Friday, March 4, 2016

"I'm Done with DSLRs"

Some of you might remember this article where I analyzed the reasons and the options behind giving up on DSLR photography. That text received tremendous response, perhaps unexpectedly. After all, it seems as if we're living in the DLSR era, right? New cameras, new lenses, accessories... Everything seems to imply that the options are endless - and to an extent, they are.

Taken with a DSLR. It could probably have been taken with a mobile phone, too.

I received several messages and feedback in general in regard to that article, but arguably the most intriguing message I got was the following. With the writer's permission, I am republishing it.

(edited for language and length)

Your article really forced me to think about the whole thing. I'm going on a cruise around the Mediterranean next summer, and the last thing I want is to carry junk with me. At first I thought "hey, maybe I should sell the D5500 and get a mirrorless". Then I felt that'd be probably too much as well. What then, a compact? Well, I could as well just have my mobile phone with me. I've got to tell you, the whole process was extremely stressing. It just didn't feel right to have nothing but a mobile camera on the trip of a lifetime (maybe. Hopefully not, but you get the point, these things aren't daily life).

On the other hand, it didn't feel right to carry the D5500 either. I mean, I'd have to either carry a superzoom (I have the 18-300 and it's a pain in the you-know-what to carry) or what then, the 18-55? Well, I could as well then again just carry a compact. Or a mirroless with a pancake wideangle. Or a mobile phone. Back to the very beginning. It's getting on my nerves!

I really don't know what to do, I wish you could offer me some supplemental advice here. I know you can't decide for me, but really, I'm going out of my mind here. I'm thinking, what if I'm done with DSLRs?

Alright, I'll try to address this - although I already partially have in previous articles, but I've got other similar messages, so I think we're really onto something interesting.

What's that?

That we want to have our cake and eat it too.

Let's play the oh-so-popular game of designing the perfect camera. I'll go first:
- It should be small and light, about the dimensions of a mobile phone, or max a slim compact
- It should have a high-quality zoom lens for landscapes as well as portraits [these two are the #1 priorities of the casual traveling photographer], something like an (equivalent) 28-60mm. It should be fast, even if variable - e.g. f/2.8-f/4
- It should have a high-quality, large sensor (at least 4/3-sized, DX preferred).
- It should have intuitive, made-for-photographers, fully overridable controls
- It should have very good battery life (several hundred shots) [another must for traveling photographers]
- It should be reasonably priced [so that you don't need to pamper it and be afraid something bad will happen to it]

Taken with a DSLR. No, probably it could not have been taken with a mobile phone

Well, I won't hold my breath for such a camera. First of all, there are some limitations involved that make it, if not actually impossible, at least practically impossible. How do you fit a fast zoom lens and a large sensor in a slim compact (let alone mobile phone) case? How do you make made-for-photographers controls (in my experience, this means physical buttons and dials) in something barely able to accommodate a screen? Short of installing a mini nuclear reactor to it, how do you get "very good battery life" from the wafer-thin batteries that can fit into such a case?

A pattern begins to emerge, as you can see. Good quality and functionality come at the expense of size and weight. You kinda knew that already, perhaps, but what I'm trying to make you understand is this (and I'm repeating myself):

We can't have our cake and eat it too

For me, traveling light will always, always be a higher priority. First of all, because I value experiences. I want to see the places I'm visiting, live the moments, enjoy it all without having to worry about which lens to pack, which flash unit to use, how to place it. A small D3200 and a 18-55 lens are the maximum I'm willing to carry (often I just get my mobile phone).

For other people, it might be different. But if you can identify with what I said above, if you feel that the weight and size of a DSLR is more and more of an issue, and if your mobile phone is, more often than not, perfectly capable of giving you what you need (which for the casual traveler is: memories), then yes, you might as well say: "I'm done with DSLRs"

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