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.

Log in or register to post comments

235 Comments

Previous comments
Mark C's picture

Great article Alex! Loved the analogy in the final paragraph too. So true!!

Richard Feynman's picture

This article reminds me a bit of the famous Theodore Roosevelt quote:
"It is not the critic who counts..or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..."

I think the author expressed himself fairly, the main issue I have with this article is the clear suggestion this was somehow just laziness or a lack drive on the part of Nikon. It's ridiculously easy to *imagine* what Nikon should have done when you're not one of the engineers that actually has to accomplish it.

The reality is that on their first release the Z7 is literally neck and neck with Sony. While it was probably nice to imagine Nikon would somehow create some masterpiece that would best Sony in nearly every way, the reality is that type of thing happens very rarely and Sony is an extremely accomplished manufacturer.

Even all the endless moaning and groaning from a select group about how it's just unimaginable to not have dual card slots is hilarious. Would it be nice? Of course. But it's far from a deal killer for many. For every decision there is trade-off and Nikon obviously decided against it on this model.

Matt Williams's picture

Agree. It's hard for me to imagine how much the newest Sony's can improve that much. We're close to diminishing returns. The next steps will be global shutters, eventually getting rid of mechanical shutters, organic sensors, 16 bit files from full frame cameras, etc.

Richard Feynman's picture

Look, the reality is if we can do this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J7GpVQCfms

with a bracelet, there's absolutely no reason that in the year 2019 we shouldn't have all of those things along with a 100 megapixel sensor in something the size of smart phone. Instead these companies just want to maintain the status quo (because of course breakthroughs would be bad for sales). It's outrageous! ;-)

Deleted Account's picture

I thought you died 30 years ago!? ;-)

Yin Ze's picture

"literally neck and neck" the face and eye tracking on sony destroy nikon. plus af on nikon mirroelss doesn't come close. and this is nikon's response to sony cameras(a7riii a9) that are more than a year old. we will see how far sony leapfrogs in 2019.

Deleted Account's picture

hy·per·bo·le

NOUN
exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

synonyms:
exaggeration · overstatement · magnification · amplification · embroidery · embellishment · overplaying · excess · overkill · purple prose · puffery

Mark Davidson's picture

The failure here is the expectations of a public that has had their fantasies stoked by the firestorm of commentary, rumor and declarations by those who believe that Sony (who made the initial, very flawed FF MILCs) is set to rule the world and CaNikon should easily see that bet and raise it by a million.
When reality of manufacturing collides with fanboy wet dreams someone will be crying into in their pillows.

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Still rocking my 6D and nothing has made me pull out the wallet yet to upgrade it. I hope they can raise the bar a bit in 2019, before cellphones pass them! ;)

Matt Williams's picture

Alex, I like your articles a lot, but this one.... doesn't make any sense to me.

First - "worst" cameras? That's like when people say TRANSFORMERS or TWILIGHT are the "worst" movies ever made, forgetting about the legions of films that are objectively terrible from acting to production to story. What you really mean is "disappointing." Your expectations of something have no bearing on the ultimate quality.

Secondly, the only gripe you mention of Nikon is the single card slot. That is hardly a qualifier for "worst camera of the year." Other people mention the AF - particularly tracking. Which is something that varies from person to person and what they shoot (for me, the AF is perfectly adequate, but I don't do sports).

I also don't understand the idea that you could forgive poor sensor DR but not these other things... it would irritate me a lot if the sensors weren't up to par with the sensors they've been using. But everything else is entirely new. I can forgive missteps there, of which I think Nikon made very few. Canon made a greater number of missteps, but I applaud their lenses (though I think Nikon was smarter by releasing excellent 1.8 primes FIRST, with more expensive lenses down the line).

Alex Cooke's picture

Hey Matt,

Always good to hear from you! I understand where you're coming from regarding the word choice. That's why I tried to make clear what I meant by that. They're certainly not the objectively worst cameras (hello, Yashica), but I think they're the worst when weighted by the capabilities any given company has to make quality cameras.

I mention more about the Nikon: poor AF performance, poor battery life, small buffer and long clearing times, that silly ad campaign, etc.

I tried to choose things that are the most 101 issues of camera design, things that shouldn't even be a question.

Matt Williams's picture

You're right - you did mention other things. My reading ability late at night sucks apparently - I thought those were about the Canon. My bad!

Yin Ze's picture

Maybe “half-assed” instead of “worst”

Eric Yiskis's picture

So one fallacy I see over and over when a new camera comes out is that the company CHOSE not to provide feature X or Y. That a company can just dump a truckload of money on some engineers, and they will figure it out. That's not how it works.

I think it's more likely that the Canon has been UNABLE to develop an IBIS system up til now. The reason for the crop factor on video, and why the histograms turn off, and why the video compression is substandard is because their image processor is not as fast or efficient. But Canon is not CHOOSING to be limited in this way, it's just the best they can do at this time.

That Canon and Nikon would be behind Sony in some regards was entirely predictable because they are having to re-invent technology that Sony already has, and is keeping to itself. Canon and Nikon are just further back on the development curve for FF mirrorless. And Sony didn't make it easy by creating the A73 and A9. Even the one card slot thing is probably Cannikon trying to get everything to fit in the camera. Sony is just better at cramming chips in that little body.

Nikon and Canon are just trying to catch up, and they are not there yet.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Some parts of it are choice. Separating product lines so that people have a reason to upgrade or jump over to Cinema cameras.

Eric Yiskis's picture

Yes. Companies have been guilty of market segmentation. But I think with regards to the video crop factor, video compression, and sensor dynamic range--Canon is just behind in those areas. On the upside, Canon makes great glass.

I guarantee that the next time a Canon body comes out, everybody will have sky high expectations, and when the sensor comes up short, they will say Canon *chose* not to have more dynamic range... or whatever.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Oh yeah, when I say that, I don't mean things like dynamic range/video crop factors, etc. I mean the little things - for instance, there's no reason a Rebel T6 can't have timelapse modes built-in, in-camera multiple exposure or wireless flash control. A lot of that is software crippling that makes no sense (other brands are guilty of this too, but since we're talking Canon).

Alex Cooke's picture

If that’s the case, my counterargument would be to ask what kind of corporate mindset would allow a company with the history Canon has to fall that far behind.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Used both. The Z7 was nice, but not enough to move the needle for me to sell my D750. The EOS R's controls really confused me, especially the touchbar. I think I was hoping a Canon mirrorless would have control's we've all gotten used to for decades.

But for worst camera, I really would like to try a Yaschica Y35 just to see how bad it really is.

David Pavlich's picture

For Canon, I look at the new lens trend and that tells me what's to come. I suspect that their pro body R will be built to take full advantage of the new lenses. Nikon priced the Z7 at a pro body level, but I wouldn't consider it for pro work with only one card slot. I know some will poo poo that and that's fine. If I'm being paid for a shoot, especially a one off like a wedding then I want that added data protection. Missing the bride and her father coming down the aisle would be pretty embarrassing not to mention how irate the clients would be so why take the chance?

Besides, these are Nikon's and Canon's first generation. Could they have been better? Sure. I'll wait before we announce the death of Nikon and Canon because they can't make a mirror less camera.

Pete Renfrow's picture

I do not like the handling of the new Ferrari. I was disappointed when their new car came out.

I personally haven't driven it however my volkswagon handles quite well.

Deleted Account's picture

Now that there was funny, I don't care who you are! :-D

Xander Cesari's picture

The EOS R and Z 6/7 would compete pretty nicely with the A7ii and A7Rii, each having some advantages and disadvantages over the Sonys. You might even chalk the EOS R's lack of IBIS up to the Fujifilm X-T2/3's success without it. I don't think that's a coincidence; Canon and Nikon benchmarked their current competition and tried to compete.

But that's kind of the issue, isn't it? Sony has been one upping themselves to make mirrorless competitive with DSLRs and doing a good job at that, bringing features to the market like Eye AF and high res/high framerate cameras for awesome prices. Canon and Nikon don't seem to have been thinking as far ahead and were fighting the battle right in front of them.

Yin Ze's picture

Sony, despite their convoluted menu system, gives the user a lot of options. While I have not shot 37,093,9392 weddings like Jehry Gionis without losing one picture, I really appreciate the dual slot not only for backup purposes but for being able to quickly segregate RAW+JPG images or RAW+VIDEO on different cards. Photo mechanic 5 currently has an issue with renaming Sony Movie files so I write to a different card and ingest them separately to another folder.

Ziggy Stardust's picture

Agree.
And witness the truncated feature sets cp established mirrorless like M43s or Fuji.
What? No Preburst/Preshot and no 20 fps with full AF & AE.

Roland Ayala's picture

"Canon and Nikon Released the Worst Cameras of 2018".

Great. Then don't buy either of them since they're obviously not for you. Share what you think is the best camera of 2018 and a guarantee you there'll a large contingent of people having a diametrically opposed opinion to your own.

Nice click bait btw.

Leon Kolenda's picture

Hey Cookey, an Insult! Well that's as stupid as this article! You must be running out of stuff to BS about!

Sean H's picture

Nikon could have spent a little effort soldering some TSOP flash memory to the main board to act as a rolling backup.... $5 part?

Deleted Account's picture

Slow news day?

More comments