Photo by James Bold on Unsplash
Just recently, the World Press Photo competition winners were announced. These striking images are a reminder of how powerful a medium photography is. Aside from some truly breathtaking photos, there was something else very intriguing about this year’s winners.
If you look at the metadata of the images, like Photolari.com did, you’ll see that the majority of the winning images were taken on a DSLR. In fact, it wasn’t even close in the DSLR vs mirrorless matchup.
DSLR vs Mirrorless: What World Press Photo Winners Used
Photolari’s examination of the metadata revealed that over 71% of winning photojournalists used a DSLR. Just 4.4% used a mirrorless camera.
Within those categories, it should be no surprise who the big players are.
Far and away, Canon and Nikon were the most popular DSLRs, with the Canon 5D Mark IV being used for six of the winning images, the Canon 5D Mark III being used for five, and the Canon EOS 1DX Mark II being used for three photos. The Canon 6D, the Canon 5DS R, and the Canon 1DX made appearances on the list as well.
On the Nikon front, the Nikon D5 was used for four winning shots. The Nikon D850 was used to capture three of the winning images. Other Nikon DSLRs on the winning list include the Nikon D3S, the Nikon D800, the Nikon D300, the Nikon D4, and the Nikon D7200.
Editor’s Tip: Of all the camera gear you use to capture images, your lens is the most important. If you’re itching to upgrade your camera, think twice and consider upgrading your glass. If that Nikon D750 you have in your camera bag still works just fine, keep it, buy an upgraded lens or two, and enjoy improved image quality right off the bat.
Among mirrorless cameras, FujiFilm was the most popular brand, with the X-Pro 2, the X100T, X100s, and X100 all being used to capture one winning image each.
Surprisingly, Sony, which has really come on in recent years with fantastic camera after fantastic camera, only had one camera on the list - the a7R III.
So, the question is, why are DSLRs still so popular among photojournalists when there are equally capable, smaller, and lighter mirrorless cameras available?
Why Photographers Still Use DSLRs
First and foremost, I suspect that many photojournalists are simply sticking with what they know when it comes to the camera they use.
I mean, if you’ve been rocking a Canon 5D Mark III for six years and it still works, why change?
What’s more, in many cases, photojournalists use cameras provided by the agency for which they work. That being the case, some photographers don’t really have a choice as to whether they use a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
And while the likes of Canon and Nikon have released adapters that allow older lenses to be used with their new mirrorless systems, if photography agencies decided to switch from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras, they’d be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars to swap out all those camera bodies. In other words, it’s just not financially worth it.
Another reason why so many photographers have stuck with DSLRs is their reliability.
I have a Nikon D850 - which is one of the best DSLRs, by the way - that has proven to be a workhorse no matter the situation, no matter the weather. It’s rugged and dependable, and I trust it to work just fine whether it’s below zero and snowing or above 100 degrees and raining.
That durability has likely been passed on to the Nikon Z7, but I simply don’t know yet because I just recently added the Z7 to my kit.
Without having had the opportunity to put it through its paces, I don’t know how it will perform in challenging conditions. I know exactly how my D850 will perform, so given the opportunity to take one or the other on an important photo shoot, I’ll choose the D850 for now.
Really, it just comes down to familiarity and reliability. The mentality of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly applies here.
It’s not that DSLRs have better sensors or better ISO performance or better burst shooting speed. Mirrorless cameras are equally as good, if not better.
But when your old standby DSLR is still working fine, why bother switching?