#467. Mirrorless. Full frame. Nikon F mount. Any time you’re ready.

By Paul Perton | Opinion

Mar 30

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As is often the case, an e-mail sparked these thoughts.

 

This one arrived from Bob Hamilton, in response to a note and a photograph shot using my new X-Pro2 coupled to my much loved Zeiss 25mm Biogon. It wasn’t an especially exciting image, taken on the bay at one end of the village where I live – mainly to see how the Fuji processed colour and whether the new X-Pro was any better than the previous model at accommodating legacy lenses.

 

The colour is lovely, but sadly, the Biogon still produced gently blurry lower corners. A crop might save the image, or perhaps a smaller aperture – as this shot was taken before sunrise, I think a bit more light might be necessary first, however.

 

Bob and I batted some mails back and forth, mainly asking and answering questions only photographers ask.

 

I’m really happy with my Fujis, although I could perhaps have done without buying yet more lenses. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I realised recently that I was feeling beaten by my low success rate with my clutch of legacy manual focus lenses and wanted a significant improvement. A desire that I felt could only be defined by a move to autofocus glass. So be it.

 

Yesterday, prepping for next week’s DearSusan Paris workshop, I went cupboard diving for some additional inspiration and possible visual interest. And there they sit; Nikon lenses, three pro-level zooms, new(ish) auto focus lenses and a group of trusty, well used and decades old manual focus non-AIs.

 

Why can’t I use those?

 

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Because I don’t want to haul any kind of DSLR around on an aeroplane any more. Flying has become increasingly stressful and challenging and I’m more than aware that my imminent arrival and subsequent departure from one of Europe’s great capitals is likely to be fraught to say the least.

 

That’s the simple story. The longer version is that I don’t want to be trying to shoot on the street with a ludicrously large camera, that will put people to flight as soon as I haul it out of my bag – no pocket hiding for these beasts. I want Nikon to make a full frame mirrorless camera that will accept as many of my lenses as possible, without breaking my back, or the tentative bond of trust that exists on the street between photographer and subject.

 

I don’t want a toy DSLR with a sensor smaller than a pinkie nail. I don’t want to have adaptors for my lenses. The F mount has done sterling service for decades and if it continues to work on modern DSLRs, I see no reason why it shouldn’t continue to work on a modern mirrorless system.

 

Change the mount and you’ve lost me as a customer, no matter what intentions I might have for buying the next-generation D8XX.

 

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Nope. I want an F mount, mirrorless, full frame. What should it look like? Be made of? Weather proof? Have as a maximum ISO? I don’t know and right now don’t much care. Reported new camera sales are down another 20% in recent months, while Sony, Fuji et al are guzzling down Canikon’s lunch. Yet neither Nikon nor Canon seem to have stirred themselves to stem the haemorrhaging. Shedding mainstream business, watching margins narrow and failing to respond only leads to one place. The bean counters who will inevitably then proselytise about mergers and minimising overheads should be made to take a look at the devastated and up for sale (again) British steel industry this morning.

 

So, either they know something we don’t or get ready to migrate – at this rate, we won’t have a many choices open to us the next time GAS strikes.

 

The images used here? Just a collection shot in France, Spain, Canada and the US. These are street images – a full frame mirrorless F mount camera will deliver at least this quality, with legacy (and new) lenses in a package small enough to allow me to disappear on the street. Please.

 


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  • philberphoto says:

    Haha, you’ve done it again, Paul! Soon, you’ll have me and my penile boat anchor a.k.a. Otus 55 feeling like I’m driving a gas guzzler, guilt trip included. It will be interesting how we fare together on the DS workshop, but I have a leg up on you. I’ve contracted for a model to join us on one afternoon. And, being a professional model, she can’t object to large cameras and lenses. Actually, being more used to studio gear than to compact mirrorless, she might even wonder about, you know, small extensions…:-)

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    You are preaching to the choir, with this one, Paul. Ming said much the same a short while back. I said it in my comments on your XPro2 article. You’re saying it. And undoubtedly your Kiwi friend was saying something like that, to you.

    I am NOT going to junk my lenses. I selected them with care, and frankly can’t see myself ever being able to find the cash it would take to replace them. They will have to see me through the rest of my time on this planet. Tough, lens makers – you’ve had your share of my loot. I’m old, haven’t had a job in years, and I’m NOT going to go to my camera store and tell them the latest $5 grand whatever-to-600mm is a “must have” (unlike the grey haired old age pensioner who stood beside me recently and did exactly that – while his poor wife looked as though she needed smelling salts!)

    So give it your best shot. Try selling me a mirrorless compact with a decent sensor, that takes Nikon F.2 mounts, has an ELV and a couple of other viewfinders (including live view), a decent rangefinder (I sadly miss the one I had in my Zeiss Contarex and I DON’T think the spots floating around in most of the AF setups in DSLRs are any sensible substitute – try using the stupid spots with a sensitive manual focus glass!) I get to have two cards, I can shoot RAW if I want to. I don’t have to have a moire filter if I don’t want to use it (dunno if those things can be turned on & off, but I don’t have much use for them and they detract from the image if you don’t need one). And talk to me before you launch it, I’m sure there are a few other details I’ve missed for the moment.

    PS – don’t wait till the super thin lenses they’ve invented at the Australian National University in Canberra give the folk at Apple & Samsung the opportunity to totally outgun you with miniaturized bazookas that can outperform you at every turn.

  • Marc Contaxtonikon says:

    I’m afraid the train has already left the station for CANIKON…
    After moving from the Nikon D700 to the Sony A7II in order to enable myself to take my collection of CONTAX Zeiss glass out of storage, I quickly ditched anything I had with Nikon on it and never turned back.
    I never felt the impulse to upgrade to anything beyond the D700 and came back to manual focussing real fast… The reunion with the Zeiss glass brought a lot of joy back into my photography that I was missing with the plasticy Nikon lenses

  • David Mack says:

    Last year about this time, I sent a detailed letter to Nikon USA, in New York. The letter outlined in some detail the path of self destruction Nikon Corp was headed down. Briefly; asking their dealers to eat 20% of the cash back sales and take the remaining 80% in store credit for more merchandise; Competing against their own dealers with Nikon direct sales; Allowing only a 5% profit margin on camera sales; Cessation of providing parts to independent shops; Finding every excuse to not honor warranty promises, especially with the all inclusive “it was dropped” clause; failure to acknowledge the market place change to mirrorless technology, Failure to acknowledge some the new gear failures, ie D600 fiasco with lubrication problems, and make it right with some credit for next purchase of the D610 that fixed the problems. Each of these points documented with some details.
    Their response: A litany of excuses, not once acknowledging any of the issues. For example, direct competition on the basis of customers who may not live close to a camera store, not recognizing they are disappearing because of company policies.
    So, what to do? I could start by selling off all of my gear and switching over to Sony before Nikon bites the dust. Since I do wildlife, I need at least 10 fps and long lenses. I already use fuji for street work, XT1, but it is slow on and focus. Great pic/color however. My friend Michael Mariant of High Sierra Workshops, did that very thing several years ago and keeps asking me why I haven’t made the switch. I must admit one bias, I like the way the DSLR feels in my hand and the quick action it provides.

  • Bob Hamilton says:

    Paul,
    You know my views – views that come from a dedicated Leicaphile (or is that phobe?).
    Sony, if it hasn’t already, is about to blow the opposition out of the water. The A7r2, for all but sports and wildlife Pros, is 95% there and the next (probably professional grade) iteration of that system will complete the boot in the gonads to Canon and Nikon and, sadly, also to Leica.
    The A7r2, with the Batis and Loxia lenses, in particular, is a formidable photographic weapon and, in my opinion, betters the quality of output I am able to obtain from my Leica S type 7 in a package costing one 6th of the price, weighing less than half the weight and being much easier to use in real life shooting situations.
    Leica have seen the light, as evidenced by the SL, and will probably not develop the S any further (o me miserum…!!!) and Canon and Nikon, unless a miracle happens, are about to be left at the starting blocks.
    Confirmation, if needed, is in the way Zeiss is supporting the FE mount and in the obvious realisation of Sony that higher grade (G Master) lenses are needed if the full potential of future cameras is to be realised.
    I’ve sold my Leica M system and am on the cusp of doing likewise with my S system, actions I wouldn’t have contemplated a few years ago.
    Forget Nikon and either stick with Fuji or move to Sony is my advice.
    Bob

  • MurphyWasAnOptimist says:

    Paul,
    Your photographs are the perfect illustration of a truth I hate to acknowledge: with a true artist, it’s the craft not the tools.
    You may want a Nikon sans-mirror, you certainly don’t need it; to humble us, your Fuji is plenty enough.

    Having said that, when was the last time when Nikon gave us exactly what we needed and wanted, in the form of what we needed and wanted? For me, it was the D700, and that was shamefully late, and when it came I couldn’t afford it, and when I could afford it, gone, and half-obsolete.
    So, barring a Photokina miracle: lasciate ogni speranza…

    My ancient Nikkors and Zeiss ZF (and ZM, and Leitz and Voigtländer in M mount) are now seeing more varied service than ever before, no thanks to Nikon (nor Leica), but to the thoroughly precise ingenuity and solid engineering of a stolidly Swabian firm in the stolidly picturesque Swabian town of Memmingen, since 1803 a Bavarian possession through Napoléon’s entremise. The firm’s name will be familiar: Novoflex.

    • Paul Perton says:

      D700. Yes. I shot pretty much all of the DearSusan InSight: Copenhagen guide with mine and just a 28/50 pre-Ai Nikkor lens combination.

      Sigh.

  • Birger says:

    I Second that. I have a pretty complete collection of Nikon stuff that is too old to sell and too good to trash. Big cameras and heavy bags used to be great … ’til they broke my back. After waiting for ages, I bought an A7 to be busy while Nikon is fiddling with the satnav to find a way out. Actually, I really like the camera and photography is fun again. With two or three lenses in a small bag on a belt I’m all set, most of the time. That’s stealthy, unabtrusive and always ready for action. AF would be handy every now and then but I doubt than Nikon would support the old-fashioned mechanical AF in a new family of cameras. On the other hand, AF-S lenses are too big to get away with a small bag. And I hate those cheesy gold markings.

    Photography is as popular as never before. So, what are they waiting for? Are they waiting, are they developing, or do they realize that the market for big(ger) cameras is declining and there might not be enough market share left for three or four companies doing pretty much the same? Sony is on a roll but it does not need to stay that way. They have quite a few battles that keep them busy. On the other hand, we might see some disruptive advances in technology within a couple of years, that could change photography in the way we do it today.

    Right now, I don’t see enough reason to invest heavily in any new system.

  • Steve says:

    Most of this thread is way over my head – Batis, Biogon, Loxia, might as well be washing machines to me. I did have a Nikon D600 and a couple of lenses but Nikon screwed me with the lubrication of the sensor and in a fit of pique I sold the lot and went Olympus E-M1 and have just added an E-M5 MKii, mainly for the fully articulated screen. Manual focus? Why would I? That means I have to use my glasses to stand any chance of getting it right, even with magnification and focus peaking. (Have you tried using vari-focals with a viewfinder. I need a chiropractor on stand-by)

    The autofocus is fast and gets it right more often than I do manually. Select a point or tap the screen depending on situation. It just works. Yes, I know the sensor is the size of a finger nail so I probably will lose definition for all those prints I put on the sides of buses. Shame.

    Nikon and Canon are already dead; they just haven’t noticed yet. Remember, Nokia, Kodak, Blackberry, Dec etc. They all thought they were special but their market dominance disappeared overnight. The facade looked great but the pesky termites had eaten away the core and down they went. I have no idea what cameras will be like in ten years time but I am absolutely certain Nikon and Canon won’t be leading the charge. I’m not sure it will be Sony, Olympus or Panasonic either!

  • Taffy says:

    Something like an X-T1, but with a ‘mirror box’, minus the mirror. Enough flange distance for Nikon F lenses, on a body like a shrunken, simplified Df. I made a Photoshop mockup, inspired by this post – if I could add images I would. But you are definitely on to something.

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