DSLRs are now niche products
We obviously have a very passionate group of hardcore photography enthusiasts in the crowd that have made it known that under no uncertain terms, that they'll only let go of their DSLR when it is pried out of their cold, dead hands. While I took the unpopular side of this argument, you can also include me in this crowd of DSLR adherents as well.
However, in a debate, one of us has to take an opposing or unpopular viewpoint. In the context of this debate, thinking about the evolution of the photography equipment industry (as a former employee and continuing loyal customer of Canon) I examined it from the perspective of industry maturation, the DSLR's relevancy in current market conditions, current customer use cases and whether or not Smartphones have been and still are a disruptive influence on that market.
My conclusion is that the health of the DSLR and dedicated prosumer camera market is analogous to the "Post-PC" situation that the computer industry is experiencing. We are now, like it or not, in the "Post-DSLR" age of Digital Photography.
While the DSLR or similar interchangeable lens/body systems will always be the camera of choice for true professionals, it really is no longer needed for the balance of its original target market, which includes everyone looking to buy a camera. The same could be said of the powerful desktop PC workstation and "homebrews" where tablets and ultrabooks are eating away the balance of PC market share.
Yes, many amateur photographers used to buy SLRs. But how many of them really bought a full complement of lenses, external flash accessories, etcetera, or even used these to their full capabilities?
I think we can all agree that not many did and many still do not, where a smartphone like an iPhone 5, a Lumia 920 or a Samsung Galaxy will do far more than an adequate job at a substantially lower price point. And consumers with stressed wallets have now wholly realized this.
Despite our resident pro photographer's insistence that smartphones produce inferior photos, I will stand by the smartphone and its qualitative merits because I take thousands of food photographs a year with them for my blog OffTheBroiler.com, many of which have been requested by restaurants and food publications and other media outlets around the world for re-use.
No matter how good or how inferior a camera you have, a skilled photographer will use whatever is at his or her disposal and still make the best of it. And smartphones have so many advantages that I am willing to compromise print reproductive quality for very nice web images, which is what most people use their cameras for today.
That being said, I have no doubt that companies like Canon and Nikon will continue to produce true professional-level SLRs. That much is a given.
But as cameras in smartphones continue to advance in terms of picture quality and incorporate superior sensors, shutters and lenses (Like those in the new 41MP Nokia Lumia 1020 that is being released shortly) as well as the manual and semi-manual controls that entry and mid-level DSLRs have today, these companies will have to cannibalize their entry and mid-level DSLR lineups because there will no longer be a healthy market for them.
And while it pains me to say it, if you're not Canon or Nikon, or even Sony, then you probably want to get out of the camera business entirely.
If we redefine "Kill the DSLR" as total disruption of its market and forced consolidation of products and manufacturers by more than good enough smartphone cameras, and reducing its use to a niche product for professional and semi-pros for the foreseeable future -- much as mobile devices have "Killed" the need for high-performance PCs -- then we have to agree that the DSLR is also on the endangered species list.
Do we want small and ugly photos?
My ZDNet colleague, Jason Perlow, is a wise and respected member of the community. For that reason, I feel awkward because words cannot express how deeply misguided and wrong are Jason’s opinions on the smartphone vs. DSLR issue.
Yes, smartphones are everywhere – in our pocket all the time – ready and willing to take our photos. But, do we really want photos that are small, ugly, filled with noise because the sensor just sucks? No, friends, we do not!
For people who care about life, family, and capturing true moments in the world, photographs do matter. DSLRs are the best way to capture important memories and situations. These stalwart cameras are reliable, offer the best quality, the greatest amount of control, and are easy to use.
Friends, please vote NO to send a clear and decisive message to the corporations, and anyone else, who would keep us down. We want great cameras and that means DSLRs rule!