I just bought a DSLR — the Canon 5DS. Yes, you read that right, and no, this article is not a repost from 2016. DSLRs are a very viable option that you should look into before buying your next camera.
Some claim that now is the mirrorless age. With major companies discontinuing lenses for DSLRs, and many completely shutting off their DSLR range, it is easy to believe that. However, just because a company no longer makes a product doesn’t mean that the product is bad or worse, irrelevant. For me, the DSLR I bought will be relevant right until it is no longer serviceable by the manufacturer.
Why would anyone invest in a dying camera breed? Sounds like a waste of money, right? I asked myself the same questions when I was pondering the idea of buying the Canon 5DS system.
After all, the new cameras are just better. I, and you, know they are. I am not writing this article to say that DSLRs are better, because they’re not. Mirrorless outshine DSLRs when it comes to autofocus, weight and size of the body, alongside many other things. If I was doing video full-time, I would buy the EOS R5 the day it became available. The video specs are incredible, and Canon set a new benchmark for the market. But, I don’t do video full-time. Commercial and editorial fashion photography is my bread and butter. My work is predominantly (95%) stills. Due to the hype created around the new mirrorless breed, many photographers are overspending on the “better” option. Here are a few reasons why the DSLR is still a very viable option and why I bought a DSLR.
What Do I Need?
First off, let me explain what I need from a camera. Bear in mind that what you need is probably different, feel free to comment on your needs below. As a fashion photographer, my work is either on location or in the studio.
- First and foremost, I need good resolution. My work is printed quite often, meaning that there has to be detail, and there has to be that resolution that will allow my images to be blown up to large sizes. When it comes to beauty, I may not have a macro lens with me, meaning I need to crop. Having extra resolution is very helpful.
- Another thing I need from a camera is decent autofocus. By decent, I mean autofocus that hits all the time. Missed images cost a lot in hard drive space, and no one likes a digital tech saying "focus" in front of a client.
- Battery life is important to me too. This comes down to having to bring less to shoots and being less interrupted while creating.
- Size and weight. For a while, I tried to use the tripod more, but I just can’t stand the static nature of it. So, I handhold my gear. Less weight is better, but what is even better is when that weight is evenly distributed. A lens-heavy setup is very uncomfortable.
- Price matters a lot. Everything I buy is an investment. I don’t want to invest loads into a camera that won't make me that money back.
- Lens choice concludes the list. Although that is more applicable to a brand, I would hate to be stuck with a camera system that does not offer a wide selection of lenses readily available at rental houses and for sale on the used market.
So, where does the current Canon DSLR lineup fit in, and why does it make sense to buy a DSLR, the 5DS in particular?
The 5DS offers the highest resolution available in the Canon ecosystem. In general, DSLRs offer anything between 20-30 megapixels in resolution, which is plenty for most work, but I need more.
DSLRs have inferior autofocus to mirrorless. But does it suck? No, the DSLR autofocus, especially on the newer models, is really good.
Besides, getting sharp images is not only about autofocus. Having photographed beauty and other macro subjects, autofocus is only a part of a huge game. Other things like plane of focus, depth of field, hyperfocal distance, hyperfocal near limit, and so on are important factors to understand. Crucial to know. Things like focal length, subject size, sensor size, and more affect if you can get sharp images. While there is a genre of portraits at f/1.2 where the only sharp thing in the eye, they don’t have commercial viability on the market. More often than not, I use an f/2.8 lens to shoot at f/8 if not f/22. Understanding how focus works will get you sharp images, having good autofocus won't. Sure, DSLRs miss focus and they don’t have 100% coverage. But how often do you need autofocus points that are outside of the DSLR range? I know I am fine with the 61 that the 5DS has. Are you?
Let’s talk about one of the biggest arguments for mirrorless: weight. Although they are lighter, the lenses are the same if not heavier. Given that I shoot with a crew and more often than not have an assistant or a tripod to hold the camera, I am not worried about grams and ounces. There is a huge difference between taking a medium format camera and a DSLR. That difference doesn't exist as strongly in the DSLR versus mirrorless game. What I also found with shooting mirrorless is that the lens-heavy setups feel very strange. I much rather prefer for the whole thing to be balanced evenly.
The Canon ecosystem has a lot of different EF mount lenses I can choose from. I don't see there being a shortage of EF lenses on the used market for the next 30+ years. Canon produced consistently sharp pro lenses that resolve plenty of detail even on the 50-megapixel beast.
I set myself a budget of $950. No more, only less. While it seemed like a challenge, I waited long enough. For a professional camera that has incredible resolution and produces mindblowing detail while being a compact DSLR, there is really nothing else I can ask. The used market is full of 5D-series cameras that are great performers in most situations. If you need something tailored to sports, a 1D series camera is a great choice too. They are cheap cameras with professional quality that were built for pros to use.
Mirrorless is also built for pros to use, but as of now, they have the pro price on them.
Here’s how much you can have for the price of one EOS R5 ($3,900):
- A 5D Mark IV: $1,500
- An EF 70-200 2.8 IS II: $1,500
- $900 to spend on education, organizing shoots, or traveling to places
I’d like to finish off by saying that the choice is yours. Me purchasing a DSLR is just that — a photographer purchasing a DSLR in 2021. My arguments stem from a need for a camera that caters to my specific needs at a very specific price point. Moreover, I don’t always rely on autofocus.
What do you look for in a camera? If you had $4,000 to spend on photography-related stuff, what would you buy and why? Let me know in the comments; I always read them!
If you have money to burn, you can have the latest and greatest. For us working people, we need to be realistic about what we need and how that fits in our budget. I bought two new 5DIV’s as the R was announced because I had nice lenses, most of my work is done on a tripod and weight was not an issue for handholding. Besides, I was not going to buy unproven gear that had only one card slot. As we see, the R has evolved and perhaps I will see a reason to add onto to my kit in the future. Until then, I am happy with the system that I own.
I know many non pro photographers who have better/newer cameras than pro photographers. Heck, I still use a 5D2 once in a while.
Yes, it seems strange but most of my colleagues are not shooting on newest cameras. Mostly because the clients tend to not care, and if a big job comes in all the latest and greatest stuff is rented in.
I don't recall any client who asked what camera I used, in the film days they would want to shoot on LF or MF or 35 but did not care about brand of cameras, today they might request file size, but to be honest that's my job.
It is not that strange. A working photographer buys something because they need it. Other photographers buy because they want it.
Until you need it all the time it is better to rent the latest/greatest and bill the client.
My clients did ask. Quite a few times. But I shoot high level sports events ;) and as a stringer they did ask when we were negotiating contracts for the whole list of equipment.
Today's latest and greatest are tomorrow's dinosaurs.
Some people such as myself prefer the DSLR experience. In reality there are magnitudes more DSLR users than mirrorless.
I really like the MF Hasselblad waist level SLR experience.
As far as a DSLR experience, I like the EVF WYSIWYG in mirrorless cameras.
Since ML have only been taken seriously for 5 or 6 years there will be a lot more DSLR out there for 20 years.
To be quite frank I prefer whatever gets the job done. Of course, we all love MF and would love to shoot it all day, but it's a secret I seldom share haha.
That's like saying there are more DSLR shooters than film shooters. In time, there will absolutely be more mirrorless shooters than there are DSLR shooters. Mirrorless began surpassing DSLR around 5 years ago, and it takes a while for people to change over. Not to mention DSLR is on its last legs, with only a handful of new cameras being developed at best. All DSLR companies except Pentax have all but abandoned DSLR body and lens development.
People need to understand how the math works:
Camera sales have been in decline for quite a while.
Camera sales peaked around 2012
Mirrorless cameras only overtook percentage sales of DSLRs only very recently on vastly lower total sales volume.
Thus the installed base of DSLRs is significantly greater.
For example at a recent class I took there were only three mirrorless users compared to 12 DSLR users.
DSLRs are a very mature product compared to mirrorless and owners have little motivation to buy products with few advances. For myself I have a two bodies three and six years old and I don’t know when I will upgrade.
I bought the 5DSR in 2017 and it was a great camera. I traded it in on a R6 after buying an R5 and falling in love with the animal eye af, I shoot 99% wildlife so it was a big deal for me.
The 5DS and 5DSR were great buys when Canon had their fire sale to clear out inventory last year. For lots of types of shooting DSLR's do a great job and there is no difference with mirrorless.
The 5DS is selling for $950?! Although I hear very mixed reviews of that camera, you can't beat the price.
It took me a few months to find a deal like that, but at the end I managed to get it for EUR800, which is roughly $950.
I think Canon goofed with the pixel count on the R6 and that's costing them with a great number of people holding to something they feel is fair in price for the features, easy people to satisfy that are not asking for anything crazy. It's a business decision for a lot of us and Canon missed the boat. Even if we are just in the 5-10%, I can't imagine that regular clients skipping a generation of cameras is anything good for a manufacturer in a dropping market when the money is waiting to be spend but the clients are missed by a finger tip due to greed.
I have the same feeling. A lot of bigger companies / clients are demanding a certain file size in my experience. Often even 24mpix is not enough. This is just my experience. Has nothing to do with my view of this.
But now with Photoshop we can quadruple the resolution with no visible quality loss.
Is it really that good? Wow!
Gigapixel AI is much better, but you need to process the initial image just right in order to reap the true benefits.
It's very impressive.
My clients (agencies) forbid that and if they catch you that you upsized the resolution they will kick you out of agency the very second.
Stock agencies automatically check for upsizing and also deny the upload, so do press agencies. At least a few (quite big) I freelance for.
That may have been the case in the past but with the recent update even those agencies would have to revisit their image policy.
Depends on usage, I got away with a 20mp 5D Mark II for quite some time without anyone complaining.
I always wonder why the agency/client needs files that are beyond 25-ish MP?
Even for large format prints-A1-A2 posters, billboards, acrylic print...etc because of viewing distance you don't need anything more than 10MP. They usually use very low, or low-ish dpi numbers.
I'm not so convinced that Canon missed the boat with their choice of R6 resolution. Their goal was apparently to "force" people who don't really need the R5 to buy it anyway, because nothing less would be quite good enough.
I am sure that Canon has sold a crapton more R5 bodies because the R6 doesn't quite have the resolution that most people need/want. If the R6 resolution had been a bit higher, then people that did buy the more expensive R5 would have settled for the R6 instead.
We need to remember that Canon's purpose is not to make photographers happy. Their purpose is to get as much money out of us as possible, and I think they are extremely good at doing that.
It's been my point since day one. Why should people buy a video camera they don't need in order to shoot stills. Have they sold well? Just like everybody eIse, I haven't seen numbers and selling out or difficulty to get one in 2020/21 doesn't necessarily reflect great sales with the shortage of parts. Canon had to make a new sensor for the R6 and that alone doesn't make sense in 2020 in a shrinking market. The only thing it shows is that just like the original 5D, sensor production cost is not a big deal.
I'm thinking it's Canon saving R&D costs by sharing the same sensor of its extremely low volume 1DX III with a much higher volume R6.
To be honest, I think the resolution for R6 is perfect-20 MP. It is good for portrait, sports/wildlife, travel or just general usage. It's pretty much a mini 1DX Mk3. Also 20-25 MB per file really is quite manageable compared to about 50 MB.
I shot with a 16 MP and a 20 MP body for years and years, and experienced some very real limitations with the pixel count. I now shoot with a 30 MP 5D mark 4, and the extra MP have allowed me to use the files in ways that I couldn't use 16 or 20 MP files.
I have 48" by 32" prints made with some regularity, and I like the way the detail is resolved much better with these 30 MP files. 48" prints with the 16 and 20 MP files were lacking some of the fine resolution that one likes to see in hair and feather detail.
My neck (and back) said me huuuge 'thank you' when I bought Sony with EyeAF for studio portraits. My clients look at my face, not into the lens from time to time, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make :)
I love my DSLR but buying into the new mirrorless system means you can buy new RF lenses and still use the old EF.
My D800 is amazeballs for being NINE years old.
Great camera. The image quality is still relevant in 2021. DSLR lenses are cheap.
But a DSLR? What, another one? I’ve had SIX so far.
I started with Canon in the late 1970s. Had a comprehensive outfit topping off with a Canon F1n plus auto-winder and shutter- priority prism head plus an arsenal of lenses. Then came along auto focus and it was all change.
Another change came, this time a big one; DIGITAL. Get rid of kit, go digital. Spend loads of money, too much! Keep up- grading. Body after body. 4 aps-c bodies, two full frame. Three kit bags.
Now it’s all change again. No! I’m just not using my gear enough. I’m getting rid.
I now own aCanon M50 and several lenses and what a relief not carting around all that heavy gear.
Wasn't the exact message in a slightly different article with the same shot from the studio on this page like a week ago?
Just by the title alone, I already knew exactly who had written this article and what it’s contents would be.
Canon needs to move some old cameras, and now we have this PR post ;)
May be it was Petapixel?
I bought an R5. I still have my DSLR. I am buying up cheap sharp fast used EF lenses on craigslist for both cameras.The R5 for wildlife. I may buy a 5ds/r if it is cheap enough
I don’t get articles like this. It kind of feels like when a photography YouTuber/blogger shows signs of running out of meaningful things to say about photography (ahem!…Mr Northrup) and starts making videos/articles about why you don’t need a fullframe camera or the camera setting you should be using. You know, scraping the barrel type articles.
I find this article, and the subject matter, quite relevant to a large cross-section of today's photographers. Buying a discontinued DSLR or switching over to mirrorless is a question that many thousands of us are facing and thinking about, and it is useful and helpful to hear reasoning from either side of the issue.
There are nearly 100 articles on Fstoppers with "Canon R5" in their title and the camera came out barely 10 month ago. I assumed it would be around half before searching it.
To me, this article expose a real world situation that is 100% accurate.
I am very glad to see you talking about the used market, and buying your bodies and lenses used. Many articles and comments on various photography-related platforms speak only, or primarily, of buying gear new, at MSRP ..... which to me is utterly ridiculous, as one does not get very much for their dollar when buying new at regular prices.
Another thing I would like to comment on .....
Near the beginning of the article, you said,
"For me, the DSLR I bought will be relevant right until it is no longer serviceable by the manufacturer."
I would just like to add that there are many great repairmen that are independent. In my own experience with Canon DSLRs, sending cameras and lenses back to Canon and Sigma has resulted in several unfavorable experiences. They charge exorbitant rates for repair work, even when the CPS discount is applied. And the repairs on three occasions have been poorly done by Canon/CPS technicians, and I had to send the lens (twice) and camera (once) back again because the repair was not done properly.
Why pay Canon more money to do a shoddy job of repairing my gear, when I can pay an independent local repairman less money to do a better repair?
One of the best things I have done is to ditch CPS and stop using Canon for repair and servicing. There are two local guys that do a better job for less money. If one of them is backed up with a lot of work, resulting in a long wait for repairs, then I just go to the other guy in town. They are friends and refer people to each other when they are backlogged. SOOoooo much better than that stupid Canon CPS crappy expensive service.
CPS was for the most part IMO was pretty good, except the 30% of the time they needed 2 or 3 tries or just said there's nothing wrong with the camera.
As far as Nikon they have other ideas about indie repair places.
I still have interest in a D7500 and D850 despite the demise of the F mount. I've already got nearly 2 dozen lenses and 3 other bodies. I'll switch to Z in the future.
You do what your wallet allows you to do and whatever gets the job done. I am still using 5D MKIII and photos look great. Update my gear just because someone said that DSLRs are dying? Utter nonsense. DSLRs will be around for years to come. I bought all of my Canon gear used. Fuji XT3 being the exception. Don't allow yourself to be subjected to marketing bullshit. Have a wonderful weekend. Shoot away :)
Let's be real, the ONLY real good argument for DSLR right now is price, and that's because of the used market. That's it.
Autofocus is better on mirrorless, especially for portraiture because there is no discrepancy between the AF sensor and the actual image sensor.
Battery life is not an excuse anymore, even if necessary a battery change is so fast it's a non issue.
Size and weight difference can be HUGE, unless you go cherry picking lenses that are a bit heavier on mirrorless (and when they are usually it's because they are far better than the DSLR equivalent) there's plenty of other ones that are way lighter, just look at Sigma and Nikon's 14-24 f/2.8 compared to DSLR counterparts, or Sony's 24mm or Canon's 70-200RF, etc, in the last 2 years in particular a lot of very light lenses came out.
And speaking of glass, lens selection is surely better than DSLR since you can adapt most lenses (and usually with better results than on the DSLR bodies because of the better AF!) plus you get native lenses. And nothing forbids you from using a used DSLR lens on a ML body.
No one said it's not, but why jump and rush making the switch if it's not going to improve your daily income.
Polo Bugnone said,
"Let's be real, the ONLY real good argument for DSLR right now is price, and that's because of the used market. That's it."
For me and what I like in a camera body, there is another argument in favor of DSLRs. That of size and weight. I want a large camera with some decent heft to it. The mirrorless bodies that I have tried out are horrible in this regard. They are puny and don't balance the way I like with my 300-800mm Sigma mounted on a full gimbal head.
I have a Canon 5D4 (small & light) and an old 1D4 (large and heavy), and even thought I like the image quality and resolution of the 5D4 much better, there are plenty of times when I use the 1D4 instead, because I like that the grip is built in and not added on, and I prefer the larger, heavier form factor. It is NOT more comfortable to carry around, but it IS more comfortable to shoot. The bigger and heavier a camera is, the more enjoyable it is to shoot with, but the more of a pain in the ass it is to carry around. I prioritize shooting over carrying around, and I am glad to put up with the carrying around inconveniences because when I am actually shooting with the camera it is so much more comfortable to use because of the larger size and greater weight.
I hope they make much larger, heavier FF mirrorless bodies in the near future. Hopefully, when Canon comes out with a true "pro" mirrorless body, it will have a big built-in vertical grip and approach the size and weight of the 1Dx series of DSLRs.
Paolo, you can't just take what you see as important and apply it to everybody else. If not having to change batteries is important to someone, and not having to ever carry a spare battery is important to someone, then what right do you have to tell them that it shouldn't be important to them? People are allowed to have any order of priorities they want. If battery life is more important to someone than resolution or autofocus abilities, then that is their choice of priorities and you or I would be wrong to criticize it.