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Have Canon and Nikon Lost Their Minds?

2018 has been quite a year for new equipment releases. We’ve seen Sony’s impressive a7 III, the Nikon Z6/7, and now the Canon EOS R, among many others. Specifically, these new mirrorless cameras continue to bring up one question for me, and that is: have we lost our minds?

I could get into some other pieces of equipment with this article, but I am going to focus on the new mirrorless announcements, because they seem, well, ridiculous to me. I don’t really have any issue with the cameras; they look wonderful and have some nice features. I’m even a little interested in the Z6 myself. However, both the Nikon and Canon cameras have one flaw that I find hard to overlook: the lenses.

For years, I worked at a camera store and we heard our fair share of gossip and always talked about what we thought of new products. Many months ago, I remember all of us agreeing on one thing: it would be ridiculous for Canon and Nikon to use the EF and F mounts (respectively) on their full frame mirrorless cameras, because the lens sizes would simply not be functional on a smaller camera body. Then, the announcements came and we see that they both opted for a new lens mount, which is good. Then, they both released absolutely behemoth lenses for the system for seemingly no other reason than because they could. The Noct for the Z6/7 and the 28-70mm f/2 are quite frankly, absurd.

Look, I get it. A 28-70mm f/2 sounds awesome on paper. So does a 58mm f/0.95. But, when the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 is 3.4 inches long, and the Noct is at least double the length, if not longer (judging by photos) and who knows how much heavier, do we really care about f/0.95? Probably not. As one of my former coworkers would always say: “if you need that blurry of a background for your photo to be interesting, the gear is not the problem.” I understand that some people like journalists or sports photographers benefit from having fast glass that lets them shoot in poorly lit locations, but not when it’s massive, manual focus, and costs roughly double their camera body. It seems more like bragging rights for Nikon. The same can be said about the 28-70mm f/2 from Canon for their new EOS R, although I see slightly more reason for a lens like that. These large lens mounts are continually bragged about for their ability to enable smaller lenses with wider apertures and better optical performance. Why not just make a 24-70mm f/2.8 that is small and comfortable unlike Sony’s beastly G Master? That certainly would have given Canon an edge for many photographers who find a 24-70mm to be their staple lens. The 28-70mm f/2 RF lens is over an inch longer than the EF 24-70mm f/2.8. That’s problematic.

I’m not faulting any one manufacturer; in fact, I think photographers themselves are to blame to some extent. For years, people have wondered about the possibility of an f/2 zoom like the 28-70mm RF without actually considering if there is a need for it. Sadly, Canon and Nikon listened and decided to make innovations in the area we need it least: lenses. I think this was an opportunity for both Canon and Nikon to make some major improvements to their video performance, dynamic range, or low light performance. Instead, these new cameras feel like excuses for Canon and Nikon to come out with their own “Otus” lenses — lenses that are not needed, but only dreamed of. I believe both manufacturers missed the mark by more or less repackaging their staple full frame cameras and eschewed opportunity for real innovation and change. I still think Fuji and Sony will still be the mirrorless staples in the years to come.

As a final disclaimer, I like mirrorless cameras quite a bit. I have an X-T2 that I use more frequently than my Nikon DSLRs. As stated early in the article, I even have my eye on the Z6, but only for the fact that it is a far smaller alternative to my D800/D700 and is still full frame with decent lens choices. Nikon made a great call with their initial lens lineup for the Z system: they’re small, light, and still functional (sans Noct). My issue with both Canon and Nikon is that these cameras don’t really do much that the D850, D750, and 5D Mark IV don’t already do. They’re just smaller and lighter. And both companies seemed to use them as an excuse to launch a new sort of competition between the brands of who can make the most absurd lens rather than really push boundaries of useful performance that will benefit the end user: us.

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105 Comments

Michael Teak's picture

Smaller and lighter aren't the only reasons to consider a camera or a lens. In some cases, yes, but it sounds like that's all that matters to you. Perhaps these new lenses and cameras are not for you. That doesn't mean they are "absurd".

Ye TZ's picture

then what is the point for making mirrorless?

Amir Kaljikovic's picture

* AF not depending on dedicated AF-sensor, instead focusing directly with image sensor.
* AF Area all over the sensor
* EVF with alle the infos and live preview of image
* better silent shooting,...

There is a ton of features speaking for mirrorless, the size and weight are the most uninteresting. At least for me.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

And being able to use the viewfinder when shooting video.

Christopher Eaton's picture

That was a myth Sony concocted to sell cameras. It was a myth.

Matei Horvath's picture

Tell that to my back Michael. lol. The only person happy with the weight of my D5's plus Nikon lenses seems to be...my chiropractor. Kidding aside, smaller, lighter, and more accurate focus on the sensor plane are the big plusses (aside from in body stabilization and EVF)

Joshua Baker's picture

That 28-70 f2 would be perfect for the low light corporate work I do. I usually am swapping a 35 and a 85 and shooting at f2 so win win!

Johnny Rico's picture

What is "low light corporate work"? Is it just event coverage?

Joshua Baker's picture

Somewhat event coverage, speakers in small flourescent rooms, meetings, white board discussions, sometimes event's too but it's more than just that. 2 weeks ago we were inside a cotton gin, not a great place to swap a lens :)

Many times flash is discourage so i use a 35 1.4 and 85 1.8 as my go to with others mixed in. And usually shoot at f2 to f2.8 depending on lighting. I would use that 28-70 f2 all day, and would be nice for astro, underwater and a few other things we do

revo nevo's picture

You do know how heavy that lens is ?

Deleted Account's picture

Probably lighter than a body and two lenses.

Brian Gray's picture

I see this argument around the intarwebs. Using math, the A7III with the Tamron 28-75/2.8, 28/f2, 55/f1.8 and 85/1.8 weighs AND costs less than the EOS R and 28-70/f2.

Deleted Account's picture

I stand corrected. I tip my fedora to you good sir.

DANIEL ANDERSON's picture

I do set still photography and been eyeing a move to mirrorless. Honestly the R with the 28-70 2.0 would make a great low light combo on film sets (without having to use a blimp).

Michael Aubrey's picture

I don't know...lenses not needed, but only dreamed of are sort of par for the course, aren't they? Canon's EF 50mm f/1, for example, ~30 years ago. Many criticized Sony initially because they didn't have such a stand out, attentions grabbing lens (a decent small 28-70, a mediocre 24-70/4, and the 35 & 55mm Zonys were it).

Beyond the super fast novelty lenses, one of the big problems is that as sensors get more and more dense with pixels, larger lenses progressively become more of a necessity in order to retain the kind of pixel level detail that users (rightly or wrongly) desire.

It's crazy world. It's only going to get crazier.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

Funny how some guys have to dislike that video you linked us.
Really happy and approve that "rant".

Maybe it is too harsh for that hater to discover he is just a bad photographer and whatever the amount of cash he throw into new device every year, he is still making lousy or crappy pictures ? I even bet he will continue to believe he is right and will be amazed only the day a fully automated camera will show him beautiful pics !
Oups, that device is already here : flickr, instagram or whatever. A guy should just stack a smartphone into a MILC, and each time you press the shutter, you'll get a pic from 500px (or whatever image bank available online) inspired by what the camera see in front of the lense.

No more need of diverse focal lenses, no more cumbersome settings, no more worrying about kids making bad faces. The absolute awe, and you could then make you friends believe you are Ansel ADAMS or whoever.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Why is "using an external lightmeter is stil better as the meter in all those camera’s together." ?

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Dang, 35 years of being a photographer and 80% of my meter readings are wrong....what a waste.

You know there are two kinds of external light meters, incident and reflected. When you say external I think you mean an incident meter?

I have 4 "external meters" including a spot meter. Do I use them? Very rarely. When I shot a ton of E6 (usually 120 but some LF and 35) I used them all the time. And Polaroid.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

I have 4 because at the time I needed them, 2 Minolta Flash meters, a Minolta spotmeter F and Luna Pro. Idon't use any of them more than once a year. With digital I have no need.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Yeah, and I don't really feel the need to do instagram, flickr, or much on FB either.
Now that you have clarified "incident meter" and not just "external meter" your post makes more sense. But when I am looking the image on a screen the metering technique is less important than when shooting film.

R Heschelman's picture

Thanks, I needed that.

Michael Dougherty's picture

I'm old and getting older. Smaller and lighter is huge. No more lens calibrations and seeing the final image in the viewfinder before you take the picture are awesome also.

Alexander Lobozzo's picture

I like seeing the image preview in the view finder in some instances, but other times it has caused me to miss a shot because i could not follow my subject in the viewfinder.

Daniel Medley's picture

"My issue with both Canon and Nikon is that these cameras don’t really do much that the D850, D750, and 5D Mark IV don’t already do. They’re just smaller and lighter."

Well, I suppose. If you don't count EVF, IBIS (sans Canon), silent shutter, etc.

The other thing is that they're missing something that the D750, D850, and 5D Mark IV have? Dual card slots.

user 65983's picture

Well the R is a lot cheaper than the Mark IV and is almost the same.

LA M's picture

All this silly talk about lenses and cameras that aren't even on the shelves yet....

Sounds an awful lot like the noise when Olympus/Panasonic/Fujifilm announced plans for new cameras...then Sony came along, Hassy and Leica followed etc.

Joshua Baker's picture

Also, wasn't a 35 1.8 IS also announced at same time? at 305 grams that seems pretty small and travel worthy, nice for video with the IS as well.

Nick Collura's picture

I think the author is missing the point that Canon and Nikon both view mirrorless as the future of their camera lines, and that DSLRs are slowly going away. I for one don't care at all about smaller as long as it's COMFORTABLE. I never thought my DSLRs were too large. Have you ever been on a film set, and seen a fully loaded out Alexa or Red? DSLRs are tiny in comparison, even my 1dx2.

JetCity Ninja's picture

a cinema video camera is larger than a consumer stills camera? no way.

ever seen the Hubble Space Telescope? that thing is truly large and a Nikon D5 is tiny in comparison.

Pat McEntee's picture

I'm wondering; who made the tripod for the Hubble.

Nick Collura's picture

I think my point is still valid despite your telescope comment. I've been on a combo stills and motion commercial set too many times to count, and i'd look pretty silly standing next to the DP holding his RED, and me holding my 1dx2 and start complaining how heavy my camera was. Both cameras in my example are purpose built for exactly what we are both doing at the time.

Jon Kellett's picture

Comfort is really important, regardless of size.

I think that the whole "smaller, lighter" argument is a little off the mark. My understanding is that due to changes in flange distance, the lenses end up being heavier than standard FF lenses.

Deleted Account's picture

Very true but the body is more compact in a mirrorless so like in my case, switching from the 5d to an a7 made packing my gear in my hiking bag a lot easier. Before, I had a hard time shutting the zipper.

Jon Kellett's picture

It's travelling with camera gear that makes me want to go entirely M43 next overseas trip.

My last trip saw me carrying over 5kg of camera gear, and that was after restricting myself. I could carry the same gear in M43 format and come in at closer to 3kg. Also, the fact that the gear doesn't scream "rich westerner" or "pro photographer" would also be nice when doing street photos in SE Asia.

Deleted Account's picture

I don't like sticking out like a sore thumb. The more compact the gear the better. I'd enjoy the Sony full frame point and shoot.

Kirk Darling's picture

Nick Collura, I think your point is emphasized by the Canon R in that the most exciting features of the camera aren't (directly) related to being mirrorless.

I am totally excited by the level of control customization that this camera provides. I think that's where the real story is on this camera, and it's going to take a bit before people have explored the utility of the customizations enough to realize what they can make it do for them in their hands.

Nick Collura's picture

Exactly, and i fully believe that there are higher spec'd mirrorless cameras to come from canon. They have to. This is what they're making now. I maybe see one more 1d style body with a mirror (in addition to budget options) but thats it. I think the rest is mirrorless, and like you said, if this is the new control style of Canon, I'm fully on board and excited.

Nikon Fanboy's picture

For years Nikon and Canon has been criticized for making inferior lenses comparing to Sigma ART or Zeiss. They finally get an opportunity and clearly wish to show who's top dog in terms of lenses. So they make lenses as absurd as Sigma ART and Zeiss Otus to prove it. And now they get bashed for it. Fuck logic

Jon Kellett's picture

I think that the criticism was more about the price than the quality. Though in Canon's case the incremental updates were beyond frustrating. A V3 lens shouldn't be only barely slightly better than a V1 and no better at all than a V2...

David Apeji's picture

Initially, "smaller and lighter" was the stated goal of mirrorless. It had to be because they were out-matched by DSLR's in every other department when it came to shooting stills. That is no longer the case, mirrorless is clearly the way of the future and not everyone cares about "smaller and lighter".

revo nevo's picture

I agree. 1.4kg lens without stabilisation on camera that does not have IBIS
Good luck !

Jon Kellett's picture

Do you really need IBIS with a lens that's only 1.4KG though? The original 70-200/f2.8 was 1.8KG and didn't need IBIS to get razor sharp images...

I agree that IBIS should have been included, even if only because everybody else is doing it! 😊

revo nevo's picture

was it ?
Today with 30mpix or more camera shake is really noticable
1.4kg is a lot for a standard zoom lens that most people leave on the camera all the time. If I had one it would collect dust most of the time

Jon Kellett's picture

Actually the whole weight argument is why I'm exploring m43. A nice body, 24-105 and 70-200 weighs less than a 70-200 on it's own!

I've never shot my 70-200 with more res than 22mpix, but I usually get 50% hit rate at 1/15th @ 320mm effective. The problem though is time... The longer you're holding the camera, the harder it gets to take a steady shot! Even if for that alone, IBIS would be nice. 😊

L S's picture

it doesn't need IBIS if it has IS, which it doesn't. You may not need it at 28mm but certainly starts to make a difference at 50mm and upwards.

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