Missing Items in Each System

This article attempts to identify things that are still missing in each of the various mirrorless camera systems. This article updates and replaces a small section that used to appear in the Articles section of this site.

Canon EOS M
We have two basic body choices and the models range from entry level to a near DSLR level. We also have eight EOS M lenses, through three are mid-range convenience zooms. 

What EOS M doesn’t have at the moment is:

  • Quite a few compact primes (at minimum: 16mm and 50mm).
  • More than one fast prime (the above could be f/1.4 or f/2 and help solve this, but right now we have only one 32mm f/1.4 option, and that clearly makes for a gap with other “full” systems).
  • Fast or semi-fast fixed aperture zooms (16-50mm, 50-135mm, either f/2.8 or f/4).
  • Long telephoto zooms (50-300mm, or anything that would get us to 400mm equivalent).

The bigger question is whether Canon actually wants to fill any of these holes, or whether they just see the EOS M as a gateway system that’s already reasonably complete. I fear the latter. Which means that if you want something beyond what the EOS M system provides, Canon really wants you to buy one of their DSLRs or R models. 

As a complete stand-alone system that can solve an ILC customer’s full set of needs, the Canon EOS M currently doesn’t come close for serious enthusiasts; it really only satisfies the lowest common denominator consumer.

Canon EOS RF
We have three basic body choices at the moment, the low-end RP, the somewhat higher but strange R, and the DSLR-like R5 and R6. The first two are based on older DSLR sensors at a time when Sony (and others) continue to move forward with their chip technologies. The R5 and R6 are more modern, with new sensors.

We also have 17 RF lenses for those four cameras, with more coming. The problem is that most of those lenses don't match the quality of some of the bodies. If you buy an RP, the only lenses that really match are the 24-105mm f/4-7.1 and 24-240mm f/4-6.3. If you buy an R, I'd argue that only the 24-105mm f/4, 70-200mm f/4, and 35mm f/1.8 macro really match lens and body well. At the other extreme, the 35mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/2 seem too little lens for the new sensors. 

Thus:

  • We need more consumer lenses for the RP/R (a low end kit lens, a consumer telephoto).
  • We need slow, compact primes. The f/1.2L's are expensive and aspirational with the current bodies, and they're large and heavy; so a trio of f/2.8 compact primes would be highly desirable).
  • The higher-end (R5/R6) cameras need more support. We're missing tilt-shift and other options that the EOS DSLR user has available. To get more DSLR users to shift to mirrorless, Canon needs to rapidly fill out the options.

Fujifilm XF
Fujifilm has a reasonably full set of products. 

I’d tend to argue that Fujifilm has a few too many camera options. The camera products seem overly represented by overlapping generation models, lots of style/control experimentation, plus Fujifilm really only has one small, light zoom lens option that matches up well with the smaller, lower cost products. Meanwhile, on-sensor IS is not on all cameras, so this pushes the need for IS into a lot of the lenses, but not quite enough of those exist, and they are higher priced.

  • IBIS needs to reach more XF bodies. On sensor stabilization is the norm now. Every Fujifilm body needs it. 
  • Four or five cameras are enough. The X-T200, X-T30, and X-T4—note the generational issues—are the core of Fujifilm's offerings. Beyond that, pick the X-Pro or the X-H for a final model and simplify and rationalize. There are some who'd argue that the X-E should still be in there, but I'm not seeing the demand for it. And, of course, Fujifilm added the X-S10 to the model proliferation.

On the lens side, only a few things seem missing now. In particular:

  • Longer telephoto primes. The prime lineup mostly stops at the 90mm f/2. At some point we really need something like a 200mm f/2.8 (yes, I know we have 200mm f/2, but that's a big, pricey, specialized lens), maybe a small handful of other telephoto primes of which the 200mm is the mid-point and anchor.
  • More niche options. Tilt/Shift, macro, and a host of other speciality lenses are currently missing or in short supply in the XF system.
  • Some better telephoto zoom options. Fujifilm could really use a 50-140mm f/4, and probably a better 55-200mm kit option. 

Accessories, particularly flash, are one area where Fujifilm also needs some additional options. 

Fujifilm GXF
This new medium format cameras really have one hole: a handful of missing lenses. While we have eleven lenses now, with 18mm plus 35-80mm (equivalent) covered decently, I can see options that I'd like that don't exist.

I think we also need more consistent lens quality in the GXF mount lenses, too. I've seen and heard about just a few too many "not quite perfect" lenses in the field.

I don't know that we need another camera. For an expensive Medium Format range, we already have three models that do a nice job of giving you a reasonable range of options. Just iterate those. 

There’s also the question of flash, as with the smaller APS systems Fujifilm makes. A full radio-activated wireless flash system controlled from the camera seems like another gap to be filled, though I suspect most shooters who'd opt for the GFX would just move to studio strobes.

Hasselblad XCD
Another medium format camera, now in its second generation. We've got a decent range of nine lenses at this point, and they cover most of the needs a MF shooter would typically have. What we don't have yet is a 100mp version of the X1D camera.

Also, Hasselblad seems behind the times in a number of performance capabilities, from autofocus speed to just camera operation speed. 

Leica TL/SL
I’m still not quite sure what to make of the TL/SL cameras. Why? Well, the TL seems to be targeted at convenience (variable aperture and smaller lenses), while the SL seems to be targeted at highest potential image quality and has produced some of the biggest and heaviest mirrorless lenses we’ve seen to date. 

Who am I to say that the TL needs more primes and some faster zooms and the SL needs some smaller lenses? Neither currently seem to be in Leica’s future, and intentionally so; it seems to be their strategy.

However, Leica's partnering with Panasonic and Sigma on the L lens mount has changed things. The lens selection is way up, including some more compact full frame lenses, and you also have a choice of Panasonic and Sigma bodies, too. This alters the equation quite a bit, and means that Leica will have to do more to distinguish itself from the competition.

Thus, I think you only buy into the Leica approach if the model you like has the options you desire. Whatever gaps exist in the Leica offerings are there because Leica doesn’t see them as gaps. 

Nikon 1 (CX)
The Nikon 1 is a dead system. Nikon did not release anything for the system after 2015. Officially, the line is now discontinued, though some new and refurbished gear still is available for purchase.

Since the system is dead, you need to be satisfied with what was produced, and rely more and more on the used market to fulfill any additional purchases you want.

Nikon Z
You can't really say that the Z system replaced the 1 (CX) system, but Nikon came back to the mirrorless market three years later (2018) with a full frame set of offerings based around a new lens mount. Initially, we got two new cameras, the Z6 (24mp) and Z7 (45mp), which matched up really well against the Sony A7 and A7R models. Since then, we've also gotten the Z5, Z50, and Z6 II and Z7 II updates.

At announcement, we learned about four Z-mount lenses and the ability to use virtually all Nikon DSLR lenses via an adapter. In short order, we've gotten twelve additional lenses, and Nikon seems on target to add six to eight new Z lenses a year for the foreseeable future. They won't exactly catch Sony's current FE lens lineup until 2023 or so at that pace, but as I and others have discovered, Nikon did such a good job with the adapter that a lot of recent DSLR lenses can fill in the gaps very nicely.

Still, there's a lot left to be done in the Z lineup:

  • No clear APS-C (DX) sensor strategy. The Z50 is a remarkably good little camera, but has only two lenses to support it, with one more coming in 2021. It's highly unclear what Nikon is doing with Z DX yet. If this was a toe in the water, what did the toe report to the body? ;~)
  • No small primes. Nikon has elected to build out two prime lens lines, a moderate sized f/1.8 one that is high in image quality, and an even faster f/1.2 one that is really high in image quality, but big and heavy. Given how compact and portable the Z camera bodies are, what's missing are lenses that play into that size benefit. We need a series of near pancake f/2.8 primes, too. Two potential lenses that fit that bill are in the Road Map, but there's need for more.
  • 200mm+ is still in the future. As I update this page, we have four future 200mm+ lenses (100-400mm, 200-600mm, 400mm, and 600mm), but little in terms of timing or details. 
  • Video is still missing the mark. The Z6 and Z6 II are actually better video cameras than the Sony A7 Mark III when you look at pixel/frame quality. The problem is lenses. Nikon's fly-by-wire manual focus for video is not really usable (the video autofocus is better than Sony's, IMHO). Nikon doesn't seem to recognize that videographers like gearing on their video lenses, too. Little bobbles like this just aren't going to win over the videographer market.
  • Missing full frame cameras. With Sony now at 60mp and having a mirrorless pro sports camera as well (A9), for Nikon to fully match up we need a Z8 (60mp+) and a Z9 (24mp sports).  

Nikon has a lot of work left to do get fully into mirrorless. To their credit, they seem to be doing it. It's just going to take some time for them to roll out all the things that they need to roll out. 

OM Digital Solutions and Panasonic m4/3
Good news. There’s virtually no substantive gaps these days in the m4/3 system. Considering that we’ve had over 50 m4/3 cameras from these two companies, you’d have to say that if there were still any real gaps, then they should just get out of the business. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t a couple of things I’d like to still see:

  • No truly small-as-can-be camera. The old GM offerings are missed, I think. I’d like to see a 20mp version of that minimal camera.
  • Speciality items such as tilt-shift lenses are still missing (though you can mimic them by using adapters). 

If all OM Digital Solutions and Panasonic did at this point was iterate and improve what they’ve already produced, I think virtually all of the m4/3 crowd would be perfectly happy. The operative question is this: how big is that crowd? Clearly not as big as Olympus (predecessor to OM Digital Solutions) and Panasonic originally hoped. 

Which brings the bad news: Olympus divested its camera business to OM Digital Solutions and the future of that line will be unclear until the new owners show their hand, while Panasonic seems to be emphasizing their L-mount offerings now.

Panasonic/Sigma L
Panasonic has jumped into the L-mount in a big way: four bodies, eight existing lenses and four more scheduled the next twelve months (as I write this). We're still very early in Panasonic's L system, so it's difficult to say where it's really headed or how successful it will be. Nevertheless, it's a full-on effort, much like Canon and Nikon are making. 

Sigma, meanwhile, isn't quite there yet. Their first slightly oddball camera is the fp, and the "converted" Art lenses are just starting to trickle to production, too. We do have three new compact L lenses that have just appeared, and I suspect more are coming.

It probably won't be until mid-2021 that we have a clearer idea of what's really missing in the L systems and why. Right now there's a lot of overlap and congestion and I don't think any of the three companies (Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma) have fully sorted out where they really want to be.

Sony E
Despite 2016 producing two E bodies in quick succession, we still have body gaps. Plus we have lens gaps:

  • No followup to the A5000, thus no small rangefinder-style camera without an EVF. 
  • No replacements for weak lenses, particularly the 16mm f/2.8.
  • Weak prime lineup overall: missing 14mm, while a 20mm tries to straddle the 28mm/35mm equivalent gap. 
  • Incomplete and weak zoom lineup: only two telephoto options, and a lot of fairly weak optics in the kit and mid-range zooms, though the recent 16-55mm f/2.8 and 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 show that Sony is aware of the problem.

Sony is partly replaying the Canon and Nikon mistakes in DSLRs: "hey, the crop sensor camera is just an entry level product and shouldn’t actually be fleshed out: let's force anyone that wants a full system to buy full frame.” So the crop sensor Alpha mirrorless lineup has not seen a lot of action other than updating the A6xxx bodies to current sensors and technologies. Again, those two recent lens additions show us that Sony is aware of the lens gap issue, but there's still a lot to do to fix it.

Sony FE
Funny thing: in my update of this article three years ago I wrote:

  • No true performance A (call it the A9). It’s certainly possible to target the Canon 1DxII and Nikon D5, but Sony hasn’t chosen to do that. 

Well, Sony filled that gap and then updated the camera to Mark II, so maybe I should try for more ;~). How about this: An A6. Use the 24mp full frame sensor, but reduce the user complexity, take off some of the prosumer-level features, provide more guided menus/controls, use a single, slower SD slot, and drive the Sony full frame entry price down to RP levels (e.g. US$1300).

Meanwhile, the lens lineup has gotten far better. I'd call it reasonably complete in the 14-200mm range (though note the missing 20mm prime).

So are there still any gaps in the Sony E lineup? Absolutely:

  • Missing A7 Mark IV: This one is a slam dunk: we’ll see this gap filled in 2021, I believe. 
  • Missing primes: we still have a few missing lenses at the wide end: no really wide angle prime below 20mm, no tilt/shift. In the telephoto realm, Sony has started filling in some of the gaps and now extends out to 135mm (see also fast telephoto prime, below).
  • Weak Kit Zooms: both the 24-70mm f/4 and 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 are fairly poor options and need complete redos. The 28-60mm f/4.5-5.6 compact zoom isn't up to the standards that Nikon set with their 24-50mm collapsible zoom.
  • Fast Telephoto prime: a 300mm f/2.8 and/or 500mm f/4 should exist for this system, though the 400mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4 were welcome. And a 200mm f/2 wouldn’t be out of the question. And if we go beyond telephoto primes, Sony probably could use a 120-300mm f/2.8 and 200-400mm f/4 option, too.

The good news is that we have five very different bodies to choose from that are in constant iteration, the lens set has improved to the point of being more-than-adequate for most shooters (especially the basic zoom trio), and third-party lens support has filled out, giving users a lot of other options. 

I need to do more exploration of the flash options for Sony, but my initial impression is that this area could use more work, too. 

Still, the FE side of Sony Alpha has filled out nicely in a very short time, and it’s clear that Sony is emphasizing it over their other ILC choices, so I expect fewer and fewer gaps in the future. 

It's easy to say that in terms of full frame, Sony has a clear head start over the rest of the competition now. Whether that holds for long is another story and depends a lot on Canon's and Nikon's execution. That's good news, actually, as it should mean that Canon, Nikon, and Sony all stay highly competitive trying to match or beat each other's offerings. That's good for consumers.

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