The beginner DSLR is dead

The beginner-friendly DSLR was once a lynchpin of Nikon’s camera lineups, but the Japanese giant has confirmed that those days are over – it’s officially discontinued its two most affordable DSLRs.

In a statement, Nikon told us that “production has ceased on the D3500 and D5600”. It added that “the remaining stock will sell out at different rates across Europe, after which there will be no more incoming stock”. We’ve asked Nikon if this applies to worldwide stock, and will update this story when we hear back.

This means that if you want to buy a new Nikon D3500, which we still consider to be the best beginner DSLR you can buy, you’ll want to do so sooner rather than later. The Nikon D5600 is a slightly more powerful DSLR that ranks highly in our overall guide to the best DSLRs.

So why is Nikon discontinuing them? Interestingly, the camera giant went into a little more detail when explaining the reasons to us. It told us: “Nikon has focused its R&D efforts into mid to high end cameras and lenses, targeted at professional and hobbyist photographers. We are also focusing on strengthening products in response to younger hobbyists’ needs, for whom video is the primary focus.”

This renewed focus has resulted in the hugely impressive, if incredibly expensive, flagship Nikon Z9, which showcases the mirrorless tech Nikon is now pushing at the expense of its older DSLRs. It added: “We can see the benefits of this focused R&D strategy, with launches such as the highly successful Z 9, and we are pleased to say that the product pipeline continues to look strong over the coming years. It is with this product strategy in mind that production has ceased on both the D3500 and D5600 cameras.”

The missing pieces in this explanation are the huge impact of smartphones on entry-level camera sales and the steady decline in DSLR shipments over the last decade. While the D3500 and D5600 remain good cameras for beginners, Nikon simply isn’t able to justify making new stock of those models while investing in its fight to win the battle of the best mirrorless cameras. It’s the end of an era, then, but one we’ve seen coming in slow-motion over the past few years.

Analysis: Mirrorless cameras are now the default
The writing was on the wall for the Nikon D3500 and D5600 when the company told us last year that they were now “archived” products in Japan and that it “planned to continue selling these products for the time being” in the rest of the world.

But the fact this latest statement isn’t surprising doesn’t lessen its significance. Until very recently, DSLRs were the default format for professional photographers, and going only a little further back were the obvious choice for beginners looking for their first ‘proper’ camera.

Those days are now over. Nikon may have only discontinued two DSLRs, but the D3500 and D5600 were the two affordable, beginner-friendly models in its lineup. And while we haven’t seen a similar statement from Canon, it hasn’t released a beginner-friendly DSLR for over three years, since the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D in 2019.

The official, and symbolic, end of those two Nikon models is a slight shame for consumer choice. But the number of people who prefer the DSLR format, which uses a mirror to reflect light directly into you eye through an optical viewfinder, is likely on the wane compared to those who feel more at home with the all-digital mirrorless experience.

Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should never consider buying a DSLR, even in 2022. If you prefer the larger bodies and superior battery lives of DSLRs to mirrorless cameras, there are some great bargains out there – we recently rounded up the best ones in our guide to the best second-hand DSLRs.

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