What DSLR Cameras Get Right

I've been highly critical of DSLRs for dragging their feet when it comes to innovation. Before I write a couple posts blasting the big companies for thinking inside the box (no pun intended), let's look at what they do actually get right.

  1. DSLRs can produce top-notch images. There's no arguing the image quality these pieces of gear can create.
  2. They're very reliable. A 'cheap' DSLR shutter is typically rated about about 100,000 shutter actuations, some 150,000, and the best (and most expensive) are rated to last 300,000 actuations. These cameras will likely not die on you in the middle of a job.
  3. Their iTTL/eTTL flash metering systems are excellent. For run-and-gun assignments where you need the flash to 'just work', DSLRs do that very well.
  4. Their auto focus systems are incredible. Others might get close, but nothing can beat a DSLRs AF abilities as of this post going up. 
  5. When speed is essential, they can deliver. Between their typical 6-8 frames per second shot rate, and up to 11 on the super high end bodies, they can shoot incredibly fast. Not to mention their buffers don't fill up very quickly so you can actually take advantage of that shooting speed. 
  6. They've had time to mature. This is probably the DSLRs greatest strength and weakness simultaneously. The DSLR is a carryover from the film days, when it was just an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) which meant it had eons to work out the kinks, master the mechanical processes needed to make a great camera, fine-tune the ergonomics of the body, etc. Time is incredibly important to a product like a camera. When these things went digital, it's easy to think it was an overnight success and that all they did was add a digital sensor instead of film, and then they can ship the product. It wasn't like that at all. The first DSLRs were met with a huge amount of negative reviews, especially from film purists who didn't even like the idea of using digital as a medium. Bottom line, they weren't as good as their film counterparts...for a while...and then they got better with time. Time has been a huge asset to the DSLR platform. And now that time has been kind to the platform, changing technologies are once again at play and we've reached the end of the product's peak. No matter what anybody says, the DSLR is no longer ahead of the technology curve - it is fundamentally tied to the SLRs of yesteryear (in both design and capabilities) and without removing the mirror, it will never have a chance to compete with the cameras of tomorrow.