With the continued introduction of new lenses, bodies, and roadmapped development, do Nikon’s F and Canon’s EF-mount lenses have a future?
With the introduction of their mirrorless cameras, both Canon and Nikon also introduced new lens mounts. I’ve already stated my opinion about the initial lens choices both have created to support their new cameras in an earlier article. Setting aside those specific critiques, it is clear that both brands consider these new mounts to be their future. They have dedicated most of their output, both production and R&D, to introduce new bodies and lenses designed specifically for the mounts.
What does this mean for photographers who haven’t yet upgraded? In my opinion, if you are still going to be shooting in five years, now is the time to take a hard look at what you think you’ll be using in that time. Many photographers have a significant amount of money tied up in their lenses. In my case, lenses constitute 70 percent of all my equipment costs. Furthermore, they are among the most brand specific, unlike tripods, lighting, or filters, which can all be used with other cameras.
Lenses, for the most part, have done better when it comes to depreciation than camera bodies. They might not enjoy that distinction in the future, as the viability of F and EF bodies diminish over the next few years. I’m not saying that your lenses are instantly worthless. Both Canon and Nikon offer adapters to support converting their old lenses to the new mounts, and the old mount bodies will still keep working. But inevitably, the state of the art moves forward. For instance, Nikon’s Z mount 24-70mm f/2.8 offers a number of features over their most recent F mount 24-70mm. Bodies across the range now offer more megapixels, and the reduced flange distance available in the new mounts allows for entirely new designs. Taken together, it is tough to see how adapting old lenses will present a value proposition for most photographers, without a substantial markdown in price.
Furthermore, photographers upgrading or switching will have a pernicious effect on the resale value of old mount lenses. As more photographers make the switch, the pool of buyers and users of old mount gear will shrink, right at the same time supply on the used market will increase. This combination will put a significant downward pressure on gear prices.
While I don’t believe the new Z and RF mounts can currently support an entire kit, photographers who expect to switch in the next couple years should carefully consider a few factors before making significant new lens purchases.
As a quick guide, the safest choices for the old mount appear to be super telephotos, followed by special cases like macro lenses, as well as fast long or wide primes. Conspicuously each of these are mostly missing from Nikon and Canon’s roadmap for the next few years, and these lenses have historically held their value better than other types of lens.
Wide and midrange zooms, particularly at the high end, have already seen superior mirrorless versions introduced. Primes are trickier to generalize, and vary based on the manufacturer and style of lens. Some specialty primes should be safer, while standard primes like a 50mm f/1.8 have already been significantly outperformed by new models.
Interestingly, both manufacturers haven’t aggressively marked down their old lens stock. While this is partly a move to preserve their margins at a financially difficult time, it should make the decision easier for buyers, as it only diminishes the value proposition of new purchases in the old mount. Essentially, if you can’t score a bargain on the lens, that only makes its future depreciation more painful.
Overall, I think photographers should take stock of what lenses they own and what they expect to be shooting in the future. When I say what they expect to shoot, I mean both subject and manufacturer. If your current manufacturer’s mirrorless is aligned with your needs and you are OK with adapting, you may be just fine. If you think you’ll be switching or want to take advantage of the clear upgrades available, like users of Nikon’s old 24-70mm, take that into consideration when shopping for new gear. While gear is only important for the end goal of creating images, and shouldn’t be a pursuit in itself, every photographer should take the financial side into account.
Are you planning on any significant lens purchases? Did the introduction of the mirrorless lines influence the decision? If you don’t see a future switch to mirrorless, are you making a lens or body purchase you were holding off on?