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I've read some of the previous questions about choosing a DSLR based on brand or just which DSLR to buy. 10 years ago, I was pretty good with my parents' 35mm SLR, but we ran into the problem where Canon end-of-lifed the mount system and it became much more difficult to obtain lenses and other accessories. I don't want to run into this again.

I'm mainly looking at the Canon EOS Rebel line and Nikon's D3000, D3100, and D5000 (and maybe the D5100), since these are the ones within my current price range. With these camera models, should I be concerned about Canon or Nikon ending support for the mount, making it hard for me to go out and buy new accessories? If it's going potentially to be a problem, I would much rather pay more now for a longer life camera.

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I'm curious about the "connection system" you are referring to. If it's the mount (the connection between the camera body and the lens), Canon did change that -- in 1987. If you're referring to the flash interface, I do believe both Canon and Nikon had to change that when digital came along as the shiny shiny sensor made the earlier through-the-lens flash exposure metering obsolete. –  gerikson Sep 3 '11 at 14:18
    
@gerikson Yes, I'm referring to the mount. The SLR (that I still have and works very well) is from early 1987 or 1986 (shortly before they changed the mount). –  Thomas Owens Sep 3 '11 at 14:53

3 Answers 3

You will probably replace the camera body you buy now long before any of the current camera manufacturers retire their systems (or go out of business or whatever). With the rate of improvement and innovation in camera electronics right now, one generally doesn't consider a camera body to be a long-term purchase. A bigger concern would be the accessories you buy within that system. Lenses (and to some extent, system-specific flashes) can easily be the bulk of your investment. In fact, "can" is too weak — if you're serious about photography at all, they will be and should be. And lenses should last through many generations of camera bodies. So, if your ability to use them with a new camera were to be limited, that'd be unfortunate.

However, I wouldn't worry too much. In the event that something changes, a) you will likely be able to get adapters, which is rarely ideal but should still let your equipment work, and b) there will be enough people interested in keeping going with the system they have that your gear should keep a decent resale value for a little while, which would either let you switch to something else — or you could be on the other side, buying up people's stuff as they bail out. In other words, a system won't vanish in a day.

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For me, the camera body will probably be a long term investment. Photography is a hobby and I don't have a ton of money to drop on it. That's why I want a body and mount that's going to last a long time - I want to use it for many years and continue to purchase lenses and other accessories for it. –  Thomas Owens Sep 3 '11 at 14:54
    
@Thomas - this is what most people think when they start out. Don't be surprised if you find yourself upgrading the body in a couple of years. –  Steve Fenton Sep 3 '11 at 15:48
    
In general, this is a key difference between digital and film — here, you're basically buying all your film up front. Sensor tech (in particular, but also processing speed) has been getting better so rapidly that in a couple of years today's cameras will feel pretty out of date. That said, the latest generation of sensors has such amazing noise performance that it may signal the end of that era — the cameras may feel good enough for a long time even as newer ones get even better. –  mattdm Sep 3 '11 at 16:01
    
So for that reason, I suggest that you stretch for the D5100 (a very nice camera) or even the D7000 or Pentax K-5, all of which share a similar sensor. (Made by Sony, who of course uses it in their own models too — I don't know which ones offhand.) –  mattdm Sep 3 '11 at 16:05
    
Actually, the fact that lenses are a bulk of the investment is probably the reason to worry about them. I can say that I have about 8X more $$$ spent in lenses than on cameras. I do not hesitate to change my camera almost every year, but most lenses are staying. –  Itai Sep 4 '11 at 3:58

There is always that risk. Makers have a vested interest on keeping their legacy of lenses and existing user-base, so they do not do it on a whim.

They change the mount (connection-system as you called it) occasionally, often in backwards compatible ways to preserve use of old lenses. Pentax is known to have done the best job so far and Sony kept Konica-Minolta's mount which remains compatible with lenses which are decades old. If you consider past effort as an indication of future effort, then I would look at a Pentax K-x. On the other hand, only Minolta's mount has survived the end-of-life of the company (technically the camera division).

When they are ready to introduce a technology which requires a significant change to the mount, the mount will change for the benefit. At that point, there may be adapters sold, like Sony's latest Alpha-to-E mount one which even has a built-in phase-detect AF system.

The Nikon system is fragment since some lenses require a mechanical connection for AF but the models you list to not have it. This means there are Nikon lenses which connect but will not autofocus on those bodies, you would need a D7000 or a model with a different number of digits to support all Nikkor lenses.

To answer you final question. There is nothing you can do now that will guaranty what you are asking for, even if you buy the most expensive camera. They share the same mount within a brand and the end-of-life will be the same regardless of model.

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The D7000 is significantly out of my price range, but I'm really liking what I'm reading about the Nikon line. How many Nikon lenses won't autofocus, and are these common lenses that I might need or use as a beginner? If I lose access to a variety of lenses that I wouldn't lose if I went with Canon, that would be a dealbreaker. –  Thomas Owens Sep 3 '11 at 14:00
    
A quick search shows 21 current Nikkor lenses vs 40 which have built-in focus motor. Even though they are fewer there are some really nice and useful ones that require the AF-coupling, including all fisheye ones. –  Itai Sep 3 '11 at 14:07
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Any new Nikon lens is using the AF-S system that will autofocus with those cameras D3000-D5100. Really your concern would be if you want to save money by using older lenses or the few specialized ones that haven't made it to AF-S yet. –  rfusca Sep 3 '11 at 15:34
    
As I've said before, it seems like Nikon's support for AF lenses is moving towards becoming a niche feature of high-end bodies, so I'd advise to avoid investing heavily in those lenses. AF-S is most likely safe choice for many years to come. –  Imre Sep 4 '11 at 7:43

To add, I'm currently using couple of M42 lenses on my Canon 450d DSLR. They are made in 1960s or 1970s, and are installed using adapter. Obviously they are fully manual, as were all lenses at that time, but this goes to show if you invest in high quality optics, their value lasts a lot longer than you think. Because high optical quality is worth money even after decades.

Another thing to note is that the most probable reason for your lenses losing value is the manufacturer ceasing SLR production. If you stay within the 2-4 biggest brands, your lenses are almost guaranteed to be usable for long time, especially if you get full frame lenses.

For example on Canon camp, the last time the mount was changed was when lenses started to contain electronics and they needed make room for contacts. I do not see new change like move from mechanical to electrical connections taking place in any foreseeable future.

Another reason why lenses would be outdated would be introduction of larger than "full 35mm frame" sensors. This, too, is possible but unlikely to happen in next few years. The "full frame" is equal in size to usable area of 35mm film, which has been used since 1913, and still on this day, most professionals use cameras that have sensors of that size or smaller, making all 35mm lenses wide enough on area (as long as you can mount them).

Actually, because digital sensors can reproduce smaller details than films of same usable area, there is less pressure to move to larger photosensitive area than during film era.

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