The Future Is Bleak: Why Nikon and Canon’s New Mirrorless Lenses Are the Wrong Direction

The Future Is Bleak: Why Nikon and Canon’s New Mirrorless Lenses Are the Wrong Direction

Nikon and Canon have both introduced mirrorless bodies using new mounts, and the industry is at a crossroads. The new lenses that were introduced lack any promise or justification for their existence, and are more expensive while offering less useful features than past generations.Most lenses introduced in the last few years have been a disappointment. While they are technically impressive, offering unprecedented focal lengths or apertures, they are getting drastically heavier and more expensive, while making serious compromises on usability and filter compatibility. At the same time, they are often missing basic features, like image stabilization or filter threads. This trend seems only to have worsened with the new mirrorless mounts.

Nikon’s Z line is a prime example, pun intended. For the launch of a new mount, they rolled out a few obligatory lenses including a 24-70 and a few primes. Instead of developing a more useful lens, like a telephoto lens native to the mount for launch, they focused development on a ridiculous 58mm f/0.95 vanity lens. It is rumored to cost $6,000, and is so unwieldy it comes with it’s own tripod foot. Besides trying to grab headlines, I can’t figure out who this lens is aimed at, particularly given the attributes of the existing Z bodies. High performance 50mm lenses, like the Zeiss Otus, already exist. Meanwhile, Nikon claims their existing 50mm Z mount lens “will redefine your notion” of what a 50mm lens can do. Do photographers really need two definitions of a standard lens on a mount that only has 4 or 5 lenses to begin with?

I don't think even NIkon knows which direction they want to go.

Canon’s RF mount isn’t any better, with the 28-70 f/2 lacking the wider angle capability of their EF lenses and any form of image stabilization, all for twice the price of their well regarded 24-70 f/2.8 II. The lens features an insane 95mm filter diameter, and weighs 1.3lbs more than it’s EF competition. This throws away any weight savings from the switch to mirrorless, and seems to be another example of a product made for a cool sounding headline, rather than a genuinely better user experience. What sort of performance could Canon have delivered if they stuck to F2.8? Could they have fit in an IS system? That omission seems particularly egregious given the EOS R lacks any built in stabilization. If they are worried about low light performance, a 24-70 f/2.8 II shooter can bring another 1.3lbs of f/1.8 prime lenses for the best of both worlds.

I would have loved to see some f/4 zooms that match professional standards, and some wicked sharp f1.8 primes. The classic 24-70 f/2.8 shouldn’t be regressing, and image stabilization should be included whenever possible. The new bodies are hopefully on the cutting edge of ISO performance, and emphasize the weight savings inherent in mirrorless, so what is this fetishization of unnecessarily wide apertures? The expanded electronic communication abilities of the new mounts also seem to be going to waste, as Nikon’s halo lens is manual focus only, despite the razor thin depth of field. Canon and Nikon instead seem to have aimed for the most expensive options at every turn, without a meaningful improvement in product capability.

These lenses seem to be trying to justify the new mounts’ existence. Instead of genuinely addressing a photographer’s needs, Nikon and Canon built lenses in search of a problem. Viewing the new lenses in combination with their bodies only further highlights the disjointed nature of the lineups. The Z6 and Z7 offer photographers a practical, collapsible 24-70 f/4 and a monstrous, multi-thousand dollar prime lens, with nothing in between. If, however, you're looking for a 50mm lens, the Nikon Z lineup is perfect, featuring 3 variations of a 50mm lens out of 12 total lenses announced.

1 of 3 50mm lenses for the Z mount

I'm not saying the only direction to go is smaller, lighter, and slower. I'd love to see some alternatives to the bigger, faster, but wildly expensive lenses that are in vogue; I understand that new ground has to be broken for marketing wins. I think my problem instead lies with the unclear direction that Nikon and Canon are taking with their new mirrorless efforts. While the road maps they've provided offer more information than they have provided in the past, I don't see their overarching purpose. Is the Z lineup supposed to push the limits of what cameras can do, as the 58mm Noct would indicate? Then why does it's autofocus performance lag competitors and even the D850 it supposedly equals? It lacks the same level of customization in controls already present on less expensive, older bodies like the D500.

While some would say, if you don't like it, don't buy it, the very existence of these new lines also threaten the viability of existing models. Looking at the number of lenses that Nikon or Canon are capable of designing and launching, when combined with their road maps for the new mounts means new lenses for existing mounts are unlikely. The situation is even worse for users of the duo's first mirrorless efforts, as Nikon CX is discontinued and Canon's EF-M has an unclear future.

Nikon and Canon should ground their new mounts in reality. Once they’ve rolled out a competent set of practical tools, go ahead and build some $3,000 vanity lenses, but not while you’re still missing anything with a focal length above 105mm. As both mounts heavily rely on legacy compatible adapters to create any sort of complete kit, did the Z and RF mounts really need to exist? Nikon fans already complain of missing lenses for the DX mount, and I feel there are still holes in the F mount line, like a high performance, lighter mid-range zoom. Canon is having to juggle development for EF-S, EF, RF, and EF-M, which leaves the future of each mount in question.

Given the lenses introduced and revealed on the roadmap so far, I don’t believe Nikon and Canon are headed in the right direction. With tightening camera sales figures, manufacturers need to make rational, deliberate choices more than ever before, and manage their resources wisely.

Lead image by Szabo Viktor

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198 Comments

Shouldn't the title be labeled "Opinion:..."?

Han Seoul-Oh's picture

i disagree. “obtuse” would be more fitting.

Alex Coleman's picture

Hi Felix- yeah, it's categorized as opinion. It isn't practice for us to put "Opinion" in the headline.

Click bate. And I fell for it.

Wait, you seriously thought an article titled "The Future Is Bleak: Why Nikon and Canon’s New Mirrorless Lenses Are the Wrong Direction" was going to be something other than an opinion piece? Lol.

It should be relabelled - crap.

Everybody is entitled to their opinions but why do people who never lead a billion-dollar company think they have any expertise or authority on what will be successful policies for such companies?
Both Canon and Nikon have been successful companies for a long time despite all the doom-scenarios nitwits keep spreading on the internet.

Han Seoul-Oh's picture

your latter observation is valid but your support is lacking, to say the least.

generally because wealth is not an accurate measure of intelligence in any way. there are plenty of rich morons and poor geniuses. einstein wasn’t rich, donald trump is, and this example took less than a second to come up with.

so only wealthy business owners are in a position to criticize a company but anyone can speak supportively?

Did I link wealth to intelligence?
When I say “lead a billion-dollar company” I talk about experience, about knowledge, about authority on the subject of “successful policies”, not about wealth. Your reasoning is something like Trump is president, Trump has funny hair, ergo you need funny hair to become president.

Do you really think Einstein was an expert on everything including billion-dollar companies, just because he had a high IQ and was a brilliant scientist?
The fact you can come up with an analogy in less than a second doesn’t make it a good one.

Anybody can criticize everything and everyone as far as I’m concerned, that’s what the first six words of my previous post mean (Everybody is entitled to their opinions). You need knowledge, some authority on the subject and some logic in your reasoning to convince intelligent people though.

Han Seoul-Oh's picture

fair point, but i'll be more direct since i wasn't very clear.

to assume that a lack of business acumen negates the ability for someone to make an intelligent observation is ridiculous. if not, then the reverse would also be true, that you cannot understand a genius without being one yourself. credibility is important but credentials aren't always credible, especially on the internet where everyone is a millionaire with a 12" penis. however, a conclusion that follows a chain of logic that's backed with evidence, from anyone, is credible through validation.

disprove or discredit, your statement did neither. but hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if the audience doesn't really understand the point, right?

again, you've made an excellent point then undercut yourself with a logical fallacy.

Did I say “…a lack of business acumen negates the ability for someone to make an intelligent observation…”?
Funny you mention logical fallacies after you started off with one (strawman) followed by “…if not, then the reverse would also be true…” (non sequitur)

Anyways, context is important, I hope we can agree on that.
The context in this case is an article written by someone without any authority on the subject. That in itself doesn’t make it a bad article. With enough research, facts, references to multiple sources with authority on the subject and logic someone can come to meaningful conclusions.
That’s not the case here.
You need to define “the wrong direction” and/or “the right direction” to begin with.
In a reaction Alex wrote “I'm not saying this won't be a profitable strategy for them (…) I'm saying that this strategy won't benefit the most number of photographers...”
Commercial companies will see “a profitable strategy” as “the right direction”.

I’m not going to analyze the entire article, I’ll just say that I don’t see relevant facts and references, nor much logic justifying the conclusion these companies are going “the wrong direction”. Without those you need some authority (eg a high position within one of these companies, or companies like Canon and Nikon).
The one who makes the claim usually has the burden of proof and I don’t see any proof for the claims made in this article.
Sure I could have used other words to express my opinion about the article but this was what came to mind first and I still believe it’s pretty clear what I meant.

Alex Coleman's picture

I'm not saying this won't be a profitable strategy for them. Leica made some great money when they were rebadging that Sony gear, and their "special editions" have a phenomenal margin. I'm saying that this strategy won't benefit the most number of photographers. A lot of other lenses would be more to people switching to Nikon Z than a 50 f/.95 for instance.

FF 2k+ priced cameras are not made for “most photographers”, no matter what lenses they make.
You need to know the target group, their wants and needs and how they perceive what Canon and Nikon created.
And even within that target group Nikon knows they are not going to sell huge numbers of manual focus 6k f/.95 lenses.
If they tried to sell this as a kit lens for a Z7, you are right, but they didn’t. They started with an f/4 zoom and some (relatively cheap) compact f/1.8 primes.

Alex Coleman's picture

The 24-70 and primes are a great starting point- but I'm not seeing that they are building on that from the roadmap. If they are aiming at people who find the 24-70 f/4 appealing, where is the 70-200 f/4 or other light and sharp native telephoto?

If they are aiming at professionals and amateurs who take things seriously enough to buy 2k+ cameras and 600+ primes, where are the Z mount trinity lenses? By most accounts the Z 24-70 f/4 outperforms even the F 24-70 VR, and again, they are missing the telephotos, portrait primes like 85 or 135, and longer macro lenses.

Looking at their roadmap, 3 different 50mm lenses, of which 2 are even somewhat useful, doesn't seem like the most efficient rollout of lenses.

The body is mostly there- but someone who wants to jump from F mount can't sell their kit and start over in Z. Instead, it is an awkward partial transition, relying on compromised AF performance from adapted lenses. Lenses like the 24-70 and 1.8 primes seem strong, but are missing the full set. Instead, in the next few years they swerve back to large, fast, and wildly expensive (f/.95, f/1.2, 70-200 f/2.8). This leaves both a high end, fast kit missing the basics, and the slower f/4 and f/1.8 kit missing telephotos.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

wow ! Another genius from the Internet barking loud !

Sorry, but you are just barking loudly your personal frustration for not having a new camera system launched with hundreds of lenses and accessories. And the only proof it makes is that you have not much intelligence to accept that nor Canon nor Nikon nor SONY when they released Alpha7, no one is able to release what are your own wishfull thinking.
And all thoses lame arguments and lousy personnal opinion are just spit here and there to please too large ego.

To make it short, keep such opinion for your friends when having too much drinks.

Edit : by the way, I am sure you dislike the 14-30 f/4 whenever you can put 82mm filter on it, don't you ? Whatever Canikon will release, you are like so many internet influencer : never satisfied enough.

Nicky- seems like you are Nikon's barking dog because you seem to blame victims of Nikon's misguided priorities. THREE FIFTY'S is ridiculous. especially the vanity .95 which for that price, size and weight should come with a Wimberly head. It's one of the reasons I switched to Sony. I think Nikon and Canon tried to show off their new lens mount "advantages" by building large/heavy/expensive vanity lenses instead of focusing on bread and butter lenses like 70-200 out of the gate. Hopefully they come through on their lens roadmap for those who stuck with nokon.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

Hu, you are the same guy that would bark whatever Nikon could make.

If they made the holy trinity from the beggining, you and many guys like you would be cry why Nikon stay on the lame current standard.

You switched to SONY. Fine ! Why being so picky and crying here and there that Canikon are making lame devices ? You are not sure about your choices ? Does the wonderful SONY rig not work as intended and still seek somthing you only find in Canikon ?

Do you realise your ego is far too big for your are talking for ? Keep going, YOU are THE REAL photographer as you own SONY cameras. So just keep your brain safe and stop looking at Canikon. You will then never have to read/hear again about people still intersted in Canikon offering !

Niky, take your medication. Please. It's not safe to get so worked up. Simple thing is that I want Nikon and Canon to be competitive in this market because that makes Sony try harder. Sony is already providing an incredible firmware update 5/6 probably due to Nikon/Canon entry into the mirrorless market. I hope CaNicol get their act together. I will pray for you, too.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

I don't need your prayers. You should focus them on your own case.

Funny how you have to be tell me I am the ill guy, whereas you are the one whining here and there Canikon is not good enough whereas you are totally in love with SONY.

You are already totally amazed by what SONY released so far, and utterly excited to death with their announced firmware. So why the heck are you still crying against Nikon or Canon ? You still not get the point ??? Dead brain ?

Keep going with what you believe is 'the most amazing en best videocamera available', and just stop barking here and there what you wish for Canikon wheras you will never buy their devices again as YOU DON'T LIKE WHAT THEY ARE DOING ! Too difficult to do that ? or thinking it makes you a better photograph telling you own what you think is the best device on earth ? Too difficult to thing your own personal needs are not the needs nor liking of anybody else ?

Niky. Please take your meds. I think you need help.

As I said: competition helps every consumer and professional. When Nikon and Canon put out putrid mirrorless cameras it doesn't help Sony users. Nikon's lame effort with their mirrorless system ended up costing me money to switch but the money was well spent on Sony.

I wish you would stop defending Nikon when many of my colleagues who invested in z6/z7 readily admit it doesn't focus properly especially in dim conditions.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

LOL !

You should take your meds !

Who is using bold words for childish arguments ? You ! And your friends. Same friends as Tony Northrup or all others whiners that feel themselves geniuses !

If your fiends invested inZ6 and Z7 for better AF performances, they are just plain lousy and stupid guys buying new gear for the sake of shelling out tons of cash and being proud to show everwhere how smart they are. In the meantime, they are just lame and brainless guys unable to make a proper choice for specific need.
And you, with your too huge ego, are feeling you are the alpha and omega of the "REAL PRO PHOTOGRAPHER". In fact, you just have found a tool that fullfill your specific needs, and this is fine for you, period. But no way it is the holy wonder everybody have to buy.
But even this is too difficult to understand for guys like you.

Niky, when you buy a new car is it safe to assume the steering wheel works? BTW, several of these guys who bought it bought it because they are making a lot of money(probably more than u and me combined) and wanted to avoid the super loud lawnmower Nikon shutters from ruining their weddings. They are very smart business people who had to face bad choice of: lawnmower shutter or bad autofocus.

When is proper autofocus a "tool that fullfill your specific needs"? It's 2019 and Nikon can't even figure out how to properly track af. Especially annoying when they boast about their 5000 year old heritage and 9939 lenses.

Problem with nikon mirrorless is it costing pros thtirce: once when they have to buy substandard mirrorless, once when they miss critical shot due to bad af, and again when they have to upgrade once Nikon gets their shzzz together hopefully before 2029 if they don't concentrate their efforts on a 17-pound, manual focus 35/.25.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

You are still barking onto an already solved problem for you : buy SONY cameras !

Oh, by the way, your comparison is lame. Nikon Z are not broken steering wheel car vs SONy having a reliable steering wheel.
At best, you should comapre a Tesla S vs a Toyota Auris. But it is always a lame try to make such comparison as a photocamera stay a photocamera, not a car.

And you have really strange needs... At least, you are now able to make proper photographic job because before it was not possible for your high skills. Holy god SONY released the cameras that make photography possible.

Yin Ze: Maybe you haven't overlook that Nikon made some time before their firmware announcement with adding Eye-AF and CFexpress compatability as CFexpress is using XQD format. So Nikon did everything right with using XQD host. I bet others will now copy them for CFexpress...

pros cant use promised features on some vague roadmap.

You have not commented on canons road map and patents as i think they have the better strategy. Considering they have the most successful lens lineup and mount ever i think they have a solid grasp of what and when to work on.. well as far as lenses at least

Who will be buying these cameras?
People without any gear?
People who want to switch brands?
People already owning a DSLR and some Canon or Nikon glass?
The last group will be the biggest by far if you ask me and F-mount and EF-mount lenses will do just fine on Z and R cameras.

Both Canon and Nikon didn’t stop making DSLR’s, so why would people shooting (long) telephotos on their D5 or 1DX II buy a mirrorless camera? The lenses won’t be smaller or lighter, AF is not on DSLR level yet, weather sealing isn’t and there will most likely be D6 and 1DX III cameras this or next year. There is absolutely no need for native Z and R mount telephotos in the near future. Once Canon and Nikon start with mirrorless versions of those camera’s they will most likely address telephoto lenses with R and Z mount. The competition (Sony A9) doesn’t even have anything beyond 400mm right now and even their 400mm came 5 years after the introduction of their A7 series.

Sure, you can debate which lenses need to come first based on personal preferences but commercial companies need to consider a lot of things. Logistics is one of them, some components are used in multiple lenses so they need the capacity to produce enough of them. They also have a limited number of production lines so they can’t produce all of their lenses all of the time. Even though it might be better to introduce let’s say a 70-200 f/4 sooner, that might not be possible because the production line isn’t available right away.

Alex this is not an awkward transition for a Canon/Nikon pro or amateur. Think of the early adopters for Sony, they were cobbling together all kinds of Frankencamera concoctions just because they wanted to go mirrorless. Imagine if all those customers had instead complained that there was not an adequate lens set and petulantly ignored Sony's offerings? Canon and Nikon users can pick up a body and adapter then dip their toe into the water while using their current lens set. That is a much better approach than dumping all of your F/EF lenses and buying a whole set. These bodies/lenses were never intended as something to bring new photographers into the market but as something to transition their current users into a new style of body without the ergonomic and menu limitations (from a Nikon or Canon users perspective) of switching to Sony. I understand it is your opinion, it is just an opinion from a segment of the market that Canon and Nikon are only marginally interested in.

Patrick GS's picture

To be brutally honest Alex, you are in a huge minority if you claim to be looking more for f/4 glass where Canon is concerned. Speaking as a long-time Canon shooter, the LAST thing I want to see is f/4 glass. I want sharp, lightspeed fast glass, and f/4 just doesn't cut it. As a matter of fact, if you did a little research to find out just what sells better for Canon, f/4 turtle glass or the alternative, you may just find out the reasoning behind why they release of the lenses they did for the Canon EOS R. I for one, love the fact that they mixed things up, and offered ridiculously amazing glass with their new body offering, all the while offering the ability to still use the vast collection of EF mount glass available.

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