DSLR cameras are Dead in 2020

DSLR cameras are Dead in 2020

Last Updated on May 19, 2023 by PixelPluck

Over the last few years, the price for consumer cameras has consistently gone downwards. Now you get better quality of optics and performance for an affordable price tag. The trend is somewhat similar to smartphones but the pace of technological advancement is slower in dedicated consumer cameras. But are the DSLR cameras dead in 2020? And more importantly, should you buy a DSLR in 2021?

If you care about photograph quality then certainly yes.

DSLR cameras are Dead in 2020?

Here is a fact that came out of the Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA). The sales of Digital Cameras are consistently declining. Phone cameras are getting better at producing images that are keeping away people from buying a dedicated digital camera. Even though the quality of a DSLR can never be matched by the best phone camera, it surely is getting better at the image algorithm and software-based processing.

The rate of decline of digital cameras is directly proportional to the rise of phone cameras. The table below shows the decline of digital camera sales over last ten years.

YearTotal Cameras SoldInterchangeable Lenses Sold
Digital camera and Lens sale over the last 10 Years

DSLR shipments have dropped by 22.2% in 2018 compared to 2017.

DSLR shipments have dropped by 21.7% in 2019 compared to 2018.

Overall, DSLR shipments have dropped by 87.4% in 2019 compared to 2010.

Some of the drops in numbers can be attributed to new production facilities coming up elsewhere around the world including Sony, which reported over 414.9B in production sales in the fiscal year 2021.. However, the downward trend is evident given the massive drop in sales of Digital Cameras. This is expected to worsen in 2020 because of the pandemic and slowdown of the travel and tourism sector. In addition to that, there has been a major chip fire at a production facility in Japan which will slow down the production of the cameras.

DSLR cameras are Dead in 2020
Should I buy a DSLR in 2021?

Why are DSLR sales declining?

This brings in the obvious question that if technological advancement for consumer cameras has reached its saturation point?

Compare an average mid-level consumer Camera from a decade ago to it’s latest version. There might be a lot of superficial changes to its hardware as well as software but there has not been any radical change in its quality or performance. On the other hand, the camera technology in smartphones is evolving by leaps and bounds with every new update. This has also a lot to do with consumer demands and expenditure on research and development. Not to ignore that an average consumer is quite satisfied with the image quality coming out of their smartphone and more so when it gives an option for software-based FAKE BOKEH.

Does this mean the end of DSLR cameras?

An average high-end user who could have invested in a dedicated camera a few years ago might just invest in a flagship smartphone for its fake bokeh. For an average user, the software based simulation of bokeh appears to be good enough from their point of view. Those who understand what bokeh truly means and understand image quality may invest in a dedicated camera.

However, the size of DSLR cameras in 2020 is a massively discouraging factor. Mirrorless is quickly filling up this gap. The price for mirrorless cameras comes down in the last few years. It will write the obituary for the DSLRs, just how DSLR wrote for film cameras. With a smartphone mentality, size matters. And why not? Mirrorless is consistently outperforming the mid-level DSLRs and only getting better with time.

The DSLRs are very much alive at the top end of the consumer’s table where there are pixel peeping requirements and every pixel is accounted for a vis to vis it’s quality. That is the commercial creamy layer of photographers who wants nothing but the best with size not being an issue. But for how long? Summer Olympics 2020 which has been rescheduled to July 2021 is just around the corner. We will see a lot more mirrorless there. Moreover, all major manufacturers are providing options as lens adapters to convert the DSLR lens for use on mirrorless.

Sales Data for various Cameras leading into 2020

The statistics come from the Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA).

The trend becomes clear on comparing the sale figures of 2018 & 2019 for various camera categories.

sale figure of digital cameras in 2018
sale figure of digital cameras in 2019

There has been a staggering drop of over 50% in shipment figures across all camera categories. The most affected being the DSLR category. Can all of it be credited to the economic slump? Definitely not.
The only growth is being seen in the mirrorless category which increased to 22 million units in 2019 from 18 million units in 2018.

DSLR cameras are dying a slow death even while outperforming everything else that’s available but it might well be a case of generalized fate of the camera industry.


Digital Cameras aren’t dead yet.

Amidst all the rapid evolution in technological superiority of camera components on smartphones, the king of the jungle remains to be a stand-alone consumer or professional camera. In a bid to attract more consumers all major manufacturers are increasingly investing in a smaller and compact size of cameras. This is obvious with the introduction of newer and capable mirrorless cameras and a variety of lenses for them.

While Sony realized this long back and Canon following it, Nikon was the last to jump into this ship of mirrorless cameras future. In 2013, mirrorless system cameras constituted about five percent of total camera shipments. Today it stands close to 50%.

The previous years have been a frenzy for manufacturers. Nikon introduced the mirrorless line up of Nikon Z6 and Z7. Sony came up with a massive 61MP A7R IV. Canon launched the EOS R series.

Also Read DSLR vs Mirrorless.

What are the mirrorless camera options for an average consumer in 2020?

  • Nikon Z6 and Nikon Z7 both of them being full-frame where Z7 comes with 45.7 megapixels while the more affordable Z6 is 24.5 megapixels.
  • Canon EOS R lineup from Canon.
  • Sony with a lot of options is the old and established player in the mirrorless segment. It’s the latest offering being the top of line Sony A7R IV and the more consumer pocket-friendly Sony A6400.
  • There are more options from different manufacturers but it would be wise to invest in an established brand with a better ecosystem of available lenses and accessories.


‘DSLR cameras are Dead in 2020’ remains anyone’s guess. The sales of DSLRs are consistently declining and mirrorless is quickly taking its spot. Smartphone cameras are getting better and satisfactory for an average user. Overall the situation looks gloomy for DSLRs. It would be wise to invest in a mirrorless system in 2021 over a DSLR.

If you are looking for a lens upgrade to get better results from your current DSLR? Check best lenses to upgrade from kit lens here.

Let us know in the comments below what you think about the future of the DSLR camera.

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