Today’s Question: You said that “the future of photography is definitely mirrorless”, but does that mean you think at some point manufacturers will stop making digital SLR cameras?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes. I completely expect virtually all new cameras to be mirrorless in a relatively short period of time, most likely by the end of this decade.
More Detail: The way I look at this situation is to imagine a scenario where technology is in exactly the same state as it is right now, except that the camera hasn’t been invented yet. If that were the case, what are the odds that an inventor would add a mirror to a camera they were designing? I would say those odds are very low.
The primary reason to have a mirror in a single lens reflect (SLR) camera is to enable the viewfinder to provide a view through the lens, rather than the offset view provided by previous cameras due to the viewfinder being completely separate from the lens.
A mirrorless camera provides the same general functionality without the use of a mirror, by projecting the live image from the image sensor to an LCD display on the back of the camera or to an optical viewfinder that is essentially a very small LCD display that you hold your eye up to.
The earliest models of what led to today’s mirrorless cameras featured an electronic viewfinder (EVF) of relatively low quality, which greatly reduced the utility of these cameras. Now we have EVF displays of exceptional quality, so that you really aren’t giving up anything by not having an optical viewfinder.
In addition, mirrorless cameras provide a variety of benefits beyond simply making up for the lack of an optical viewfinder. We’re already seeing more new models of mirrorless cameras and fewer new models of digital SLR, and I expect that trend to continue until virtually all cameras are mirrorless.
I mean, I’m sure there might be some niche manufacturers out there who continue making cameras with mirrors, but these will be the exception rather than the rule.