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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235 Comments

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Joshua Ayres's picture

It is just that ALL I have heard since the A73 has come out is that every other camera is behind in all aspects. It has just turned me off to Sony in general. I am not sure why. At this point I would rather shoot with anything except Sony.

Deleted Account's picture

"purposely choosing a camera that nobody likes". I've never heard of such a camera and that's not what he was saying. I agree with everything else you wrote.

barry cash's picture

So these are not pro cameras and they are introductory models to test the marketing waters. Nikons P1000 is a dissapointing disaster.
The major issues with most manufacturers of cameras is
1.They have way too broad of a model line up.
2.They rush products to market without sufficient testing, limited accessories, lens line up lack, buffers are too small, buttons are not in the right places, lens hoods are crap and most of all the specs are not real or real world usage.
The newer cameras aren't much better then the two year old models in fact IQ is mostly on par, ISO on par, lenses on par with a few exceptions.
Its looks like the Four Year mark shows the most significant improvements.
The in camera software is the biggest improvement.

revo nevo's picture

Yes give use more stupid and heavy lenses that most people will not use.

The lens that should be on the camera most of the time is 1.4kg with 95mm filter thread and it does not cover wide end. Even if that lens is 300$ I would not get it.

There is a reason why others did not make 28-70 f/2 lens, same reason why only sigma has that 200-500mm f/2.8

imagecolorado's picture

The market will speak for itself. I think Canon and Nikon are perfectly fine with taking a chunk out of Sony mirrorless sales and these cameras will do that due to brand loyalty. I know plenty of Nikon shooters who have bought Z7's and I've not heard one complain about what they got for their money. I could care less who sells more cameras and who writes about them. The truth is in the field. If you hang around enough photographers, you'll see who is using what and those themes repeat themselves over and over again. These are by far not the worst camera releases of the year. They are at the top of the food chain. Reporting about reports isn't compelling reporting or op/ed. It's mostly opining on the perceptions of others opining.

Alex Cooke's picture

Thus the reason the article was tagged as opinion. ;)

Juan Carlos Ayala's picture

Where? It's not flagged as such on the main website nor as an opinion article. A small metadata tag at the end of the article doesn't count. Perhaps Fstoppers needs to consider a change in format to mark this type of article as an opinion piece form the onset so it's clear.

With regards to the topic, there's just not enough practical material in this article and it seems to conclude that as one expected much more from Canon and Nikon, then that makes these two new entrants 'worst camera' winners. That just doesn't seem to make sense. I hummed and hah'd about mirrorless (I use a D850), then I purchased a Z6 and aside from hi res landscape photos, I've hardly put it down given it's overall practicality. These are solid new cameras (if you don't like the 4k crop, skip the Canon, if need the 3D auto-tracking, then get the D850) and I predict they are selling well.

imagecolorado's picture

Obviously it's opinion. Thus the comment "Reporting about reports isn't compelling reporting or op/ed. It's mostly opining on the perceptions of others opining." FYI, op/ed is news talk for "opinion/editorial"

You don't make a compelling argument Alex, that's all I'm saying. You are entitled to your opinion.

Yin Ze's picture

well a colleague got a z6 loaner from nikon and returned it. said he was not buying it and would stick to d850 due to bad af.

imagecolorado's picture

I'd keep a D850 over a Z6 too. Actually, I'm not interested in a mirrorless at all, but to say they are the worst cameras of the year is pretty dull.

Yin Ze's picture

One of the problem with 850 was the slow af in live view. I often have to shoot over people's shoulders or in between two other photographers/tv and having the ability to hail mary with AF quickly is very valuable especially with longer end of a 24-70.

i also thank Sony for keeping up their flip screen instead of what Canon chose. I can flip the screen up quickly and raise the camera to shoot above people. Or I can shoot from the waist level while looking down. No flip then rotate like on canon. It also looks like you are checking your camera whereas shooting from the hip with Canon is not so subtle.

imagecolorado's picture

That's the beauty of the free market. There's a tool for every job. I photograph wildlife most of the time. The articulating flip screen does nothing for me, live view does nothing for me. I have a camcorder for video, so I don't even care what the camera does with video. There is no one size fits all. To me, this is all too much about complaining about or promoting different wrenches. If you need a different tool, get a different tool.

chris schmauch's picture

Since you didn’t use the nikons, how many of the “people you trust” actually purchased one and then returned it? If you can make great images with a product, is it really “the worst”?

How about we talk about the worst articles of the year, the ones we felt a little dumber for reading?

Alex Cooke's picture

I can make great images with my 50-year-old Rollei 35. That’s not the standard I’m talking about (as I mentioned in the article). And I do know several people who returned or sold a Z 6 or Z 7.

chris schmauch's picture

If you’re simply going off how these cameras didn’t meet your expectations, wouldn’t “2018’s most overhyped cameras” more accurately describe your point?

Alex Cooke's picture

In the case of the Nikon ad campaign, maybe. In the case of the Canon, no.

Yin Ze's picture

Nikon's teaser for their 58/.95 has got to be the dumbest ad since "imported from the future" f4 ad (IIRC) and not because of the lens flare.

The teaser opens with "as we embark on our next 100 years" as it introduces a MANUAL FOCUS lens as a "new symbol of Nikon's quest for optical perfection" for their new lens mount.

This is worse than if Tesla switched to stick shift on the 2019 Model X P100D and then priced it at 390,000.

Alex Cooke's picture

I haven't seen that one, but it sounds like the teasers for the cameras. Talk about melodramatic.

Caleb Berg's picture

Absolutely Chris, worst 2018 gear article! The title seemed like it could be informative. After wasting my time going through it, the only thing he mentions on Nikon is the old card slot issue.
It's a completely uninformative, uneducated waste, by someone who never even used the camera. Why is Fstoppers calling this crap an article?

Alex Cooke's picture

I mentioned way more about the Nikon; read it again.

Damon Biviano's picture

Gotta say, I was unimpressed with the EOSR specs. Then I played with one, then I bought one. Now I barely pick up my mark IV. The EIS is better than most give credit to and it's the only body that has a front facing LCD. Lack of GPS, 1.8 crop, losing some buttons and dials is infuriating though.

It took a few generations for the M line to get it together and I expect the same for the R line. It's also only ~$2000. Anyone know if it's possible to mount an RF lens to an EF body? I can't see people adopting the RF line without that, yet.

Deleted Account's picture

I really appreciated the way you defined the question with respect to consumer expectation, Alex. The more I ponder that, the more I suspect that the initial expectation condition requires additional definition. It almost feels like it should be addressed by behavioural economics.

Alex Cooke's picture

Thanks, William! I knew I had to be careful in precisely articulating what I meant. I think you’re right as well; that would be a very interesting study.

Scott S's picture

Google expectancy violations theory (EVT) research and the moment of delight marketing research. These are thoroughly researched areas of consumer behavior and attitudinal profiles. Which, I believe, would be a more accurate assertion to what you really mean behind the article. Y

The cameras are great, however, they are poor because they didn't stack up to your high expectations. It's classic EVT research. To what degree the brand marketing is responsible vs. thought influencers vs. your own bias / preferences is another factor to consider.

Brian Matiash's picture

"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."

That's a really salient way to describe the situation in 2018 related to the new FF mirrorless players. Maybe we afford these gigantic, monolithic companies too much good faith when it comes to utilizing common sense and learning from history. Yes, yes. I know that product management can span years... but it doesn't have to.

I suspect many people assumed that both Canon and Nikon would leverage the treasure trove of user research and analytics created in the five-year wake since Sony released the first a7. All they had to do was peak outside the fallout shelter to see what people liked and didn't like. The freaking landmine map was essentially drawn out for them.

Instead, they fell back onto antiquated ways of doing things. If the market wasn't already primed with some serious alternatives (with mature lens lineups), I could see Canon and Nikon skating by. However, people are savvier these days and have refined expectations.

Unfortunately, Canon and Nikon chose to embrace mediocrity as the theme to introduce their new FF mirrorless system. Too little, too late? Maybe. 2019 will be a pivotal year in that regard.

Alex Cooke's picture

Exactly. The market research played out in front of them for the last five years, and they ignored it entirely.

Deleted Account's picture

The problem with reviews is I've never read one that doesn't include the reviewers personal preferences, nor should they. But they should take greater pains to make that clear. Personally, I discount the reviews of Alex, Patrick and Lee, not because they're bad reviews (they're not) but their priorities are almost always different from mine. That being said, this article is not really a review or recommendation, it's Alex's opinion.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I loved the analogy on the last paragraph.

Fritz Asuro's picture

I don't know about you, but I'm happy with my Nikon Z6.

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