DSLR Camera Life Cycle: What's Down the Pipeline

DSLR Camera Life Cycle: What's Down the Pipeline

Range Govindan
Jul 27, 2011

Just like video game consoles, DSLR cameras operate on a longer product life cycle than smaller, affordable point-and-shoot models. Some manufacturers will update models every 2 to 3 years, sticking to a staggered release schedule, allowing users to get the best that's available if they purchase their tech at the right time. Since point-and-shoots cost less, people can and will update these more frequently than a DSLR.

Nikon has scheduled an event for the 24th of August in a few different countries, implying that they will announce new DSLR products. There have already been some invitations released for some product showcases in the fall, and we've read/heard the D4 and D400 will be announced this year. The successor to the D800 might also be announced, although that one is less certain. Experts agree that the D800 will probably be released next year, not this year.

Since 2009, the Nikon D3X, D3, D3s, and D700 are the only DSLRs that Nikon manufactures in Japan. The rest are constructed in Thailand. As with Canon, Nikon's cameras are offered with a FX sensor (high-end and prosumer) and DX sensor. The FX sensor is what you want if you are looking for a bigger sensor and better image quality (we advise this as a pro option, so skip these models and their high price tag unless you're using your camera for professional use). Almost all of the entry-level and mid-range DSLRs come with a DX sensor.

You're looking to buy a D3, D3s, D300s
The D4, D4s, and D400 are expected to be announced at the end of August, which means that if you are in the market for these models, you might want to consider whether you want the latest or possibly discounted older models by early fall. The best time to buy a DSLR is when it is released, since they have a product life of 2 to 3 years.

How long you might have to wait
You'll have to wait about a month for the announcement, and probably a few extra months for the actual release.

Release history
High-end (Professional) - FX/Full Frame sensor

  • Nikon D3, August 23, 2007
  • Nikon D3X, December 1, 2008
  • Nikon D3S, October 14, 2009

High-end (Prosumer) - FX/Full Frame sensor

  • Nikon D700, July 1, 2008

High-end (Prosumer)

  • Nikon D100, February 21, 2002
  • Nikon D200, November 1, 2005
  • Nikon D300, August 23, 2007
  • Nikon D300S, July 30, 2009


  • Nikon D70, January 28, 2004
  • Nikon D70S, April 20, 2005
  • Nikon D80, August 9, 2006
  • Nikon D90, August 27, 2008
  • Nikon D7000, September 15, 2010


  • Nikon D50, April 20, 2005
  • Nikon D5000, April 14, 2009
  • Nikon D5100, April 5, 2011


  • Nikon D40, November 16, 2006
  • Nikon D40X, March 6, 2007
  • Nikon D60, January 29, 2008
  • Nikon D3000, July 30, 2009
  • Nikon D3100, August 19, 2010

Should you buy now or wait?
We personally believe it's not recommended you purchase a Nikon D3, D3s, or D300 in the coming weeks, considering Nikon will be making some big announcements in a few weeks, almost assuredly releasing new cameras in a few months (mid-fall most likely). The entry-level D3100, D5100, and D7000 are safe buys since they were released all within the year.

Canon and Nikon tend to release their cameras at the same time, ensuring that both of the companies remain competitive and have updated products. Just like Nikon, the higher-end cameras will be updated every 2 to 3 years while the midrange and entry-level cameras can get an update every single year.

You're looking to buy a Canon DSLR:
For now, experts believe that the 5D Mark III will be announced this August, plus additional new lenses. If August doesn't see a release, then all signs point to February, as the latest news hasn't confirmed the content of the announcements. The 1D Mark V will be announced this fall with a full frame sensor and the 1Ds Mark IV will follow later this year or early next year. The entry-level and midrange EOS 60D, 600D, and 1100D are all likely safe buys.

How long you might have to wait:
While the actual announcements for the new cameras will be scheduled pretty soon (they'll most likely happen in August or September), the actual release is further away, likely in October. We should see a 1D Mark V this year, but the 5D Mark III isn't yet confirmed. This means that you shouldn't purchase a 5D Mark II this year and wait for the update, unless you're willing to risk buyer's remorse/features envy.

Canon Release History

High-end (Professional) Full Frame

  • Canon 1D Mark II N, August 22, 2005
  • Canon 1D Mark III, February 21, 2007
  • Canon 1D Mark IV, October 20, 2009 (APS-H)

High-end (Prosumer) Full Frame

  • Canon 5D, August 22, 2005
  • Canon 5D, Mark II September 17, 2008
  • Canon 7D, September 1, 2009 (APS-C)


  • Canon 40D, August 20, 2007
  • Canon 50D, August 26, 2008
  • Canon 60D, August 26, 2010


  • Canon EOS 500D, March 25, 2009
  • Canon EOS 550D, February 8, 2010
  • Canon EOS 600D, February 7, 2011
  • Canon EOS 1000D, June 10, 2008
  • Canon EOS 1100D, February 7, 2011

Should you buy now or wait?
We consider models falling within the entry-level and midrange to be safe(r) buys. If you're considering a prosumer and professional grade Canon, it's recommended to wait, since many of the upgrades will validate your patience.

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(Images: Flickr member Voxphoto licensed for use under Creative Commons, Flickr member Wajakemek | Rashdanothman licensed for use under Creative Commons, Flickr member Brandon Shigeta licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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