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
  • I think it’s easy to forget how complicated high quality ILC systems are, especially when it’s of real interesting to you. I have a lot of smart friends who sound really ignorant, period, when asking questions about camera brands and options— but that’s simply because I don’t realize how much useless information has accumulated in my head on the topic. If I were to start speaking to one of them about taxes, for instance, I’d quickly sound like a much bigger idiot than them (and justifiably so).

    Regarding Sony, I think some of the “fanaticism” people observe in those users comes from dealing with the inbred bias that’s built in to anyone who’s long been into photography toward Nikon, and particularly Canon. Even people who genuinely believe they lack sentiment and are above fanboyism sometimes have a strange way of “admitting” that Sony has the best full frame mirrorless camera at the moment. The lack of enthusiasm (where it’d otherwise be there in spades for Canikon had they achieved the same advancements) is usually pretty obvious. We’re all human though, and these brands sort of “house” the things we’re passionate about.

  • A Canuck

    I think that Roger has hit the nail on the head–the huge increase in the diameter of the lens mount is perhaps the most significant distinguishing characteristic of both the Nikon and Canon mirrorless designs. Thank you for this.

  • Someone

    It is not sudden at all. When Canon released their EOS system in 1987 they already emphasized its larger diameter (54 mm, only 1 mm narrower than Z) as their advantage by releasing a 50/1.0 lens that no other SLR lens could have. Nikon F mount was widely criticized for its size since then. All newer mounts were relatively large too: m4/3 is extremely large for the sensor size, Fuji X is relatively big too. So the issue is known, and companies were striving for larger mount for a long time, it is compatibility that held them back from changing mounts.

  • Someone

    Canon R focuses wide open, it is Nikon Z that foceses stoppped down to 5.6.

  • PitchBlack

    From a Fashion perspective: I recently joined the mirrorless world, having shot Nikon for years and before that Canon. I had been waiting forever for Nikon to do something with mirrorless and finally just gave up. I’m not sad that I did.

    From a fashion perspective, mirrorless offers serious advantages. The most important is that the highly centralized focus points of a DSLR makes. The reason is simple, really: in nearly all of my shots, the eyes of the model lie outside the highly centralized location of the focus points of Nikon full frame DSLRs. You just do not frame fashion shots in those points. It’s rare. There really are only two solutions to this problem, both of which have disadvantages. You can either back up and crop to your final image. This of course wastes megapixels, reduces slightly your image quality (distance degrades image quality), and affects depth of field (distance to subject affects background blur, and if you back up and crop, you’re essentially changing your DOF by up to a stop). The other option is to focus and recompose, which is highly prone to error when shooting wide open (which I do a lot), and affects your shooting rhythm and composition.

    The eye focus is also extremely helpful when shooting models. It’s not perfect, but it works great. I have found that the number of keepers wide to near wide open (1.4 to 3.2) has increased dramatically. And by dramatically, I mean from around 75% to about 95%.

    I had planned on using both systems, but I find myself now only rarely using the Nikon, and then only in the studio when I’m shooting at above ƒ8 or so where focus isn’t ever really an issue.

    Could I use the Nikon? Sure. The Canon? No, since I love the added DR for post. Would I use the Nikon? No. I won’t shoot a campaign with one memory card. I just won’t do it. Maybe next year there will be more options, but I am more than happy to be able to shoot almost 18 months with t he Sony before something comes along from Nikon that makes sense.

    I too am not a fanboy. Cameras and lenses are tools. I use the best tools for the job. For fashion right now, the Sony is undeniably the best tool. If Nikon floors me next year, sure, I’ll buy one.

  • SpecialMan

    What is this with all the sentences and paragraphs and punctuation? Words say nothing.
    Teardowns are the only language that means anything nowadays.

  • Dragon

    I am not as bleak about the EF-M line as many now seem to be. I have an M3 and most of the M lenses. The camera is slow, but takes very good pictures and the lenses are both very small and very sharp, which is pushing on at least two corners of Larry Thorpe’s triangle. My thought is that Canon will optimize the M-line for portability, while the opening lens salvo in R is clearly focused on performance over size and weight. I think that makes a clear distinction that overrides Thom Hogan’s 1 stop, 2 stop point below. The release of the 32mm f/1.4 M lens at the same time as the R intro should have clearly sent the message that the M-line is not being abandoned, but rather being purposed. In short, If I just want pictures to remember a trip and want to reach everything, I’ll take a super zoom. If I need really good pictures and size and weight is a challenge, I’ll take the M3. If I want the best possible images, I’ll lug the 5DSR and the heavy glass that goes with it. Taking an R to the party isn’t going to be noticeably smaller or lighter than the 5DSR, so image quality has to be goal of that line. My take is that the M5 II will be a very popular camera when it comes out. Ain’t prediction fun?

  • Michael Clark

    You only get that 20 fps if you’re saving jpeg or compressed raw. Uncompressed raw drops the frame rate to 15 fps or less, depending on the lens.

  • RC Jenkins


    My take on what I’d like to see for mirrorless formats, for the larger players:

    FF: Fuji

  • Hi Roger. I hear you on the time issues. But there are few people that have the reputation that you do for optical testing, and the aliasing issue with mirrorless is simply being conveniently overlooked by the entire industry. Someone has to stand up and show that the Emperor has no cloths! 🙂 And you have all the toys under one roof. Maybe one of your associates there at the company might take up the project? The results really should be quite dramatic and worth the effort.

    Hey, all I can do is bring up the subject—no test lab in my office. hee! hee! hee!

    Take care amigo, Pete

  • Pete, I agree with the need, but I don’t do on-camera measurements anymore. It’s simply me going ‘this is what we can contribute, no one else does bench optics and variance measurement’. There isn’t enough time to do everything and honestly there are other people who can do camera testing better than I can.

  • Someone

    Spot on.

    Thanks for sharing your views.

  • Hi Roger:
    I guess this is as good a place as any to ask you to consider doing an article on measured performance of dSLRs with Optical Low Pass Filters (OLPF) in contrast to mirrorless without. I for one think that this is a huge issue with mirrorless camera systems, and the majority of dSLRs. Aliasing is basic, real, and leads to terrible issues in Bayer matrix decoding. Out of convenience and cost savings, it seems that the leading manufacturers have abandoned OLPFs, with notable exception of the Canon 5D MK IV and the flagship Nikon and Canon press cameras. There seems to be so much concern over other issues that are minor or irrelevant to image-making with mirrorless, but the lack of an OLPF gets skipped over like a flat stone. I think your testing system would quickly get to the point with some hard data. Please give it some thought.

  • David Cartagena

    Motorola is probably not the best example. The company I work in was once owned by Motorola, and that did not go well, now we are part of Taiwan based GWC the third largest Silicon wafer manufacturer in the world and we are great at working together all over the world, from Taiwan, to Italy, Denmark, Japan, and the US.

    So maybe i am the wrong person to learn about working together.

  • Thom Hogan

    Fuji is definitely all-in with APS-C. They made a choice and they’re sticking to it. This gives them some price/size potential advantages (compared to “equivalent” full frame offerings).

    But that’s one of the reasons why I questioned Canon with their RF versus M mirrorless strategy. M doesn’t lead naturally to RF due to the mount decisions; there won’t be an adapter. Thus, Canon’s current strategy of APS-C sensor being mostly true consumer is at loggerheads with Fujifilm’s APS-C sensor being consumer AND prosumer AND pro. The EF-M lens lineup is going to look pathetic against the Fujfilm X lineup (already is, actually). Fujifilm can offer the consumer someplace to go, Canon can’t (not without releasing a lot more bodies and lenses in the M series).

    As I’ve noted before, Fujifilm was correct in putting their two systems two stops apart (e.g. APS-C and smallMF). Canikony have the one stop apart problem, where if they do high-end APS-C it’s clearing competing with their low-end full frame, and if they make APS-C just consumer and full frame prosumer/pro they don’t look so good.

    Panasonic seems to be following the two-stops apart notion with m4/3 and full frame (with, I think, as you noted, a video emphasis). It becomes the same thing in video as in stills: the two stop approach lets you do full lines at both ends, and lets you clearly differentiate. Super35 (APS-C) and full frame aren’t far enough apart in video, either, to build clear, differentiated lines.

  • Olandese Volante

    “Hurt someone bad” is a bit of an euphemism, the charge on the capacitors in a studio strobe could be lethal.
    As someone who repairs valve amps for a living, I’ve had a few brushes with charged high voltage caps, ‘cuz I forgot to check before I started poking into the circuitry – and I can tell you, getting zapped with 400V or so is thoroughly unpleasant.

  • HF

    Do you have insight beyond that we usually have, or is it just an educated guess?

  • Jean-Baptiste Labelle

    Size of sensor is NOT a matter of opinion. FF has much bigger sensor. Considering that Sony has also a BSI sensor and measured as state-of-the-art, I do not know how you can claim that it is a matter of “opinion” that the FF cameras here, discussed in context of bringing competition to the Sony FF mirrorless, are in the same discussion with a smaller sensor camera.
    You really start to look like a troll with all your answers on the subject that should be crystal clear by now.

  • Eamon Hickey

    The possibility had occurred to me, but rumors don’t mean much to me—so many are wrong or contradictory. When and if there’s an actual teardown, I’ll be interested.

  • Greg Dunn

    > Has Sony’s A9 managed continuous autofocus as well as the D5 or 1DX2 ? Has it REALLY?

    Not in my experience, or in the unbiased tests I’ve seen. All you have to do is look at what sports photographers use at critical events and you see that no one who does this for a living is willing to fully trust mirrorless camera autofocus yet. I just shot two world championship tournaments with a dozen other photographers, and the ONE person who was using a mirrorless camera admitted to pre-focusing for all his action shots.

    Even focus fine tuning (which I use, and appreciate) doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker – I have several friends who either don’t have or don’t use it and they get great shots too. Tolerances are much better these days than in the past. The important thing is that they can trust their camera to deliver good focused images and if it works for them, great.

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

  • SpecialMan

    You say wait for the second generation but at any moment of any day one of us could be carried off by a giant eagle. Would we really want our last thought in the world to be “I wonder if the Z7 autofocus was really better than my D810.”

  • Mk.82

    @Dave 9t5 “Roger, the control ring on the lens has some bigger potential implications for Canon’s body design and market control plans in the longer term.”

    For now 8 years (since first Olympus mirrorless m4/3 E-P1 came out) I have been recommending Olympus to implement a firmware feature to change FBW lenses focus ring to function ring when in AF mode, and disable it when in MF mode. That even more since 2012 when E-M5 was released but stopped couple years ago.
    I found it strange that they totally have the straight information when the focus ring is rotated and how much, and it should be simple thing to change it to be read when AF is enabled and allow that way Function calls be made.

    Well, Canon did it now, surprise! And they did it even by adding a third ring to lenses just for it (IMHO bad idea).

  • Jean-Baptiste Labelle

    Mr Cicala, you articles are famous in photo hobby and professionalism world and your experience does not need any reminder.
    But I find it funny that it is usually the people the more versed into a topic that are the more blind seeing the trend coming.
    For me mirrorless, is like, all kind of disruption: digital camera, new smartphone “type” with the iPhone introduction, social media, online merchandise site…and the same thing is happening with EV where people, even now, still do not believe in a rapid switch whereas the Model III is already in value the MOST sold car and number 5 in quantity.
    Same thing happened for mirrorless. Canon (and Nikon) are obviously benefiting from their brand name (as are legacy ICE manufacturers or Blackberry and Nokia in the past) but this is clear that DSLR has just no future.
    It started with premium ML where you can get rid more easily of the inherent compromise of every new technology and Sony, from an consumer electronic background (although they obviously inherit from Minolta optic expertise), reached supremacy on FF mirrorless in, what, 4 years? Less time that Canon took to go from one model (5DII) to its successor (5DIII).
    And if the number is correct, even if Nikon would double their FF sales, they would just reach Sony.

    Yes, Canon is still by far, the number on in ILCE but because they are mostly selling dirty cheap camera, and not with their sales of 1Dx or 5DS. Plus, you have an inherent huge inertia because of the lens investment.

    But it is clear that not only Sony is already dominating the market of FF and is impacting more and more Canon and Nikon (when you consider that after 4 years, they sale more than all, for some long established, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh… COMBINED) and that there is no surprise seeing Canon and Nikon chasing Sony as they have no choice.

    “People” do purchase DSLR, not because they prefer the “feel of an SLR” but because Canon and Nikon as camera brands are impregnated in their mind, because they were the only real significant player when they growed up and saw their parents shooting them and because you can find a 400$ kit in every Wallmart and supermarket and those people believe that it is the “safe” choice.
    But the dominance of Sony on FF is showing that for more informed and dedicated people, willing to put their à priori aside, mirrorless is statistically considered as better as DSLR.
    It is only a matter of time to have this impact trickling down to the whole market Canon and Nikon market share.
    I DO believe that Canon (and Nikon) have the possibilities to remain dominant for the next decade, but certainly not while continuing only selling DSLR (and if the first place of the lukeward M serie in Japan is an indication of that).

  • Jean-Baptiste Labelle

    The fact that we discussed if the 2000$ A7III (=A9) AF is “really” at parity with a 6500$ top of the line, Canon biggest camera seller in the world, flagship camera is telling, isn’t it?

    I don’t understand how keeping the mirror is bringing any advantage as we can see that even the Achilles heel of mirrorless now as revert to one of it strength (A9 with 20fps continuous AF with zero blackout time and complete silence).
    So yes, mirrorless is ALSO downsizing, which, in itself is already a pretty big deal and advantage.
    But if mirrorless, with EVF, would not be an advantage, you would not have Liveview on DSLR, would you?

  • Thom, I think your point #3 is the summary of all: “The days of sampling / leaking / switching are mostly over now.” I think there will be some ship jumping for the next year back-and-forth with a net of zero change. And some more two-system shooters. But the annual statistics won’t change like they have been.

    I wonder if you’ve whispered that advice to Sony; I had some time with their Director for Educational Markets very recently 🙂 If so they listened to you way more than they do to me.

    My opinion is pretty much yours; this will be good for everyone and we’ll have more competition in good ways. Sony will try to get the QC and customer support in better order, Canon and Nikon will release lenses and improve cameras. Panasonic will (I suspect) try to carve a full-frame SLR video niche and be successful at it.

    And I just put this down because I see some signs that make me speculate. Watch Fuji. I don’t think they’re going full-frame but they’re doing some REALLY aggressive optics lately. I wonder if they are going to try dominating the APS-C niche, assuming others are going to ignore it.


  • I think Thom and I are like the Knights of Logic in the dying days of chivalry. The fanboys now have crossbows and the outcome is inevitable, but we’re old and stubborn and believe in our ways. 🙂

  • Ching we generally don’t do lighting tear downs; I can put all the disclaimers and warnings I want but I know the posts end up being ‘how to’s’ sometimes for people doing it yourself. I don’t feel bad for them if they ruin a camera or lens, but the amount of current that could be stored in strobe capacitors could hurt someone bad and I’m not willing to encourage ‘look inside your strobe’.

  • Stanislaw Zolczynski

    Rumors say it`s made by Samsung.

  • Stanislaw Zolczynski

    Sony 12-24 on Nikon Z. Wow!

  • Stanislaw Zolczynski

    And there`s no back or front focusing issues with on-sensor focusing.

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