Survey says... your cameras are old, fanboys don't matter and lenses are keeping DSLRs alive

DSLR vs mirrorless
Mirrorless is becoming more popular, but don't count DSLRs out just yet (Image credit: Panasonic/Nikon)

Shotkit has just released the results from its annual survey of camera users, and the results are pretty surprising. Each year they survey Facebook groups and email list subscribers to find out what kit their readers are using. They also very helpfully split all this data into professional and amateur shooters and lots more fascinating data.

It was interesting reading. We write a lot here about our opinions on the best cameras for professionals (opens in new tab) or best cameras for beginners (opens in new tab), but it's intriguing to see what people are actually shooting with, in the real world.

If you want to pick through each result yourself in lots more detail you can head to Shotkit's full results here (opens in new tab), but we are going to take a look at five big takeaways from the survey.

1. Mirrorless is king

Mirrorless continues to dominate the older DLSR format. With over two-thirds of professional users now using a mirrorless camera (opens in new tab), this surely is the final swan song for DSLR. 

This trend is less severe (maybe due to the cost of upgrading) but is also apparent with amateur photographers, with over half now using a mirrorless camera. With the few DSLR manufacturers remaining now stopping testing production on DSLR cameras (sorry Pentax (opens in new tab) fans, look away now) this trend is unsurprising and only going to continue. 

Mirrorless tech is leaps and bounds ahead of what is possible in a DSLR camera as well as offering significantly smaller camera sizes, which was the top reason for both professionals and amateurs for making the switch. Silent shooting and better autofocus were also the big reasons for jumping to mirrorless.

2. Lens lock-in is real and saving DSLR

We hear a lot about Apple and its walled garden approach to making products, tempting people in with the phone, spending money on apps tied to Apple devices only, and buying accessories like AirPods and the Apple Watch that only work in the Apple-controlled ecosystem. 

Camera manufacturers are no different, with their specific lens mounts and very expensive pieces of glass, you are hard-pushed to ever switch systems. This is expressed perfectly in this survey by DSLR users saying the cost of upgrading is too much, and the DSLR lens selection is superior (opens in new tab)

Considering some of the mirrorless lenses that have been released recently are the best that have ever been made, the superiority of older lenses is questionable, but you cannot argue with the cost. 

Replacing a professional setup like a Canon 5D Mark IV (opens in new tab) and top EF glass, with a Canon EOS R6, an RF 24-70mm (opens in new tab) and RF 70-200mm f2.8 (opens in new tab) lenses, would be a substantial investment in the thousands. Canon and Nikon both make exceptional mount adapters (opens in new tab) for their mirrorless cameras, but it appears it might not be enough to tempt DLSR shooters just yet.

3. Your cameras are "old"

One interesting theme in the top cameras featuring in both the professional and amateur top camera lists was their age. A trend probably started by Apple with their overnight queues for the latest iPhone, in our consumerist world, pushed by social media we are often led to believe in having the latest and greatest cameras is what it takes to succeed in photography. 

With camera manufacturers releasing cameras on an increased cycle with even more incremental updates, it is refreshing to see that the majority of cameras heading up both lists are not recent additions at all. 

Sitting at the top of both lists are two cameras over four years old, with the Sony A7III (opens in new tab)and Fujifilm XT-3 (opens in new tab) taking the crown for professionals and amateurs respectively. Holding the third place spot for professionals is the Nikon D750 (opens in new tab), which is practically a historical relic at eight years old. 

Canon's legendary 5D DSLR range still features heavily on the list of professional cameras, with the ten-year-old Canon 5D Mark III (opens in new tab) still sitting pretty at number seven. While your Instagram feed might be saying you are nothing without a Leica M10 Monochom (opens in new tab), it is pleasing to see people care more about what they are shooting than what they are shooting with.

4. Fanboys are too loud

If you read a lot of camera news and opinion sites then you are probably more than used to several times a day someone declaring a particular camera manufacturer over, or saying anyone who doesn't use a specific camera shouldn't call themselves a photographer. 

So what is so pleasing from this survey is it is immediately apparent that that is all bravado nonsense. The range of cameras used by both professional and amateur photographers is wonderfully spread across manufacturers, sensor sizes, camera types, and camera ages. 

The usage also follows predictable patterns based on price and offerings, with high volume do-all camera makers like Canon (opens in new tab) having a higher volume than niche specialist manufacturers like Leica (opens in new tab). This can only be counted as a positive for a continued healthy camera market and manufacturers pushing each other.

5. There is no in between

Surprisingly people surveyed seem to be either very firmly team mirrorless or team DSLR, with only 1% of respondents favoring using both systems. Wisdom would suggest that most people moving from DSLR might take a step into the mirrorless world while also keeping their older DSLR camera as a backup or second shooter camera. Check out our DSLR vs mirrorless (opens in new tab) guide for more on both systems.

So either it is the case that many photographers perhaps sell their gear to upgrade, and just don't look back and start a new mirrorless life. Or it could be the case that many more new people are getting into photography now it has become so much easier and more accessible to take great images, and for many people, a mirrorless camera might well be their first camera.

Bonus Thoughts

- Who are the 2% of amateur photographers shooting on a $4000 Canon R5 (opens in new tab), and can I borrow some money?

- The number of people who say an EVF is a reason to buy mirrorless is 10%, while the number of people saying an OVF is a reason to buy DSLR is only 6%, which I personally find surprising as the thing I miss most from my DSLR is the OVF.

- More professionals list DJI (opens in new tab) as their main camera than Panasonic, Olympus, etc. Are there more drone photographers than all Panasonic shooters? Curious.

Find out more on the best mirrorless cameras and the best DSLR cameras. Or what are the best professional cameras and best cameras for beginner photographers?

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Gareth Bevan
Reviews Editor

Gareth is a photographer based in London, working as a freelance photographer and videographer for the past several years, having the privilege to shoot for some household names. With work focusing on fashion, portrait and lifestyle content creation, he has developed a range of skills covering everything from editorial shoots to social media videos. Outside of work, he has a personal passion for travel and nature photography, with a devotion to sustainability and environmental causes.