Retro cameras and DSLRs… is the camera industry going backwards?

Pentax KF Nikon Z fc
(Image credit: Ricoh • Nikon)

November has been a wild month for new cameras. What's really wild, though, is that arguably the two most noteworthy ones are throwback cameras – and it makes me wonder if going forwards actually means going backwards.

This month saw the introduction of a frankly silly number of new cameras: the Canon EOS R6 Mark II (opens in new tab), Sony A7R V (opens in new tab), Fujifilm X-T5 (opens in new tab) and OM System OM-5 (opens in new tab) – not to mention the GoPro Hero11 Black Mini (opens in new tab) and DJI Mavic 3 Classic (opens in new tab)

All mirrorless, all modern, all cutting edge… all well and good. 

Then along came two highly surprising – and arguably far more interesting –camera announcements: the Pentax KF (opens in new tab) and Nikon Z fc Black Edition (opens in new tab). The former is a DSLR, which is inescapably yesterday's technology, and the latter is a retro-styled camera, which is inescapably modeled on yesterday's technology.

So on the one hand, we've got a slew of really modern cameras that are really advanced, but by proxy also really quite predictable. There is, after all, only so much excitement in more megapixels, more AF points, more frames per second and so on.

And then we've got a couple of bodies so brazenly backwards-gazing that their throwback-ness becomes more exciting than the latest tech of the other cameras.

Now, I'm obviously not saying that 24MP DSLRs and mirrorless cameras designed to look like film SLRs are the future of photography. If they were, Canon and Nikon would still be cranking out new DSLRs and Olympus wouldn't have had to sell off its imaging division.

I do, however, think that we've become numb to the arms race that the modern camera industry has become. So numb, in fact, that most people I've spoken to are far more intrigued by the quirky color options of the Pentax KF than the fact that the R6 Mark II shoots 10fps faster than the original R6.

I guess what I'm saying is, we need something more from new cameras than just more bullet points with more specs. We need a little more heart, a little more soul, a little more character. It really wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Sony released a garish blue camera, or Canon put out a retro-styled body once in a while.

A Canon EOS RP (opens in new tab) inside a throwback body inspired by the Canon AE-1 (opens in new tab)? Now that would get my motor running! 

Read more: 

Best Black Friday camera deals (opens in new tab)
Best retro cameras
(opens in new tab)Best Nikon cameras
(opens in new tab)Best Pentax cameras
(opens in new tab)Best DSLRs (opens in new tab)

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.