Roger’s Rants: My Canon/Nikon Mirrorless Camera Unfanboy Opinion

I’ve gotten about 632 texts and emails over the last couple of weeks. About half of them are “I’m a Nikon / Canon shooter. Should I preorder a Z / RF camera?” My answer is generally no. The reason is simple; unless you just have to play with the new technology and have money to burn, wait until the 2nd generation when the prices are way lower, some of the bugs are worked out, and more native lenses are available. (Yes, I’m aware you can shoot lenses on an adapter. You can also shoot lenses on the SLR you already have.)

The other half of the questions are “Who has the best mirrorless camera.” My answer is generally I refuse to play fanboy wars, which are typically nasty discussions between people who are already committed to a brand and people who have never tried the brand. But, of course, at this moment in time, Sony has the best mirrorless full-frame cameras. They should, they’ve released about a dozen of them, while Canon and Nikon have not quite released 1 and 2 respectively.

A few people, though, knowing I rarely recommend Generation 1 technology and don’t wallow in the fanboy cesspool, have asked “So where do you think this is going.” That’s a good question. And following my usual ‘often wrong but never in doubt‘ philosophy of life, I’m willing to speculate.

Cameras and Electronics

Sony has a much more mature technology which gives them a lead, of course. They also are a huge electronics company and sensor manufacturer, so I think it’s reasonable to believe they’ll keep that lead for the next couple of years. Then again, being Sony, they have a menu that is best described as ‘you get used to it.’ I think Canon and Nikon did really well as far as first generation ergonomics, especially if the goal was to keep their own customers from migrating over to Sony.

Both Canon and Nikon did one thing I hadn’t really expected, and the more I’ve researched it, the more important I think it will be. They went with very wide mounts (54mm for the Canon R, 55mm for the Nikon Z6/7). This is an especially big jump for Nikon (the F-mount was only 44mm) and wider than Sony’s 46.1mm E mount. Why does this matter? Because of optics.

Optical Differences

A wider mount allows lens designers more freedom. Wider aperture lenses are possible. Mount diameter is one reason Canon had f/1.2 lenses, and Nikon hasn’t, for example. Wider lens mounts also allow lens designers more freedom to correct aberrations and do all kinds of cute optical things. I’m sure the designers at both firms are salivating at the fun they’re going to have.

One thing to always remember, though, is lens design is still a compromise. The graphic from Canon’s white paper on the new mount shows it perfectly.

Thorpe, L: A New Lens-Camera System. Canon White Paper.

Designers can reduce the size and weight of a given lens, improve the optical performance, or increase aperture on the new mounts. To a lesser degree, they can do two out of three, and perhaps to a small degree all three in a given lens.

What Will This Mean?

At this moment in time, Sony has a much larger native-mount lens selection. They have also demonstrated the ability to release lenses at a very rapid pace and will have more native-mount lenses for years to come. Canon certainly has the resources to catch Sony if they want but given Canon’s conservative nature and dominant SLR position; I don’t expect that (but remember, I’m often wrong). I don’t think Nikon has the resources to do so for two reasons. First, Nikon has, in recent history, released new lenses at a slower pace. Second, Nikon has downsized significantly, and this has included lens designers. I meet a lot of designers and engineers from a lot of companies and ‘formerly at Nikon’ seems to be part of the introduction most of the time.

But both Nikon and Canon designers will have a significant advantage to work with going forward. Sony, Canon, and Nikon all make some excellent lenses. Going forward I think Canon and Nikon will have the opportunity to perhaps make ‘more exceptionaller’ lenses.

However, when we discuss optics and imaging we have to address the pink elephant in the room; image manipulation. Obviously, in-camera jpgs are strongly influenced by in-camera processing, but more and more we see evidence that RAW files are also manipulated in-camera. Electronic correction of optical aberrations may make optical differences in lenses less apparent, although it will never eliminate it.

What About All That Other Stuff?

Most of that I find rather inconsequential, although it’s obviously life-and-death to many Fanboys. One has in-body stabilization; the other doesn’t. One has probably better focusing than the other. I can’t imagine anyone is going to change from Nikon to Canon based on the mirrorless system.

A lot of people will buy their brand’s 1st Generation mirrorless cameras and use an adapter. Personally, I think Canon’s Control Ring is the most interesting thing I see for right now, and making it available on an adapter was brilliant. Lots of people won’t use it. I will, though, it seems very usable and intuitive to me.

But these first-generation cameras feature-for-feature probably aren’t as good as Sony’s multiple current offerings. Both will be more competitive in a year or two, although I suspect Sony’s cameras will have some advantages still. They’ll certainly be good enough for job 1, which is to slow the migration away from their own brand over to Sony.

My own opinion is eventually (3-5 years) mirrorless will be a significant portion of both Nikon and Canon’s business and the lenses, more than the cameras, will be the driving force. The early lens releases probably give us a hint of how each manufacturer plans to go forward.

Nikon Mirrorless Rentals

Nikon started with three very practical native-mount lenses; a 24-70mm f/4 and 50mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/1.8 primes. Given the optical triad of performance, size, and specifications, Nikon seems to be leaning towards the compromise of somewhat smaller and somewhat better optically while fleshing out a practical, useful lineup. Their roadmap looks to emphasize useful and practical, but there is the spectacularly dramatic 58mm f0.95 on deck.

Canon Mirrorless Rentals

Canon started with three show-off lenses (and I don’t mean that in a bad way; I love optical show-offing). The 50mm f/1.2 and 28-70mm f/2.0 are all about amazing optics and big apertures, but they are huge beasts. The 35mm f/1.8 Macro is a bit smaller, a bit wider aperture, good optics, and a Macro feature (not that I’ve ever found 35mm full-frame macro lenses particularly useful), while the 24-105 IS is practical. Canon hasn’t released a roadmap but has said they are working on a series of fast lenses of f/2.8 or more, so I suspect some workhorse zooms are upcoming.

Logic suggests that from a pure optics standpoint upcoming Canon RF and Nikon Z lenses may be better than Sony’s, although it will be years before they have a similarly broad lineup. Logic also suggests Canon RF and Nikon Z lenses will be better than their SLR lenses; perhaps more so for Nikon who has a much larger mount now.

For both companies, the adapted lens route certainly makes it practical to dip a toe into their mirrorless offerings, although for me it will be another generation before I do. It won’t be a long wait for those with patience. Look at how much the Sony A7 series has improved over basically three years. Then again, Sony won’t be standing still over the next couple of years, either.

Interesting times.


Roger Cicala

September, 2018


You can preorder the Canon R and Nikon Z6/Z7 now.


Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Equipment
  • Akvinat

    Roger, in a recent interview Sigma CEO said (if I understood correctly) it is easier to design focusing group for Canon RF lenses, because you don’t have to include possibility of contrast detect focusing. Could it be significant advantage of RF mount? Not for third party lenses, they still have to be universal, but for first party lenses?

  • John Draper

    I guess they would considering they’ve been at it a whole lot longer. Must be the best sensors too, since Nikon uses them huh? LOLOL

  • John Draper

    As seen in these comments, so much for the unfanboy Stuff LOL

    “imma crying cuz you didn’t give the kudo’s to the brand I purchased” Is pretty much the comments here. LOLOL

  • Frank Sheeran

    > The increased depth of field doesn’t cover that shift in many instances.

    Like what specific instance?

  • Frank Sheeran

    > Show me a mirrorless which autofocuses as quickly as even my Canon 7d mkII (~$1000) and I’ll think about it.

    Have you tried the R since posting this? It may need several weeks of use before you get the most out of its AF.

  • Frank Sheeran

    > Certainly mirrorless bodies are getting smaller but the lenses are not

    The lenses CAN. Look at a Leica 35mm f/2 or 50mm f/2. Add a focus motor and the Canon control ring. Canon could be making that.

    Currently they feel they need IS. However, I find the resulting size too big; I’d have bought a smaller 35/1.8 without IS.

    Canon is almost surely going IBIS, though it’s not clear to me that it will be phyiscally-moving or digital as seen in movie shooting. With that, or if you’re a Nikon/Sony user, then you DO have smaller lenses.

  • Frank Sheeran

    Talk of “getting the bugs out” is quite reasonable but now that it’s here and I’m using it every day the R doesn’t seem to have much I’d call bugs. It seems fairly mature. Sure, some niggles, some of which may be fixed by firmware updates and some not, but I don’t see any deal-breakers.

    Talk of “how many lenses in the system before you switch over” may not be the right metric. The EF->RF adapter is no bigger or odder to use than a teleconverter or extension tube, and we never looked askance at using those when needed. We just put them on and kind of forget them. I’m using all my longer EF lenses with the R and don’t feel lens availability is a reason to hold off buying. The EF lens simply don’t feel like second-class citizens to me, especially given that the body is substantially thinner too.

    That said, to the extent you feel a need for natives before switching, the answer is mission-dependent. For reporting, travel, and wedding/event, then the trinity lenses are just about here, with the slower longer alternatives 24-105 already, and 100-400 coming. Are there any other lens these specialties need or currently use out of the 100-lens EF lineup? To the extent you insist on native lenses these user bases could move over to R within the next year. OTOH, sports and wildlife can forget it for now.

    Note that the longer primes (135+) never have glass anywhere near the mount, which means that they’re not constrained by the EF’s film-flange distance, which means they don’t need a recompute for the RF system. Meanwhile, these lenses are also all fantastically sharp edge to edge, so they don’t need a recomputute to account for changing design tech or market taste, unlike the way 50s and 85s have been turning from symmetric Gaussian designs to 14-element monsters. That means, making a native-mount version of all the white primes is just a matter of a few parts at the back to be 24mm longer, a new CPU, and I suppose the new programmable ring. They could literally introduce a dozen in one summer should there be a need (such as before the Olympics?) without even talking to the optics guys.

    As to 3-5 year horizon, I think Canon may be 90% mirrorless by then, or more. They need something for wildlife whereby you might use the finder for hours before snapping a shot, and mirrorless LCD finders will eat batteries. Even there, though, they might have a token SLR that’s a special version of the top mirrorless, in the same way the pellicle cameras used to be a special model. While the CURRENT SLRs may have some advantages at the admittedly mid-range R, I don’t see any reason why SLRs would have any LASTING advantage.

  • Roger Cicala

    JB, good question but I’m afraid one I don’t have an answer for. Until we see 6 or 10 lenses we just won’t know.

  • JB


    Is lens telecentricity (or lack thereof) going to play a role in how well these 24x36mm sensors perform with their much shorted flange to sensor distances? The Canon whitepaper you referred to vaguely refers to the new large mount diameter giving them the opportunity to correct aberration by moving rear elements closer to the sensor plane. But Canon never specifically says their goal is improving telecentricity of their designs.

    Olympus is the only manufacturer I know of that specifically touts their telecentric lens design. Are any of the other manufacturers currently producing lenses with explicitly telecentric designs?

    I have always assumed Canon and Nikon have avoided that topic because of their reliance on their respective huge legacy glass collections that were optimized for film and most likely lack that crucial design element to optimize for digital sensor exposure.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Michael Clark

    If the historians of photography in the future ever compile a list of Roger’s best quotes, this one will be on page one:

    “Yes, I’m aware you can shoot lenses on an adapter. You can also shoot lenses on the SLR you already have.”

    Pure Gold!

  • One point I don’t see anyone making in regards to this control ring is, why didn’t they put it on the rear of the lens, near the mount, so that it’s in the same physical location no matter which lens you have mounted? Seems like such an obvious oversight and no one has questioned it.

  • For professional use, MFT and APS-C have shown their limitations. Daytime only or BW in low light (Fuji).

  • dave

    Unless it rains, snows, sand or whatever, then you at least gotta go back to the bank to get more money to buy another. The ergonamics are so bad that it’d probably throw it out the window of the car anyway.

  • dave

    Everyone needs to just pick the best tool for their job. For me a Sony isn’t even the discusion as the ergonamics (no need to say more) but more importantly, I’d got thru like 100 sony’s a year just during storm season. I do shoot nikon but I’d pick up a pentax if they could get a decent af and fps, I still might for astro. If the panosonic is any good then I wouldn’t be opposed… The name matters in some reguards (like quality build) but so many people are afraid to try something else.

  • Brandon Dube

    The optics on the front of a 400/2 would likely be prohibitive to manufacture.

  • Devil’s Advocate

    Agreed – aside from the sensor size is the A7xx a better camera than an E-M1ii? I don’t think so.

  • Hanno De Beer

    Hi, will the larger size of the Z-mount allow the design of a 400mm f2? Or is the flange still not wide enough.?

  • Martti O Suomivuori

    I am old and I have had Canon FD, Olympus OM, Nikon…until the EOS system was introduced and at the same time my eyesight got worse. Of course EOS was the choice. Digital…
    Now after 15 years on EOS digital I started to have my doubts. I got an A6000 sony as the second body, adapter.
    I had the hunch that the next generations of Sony mirrorless would be the stuff dreams are made of.
    Most certainly the A6000 with a Metabones adapter did not work at all as I had expected. So many times I got blurred faces with sharp background wall and also no picture at all as the lens went shaver mode, whirred and refused to take a picture. What a disappointment, after all the firmware upgrades!
    Now, as I am totally in peace with my 5D4 and the lens setup I am content with…I finally gave the sonyA7III a chance.

    I have a cervical discal hernia.
    And also, I got the Zony 55mm f/1.8 lens that on the A6000 (what a mess) gave me the most beautiful shots ever.
    The 7AIII is on its way. I just hope it won’t let me down.

  • Carl Eberhart

    Agree…but then you’re preaching to the choir.

  • pest

    If Zeiss can do Otus on f-mount, Canikon needs to bring something really impressive to proof there claim about the advantages of there new bigger mounts. Let’s see.

  • dkphotoman723

    Nice article. I guess my one quibble would be with your comment, “Sony has a much more mature technology which gives them a lead, of course.” I think it depends mainly on what the photographers priorities are. If someone is mainly interested in the “gear” and the “tech,” then I guess most will agree with you. If someone is more interested in photography, they may not agree with “of course.” Sony may have big head start in FF mirrorless, but this doesn’t explain their inferior ergonomics (in the minds of most reviewers, I would think). Nor does it explain that in most comparisons I have seen or read about, their color science does not come close to being as good (or popular) as Canon’s. I briefly owned both the A7 and A7 II and found them to be very compromised from a photographer’s (rather than a technological) point of view. The A7 underexposed by 1 stop, the A7 II by an even larger 1 1/2 stops. The kit lenses (all I could afford) had very poor IQ away from the image center. And, as mentioned, inferior color and ergonomics, in my opinion. While I have not yet tried their 3rd generation cameras, I would be very hesitant to universally acclaim Sony to have the lead or to be the best choice for someone just getting a FF mirrorless camera. To many folks, it is not just about the “tech.”

  • Roger Cicala

    Paul, I’m expecting by late 2018 for Canon R mount. Fuji electronic, m43 electronic, and Nikon Z are going to have to wait more on obtaining parts to make the mount, although Fuji has said they will help us with parts; if that occurs then they will be 2018 also. Without being able to buy parts we have to sacrifice both a camera and a lens to make the electronic mount.

  • Roger Cicala

    I haven’t, although I’m taking vacation time this year for the first time in a long time. The vast majority of my time in 2018 has been devoted to the Rapid MTF Testing project – While it doesn’t make for sexy blog posts, it’s probably the most important thing we’ve done and it’s a time magnet. For example, I’ve had to write and test over 200 machine scripts; one for each lens in each mount. It’s worth it though, our testing accuracy increases from 96% to 99.9%. I’m traveling for another week but then should be settled back in with a lot of output starting in late October.

    All of that being said, I am cutting down some in 2019.

  • Taki Tsonis

    Roger after all the time and effort you invested in the new testing methods and equipment, is it just me or have you retired already? 🙂
    I’m noticing 1 review per month and 1 lens test every 2nd month!
    And with the mirrorless war hotting up, I’m sure everyone would love to see as many reviews/tests/comparisons as possible in the near future and make up their own minds.

  • dadohead

    Wait. Logical, well-thought-out, rational analysis without any attendant ad hominem hair-pulls? Do you guys understand how the internet works?

  • Eric Bowles

    The one thing holding back Canon right now is their memory cards. They can’t release a CFast camera when that format is a dead end and there is a clear migration to CFExpress and UHS-II SD cards. They don’t want to announce a flagship camera that uses CFExpress when cards are unavailable, or with XQD when it is known to be replaced with CFExpress. So a Canon flagship mirrorless camera is held hostage until CFExpress cards are available. Sony is largely in a similar position with their SD UHS-II cameras. The edge won’t hold for long, but Nikon’s choice of XQD with compatibility with CFExpress is providing a short term edge.

  • Paul Price

    Excellent content, as usual. With all these new mounts, do you know yet
    when your equipment might be able to perform your usual optical evaluation of lenses for the new mounts?

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