I don't have all the answers but I do have one notion about why you see so many sports shooters and event shooters working with Canon and Nikon DSLRs instead of the newer generations of Sony, Panasonic, Fuji and Olympus mirrorless cameras. It all comes back to the old saying in politics: "follow the money." The newer the DSLR you see at an event the less likely it is that the photographer holding it does photography as a full time job. He will likely be supplementing his income from part time photography with a full time day job. This gives him a shot at being able to afford the newer cameras. The exceptions are staff photographers from one outlet or another. When you see sports shooters at events, or contract photographers from Getty Images, at red carpet events you can be certain that they are working for a fraction of the fees that are commanded by photographers who are serving corporate clients directly, and even tinier fractions of the photographers who are servicing national advertising accounts.
The low fees that websites, contract agencies and magazines currently pay are far below (when adjusted for inflation) the magazine day rates photographers could earn back in the 1960's thru the 1980's. With an average renumeration of between $150 and $250 for a full work day, plus the surrender of all subsidiary rights and copyright to the images, it's almost impossible to consider that people working in this part of the industry have the spending flexibility to change cameras and camera systems very often, if at all.
If you look closely the next time you are at a sporting event, other than something like the Super Bowl, you'll likely see that the DSLRs and lenses in use are older models and not the cutting edge, newest models. You'll likely see a sprinkling of Nikon D500s and D5s surrounded by a sea of older D3 models and even older cameras. If you surveyed the Canon shooters you'll likely see a few of the near current 1DXxx cameras surrounded by mob of 7D cameras and the like. The longer lenses might be white or gray but they are not going to be the latest release. The reality is that the kinds of photography at which you see cameras from the past are not anywhere near the lucrative other parts of the industry when it comes to monetizing their work and so the practitioners are ill able to afford to make quick switches that might require a financial loss to realize. When the fees are low the camera in your hands is likely to be the one you'll continue to use. And most of the older cameras (older than 2 years) are statistically more likely to be Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Especially in the sports specialty fields.
And, to be honest, most people who do any profession fit somewhere in a Bell Curve that dictates that a small percentage of an overall group will be risk takers (early adopters) and a very large percentage of the group will fall into the middle of the curve and will be two to three years behind the folks who like to dance along the bleeding edge of technological change. That means that the big hump of people in the middle of the curve have to wait until it's absolutely a proven and confirmed advantage, that has been time tested, before they release their grip on older technology and embrace the newer types of gear. There are always pragmatists that will only shift when they discern an advantage for their own work and, if someone is unchanging in their routine it's unlikely that the cameras with which they practice said routine need to change either. Since 80% (roughly) fall into this category it stands to reason that at least 80% of the cameras being used for public events will belong to that 80% who, by way of analogy, are waiting to see if CDs will actually die off before embracing MP3 music players. And those with an investment in MP3 players who are a bit less conservative are now waiting to see if streaming music is actually a real thing.
Is it my presumption that the reason for all lack of movement to mirrorless by photographers who shoot public events is a combination of poverty and fear? Not at all.
Some of the folks you see using newer DSLRs at events are paid staffers for local newspapers, national agencies, or large corporations sponsoring the events. Many times these shooter don't actually shoot with their own gear but are provided gear by their employers. And generally all of these employers have much, much deeper pockets than individual artists. They buy logistically which means they buy in bulk to get better pricing and service and they only buy stuff that integrates into sunk investments already on the ledgers. If they have store rooms of Nikon or Canon lenses the bean counters will make sure no one takes a chance and starts buying camera bodies that don't match up with their prior investments in lenses and accessories. It may be that their buying occurs in five year cycles and they haven't full depreciated, in their minds, the usefulness of the current gear. It will be interesting to see if the next cycle of enterprise camera and lens purchasing will change direction given that the two big past suppliers (C&N) are also moving into mirrorless systems. It's times of evolutionary jumps that deliver disruption in buying patterns ---- as evidenced by millennials shying away from the purchase of personal cars.
The employee photographer has no incentive to buy new tech out of her own pocket if the employer is providing tools that are at least workable.
At another level, some practices are predicated on traditions. As video became more and more important fewer people gravitated toward traditional event and sports photographer because the money and opportunities were better in video. The image workers who remained in the field are older that in previous generations, on average. They grew up with Nikon and Canon and learned on the SLRs and DSLRs available when they started out. They are loathe to break what have been, for them, successful habits. If they have the intention to stay the course they have a subconscious disincentive to try other brands because, if they find advantages to the newer tech then they will either be unhappy that they can't swing the finances to sell off their current gear at a loss while fitting out a whole new system in an unfamiliar gear genre or they will have to rationalize their current choices inspire of the new features that mirrorless cameras deliver (silent shooting anyone? Can't imagine someone working on movies sets wanting to work in with a Jacobson blimp instead of a silent shutter Sony or other brand). They will have to learn the process over again if they do jump to the new systems and, while most of us know it's not that daunting, most of us also don't have to live with the financial free fall that may follow if the wrong choices are made. That's the warm fuzziness of doing photography as a hobby instead of trying to put food on the table with your work.
There is another subset of photographers who have the money and the access to affluent clients; who have the ability to move between systems, but can't because the new mirrorless systems don't offer the range of working tools they need in their particular specialities. For example, I have a close friend who is a well known architectural photographer. He grew up shooting 4x5 technical and monorail cameras and for his work he absolutely requires lenses that shift. Tilt/shift lenses. But in the mirrorless universe there isn't a single tilt shift lens currently being offered by any of the mirrorless camera companies. Not a one. My friend could afford to drop $20K or $30K to move to a new system but will not do so until someone with an otherwise compelling feature list joins the Canon and Nikon club and offers a selection of tilt/shift lenses in all the important focal lengths. To do without those lenses would mean changing his entire visual practice and the quality of his deliverables to clients. He encounters the same constraints when moving between medium format systems.
If you are a well heeled sports photographer who has figured out, through some combination of contracts and sponsorships, how to make real money shooting sports you probably would never consider a company like Fuji for cameras to capture football, soccer and baseball (for examples) and I could not blame you. To date they have one longer lens that would provide competitive performance at just one focal length. It's their 200mm f2.0, and I'm sure it's a magnificent lens. But I'm equally sure that you'd never try to cover a sport that requires continually variable distance between your camera and the action without having a selection of fast, long lenses at your disposal, or at least available to rent.
There are photographers like Joel Grimes, for instance that shoot sports for clients other than editorial outlets and if they are like their other advertising photographer brethren then they undoubtably make good money doing it. I'm thinking about the folks who shoot the actual advertising images for companies like Nike, Speedo, and Gatorade. Or for ESPN. They might continue to use Nikon or Canon because they are V.I.P.s in the system they shoot. Their loyalty might be a mix of long experience and nostalgia for their preferred brand but it's equally larded with their ability to call the camera companies' professional services and borrow specialty lenses, loaner bodies, as well as special services. Our perception of the overwhelming presence of DSLRs comes partly because we often see these system V.I.P.s touting their system allegiance in their blogs, interviews and workshops because it's such a powerful synergy for everyone involved. The classic example is Joe McNally and his decades long association with Nikon. I presume that at some point in his digital career (around 2006 to 2012 ? ) Joe could have made one phone call and gotten a crate of Nikon CLS system flashes delivered to his studio with Nikon's blessing and no invoice attached.
But it was, of course, based on the (realized) perception that Joe would then go out and use the lights on special projects which he would use the images from to push his workshops, books, speaking engagements and pitches for future shooting assignments from other clients. His most over the top use of Nikon gear was the employment of many Nikon speed lights to overpower the desert sun in Dubai while photographing attractive models. A stunt that was covered by the photo industry press at large with almost as much interest and intensity as a moon landing. Joe worked on his brand in the process while Nikon got coverage of their differentiating product portfolio (arguably the best flash system at the time) worth millions of dollars ---- all for delivering a couple dozen flashes to a mad man in the desert. To do a stunt that most of us realized could be equalled by one powerful flash system from Elinchrom at a far lower overall cost. Well played by Joe and Nikon if you ask me...
So, if mirrorless really is popular at all then why don't you see it everywhere? Hmmm. Mirrorless camera systems, until recently, were not as capable when it came to working with fast, continously moving subjects that needed to be captured in sharp focus. Phase detect AF was the secret weapon that allowed traditional DSLRs to hold onto various areas of the industry. The other secret weapon was the ability to shoot fast with minimal finder blackout. This meant that users of mirrorless cameras were buying them not for sports and spot news (the bulk of situations where the general public is treated to the sight of professionals work with cameras) but for studio work, considered work, portraits, landscapes and all manner of subject that didn't require the complex focusing capabilities for subjects on the run.
When you consider where most considered photography happens you realize that it is used for just about everything from weddings to corporate executive portraits to nearly all advertising. I'll take advertising as an example as it's the part of the industry with which I am most familiar. Last Fall I spent nearly six weeks flying around the country making advertising portraits for an insanely large construction and infrastructure company. In every location and every situation we were balancing light with the sun or with ambient daylight of one kind or another. We were also making compositions that juxtaposed interesting backgrounds with our portrait subjects. This meant that I was putting up light stands with their attendant sand bags. The light stands held battery powered mono-lights powerful enough to provide enough exposure to match full sun. Even with a modifier in front of the light source. The composition was careful and exact and the lighting position critical so the super fast autofocusing was not required, in fact, some of the images I preferred manually focusing to get the plane of focus exactly where I wanted it. Having a camera with an EVF was more critical to me.
In fact, in most of my jobs it's the same idea. A system with a good feedback system (pre-chimping) holds value for me while a super fast frame rate or super fast focusing is more or less meaningless; after having reached a level of sufficiency for the work I do.
And, for most shooters, the differential between focusing speed and accuracy sets up its own value matrix which is subject to the operators' needs or preferences. I would rather every focusing engagement favor accuracy over speed. With portraits the accuracy of a good eye detect AF feature is priceless.
So, for every public event photographer you see who is sporting the older DSLR tech there is likely at least a one to one ratio of other photographers whose work prioritizes other camera strengths. For a long while Panasonic was my top choice because their implementation of video was so much better than their competitors. Now others are catching up (see the Fuji X-T3). My current happiness with Fuji is that their files, straight out of camera, make for better theater images and better portrait --- at least to my color taste. But for a lot of work out on location the benefits of industry leading image stabilization from Olympus and Panasonic may be of much greater importance.
Look in the small backpack of travel photographers like James Popsys and chances are you'll be much more likely to find smaller format mirrorless systems because they deliver great files while also helping to meet the vagaries of airline restrictions as well as being comfortable enough to carry and shoot with all day long. Gone are the days when the full frame cameras were the first choice for travel. They left along with the last couple inches of airline seat width and the implementation of extra baggage charges.
The bottom line is that change comes at a snail's pace even when most of the users of a technology understand the advantages of the newer systems. It's the reason city only commuters continue to buy big SUVs to drive to work and to leave parked all day in sun baked parking lots only to drive back home through traffic over the same 15 average miles and the 45 minutes it takes instead of investing in hybrid or all electric cars. Even though they'd save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on gas.
So, the next time you are punishing yourself by watching sports on TV and you find yourself searching the on screen shots of the photo media for what kind of cameras they might be using remember that this cohort of photographers is very small and very specialized and, if you are at all like me, they don't shoot the same way we do or for the same targets. Then take a moment to realize that life is happening all around you while you are watching someone else do something healthy on TV and that your are also shortchanging our own ability to decide your own camera choices by making unequal comparisons with low paid sports workers. Turn the stupid TV off and either grab the camera you carefully researched and enjoy using and head outside, or get those walking shoes all warmed up and ready for action.
Nothing good comes from watching television. And, as Karl Marx once said, "Televised Sports is the opiate of the masses."
We don't all drag desktop computers with us all over town anymore....
Not the we ever did
usually all the lighting gear is much more important than which type of camera you will use to get the shot. Imagination and experience being the two most important parameters.
Lighting trumps cameras. Sandbags make us safe.
Big equipment is not agile. Or fun to drive.
My old Mamiya Six had no motor, no autofocus and no zoom lenses. I actually had to think about making photographs.
Contax G2 with the 21mm lens. Mirrorless? You bet.
Sharks move constantly or they die.
I'd rather be a shark than dead.