#824. Monday Post (25 Feb. 2019)- From multi-lens platforms to multi-platform lenses (back to the MP roots)

By philberphoto | Monday Post

Feb 25

When the Monday Post was created, the intent was to adress industry news. Things (meaning: writers) later digressed, even sometimes going completely off-topic, as some readers remarked. So it is time to go back to the MP roots: let’s talk news and gear!


News this week have been so stealthy as to fly below many a radar screen. They have to do with the release of 2 new lenses from China. The 7Artisan 60mm f:2.8 macro, and the Speedmaster 50mm f:0.95. In itself, they don’t mean that much, because Chineses lens manufacturers are now established on the photography landscape, including with “extreme” designs (ultra-fast, ultra-wide, ultra close).


Now, what I find interesting is that the Speedmaster (to be formally introduced at CP+ later this month) is available in FE mount, Z mount and RF mount, meaning for Sony, Nikon or Canon full-frame mirrorless. Similarly, the 7Artisan lens is available in Sony, Canon and Fuji APS/C mounts as well as Micro 4/3.


Similarly, Samyang from Korea have announced that they will release this spring Z and RF versions of existing lenses, presumably FE mount.

This has multiple implications. The first one is that Speedmaster didn’t bother with the L-mount (for Panasonic, Leica SL and Sigma), or weren’t able/permitted to do it. That could leave this “alliance” out in the cold when it comes to offering diverse lens choice. Though possibly this is of their own choosing, considering Leica SL lens prices and moted Panasonic S prices – also on the high side of the competition.


Then it shows that the FE, RF and Z mounts are close enough that they are compatible from the manufacturer’s point of view, which promises more third-party “native” lenses, as they can adress 3 markets rather than one. This is good news for us! Errrrr, sorry, not for Pascal, who has gone AWOL…:-)


It also shows that Nikon and Canon’s argument that the Sony FE mount was too narrow to accomodate fast lenses and thus inferior to the newer RF and Z mounts, is bunk. Who needs faster than 50mm f:095?


But most interestingly, it means this IMHO. That the Sony advantage of being a platform that could accomodate a vast variety of adapted lenses (pretty much anything except some rangefinder wides) will soon be countered by lenses that can adapt to any mirrorless platform in native form…. which could bootstrap Canon and Nikon sales early on for would-be buyers who are not keen to use adapters (more weight, more money, and a compatibility which is never quite 100%).


Informed DearSusan readers (apologies for the pleonasm) will remind me that multi-platform lenses are nothing new. Zeiss ZF/ZE/ZK existed in Nikon/Canon/Pentax mounts. Sigma offer interchangeable mounts on some of their lenses, among other possibilities. It remains to be seen whether Zeiss convert their highly desirable Loxia and Batis lines to accomodate Z and/or RF mounts, or if they remain exclusive to their historic partner, Sony.


But what this means is that the steady income stream that add-on lens sales generated for camera manufacturers is less secure than ever before, and this at a time when business is very tough. The recent introduction of the Canon EOS R-P at only $1299 (wow, it may not be the latest and greatest piece of kit, but what a price!) only means one thing. All-out war. On features, on price, on anything, until someone blinks (meaning exits the market, one way or another). And fewer lens sales, because they are captured by third-party manufacturers


For these manufacturers, multi-platform lenses are just as much bad news as they are good for us. In the last post of 2018, I forecast that 2019 would be an interesting year, with many mirrorless cameras, super-fast lenses and a war of attrition between camera manufacturers. So far, so good…


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  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    I have this funny thing about image quality. I like it. The better the resolution, contrast, color fidelity etc, etc, the better I like it. I’m willing to dole out the bucks for what I consider to be the best camera in a particular format in order to get this image quality. So…., why would I cut corners to get an off brand lens made in China when I don’t trust it to deliver as good an image quality as the higher priced spread? Seems like a self defeating concept to me.
    I’ve been very tempted by reviews of some of the other lenses but I’ve never been able to make myself purchase one. I’ve always put off the purchase until I had the wherewithal to get the name-brand lens and in the long run the better image quality has always made me been glad I did.

    • philberphoto says:

      Cliff, as of now I have to agree with you. China-made lenses, interesting though they are, do not -yet- deliver the IQ you are talking about. But only if we disregard advances made by Chinese companies in other manufacturing sectors can we say that this will remain so. The time when the expression “Chinese copy” applied is over. For one thing, Chinese companies have access to millions, yes millions, of freshly trained engineers that leave university every year. For another, credit is available to them on easier terms (not interest, terms) than anywhere in the West. Then, they have time, a commodity we do not grant our management teams. Lastly, they can tap a huge domestic market. Already in our own photograpy industry, we see them taking risks and thinking unconventionnally (think Laowa) to a degree no-one else dares. It is only a matter of time until they make the grade of top-flight IQ. But Zeiss and Leica are not rolling over and playing dead, and moving up from top-flight player to Numero Uno is quite another matter. Still, if I were a lens maker primarily selling on being almost as good as the OEM but cheaper, I’d be petrified with fear…

      • Cliff Whittaker says:

        You’re probably right about the future advancement of Chinese product quality, Philippe. I can very well remember when “made in Japan” was synonymous with cheap products that could be counted on to provide poor service and fall apart in a short time.
        Aside from that, please let me say that I really enjoyed the pictures posted here, especially the second one. And thanks for including a bicycle shot. I always look forward to the bicycles. :))

        One last thing. I do have to say that I enjoy the discussions about art and the art of photography much more than I do about gear. But I do like the mix that is going on here so I don’t have any recommendations for change. I’ll just keep looking forward to each post and the informed comments that come with them.

  • Michael says:

    But I like the format that has developed. Maybe gear stuff every 4th post?

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    It looks like Perrier remaines Master after Heineken and Kronenbourg fought it out…

    Did they loose their head?

    ( If in Friesland, try Jever – it keeps its head.)
    – – –

    Thanks Philippe for those photos!
    The Door, the Gallery the Bridge, and the way you made that Bird head come alive are my favourites!

    ( Not to forget the Bicycle, ๐Ÿ™‚ .)
    – – –

    Another interesting future possibility:
    Canon has patented automatic in-camera sensor tilt together with IBIS.
    ( I suppose you’ll just have to choose three focus points for the AF – and hope it’s within tilt limits..)

    • philberphoto says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Kristian! Interesting patent from Canon, it -and other patents in the same field- could run opposite to the trend described in this article, and give camera manufacturers renewed leverage to “keep the client in-house”

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Interesting stuff, Philippe.

    In recent years, I’ve noticed all sorts of unusual lenses made by unexpected players – including some of the crowd-funded ones. I would imagine there are patent blockages to prevent them making something that truly fits cams like Canikon, RicSonFuj and LeSigPan – Seul might fall into line over such roadblocks but I doubt whether China would.

    And you are quite right about that adapter thing – sorry Nik, I can see what you’re up to and if ONLY you’d brought out your mirrorless with its “big ‘ole” BEFORE I spent all that money on F-mount lenses, I might by now have been shooting with a Z7. But you didn’t, I’m not, and I won’t be going to. I cannot envisage anything further happening to me, in my lifetime, which will change that. I shan’t even be bothered reading the test reports & reviews and other propaganda that’s inevitably going to fill the landscape, showing how a Z7 with a Nikkor whatever on its snout will outperform a D850 loaded with a 55mm Otus or a 50mm SIGMA ART. Or why a lens of that calibre would look nice strung on the front of that adapter contraption, instead of being fitted more conventionally to the front of the cameras for which it was designed.

    While I was stuck in bed for the best part of a year, as a child, with polio, my education headed off up a side track, and I found myself self-educating a lot of the time. And one of the areas that absorbed my interest was modern architecture. Not “modern” as in “contemporary” – I had a cousin who was an architect, who did that stuff, and I could barely hold my tongue when my mother asked him to draw up plans for a house she was considering building on a block of land she owned – I would have hated it! Give me Le Corbusier, Bauhaus – give me function in design – no crap – no unnecessary walls or decoration!

    But no, not a Z7 plus adapter. And even if Carl Zeiss obliges with a re-designed 55mm Otus to plug into the snout of a Z7 direct, I would never be able to afford to scrap all my current lenses and jump ship, to join the flight to mirrorless Z mount Nikons.

    Never mind – the Z range seems to be the way forward, the path towards the future, for Nikon. And I am one lone voice, an ancient relic of the past, and my views aren’t worth a tinker’s curse, to a corporation the size of Nikon.

    It does trouble me though, from time to time, that most of these companies depend on their customer base for sales – yet few of them ever seem to care what the **** those customers need or want.

    Pascal would know more about marketing than I will ever find out – my experience and expertise in marketing is limited to a 3-week stint as a university student, working in a department store during my holidays – later, as a professional, it was unthinkable to go “marketing”! But during those 3 weeks it seems I outsold every other shop assistant in the store. And I know why – I bunged a smile on my face, and spent those 3 weeks giving customers whatever they wanted. One customer I served rang up a total spend big enough to buy a small car, in 15 minutes flat, with me serving – because (as she put it) she was “in a bit of a hurry!”

    So I am at a bit of a loss to understand why camera companies don’t care what camera buyers want to buy. Maybe I’m just getting old – that’s it – the older you get, the less you understand! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Since this is verboten n MP I’ve left this to the end – I LOVE your shot of the doorway (3rd photo), and thanks for the bicycle ๐Ÿ™‚ – I also love the available light shots- but tell me, what IS that final photo? Did you take up painting, after they stole your cameras?

    • philberphoto says:

      No, Pete, I couldn’t draw, I couldn’t paint to save my life. Photography is the only “creative” or “artistic” activity in my life, past or present. Actually, the door shot has a funny story. I had just finished a meeting with a couple of Big-Data experts consulting for a client of mine, and they took me to a back-door exit “to save time”. That is when I entered the corridor, and thought the door had potential. I asked them to give me a minute, whipped out my camera, focused on the lens (it was too dark to see anything in the viewfinder), and ka-Boom! The two young tech-nerds were waiting, bemused and slightly embarassed. I later sent them the picture, and their response made me think that they didn’t “get it”. Oh, well….

  • NMc says:

    I have read a variety of quoted intentions from lens manufactures and one of the more common motivations for higher end products is auto focus, because the people who can afford the good stuff have lost visual acutance. Basically this is old farts struggling with manual focus, although mirrorless has mitigated this to a significant extent. Whilst this commentary was more related to Zeiss and Leica product launches, the big three compete on high price as well. If these third party players are successful where they may have the most impact is getting brand loyalty from younger users and shrinking the future market share for the established players even more.
    Regarding the so called camera war, my bet is on the companies that best look after the middle market, which means crop sensors systems or much cheaper and smaller lenses for full frame. The big three have ignored/abandoned this shrinking sector even though it is still larger than full frame market, and possibly provides higher margins in the current market conditions.
    Regards Noel

    • philberphoto says:

      I couldn’t agree more with you, Noel. Getting younger users on board and taking good care of middle-of-the-marekt ones is key…. So far, no camera company seems to be very good at that, and the fall of the market shows the consequences. Though, as an aside, i’d like to see how much more a FF camera costs to make than an crop-sensor one. Sure, Sony ask more for the sensor, but all the rest? The slightly larger size would have a very minor impact only on cost. The processing would be the same, based on sensor resolution (24Mp, take or leave, for both crop and FF). The EVF, LCD are the same, as is the battery. So, I guess that, until the Canon EOS-Rp, FF was a haven of profit compared to the middle market…..

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        – except that for FF additional R&D costs have to be supported by fewer sold units.
        And perhaps the market for a long time has allowed higher prices for “pro” cameras?

        I wonder if the low price of the Canon RP isn’t already a reflection of getting rid of all the costly precision mechanics, for ML the only critical value left is flange distance.

    • John W says:

      The endemic/systemic problem with the big players is they are engineering companies that make cameras not photographic companies. Nikon is pretty much solely a camera manufacturer, but their focus has always been on the engineering first and that’s lead to some pretty awful monstrosities (will the F4 please take a bow). They eventually got the engineering right but they’re still not “photo-centric” in their thinking so they constantly ignore their customer base. Canon and Sony are only slightly better, but not by much.

      Fuji seems to have hit the mid-market sweet spot with their XT/XH lineup. AND … they listen to their user base and provide ongoing upgrades to their cameras. Can’t see the BIG THREE ever doing that.

      Just my 2 cents worth.

  • Steve Mallett says:

    The thoughts are great, the doorway outstanding! If this print exchange happens I’d love a print, please.

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