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Using a DSLR in a Mirrorless World

· sre3

A few months ago, I purchased a new (to me) camera: a Nikon D500 in pristine condition, with ~100k shutter clicks. The rationale? Buying into a similarly capable mirrorless system from pretty much any manufacturer would cost an absurd amount of money.

Consider the Nikon Z50, for instance: 21MP, crop sensor, with sensor performance about on par with the D7500/D500. Here in Canada, the Z50 costs ~$1000 new, about the same price as a new D7500 or slightly under a used D500. This doesn’t seem all that bad until you factor in lens prices (and availability) for the Z system. Now, compare the (current) prices of F mount lenses, and the gap starts to widen. Add in the fact that the Z50 is unstabilized and doesn’t (in my opinion) offer considerable benefits over a modern high-ish end DSLR, and carries the usual downsides of a lower-end mirrorless ILC: low res EVF, questionable battery life and mediocre build quality… you can see why a DSLR is more budget-friendly.

A similar pattern appears elsewhere, with any “affordable” mirrorless ILC offering questionable performance in some fashion - the Z5 is limited to 5fps, the Z6 has shadow banding, the a6XXX before the a6700 have horrible ergonomics (no front dial ??!!!), fuji’s autofocus performance is questionable, and the R7/10 have, what, 5 native lenses? (also, Canon’s APS-C sensors have been lacking on the DR front for several generations, and they don’t seem to have fixed that with the R7/10)

Enter the D500 - touted as the best crop sensor DSLR ever made, with the power of the Nikon D5 (a $9000 camera) in a (comparably) lightweight body. A dedicated autofocus CPU and 153 autofocus points, 180k pixel metering sensor, 10fps shooting, and built like an absolute tank.

In pretty much any scenario, the D500 performs either on par or runs circles around the Z50 (and others), with more consistent and accurate autofocus, a much deeper buffer, amazing battery life, and above all: access to incredible lenses at incredible prices.

Now, you may ask: how much did you pay for your D500? The answer: ~$900 (CAD), tax included.

Do I recommend this for everyone? No, absolutely not. Mirrorless ILCs do have many benefits over DSLRs, especially in terms of usability and intuitiveness for people learning photography. Especially if you are willing to shell out the big $$$ for a high end system, mirrorless ILC have essentially rendered DSLRs obselete with only a few exceptions. Resale values of DSLRs are going to be dropping rapidly in the next few years.

However, I don’t think I will be selling my D500 anytime soon. It’s a powerhouse of a camera, and every day it finds a way to impress me in a different way. I would urge anyone who has a limited budget to consider a new/used DSLR instead of a mirrorless ILC.