Forgot Password
Pentax Camera Forums Home
 

Reply
Show Printable Version Search this Thread
01-19-2022, 03:06 PM - 1 Like   #1
Site Supporter
Site Supporter
ehrwien's Avatar

Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 1,946
On why DSLRs were (still are) predominant before MILCs (could eventually) take over

I intend this not to be a debate in the style of a generalised "What is better?".

Instead I would like to learn something about the history of digital cameras, starting from the advent of digital consumer cameras 20-35 years ago (?) until today's time when Pentax seems to be the last company committed to continuing with the mirror, while most of the consumers' money seems to be going towards mirrorless options, a trend that was foreseeable for quite some time, but only recently fully manifested in "hard" numbers.

Seeing now how I phrased the title it looks wrong all over because neither of those two has ever been or is predominant because back then compacts and today smartphones will most likely fill that role... I'd like to further limit the question to the... "professional and enthusiast photography sector"? I hope you know now what and how I mean.

The question arose in some other discussion by someone who I guess is not as involved in photography, he asked: "What led to the paradigm change, why were DSLRs ever predominant?"

I was the only person to answer, but I'm not quite sure if I was able to hit the nail at all...

I immediately thought about autofocus, because I seem to recall having read somewhere sometime that it was fast autofocus that once made DSLRs the tools a professional photographer would likely choose; fast thanks to the PDAF. And that early mirrorless cameras struggled to keep up with the speed because... CDAF was too slow? On-sensor PDAF / Hybrid AF had to be invented/developed first to a level that could keep up with PDAF of DSLRs?
Following that train of thought, I guess it comes down to the evolution of sensors, the miniaturization of electronics and every side effect that brought with it, like less energy consumption, higher resolution, more processing power,... including electronic viewfinders gaining resolution and refresh rate, eliminating blackouts in vision when taking photos,... and important to all those of course the factor of profitability for the manufacturers.

Perhaps it had to do with readout noise issues when constantly reading the sensor data as well?


Sooo, I have some tabs open on the history of digital cameras, autofocus types etc., but I'm not so sure I'll be able to find an answer to that specific question in there that is different to what I thought of. Would you agree with my assumption above or are there other aspects I haven't thought of yet? Is something I said just blatantly wrong (I wouldn't be surprised)?


Last edited by ehrwien; 01-28-2022 at 08:47 AM.
01-19-2022, 03:22 PM - 5 Likes   #2
Administrator
Site Webmaster
Adam's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Arizona
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 50,634
I think it boils down to a few key aspects: first, sensors+EVFs becoming as good as optical viewfinder (or better!) for common use cases, and the evolution of on-sensor PDAF. From there it's hard to say no to a camera that's smaller, faster, and mechanically simpler. Before that, (D)SLRs had very clear-cut advantages.

Adam
PentaxForums.com Webmaster (Site Usage Guide | Site Help | My Photography)



PentaxForums.com server and development costs are user-supported. You can help cover these costs by donating. Or, buy your photo gear from our affiliates, Adorama, B&H Photo, KEH, or Topaz Labs, and get FREE Marketplace access - click here to see how! Trusted Pentax retailers:

01-19-2022, 03:28 PM - 4 Likes   #3
Pentaxian




Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Columbus Ohio USA
Posts: 350
DSLR evolved from SLR the format was adapted so existing lenses could be used
01-19-2022, 03:32 PM - 11 Likes   #4
Loyal Site Supporter
Loyal Site Supporter
BigMackCam's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: North-East of England
Posts: 18,509
QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
I think it boils down to a few key aspects: first, sensors+EVFs becoming as good as optical viewfinder (or better!) for common use cases, and the evolution of on-sensor PDAF. From there it's hard to say no to a camera that's smaller, faster, and mechanically simpler.
Et tu, Brute? ...

01-19-2022, 03:52 PM - 2 Likes   #5
Site Supporter
Site Supporter
ramseybuckeye's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Hampstead, NC
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 15,434
QuoteOriginally posted by Sidney Porter Quote
DSLR evolved from SLR the format was adapted so existing lenses could be used
To expand on that, I would imagine the DSLR designers had been involved in making SLR cameras, so naturally, that's what the digitized. Thr mirrorless rangefinders had been around for ages, but they could not beat viewing through the lens. The EVF changed that, and as it has gotten better, so has the experience of using a mirrorless.
01-19-2022, 04:01 PM   #6
Pentaxian
StiffLegged's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2018
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 3,078
QuoteOriginally posted by ehrwien Quote
The question arose in some other discussion by someone who I guess is not as involved in photography, he asked: "What led to the paradigm change, why were DSLRs ever predominant?"
The question suggests the questioner knows little to nothing of the history of digital ILCs.
01-19-2022, 04:08 PM - 17 Likes   #7
Loyal Site Supporter
Loyal Site Supporter
ismaelg's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Puerto Rico
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 2,473
Hello,

For me:

Short answer: Viewfinder

Long answer: V i e w f i n d e r

The same reason that rangefinders and TLRs were preferred until the SLR came along: VIEWFINDER

As many of you know, I restore and shoot with vintage cameras. The only disappointing feature of all vintage cameras is... The viewfinder!
Why shooting with a simple Starflex 127 is more enjoyable than with a box camera? You guessed it: THE VIEWFINDER!

Did I mention I think the viewfinder is key?

Thanks,
Ismael

01-19-2022, 04:45 PM - 1 Like   #8
Loyal Site Supporter
Loyal Site Supporter




Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Dallas / Yucatan
Posts: 1,430
Similar to others, I suppose that SLRs already existed and were broadly preferred for the 35mm film to the larger film format cameras.
So, the first steps included adding a sensor where the film plane was for SLRs.

Rangefinder cameras always had some limitation. Either non-interchangeable lenses, or parallax error, etc. Personally, I love manual focusing on a rangefinder, but that's not where the 'big market' was at the time that digital sensors arrived.

From memory, it seems that little cameras with little sensors came first, mostly developed from the ground up as AF or zone focusing cameras. Digital DSLRs, at first, were quite expensive. Rangefinder or mirrorless cameras? I honestly can't remember back then. I was mainly paying attention to the cool idea of carrying a tiny camera in my shirt or pants pocket, plus waiting for an affordable DSLR (my first was a Pentax K100D).
01-19-2022, 04:48 PM - 6 Likes   #9
Otis Memorial Pentaxian
Loyal Site Supporter
stevebrot's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Vancouver (USA)
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 42,004
Just a reminder...

Mirrorless cameras predate SLRs. The two approaches have coexisted for more than 80 years for 35mm film and longer for other formats. Over time, the WYSIWYG aspect of SLR photography resulted in greater usefulness for most photographers over rangerfinder/viewfinder/view camera approaches. It has only been since the recent advent of usable and accurate electronic viewfinders that mirrorless digital has been able to provide utility similar to that provided by even the least expensive dSLRs.

Note: I love my mirrorless film cameras, but don't use them where accurate framing or selective focus are required. (Yes, my view camera is capable of both, but that is another beast entirely.)

Note #2: No, I am not forgetting TLR cameras. I own two and like both, but it is probably enough to note that dTLRs have been strangely absent from the market.


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 01-19-2022 at 04:59 PM.
01-19-2022, 05:05 PM - 2 Likes   #10
Pentaxian
Lord Lucan's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: South Wales
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,893
The earliest digital cameras were mostly the size of a fag packet with the lens and sensor in a small corner of that*. Those sensors must have been smaller than a little finger nail and resolved about [or less than?] 1 Mb. It was as if they were deliberately designed not to look like any other cameras - not even P&S cameras. They were not taken very seriously - for some years digital photography was considered to be the domain of nerds who used it for computer tricks like putting monkey's heads on people's bodies, or for anyone who wanted to get attention at a party by pulling one out of their shirt pocket. I was in a camera club at that time and the members viewed digital photography with contempt.

Only when affordable sensors became big enough to put into SLRs (albeit of reduced size - APS-C format) was digital photography taken seriously by enthusiasts and pros, and took off. Such cameras had to be "35mm" SLR type because that is what serious cameras looked and handled like, apart from niches like rangefinders and MF.

* Rather like modern mobile phones in fact.
01-19-2022, 05:19 PM - 1 Like   #11
Pentaxian
ChristianRock's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: People's Republic of America
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 8,982
Ah the whole thing about the EVF being better, is entirely personal opinion.... though I understand why some feel that way, or why it fits some people's photography style well.

But yeah, SLRs and DSLRs dominated because EVFs didn't exist.
01-19-2022, 07:36 PM   #12
Pentaxian




Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: New York
Posts: 4,808
QuoteOriginally posted by ehrwien Quote
"What led to the paradigm change, why were DSLRs ever predominant?"
Many early digital cameras didn't even have liveview nevermind EVF; the sensors and processors couldn't handle it. A flipping mirror and optical viewfinder was the best way to compose photos.
01-19-2022, 10:19 PM - 2 Likes   #13
Loyal Site Supporter
Loyal Site Supporter




Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Dallas / Yucatan
Posts: 1,430
QuoteOriginally posted by Lord Lucan Quote
The earliest digital cameras were mostly the size of a fag packet with the lens and sensor in a small corner of that*. Those sensors must have been smaller than a little finger nail and resolved about [or less than?] 1 Mb. It was as if they were deliberately designed not to look like any other cameras - not even P&S cameras.
* Rather like modern mobile phones in fact.
I bought a tiny camera (about 1/2 as thick as a cigarette pack, with the other dimensions roughly the same). It seems like that was in the mid 1990s? Not sure. It had a 2Mb sensor and was basically considered a toy, costing under $100 at the time. (about $170 today, per an inflation calculator). It was an off brand -- none of the brands that are big today.

There was a viewfinder which was nothing but a little optical hole on the top edge. No parallax correction. No focusing. Nothing. Just a couple lenses to see where you were pointing the camera, a tiny lens in the corner, and a shutter button. No other controls of any kind.

The most annoying trait was that there was a delay between when the shutter button was pressed and the image actually was taken. Sometimes, it was very quick. Sometimes, there was a long delay. Never any rhythm or reason to it. The form was actually quite similar to a modern smartphone, except with a tiny optical viewfinder.

Nonetheless, I took several photos on an outing in bright sunlight. Several turned out so well that I ended up printing and framing at 8x10 and gave as a gift. Those photos are still proudly displayed in the recipient's living room.

That experience taught me a lesson to this day -- the pixel count isn't really related to the print-ability or even size of an image. More depends on the content of the image, the lighting, the contrast (or lack of), etc. If all falls in line. a 2Mb "toy" sensor can produce fairly nice images.

I wish I could figure out where I put the thing. In the early 2000s, I put it someplace and it hasn't been seen since. It was so thin and tiny, it could be anywhere around here. But even if I found it, I don't know if there are any "SmartMedia" memory card readers in existence any more?

It was similar to this one from Oregon Scientific, but the specs for even this one are more advanced than what I had. Mine didn't have a flash or a rear screen. You took the photos, then had to put the card into a reader on a computer to see the results.
Attached Images
 

Last edited by yucatanPentax; 01-19-2022 at 10:32 PM. Reason: corrections
01-19-2022, 11:29 PM - 5 Likes   #14
Pentaxian




Join Date: Feb 2015
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 10,446
QuoteOriginally posted by ehrwien Quote
Instead I would like to learn something about the history of digital cameras, starting from the advent of digital consumer cameras 20-35 years ago (?) until today's time when Pentax seems to be the last company committed to continuing with the mirror, while most of the consumers' money seems to be going towards mirrorless options, a trend that was foreseeable for quite some time, but only recently fully manifested in "hard" numbers.
Sorry but wait a moment here. The demand for mirrorless is totally created by business, it was never requested by photographers. My camera shop stopped selling DSLR, not because DSLR don't fulfill the needs of photographers, but because he sees mirrorless as a way to sell more new stuff, he is "un-promoting" DSLR because photographers already have all the lenses they need for DSLR. The sales of mirrorless cameras are totally made up, created via marketing, promotion and collective collaboration of the camera industry as a whole. In 2016, all camera manufacturers launched mirrorless systems at the same time, it was like an unofficial agreement between all players. And today, if you want to buy DSLR stuff, it's mostly from the used market, if I cross the door of a camera shop they want to sell me a mirrorless system before I even ask for it. Customer didn't chose mirrorless, mirrorless was imposed on the market and presented to everyone as the only possible alternative for future cameras.

---------- Post added 20-01-22 at 07:44 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by ehrwien Quote
The question arose in some other discussion by someone who I guess is not as involved in photography, he asked: "What led to the paradigm change, why were DSLRs ever predominant?"
Camera business is all about top-down marketing. DSLR were predominant because it was what camera shops were selling. If you were a photographer between 2000 and 2016, you had only 3 choices, 1) you buy an affordable DSLR or 2) you bought a super expensive Leica rangefinder or 3) you designed your own camera. And so if you are a new photographers in 2022 who known nothing about cameras, you'd cross the door of a camera shop to ask for advice and they'll tell you that mirrorless is the best choice for you, and mirror-less is what you'll buy because mirrorless is the only thing that'll be offered to you.


---------- Post added 20-01-22 at 07:55 ----------

Today you can't buy camera systems with a square sensor, although square sensor is technically more cost effective and more light weight than 3:2 or 4:3 systems, because of more efficient use of lens image circle. Maybe in the distance future, when the business potential of 3:2 mirrorless reach a plateau, cameras bosses will have a coffee around the table and decide that the next big thing is the square system, them design a bunch a new camera models around the new sensor format and a new bunch of lenses.

---------- Post added 20-01-22 at 08:07 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
I think it boils down to a few key aspects: first, sensors+EVFs becoming as good as optical viewfinder (or better!) for common use cases, and the evolution of on-sensor PDAF. From there it's hard to say no to a camera that's smaller, faster, and mechanically simpler.
I've heart that EVF is getting as good as OVF, but as an engineer I guess we should state what is better. Otherwise, purely from the physics of light transmission OVF transmits a wide spectrum of light over virtually unlimited dynamic range, EVF will never match that no matter how much EVF improves. Now for the smaller size advantage of MILC yes. For the PDAF on sensor advantage of MILC , yes.

---------- Post added 20-01-22 at 08:09 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
Et tu, Brute? ...
Provoking statements should catch the attention of forum moderators

Last edited by biz-engineer; 01-20-2022 at 12:12 AM.
01-20-2022, 12:52 AM - 5 Likes   #15
Kiwi Pentaxian
Loyal Site Supporter
NZ_Ross's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Timaru
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 4,052
QuoteOriginally posted by ehrwien Quote
The question arose in some other discussion by someone who I guess is not as involved in photography, he asked: "What led to the paradigm change, why were DSLRs ever predominant?"
The answer is very simple - they were a natural evolution of existing manufacturing capability, supply chains and supporting ecosystems. This article gives the history of SLR's. Originally designed in 1861, modern 35mm design and development in Germany in the 1930's, Japanese production inspired by German designs from the 1950's with a lot of the SLR innovation led by Pentax during that period.

By the time the transition to digital sensors in the early 2000's the manufacturers were using 50+ years of innovation in film SLR's, had well established SLR manufacturing lines and quality control systems, major film era SLR lens systems, and wide supporting accessory (flashes etc.) ecosystems.

Pentax and Nikon continued their respective film SLR era lens mounts right up to current time, with Nikon only introducing a new lens mount for their mirrorless system in the past few years.

The transition from film SLR's to digital SLR's leveraged all of the manufacturers existing investment, IP/patents, manufacturing capacity etc. whilst initially protecting a lot of their customers existing system investment. So a very logical and natural evolution of technology.
Reply

Bookmarks
  • Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook
  • Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter
  • Submit Thread to Digg Digg
Tags - Make this thread easier to find by adding keywords to it!
autofocus, business, camera, cameras, canon, dslr, dslrs, fuji, history, market, mirrorless, mirrorless ilcs, pdaf, pentax, people, photo industry, photographers, photography, question, resolution, sensor, shop, square, stream, systems, time, tlr, workshops
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
So why is mirrorless autofocus not up there with dslrs? neostyles Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Other Camera Brands 9 10-19-2015 04:00 PM
Which small ILCs have focus peaking? 6BQ5 Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Other Camera Brands 10 09-21-2013 01:15 PM
Best DSLRs and ILCs for less than $1000 vinceloc Pentax K-5 & K-5 II 8 06-29-2013 12:44 PM
Black Friday: Save on all Pentax DSLRs and ILCs! Adam Pentax Price Watch 0 11-22-2012 12:48 AM
9 policies Conservatives were for before they were against them boriscleto General Talk 18 09-23-2011 07:08 AM



All times are GMT -7. The time now is 07:46 AM. | See also: NikonForums.com, CanonForums.com part of our network of photo forums!
  • Red (Default)
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Dark
  • Dark Yellow
  • Dark Blue
  • Old Red
  • Old Green
  • Old Gray
  • Dial-Up Style
Hello! It's great to see you back on the forum! Have you considered joining the community?
register
Creating a FREE ACCOUNT takes under a minute, removes ads, and lets you post! [Dismiss]
Top