In news that’s somehow both shocking and unsurprising for the camera community, the Japanese camera giant Nikon is reported to be pulling out of DSLRs to focus on its growing line of professional mirrorless cameras. At least, that’s according to the Japanese newspaper, Nikkei – Nikon itself will neither confirm nor deny the rumours.
To anyone familiar with the industry, the news will hardly be a massive surprise – DSLRs, or digital single-lens reflex cameras, have been around since the 1990s, but their popularity has declined in recent years. That's partly due to the ubiquity of smartphones but also because of the technological advancements of mirrorless cameras, which are starting to make up a larger proportion of the models in our guide to the best cameras for professionals.
In an article published last week, Nikkei Asia reported that Nikon is planning to “withdraw from the single-lens reflex camera business and shift toward digital offerings amid intensifying competition from smartphone cameras.” That would see it follow the same logic as its biggest rival Canon, which already announced last December that it won't be producing any more DSLRs as it focuses on its mirrorless R range (see our Canon EOS R5 review).
Mirrorless cameras, as the name implies, lack the mirror mechanisms of DSLRs. This means that they don't have optical viewfinders (they have electronic ones instead). But it also makes the cameras smaller and lighter and confers other technological advantages too. All the most advanced cameras in recent years have been mirrorless, with Nikon's new Z9 being among the cream of the crop.
The last DSLRs Nikon that launched were the pro-level D6 and D780, both of which arrived in January 2020. What’s more, in June 2022, Nikon announced that it would cease production of two of its popular entry-level DSLRs, the D3500 and D5600. These are two of the best cameras for beginners, and it’s not clear yet whether they’re getting direct replacements. Few people will be surprised if they don't.
However, Nikon won’t be drawn on the future for its DSLR department. The company issued the following terse response to the Nikkei article: “There was a media article regarding Nikon’s withdrawal of SLR development. This media article is only speculation and Nikon has made no announcement in this regards. Nikon is continuing the production, sales and service of digital SLR. Nikon appreciate your continuous support.”
Of course, there’s a big omission there. Nikon says it’s going to continue producing, selling and servicing DSLRs. It does not say that it’s going to continue releasing new ones. Camera sales have been in a state of severe decline since 2010, with DSLRs bearing the brunt, and in this environment, it’s hard to imagine Nikon wanting to devote much financial resource to its F-mount DSLRs.
We may never get official confirmation from Nikon that its DSLRs are dead – camera companies are sometimes quite circumspect about such things, not wanting to hurt sales of cameras and lenses that are already on the market. Sony, for instance, never officially sounded a death knell for its A-mount DSLRs, preferring instead to quietly discontinue them one at a time until no more were in production.
It’s possible that we’ll still get another Nikon DSLR – however, the more time that elapses since the last one, the less likely that looks. For now though, Nikon DSLRs remain in production, and they're still a great option for photographers – just check out our guide to the best cameras for wildlife photography, which contains plenty of old-fashioned DSLRs, including the fantastic Nikon D5600.