Mirrorless Camera News and Commentary

News and commentary about the mirrorless camera world (latest on top). Hover or tap on News/Views in the menu bar above to see the full list of recent articles as well as folders containing all older ones dating back to 2011.

The Next Full Frame Cameras

Oh, the headline got your attention, did it? 

There's only one "known" full frame mirrorless camera coming that we can talk about: the Sigma L. That's going to be a 20.3mp full frame, L-mount camera that arrives some time in 2020. 

Sigma will tell you that it's a 60.9 million something sensor, but in terms of the output, it's really 20.3 million final pixels. The thing is, it's not a Bayer sensor, but a Foveon design—and one that returns to the original Foveon three layer approach—so basically you're getting full luminance and color data at 20.3 million positions. 

From there, we have one "somewhat likely" full frame candidate in 2019: Sony has yet to introduce a Mark III version of the A7S. What that would be is anyone's guess, as the A7S sensor was an unexpected one-off and that's likely to be true again. 

I use the words "somewhat likely" for the A7S Mark III for a reason: keeping an S model distinguished from the new A7m3 on the video side is going to be a tough deal to accomplish. The 12mp of the A7S basically means you're using every photosite for 4K video, and thus you're getting Bayer impacts when you do (i.e., you're interpreting luminance at every other position). The 24mp of the A7m3 has better luminance integrity for detail but worse luminance noise. From a pragmatic approach, though, Sony would now be shoehorning the A7S into a more narrow space than before, and it was already in a narrow space.

Thus, any A7S update has to find a place where it delivers "better" video than the A7m3, which is a tall order. I suppose it's possible to do a 24mp 8K video sensor. Plus there's the chance for a global shutter, removing all rolling shutter issues. But you can see how Sony's got themselves into a fairly tight window here given the A7m3's highly credible capabilities. And if the true target is a "better stills" camera, then the sensor pretty much has to stay well below 24mp, or else Sony has to have invented some new technology that truly goes well beyond what current Exmor sensors can do and obsoletes their A7m3 in doing so.

So, "somewhat likely." I'm sure Sony would like to continue to have a mostly video-oriented A7 model, but they also have to steer clear of getting into the FS XDCAM professional range, too. It's a narrow, tricky, window for them to get through. 

The curious thing is how much Sony is pushing new abilities and performance into Mark III (and A9) firmware this year. That would tend to tell me not to expect a new A7R or A9 this year, but that their lives will be extended by firmware updates. 

Rumors abound about Canon introducing late in 2019 what essentially would be the followup to the 5Ds/r, but in mirrorless form: a high-megapixel count R model (technically, that should be named RP, for R Professional, but Canon's making marketing mistakes galore as they race to mirrorless; the camera they named RP should have been named RC, for R consumer). 

Given Canon's mismatched RF lens launches—high end lenses for lower end bodies—it makes strong sense to believe that those high-megapixel count camera rumors are credible, and that it's coming as soon as possible. But what's the sensor tech? Sure, it'll be dual pixel, as everything Canon fabs now sports that. But will it be something beyond? Canon has a patent on a "dual well" type approach: they really need to do something to bring forward their dynamic range capabilities, and particularly on a smaller photosite, high megapixel count, high-end camera. Put another way: Canon needs more than more pixels, it needs better pixels. 

Finally, images of Nikon early prototypes for the Z6 and Z7 emerged and generated false rumors about Nikon creating a lower-end model to take on the Canon RP. No doubt that will happen, but those photos of "prototypes" aren't what that low-end camera will look like. Nikon certainly would love to replicate the D610, D750, D850 lineup in Z, which would be a Z5, Z6, and Z7. And Nikon would love to eventually add the D5 equivalent, which I'll call a Z9 since it would sit at the top of the lineup and give them a complete line. 

But there's nothing that indicates that Nikon is at all ready to do so or that it would happen in 2019. Indeed, to a large degree, Nikon would have the same problem Canon currently has if a Z5 were to appear any time soon: no suitable lenses for the consumer camera. 

It's not difficult to guess what a Z5 would look like, though: re-use the Z6 image sensor, but lose the top OLED; use a lessor EVF and LCD; opt for SD card over XQD; lose some of the weatherstripping (but not the seam overlaps); perhaps even get rid of the tilting LCD mechanism. As I noted elsewhere, the question is whether Nikon could strip out US$200 worth of parts and manufacturing costs, though. Because that's what they'd need to do to get to Canon's RP pricing. So we also start losing things like the headphone jack, the USB 3.0 port (back to 2.0), the thumb stick, and maybe even replace some of the metal frame internals with plastic/carbon fiber.

If you're keeping track, that's a lot of stuff to rework, test, document, and set up for robotic manufacturing. Again, while I expect Nikon will get around to making a Z5, I don't think it likely to happen in 2019. 

As I wrote earlier this year, we're in a very good spot with full frame now. DSLRs built out their full frame lines earlier, and now mirrorless has mostly built out, with the next steps being reasonably predictable.

So with that in mind, here's the full list of what you can buy today (in bold) and anticipate tomorrow (non-bold). All models in basically ascending order of price/sophistication, with truly speculative models listed in brackets:

  • Canon RP, R, RS, [RX?]
  • Leica M, M10, Monochrom, SL, SLm2
  • Nikon Z5, Z6, Z7, [Z9?]
  • Panasonic S1, S1R
  • Sigma L
  • Sony A7, A7m2, A7m3, A7Rm2, A7Rm3, A7S, A7Sm2, A7Sm3, A9

So again, if mirrorless full frame is something you aspire to, there's plenty or product to choose from already, and there's enough information and informed speculation to understand what might be added to the near term choices. 

I also went through the Canon RF and Nikon Z full frame lens lineups earlier this week. The current and forthcoming Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma L lenses are relatively well known at this point, too. The Sony FE lens lineup is pretty extensive with only a few gaps left to fill. 

So. Even if you aren't going to spring for it in 2019, you should be able to begin making a decision as to whether full frame mirrorless is a place you're likely to go, and further have a pretty good idea of which of the four mounts you're likely to opt for. 

Addendum: You might have noticed that Sony has eight current and potentially nine models in their lineup. I would say that's unsustainable, and will ultimately cause Sony the same issues it caused Nikon when Nikon ran into the declining market size squeeze. 

For the big three players, there are probably only four models they need to make:

  1. True consumer (RP, Z5, ?)
  2. Sophisticated consumer/prosumer (R, Z6, A7)
  3. High megapixel/high prosumer (RS, Z7, A7R)
  4. Pro (RX?, Z9?, A9)

Pushing any further than that in a small volume market—which is what full frame has been, is, and will continue to be—starts to be extremely inefficient. Moreover, if you don't get strong parts re-use across models—and Canon is not lined up properly for that at the moment—you destroy your gross profit margin very quickly. 

Meanwhile, the temptation to keep older models on the market to offer more choices and add some parts use volume—typically driven by the image sensor commitment—is an old Japanese CES trick, but one that tends to put you in a long-term bind. All you're really doing is pushing the rock further down the path. But meanwhile, the path is getting smaller and smaller and tougher to navigate in the camera market ;~). It's a little like an addiction at some point: you finally got your Mark I numbers to where you wanted them, but that was expense of the Mark II numbers. When you get the Mark II numbers where you wanted them it was at the expense of the Mark III. But each "hit" produces less high in a contracting market. So...

Memo to Sony: get the Mark I and Mark II models off the market ASAP. Define a new entry camera (A6). Push frequent and strong firmware updates to keep the Mark III models "current." 

The Blanks in the Canon RF Lens Line

bythom canon rf

We don't really have a lens roadmap from Canon like we do for most of the other companies. The lenses we know about so far give us this picture by focal length:

  • 16mm (covered by 15-35mm f/2.8L)
  • 20mm (covered by 15-35mm f/2.8L)
  • 24mm (covered by 24-105mm f/4L, 15-35mm f/2.8L, 24-70mm f/2.8L, 24-240mm f/4-6.3)
  • 28mm (covered by 24-105mm f/4L, 15-35mm f/2.8L, 24-70mm f/2.8L, 28-70mm f/2L, 24-240mm f/4-6.3)
  • 35mm (covered by 24-105mm f/4L, 15-35mm f/2.8L, 24-70mm f/2.8L, 28-70mm f/2L, 35mm f/1.8 Macro, 24-240mm f/4-6.3)
  • 50mm (covered by 24-105mm f/4L, 24-70mm f/2.8L, 28-70mm f/2L, 50mm f/1.2L, 24-240mm f/4-6.3)
  • 70mm (covered by 24-105mm f/4L, 24-70mm f/2.8L, 28-70mm f/2L, 70-200mm f/2.8L, 24-240mm f/4-6.3)
  • 85mm (covered by 24-105mm f/4L, 70-200mm f/2.8L, , 24-240mm f/4-6.3)
  • 105mm (covered by 24-105mm f/4L, 70-200mm f/2.8L, 24-240mm f/4-6.3)
  • 135mm (covered by 70-200mm f/2.8L, 24-240mm f/4-6.3)
  • 200mm (covered by 70-200mm f/2.8L, 24-240mm f/4-6.3)

Rumors are all over the place with Canon RF, mostly due to a long list of published patents. We see 35mm f/1.4L, 28mm f/2.8, 70-300mm f/4-5.6, 85mm f/1.2L, 90mm f/2.8 macro, 135mm f/1.8L, plus a bunch of DO lenses that could be in RF mount in the recent patents. And that's just the most recent, easily found patents.

What immediately strikes me is that Canon has 28-70mm covered. If your need is in that focal range, Canon has plenty of options for you, with more coming. Wide angle and telephoto are where the lineup appears weak and needs to be strengthened. 

So let's give Canon 16 lenses to roll out in 2019/2020, what should the unknown ones be (that would be 11 more unidentified ones, and as with my article on Nikon Z lenses, I'm going to boldface my choices)?

Clearly we have two consumerish bodies (R, RP) that need more consumer lenses than just a 24-240mm and 35mm macro. We need a wide angle zoom (16-35mm f/4), an inexpensive mid-range non-L (24-85mm f/3.5-5.6), and a basic telephoto zoom (70-300mm f/4-5.6). We probably also need a 50mm lens that isn't the big, fat, expensive f/1.2L, too (50mm f/1.8). 

Canon certainly knows that some of their most popular primes have been the inexpensive near-pancakes, which attract both the consumer and the enthusiast. I'm on record as saying that every Canon EF user should have at least one of those lenses in their bag. For RF these would be a 24mm f/2.8, a 35mm f/2.8, and a 40mm f/2.8.

Telephoto needs a lot of love in RF: we're missing a macro (90mm f/2.8, but I'd rather have something longer), a modest high-end telephoto zoom (70-200mm f/4L), and of course, the seminal Canon long telephoto zoom equivalent (100-400mm f/4-5.6L).

A fast 35mm prime (35mm f/1.2L) and a wider angle prime (24mm f/1.4L) also seem to be missing, but you could say that pretty much all primes up to 50mm are needed in a fast livery. 

That doesn't leave room for anything exotic. Tilt-shift, diffraction optic telephotos, and fast telephoto primes would still all be missing with the 11 lenses I just noted. 

The thing I've noted before about Canon's RF initiative is the mismatch in lens and body levels. We've gotten the more consumerish 6D (RP) and basic 5D (R) type bodies, but not really the lenses that match them (thus the need to fill in all the more consumer-type lenses; six of my eleven choices fit that definition). The more RP bodies Canon sells, the more extreme this problem becomes, and I think Canon will sell a lot of RP bodies. 

Meanwhile, Canon is reasonably well set up for a 5Ds/r and/or 1Dx transfer to mirrorless—or some new high-end body—but those bodies aren't here yet, so we have this odd L-quality lens but non-L body mismatch. That's a mismatch in price as well as required quality, which is what I think Canon will be fighting until they correct it. Curiously, of the five lenses Canon announced development of for 2019, four are still L's! So this mismatch is going to continue, apparently. 

So, you've gotten my list of lenses, what would be the eleven you'd pick? (Remember to look at the known R lens list first.) 

The Blanks in the Nikkor Z Lineup

bythom nikon zlenses

Nikon's roadmap for Z mount lenses keeps getting small adjustments. At the moment, Nikon is showing charts with three unidentified lenses to be released in 2020, eight in 2021. The operative question is what do we want those lenses to be, and what are they likely to be?

First, let's back up and look at the landscape that is known (through first part of 2020):

  • 14mm (covered by 14-30mm f/4, 14-24mm f/2.8)
  • 20mm (covered by 14-30mm f/4, 14-24mm f/2.8, 20mm f/1.8)
  • 24mm (covered by 14-30mm f/4, 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 24mm f/1.8)
  • 28mm (covered by 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8)
  • 35mm (covered by 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.8)
  • 50mm (covered by 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.2)
  • 70mm (covered by 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8)
  • 85mm (covered by 70-200mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.8)
  • 105mm (covered by 70-200mm f/2.8)
  • 135mm (covered by 70-200mm f/2.8)
  • 200mm (covered by 70-200mm f/2.8)

Look at it by maximum aperture choices at each focal length:

  • 14mm — f/2.8, f/4
  • 20mm — f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4
  • 24mm — f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4
  • 28mm — f/2.8, f/4
  • 35mm — f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4
  • 50mm — f/1.2, f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4
  • 70mm — f/2.8, f/4
  • 85mm — f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4
  • 105mm — f/2.8
  • 135mm — f/2.8
  • 200mm — f/2.8

The first thing that stands out is that there's not a lot happening above 50mm. Clearly Nikon needs two lenses in the telephoto range: 70-200mm f/4 optimized for compactness, and a 70-300mm or 100-400mm f/4-5.6 also optimized for compactness. (I'm going to bold my choices along the way in this article, showing you what 11 lenses I'd make to fill out Nikon's road map.)

There's also no DX lenses nor any true consumer "kit" zooms to go with whatever the Z5 turns out to be (I suspect that's the next model we'll get). If we assume that a Z5 is a high-end DX model, we'd need a 16mm f/1.8 and 16-70mm f/2.8 or f/2.8-4 (I don't think this likely). If we assume that a Z5 is a low-end consumer FX model, we need a 24-100mm f/3.5-5.6, and maybe a 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6. 

Given that we've got an f/1.2 prime coming, I'd expect Nikon to fill out other offerings like that, in particular a 35mm f/1.2 and 85mm f/1.2. We're also missing a couple of f/1.8 offerings: the 28mm f/1.8 and 105mm f/1.8

Conspicuously missing in the Z lens lineup is a macro lens. I personally would like Nikon to break out of the box of their thinking here. Their box would predict either a 60mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, a 105mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, or both. I'd strongly suggest that they give us all a little more working distance while adding a telephoto lens option by making a 135mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor or maybe even a 180mm f/4 Micro-Nikkor.

While the PF primes for the F-mount are actually quite good choices on the Z cameras with the FTZ adapter, I'd really like to see Nikon start re-setting that lineup with emphasis on the two things the Z mount provides (potential outer edge gains compactness): 400mm f/4 PF. Note that this dovetails with the F-mount offerings and provides some incentive for DSLR users to switch if that's the lens they really want.

That leaves me three more lenses to fill in. I'd opt for not repeating too much in the main focal ranges, but push to provide more flexibility for the system. Thus, I'd have a fisheye (15mm f/2.8), a tilt-shift (24mm f/4), and a pancake (24mm f/2.8, but it could be 35mm or 50mm; the primary thing it needs to be is super compact).

That's my choices for filling in the 11 lenses not identified in Nikon's road map. What's your choice?

The CP+ Roundup — Mirrorless Side

Warning: I'm going to include some compact and all-in-one cameras in this mirrorless article. After all, they don't have a mirror ;~). Note that I also consider anything released in the two weeks prior to CP+ as being CP+ related. Some products you may think are CP+ related, e.g. the Olympus E-M1X, fall outside that cut-off.

CP+ seemed a bit like a coming out party for mirrorless (not that it wasn't already out). By that I mean that it was ubiquitous now that virtually everyone's got their feet in the water (hello, Pentax?). 

  • 7 Artisans 60mm f/2.8 macro M, X, m4/3, E mount—A manual focus 1:1 macro lens for a number of crop sensor mounts (doesn't cover full frame). It's a little difficult getting excited about these relatively simple optic design manual focus lenses coming out of SE Asia, but it is increasing the available choices, often at reasonable pricing. Available in May.
  • Canon RP—Entry full-frame mirrorless has a new price, US$1300. What we have here is basically a 6Dm2 DSLR that's lost its belly (mirror) and a great deal of size and weight, and then decided to price itself lower, too. Yes, the sensor is older and there are performance and features that are missing. But, frankly, not a lot of people need more than what the 6Dm2, and now RP, deliver. Canon has accepted Sony's challenge and put a strong marker in the sand saying that they won't give up market share without a fight. I've already written a lot about this. Available now.
  • Canon future lenses RF mount—Canon finally got around to something akin to a near-term lens road map (15-35mm f/2.8L, 24-70mm f/2.8L, 24-240mm f/4-6.3, 70-200mm f/2.8L, and 85mm f/1.2L). That mostly L-list looks impressive. More impressive than the announced cameras that can use those lenses for the most part (see my extended comments). Availability spread over 2019.
  • CFexpress—The next generation of CFexpress—2.0—standards have already been announced, and CP+ was the coming out party. That despite the fact we don't have any 1.0 cards or devices on the market yet. Ironically, the chairman of the association behind the standards is from Canon, which doesn't currently use XQD (the CFexpress predecessor). So it was kind of strange to hear a Canon executive announce the future of what Nikon has already committed to. There was interesting news in the announcement, too: current XQD is what will become CFexpress Type B. Type A will be a form of the card standard in a smaller package (look out SD). Type C will be a much larger package with new state-of-the-art hard drive type specs (up to 4GBps performance). Don't get confused by all the announcements regarding CFexpress. We're about to get CFexpress 1.0 cards, though it appears they will all be labeled as Type B, which is from the 2.0 standard. Those cards are the direct descendent of XQD, using two-lane Gen 3 PCIe as the interface. The primary difference between the cards we'll be getting soon (1.0) and the next generation (2.0) of Type B cards is that the software stack will move from NVM Express 1.2 to 1.3. Otherwise the broad specifications are the same. Put another way, Type B cards should have broad backwards compatibility if the device creators are paying attention and updating their firmware appropriately. Nikon and Panasonic are already using XQD and will support CFexpress. We'll see more companies coming onboard soon.
  • Fujifilm 16mm f/2.8 XF mount—Small, light, and inexpensive (as lenses go). A very nice addition to the more compact prime line for XF, and one I hope will prove to be optically decent. This lens, a 35mm f/2, and a 50mm f/2 make for a relatively inexpensive and small/light wide-to-telephoto prime set (24mm, 52mm, and 75mm equivalent). March availability.
  • Fujifilm X-T30—The camera most of you should probably buy if you're committed to XF APS-C. It doesn't give a lot up from the X-T3, but it comes in at a price that—especially given Canon's RP full frame entry—is more like it for APS-C. March availability.
  • Kipon Canikon adapterAdapts Canon EF autofocus lenses to the Nikon Z mount. Now, you'd think that Nikon would be a big fan of this, as it would make it easier for Canon DSLR users to switch to Nikon mirrorless. But Nikon being the closed shop they are probably isn't interested in supporting this type of thing, which means that it's all up to how well the reverse engineering went. 
  • Kipon Baveyes 0.7x focal reducers now Mark II for m4/3—The Kipon Baveyes focal length reducer adapters have an upgraded optical system now. Canon EF, Contax, Leica M42 and R, Olympus OM, and PL mount versions.
  • Leica 35mm f/2 L mount—A new L-mount lens with autofocus. A just-in-time moderate wide angle for Panasonic S1 users (plus the five SL users out there ;~).
  • Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 RF, Z, FE mount—Mount additions and a minor optical update of an existing lens (previously made as an FE lens). I didn't think it a great lens before, I doubt it's a great lens now.
  • Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 S-line Z mount—This probably wasn't the lens we wanted launched next for the Z cameras as it duplicates a focal length we already have, but it's nice to see that Nikon is pushing hard on getting lenses to market, even if they're trickling out one by one. If Nikon can keep this release pace going, everyone is going to breath a sigh of relief by the end of the year and we'll pretty rapidly get to a point where the basics are all covered. April availability.
  • Nikon future lensesThe 14-24mm f/2.8, 20mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.2, 70-200mm f/2.8, and 85mm f/1.8 prototypes were shown on display in the Nikon booth. Unfortunately, most of these look big (particularly the 50mm f/1.2; the 70-200mm looks big because it doesn't extend during zooming), so we'd better hope that they're optical wonders. On the other hand, the fact that these lenses all appear to be in final form says that the road map is accurate and that Nikon is hustling with new lenses.
58mm NOCT cutawayx

Is there anything that isn't glass inside the 58mm f/0.95 NOCT?

  • Nikon Z6 and Z7 firmware update—A development announcement, not a shipment. We'll get a focus-based update in May that adds Eye-detection and has "increased AF/AE performance." Not a lot of details, but it's nice to know that Nikon believes that they had some fixing to do in the focus arena. The only question is how good that fixing will be, and how far it will go. CP+ show-goers go the chance to use a beta version of the new software in the booth, and it looked good. Scheduled for a later date are CFExpress card support and a new 12-bit raw video output (via Atomos HDMI recorders). All good things. But we want more.
  • Nikon Z5 rumor—Given that Nikon started with 6 and 7, it's not unreasonable to expect that there will be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9 models at some point. The specific rumor seems to point to a lower-priced Canon RP competitor, though that's the interpretation of people reading the original (and translated) statement. One problem with this rumor is that it comes from an employee of a subsidiary (China). What his definition of "soon" is may not at all agree with what Nikon corporate thinks is "soon," and as we've seen Nikon has been in a rethink period about everything, so nothing's exactly locked in stone. Another problem is this: just exactly what would Nikon de-content out of a Z6 to create a Z5 to drop the price US$700? That implies a US$200 cost of parts reduction to Nikon corporate. You can use a lower end LCD and EVF, and maybe a lower end shutter; SD card instead of XQD; you could strip gaskets out; you could take out controls; but the problem is that I don't think you keep margins intact even doing all that (remember, the initial price point won't hold for long). And more to the point: Nikon doesn't have a kit lens for a true consumer Z camera (same problem Canon currently has with the RP). The 24-70mm f/4 is a US$1000 lens. What's needed is a US$500 lens (which the current F-mount 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 is) and we don't see one on the roadmap this year, do we? Those of you who read me regularly know that I'm not a fan of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt marketing). Since the source of this rumor appears to be a Nikon employee, Nikon just FUDed themselves. Own goal. 
  • Nikon WR-A10 and WR-10—Once again we get a temporary suspension of production on these key wireless elements. Nikon's claim is that they're rebuilding the production system for them and are having trouble procuring parts. New production won't occur until July 2019, at the earliest. Couple this with the problem that the WR-10 was poorly designed: you can't use it and an HDMI connector at the same time on the Z6 and Z7, and you have the usual Nikon Can't Do Accessories complaint I've had for years. I'll say it again: if you're going to go it alone building an ecosystem, you have to build the whole ecosystem and do it well, not just build cameras. Frankly, this is incompetence. 
  • Olympus 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 m4/3 mount—An m4/3 lens that makes a fair amount of sense, at least to superzoom aficionados. Everything really depends upon how well this lens performs across its range, as we already have the excellent 12-100mm f/4. Still, I'd rather have Olympus doing this kind of thing than the E-M1X.
  • Panasonic 10-25mm f/1.7—Nope, Panasonic hasn't forgotten m4/3. A hefty new wide-to-normal zoom was on display, but no details were disclosed. Though it's a big lens, it looks like a GH5 videographer's wide angle dream, though: fast, aperture ring, covers the 20-50mm focal length range many need for indoor shooting.
  • Panasonic FZ1000 [advertiser link]—A big zoom (25-400mm equivalent) 1" sensor all-in-one-camera. Yawn.
  • Panasonic ZS80 (TZ95) [advertiser link]—A big zoom (24-720mm equivalent) 1/2.3 inch sensor compact camera. Yawn.
  • ProGrade CFexpressput out a press release looking for development partners who wanted to test two new lines of CFexpress cards, Cobalt (1.6GBps with 1.4MBps write burst speed) and Gold (with write burst speeds from 600MBps to 1GBps). Capacities will start at 120GB and go to 1TB. In addition, they apparently have a USB 3.1 CFexpress reader coming, as well.
  • Ricoh Theta Z1 [advertiser link]—A huge and welcome update of the original Ricoh 360° camera, now with twin 1" BSI 20mp sensors. Basically captures 26mp 360° raw stills, 23mp 360° JPEG stills, or 360° 4K/30 fps video, with a couple of tricks up its sleeves. I liked the original model, and this seems to address some of my concerns about it. Thus, on paper the Z1 looks very interesting, which it had better given its US$1000 price, a significant jump over the previous model. Android inside means it'll get some extended abilities over time according to Ricoh. And did you know that Ricoh has a US$5000 desktop direct to t-shirt/garment printer? Sometimes they look like they understand the future.
  • Ricoh GR III [advertiser link]—This classic camera update had been going around the world to trade shows in a glass case for over six months, and apparently someone finally found the key to unlock the case and let people actually handle it. What's new? Not much and a lot. We get a 24mp sensor with IBIS to replace the older 16mp non-IBIS one, we get phase detect autofocus, the redesigned lens focuses a little closer, a touchscreen (fixed), and the body has lost a bit of size (without losing weight). Still no 4K video, and the camera loses the previous pop-up flash and some battery life. I guess if you liked it before you'll still like it, but it's tough for me to feel like much progress was made here. Instead it feels like this should have launched at least a year ago. Oh, and if you have the wide angle adapter for the older GR, you'll need a new one. Ricoh also updated their waterproof compact WG to the WG-6. 
bythom ricoh griii


  • Samyang Lenses—The Korean optics maker was busy. Of note to mirrorless users are RF mount versions of the 14mm f/2.8 and 85mm f/1.4 manual focus lenses (previously available in other mounts). 
  • Sigma L Lenses—Sigma announced that eleven of its prime Art lenses will be available in the L mount sometime in the next year: 14mm f/1.8, 20mm f/1.4, 24mm f/1.4, 28mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 40mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.4, 70mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.4, 105mm f/1.4, and 135mm f/1.8. If I'm interpreting their materials correctly, the first ones arrive in the fall, and we'll get three or four others every couple of months after that. I've reviewed four of those lenses in other mounts, and they were all quite good. Sigma also announced mount converters for Sigma SA and Canon EF lenses for L mount cameras.
  • Sigma L mount camera—The full frame 20mp Sigma L-mount camera won't arrive until 2020. Everyone keeps using Sigma marketing's 60mp claim to describe this camera, and because they do, they're not catching a few things. The current Quattro H is a 1.3x crop (APS-H) 25.5mp camera. Hmm. This new camera has fewer and larger pixels. What's the thing everyone dings Sigma for? Low light performance. What do fewer and larger pixels provide? Low light performance. I'm not expecting miracles here, as the Foveon sensor approach definitely has its limitations, but the Foveon lovers should be welcoming the news. (Since the question always comes up: what's the Bayer equivalent of the Foveon approach? My general rule of thumb has been 1.5x. So a Foveon 20mp sensor performs much like a 30mp Bayer sensor in terms of resolution (and with fewer artifact issues). 
  • Sony 135mm f/1.8 GM FE mount—A much welcome fast, moderate length telephoto lens for the Alpha cameras. Sony continues to slowly round out their lens lineup, and it's the telephoto side that needs the most work still, so this new offering has just increased our choices in a useful way. Thing is, though, 135mm is an odd focal length to make work these days. It's a bit long for portraiture, and it's not the right focal length for many sports. Still, I can think of ways I'd want to try this lens. Late April Availability.
  • Sony CFexpress—Sony announced development of both a 1.7MBps CFexpress 128GB card and MRW-G1 card reader. This is a "tough" design, able to withstand additional force. Includes card condition and file rescue utility software. 56GB and 512GB cards are coming in the future. Both Nikon and Panasonic have cameras that will be able to use CFexpress cards in the future (Z6, Z7, S1, S1R), but it's unclear if they'll be able to take advantage of the extra speed. Available summer 2019.
  • Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 FE mount—Another interesting development announcement of a lens for the Sony FE cameras, as it has a modest size for a full frame wide angle zoom (67mm filter rings) and light weight make it an interesting choice over Sony's 16-35mm f/2.8. Given that we now have a Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 and a 28-75mm f/2.8, might we expect a 75-150mm f/2.8 next? That would prove interesting.
  • Tokina 100mm f/2.8 Macro FE mount—An autofocus lens of the "usual" focal length—too short, in my opinion—for the Sony full frame cameras, once again called Firin. April availability. 
  • Voigtlander Nokton 21mm f/1.4 FE mount—a new Sony FE wide angle, manual focus lens (though it supports the 5-axis IBIS). This was a development announcement, though given that many of the details are known, the lens has probably entered early production.
  • Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.2 FE mount—a Sony FE version of a lens that already exists for the Leica M mount. April availability.
  • Voigtlander Nikon Z-mount adapters. The fabled manual focus lens company announced M-mount to Z-mount adapters (both normal and close focus), and an E-mount to Z-mount adapter. Voigtlander also announced RF versions of the M-mount adapters.

Winners:

  • Canon. It's a qualified win, but the RP definitely got a lot of attention solely on price, and it's going to kick off another rise in the number of folk transitioning from DSLR to mirrorless. The RP very well may be the right camera for the time.
  • Panasonic. The L-mount has its advantages. Sigma dropped a bunch of Art lenses, and Leica even piped in with a nice 35mm f/2 that should appeal to S1/S1R users. I'm still concerned that the L-mount needs to go on a diet, but it's healthy and alive.
  • Sigma. Along with the split into Art, Contemporary, and Sports, there was a second bit to Sigma's modern lens thrust: they also came up with a way where you could send your lens back to them and have it converted to a different mount (back then, Canon EF, Nikon F, Sigma SA, all DSLR mounts). That turned out to be a seminal decision for Sigma, as it's now allowed them to pivot their Art series lenses from DSLR to mirrorless by mostly just doing a mount switch (there's a little more to it than that, but the point is that there is no optical redesign and no mechanical change other than at the mount). The Art primes are available for Sony FE, and now soon, L-alliance cameras. I'm sure we'll eventually see RF and Z versions, too. Thus, Sigma has been the one company who most easily is navigating the many mount machinations going on in the market. The downside, of course, is that DSLR-designed lenses, which these all are, end up being big when put on mirrorless mount with its shorter flange distance. Still, this was a big win for Sigma.
  • Sony. Maybe things have slowed a bit on the body side, but lenses continue to pop out from all corners in the Sony E/FE world. What did I write about licensing specifications in order to increase the ecosystem size? Yeah, Sony got that memo, Nikon didn't. Sony's now at 31 full frame lenses themselves, plus add in all the Samyang, Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Voigtlander, Zeiss, and other third party lenses, and you're approaching 100. That basically puts Sony at enough parity with the Canikon DSLR mounts for most people. What's still missing, though, are the exotic lenses (long fast primes, tilt-shift, etc.). 
  • Tamron. Once known only for superzooms (e.g. 6x-10x consumer zooms), they've hit new strides in the recent past with a series of serious lenses with less zoom ratio that are getting high marks in reviews and tests. They also seem to have a good grasp of what will sell, too. 

Losers:

  • Nikon. Going it alone makes you look, well, alone. Sony's getting all the third-party lens support. Nikon's getting lots of L-plates ;~). It's nice that we've got two more Z lenses in our near term (14-30mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8), but the firmware announcements sound more like "we'll catch up" than "we're here and making waves." And those lenses we did get a peek at look a bit on the big side, which is not consistent with the bodies. That Samyang gave us two RF lenses but not Z lenses was a bit telling. 
  • Olympus. Really? Cancelling the Pen-F right before the show without replacing it? That almost seems like a slap in the face of the Japanese customer. The messages to consumers from Olympus going into CP+ seem quite disjointed. The only 20mp cameras Olympus now sells are expensive (E-M1m2, E-M1X). Something's wrong with this picture.

Head-scratchers:

  • Panasonic. Curiously, Panasonic appeared to share the monthly production rates for the S1 line for the Japanese market. S1: 7200/year; S1R: 1800/year. Even more curious was that their stated lens production rates were lower than camera bodies! That's what has me scratching my head. Normally, ILC devices generate 1.6 lens sales for each body. Panasonic appears to be saying <0.4 per body for Japan, which I can't figure out. We must be missing some information here. (If you're trying to figure out worldwide potential, the Japanese ILC market is about one-tenth the global market as a rule of thumb, so something around 100k cameras a year globally seems to be the implication.)

You might have noticed how many of the announcements were lenses. Get used to that. The number of camera bodies and how fast they can be iterated will continue to go down as long as the volume of camera sales continues to decline. With so many new mounts and so much competition to hold or increase market share, the natural place for seeming to be active is in lenses. Lenses are what we call perennial sellers. It's not unusual to see a lens be available new for a dozen or more years.

Finally, now that we've had the early-year announcements from everyone, we need to adjust everyone's to-do list for the rest of the year a bit:

  • Canon—M is still a mystery to me in how it plays with R. Nothing new to report there. But the high-end lenses and lower-end bodies for R are a mismatch that has to be fixed. Canon needs more consumer RF lenses and more prosumer/pro R bodies. The sooner they get to that, the better off they'll be.
  • FujifilmCanon's RP pricing really forces high-end APS-C like Fujifilm to aspire even higher, but at an even lower price. The X-T3 is now priced above the RP. That's okay, but only if the X-T3 really has plenty of performance points to market (I'm not sure it does). In essence, this ups the ante for the eventual X-T4. To hold the X-T price point now is going to require one heck of a future body.
  • Nikon—Nothing's really changed, other than Nikon needs even more sense of urgency. We need to see more firmware updates that pushes the Z6 and Z7 upward in performance, and we need to see Z lenses—other than the NOCT—pop out faster. For Nikon, getting to parity with Sony is their most important chore, and will be for awhile in mirrorless. But we already knew that. I suppose there's now the question of whether Nikon wants to create a Z5 positioned against the RP (e.g. a D610 equivalent). The problem with that is that the Z6 is already "simplified" from the equivalent DSLR, and I'm not sure just how simple you want to go and whether that would actually cut enough cost out of the product to make sense economically. I'm pretty sure Nikon really wants to sell at the US$2000 and US$3000+ price points, not at the US$1300 price point Canon just promoted.
  • OlympusThey're now officially "out of touch." Adding the E-M1X and dropping the Pen F seems like the opposite of where m4/3 fits for most people. It's not just my opinion here: I'm hearing the same thing from a lot of puzzled m4/3 owners. So the new to-do for Olympus is get the small/light mojo back into play. 
  • PanasonicNothing really changed for Panasonic due to CP+ and all the related announcements. 
  • Pentax (Ricoh)Nothing really changed for Pentax, either. They looked long in the tooth before, they look longer in the tooth now.
  • SigmaOkay, enough with the Art lens repurposing. That's a good thing, as it gives us more options, but it's not really catering to the aspects of mirrorless that entice many (smaller/lighter). Sigma really needs a new line, call it Travel, that's optimized to the new mounts. Say, a 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm f/2.8 series that's closer to pancake. Sigma's also getting taken to the cleaners by Tamron in the mirrorless zoom realm. Making slightly smaller but still fast zooms by tweaking the ratio down a bit was brilliant. Sigma needs a response to the Tamron 17-28mm, 28-75mm f/2.8 zooms. Again, call it the Travel line.
  • SonyCanon's pricing is cutting Sony off a bit at the low end. Sony wanted a battle? They got it. But nothing's really changed in the Sony To Do list. They have a lot they still need to do (A7Sm3, lenses, bolster APS-C, etc.). The only thing that's been added is the same thing that I mentioned for Nikon: does Sony want to create a cut-down entry full frame body (instead of using the previous generation camera to hold that price point)? It would allow them to address their UX approachability issue if they did it right (e.g. a true consumer camera for consumers, that doesn't puzzle the user with complexity and lack of organization in the menus). 
  • TamronNothing's changed. Just keep doing what they're doing.
  • TokinaUnlike Tamron, I'm starting to get the impression that Tokina isn't keeping up. Recyling a lens and calling it Opera isn't going to hack it. 

Finally, CP+ is both a user show (ala Photokina and Photo Expo+) and a bit of a trade show (ala CES or NAB, where industry folk get together. There's always been a strange dichotomy with CP+ on the presentation side. Most of the user presentations are pretty beginner/intermediate in nature (e.g. "We teach how to make bright and clear photos of flowers"), while most of the industry presentations are serious and statistical (e.g. NPD was presenting their US market findings for camera buying). 

I was struck by one topic title though: "Photos you can't take without a tripod. Photos you can take because you have a tripod." Ponder that one for a moment. There's an interesting truth lying just below that topic headline, and the implication, of course, is that there is more to photography than just the camera. Sounds like something I need to do a followup article on.

The Photographer Creates the Image

bythom xt2 0124 web med hr

The camera makers have fixed your problems. But have you fixed any, yourself?

I'm old enough to say that I started in the do-it-all-yourself world when it comes to photography. Manual exposure (no built-in camera meter, either), manual focus, manual frame advance, and keep it steady yourself.

Though it came slowly at times, the camera makers have eventually dealt with the biggest user problems, adding automatic exposure, autofocus, fast frame advance, and image stabilization along the way. 

One big change came with digital, and with an additional small bump with mirrorless: being able to see what you shot. Film cameras? You saw what you shot hours or days later when you got the film back from processing. DSLRs? You saw what you shot when you pressed the playback button immediately after taking an image (or burst). Mirrorless? You see what you will shoot in the viewfinder on most of the mirrorless cameras now.

So what's your excuse for poor photos? 

Modern matrix metering systems—particularly Nikon's—are darned good at analyzing scenes and getting the exposure right. Modern focus systems—particularly Sony's latest—are darned good at finding and following subjects. Modern cameras tend to have at least 5 fps with a decent buffer, and some go to 20 fps with a large buffer. Image stabilization is ubiquitous and most of you are shooting with it always on, so no excuses for shaky handling anymore. And mirrorless cameras are showing you your exposure, white balance, and creative control choices in the viewfinder before you shoot. 

So what's your excuse for poor photos?

You'll find plenty on dslrbodies.com that I've written about improving the photographer over the years. This self-help section of that site, for instance, which has the name Improving the Photographer. It's time to now introduce the mirrorless crowd to my same thesis: the gear may be great, but it's the photographer who creates the image.

Every week I deal with the same sets of problems from people sending me emails, and it hasn't let up because of mirrorless cameras. If anything, the number of such emails has increased, mostly due to people having switched systems. Let me cherry pick a few:

  1. Still Doesn't Focus. Typically, this almost always works out to be not understanding how the focus system of the camera works, the choices it is making, and how to take full control of that so that the camera is doing what you want it to. While others have bemoaned how bad the Nikon Z cameras focus system was, I've been out getting sports and wildlife shots that are perfectly in focus. The difference? I took the time to learn the system and take control of it.
  2. The Color is Wrong. Nope. The color is as you set the camera to record (or the raw converter to create). A story: one of the first contract-for-hire jobs I took at the start of the DSLR era was from a photographer who couldn't get the color to look right from their new Nikon D1 and their high end digital printer. My minimum booking is a full day, and I'm not cheap. I fixed his problem in 30 minutes. We spent the rest of the day out shooting with me giving a private shooting workshop. The mentality you never want to slip into: "the camera companies know what I want my images to look like." They don't, because most of us are different in that respect. Indeed, there are cultural differences. Every mirrorless camera has a ton of options that allow you to take charge of the color. Do so.
  3. My Results are Too Noisy. You need to understand the random nature of photons and something called equivalence (and then get exposure optimized, too). I see so many people trying to fight science and math on this one, and they're not going to win. Then they compound their problem by making some bad choices. There's a reason why I carry a 400mm f/2.8 lens and full frame camera in some situations. Expecting a zoom that's f/5.6 to do the same thing on a smaller sensor is simply not connecting with reality.
  4. It's Blurry. Hey, shouldn't image stabilization take care of that? Nope. If you shoot a moving subject at slow shutter speeds, your subject is rendered as moving in the image. The mechanical shutters in cameras still can impact the image, too, particularly in the 1/15 to 1/125 shutter speed range. And having image stabilization is not an excuse to just handle the camera poorly.

I could go on (and on and on). For today, I won't.

Whatever you think of the camera companies and the features and performance of their gear, they've actually had your back. They fixed your exposure problems. They fixed your focus problems. They fixed your capturing of action moments problems. They fixed your basic hand-holding problems. They fixed your ability to assess what your results might look like while you're shooting. Over 50 or so years, the camera companies have slowly been fixing your biggest problems, one by one. 

So what's your excuse for poor photos?

Firmware Announcements Versus Shipments

You may have noticed that I have not commented on "future firmware updates." Not from Fujifilm, not from Nikon, not from Olympus, not from Panasonic, and not from Sony, all of which have put out press releases or held conferences on future firmware.

I have a policy on sansmirror that's a little complex to describe, but I think realistic: I don't tend to write or comment about future details. For instance, in the press backgrounders Canon has been doing for the just-announced RP camera, Canon has acknowledged that they will do sensor-based stabilization with some future body(s). That's a detail without detail ;~). There's no useful way to speculate about it, as not only do we not know when that will happen, but we don't know exactly how it will be done, and how many bodies it might appear in, let alone what the performance change it might make.

Much of the "future announcement" stuff I see, including firmware updates, is FUD marketing (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). That's a technique used to put people off from pulling the lever and buying a competitive product now against what might be dangling in the future. I strongly advocate against FUD marketing for one reason: it's an acknowledgment of deficit. 

Thus, Canon's "future IBIS" confirmation is actually an admission that the current R and RP are not competitive in some aspect (sensor stabilization with all lenses). Only the truly naive will miss that.

Meanwhile, much of the other "future announcements" I see are what I'd call "We'll fix that." The firmware updates often tend to have examples of that in them. A feature was left off at shipment because it wasn't ready, or performance will be enhanced because they didn't have time to actually fully test and optimize in their tight release scheduled. 

Nikon's upcoming firmware for the Z series has components of both FUD and Fixing. The 12-bit raw video to external devices is FUD, the Eye Detect and focus improvements are Fixing.

So why do I not tend to write about these things again?

Well, FUD is just marketing and positioning, and there's no way for me to validate whether the future bit being FUDed will actually have any real impact. By the time the item arrives, there may be other and better examples of it on the market. And Fixing requires testing to see if the fix actually works and was desirable (and without side effect). Again, tough to write anything useful about those things when you don't have it to test.

Now, I will from time to time speculate about future cameras or lens lineups overall (as opposed to in detail). I believe there's benefit to be gained from analyzing companies' strategies and positioning, and to do so you have to look forward as well as backward. Camera development announcements—such as Panasonic's full frame S1/S1R teased at Photokina—also give us something reasonably tangible upon which to base such speculation. 

But individual features, particularly firmware updates that might or might impact performance dramatically? Not so much. 

So I'll continue to stay silent on these "future" press releases and press briefings about details and instead wait until the item being pre-announced or teased before writing about them. 

Time to ding Nikon again. Back at the NAB Convention in April 2018 I specifically asked (and wrote about) CFExpress upgrades to the XQD DSLRs. Nikon's response was that "they'd need word from Japan about that" and that they'd see if they could get it and get back to me. Well, Japan finally announced that there will be, but NikonUSA—all three people who promised to follow up with me—did not follow up, if only to point out the press release that indicated it was coming. I learned about this the same way you did, despite having asked NikonUSA multiple times through multiple channels. Of course, these firmware updates are in the future, so there's really nothing much to write about, is there?

The Strange Canon Mismatch

Consider this:

1. Lowest end full frame body (features, performance, and price)

2. Highest end full frame lenses

What the heck is Canon doing?

The Canon RP is clearly an entry camera positioned to be affordable. It's a lowest-common denominator product set up to be sold to folk who can't stretch very far on price above the crop sensor products. The RP is truly a consumer product. 

Meanwhile, look at the RF lenses we know about so far:

  • 15-35mm f/2.8L
  • 24-70mm f/2.8L
  • 24-105mm f/4L
  • 24-240mm f/4-6.3
  • 28-70mm f/2L
  • 35mm f/1.8
  • 50mm f/1.2L
  • 70-200mm f/2.8L
  • 85mm f/1.2L

Remember, L is Canon's high-end designation. Which means we have exactly two lenses designed and priced for the RP crowd: 24-240mm f/4-6.3 and the 35mm f/1.8. 

To me, there's almost a complete mismatch between overall body product and overall lens product so far in Canon's full frame mirrorless lineup. This has to be intentional.

So why the discrepancy?

Simple. Canon really wasn't ready with new sensor/body technologies in mirrorless, things that would add to the 5D abilities and push into the 1Dx territory. Thus, they've gone the opposite direction on the body and are determined to establish market share through pricing. Get the consumer customers while you can, and put pricing pressure on the others. Classic Ries and Trout strategy. Indeed, it reverses the bar for Sony, who was using older models to get pricing advantage.

Meanwhile, there's the fear at Canon that if it takes them a year or two more to get to the A7Rm3/A9 level of camera, that if the lenses aren't there when the RX (1Dx equivalent) and RV (5D equivalent) and RS (5Ds equivalent) eventually appear, they'd have lost the game to Nikon and Sony. 

As someone who studied competitive product management back in the Kelley Business School MBA program (last century! ;~), I'm fascinated with the different approaches that Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, and Sony are all taking. Each company has a slightly different goal here, and it shows in how they've approached the whole transition to full frame mirrorless. 

Still, there's a clear cognitive dissonance in Canon's early body/lens lineup, and it has to have some people scratching their heads. L lenses and non-L bodies doesn't seem right. The only way this works is that the emphasis flips two years down the line (e.g. non-L lenses and L bodies introduced).  

The Full Versus Crop War Just Started

The introduction of the Canon RP introduces a new element into the full frame versus crop war that's been going on. 

I've noted before that with very capable 24mp full frame bodies on the market from Nikon and Sony at the US$2000 price point, Fujifilm was forced to push the pricing of their crop sensor X-T3 down a bit in order to provide marketing space. Now, with Canon busting the full frame entry point all the way down to US$1300, we now have a series of crop sensor mirrorless cameras that are above the full frame entry price point. Something's going to give.

I'm already on record as saying that Canon was too aggressive here. They're clearly showing panic over market share. Historically, they've been above 40% ILC market share all the way back into the late film era, and recently they've pushed right up to the 50% mark. They appear to be 100% committed to retaining that 50% no matter how far the market size contracts. (Nikon is the opposite: they've clearly given up market share for profit margin retention.)

What's most telling in Canon's RP pricing is that it's basically the same camera as a Canon 6Dm2 DSLR, a camera that lists for US$1799 (though it's on sale at the moment for US$1499). There's no real price skimming in the RP. Or, if there is price skimming in the RP, then full frame is going to push under US$1000 very rapidly, which would seem like death by profit seppuku in a contracting market.

But let's look at the crop sensor mirrorless cameras now trying to swim above the RP:

  • Fujifilm X-T3 US$1499 list (on sale at US$1399)
  • Fujifilm X-H1 US$1799 list (on sale at US$1299)
  • Fujifilm X-Pro2 US$1699
  • Olympus E-M1X US$2999
  • Olympus E-M1m2 US$1699
  • Panasonic GH5 US$1999 (on sale at US$1599)
  • Panasonic GH5S US$2499 (on sale at US$2299)
  • Panasonic G9 US$1699 (on sale at US$1299)

Sony just escapes with the A6500. 

Other than the two GH5's—which most buy for video purposes—it's difficult to make a strong case for some of the others. In essence, a crop sensor mirrorless camera selling for more than US$1000 now is going to have to be marketed as the low-cost version of the pro full frame cameras (e.g. the D500 versus D5 positioning). 

Put another way, to sell at more than US$1200 a crop sensor camera is going to have to be able to claim "everything in the top cameras available, but with a smaller sensor, using smaller lenses." 

People jumped on me about how harsh I was with Olympus E-M1X announcement. Now you have a good idea of why. While the E-M1X can claim to have "everything in the top cameras available, but with a smaller sensor, using smaller lenses," it unfortunately is up in the high-end full frame price point, not just above the full frame entry price point. Plus the oversized body loses some of the "small" advantage.

It isn't a coincidence that the top EOS M crop camera is now selling for US$799 with a lens. Canon themselves are as vulnerable to the full frame entry price point as the others, but they've placed their APS-C lineup far enough away from the RP that they should be able to still pick up the price sensitive user.

Individually:

  • Fujifilm — Fujifilm is in a tough position with their APS-C product. The X-T3 may manage to live above the full frame price bar, but it's going to need constant attention and performance enhancements to stay there. But all across Fujifilm's X lineup there's now going to be increased downward pricing pressure. 
  • Nikon — Nikon doesn't have a crop sensor mirrorless product. There are some that say they never will, particularly now with Canon's announcement. Frankly, I think Nikon caught wind of Canon's intentions here, or at least feared it might happen. Nikon's mirrorless priorities got switched back in the 2016/2017, which led to a different 2018/2019 product set than originally planned. There's room for two possible approaches for Nikon: a super low-cost approach at the bottom (think D3500 replacement) that tries to compete with EOS M), and making a D6 clone as mirrorless DX to replace the D500. That's about it. But in both cases, Nikon's got profit margin issues they'd have to deal with given their current management. It may be awhile before we see what they really decide to do.
  • OlympusAlready hurting in terms of unit volume, the small size of the RP also adds some blunting to Olympus' established niche, particularly if Canon ever gets round to producing the pancake lenses in RF form. As I stated earlier, the 12-200mm lens Olympus introduced was much more important to their future than the E-M1X. The problem is that they don't really have the body to go with it at the moment. Plus the Olympus body+lens price is likely to be more than the RP with the upcoming 24-240mm kit lens. What Olympus really needs? E-M10m4 with new sensor and E-M1 abilities, coupled with a new 12-35mm f/4 lens that's really compact. Everything bigger than that starts to become just too close to the rest of the pack as they downsize.
  • PanasonicThe S1 series gives them a full frame entry, but they were already at the top of the pricing there and Canon's RP price makes that look far, far away. Still, while Panasonic may not be in perfect shape, they very well could bracket where Canon is right now (e.g. GX10 type cameras at the bottom, S1 cameras at the top). 
  • PentaxThis is where being late with no volume hurts you: the Canon RP just put a nail in any mirrorless ambitions you might have had. 
  • SonySony is the only company that right now is competitive with Canon, though in some strange ways. The older models are what Sony will point to in terms of full frame entry price. And the older models are what Sony will point to in terms of crop sensor viability. Long term, though, they need a better response than that. The rumored A7000 would definitely be an interesting product, basically doing what I suggest above (all the top full frame features, but with a smaller sensor and price). Such a product would pose a real problem to Fujifilm (X-T3), Nikon (D500), and Canon (7Dm2). Priced aggressively, it would be interesting to see how many would opt for the stripper Canon RP or the top-end Sony A7000. That would tell us something about the remaining camera buyer market, actually.


Canon's New Entry Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

Canon today introduced the RP, a 26.2mp entry model for their R full frame mirrorless camera lineup.

bythom canon rp


This is a small, light, and modestly-featured camera. Smaller than the current top-end Rebel DSLR. There are not a lot of buttons and controls (and no track pad), but they're very traditional Canon UI, including the two vertical dials. The camera is also not heavily weather sealed. By de-contenting and concentrating on the basics, Canon has produced a camera that's only 17.1 ounces (485g), and with one of the smallest full frame profiles overall. So small, in fact, that Canon has a "pinky extension" grip available for the camera (EG-E1; seen above in the red, black, and blue versions). 

The displays are lower-end, too, with the rear LCD being a 1.04m dot one (the R is 2.1m dot) and the EVF 2.36m dot (the R is 3.69m dot; both are OLED). The camera isn't a speed demon at 4 fps with autofocus, but it's not likely that people are going to complain about that. As appropriate for a lower-end camera, the RP has one SD card slot. Also, the mechanical shutter maxes out at 1/4000 with a 1/180 sync speed.

Inside we have the 6Dm2 sensor repurposed. I'm sure that will raise a lot of eyebrows, but sensor re-use is one of the ways that Canon is flexing its pricing advantage over competitors; it's the reason why the RP only retails for US$1299 for the body only. It also means that the RP has dual pixel AF across 88% of the horizontal frame (100% vertical), and a maximum of 4779 focus positions.

Other features that might not look state-of-the-art are that 4K video is only available at 24/25P. 

I have more to say about Canon's strategy in a supplemental article, but it's clear that Canon has had enough of Sony whittling away customers. In essence, the KISS (Rebel) strategy has now made it to full frame mirrorless, and aggressively so. In the home market of Japan, both the low price and small size play well into what sells best, too. 

On the other hand, the RP is basically a 6Dm2 that was put on a mirrorless diet. You can get the full DSLR version of the same camera for US$1499 body only these days, and it hasn't exactly been a hot seller. The perception is that the 6Dm2 (and now RP) are a bit behind in technology—note the 24P speed on the 4K output, not even 30P available—and aiming mostly at the price conscious. 

This gives the Internet much to debate (or complain about, or troll, depending upon your view of the Internet). Certainly the US$1299 price point puts a new stake in the ground for entry full frame. I find that to be overly aggressive in a contracting market, and probably self-destructive on Canon's part. There's nothing else between it and the US$1999 Nikon and Sony models, so I'm pretty sure that Canon left money on the table here. I'm reminded of when I argued with Adam Osborne for a long time about his decision on pricing of the Osborne 1. He just had to create an arbitrary new price point well below any existing one. By my count, he left US$7.5 million on the table that first year by not putting the price point at US$1999. 

The problem in a contracting market is that you really want to do the opposite: you want to try to leverage the price points up if you can, not down. I'm sure every camera company in Japan has a sophisticated model of what happens with various pricing choices. I'm pretty sure that the folks at Nikon and Sony who run their models are scratching their heads and asking "what did we miss?"

Nothing, dear salarymen, nothing. Canon just signaled their absolute fear of losing market share. They're willing to take less profit in order to hold share (opposite of Nikon). Sony made Canon blink.

Meanwhile, the complaints from the usual folk will start soon about the RP: no IBIS; crop 4K with low frame rate low bit rate and no Log capability; a lessor shutter; a sensor that's a stop and half behind Sony at ISO 640; lack of controls and customization; and so on. 

I don't any of those things will resonate with the price conscious folk. To the Canon mass market crowd the RP looks like a smaller, lighter, and lower price 6Dm2. What could be wrong with that?

Meanwhile, we also got news of six RF lenses under development for release in 2019:

  • 15-35mm f/2.8L
  • 24-70mm f/2.8L
  • 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS
  • 85mm f/1.2L and f/1.2L DS
  • 70-200mm f/2.8L

As I note in the supplemental article, this is a complete mismatch to camera bodies, other than the 24-240mm, which clearly is a superzoom intended for RP users.

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2019 Mirrorless Camera News/Views

Mirrorless camera news and views for 2019. The stories in these folders were front page news on sansmirror during the time periods indicated:


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