, uh, screen, you use up the batteries faster. So the battery [00:11:30] life, uh, you know, it might be a few hundred shots, less on one battery that you can get with a traditional DSLR that said that also is a bit big area of progress. Sony does very well with battery life there. Nikon does. Okay. Canon has a lot of work to do to catch up, but the progress is, is pretty clear there. The battery life is
Speaker 1: Improving. So that's an interesting thing you just brought up, um, in terms of just that one aspect of who's doing well or not, is this whole move to get a little bit away from DSLRs? Well, I think a lot away and move toward [00:12:00] mirrorless and a combination of those with phones as the majority of the market. Is that gonna reshuffle the order of, I guess it's currently Canon Nikon. I mean, those are your two, two biggies, I think, in the, a order. Uh, and then you have, uh, well, there's really no one else I think of in DSLR, who's a heavy hitter, right? It's
Speaker 2: Pretty interesting. Cannon has been, uh, slow on a couple of things. They had worse image quality from the same size sensor as Sony and Nikon Nikon actually buys Sony image sensors. So [00:12:30] they're, they're pretty competitive and, and comparable, but Canon lagged only recently did Canon really catch up over the last couple of years. So that was a, a big competitive point, but yet Canon still kept its power. And that's because it takes a long time for these markets to shift people who invest in these things, they buy five lenses, two lenses, six lense is it's a huge pain to change. You might also, I really like Canon ergonomics, the button layout, stuff [00:13:00] like that really works for me very well. And I don't like it as much on the other camera. So people stick with what they have for longer than they, than they might. Otherwise, it's not an easy switch to go from Canon to Sony or Canon to Nikon. So because of the image, quality of issue, Nikon really started gaining and because of the mirrorless issue, Sony started gaining on cannon. So I definitely think it already has reshaped the camera market competitively
Speaker 1: For the person who says, okay, I got a DSLR Shalin seems to be thinking that, uh, mirrorless is, [00:13:30] is the trend of the future and a really nice rig. Um, what should the person who's gonna make that switch know about taking pictures differently? You mentioned the view finder, that's a big one. You're composing through a, a monitor versus through a glass prism. So there's one, uh, the camera can be a little more compact. There's two. Is there any other behavioral change you think a person's confronted with when they move from DSLR? To me
Speaker 2: Mostly, it feels the same. So it's not gonna be a completely [00:14:00] different experience. You're gonna get a whole lot of new options with auto focus. When I got that, when I tried out that can in R five for a week, it took me more than an hour. I would say probably close to two hours to try to get the settings that I wanted digging through menus, setting up auto focus this time out, power time out that how long the battery life, how fast is this screen refresh on the electronic view finder to save batteries or to have better quality. They're all so many parameters. So get ready [00:14:30] for a new learning curve in just the controls. Uh, but mostly they work about the same. There's some things you'll notice. Obviously the big difference is the electronic view finder that you'll, uh, you know, you'll see a very different view.
Speaker 2: One, that thing that's really nice about that is it boosts the signal at night. So you can actually compose shots. I took a picture of my kids sleeping. It was absolutely dark. I couldn't focus with my eyes, but the camera was smart enough to boost a signal lock onto his eye, take the picture in really [00:15:00] dark conditions. So there's some nice things like that. Mirrorless also, you can shoot really fast, uh, because you can completely leave the mechanical shutter out of the situation. You can shoot just with an electronic shutter. You can shoot 20 frames per second, 12 frames per second, the new
Speaker 1: Oh, right. Cuz there's no mirror having to FLA up and down every time to do those measures. That's uh, of course that's the, and for everyone who wonders, you know, what's that, what's that iconic sound. It's literally been the official Hollywood sound effect for cameras [00:15:30] for 50 years since the S SLR rose to prominence, uh, that's the sound of that mayor clacking inside of a, of an S SLR or DSLR. And that, you know, just that, that in of itself has become iconic. Uh, you know, when David Kats Meyer a few years ago was documenting on, seen at how Panasonic was getting out the plasma TV business, which to me sounds a little bit like some of your coverage saying a lot of companies rec curtailing the DSLR development. A lot of folks ran out and said, I'm going to get a plasma while [00:16:00] I still can. Do you think that there is any reason to rush out and grab a DSLR now? Or is it not that kind of an urgent cliff we're going off? I don't
Speaker 2: Think that you need to run out and grab the, of last DSLRs before they, uh, vanish off the shelves. Canon and Nikon are moving, you know, gradually through this transition, there's gonna be some point. I remember very well back, uh, just after 2000, when the film cameras just vanished. And there were a few people who said, oh my God, I gotta get my last [00:16:30] whatever film camera model, because they wanted to keep that, uh, they wanted to keep that technology, that lifestyle, but that's, that was a pretty small market. I think it's gonna be a similar thing here. There's gonna be a gradual tapering off of the DSLRs, but I also think, uh, you know, you don't need to scramble to upgrade to a muralist. You don't need to scramble to buy a DSLR before they disappear. If you like one, I'm sure there're gonna be some deals. I also think there're gonna be a lot of people who are gonna upgrade. I'm probably gonna be one in over the next year [00:17:00] or so, who are gonna have one of these to sell used. So, uh, you don't need to run to upgrade to a mirrorless. You know, this is a five year old camera. It still takes really good pictures and it'll take good pictures for another few years. They might not be as good as what you get with a new camera, but they're still really good picture.