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?

25 Responses to “The Full-Frame DSLR Class of ’08: Still Waiting to Graduate”

  1. The Full-Frame DSLR Class of ’08: Still Waiting to Graduate | Global Community of Photography Says:

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  2. Travis Alex Photo Says:

    I bought my my D700 February of 2009 and I love EVERYTHING about it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world…I have made some amazing image and with only 50+k clicks in 3 years…It will serve me for at least another 3+ years to come.

    That being said, I am torn at the moment. I really would like to start shooting SLR video, but, I refuse to spend $6000 on a D3s. I can easily buy a D7000 as a back-up, but I am not a huge fan of the DX crop cameras…I would rather have my d700 as my back up/strictly photo shooting…and a D700s/D800 as my main body. That combo would be amazing.

    This has been a frustrating affair and a lot of my photography friends are growing impatient along with me…if I don’t hear about the next big FX DSLR by end of September, I will have to settle with a D7000 for a year.

    D7000 wouldn’t be a bad back up, I would just rather buy the new full frame.

  3. Amber Says:

    I’m still using the original Canon 5D and love it. I think a need for new, better, shinier, more megapixels, etc is a little out of whack, and even if new stuff did hit the market soon, I wouldn’t be buying.

  4. jones Says:

    Lousy economy or not, it’s just unreasonable to expect people to be buying expensive new full frame digital camera bodies every two years. Until a new CMOS technology comes to blow them out of the water, people won’t see a point in replacing a camera that is delivering more than you could ever need in terms of picture quality. Professionals using these cameras are not easily fooled by useless new features and marketing gimmicks, and those who want more are already shooting medium format.

  5. JeffGreenberg Says:

    “…the meager yield that comes from producing full-frame CMOS sensors, makes them cost prohibitive for manufacturers…”

    If “yield” means sales, then yes, that’s exactly what a Canon engineer I conversed with on US-Japan flight last month told me: (paraphrase) “We are making many prototypes all the time but most do NOT become new models for sale because their costs, specifically the sensor, are prohibitive, & we would not sell enough units.”

    I took two ideas from that:
    1. “dream camera” prototypes of all kinds exist but never come to market
    2. the biggest battle for camera companies, is bringing down costs, not technical barriers

    There’s probably a prototype out there that gets “ISO 100 noise” at ISO 3200…

  6. Mike Kang Says:

    The 5D Mk II was a game changer for me (and for many people) and unless the Mk III (or whatever the successor will be called) has enough features that I can’t live without (or my clients can’t live without), I doubt I would feel compelled to upgrade this year–or next.

  7. Dyuti Says:

    D700 is amazing. But 12 megapixel is something from the last decade and does not cut any more. My hands are itching to get the upgrade with everything better and DSLR capabilities. And more importantly, since the upgrade can come any day, I just cant buy another D700 body paying nearly same price.

    But saying that, I have a feeling there are thousands of others who are on the same boat and when that upgrade comes out, it will be a sellout fast!

  8. Karen Says:

    I just bought a refurbished Mark 2 and I love it. I would gotten it even if the Mark 3 came out because it would most likely be out of my price range. The Mark 2 is still selling really well so I’m not sure when we’ll see a Mark 3.

  9. alex williams Says:

    I agree with some of the other comments–I’ve been using the 5D mk II for quite awhile and I keep trying to find flaws. So far unsuccessful. It’s a great rig.

  10. Mark Brumell Says:

    Well I’ve had my two 5d mk one’s since their launch and I’m more than happy. I mean how much more technology do we actually need? If it progresses we’ll be shooting satellite technology in our hands and we just don’t need that. The camera manufacturers must have hit a brick wall in what they have delivered already, where can they go now?

  11. anthony saluto Says:

    my first digital was the 5d in 2005, im still shooting it, got my daughter a 7d that seems pretty nice, i keep thinking i want a lighter weight system overall, leica is tempting me, these hands are feeling some aches. but today i was thinking i wonder why canon isn’t putting out new models,

  12. alex williams Says:

    I agree with Mark. When shooting film I shot with my Canon F1’s for over 20 years. It’s been nice not feeling like my investment isn’t becoming outdated every year.

  13. vladimir Says:

    For several years I work with 1Ds Mark2, and though Im planning on upgrading to next gen 1Ds, yet my camera has everything pro photog needs and it can go for another few years (hopefully).
    I don’t think we need new pro cams released every year – it’d be very frustrating. maybe new equipment every 3-5 years would be best.

  14. Giulio Sciorio Says:

    I was happy with my 5D1 and only upgraded to the 5d2 because of the video features but the picture quality is great also.

    I get camera lust like anyone else but as far as features goes I’d love 16bit color and 422 video.

    21 megapixels is plenty of data. Don’t overload the chip with data Canon.

  15. AyindeRl8 Says:

    We really need a D800, it’s time to upgrade as we really give our cameras a work out and would hate to have o upgrade to the same body. We need the notable fixed, a little more res, more focus points

  16. Armin Says:

    I’m perfectly happy with my 5D Mark II and original 5D. They continue to perform well and as expected. I expect my Mark 2 to last in value for a couple more years or so. Full frame is a special thing!

  17. jase Says:

    What I’d like to see is a full frame digital rangefinder from Canon or Nikon to give some competition to the Leica M9.

  18. Bas Clark Says:

    It isn’t economical for any company to release a new product that does something very similar to its previous releases (unless your an Apple product). As sexy as a new full frame sensor may be it doesn’t make sense for a pro-sumer or professional to jump into new equipment that may not add onto a look they are trying to achieve.

  19. snadow Says:

    Canon knows about how long it takes to kill (shutter clicks) a shutter and my 5dMKII is on borrowed time. Sure it could go on for twice the recommended amount but I don’t like to play with fire, I’ve been burned before and looked non professional switching to a backup with less of a desired status in there eyes. Anyway the replacement is late due to the fact no one wants to show their hand first…. They all love to have that spin factor of what the other can’t do.

  20. Jim Says:

    The D800 (or whatever) is long overdue. Not because of timing – I agree it’s great to still have a “nice” digital camera three years after I bought my first D700 – but because Nikon needs to up the pixels a bit and deliver the video capabilities/quality that Canon does (in FX-format) at a similar price point.

  21. Peter Bradshaw Says:

    Keep your eye on mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras. They’re the future.

  22. John Fowler Says:

    I use a D700 backed up with a D70s. I really like them both, except for their habit of shifting both ISO and Shutter Speed settings with the merest brush oif a thumb.

    My old film cameras – F1s, FEs, had settings that stayed set. It’s a shame Nikon can’t make digital slrs that work as well.

  23. Harry Nowell Says:

    I’ve been waiting for Nikon’s version of the Canon 5D Mark II. I am hesitant to buy anything – my current digital bodies are adequate for what I do for clients – because there is nothing in Nikon that meets everything I want. Canon’s 5D Mark II is what I want – in Nikon skin! I am a little frustrated.

  24. Ray Says:

    I’ve been using my 5D mk 1 for 4.5 years. It’s been a great camera, and I’ve gotten great results from making big prints out of it, 30″x40″.

    That said, I’m ready to upgrade. But since it’s been 3 years since the mk2 has been out, I’m holding off on spending the money.

    I love the mk2, the difference in high ISO is worth the money alone. I know it’s still selling well, so there’s probably no reason they’d replace it just yet. But I’m having a hard time investing $2500, when the new model could be released tomorrow. Come on Canon, we’re waiting on you.

  25. Brian Says:

    New sensor technology isn’t the only way to improve the product and sell more cameras. As stated above, plenty of D700 owners are itching to get a higher MP count (myself included). I have a long list of ways to improve the D700 that could sell cameras – CALL ME, NIKON!!!