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Equipment

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. https://downloads.canon.com/nw/camera/misc-pages/eos-r/pdf/canon_eos_r_white_paper.pdf

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

Lensrentals.com

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 Lensrentals.com. 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
  • Natt Lin

    I mean even with now the shorter flange distance, why the lenses still so big?

  • Natt Lin

    Regarding the lenses, Can you pls comment in engineering perspective, how Leica with much smaller mount can produce a very high quality lenses with lower number of glasses and in much smaller footprint, ie the 50 Summilux ASPH compare to the new RF 50 1.2L?

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    /s stands for “end sarcasm”

  • Bob B.

    I think your speculations and honest are very good.
    Yeah…I have an extensive Canon System…and an extensive Olympus System. We both know which one is more fun to use. I will not buy any Canon Mirrorless moving forward because of the no-IBIS choice. When you have been using incredible mirrorless cameras for years with IBIS, well…Canon…Huge MISS!
    Thanks for your thoughts Roger. GOOD stuff!!!!
    …and yes…at this point the Sony “body” is the clear leader…
    As far a my FF adventures go…I will just stick with my 5D IV for the time being with no excitement for the Canon offering.

  • Jalan Lee

    I agree with you Roger. I am a wedding/portrait photographer. Two Canon 5D IV cameras (one is just a backup I’ve never used). Solid workhorse system that produces beautiful results. As a camera system nothing really competes – not the best in any single category but the best all around combination of features. Never had a failure and the camera in no way limits my photography.

    The new cameras are neat but still a long way to go before I would drop my DSLR’s. Battery life 3000-4000 shots and 2 card slots at a minimum – maybe overkill but it would make me really nervous to only have one slot for a wedding. I also worry about the life of the viewfinder – my LED monitors start to dim after 3-4 years so why wouldn’t the viewfinder? My 1980 Bronica ETRS medium format film camera still works like a champ. Honestly, my skill is the limiting factor and not my camera system so a bit more this or a bit more that is really not that important. Someday – maybe not Roger’s 2nd generation – I’ll “upgrade” when it is really an “upgrade”. Thanks for the review!

  • obican

    Roger Cicala (from Lensrentals) says Sony has the best mirrorless full-frame cameras (Amazon link here).

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Let’s be honest here – both Nikon and Sony Imaging are fleas compared to clients like Apple and Huawei, so it’s quite doubtful that either gets deferential treatment 😀
    I don’t think Sony Imaging get a discount, but they obviously work very closely with Semi – all the sensor tech that they get ahead of competitors, and sometimes for their exclusive use, should be proof enough of that.

  • i_felonious

    no doubt about many of us preferring DSLRs. so you’re saying that the 5d Mark V will most likely be a DSLR as well as, say, the 7dIII and the next generation 1D body? I know EF lenses will be around for at least a few more years by necessity but it surprises me that you think the DSLR will be — if that’s what you’re saying. anyhow I value your opinion and I appreciate your time!

  • I was thinking that too, and then there’s Sony in the picture & the discussion. Sony FF mirrorless not newer. So it appears FF is the differentiator, not newer, unless you consider Sony’s entry into FF mirrorless in 2013 to be considered new.

  • KeithB

    Hah hah, hah! You have never worked in a corporation, have you? When I was at Motorola, it took a vice president to intervene and get two divisions to work together.

    As far as cost, I have seen it done two ways: One is that internal customers got it for cost which gave the manufacturer 0 incentive to work with the internal customer. The other, much more workable solution is to give the internal customer the lowest price you gave your external customers minus 10%.

  • Anthony, I usually try hard to be politically correct, but I think Canon / Nikon in the title should avoid the disingenuous tag for only mentioning newer cameras.

  • John Dillworth

    Excellent points. thank you

  • David Cartagena

    Don’t forget that it is much easier to work with somone in your own organisation like Sony semiconductor and Sony imaging are.

    That makes it easier to develop new products and put the newest technology inside.

  • Ryan Graham

    Do you have any opinion on the feasibility of a Sony E to Nikon Z adapter? Given the Nikon’s slightly shorter flange distance and comparatively massive mount diameter, it seems at least theoretically possible for a ‘mount within a mount.’

    The Canon R has a longer flange distance than Sony E, making a Sony E to Canon R impossible. But if there were a way to shoot Sony’s lenses on the Nikon, that could be a huge boost to Nikon while they fill out their Z lens line. They could really steal some of Sony’s user base.

  • Panacea

    I’m being condescending because wshinn called Roger Cicala “ignorant” for not including his not-really-comparable pet system in this article even when the focus is plainly obvious.

    ” I’m not a fanboy but I think it’s ignorant to not include the Fuji XT3 in this article considering it was announced the day after the new canon.”

    You tell me if that doesn’t define oneself as a joke worthy of total ridicule in every way.

  • Eamon Hickey

    Sony sensors are made by a different subsidiary of Sony than the one that makes the cameras. Sony Semiconductor sells its sensors to Sony Imaging, just as it does to Nikon. It’s possible that Sony Semiconductor gives Sony Imaging a discount that it does not give to Nikon, but that’s not actually likely, for two reasons.

    First, Sony Semiconductor has its own P&L; it needs to show a profit, and harming its own profits in order to increase Sony Imaging’s profits would hurt its perceived performance. Its executives are in a contest with executives of other Sony companies to see who rises to the top of the Sony corporate pyramid; there’s a limit to how much they’ll sacrifice to make potential internal rivals look good at their own expense (a very low limit). Also, the success of Sony Semiconductor is far, far more important to the overall Sony group than the success of the still camera business of Sony Imaging. If one of the two is going to be forced to sacrifice, it ain’t gonna’ be Sony Semiconductor.

    Secondly, Nikon is a significantly bigger customer of Sony Semiconductor than is Sony Imaging’s still camera unit. Nikon orders still camera sensors in significantly higher volumes. So Nikon has the power of volume ordering on its side, and it just wouldn’t be good business for Sony Semiconductor to drive away one of its biggest customers by intentionally disadvantaging it. (Not to mention the signal that would send to Sony Semiconductor’s other still camera imaging customers, like Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax et. al.)

  • Hey Roger, as a long time M43 user, I humbly request including “full frame” in the title, as having a discussion about “mirrorless” and only mentioning the three latecomers to the format seems disingenuous to the field of mirrorless cameras. I know it is not intended, but it is the result of not mentioning any of the other players / products in the mirrorless field. None of which are “full frame” mirrorless, which seems to be the silent qualifier of your article.

  • Graham Stretch

    So often we get the Sony hasn’t got the colour rendition right yet!? Colour is a subjective thing so get it how you like it in Lightroom (or your preferred software) and make a colour profile and use it!
    No I’m not a Sony fan boy, I use Canon! ?

  • John Dillworth

    I think Canon has another huge advantage over Nikon. They make their own sensors. Now we could argue that Sony has superior sensors but once you get past the pixel peeping the practical differences doesn’t seem to bother Canon buyers. Nikon will always have to pay more for their sensors than Sony or Canon. Sony and Canon essentially get their sensors at cost while Nikon will always have to pay a premium to Sony resulting in their cameras costing more that Canon or Sony. This will (has) result in decreased margins for Nikon meaning less dollars for R&D. Superior innovation might help, as Canon moves slow, but Nikon will remain at a financial disadvantage.

  • Les

    One of the “big” reasons for the control ring is the size of the rear LCD. Higher-end Canon digital SLRs always had a control wheel next to the LCD, but there’s no space for that with the R’s big articulated rear screen.
    It makes sense to move that control to the lens.

  • I’m sure it will be here long after I’ve retired, and there will be lots of people who still prefer the feel of an SLR and such. But I bet in a decade the RF lenses will be considered better.

  • David Cartagena

    There have to be some mechanical play in the mount although very small. And the thickness of the complete adaptor also have to be made with a tolerance.

    With an adaptor you have the tolerances of the two mounts and the thickness of the adaptor (also the rings on the adaptor) that come i to play.

    So it is inevitable that there will be worse precision in the distance to the sensor with an adaptor, and that can affect your IQ in numerous ways.

    With that said most use adaptors on cameras with great results. It’s mostly just an extra hassle.

    Have a nice day?

  • David Cartagena

    The EOS R and Nikon Z has some weird button placements and are missing some important ones, all said without have tried them in my own hands, but the Sony 7 cameras has in the latest generation placed all the vital buttons on the right side of the camera which is important especially with longer and heavier lenses. Regarding the control ring I think it’s a great idea which also Sony has on the new 400 f/2.8.
    If the future Canon bodies lack wheels and buttons like this R, it will be a lesser usable camera when used with other older adapted lenses, that is if anyone will make an adaptor (I think they will but when).

  • David Cartagena

    Hi. Fuji have been making cameras with this mount for some years where Canon and Nikon just released new mounts. Thats the reason for this article I guess.
    But agreed they get too much attention (IMHO) especially since the Z and R cameras are quite underwhelming.

    Have a nice day ?

  • David Cartagena

    That certainly depends of what you are shooting! And BTW. You are sounding very condescending.

    Have a nice day all ?

  • David Cartagena

    Well I have used Sony since 2007 and have always preferred their colors. Imho color is subjective because not one person see colors equally

    https://www.pdnonline.com/gear/cameras/the-best-cameras-for-color-reproduction-ranked/

  • And Olympus, Panasonic, Yi and Leica, possible also Samsung!

  • They are “missed” in the article because the article is not about Fuji, as the title says.

    Where is your evidence that the XT3 has 12 stops dynamic range and the Z7 only 10?

  • Abimanyu Boentaran

    I was looking to get a second body to mount my tele.I am using a 6d and thank God I waited, will get the R for my 11mmzoom and super fast 35mmL mk2 85mm 1.2L mk2 and my old 6d for the 100-400mmL mk2.

    Roger, you forgot to mention Canon’s color rendition. Sony has not matured yet with their color rendition and icky menu.

  • Joe Alfano

    The article makes total sense. The top 3 FF mirrorless cameras at their present price points are these cameras. They are in direct competition with each other. Anyone thinking of buying a FF camera, not APS-C or micro4/3, would think about their choice of these cameras. The Fuji XT3 looks great but it’s not direct competition.

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