Photo blog

9/23/19 Smart Phones will take over the camera industry

This is my prediction. They have already crushed the point and shoot category but with the latest iPhone 11 Pro and Pixel 4, the entry level DSLRs and Mirrorless will now feel the impact. Here’s what camera manufacturers need to do immediately:

  1. Build in memory like they do with camcorders, so 64GB at a minimum and 256gb and a maximum. Not sure why they haven’t done this as of yet.
  2. Open up the OS to apps and Magic Lantern firmware add ons. Work with developers to create cool apps.
  3. Figure out how to work with smart phones better.
  4. Incorporate computational photography like the phones do. It will require a radically different approach and engineering but is necessary for survival. Being able to carry the phone/camera every where you go should be a goal of a radially new design.

I’ve been shooting with a Canon M3 since 2015 when they were launched. In late 2018 I bought all the Canon Pro level cameras: 5D Mark IV, 5Dsr, 6D Mark II, 7D Mark II, and the EOS R. I bought them used on craigslist and Ebay. I went on a road trip across the US and shot extensively at the Grand Tetons. I ended up selling all these bodies except for the Canon 6D Mark II and M3. Why? I didn’t need the resolution of the 5Dsr and the exposure latitude was just too narrow. The color was also different than the 5D Mark IV. I realized I didn’t like taking pix of animals so the 7D Mark II didn’t make any sense since I didn’t need the extra reach of the 1.6 crop sensor. The 5D Mark IV is the best DSLR I’ve ever used by far, but is really much more camera than I need. I didn’t need the multiple AF features and missed the flip out screen of the 6D Mark II. If I started shooting weddings I’d probably get another 5D Mark IV. The EOS R seemed like the perfect camera for me but I had several problems with it and really didn’t like using it due to the UI. So after a 6 month evaluation, I stuck with the M3 and 6D Mark II. I also added in a M50 in March to try out in Hawaii. I’ll add in a M6 Mark II when they are released in late Sept 2019.

I’m a big fan of the Canon M series, specifically the M3. That doesn’t mean these are the best cameras for all photographers. I’ve used the M3 extensively in all weather conditions and it has never failed me after thousands of actuations. The 12×18 prints are outstandingly sharp and the color amazingly accurate. I imagine you are reading this since the M series is at least under consideration.

A common belief on the internet is that these APS-C cameras are a temporary system until the consumer can afford a full frame system. I’m sure this is true in many cases but this so called upgrade path is generally flawed.

Upgrade from an APS-C to Full Frame? Upgrading from APS-C to Full Frame was a common photographic equipment path. APS-C DSLRs were significantly less expensive and used the same lens mount. A user could buy a Canon Rebel EF-S mount or Nikon D3xxx Dx mount save significant money over a full frame Canon 5D or 6D or Nikon D600, D700, D800 but buy full frame lenses with a crop factor of 1.6 or 1.5. When they could afford it, then buy a full frame body and use the full frame lenses collected when using an APS-C DSLR. That upgrade path was not always followed since users often found an APS-C DSLR was all the camera they needed. The same is even more accurate in 2019. Why?

  1. A 24mp APS-C sensor will make prints indistinguishable from a full frame sensor up to 12×18″
  2. Canon now has a 32.5mp APS-C sensor more megapixels than any of their full frame cameras but the 5Dsr.
  3. APS-C lenses are on par with full frame lenses.
  4. Some manufacturers don’t even have a full frame solution seeing an APS-C sensor capable of being an end in itself. The Fuji X line of bodies and lenses from X-100 to XT-3 are well reviewed and have a large following.
  5. Full frame systems are expensive and often only worth the expense for pros or wealthy amateurs.
  6. Compatibility between an APS-C and full frame system isn’t important.

APS-C cameras and lenses are all most photographers need. Manufacturers need ways to differentiate beyond sensor size so they will often leave off features that reviewers and critics deem very important: 4K, 2 card slots, and IBIS for example.

Along with upgrading, another topic is compatibility. Compatibility is not really that important either. I have both a Canon M system and EF system with 1-3 bodies and 3-5 lenses for each system. I have the EF to EF-M adaptor but never use it since the lenses I have for both systems are equivalent. The point is that the M system is a fully contained photographic eco system and though I can adapt EF lenses I never need to. I can share speed lights and remotes too but that is just a minor convenience.

So beyond the latest smart phone, I recommend getting a compact APS-C system first and then see if a full frame system is required for your photography. Even if a full frame is required, an APS-C system is still great for traveling, outdoors, hiking etc due to it’s size and weight savings.

In the near future say 1-3 years, smart phones will significantly impact the low end DSLR and mirrorless APS-C markets. They have already crushed the point and shoot market. Manufacturers will narrow down their model offerings to half of what they have available today. Only high end full frame and APS-C cameras will be around in 10 years.

By far the camera I use the most is my iPhone X.

I’d recommend buying cameras in this order:

  1. The latest iPhone, Google Pixel, or Samsung since the camera in your phone will be the one you use the most. I plan to buy the new iPhone 11 Pro with the 3 lens set up. If you plan to enlarge images to 12×18 or larger then in addition to the best phone available, buy
  2. An APS-C sensored mirrorless camera – The Canon M50 or M6 Mark II are good choices. An entire Canon M system with 3 lenses will only cost $1300, so as much as the latest smart phone. Nikon has no APS-C mirrorless camera line for some reason. If you plan to enlarge images to 20×30 and larger, and are unhappy with the image quality of your M camera at that size, then I recommend a
  3. Full Frame camera – DSLR: 6D Mark II or 5D Mark IV or Mirrorless RP. A Nikon D850, Z6 or Z7 should also be considered. I really did not like the EOS R after shooting with it for 4 months but usability is very subjective so you might want to try it for yourself. Buy a FF camera only if you enlarge your prints larger than 12×18 and are unhappy with the APS-C resolution since the cost, weight, and bulk are significantly greater compared to the M line. You can own both systems and use in different situations. This is what I do. When the shoot is close to the car I use full frame DSLRs. If not, then I use my M system.

2/26/19 – Since I have a DSLR system I’m happy with, I’m going to stick with it. The EF 24-70 f/4 L and 70-200 f/4 L are amazing lenses. The 17-40 f/4 L and 70-300 f/4 L are also great lenses but I seldom use them. On this trip I’ve never used the 17-40. I used the 70-300 once. The DSLR selection has been tougher. 5D Mark IV, 5Dsr, 7D Mark II. I’m going to decide between the 5D Mark IV and 6D Mark II as my main body. Maybe use both?

Mirrorless – I can’t recommend them yet. Given that my main lenses are not available in the RF or Z mount AND I don’t see the bodies offering any feature that would improve my photography or images, not sure why I would switch over to mirrorless. If Canon produces some RF lenses that I want but can’t get in an EF mount, then that would be a reason to buy it. Right now, I think I’ll just keep shooting with my DSLR system.

Lighter and smaller? Hmmm, not really since the RF lenses are all pretty big. At some point say 2020-2023 there will be a much larger selection of RF lenses and several that are lighter and smaller, but if size and weight are the biggest considerations then the M series is the way to go.


Which category do you fall into?

I’m an iPhone only shooter and want to get serious about photography buying 2-3 lenses, a flash, and a tripod. You can either go with a DSLR or mirrorless system. Both will take better pix than the iPhone and will allow you to change lenses, add on a flash, and other accessories. I recommend going with a mirrorless system due to weight, size, and equivalent quality. Specifically the Canon M50.

I’m an APS-C DSLR shooter and want a lighter rig to carry around but still want outstanding image quality. No question that a mirrorless system is best. But which system is best? Which mirrorless system? This is how I made the decision to get a Canon M3, M5, M6, M50.  I shot all 4 bodies. My only complaint regarding the M3 is the autofocus and shot to shot times were just too slow. The M50 fixed these complaints and added in a fully articulating screen. The M5 and M6 I didn’t particularly care for. An M50 is a great choice and only $650 with the kit lens. The M5 has an EVF and the M6 doesn’t. That’s the main difference though there are some UI differences too. Note that these camera bodies will most likely be updated in 2020.