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
Abe Steiginga's picture

I have a Z6 and have used it, extensively, and think it is a fantastic camera. So I do know what I talk about - contrary to some others.

David Terry's picture

14 year Canon veteran here... there is one and only one reason I even considered the Sony a7iii (which I've now used for 6 months) and that is Eye-AF. Because it allows me to do something that I could not effectively do with the gear I already had. Sure, I could pan with a moving subject and attempt to keep the focus squarely on the eye, but that's a challenge as the composition quickly changes. And without panning I could use the joy stick and attempt to keep up with a moving subject, but that too is problematic. Eye-AF changes things in a dramatic way.

HOWEVER, in spite of the other things the a7iii brings to the table (better dynamic range and better low light images than what I get from my Canon bodies), I am not "tied" to Sony. I could easily switch back to 100% Canon. And I might have with the introduction of the Canon EOS R. Except for one fatal mistake. Yes, I am that guy that simply won't shoot a camera with a single card slot. How Canon underestimated the demand for dual card slots is beyond me. It also sounds like Canon's Eye Focus is not up to par with Sony's yet ... so maybe that will keep me straddling both camps for awhile as well. But I do hope to see a better / more professional mirrorless Canon body in the future. Canon could still win me back .... unless they take so long I end up building my Sony lens library. Come on Canon, the clock is ticking!

Tyler Jacobs's picture

Nicely written article Alex, wonderful - I agree with everything you say. Nikon & Canon's releases were a bit flat, but they had to bring something to the market to remain relevant. They also entered the market just as Sony raided the full frame market. The timing wasn't very convenient.

I think Nikon & Canon will do just fine but Sony's success is influenced by their acquisition of Konica-Minolta in 2006. It didn't take long for them to bring their products up to speed. The E mount has been around since 2010 and they've had FX mirrorless cameras since 2013.

Each company seems to take it's turn in time ...

Alex Cooke's picture

Thanks, Tyler! Really appreciate the kind words. And I agree that they’ll be fine in the long run – Canon in particular.

Francisco Eduardo de Camargo's picture

Alex Cooke first of all I would like to congratulate you for your excellent work here from the dpreview website. After saying that maybe the big disappointment may have been the Canon EOS R because I bought the Nikon Z6 (I already have the Nikon D850) and I can say that this is a spectacular camera.

Alex Cooke's picture

What do you think it does better and worse than your D850?

Abe Steiginga's picture

Exactly Francisco. I have the Z6 too and 2 Nikon DSLRs and am very happy. In Alex’s comments I sense the frustrations of a Canon shooter ...

Thomas H's picture

Really, is this headline for real, "the worse cameras of 2018"? I understand that no device is exactly meeting expectations of the "a billion" of possible customers with the said billions of differing opinions. But this headline is plain and simple out of line. How can a device so well crafted like the Z6 and Z7 be called so, baffles me. The single card thing is the "beating of the dead horse". This is simply boring. Of course they made an error in judgement, but even the A7III has one card slot UHS II and the other UHS I, what slows down the camera in backup mode. How is that well designed?

As it comes to IBIS, Canon has the largest and grandest set of IS lenses, they invented the IS. In Japan the presumably "worse camera of the year" outsells any full-frame body, thus the missing IBIS does not deter Canon users from taking it. And so on. Please take a reading in physics, what would explain how IBIS has its limits compared to the in lens IS. I have nothing against it, but it is not a deciding factor to me. IBIS was introduced by Minolta and Pentax, and summarily ignored by the public, remember that.

Mayolo Guerrero's picture

So you write an article and title it what you did WITHOUT ever having shot with all the cameras?!? This article is pathetic and I’m disappointed the editors allowed it to fly ... or maybe that’s what it is, there is no supervision at Fstoppers on what hits their site. Looks like I’ll be avoiding this site going forward as it’s lost credibility in my book.

Alex Cooke's picture

Precisely why I only addressed objective quantities.

Ryan Stone's picture

That worst camera of 2018 made me mid-high 4 figures in each of the last 3 months since they’ve released, have already paid for themselves and I’ve never been happier with a camera, let alone in 1.0 form. *shrug*

FUD cheques being cashed here IMO.

shonali roy's picture

The headline made it sound like Canon R n Nikon Z7 sucked. Got T20. The glass is not nearly any of my Canon-Nikon. Gave the T20 away to a newbie. Gearing to get the Z7.

Timothy Roper's picture

Canon and Nikon do NOT have decades on Sony in camera development. We're not talking about film here, and all three (plus Panasonic) have been making digital cameras of various sorts--from consumer to the hugest-end professional--for decades now, with Sony having been in the game the longest with their broadcast cameras. And by "camera" I of course include video cameras, since with ditigal it's really all the same thing for the most part. So there's nowhere to hide and no excuses for any of them not to be coming out with the best possible.

Vince Morrissey's picture

Funny article.

Alan Brooke's picture

I completely agree with your article. I have been with Nikon since the F3 came out in 1980 and one thing you need with patience. Its pretty much a given that you never buy a new model Nikon. You have to wait for the second or even third iteration. So its absolutely nonsense when they declare “Mirrorless reinvented” (or whatever is their advertising slogan.)

And as a working professional, gear IS important. Okay, so we can take a good shot with just about anything, but a pro needs to have high performance, reliable gear. Aside from the price tag, these are far from being pro cameras, for many reasons (card slot, autofocus performance, questionable quality Z-mount lenses etc). However, I have heard that Nikon will bring out something better next year (2019). Lets hope so because these cameras are...underwhelming.

Well done, good article.

Alex Cooke's picture

Thanks, Alan! Really appreciate the kind words!

Yin Ze's picture

Alan, according to Kaleb u don't need good gear just skill and marketing. and one card slot. stop making excuses about pro gear.

Caleb Berg Yin Ze - 2 hours ago NEW
Then 6 of your colleagues are ignorant like you. Differences in gear branding and basic functions, like 1 or 2 card slots, never allows you to beat the competition. Only good shooting and better marketing do.
Yes, this article has so little content of any value, and absolutely NOTHING new to report, but a click-bait FALSE headline. So it is, ignorant, horse-shit ABSOLUTELY."

Paul Smith's picture

The single memory card slot would have been a deal-breaker right out of the gate for me. I had a 2-week hiking trip to Washington State this past summer and discovered after returning that one of the SD cards crapped the bed and toasted over 300 irreplaceable images - it's CF tag teamer pulled me back from the abyss. It was a personal project the failure of which would have been devastating but a similar episode ambushing a wedding - without the safety net of a duplicate - could have had disastrous consequences on my reputation as well. The D810's pinch-hitting second option really threw me a lifeline.

Yin Ze's picture

Hi paul,

according to Kale Berg 1-2 card slots do not make a difference to anyone....

Caleb Berg Yin Ze - 2 hours ago NEW
Then 6 of your colleagues are ignorant like you. Differences in gear branding and basic functions, like 1 or 2 card slots, never allows you to beat the competition. Only good shooting and better marketing do.
Yes, this article has so little content of any value, and absolutely NOTHING new to report, but a click-bait FALSE headline. So it is, ignorant, horse-shit ABSOLUTELY.

Jim Cutler's picture

If I had read the headline a few months ago I wouldn't be using the Z7's (we have 3 of them and 3 D850s and 2 D5's). The z7's have been superb for us. Editorial, portrait, helicopter. We're in Las Vegas finishing a 4 day job tomorrow and have been fantastic. So that's 2 months of continuous use all the while wondering what terrible things I'm not seeing because of the web celebs. Those doubts are 100% gone with job after job of use. I've stopped blindly believing web reviewers.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

The great and famous and omnscient Yin Ze has said Z7 is crap, period. By then , you know nothing about the real life photography business as many influencers are saying Canikon FX mirrorless are all the crapiest devices ever released so far, only SONY Alpha line is the saviour of the pro photographer... Or a childish idea !

Brian Allan's picture

Years too late for me! I moved to Sony full frame in 2013 and have never looked back; Sony A7S, A7R, A7 II and A7R II, as well as a RX10 III & IV.

Canon and Nikon lost the race and it will take a huge amount of effort to catch up!!

Yin Ze's picture

I hope Nikon and Canon catch up. Sony reduced the A9 by $1000 and I wonder if that was in response to the N/C releases. I hope so. Competition is good. I still prefer Nikon/Canon bodies but Sony has it right for what counts most: AUTOFOCUS. And 20fps is icing on cake.

Jim Tierney's picture

For those of considering switching to the Sony... how well do the adapters work for Canon lenses? Do you get all the features of the lenses (image stabilization, etc)? How's the AF speed?

Alex Cooke's picture

Really varies lens to lens. Any specific lenses you want to know about?

Jim Tierney's picture

100-400 L, 70-200 L, 24-70 L, Mostly concerned about the telephotos lenses as I do a lot of wildlife stuff. But some portraits as well. Thanks!

Jim Tierney's picture

So mostly the wildlife stuff I'm worried about with IS and AF. That's where any speed difference will make a big difference and you don't get second chances to take the shot.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

strange this 'feature' is not over rated, but praised in the SONY camp, but trashed for Nikon FTZ by many asking for native lenses only... I know, pro photographers don't care, they have to own the latest SONY camera available to be a pro ! And amateur have to own the latest and l broadest datasheet to feel being a pro.

chrisrdi's picture

I agree with Alex on this article though the title is very click baity. I went into reading this thinking it was just going to be another click bait article but he makes very clear that both cameras take excellent images and he puts into perspective the issues present vs the expectations of these two cameras. There were high hopes for both cameras and they are both huge let downs and are sub-par for the (very expensive) price defined by quantifiable facts. These are not opinions. I my self was looking into a Z6 until I learned of its garbage auto focus and the massively expensive XQD format. My D700 has better auto focus and having a proprietary memory format from Sony has a huge roll to play in what killed their VITA portable gaming platform. Not a lot of people bought one because the cards were too expensive. This entire article is correct when viewed in the perspective that was well outlined by Alex. Nikon and Sony can do better but they chose not to. That should tell you something about these companies as a consumer. If this is how they are going to treat their product lines moving forward I will chose Fuji going into the mirror less future seeing as how they actually listen to their consumers.

Yin Ze's picture

HEY KALE: FT-Z adaptor doesn't even work properly TRY TELLING CLIENT "SORRY image it out of focus' but not my fault because i have "good shooting and better marketing" to make my images stand out from the "ignorant" Sony shooters who depend on gear for overrated in-focus images. CHRIS: I had z6 on preorder and thank god I cancelled. I tested out Z6 sample and was not impressed especially after using 850 and D5. Kaleb thinks this is ok as long as you have good skills and marketing lol. FUJI is also amazing -- XT-3 is a truly devastating camera for Nikon and Canon pride.

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