Never say never. It was as though both Canon and Nikon swore they would never go mirrorless. At least, not for “serious” cameras. They did have mirrorless offerings, but clearly pitched below anything that could cost them any sales of their beloved DSLRs.
Well that is about to end. Nikon, the weaker of the 2 by market share, is relenting, and will introduce a FF mirrorless on August 23rd. They have already published 4 teaser videos , the first of which is here: . Sony’s monopoly (not counting Leica, who are in a different price category altogether) is coming to an end. Or is it?
Because, while Canon and Nikon were asleep at the mirrorless wheel, Sony has made great strides. They now publish this:
Sony’s latest “entry-level” Alpha, the A7III, has been really well received, both critically and by customers. That presents Nikon with a difficult dilemna. Either aggressively go after Sony and thus risk eating into its own DSLR sales, or protect its bread-winning line, and be less -than-relentless in their pursuit of mirrorless business. Heads you lose. Tails you lose, it seems.
This all the more so as (a) Nikon buy their sensors from Sony, which means they get no competitive advantage there, (b) Sony are up to their third iteration of FF mirrorless, and have garnered valuable experience in the process, and (c) Nikon will introduce a new mount, the Z-mount, which means it needs to release completely new lenses, which takes lots of time and money, or compete with adapted lenses, which negates many of the mirrorless’ advantanges.
But there are some positives too, lest this begin to look like an obtuary for Nikon’s Z6 and Z7 cameras even before they are announced.
First, Nikon know all of this. So it is reasonable to assume that they have an appropriate response ready. What could they have up their sleeve? Well there have been rumours of a 58mm f:0,95 noct-Nikkor and pics of a 58mm f:1.2, both in Z-mount. That is something that Sony don’t have, but such niche lenses are certainly not enough to support a new camera line.
One interesting feature the teasers show is a large-diameter mount. Larger than the Sony E-mount. Why would that be? Wouldn’t that make lenses wider, thus larger and heavier than necessary? So there is speculation, though I don’t believe it, that this new Z-mount is wide enough to cover not only a full-frame sensor, but also a small medium-format one.. Hmmmm…… tempting, if true. But not likely, because it would mean yet another set of lenses, and Nikon, unlike Pentax or Hasselblad, don’t have a trove of legacy MF lenses. That would also mean going up-market from the present D 850 flagship. Hmmmm….. not likely.
Of course, one can speculate that Nikon will imbue its mirrorless (the Z6 is supposed to offer 24Mp, and the Z7 45Mp ) with all the things that Sony don’t do to everyone’s satisfaction. Like signal processing, colour depth, lossless RAW compression, user interface, weather sealing…. Yup, I’ll buy that. Nikon are good at those things.
One thing Nikon aren’t (so far) good at and that they need to improve if they are to succeed in the mirroless space is video. Sony are really good at it, Panasonic are very good at it. And IBIS, which Nikon have eschewed up to now, but which is standard fare for mirrorless.
But there were rumours, maybe a year ago, purportedly from Nikon, that “when their mirrorless came out, it would be ground-breaking”. Which would suggest that Nikon were not asleep at all, but feverishly working on “the next step”. And what would that be?
My money is on in-camera processing. In-camera distortion and vignetting correction. In camera multi-shot merger, allowing focus-stacking and HDR, and emulating ND filters, all of which would work only/best with Nikon/native lenses (smart from Nikon’s point of view). Camera connection to smartphones. Posting on social networks.
On a more personal note, I came back to photography at the prodding of my younger brother, who at the time shot a Nikon D200. For convoluted reasons, whereas it had been agreed I would also buy Nikon, I bought a Canon 40D, and we could never swap lenses, which still grates with him. A couple of months ago, he bought a Sony A7III and a set of fine lenses. You will note that I haven’t (yet) bought another camera and built a system. Let’s say that Nikon come out with something attractive enough for me to buy my soul back from Sony and Zeiss and get a Nikon. That would make for one unhappy camper!
Speculation ends on August 23, and gear should hit the stores for demos at or around that date. More soon. But one thing is sure: competition is good for customers. There are already rumors that Sony are ready to respond to whatever Nikon release, and Canon as well, who will eventually join the party, possibly even as early as the next Photokina in September.
#830. Monday Post (11 March 2019) – Have you lost interest yet?
#824. Monday Post (25 Feb. 2019)- From multi-lens platforms to multi-platform lenses (back to the MP roots)
#760. Nikon Z6 & Z7 : Criticism and praise!
#748. Monday Post (9 July 2018) – Nikon’s mirrorless – will they, won’t they?
#596. Why am I such a bokeh slut?
#376. Why DSLRs are deader than a doornail for top-quality photography
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Thanks Philippe, really interesting post. What if Nikon went leaf shutter? Reading your lines just triggered that thought in my mind. If you’re a company that doesn’t want its customers to use lenses from other brands and you’re having to start from scratch a new lens line, … it kind of makes sense to think laterally. This would gain them at least 3 stops of stabilisation, too. And in smaller lenses than the X1D’s, it may be possible to have speeds up to 1/3000s or 1/4000s. So, not too far away from the current Sony max. Add electronic shutter, good signal processing … and you could have and X1D for the “masses” at under 3 grand. We can dream until the 23rd, right 😉 ?
You are so right, Pascal, that would be a way for Nikon to not hurt its DSLR business, which has been so far one of their priorities. Unfortunately, it would also assign the new cameras to a very small market niche, and one where they would get no help from third-party lens vendors. So it would be a great way to produce the greatest camera that never was….
Settle down Pascal, you will only do yourself an injury! Besides the Sony/Zeiss A mount D-Icon might be announced before the Nikon is available; oh sorry I am not helping am I.
I think we can bet anything that Sony currently have a cupboard full of working prototypes that cover variations for body size shape and ergonomics, plus a few other innovations, and they will keep their powder dry till an announcement on their own terms and optimum timing.
I hope that Nikon produce a viable alternative system, that actually is an alternative rather than a me-too product in a DSLR-ish body. If they do not announce an M mount adapter and cooperation with other lens manufactures (Zeiss at least), I will not be able to take them seriously. Not that I will be in that price bracket if or when I purchase a new camera.
Oh come on, a boy can dream, right ? 😀
Wow, a D-Ikon. Now *that* would be something to take my mind off the X1D.
Nikon, in the past decade, have provided incremental updates and been very conservative. It would be so nice to see them rise from their relative ashes with something distinctly “different”. Not necessarily better (Sony seem completely un-cacthable on technological grounds), just very different and opening up a different philosophy. When you think about it, Sony A7 cameras are basically DSLRs with easier focusing and a wider range of adapted lenses. I would love for Nikon to reboot this concept completely. It will be sooo very disappointing if their mirrorless is just a copy of the A7III …
As a Nikon user, I am simply going to “watch this space”.
A different mount? – and an adapter for existing lenses? – thrilling! – my Otus lenses are shrieking with the excitement of it all – no doubt the adapter will destroy their current advantage over a Sigma ART, but the Sigma will be hit the same way.
In camera processing? Yes, no and maybe. What I do with distortion correction, focus stacking and “grad filter” post processing couldn’t possibly be done in a camera – not even at a theoretical level. “Beads for the natives!”
And in the meantime, admire your photos, Philippe. What on earth are all those percussion instruments doing in the middle of a pond? And what’s the butterfly, above the bird, at the start of the article.
Ooops – mea culpa – I left out one word – the first sentence in the last paragraph should read ” . . . I admire your photos . . . .” (In french or italian, that’d be obvious, from the form of the verb. Still struggling with this language!)
Once again you have given us flower images that you can sink into. In fact when I first read the article at lunch today I had to take extra time to look at each image.
I think you have an interesting perspective of the new Nikon mirror-less camera. Though I would like to provide a counterpoint to some of your comments.
On the positive side, Nikon will need to be aggressive in how they position and market the new cameras vs. the comparable Sony, and ultimately Canon. They will need to play up everything that makes the new cameras a “NIKON” and why that is better than the alternatives. Otherwise they risk admitting that the new camera is an “Also Ran.” In addition, they need to trumpet the benefits of mirror-less and what that can do for your photography that the other options, including Nikon DLSRs do not. They need to be as aggressive about this as Hewlett Packard (HP) was in marketing new generations of printers. In short, to paraphrase HP, Nikon can’t be afraid of eating their-own lunch. Otherwise, someone else (i.e. Sony) will.
A larger lens mount does not necessarily mean the lenses will be larger. But a larger lens mount allows more weight and torque to be transferred to/from the camera body, it provides more internal area for mounting electronic contacts, and it increases the options available to the lens designers in general. It also makes adapting your existing lenses easier, and maintaining the exclusivity of your new lenses.
On the other hand, you are probably correct, the new lenses will probably be larger than we are used to seeing in the DSLR world. There has been a general trend that lens elements are getting larger in diameter. Part of this is an obsession with fast lenses. But I think the underlying reason is a push to make lenses cover more of the sensor with higher quality wide open. It seems that most any lens review includes comments about softness outside the center of the image, vignetting, and how wonderful the Art and Otis series lenses are. So we are in a situation where lens designers are being pushed to provide perfect image quality from corner-to-corner wide open. Since the quality of the image circle is related to the size of the entrance and exit pupils (front and rear lens elements), if we want better corner-to-corner images, the lens diameter has to be big. And if it is going to be big, it may as well be fast. Otherwise who will want to buy one. Not to mention that very fast lenses (f.95 & f1.2) offer something extra to a lens line up by being lust worthy.
Which now brings us to the speculation that Nikon might be considering the use of the mini-medium format sensor. While I don’t think Nikon will try such a camera right away, it is not a bad expansion plan for a time in the future when a 100+ MP sensor would be viable, and there is a need to push into a higher profit category. The lens mount seems to be large enough, and a 44x33mm sensor size is not that much larger than a 35mm FF sensor. So if you are making a new lens line that will provide excellent image quality on FF, why not design them with an image circle that will provide good coverage on the larger sensor away from the center? Then the only variable is what sensor package to install, since you have a common platform and lenses to use. Which can give you a big advantage over Fuji and Hasselblad, since your lens development costs can potentially be spread over a lot more lenses.
There is precedence for this. Back in the film era Nikon had manual focus lenses that would cover the 645 format stopped down. Plus they made lenses for the medium format Plaubel-Makina, and medium and large format view camera lenses. The only challenge is to have the foresight and the will to actually do it.
Finally sensors are the easy part. The Sony sensor division will sell sensors to anyone, and will make custom sensors as well. Since Nikon is probably one of Sony’s largest customers, Sony as a supplier is probably secure. Plus, Nikon has a history of using other sensor suppliers, so Nikon probably will not let themselves be tied to only one supplier for very long.
Unfortunately, Nikon also has some challenges to over come. The first is Nikon’s own attitude about 3rd party products, which may limit their success. Nikon is not the greatest at marketing, so it is likely that they will try to protect their DSLRs. Finally, given Nikon’s recent history of new introductions, it is likely they will have a quality control issue that they will bungle. So there is a lot that remains to be seen.
Good luck in your new camera selection process.
Thanks for the kind words, Paul! I am a bit surprised when you say that a wider mount won’t translate into larger lenses than a narrower one. I am not an engineer, and quite daft at such issues, but my instinct says that, if the flange distance is the same, a wider barrel is heavier, and there is no countervailing benefit in a shorter lens than if the mount were narrover. Am I wrong?
Crunching that down to my level, it’s a description of a company with a board of directors that’s detached from the company’s market, and isn’t sure quite what it’s doing.
I do think it’s “likely” (but by no means certain) that the “camera” manufacturers are losing interest in making smaller cameras. And there’s a growing interest in making larger ones – not that there’s a growing market, but still, their optimism might crank up interest. It might not, too. I lived through the 35mm era, the Polaroid craze, the resuscitation of interest in “two and a quarter square” – and I know how quickly the larger format ed of the market became fully saturated, while 35mm continued to sell. And there are still a few wild cards in that sector, so if it was me running the show, I’d be a bit wary about that sector.
Heading back to FF. At least for the time being, this is surely the major area of the camera market. The one with the biggest margins, the greatest sales of camera bodies, lenses and other accessories. Where most of the pros and serious amateurs click away.
And the survivors in the current upheaval caused by the invasion of cellphones are most likely to be those who concentrate on what they know best, and on doing it well – better than the rest, if possible. Know who they are, what they are, and where they are. And how to do it.
Example – as Pascal knows, I’m in the market for a super telephoto. I shoot Nikon. So what do they do? – one of their lenses is OK for my purposes – at a design level, they’ve done a great job with it. But what about “doing it well”? Here, like so many other things I’ve looked at over the past few years, the trouble starts. Quality control. These companies cannot ask other companies to make this stuff for them, and expect the same quality. The lens I’m looking at, for instance, is publicly written up as “be careful which specimen you get – I tried 3, before I got a good one”. Pardon? What sort of sales pitch is that?
I got dudded with a camera from one manufacturer (which is NEVER going to sell me another product – and that applies to ALL their products, not just their camera division). I’ve read a detail account of the troubles over the lens referred to in the previous paragraph, which is a Nikon tele – AS IF they need any more bad news! I’ve seen an account of one poor guy buying copies of 5 successive models of a camera he loved, from another maker – two copies of one model, apparently, and one each of the other 4 – and they were all defective, because of quality control issues.
The industry really needs to sort itself out. You can’t expect the public to pay high prices for quality gear that’s badly made, and stay in business. It’s that simple. And with the loss of the “cheap” end of the market, the glory days of selling beads to the natives are rapidly disappearing, while we chatter away about the manufacturers and their reactions to change.
Which leaves me with one final thought for each and every one of them – change is the only constant in life – so deal with it!
I feel your pain, Pete. On the one hand, photography is an investment-rich hobby, if one goes for long or top-grade lenses. And on the other, poor service makes one feel trapped and indignant when the manufacturer “in whom we trust” let us down, yet it would be so damnably expensive to up and leave…
This why I am wimpishly waiting for the Nikon and Canon mirrorless offerings before I decide where I will plonk down my hard-earned…
I wish Nikon the greatest success with their new mirrorless endeavor, but….. I’m sitting here with my feeble imagination trying to envision some type of quality or feature on the new mirrorless camera that would make me want to trade in my D800E or my new D850 for one. Or add the new body to my existing kit of multi K $ telephoto lenses.
The Nikon announcement yesterday saying that “F” mount lenses would be adaptable to the new body helped, along with a couple of in-body processing features that I don’t care about. But nothing gets past the fact that it will still have an EVF.
I just don’t believe that EVF, at this stage of development, can compete with the DSLR viewfinder of the current Nikon FF cameras.
Now, mind you, my point of view is coming from one whose passion is photographing small birds and other wildlife. I might be able to “get by” just fine with EVF for other types of photography that do not require the instantly precise target acquisition of small warblers flitting from branch to branch and from bright sunlight to deep shade.
And goodness knows that I, and my quarry, would greatly appreciate the ability to silence that great mirror “kalack blap” that alerts every bird and animal in the area.
So, in summary, I guess I’ll just join the crowd of curious onlookers waiting with bated breath to see the amazing revelations of the 23rd. I sincerely hope they fulfill the hopes built up by the hype because even in my current fit of depression and diminished interest I’m still not immune to GAS. 🙂
I see where you are coming from, Cliff. Optical viewfinders are delightful, whereas EVFs are mostly helpful. If I were (photographically) shooting birds and wildlife, D850 would very probably be my dream camera. That said, the gap is closing IMHO. EVFs get better, whereas OVFs do not. Mirrorless technology offers more and more; for example, the Sony A9 was the first totally silent camera. No noise whatsoever, and no blackout either. How cool is that?
But this is not a religious war. Or even a war at all, with winners and losers. I am happy to see better DSLRs emerge, because they egg mirrorless manufacturers onwards and upwards. Similarly, I’d love to see a great mirrorless offering from Nikon, beacuse that’ll drive a response from Sony, Fuji etc. Good times for the consumer, I’d say.
This is getting more fun by the minute. Are you all familiar with the expression “chucking the hairdryer into the bathtub”? – because that’s starting to be what this looks like.
In the past 48 hours I’ve received an extremely detailed discussion of Nikon’s latest advance/offering/whatever, describing how wonderful lenses will be [?? – don’t they have to make them and have them tested, before such claims are made? – OK, that one’s not Nik’s fault – someone else said it] and concluding that DSLRs will gradually wither and die away, because all future effort at development (and therefore all future improvements in camera bodies or lenses) will be restricted to mirrorless cameras. Hail Z-whoever! Is it just serendipity? – or why was the last letter of the alphabet chosen to “brand” this product, when in the past Nik’s always run with “N”?
Meanwhile, behind their respective backs (Nikon’s, and the back of that author), another very erudite photographer sent me an article screaming his head off, saying he’s fed up to the back teeth with pixel peepers and others who annoy him (GAS addicts and the like) – that the only thing that matters is the picture – is it any good? And he couldn’t care less WHAT camera it was taken with, or what lens, or what settings. In his final paragraph, he concludes by saying “I honestly don’t care what camera system you use. For me, it’s about the pictures, not the name stamped on the camera, and that’s what photography is about.”
Far & away the best passage is this –
“. I don’t care what camera system you use. Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji… I just don’t care. Never have, never will. Knock yourself out, I mean literally, for real. Take the freshly mowed grass/football metaphor and run straight into a wall with it, and after you do, don’t tell me it’s actually a simile.
“Talking about gear is the kind of stuff that drives me nuts. Sure, there’s a time and a place for it, but my dear photography friends, that time is not “always” and the place is not “everywhere on the entire internet”.”
SO – where’s this wall we have to run into?
Cliff – I’m with you on this one. I already have a mirrorless camera. In fact I have two – and I used to have a third one, which I’ve ditched already (but that was because it had a lousy sensor, not because it was mirrorless). I also have two DSLRs. I use all of them. I shoot the vast majority of my photographs with my D810 – and if I didn’t already have a D810, I’d happily buy the D850. And I’d do it without even considering the Z-whatevers now coming over the horizon. I’ve had 8 mirrorless cams, of one sort or another, over a shooting timeframe of close to 70 years, and 7 SLRs or DSLRs. I prefer the SLRs (digi or otherwise). No offence – it’s like some people say “tomarto” and others say “tomayto” – some countries drive on one side of the road and others drive on the opposite side – some people drink tea and I drink coffee.
See? – I don’t “NEED” to try it – because I don’t want it anyway. But I’ll still happily “oo” and “ah!” over other people’s photographs taken with one of these cameras. And offer to ease the pain of the switchover by buying (secondhand) all sorts of stuff as it’s discarded, to fund the purchase of these wonderful new cameras.
I do hope that Nikon has every success with it. Sales of these cams will fund the group and who knows – maybe the next will be a 100MP medium format camera with a whole new range of lenses? 🙂
Clearly Nikon thought they had to do something. Sales of the popular stuff at the bottom end of the market must have fallen off over the past few years, as more and more people switch to using cellphones instead of compact cameras. Sony saw an opportunity, grasped it, did it extremely well, and floated to the top, Nikon was once king, and this must have hurt. Canon put so much into toppling the king and seizing the crown, so they must have hurt too. A counter insurgency was indicated. And here it is.
I wish them well. Now I’m going back to my cams, my photos, and my arrears of post processing & printing. 🙂 My next cam, if I ever live long enough to buy one, is going to be one of the D850, one of Sigma’s cams with a foveon sensor (because I want the chance to play with one for a while, at least) or – if I’m still able to avoid my creditors – a medium format camera, so I can avoid this stuff forever. 🙂 Like the guy who sent me the article saying he just wants to take photographs. 🙂
Oh drat, and here I was hoping this was a match made in heaven for you. Ah well.
I wish them well too.
A camera’s a tool. There’s no reason not to take time picking the one that makes you feel better and really enjoying it. Same with cars, telescopes, anything really. Obsessing over technicalities rather than artistic considerations, not that’s where the egg-free cookie crumbles. Go Cliff 😉
I think you may have missed what I was trying to say. I did not say that a larger lens mount would not result in larger lenses. I said it was not a requirement. Just because the lens mount is larger in diameter, does not mean that the lens elements or the barrel must be made larger in diameter. Just the mounting flange and the diameter for any electronic contacts needs to be larger.
Think of it this way. If Zeiss decided that the Zeiss 50 mm f2 Planar-M, or Pascal’s 50mm f1.5 Sonnar-M, would perform and sell well with the new Nikon cameras, they could simply redesign the mounting flange to be the right diameter and thickness to position the lens correctly on the camera body. It might look a little strange; like putting a 49mm to 82mm step-up ring on the filter thread. But it would work.
Another thing I said was, there is a general trend in newer lenses, where lens elements are getting larger in diameter regardless of the mount size. Since lens designers are trying to get better performance closer to the edges and corners wide open. The lens mount diameter limits the maximum diameter of the rear element, not the minimum diameter.
I am not sure I understand your comment about the length (you mentioned “shorter lens”) of the lens relative to the diameter of the lens mount. As a general rule the length of a lens is independent of the lens mount diameter.
If you are referring to the lens mount to sensor (back focus or flange) distance vs. the overall length of the lens, this is a function of the true focal length and the optical design of the lens. With the focal length being a fixed distance. So if we reduce the flange to sensor distance on the camera body, the lens must get longer by the same amount. Which is what happened when Sigma introduced their Art lenses for the Sony FE mount.
Lens weight, on the other hand, can be a limiting factor of lens design because of the lens mount diameter. A lens with a larger lens mount may be slightly heavier because of the extra material for the mount. But this may not be significant compared to the weight of the same lens with the smaller mount. Though a larger diameter lens mount can support more weight than a smaller mount. Which might be the difference between the camera supporting certain lenses and the lens needing to support the camera.
For example, the new Sigma Art 105mm comes with a significant tri-pod foot, with a larger lens mount it might be possible to remove the foot.
Paul, as you correctly state, it was a misunderstanding. And I do agree, I believe that I have written it not too long ago, that the present trend for lenses is to grow larger and heavier. As to why lenses that are wider can be shorter, I have no idea why, but notice that there are such “stout” designs (shorter and wider than average) in most lens ranges, like the Canon 85 f:1.2, or the Sony 85 GM f:1.4. I just speculated that a wider mount would lend itself to such designs, the end result being less obtrusive to the outside world than a narrower, longer one. A not inconsequential virtue nowadays.
So i the words of – I think – Orson Welles, “there is nothing to fear, ‘cept fear itself”? In other “let’s wait and see” – see what the various manufacturers can do, now that this camera body/platform exists? Good idea – meanwhile, I’m taking one of the cams I do have out for a walk in the sunshine – one of the benefits we have “down under”, during the middle of winter! 🙂
Pete, the quote is from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural adress.
Thanks – I can remember hearing it – and being impressed by it – but I’ve never been able to remember who to lay the blame on! 🙂 FD was a great guy – and it was Eleanor who told him “Franklin – we must help these people!” – bringing America to the aid of Britain, to fight the Nazis. The rest – as they say – is history! 🙂
Now that you are asking about specific lenses it is probably necessary for us to think in terms of the overall length of the camera-lens combination, as the specific optical designs used by the manufacturer matter. I could be that Canon is using a symmetrical design and Sony is using a telephoto design, or something different.
Symmetrical (Double-Gauss) designs usually have an equal number of lens elements/groups in front of and behind the aperture blades, with the same shape, and the indicated focal length tends to be close to the true focal length; there is some rounding in how lenses are marked. Symmetrical lenses are popular with manufacturers because they can be simple to make and can be made in almost any focal length as long as size and weight are not a consideration. Popular symmetric lenses used names such as Planar, Plasmat, Symmar, Sironar, etc. In the film era almost all 50mm lenses used on 35mm cameras were symmetric designs, and many may still be. Also, symmetric designs were popular with range finder cameras. With the introduction of the SLR symmetric designs did not work well for wide-angle lenses, and if I remember correctly 35mm is where many companies made the shift to retro-focus designs to make room for the mirror mechanism. At the longer side 85-90mm seems to be where companies shift from symmetric to telephoto design.
So the lenses you are noticing may be telephoto designs, which have the advantage of providing the magnification of a longer optical focal length with a shorter physical length and less overall weight. All zoom lenses employ telephoto elements, and if we look we will probably find that all lenses longer than 100mm for hand held cameras are telephoto designs; symmetric lenses are still most prevalent for view camera lenses.
Another possibility is there is a new design formula that is called telecentric. I have seen Ming Thein use this term, though I have though it was the same as telephoto. I just checked Wikipedia and found that telecentric is different, and I do not know enough the design or optical properties to comment.