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


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
  • HF

    Is there a serious test out confirming the DR thing, Dpreview, DXO, Bill Claff? Very very unlikely an APSC sensor with 2.25 times smaller area will trounce the same generation FF camera. That is fan boy talk. And at what ISO, base ISO? High iso? The Nikon Z seems to perform similarly to the D850 sensor. Fuji won’t beat it.

  • Stefanie Daniella

    the modular control ring mount is not just about remove custom control away from camera body

    but to allow more creative control over visual effects “paired” on the lens hand:

    for now, conventional lens rings cover focus, aperture, and aperture
    and if there are effects from paired control, they are confined only to those three, or two

    but adding a control ring that can allow “paired control” with other visual effects, expands creative possibilities beyond the “usual two or three”
    includes manual variable ND/Polarizer/Graduated/Color filters (or electronic versions)

    hand/finger control dials/knobs/wheels on camera bodies do not lend themselves as well to such “visual paired controls” on as operated by the “lens-hand”

    creative flexibility using that extra control ring is only limited by imagination, rather than being bounded by the classic two/three “focus/zoom/aperture”

  • Matti

    I don’t get why a bigger mount is BETTER for image quality. If it was better why only use now? Why Sony use relative small? if it has no downsides then what about it? Wide angle certainly can be stronger, but from what i get, if that ‘bigger mount’ also wants the compensated bigger glass in front to capture it, then you need bigger glass elements to profit in at least some parts of the lens (if up and downscaling is uses in the ray pattern), if it’s contstant (like a telelens), i doubt we will see much advantage.

    Also again, everything has an up and downside. period. So again why after all this time finally use a big mount wich has seemingly only advantages with massive image quality boost? And still smaller lenses due to flange… My opinion, it sounds to good to be true.

    Something will suddenly pop up ‘ow, didnt know wide mounts would do this to IQ’. Like flare will probably increase (just a wild guess), with similar flare reduction as now.

    The only thing i know is that the sensor didnt grow. And oversized lenses already existed (Sigma 85mm art), so compensate for corner weakness). The only thing that changes is that the ‘glass mass’ can be a bit closer to camera with already having impact. But the sensor doesn’t grow, and the glass in a way doesnt either. You can just put the elements closer to body.

  • Thom Hogan

    Let me try to answer your questions as best as I can from what we know so far.

    1. Will Canon go balls-to-the-wall mirrorless? Customers will determine that now. To some degree, the fact that Sony managed to get to the top dollar position in the US full frame market—albeit with a lot of new product releases in a time when Canikon were mostly quiet—has forced their hand. So, the sub-answer is: yes, we’ll see a lot more mirrorless activity from them now. But I don’t think it’ll stop any DSLR activity (as happened at Nikon). Canon will let buyers decide.

    2. Does Nikon have the resources? Not only is the answer to this yes, but one thing I see from my contacts is a renewed energy that wasn’t so much there a year ago. They seem to be looking forward to the challenge of the new mount.

    3. What will Sony do? A7Sm3, A9m2, more lenses to fill the lineup out short term. Staggered releases to keep the PR engine going. But the challenge for Sony if the Canikon entries hold serve is simple: where do they find new customers from? Because Canikon will hold their current bases, I think. The days of sampling/leaking/switching are mostly over now. My advice to Sony is hit colleges hard. Educational discounts, targeted career starter programs, etc.

    4. Yes, Panasonic will join the party, though no one seems to know why. They’ll also be a bit late, as we’re talking next summer before cameras are really in the wild. The only thing I can think of is that Panasonic thinks that there’s an advantage to 8K with a larger sensor. They simply don’t have the dealer base or support infrastructure—which you mentioned Sony is still beefing up—to sell all that many here in the US.
    5. Olympus does not seem to be going full frame any time soon. Next big release from them should be another m4/3 camera.

    To me, it’s exciting because we’re starting to see the conservative design/development schedules give way to new ideas, new approaches, new products. It’s what is needed to revitalize the camera market.

    I’m hear you on retirement. I almost did it this year.

    FWIW, I rented the 180-400mm from you last month. Your staff and customer handling is excellent. There were two issues with FedEx, but your people handled that without blinking, and the right way. You should be proud.

  • Franklin Berryman

    Should he also include m43 and cameras with 1″ sensors on the one hand, and the GFX and X1D on the other?

  • Thom, I actually spent about 30 minutes looking for a point to debate; but as usual in your writing, there’s no logic there I can really disagree with. At least not with anything strong than ‘well maybe they’ll . . . ‘, which, as you say, the muddy waters in between.

    My biggest questions going forward that I think we’ll get some clarity on in another year are things like this:

    Will Canon go balls-to-the-wall in mirrorless, or will the keep most of their resources milking the cash cow of SLR.

    Does Nikon still have the resources to bring out a lot of new lenses quickly (I think this one is probably yes).

    What will Sony be doing? Obviously, their knee jerk is always ‘we’ll market more and have more traveling road shows’, but they also seem to be putting resources into support infrastructure and quality assurance.

    What about the others? Panasonic seems to be jumping to full-frame soon. Will Olympus follow?

    2019 should be fun and interesting. After that, though, there probably won’t be anything left to argue about so I’ll plan on retiring 🙂


  • I”m really trying to follow this ‘left out’ thinking. When I do a Leica SL teardown, or a micro-4/3 lens report I don’t get a bunch of Canon and Nikon folks saying “why didn’t you talk about us?”

  • T N Args

    I wouldn’t normally think it good advice to hold in one’s GAS, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Thanks

  • Thom Hogan

    Okay, Roger, I’ll debate you ;~).

    The reason why you (and I for that matter) are getting so many “should I” emails is simple: there are perceived (and real) advantages to mirrorless long term (true WYSIWIG, smaller, less mechanical complexity to break). Canon and Nikon were later to serious mirrorless entries than Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony. But Canon and Nikon have a tremendously huge user base, and that user base is anchored by accumulation of EF and F mount lenses.

    So here we have Canon and Nikon finally making their move, and it appears that the move easily incorporates (most) existing lenses without loss of functionality, so people are anxious about whether “it’s time” or not.

    IF we were debating for someone just out of college and starting from scratch with no accumulated equipment, then yes, if they needed a full frame camera system, almost certainly the Sony A7/A9 lineup should be what they look at first.

    But that’s not who’s sending you (or me) emails about the new system and whether it’s time to move.

    The answer is simple: for many, it’s not time yet. Even the third-generation Sonys have a tough time matching the top DSLRs in focus performance with fast moving and erratic subjects. Sports, birding, some wildlife, some other types of photography still are best done with a DSLR. I’ve tried all with the A7Rm3/A7m3/A9 against my D5/D850/D500. The DSLR still wins in these areas, though the gap is narrow now.

    On the landscape side? I think things are completely different. With no real penalty in using your existing EF/F lenses and a trickle of “better” lenses, the R/Z system start to have some advantages. Maybe true of travel and portraiture photography, too.

    It’s all the in-between photography that’s where the muddy waters still are and you can’t answer the question. That said, DSLRs didn’t stop working, and it’s still tough to argue where a mirrorless camera is better, so most people can wait until these new cameras have gone through a thorough evaluation before having to make a choice.

    I think it’s not to be overlooked that both Canon and Nikon are loudly promoting the optical benefits of the new mount. The fact that you can use new optics where the exit pupil moves forward and isn’t clipped by the mount, or put larger elements closer to the sensor, seems to be inspiring the next generation of lens design. Both Canon and Nikon are optical companies at heart. They seem to think that mirrorless is not just about removing the mirrorbox, but gives them the opportunity to rethink optics. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Nikon went from having to work in the most restrictive mount to suddenly having the least restrictive.

  • Thom Hogan

    You seem to forget all the sensor tech that Nikon Imaging got before Sony Imaging.

    I don’t think Sony Semiconductor would have the large sensor options it does today without Nikon’s pollination. That brought SS dual gain, PD on sensor, column ADC, and more. People seem to think Sony Semi invents all the tech in their sensors. Quite a lot of it is licensed. This is the dirty secret throughout the imaging world: there’s a ton of licensing that never gets mentioned. BIONZ, EXPEED, and DIGIC all have licensed technologies in them, too.

    So, to “be honest,” Sony Semiconductor is making sensors for Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, and Sony these days, and they’re doing custom work for every one of those except Pentax. Some of that custom work is integrating licensed technology, some is incorporating tech from those imaging groups themselves. Some comes from things that SS figures out from their smartphone sensor clients. And some comes from SS’s own R&D.

  • Sam

    Mr. Cicala,
    Let’s suppose that you “omitted” m4/3 && Fuji because of sensor size , for a moment.
    Where is the Leica SL full frame mirrorless camera system with an L-mount then?

    Is this some sort of creative marketing campaign going on or I am missing something ?

    Of course this is YOUR site and your business, but let’s be fair for a moment and pretend that we all talk the same language.

  • There are several reasons. One is superb engineering with little time pressure. Another is, like any other lens, the design trade-offs chosen. Leica doesn’t hesitate to use exotic glass, tighter manufacturing controls and not care as much about expense. Finally, Leica trades off some things (and has consistently over time so their users are used to it and generally like the foibles) like field curvature or vignetting; a much thinner optical cover glass (remember the required UV filter issues on some early digital cameras?), etc.

    It’s basically like ‘how does Porsche get all that horsepower and performance out of those small cars?: Time, money, and great engineering.

    Every lens, every single lens ever made, has a design team that chose what compromises to make. Size is one of the easy compromises. If we make it a little bigger it can be better and cheaper. We can make it smaller and cheaper, but it won’t be optically as good. We can make it smaller and optically great; it will be more expensive.

    The Sigma Arts are a great example: the design team was told make it optically great, make it inexpensive. And the answer is obvious; well, fine, but it’s gonna be big.

  • It is possible, no question. And we’re never guaranteed better optics. But a wider mount makes it possible to make better optics, absolutely.

  • True, I’d forgotten that one. And I’ve shot with it several times.

  • If I Sony is your first choice I’d buy into that now. The technology is more mature although they are still in a pretty rapid improvement phase, particularly with improving their optics and infrastructure.

    If I could, though, I’d try hard to wait a year. Even waiting 6 months will probably save you a lot of money and clarify what’s coming quite a bit.

  • Stanislaw Zolczynski

    Good point. At least fast wides should be smaller.

  • Stanislaw Zolczynski

    when you look at compact cameras lens layout you can see that the back glass element is bigger then in conventional designs to avoid the vigneting. Nikon made 50/1.2 and 58/1.2 lenses but they were manual.

  • l_d_allan

    Is that because of how demanding astrophotography is in the corners? Is your optical bench IQ tests more weighted to evaluating the center?

  • Manuel Wenaud

    I just wish Nikon will use their new wider mount to re-create a Nikon S3 ! With 24 Million pixels, I would hang out with it till I die ! Mr Nikon, do you hear me ? I want a rangefinder !

  • T N Args

    Hi Roger, thanks for your sane thoughts on this insane topic.

    Your article looks quite a bit at the DSLR user’s perspective on the 3 mirrorless full frame options. But what about those (like me) thinking of stepping up to one of these 3 “from the outside”? What would your thoughts be from that perspective? Someone wanting to enter one of these 3 systems for the first time, and stay there for a while? cheers

  • Mako

    Nikon DOES sell a 50 mm 1.2 !!!

  • dave9t5

    Smaller economical bodies don’t preclude the release of larger more featured bodies. Both could exist in a product line.

    You still can’t make all your manual adjustments with one hand. Focus and zoom manual adjustments are on the lens for dSLRs.

    Until recently with many brands, aperture adjustment was also on the lens. Many people still miss that or decried the loss of that feature.

    It just shows there is no consensus for where to place controls.

  • dave9t5

    Yes, good point. Smaller bodies + bigger rear screens.

  • Eamon Hickey

    Yes, certainly, the smaller sensors, for cell phones and much else, are 1000X more important than ILC sensors.

    I’m asking this seriously, because I haven’t followed developments closely enough: what sensor technology that Nikon and others could use does Sony Imaging get first, or exclusively? The sensor in the A9 is pretty unique in the marketplace right now, but nobody else has needed what it can do. (Presumably, Nikon will sometime in the next 2-3 years.) Other than that, what technologies are you referring to?

  • David Bateman

    Nikon is really a lens company first. I don’t see that happening. Also the slow down Roger hints to in DSLR market, I think is due to Nikon focus on this new Mirrorless mount. So I think a lot of really good Nikon glass will come first and it will take years for third parties to crack the mount code to release lenses. Nikon specifically said they were not sharing.
    Also it was hinted that Nikon will have a second none premium Z lens line. The S line is the premium line.

  • David Bateman

    Roger your first two sentences made me question if people also email you to ask if they can go to the bathroom. Really don’t people think anymore? Or is the internet suppose to do that for them now.
    I am not a Canon user, but the first Canon offering made me think that if I was a Canon user holding out. Now is the time to jump over to Sony. Really for same price point you get a A7mk3 and metabones or sigma AF adapter to use your Canon lenses. The feature set on the Sony is much better.
    The Z6, I am actually interested in. But will definitely wait a couple years. At least now is the time to pick up AF-D lenses, as the used prices have fallen due to no support on the Z mount.
    At least they were low last week. The 60mm Macro I want has gone back up.

  • Refurb7

    Canon is offering an adapter with a control wheel right from the start.

  • Thsi blog post was too logical. 🙂

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

  • citrate

    Does wilder mount necessarily give better optical performance? Several f/e mount lenses are better than the corresponding ef mount ones.
    Is it possible to make f/1.2 lenses for a smaller mount? I don’t know. But you can adapt ef mount 50mm and 85mm f/1.2 lenses to e mount with autofocus and no obvious loss of optical performance. So I don’t see why f/1.2 autofocus lens is not possible for e mount.

  • i_felonious

    I love my 5d4 and have the latest generation canon lenses. in fact I have never been happier with any camera equipment since I got the Canon AE-1 in 1980. but I also loved the earphone jack on my iPhone 6s but apple did away with it.
    I think there’s a good chance the 5d Mark V will be mirrorless. don’t really see the reason for keeping the mirror or offering both DSLRs and mirrorless. I think that’s the type of thinking that hurt Nikon in past when they tried to dictate to the market that 1.5 crop was the sweet spot.
    yeah i’m old and resistant to change but that’s what I see happening. EF lenses will be around for a few more years but when i’m ready for the 16-35L IIII it will be R mount.

    like you I plan to keep using what I have for 2-3 more years. the only thing that interests me now is sensor technology and I think we are near a peak there.

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