#748. Monday Post (9 July 2018) – Nikon’s mirrorless – will they, won’t they?

By Paul Perton | Monday Post

Jul 09


It would seem that Nikon is finally going to lift the veil on their mirrorless camera(s). They’re arriving at the station several years after most of the rest of the industry’s trains left and unless they’ve spent more time on beta testing and QA, it’s pretty likely the new cameras the world has been holding it’s collective breath for, will also spray oil, have wonky viewfinders and won’t focus correctly.


And, before you go writing nasty things to me about my attitude, I’ll remind you (once again) that I’ve been a Nikon user since 1974 and still have every item of Nikon equipment I’ve bought since then.


I still use quite a lot of it, too.





So, why am I being so pissy?


How long have you got? I’ll keep it simple; I want my camera to accompany me everywhere, not just when I can load my Disco up to the gunwales with a couple of bodies and a lens or two. I’m past an age when I want to drag a 10Kg – 15Kg camera bag through airports, argue about bag weights with check-in clerks and struggle the whole thing into the overhead bin. Charles Atlas I’m not.


Nikon’s market research and management teams have led the company into a bit of a backwater; the D850 is a stunner, but heavy. It’s also turned a lot of heads that thought they’d left the DSLR years behind. But, for every one that has looked long and hard, then flashed some plastic, there must be tens of thousands who have looked and patted their Sonys, Olympuses or Fujis, safe in the knowledge that they have not only state of the art, but kit that won’t also serve as a hotel room exercise dumbbell when they’re on a shoot, stiff and sore from hauling kilogrammes of (by now) unnecessary kit around.





So, will the Nikon deliver technologically?


I think it’s fair to say that this is the company’s last serious throw of the dice before obsolescence and obscurity arrive to drag the carcass away, so it’d better. The rumour mill is suggesting two models; one at the APS-C sweet spot of 24mp and the second a full framer at 45mp.


Are these wild guesses accurate? No idea, but the numbers do make sense, except it seems that Fuji et al is expected to up their APS-C game to around 28mp soon. Too late again Nikon?


Lens mount? Also no idea, but if Nikon expect me to buy a whole bag full of new glass, they can think again. Will there be adaptors for existing F mount lenses? Again, don’t know, but there’d better be and in the box too, not an add-on to spend yet more cash on. I don’t think Sony launched the A7 range expecting a slew of adaptors, capable of seemingly mounting anything from a Zeiss Otus, to Nelson’s telescope. What they did was suck it up and embrace this huge opportunity while they (agonisingly) slowly filled out their own lens line-up with some of the largest, heaviest primes and zooms it is possible to imagine. The M mount owners are still smiling.





Nikon’s announcement is due real soon now and we’ll either be able to exhale, safe in the knowledge that at least some of our wishes have come true, or look sadly at the corpse of what used to be a world-beater. Either way, it won’t be long.



Images this week have been taken in Edinburgh in preparation for my Solo Photo Book Month entry. Most images have been shot with the X-H1 + 16-55 zoom combination, a couple with the do-anything, anywhere X100F.


BTW, SoFoBoMo is a month long 35 image book making project. It’s unburdened by a mass of rules, just a few to guide us all in the right direction and very rewarding it is too. Give it a try?




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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Ouch – as owner of expensive glass with Nikon F mounts, the idea of a faltering Nikon carcass is to horrible to contemplate.

    But I can’t help wondering how a company like Nikon landed where it is. One thing on my wish list is a tele lens that I can use for bird & wild life photography, and things like shots of the moon. For an FF Nikon. And all the camera shops can do is shake their heads. Of course it gets to be OK if you have a couple of African porters to carry your gear, and a budget of $15 or $25 grand for a lens you don’t use every day . . . Someone flung this mantra in my face a long time back – “we all go to the devil on our own terms” – and it applies just as much to a manufacturer of photographic equipment as it does to the rest of us.

    Right now I am aware** of several things allegedly in the pipeline, that could materialise in the course of the next 12-24 months, and change the face of “photography” as I know it (Cameras and stuff). So any major decisions by the main players out there right now had better be soundly based commercial decisions. “Or else” is hanging over their heads!

    **[No use asking – I was sworn to secrecy on one of them – the other is my mind turning over several recent disclosures, to form my own opinion as to what two of them are playing at – and if I am right, it will shake the rafters in some quarters]

  • Frank Field says:

    Love the “light & shadow” images you’ve included with the post. Excellent seeing and captures, every image.

    Nikon and Canon are instantiations of the “Innovators Dilemma,” first described by Clayton Christensen (Harvard Business School) in his 1997 book with that title. Companies that lead in generation “N” of a technology never lead in generation “N+1.” Christensen showed this to be true across a very wide range of industries — not high tech alone. Those generation N leaders become too wedded to their existing, profitable products and continue to iterate, usually adding marginal features, always complexity and cost. In cameras, we’ve had two generations come along: the smartphone and the mirrorless interchangeable lens body. The new generation products usually are not technically superior to the older generation but are, in fact, good enough for most customers uses and generally come at a lower price point or at much improve convenience.

    I think your idea of the F-mount lens adaptor included in the box is the absolutely right idea. I doubt that Nikon is up to it. Instead, I expect them to play the game they’ve played with several telephoto lenses in the last few years: the tripod mount is a high-priced, under-performing option.

    I’ve been a Nikon user since 1984. The quality of their products, the stability of the F-mount, and switching costs have been among the reasons I’ve stuck with Nikon. Now retired, I’m looking for “lighter, simpler” solutions, too. To that end I’m currently shooting D750 bodies (carbon fiber monocoque construction reduces weight nicely) and, believe it or not, AI-S manual focus lenses. While the AI-S lenses were generally built to last, they are compact, almost uniformly use 52mm filters, and light weight compared to any modern zoom and even compared to the current primes Nikon is selling. I can hang a D750 with an AI-S prime around my neck and wear it all day long an not be bothered. Not so if I use almost any current Nikon lens. Hard to believe that any new “mirrorless offering plus adaptor plus lens” will weigh less or even be markedly more compact.

    I fear that Nikon and Canon are faced with the same situation U.S. luxury automaker Cadillac faced 30 years ago: the average age of their buyers was 68 years old, folks who might buy zero or maybe one more new car. Cadillac has never fully recovered; I’m not sure Nikon or Canon will either.

  • philberphoto says:

    Paul, I beg to differ with your analysis. Sony could have used their Minolta-based A-mount on their mirrorless cameras, yet they chose the more-arduous-and-more-ambitious one of a new mount, a much shorter one. It is this short mount that makes it possible to fit Sony FE cameras with an unparalleled range of glass. Leica laughing? Sony laughing I should say. All the way the to bank, that is.
    If Nikon release their mirrorless with their standard F-mount, sure they’ll have lots of lenses available in native form from the git’go, but that will reduced the mirrorless advantage to its bare minimum. If they release a new, shorter mount, they’ll unlock potential for the future, BUT they will have to redesign a full range of lenses, just as Sony did. It takes time and money. Until then F-mount lenses with adapters are just a stopgap. Needlessly large, heavy and costly ’cause electronic adapters aren’t cheap, and passive ones rob you of EXIF, AF and lens stabilisation.
    There is no free lunch ahead for NIkon, methinks!

  • Georg says:

    Nice images, Paul. As always.

  • Brian says:

    Generally the first model out in a new technology category is a closer to a prototype (Sony A7R, Hasselblad X1D, Fuji X Pro, and so on). So you may want to wait for the third model iteration before you get excited and get your plastic out or move to a more mature brand and get on with photography

  • Steffen says:

    Nikon had had enough time to focus on execution. If not this model, the overall idea should better be tempting, as the hard work is already done by Sony (they just buy the tech).

    I’d like to see a modern F2 or dF.

  • Adrian says:

    Everyone seems to have collective amnesia. Nikon made a mirrorless camera system, but it was damned by the feint praise of “photographers” and the internet who failed to understand it because it didnt do what *they* wanted it to do or be.

    The Nikon 1 system was predominantly aimed at consumers and casual “photographers” who shoot in P mode (i.e. Armies of middle aged men with a camera). It had lightening fast focusing and would shoot at 20-30 fps so was ideal for photos of progeny, it metered very well, and it was fitted with Nikons fastest processor.

    Arguably it was Nikons most innovative camera in years, we’ll engineered and capable. No big dorky styling, excessive weight, focus issues in live view, hobbled video functionality, oil splattering, sensor failures and all the other issues that have plagued them and the issues of trying to make an SLR be good at things for which a camera with a flapping mirror was never intended.

    It failed badly.

    A new mirrorless system will need a news lens mount, or be totally hobbled by SLR lenses unsuited to mirrorless operation. Without the heritage of the Nikon mount, it’s going to have to be really really good… But then Canons EOS M was a still born and still manages to be #1 in the Japanese domestic market in spite of lack of lens choices and accessories.

    Brand sells… But Nikon isn’t as ubiquitous as Canon, nor has the cachet of Leica.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Thanks, Adrian – excellent comment, and very informative 🙂

    • Dan Petolescu says:

      I still have my Nikon 1 system – great little cameras, well ahead of their time. Unfortunately Nikon crippled their software – where is my bracketing? – and sold them at prices on par with the D7100, when their manufacturing cost as well as the performance were significantly lower than said D7100. Brilliant technology, awful marketing.

      And on top of everything, it looks like Nikon is run now by banks with a total disregard to the user base. Yes, they reached a turning point: it is do or die (aka shrink into non-relevance) this year.

      Contrary to what most people are saying around here, I think that if they will not create a full frame mirrorless which uses F-mount, Sony will eat their lunch.

      • Adrian says:

        If Nikon could make a mirrorless system with the ability of the 1 system but with an APS-C sensor and a control system better suited to enthusiasts, it would be excellent, as the 1 cameras were so performant, but unappealing to enthusiasts (who they weren’t really aimed at) because of their controls and features.

        Ironically, in the UK, the prices the bodies settled at was very fair (around the £200-400 area), and I always enjoyed using my V1 and later J1, but the sensor size was always the limiting factor for any serious use as I tend to photograph a lot of available light.

        I am convinced that for most consumers and casual / enthusiast photographers, a 1″ sensor camera can meet most of all of their needs, which is why systems like the 1 and the Sony RX10 and RX100 series are potentially so appealing. Alas, the internet and reviewers often fail to understand real world user needs outside of the professional and “hard core” enthusiast market, and so damn such cameras with feint praise and criticism about things that won’t bother any of their potential purchasers.

        Nikon for so much right with the 1, but poor marketing (or possibly press releases to the industry) an ambitious pricing created a bad image from the beginning, and the system never really seemed to recover from it.

  • jean pierre {pete} guaron says:

    Oh, dear! In the meantime, Nik has released details of its new compact. Nik produced one with a 0-900mm zoom, Sony countered with one that went to 1200mm, and Nik has now decided to retaliate by producing one with a 3000mm zoom, so you can shoot the Man in the Moon. I bet he can hardly wait!

    Unfortunately they all use one of those 1 & 2/3rds sensors. My wife’s compact has one, too, and it drives me nuts during PP. My only attempt to try a Nik cam with a similar sensor has fallen into disuse and is gathering dust in a cupboard. With the best will in the world, I can’t see anything in them going much beyond snapshots – I’m sure Pascal will tell us they aren’t anywhere near as good as modern cellphones (about from the glass dripping off the front).

    And sorry Nik, but Sony has better sensors. So I am left wondering – WHY did you choose to do this, straight after going through a very rough patch, financially? It’ll only work on high volume sales, and apart from the 3000mm lens, the rest of the cam is no match for the billions of smartphones out there. I hope for Nik’s sake I’m wrong – I don’t want them hitting any MORE rough patches, while I’m shooting with lenses that have a Nikon F mount.

  • Bob Hamilton says:

    The only true, and major, advantage for full frame mirrorless over the dinosaur, DSLR alternatives lies in the EVF and the myriad of customisable and incredibly useful, if not essential, tools that introduces to the viewing, exposing, white balance, focusing, etc equation. Other than the use of new materials in the construction of lenses (as in the soon to be released Sony FE 400mm f2.8 GM lens), if anyone thinks that a similarly specified lens for Sony full frame, for example, versus the current CaNikon equivalents, is going to be meaningfully lighter or more compact, they need to reacquaint themselves with the laws of physics and the image circle diameter needed to cover that size of sensor.
    Despite loving my Sony A9 and A7R3 for what they are able to do for me photographically, to make the image taking process as easy as possible and, setting my skills or their lack aside, almost guarantee perfect results, especially with their superb autofocus systems, I am under no illusions that the only “true” mirrorless systems are those with sensors smaller than full frame and, in particular, the Micro Four Thirds system, where the real benefit of that smaller sensor diameter is seen in the comparative lightness and compactness of the lenses, even those of a focal length and speed whose full frame comparatives would be monstrous.
    I’ll finish with this thought…..think how small the lenses for a Micro Four Thirds DSLR could be….!!!!

    • Adrian says:

      Bob, I agree with your first paragraph, but don’t entirely agree with the second one. Alas, if you look at the “enthusiast” bodies that Olympus makes, and then add the more professionally oriented lenses, they often have a fairly marginal weight benefit over APS-C. The same is true for APS-C over full frame – just compare a Fuji X-T1 or worse the X-H1 with their 50-140mm f2.8 lens with say an A7 and their 70-200mm f4 lens, and there really isn’t much difference. APS-C at f2.8 and full frame at F4 are going to offer broadly the same DOF, and broadly the same noise management, so image quality is going to largely be the same. The added benefit of a large sensor is that if you do use faster lenses, you get better image quality as light levels fall. Even the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 doesn’t save much weight over full frame f4 lenses, yet offers about 2 stops less sensor performance. In the end, everyone has to make their own choice, and certainly m43rds with small primes can save size and weight, but only at the expense of low light performance and control of DOF. The issue of weight isn’t really one of mirror vs mirrorless, but of format size and lens speed.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I’ve never had the opportunity to PP any shots taken on a micro 4/3 sensor. As I’ve just mentioned, I’m weary of trying with the smaller 1/2.3. And although I do have a 1″ sensor Canon, I much prefer the larger sensors. The micro 4/3 is much smaller than those, but still a bit smaller than the HF sensor – and miles smaller than FF.
    Seems to me that if your sensor isn’t up to the task, you don’t get the colours right – you get more digi noise – the dynamic range is less satisfactory, in both the shadows and the highlights – and image sharpness won’t be there. That’s a hell of a lot to give away, for the sake of convenience.

    • Bob Hamilton says:

      My take, Pete, is that, unless you regularly need to print above A2 size or are in the habit of cropping images severely, the smaller formats, such as APS-C and M43 are probably more than adequate for the needs of over 90% of photographers, most of whose images are rarely seen other than on a computer screen.
      I’m only smitten by the Sony A9 for my wildlife photography because of its unbelievably good autofocus system which is so far ahead of anything else I’ve used to date. If that weren’t the case, I’d more than likely stick with Fuji APS-C or migrate to something even more compact, such as Olympus.
      I don’t think there’s a huge issue now with noise or dynamic range in the smaller formats. The Fuji cameras are certainly the equal of the Sony A9 in those respects and, having seen full resolution files taken by a friend on his Olympus OM-D E-M1, I would say that it is not in any way noticeably inferior.
      There’s always a compromise to be made but I feel that we’re now at the point, in terms of “real world” image quality, where you can have your cake and eat it.
      The real point I was trying to make is that, other than the camera itself, where the difference is minor, full frame mirrorless equipment is, for the most part, and can never be, no more compact or lighter than its DSLR cousins, with the benefits coming in flexibility and ease and consistency of use.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        “In for a penny, in for a pound” – a news release I read during the week described a senior exec of Nikon as saying it’s going to be – and it’s going to be full frame, because they see no point in making it any smaller. Maybe they’ve been reading over my shoulder, when I’ve suggested that cellphones are taking out the “mini” market and what’s left is the “serious ‘togs” market. But I don’t think they/we always want to shoot full frame. For my purposes, I range between 1″ and upwards – and I suspect I’d mean “four-thirds and upwards, if I’d ever tried on. Convenience is one issue – but quality is essential, and it seems to me that with current sensor technology, you can’t have both – the cut off is probably really the 4/3rds sensor, and too bad about my 1” job.
        That said – people chasing mirrorless seem to me to be going more for convenience than image quality, and would likely be happier with HF or 4/3rds than FF. Unless Nik wants to produce one of each – which mightn’t be a bad idea, considering how many of the Nik faithful out there have HF glass, and how upset someone like me would be if there wasn’t an FF model – I am reluctantly** driven to the conclusion that going ONLY full frame with their mirrorless might be a*** mistake.
        **[putting my personal preferences to one side, to reach a more objective and less personal conclusion 🙂 ]
        *** “yet another”
        Whatever they get up to, I do hope they find it in their heart to use their traditional F mount. Telling me I can’t use my existing Nikon-mount glass on it would be a disastrous entry into the mirrorless market IMO****
        **** [Not “IMHO” – Leo’s don’t have those, and as I’ve said before, I’m a Leo 🙂 ]

        • Adrian says:

          the market for cameras with anything smaller than 1″ sensors is basically dead. The only advantage small sensor cameras can have over phones is zoom range, but the cameras are often fitted with useless slow aperture designs that undermine any benefit they may have by requiring higher ISOs which ruin image quality.

          1″ seems to be a sweet spot between small size (e.g. RX100, Nikon J1) and a significant improvement in image quality over phones. I am positive that for most consumers who want a camera, and lots and lots of auto mode casual “Photographers”, a 1″ sensor camera is all they need, probably with a fixed lens.

          The reason that Nikon, Canon an Sony are developing their full frame models more than their smaller sensor models is simply because the death of the compact camera market is slowly spreading up the ranges as fewer and fewer people want a camera. All 3 manufacturers are retreating more and more to the professional and serious enthusiast market of full frame because it’s profitable enough in spite of low volume sales to make a business – but how long that will last really isn’t clear.

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