Have Canon and Nikon Lost Their Minds?

Have Canon and Nikon Lost Their Minds?

2018 has been quite a year for new equipment releases. We’ve seen Sony’s impressive a7 III, the Nikon Z6/7, and now the Canon EOS R, among many others. Specifically, these new mirrorless cameras continue to bring up one question for me, and that is: have we lost our minds?

I could get into some other pieces of equipment with this article, but I am going to focus on the new mirrorless announcements, because they seem, well, ridiculous to me. I don’t really have any issue with the cameras; they look wonderful and have some nice features. I’m even a little interested in the Z6 myself. However, both the Nikon and Canon cameras have one flaw that I find hard to overlook: the lenses.

For years, I worked at a camera store and we heard our fair share of gossip and always talked about what we thought of new products. Many months ago, I remember all of us agreeing on one thing: it would be ridiculous for Canon and Nikon to use the EF and F mounts (respectively) on their full frame mirrorless cameras, because the lens sizes would simply not be functional on a smaller camera body. Then, the announcements came and we see that they both opted for a new lens mount, which is good. Then, they both released absolutely behemoth lenses for the system for seemingly no other reason than because they could. The Noct for the Z6/7 and the 28-70mm f/2 are quite frankly, absurd.

Look, I get it. A 28-70mm f/2 sounds awesome on paper. So does a 58mm f/0.95. But, when the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 is 3.4 inches long, and the Noct is at least double the length, if not longer (judging by photos) and who knows how much heavier, do we really care about f/0.95? Probably not. As one of my former coworkers would always say: “if you need that blurry of a background for your photo to be interesting, the gear is not the problem.” I understand that some people like journalists or sports photographers benefit from having fast glass that lets them shoot in poorly lit locations, but not when it’s massive, manual focus, and costs roughly double their camera body. It seems more like bragging rights for Nikon. The same can be said about the 28-70mm f/2 from Canon for their new EOS R, although I see slightly more reason for a lens like that. These large lens mounts are continually bragged about for their ability to enable smaller lenses with wider apertures and better optical performance. Why not just make a 24-70mm f/2.8 that is small and comfortable unlike Sony’s beastly G Master? That certainly would have given Canon an edge for many photographers who find a 24-70mm to be their staple lens. The 28-70mm f/2 RF lens is over an inch longer than the EF 24-70mm f/2.8. That’s problematic.

I’m not faulting any one manufacturer; in fact, I think photographers themselves are to blame to some extent. For years, people have wondered about the possibility of an f/2 zoom like the 28-70mm RF without actually considering if there is a need for it. Sadly, Canon and Nikon listened and decided to make innovations in the area we need it least: lenses. I think this was an opportunity for both Canon and Nikon to make some major improvements to their video performance, dynamic range, or low light performance. Instead, these new cameras feel like excuses for Canon and Nikon to come out with their own “Otus” lenses — lenses that are not needed, but only dreamed of. I believe both manufacturers missed the mark by more or less repackaging their staple full frame cameras and eschewed opportunity for real innovation and change. I still think Fuji and Sony will still be the mirrorless staples in the years to come.

As a final disclaimer, I like mirrorless cameras quite a bit. I have an X-T2 that I use more frequently than my Nikon DSLRs. As stated early in the article, I even have my eye on the Z6, but only for the fact that it is a far smaller alternative to my D800/D700 and is still full frame with decent lens choices. Nikon made a great call with their initial lens lineup for the Z system: they’re small, light, and still functional (sans Noct). My issue with both Canon and Nikon is that these cameras don’t really do much that the D850, D750, and 5D Mark IV don’t already do. They’re just smaller and lighter. And both companies seemed to use them as an excuse to launch a new sort of competition between the brands of who can make the most absurd lens rather than really push boundaries of useful performance that will benefit the end user: us.

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105 Comments

Smaller and lighter aren't the only reasons to consider a camera or a lens. In some cases, yes, but it sounds like that's all that matters to you. Perhaps these new lenses and cameras are not for you. That doesn't mean they are "absurd".

Ye TZ's picture

then what is the point for making mirrorless?

* AF not depending on dedicated AF-sensor, instead focusing directly with image sensor.
* AF Area all over the sensor
* EVF with alle the infos and live preview of image
* better silent shooting,...

There is a ton of features speaking for mirrorless, the size and weight are the most uninteresting. At least for me.

And being able to use the viewfinder when shooting video.

Christopher Eaton's picture

That was a myth Sony concocted to sell cameras. It was a myth.

Matei Horvath's picture

Tell that to my back Michael. lol. The only person happy with the weight of my D5's plus Nikon lenses seems to be...my chiropractor. Kidding aside, smaller, lighter, and more accurate focus on the sensor plane are the big plusses (aside from in body stabilization and EVF)

Joshua Baker's picture

That 28-70 f2 would be perfect for the low light corporate work I do. I usually am swapping a 35 and a 85 and shooting at f2 so win win!

Johnny Rico's picture

What is "low light corporate work"? Is it just event coverage?

Joshua Baker's picture

Somewhat event coverage, speakers in small flourescent rooms, meetings, white board discussions, sometimes event's too but it's more than just that. 2 weeks ago we were inside a cotton gin, not a great place to swap a lens :)

Many times flash is discourage so i use a 35 1.4 and 85 1.8 as my go to with others mixed in. And usually shoot at f2 to f2.8 depending on lighting. I would use that 28-70 f2 all day, and would be nice for astro, underwater and a few other things we do

revo nevo's picture

You do know how heavy that lens is ?

Michael Holst's picture

Probably lighter than a body and two lenses.

Brian Gray's picture

I see this argument around the intarwebs. Using math, the A7III with the Tamron 28-75/2.8, 28/f2, 55/f1.8 and 85/1.8 weighs AND costs less than the EOS R and 28-70/f2.

Michael Holst's picture

I stand corrected. I tip my fedora to you good sir.

I do set still photography and been eyeing a move to mirrorless. Honestly the R with the 28-70 2.0 would make a great low light combo on film sets (without having to use a blimp).

Michael Aubrey's picture

I don't know...lenses not needed, but only dreamed of are sort of par for the course, aren't they? Canon's EF 50mm f/1, for example, ~30 years ago. Many criticized Sony initially because they didn't have such a stand out, attentions grabbing lens (a decent small 28-70, a mediocre 24-70/4, and the 35 & 55mm Zonys were it).

Beyond the super fast novelty lenses, one of the big problems is that as sensors get more and more dense with pixels, larger lenses progressively become more of a necessity in order to retain the kind of pixel level detail that users (rightly or wrongly) desire.

It's crazy world. It's only going to get crazier.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

Funny how some guys have to dislike that video you linked us.
Really happy and approve that "rant".

Maybe it is too harsh for that hater to discover he is just a bad photographer and whatever the amount of cash he throw into new device every year, he is still making lousy or crappy pictures ? I even bet he will continue to believe he is right and will be amazed only the day a fully automated camera will show him beautiful pics !
Oups, that device is already here : flickr, instagram or whatever. A guy should just stack a smartphone into a MILC, and each time you press the shutter, you'll get a pic from 500px (or whatever image bank available online) inspired by what the camera see in front of the lense.

No more need of diverse focal lenses, no more cumbersome settings, no more worrying about kids making bad faces. The absolute awe, and you could then make you friends believe you are Ansel ADAMS or whoever.

Jan Kruize's picture

The man is simply right. Everyone is doing bladiebla about mirrorless..single cardslots... canon and nikon suck en whatever. No one is talking about how to make a picture and using an external lightmeter is stil better as the meter in all those camera’s together. Buy a 4000 dollar camera and a 3000 dollar lens to put your piccies on instagram or whatever. Pure overkill, but...... it has ibis...or whatever how you call this.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Why is "using an external lightmeter is stil better as the meter in all those camera’s together." ?

Jan Kruize's picture

Because an external meter measures the light that’s falling on your subject. An internal meter sees everything as middelgray. So let’s say 80 percent of the measures you do is simply wrong.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Dang, 35 years of being a photographer and 80% of my meter readings are wrong....what a waste.

You know there are two kinds of external light meters, incident and reflected. When you say external I think you mean an incident meter?

I have 4 "external meters" including a spot meter. Do I use them? Very rarely. When I shot a ton of E6 (usually 120 but some LF and 35) I used them all the time. And Polaroid.

Jan Kruize's picture

Why do you use four lightmeters? I use a seconic lightmeter and yes i use the incident option... the most accurate.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

I have 4 because at the time I needed them, 2 Minolta Flash meters, a Minolta spotmeter F and Luna Pro. Idon't use any of them more than once a year. With digital I have no need.

Jan Kruize's picture

35 years and not one picture on this website? I have a sekonic 758DR it can measure incident, reflective spot and flash. I mostly use the incident option. The most accurate.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Yeah, and I don't really feel the need to do instagram, flickr, or much on FB either.
Now that you have clarified "incident meter" and not just "external meter" your post makes more sense. But when I am looking the image on a screen the metering technique is less important than when shooting film.

Thanks, I needed that.

Michael Dougherty's picture

I'm old and getting older. Smaller and lighter is huge. No more lens calibrations and seeing the final image in the viewfinder before you take the picture are awesome also.

Alexander Lobozzo's picture

I like seeing the image preview in the view finder in some instances, but other times it has caused me to miss a shot because i could not follow my subject in the viewfinder.

Daniel Medley's picture

"My issue with both Canon and Nikon is that these cameras don’t really do much that the D850, D750, and 5D Mark IV don’t already do. They’re just smaller and lighter."

Well, I suppose. If you don't count EVF, IBIS (sans Canon), silent shutter, etc.

The other thing is that they're missing something that the D750, D850, and 5D Mark IV have? Dual card slots.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Well the R is a lot cheaper than the Mark IV and is almost the same.

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