The Full-Frame DSLR Class of ’08: Still Waiting to Graduate

Is the replacement for the Canon 5D Mark II on the horizon?

If there was a vintage year for full-frame digital SLRs, 2008 would have been it.

With four major DSLRs with full-frame sensors (imaging chips that are about the same size as a piece of 35mm film) flooding the market — the Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon D700, Sony A900, and Nikon D3x — and two other full-frame carryovers from late 2007 — Canon 1Ds Mark III, Nikon D3 — 2008 was a banner year for “flagship” pro cameras.

If only every year was like 2008.

Three years on, at the time of this writing, only the Nikon D3 has been replaced with the slightly enhanced D3s. (HD video anyone?) It’s also worth noting that we haven’t seen any full-frame DSLRs released in nearly two years.

So what gives? A combination of factors, of course. For one, there’s this lingering, lousy economy, which has put many pricey products on hold.

Secondly, there was the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March, causing a wave of residual global camera shortages.

And thirdly, the meager yield that comes from producing full-frame CMOS sensors, makes them cost prohibitive for manufacturers, especially during Recession-like economic conditions.

Many had hoped that this August — traditionally a busy month for camera introductions — would yield some follow-ups to 2008’s bumper crop of full-framers. Not so. So far, we’ve only seen some compact cameras from Canon, some other compact cameras from Nikon, and some very interesting, but non-full-frame DSLRs from Sony.

Nikon D700: Sooooooo 2008.

Of course, there’s still lots of time left in 2011 and while and there was no PMA show this year and no photokina in Germany,  PhotoPlus Expo (sponsored by PDN) in New York City is right around the corner. So stay tuned.

How do you feel about the lack of new pro DSLR introductions in recent years? Frustrated that there hasn’t been a Canon 5D Mark III yet? Or are you happy with the camera you’ve got and thankful not to be tempted with the latest camera bling?

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