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What was the Most Disappointing Camera Release of All Time?

Camera releases have been hit and miss in the last few decades in particular. Which missed the mark by the most, though?

This year has seen some great cameras and largely, I think almost all of the major releases by the different brands have been strong. This might fool you into believing that big releases by any of the major players in the industry are usually of a decent caliber, but sadly, that is not always the case. In fact, you only need to look at the past few years to see just how frequently the mark was missed and consumers and professionals alike were left disappointed. What was the most disappointing camera release of all time, though?

Limiting the Pool Size

Straight off the bat, I was met with two conflicting issues when addressing the question: firstly, I've only been "knowledgeable" about the industry for a little over a decade, which isn't particularly long. So, my sample size of camera releases is going to be much smaller than some of our seasoned veterans on Fstoppers. Conversely, I had a whole host of cameras I wanted to include in this list, but that perhaps didn't warrant a nomination. The tricky word is "disappointing" and just how subjective that is.

To narrow it down, I tried to avoid the subjective nature of the term by not including cameras that I was personally looking forward to that didn't deliver. Rather, I was assessing cameras by general industry expectation, what the brand promised, and how the eventual release fared against other cameras available to buy at that time. As a result, I narrowed my shortlist down to three candidates.

Canon EOS R

"The moral of the story is: I chose a half-measure when I should have gone all the way. I'll never make that mistake again. No more half measures, Walter." This line is by Mike Ehrmantraut in the show "Breaking Bad," and it perfectly summarizes Canon's approach to entering the competitive, professional, full frame mirrorless body space. The EOS R was the half measure to the R5, which is undoubtedly going all the way. 

It's not that the EOS R is some sort of abomination — it isn't — it's just that Canon sang about their first full frame mirrorless camera, the photography world clenched in anticipation awaiting the deliciousness Canon had conditioned us to expect, only for them to release something so middling, so average, it wasn't even vanilla ice cream, it was unflavored. For the sizable price tag, you got cropped 4K, allegedly awful rolling shutter, one card slot, poor quality 120 fps, no IBIS, no GPS, and so on. It's not a bad camera, but compared to the R6, which had a release RRP of nearly the same ($2,499 with the R6 in 2020, to $2,299 with the EOS R in 2018) it really does pale. It's safe to say they have made up for this disappointment now, however.

Lytro Light Field Camera

I want to preface this nomination with emphasis: Lytro got a bad rap for their cameras, and while they missed out on achieving what was hoped and suggested of them, they tried to do something that hadn't been done, and they were truly innovative, which deserves praise and appreciation. Without people risking failure by pushing past what we know we can already do, we wouldn't progress anywhere near as quickly. It's a real shame the company didn't work out, and I've no doubt that Ren Ng, the CEO of the now-defunct company, will continue to leave his mark on the photography world.

However, the original Lytro LFC missed all of its targets, save for perhaps its USP, in that you could indeed "focus later." As a care-free point-and-shoot, it was physically too cumbersome and technically too slow to work. As anything more substantial than a fun, experimental camera for consumers, it was nowhere near the grade, which in fairness to Lytro, it didn't necessarily aim to be. Its resolution was terrible, its focus was reportedly slow, image control was very limited, its screen was almost unusable, and it just wasn't desirable to almost anyone outside of photography nerds and gadget enthusiasts. which incidentally, makes it a very appealing camera to me! Nevertheless, it didn't deliver, and it did disappoint.

Nikon Df

It might have made the list of disappointments, but it sure is pretty.
The build-up and marketing campaign for the teased Nikon DSLR was substantial. It succeeded insofar as I still remember it seven or eight years later. It failed insofar as I remember it because it was cringe-worthy and would have only been redeemable by the Df being a rip-roaring triumph, which it wasn't. Though the classic SLR styling absolutely delivered (I mean, look at it; they nailed that part), the "pure photography" they kept harping on about — which wasn't overly clear, to begin with — did not land.

I remember a review not long after it was released, and the reviewer (I'm sorry, the publication and author have been lost in the sands of time to me) summarized with a list of pros and cons. I only remember one, which was a con, and it was along the lines of "it's not a good purchase if you want to get the best out of your money." Not only is that amusingly damning — not a camera for someone who values things like money — but it was sadly true. Its sensor was lackluster, it had a single card slot, slow AF performance, and a whole host of missing features that were expected to be present.

Which Camera Release Disappointed You the Most?

I have spoken about this with a few other trusted and knowledgeable photographers, and I was surprised to see little overlap in our lists. One surprising answer I saw more than once was Sony's highly anticipated a7S III. The response to the release has been largely positive, but it appears some photographers expected more from the video-centric body. So, I'll pass the question over to you. Which camera release was the most disappointing, and most importantly, why?

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Alex Cooke's picture

Lee Morris' hipster Nikon Df review made me want to work at Fstoppers:

Lee Morris's picture

5 out of 5 hipsters choose to shoot with the Nikon DF

Mike Dixon's picture

OMG! I hadn't seen that video before! Lee sure went above and beyond the call of duty for that one!

Deleted Account's picture

Say what you want about the Df, but it carries a D4 sensor.

Tom Reichner's picture

For me, the Canon 1D Mark 3 was the most disappointing.


Because the autofocus was actually worse than that of it's predecessor, the 1D Mark 2. And the resolution was only incrementally better - 10 MP compared to the Mark 2's 8 MP.

So while I'd been waiting for an upgrade to the 1D Mark 2, the Mark 3 didn't end up being an upgrade at all, and I had to just keep using the Mark 2 for a few more years until the Mark 4 came out in 2010. The Mark 4 was everything that the Mark 3 should have been.

Michael Steinbach's picture

I second that. Worst autofocus I ever had to work with, I mean had to. Frustrating.

Gary Pardy's picture

Fuji X-H1 has to be up there, at least in terms of how poorly it was received - and then completely outstripped in terms of video specs by the X-T3 only 7 months later.

stuartcarver's picture

It’s a weird one because it’s such an excellent camera and when the price dropped last year every single one was snapped up, and now used prices are quite high.

Matt Williams's picture

The X-H1 was a plain bizarre release for a company with an otherwise great track record prior to that as far as making each new model offer substantial upgrades and not releasing a different one a year or less later (like Sony used to do, e.g. a6300 vs a6500).

Tony Northrup's picture

For me, it was the Nikon Z7. We LOVED the D850 (and still do) and Nikon marketing literally told us, "This is a mirrorless D850" and then made us wait for weeks to get our hands on one... and it most definitely was NOT a mirrorless D850 (especially with firmware 1.0). Now I catch myself looking at rumors of the Z7S, hoping to finally fulfill that promise...

The Lytro was a close second. I believed all their marketing and was dying to try one (they were VERY expensive)... They FINALLY loaned us one and it was an actual, literal scam. I discovered they were trying to use software to do things their hardware was supposed to do, like their refocusing was just blurring out parts of the picture the software decided was in the background. The depth-mapping seemed entirely software-based. The software was really bad.

Deleted Account's picture

Yes Tony, depth mapping is computational.

Matt Williams's picture

oh my god, I didn't even read his complaint about the Lytro requiring software

The problem with the software, if I recall, was that you lost all your photos when they went under or something like that.

Hender Han's picture


Matt Williams's picture

lol Tony. Not only did you pick the Z7 out of all other choices, but the Z6/Z7 cameras are easily some of the best cameras as far as transitioning from a DSLR design to mirrorless. They look, feel, and operate exactly like how you'd think a mirrorless D850 would. They also have excellent IBIS and far superior lenses and a great EVF.

But sure, the AF tracking isn't on the same level and it only has one card slot, so it's one of the most disappointing cameras ever.

(to be clear, you have a right to your opinions - I just think most of them are bad, much like your DOF/aperture equivalency rants)

R S's picture

As with so many "influencers" there is a tedious agenda.

Luke Adams's picture

Tell us how you really feel about Tony, Matt.

Deleted Account's picture

I think Matt was pretty polite.

Luke Adams's picture

Nah. It's pretty obvious Matt had his personal camera insulted by someone with a little name recognition, and he decided to take it personally. Another poster also mentions the Z7 below as well, so it wasn't just Tony. At any rate, I don't see Tony coming on these boards insulting people, but people seem to think they have some sort of right to do it to him. Makes you look small and jealous by the way.

Deleted Account's picture

You're a bit of a snowflake, aren't you.

Matt Williams's picture

Tony is a person with a large platform who makes $$ by spreading misinformation, even after being told its misinformation.

I don't feel bad about telling such a person that they suck.

Luke Adams's picture

This is a comment thread about people’s personal opinion about what camera releases they found disappointing. It has nothing to do with Tony’s videos. If you don’t like Tony’s videos, then go on to YouTube and post your remarks. The fact you feel the need to go out of your way to belittle him in a situation like this, again, only makes you look jealous and small.

Dieter B's picture

Yashica Y35 anybody ?
"Yashica Releases Its 'digiFilm' Kickstarter-Backed Camera, and It’s Really, Really Bad"

Chris Rogers's picture

Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan I had happily forgotten about that camera. (┛ಠ_ಠ)┛彡┻━┻

Dieter B's picture

Ahh, a kaomoji flipping a table .. I see you're a man of culture. (ヘ・_・)ヘ┳━┳

Chris Rogers's picture

Indeed friend! As it seems you are as well! (b ᵔ▽ᵔ)b

Steven Dente's picture

For me also it was the Nikon Z7. I had decided to go mirrorless, and waited for Nikon to release the Z7 which was touted by my local rep as the mirrorless D850. I was willing to overlook the single card slot, and no grip, so I advance ordered one. I was so disappointed in the AF, other missing mirrorless features, and poor performance of many of my lenses on the FTZ adapter that I returned it, and migrated to Sony.

DSLR, Nikon all the way. Mirrorless, not so much even two years later. Hoping the next Nikon mirrorless releases will catch up.

R S's picture

Has that single card slot created a problem even one time? Doubt it.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

As he said, he was willing to overlook that.

Deleted Account's picture

It did for me. Fortunately, it was just family photos from a trip to the park that I lost rather than work-related photos, but I had a card die on me. It was a Sony 240GB XQD. Not entirely sure what happened since I'm pretty careful about making sure batteries don't run out while the card's writing and I always eject and handle my media properly, but when I put it in my card reader (also Sony) it just stopped working. When I put it back in my camera to check it, it wasn't working either...

It's actually only the second memory card I've ever had fail on me in my life (the other one was a Sony Memory Stick back in the day). It's a rare occurrence, but it does happen. FWIW I still do use my Z7 for work because it is highly unlikely for it to happen and the type of photography I do allows me to go back and re-shoot in most instances if something is wrong. If I was a wedding photographer or something, however, I would probably be too paranoid to trust any single slot camera at this point. There are just too many excellent dual-slot options available to take unnecessary risks.

Chris Rogers's picture

The XQD slot is the whole reason I chose not to get the z6 or the z7. At the the time I had been hearing a lot of reports of failures with XQD when people had never experienced failures before until they went XQD. If they could get as reliable as CF cards it might have been worth the ridiculous cost of the cards and the card reader. Not to mention they were hard to get your hands onto. I know CF cards used the pin system and that part of CF was unreliable indeed but I have washed and dried CF cards multiple times because I'm forgetful as heck and they STILL worked perfectly. Even with dents in the outer case all of my CF cards still worked. i've never had one fail on me. Maybe XQD is like SSD's when they first came out. Super fast but completely unreliable as a main drive. As time went on and SSD tech advaced. SSD's became just as reliable as mechanical hard drives and also became more available and whole heck of a lot cheaper to the point where there really isn't much of an excuse for any computer to not have an SSD. Hopefully that happens with XQD

J Cortes's picture

Never had no issues with my FTZ adapter. What lenses were you having problems with ?

Michael Krueger's picture

Sony A7C is the first thing that comes to my mind, big hype for a new entry level camera from Sony and it launches at anything but entry level price. I'm sure it's a solid camera, but I felt disappointed once it was revealed.

As a Nikon shooter I also question what Nikon was thinking with the redesign and removal of a function button on the D3500. Cripppled a perfectly good entry line up IMO.

Matt Williams's picture

This new A7C totally baffles me.

Fewer controls than the a7III. Much worse EVF. The same abysmal body of the APS-C cameras - easily my least favorite body design of any modern camera. One card slot.

So why the hell is it $1800?? Less for more, except instead of just size and weight, you also lose functions, features, and ergonomics. And the size isn't *that* much different, unlike say the Sigma Fp, which is truly tiny.

Thatcher Freeman's picture

I assume the "abysmal body of the APS-C cameras" is actually the selling point of the a7c, like think of it as an a6600 with an a7iii full frame sensor, rather than a nerfed a7iii.

Though, really it should have been like 1500 bucks. It would be an appealing camera at a certain price point, and 1800 bucks is overshooting it.

Mike Shwarts's picture

I don't think you can compare it, any FF, to the Sigma fp. The Sigma is smaller. However it is a modular system. If you want to shoot it as stills camera like the A7C, at the least you need a grip. Maybe a view finder.

jim hughes's picture

For me the biggest letdown ever was the Sony a6600. There'd been a whole bunch of hype about a supposed "professional level" APS-C camera, lots of weasel words from Sony about the importance of APS-C. An all new a7000 was expected, but all we got was a dull upgrade of a 5 year old line. I gave up on APS-C at that point, went back to Nikon and bought a Z6. Got rid of my Sony a6400 and lenses.

Deleted Account's picture

I'd like to upgrade to the 6600 for the battery, but not at the price.

jim hughes's picture

When the a7000 went up in smoke I was so mad I just wanted to punish Sony buy taking my piddly little business elsewhere. I guess I showed them who's boss!

Jami Kays's picture

6D mark 2. Not many cameras are so anticipated, and then actually provide an inferior sensor than their (ancient) predeccesor.

Jan Holler's picture

If course this is a purely personal opinion but to state "Its (Nikon Df) sensor was lackluster" casts doubt on your ability to judge. It is the same sensor as in the Nikon D4 and this camera still sets the standard of low light performance. You can criticize a lot about the Df, but certainly not the sensor.

J Cortes's picture

Yeah, have to agree with you. That sensor on the Df is a very good sensor that had great low light and IQ.

Michael Harris's picture

I have a Df as a fun backup camera and I really love it. I looked and looked, I couldn't find anyone saying the D4 sensor was "lackluster". Granted, it's noy my main camera but when I use it, I enjoy it.

Michael Harris's picture

I have a Df as a fun backup camera and I really love it. I looked and looked, I couldn't find anyone saying the D4 sensor was "lackluster". Granted, it's noy my main camera but when I use it, I enjoy it.

Lars Sundin's picture

For me it's Olympus OM-D EM1X. Olympus known for small and compact cameras all of a sudden introduced a beast. Same old sensor. Same old EVF. Intelligent tracking for … cars, trains, and aircrafts! Why Olympus? Did you want t o attract professional sport photographers (who shoot trains)? I don't get it.

Terry Wentzell's picture

take your spam elsewhere

Deleted Account's picture

Nikon Df by mile...

Mike Shwarts's picture

The reason they were staring while you were on the scooter was you never made a lane change. Yet your front, left turn signal kept blinking. And your rear, right blinker too.

Richard Reed's picture

Df most recently comes to mind. The timing was great-- retro cameras were all the rage and Nikon SLRs were some of the most revered. The marketing did an excellent job of building anticipation, but then we were given a retro-like D600.

I can understand some of the Z7 comments here, but I think many of the complaints could be resolved w/ good firmware updates. Firmware isn't going to fix the Df.

Paul Mansfield's picture

The Canon EOS-M first and second editions were a big disappointment.. there was so much prior art, and Canon's history and skills should have produced a micro four thirds killer, yet they were rubbish.

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