Canon and Nikon Released the Worst Cameras of 2018

Canon and Nikon Released the Worst Cameras of 2018

I've been sitting here for a bit, wondering what the worst gear release by a major manufacturer was in 2018, then I realized the answer was crystal clear.

We talk a lot about the best gear of the year, but that got me thinking: what was the worst gear of the year? I could easily go for something hideously bad, but then I thought that "worst" should also be measured by expectations and context. When a company you've never heard of sends you a camera that clearly shows they've bit off more than they can chew, the results are hilarious, but I have a hard time calling that the "worst," because expectations were never high for that camera. Rather, the more I thought about it, "worst" should be a label applied to products put out by companies that know better, that can do better, and that know their customers want (and would mostly happily pay for) better. That's the type of gear that you feel truly let down by.

When I thought of it that way, the answer to the question was blindingly obvious: the Canon EOS R and Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 cameras. These were by far two of the most highly anticipated pieces of photography gear not just in 2018, but of the last several years. Finally, Canon and Nikon were responding to the ever-growing success of Sony and Fujifilm. Finally, after years of consumer frustration, migration to different brands, and rumors flying about, the real deal. Finally, we were going to see what the two oldest photography companies with the most history would be capable of when they threw their weight behind mirrorless technology seriously. Except, it turns out they were only sort of serious.

Let's get something out of the way first: yes, they're capable cameras that you can take great pictures with. I'm not disputing that. What's so frustrating, though, is that Canon and Nikon could have done so much better. They have the experience and the funds to do so. Rather, what we got was almost an insult to photographers: the bare minimum to appease the growing chorus demanding a response to the companies that have made great strides in the mirrorless realm. These are the cameras released by companies with the hubris to believe that the inertia of their market shares, brand names, and photographers being invested in their systems will keep them in the game. They've chosen wringing every last bit of momentum out of the old state of affairs over leveraging their market positions to push forward all the more.

Perhaps particularly infuriating was Nikon's ad campaign leading up to the release of the Z 6 and Z 7. If you don't remember it, it was a series of YouTube teasers steeped in melodrama, as silhouettes danced and Nikon dropped grandiose hints about how 100 years of camera experience were going into this revolutionary device. They dragged on for weeks, teasing photographers into thinking that whatever Nikon was planning, it was going to be something that officially put Sony on notice. At that point, it seemed like Nikon was not only going to match Sony, but blow them clear out of the water, and given Sony's progress (the remarkable a9, the a7R III, the first camera that doesn't make one pick between resolution and fast frame rates), we expected something spectacular. The teaser video below seems really silly in retrospect. 

Canon didn't go so overboard with the buildup to their release, and while we've all come to expect Canon to build solid cameras that evolve at a glacial pace, we hoped that with them finally acknowledging a paradigm shift led by a company with the polar opposite philosophy that they might recognize the need to at least meet them at the same level if not surpass them. That, of course, did not happen. They tripped over their own shoelaces just like Nikon did.

A lot of people make the argument that Sony has been at the full frame mirrorless game longer than Canon and Nikon and thus has the advantage of several generations of development. I don't buy that argument. Sony may have a couple years up on Canon and Nikon in full frame mirrorless development, but Canon and Nikon have decades on Sony in camera development. And were the issues highly technical things — things that take intense research and development to solve and integrate into a complete system, I might give them a pass. Thing like dynamic range and sensor architecture? I might be inclined to give the companies a pass.

But those weren't the issues. The issues were the most basic, fundamental sorts of things — common sense to the point that most people had assumed they were now unquestionable standards at this level. Things that Canon and Nikon had watched Sony make mistakes with and evolve from. The most glaring? The single card slots. It's not exactly a secret that cameras of this level are used by professionals and serious amateurs for whom in-camera backup is not a luxury, but an expectation and often, a dealbreaker. To make matters worse, Nikon inexplicably went with the expensive and proprietary XQD format.

Then there's the ludicrous 1.83x crop factor for 4K on the EOS R. Middling autofocus performance from all three cameras. No IBIS in the EOS R and a lack of IS in some of its lenses. Lackluster continuous rates on the Canon. A limited buffer with long write times and exposure lock on the first frame on the Nikon. The battery life of mirrorless camera two generations back. As Tony Northrup put it regarding the Z 7: "they promised me my D850 in a mirrorless form, and that was not my experience.”

This is what I like seeing.

I will give credit where it's due. One thing that does excite me is seeing Canon and Nikon (to a lesser extent with the 58mm f/0.95) taking advantage of their new mounts to push the boundaries of lens development. Seeing a 28-70mm f/2L zoom and the spectacular albeit ludicrously expensive 50mm f/1.2L is awesome. More of those, please. 

That doesn't change the fact that these cameras felt like getting a gas station gift card that your brother picked up on the way to the house on Christmas morning because he waited until the last minute and had to address the occasion somehow. And it's upsetting because big bro has plenty of money and knows you well enough to put thought and resources into something that will really wow you. Let's see if Canon and Nikon can do better in 2019. I know they can. Come back to the forefront, Canon and Nikon. Excite your customers again. Make the market more competitive. Show us what you're really capable of.

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Previous comments
Reginald Walton's picture

But it's not a life and death issue with the cameras. I always tell people, if you can't get good pictures with any of the cameras coming out today, you need to find a new hobby/profession. Gear chasing is not the solution.

Alex Cooke's picture

Nope, it’s not, but that doesn’t change the parallels of the analogy.

Rafal Wegiel's picture

I deeply believe that people who chase the gear will get nowhere with their photography as there always will be new toy around the corner. Those companies make us feel like we never be good enough til we get another new gadget from them. Thats how their business operates. The sad thing is a lot of photographers get dragged into it and looks like there is never ending discussion about things which basically don't matter in creative world. Again its not about the tools we use its about the end product. Period.,,, if someone doesn't understand that then the discussion is over.

Todd LeVeck's picture

Rafal, I appreciate your perspective and agree that companies marketing makes us think we have to get the newest thing, but I also respectively disagree -from a working professional perspective.
Though creativity and execution are hands down the most important, if you are an active working professional that works with various creative directors, whom ask for various photographic and cinemagraphic capabilities, then our gear definitely matters. Especially to meet budgetary requirements.
I, honestly, rent most frequently in order to use the best gear to meet storytelling effects and production timeline requirements.
So with that in mind, I feel Alex’s criticisms are pretty spot on. Sony is putting capabilities in cameras that allow more options for content creators (that don’t have rental typically built into their business model) to fulfill creative direction with minimal gear.
Also note, this more important for video rather than photo.

kt mailserv's picture

if I were to buy your argument, then transportation is nothing but getting from point A to point B. A horse would do the same job as an efficient car. Still, we buy cars? and they seem to be getting better every year.
Cameras at it core pushes the boundaries of what you are able to capture. Another important dimension is workflow and efficiency. How easy does it make for you to realize that picture you were shooting for? do you end up spending 5 hours on post processing or does camera allow you to do that at a click of a button?

Rafal Wegiel's picture

I am not comparing horse to the car. I am comparing a Kia to Honda. You just making false arguments here. As far the efficiency goes every time the new camera hits the market the upgrades are so small that You basically don't see much of a difference. Please shoot with Nikon D3, D4 and D5 and see how much difference you can get. Thats what the problem is now a days that people have these false believes that camera will do everything for us with a click of the button. Its nonsense.

Deleted Account's picture

Which cameras are you comparing here? Which is the horse and which is the car? The article seems to be comparing similar Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras. Among them, I would be very surprised to see the kind of disparity in workflow and efficiency, you're positing. I would LIKE to see a camera that can accomplish with "a click of a button" what would require five hours of editing with another camera, as similar as these are to each other.

Alex Potemkin's picture

This is just a part of truth which I told any of my friends who asked me about gear.

But another part of the truth coming out when things come to professional usage.

Just two words: workflow and ergonomic.

I was really loyal CANON user for decades. I loved my cameras, and I still. But.. When I faced the necessaries to update, I found that Canon simple don't have camera matched my changed needs. And it wasn't about "quality", it was about workflow. I started to do video, and I nedded some gear which will be fullframe, and allow me to switching to 4K voided during the shoot. So, when can I come? To A7RII.

This camera were terrible. Again, not because of "quality" but because ergonomic. I struggled with it for almost 3 years and I didn't adopted this nightmare. It was the canera which I heated, I was forced to thinking about controls instead of tbe scenery... And I waited for the new Canon.

And ooooppss. EOS R. I was excited... Before I took it in my hands. Both "workflow" and "ergonomic". 4K video with 2x-crop? Come on, I'm switching between photo and video and back during tbe shoot constantly, it's the part of my business. With this crop, I can't: the scene changing dramatically. And no joystick for focus point? One of the most annoying things of A7RII which has been fixed by Sony but inherited by Canon? For my shooting style it's critical isdue, the huge STOP.

Those aren't mistakes. It's aki d of sabotage. EOS R is not a camera for professional usage, period. All great features, which I love, just make no sense if I can't fit the camera in my workflow.

And now, I'm the A7RIII user. I still kerp my Canon lenses, and I'm waiting... But I can't wait forever. If Canon will not issued the camera which will fit my workflow and ergonomics minimal requirements, I will migrate to Sony. Even I still prefer Canon by many reasons. But it is not my business tool anymore. Will see what we will have in 2019.

Kevin Harding's picture

Luckily with the quality of the adpaters nowadays you don't have to choose. Many many people keep the lenses they are used to and love. I've never used Canon lenses but have lenses from many different manufacturers on my Sonys. The beauty of ML.

Robert Nuttmann's picture

My experience with a Sony A7iii is that adapted lenses do not work as well as native lenses.

Alex Potemkin's picture

It's not true, unfortunately :( I just purchased the bew Tamron 28-135 fir Sony just because my adopted Sigma 24-70 / 2.8 HSM doesn't work properly. With this Tamron, thing chanfed dramatically. My Canon 70-200/2.8 L IS USM simple can't achieve focus at 180-200mm via Metabone adapter.

I love how my beloved manual glasses works on Sony, but adapted autofocus lenses are unsuitable for professional jobs. Too slow, too inaccurate, too unpredictable.

Eric Yiskis's picture

This is the "cameras are so good, we don't need new cameras" argument which is kind of silly. With this logic, we should have stopped at pinhole lenses and glass plate daguerreotypes. New cameras offer something that is useful, otherwise people wouldn't buy them.

I've got a Sony A9 and people tell me "you don't need 20 frames per second! 10 is fine." The thing is, when a bird is flying by at a high rate of speed, I need all the frames I can get. More frames means I have more choices of wing positions to pick which looks best. It's not like I can time my shutter press to capture the wing in a given position. The action happens way too fast. Most of the time I don't know if I got a shot until I get back to the computer. So is it good to have 20 fps? Yes.

It's useful to figure out which cameras are better at what and use that to inform buying decisions.

Deleted Account's picture

I disagree, all that has to happen for people to want to purchase a new product (cameras or otherwise) is for marketers to convince consumers that the product offers something useful. Perception does not necessarily correspond to fact.

For example, the Z7 doesn't have to be better than the D850, the consumer has to believe that it's better.

Eric Yiskis's picture

I think the argument that Rafal was making was that we should stop reviewing cameras because the cameras are all good enough to make great images. So all these articles about this is better or that is better are a waste of time and we should just all go out and shoot instead. He thinks people get hung up on the technology, and don't do what they should be doing which is learning how to take better photos.

I would argue that you should do both. Try to figure out which cameras and lenses are better AND try to be a better photographer by shooting, reading books, taking classes, etc.

There are some guys who chase the gear all the time. They have to get the perfect copy of a given lens. They read all the specs. Then they take photos of their cats in their living room. Those guys were never photographers to begin with... I'd call them collectors. They want the best equipment for equipment sake, not really to take photos with them.

Sure, some marketeers will convince people to buy the new thing. But I'm going to stick to the point that new cameras have *genuinely useful* features. For example, eye autofocus is really useful for portraits because if you miss focus on the eye, it's a throw away photo. Image stabilization is useful, etc.

Deleted Account's picture

OK, but consumer behaviour is subjectively driven. The notion of homo economicus has long since been debunked.

Rafal Wegiel's picture

I have never said we don't need new cameras. My point is that we focus way too much on the gear then on taking pictures itself. Dont take me wrong I am all for innovation and making my life easier but at the same time I dont want to waste my time on analyzing, debating and arguing with other people which camera is the best. I was there at some point in my career where the one thing I cared about was which camera do I have and which I am gonna get next. That was the time where my photography simply sucked because I was focusing on the wrong thing. The interesting part is I didnt buy any gear for last 5 years and I think that my photography gets better every year and I still believe I have room for improvement for another few with equipment I own. So if some one tells me this new camera makes my photography significantly better is just nonsense.

Yin Ze's picture

When i am competing against many other photographers i welcome any advantage can help me get an edge and make the sale and keep the client happy. if i am shooting 4fps and the guy next to me is shooting at 12fps the odds are in his/her favor. when you have a very short window of time to get a picture such as mike cohen leaving a building surrounded by 30-50 photogs you will welcome any advantage and probably not argue that 1 frame a second is all you need.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Well, there is the question of value for money. If you pay more for a camera that offers less, it is hardly wise to go for that camera.
I think Canikon have bet on the brand loyalty of their followers. However this brand loyalty seems to be fading. For good reasons.
Especially Canon have handicapped their cameras and will give you the absolute bare mininum they can get away with.
The Nikon at least has great video and IBIS. The Canon offers bad video and some lenses without IS.

People won't stay stupid for ever.

Yin Ze's picture

You, sir, have it the wrong way.

Yin Ze's picture

rafael: then switch to a graflex.

Bill Simmons's picture

While I agree to a big extent with your sentiments, tools DO matter. Sure many cameras and other equipment are very good and offer ample opportunities to make stellar work. But I still appreciate any improvements in decent higher ISO and accurate focusing speed, better compactness, etc, that I can get.

Despite my fondness for such improved technical capabilities, I’m living your dream at the moment with a main FF Nikon system and a secondary Fuji system in which none of the main cameras nor some of the major lens are the latest models. When I do feel the need to upgrade, and can afford it, I’ll appreciate the enhancements and know how they’ll help me.

Joshua Ayres's picture

I can't quite explain it but the more I hear that I should like the A73 and how it is a perfect camera the more I don't like it. Very strange. I am sure it is a fantastic camera BTW.

Jason Levine's picture

I personally won’t watch any of The Godfather movies because everyone talks about how great they are.

Sounds pretty stupid huh?

Deleted Account's picture

No, not at all. I wouldn't own an Apple anything, Sony anything or Sigma lens. I kinda feel bad about it because there's absolutely nothing wrong with the products or companies. I just can't stand some (a minority to be sure) of the owners. They're such assholes!!! So yeah... not stupid! :-)

Kevin Harding's picture

Sorry Sam but I just don't get that argument (to an extent - it's why I started off with Pentax and not Canon) :D
However maybe it's my age but now I just want the best camera and lenses for my personal uses (OK a qualification : best but still affordable, otherwise I'd love the new but very imperfect Hasselblad with the awesome 80/2 - I demoed them and OMG), regardless of how few or many agree. Hence numerous M42, Nikon, Cosina, Voigtlander, Zeiss etc. lenses and fewer Sony (despite their awesomeness) making up my kit.

Mike Stern's picture

“I just can't stand some (a minority to be sure) of the owners. They're such assholes!!! So yeah... not stupid!”

It is stupid just as much as people who think they shouldn’t watch any of The Godfather movies because everyone talks about how great they are.

Deleted Account's picture

I often do things others think are stupid. If you search hard enough, you may find a few things in your history as well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Pieter Batenburg's picture

I don't have to look hard for that. I did plenty of incredible stupid stuff and still live.

Eric Yiskis's picture

Yeah, that makes no sense. The camera is just a tool. If you want to differentiate yourself from others, then take different images. But purposefully choosing a camera that nobody likes ... how is that going to help? You might choose to shoot with an old film camera because of the look you get out of it. But it should be about the results, not the camera. IMHO.

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