Photokina Mirrorless Scorecard

Now that the major announcements are all done and I can clear my head and contemplate the overall impacts on both the camera market and on each mirrorless system individually, it’s time to do some results scoring.

  • Canon — A no show. Nothing new in mirrorless from them, which leaves the field still wide open for the other competitors. While Canon did bracket mirrorless with the G7 X and 7DMarkII announcements, it appears that for the time being, at least, they’ll continue with PowerShot’s and Rebels/DSLRs as their defense against mirrorless. There was mention that there would eventually be more EOS M lenses, but that was a vague statement. Overall Grade: F
  • Fujifilm — A modest step forward, mostly centered around lenses and yet another firmware update. The 50-140mm f/2.8 adds a nice telephoto option, plus we got to see the 16mm f/1.4, 16-55mm 2.8, 90mm macro, and 140-400mm f/4-5.6 lenses for the first time. One downer: the 16-55mm doesn’t have OIS. Still, Fujifilm continues to slow roll the lenses with no replication (i.e. they’re filling gaps). The firmware updates are nice, but it seems that it’s really all about the X-T1 these days; one wonders where any other X-mount camera update is. Things appear to have slowed down a bit at Fujifilm. Overall Grade: B
  • Leica — The nascent T got two new much-needed lenses, the venerable M got a modest update plus a special no-LCD version, plus we got some new versions of Summarit M-mount lenses. As usual at Photokina, Leica had a lot to say and to show, but also as usual, it isn’t all available immediately, either. The new T lenses won’t show up until January, making for a Scrooge Christmas for T users. (I should probably report that Leica was extremely active this year, with new models across all their different camera lines. My count is that overall they introduced at least nine new cameras and as many new lenses. Leica’s all-in with the camera game, unlike a lot of the so-called camera companies, apparently.) Overall Grade: B
  • Nikon — A no show. Oh, the Nikon 1 cameras were there, but there was nothing new under the sun, not even a lens road map that I can find. Maybe an eventual V4 will finally get the V series right, but who knows when that will be now that Aptina has been bought by someone mostly interested in sensors for automobiles. Also, we got an apology for not producing enough 70-300mm lenses. Overall Grade: F
  • Olympus — The 40-150mm f/2.8 looks great, the E-PL7 was totally expected, while the unexpected firmware update—even if it didn’t seem to get the 4K video support that some thought it would—is a bit like Fujifilm: a very nice sign that Olympus isn’t sitting on their butts. Unfortunately, most Olympus cameras at dealers are sitting on their butts, apparently. Quietly in Japan Olympus disclosed that m4/3 sales are down year-to-year yet again, and quite disappointingly so. The Open Platform thing sounds interesting on paper, but we need more details before getting excited about it. Overall Grade: C
  • Panasonic — Surprise, surprise, a GM with an EVF. That fixes that problem (and probably dooms the GX7 style camera). The new 14mm and 35-100mm lenses are just nice little sweeteners (both are in the same design style as the new GM5), as was the prototype 30mm f/2.8 Macro that showed up as a surprise in their booth, even to some Panasonic personnel ;~). I liked the GM1, and think the GM5 might almost make it to love. Panasonic cited better-than-expected GH4 sales, too. Still, not a lot new, and the pro lens expansion seems to have retracted. Overall Grade: C+/B-
  • Pentax — Another no show. Well, okay, they showed up with a new name for the same camera and some new colors. Still, not a lot happening at Pentax at the moment in regards mirrorless. Overall Grade: D- (credit for at least announcing something)
  • Samsung — It appears that Samsung is swinging for the fences again. It’s a little early to tell whether the NX1 actually made it out of the park (or was a routine out, or worse, a foul ball), but the specs and technology sound just about right. The new f/2.8 lenses help, too (16-50mm, 50-150mm, and an eventual 300mm). It’ll all depend upon whether that 28mp BSI sensor ups the image quality, whether the phase detect autofocus really works well enough to justify that 15 fps frame rate, and whether the video side really delivers on the 4K promise, ala the GH4. I’d cautiously call the NX1 the “hit” of the mirrorless party at Photokina. Overall Grade: A- (pending confirmation)
  • Sony — No new cameras (other than a pro video one using the FE mount), but the slowly expanding lens scene is finally starting to make the A7 bodies look like an interesting choice. We’re still only at 9 lenses today (including Zeiss), with four of those not quite on dealers’ shelves yet (Real Soon Now), but Sony and Zeiss let in enough light at the end of the lens barrel so that we can see a pretty reasonable set of choices hitting us by mid-2015 (using Sony’s counting method, 15 “lenses”). Personally, I’m really curious about the 28mm f/2 plus the fisheye and 21mm converter for it. Of course, if the 16-35mm f/4 really delivers, I’ll be a little less interested. Still, Sony did what they needed to do in letting people know what’s coming for FE. Too bad they keep forgetting they’ve still got some meaningful gaps in the basic E mount and they need to get rid of that compression in A7 raw files. Let’s hope Sony isn’t making the same DX/FX mistake Nikon did. Overall Grade: B-

Those with long memories will remember that “mirrorless” (other than the Leica M) started with the m4/3 twins, followed by a mad rush from Sony, a maddening rush from Canon and Nikon, and then a made-in-Japan/Korea/Germany rush from the others. The dust is cleaning a bit at the moment, and quite frankly, Sony is the one playing King of the Hill at the moment (claimed 40% market share).

I’m still pretty much an m4/3 user when it comes to mirrorless, with a side of Nikon 1. A GM5 and E-M1 with a basic set of lenses go a long, long way for me. But when I think about what I’d like to personally explore in mirrorless moving forward, it really comes down to Fujifilm and Sony. The Leica and Samsung latest offerings also catch my interest and will eventually come for testing.    

So:

  • I still love m4/3 and Sony E but am not in love with them. 
  • I’m infatuated with Fujifilm XF and Sony FE.
  • I have a lust for Leica T and Samsung NX that might not actually be fulfilled by their actuality.
  • My Nikon V3 still nags me, but she has her moments.

The problem, of course, is that all these camera makers need sales. While mirrorless sales aren’t collapsing like compact cameras or in slow decline ala DSLRs, they’re also not setting the world on fire, either. Photokina didn’t really do much to change that. All I can say is that we had a lot of lens announcements, so please do support your favorite camera by buying one of the many new interesting and compelling lenses. That’ll help, I’m sure. 

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