Sometimes, you have to leave old technology in the dust to move forward. With two of the biggest brands having just announced new mirrorless bodies, with it comes new lens mounts to carry these camera systems into the future.
Canon has done this once before in recent memory. In 1987, it dumped its FD mount system of lenses and cameras to go all electronic with the EF mount, a decision that angered many photographers with FD mount lens collections. However, it proved to be the right decision, as Canon made great strides with its autofocus using the new mount.
Nikon took a different approach, retrofitting electronic functions to its F-mount, which hit the scene in 1959. While initially slow to catch up to Canon in autofocus, that’s proven to be a non-issue in recent history.
But now both companies appear to be throwing all of that goodwill built up in these systems out the window.
Figuring It All Out
In teaching photography, one of the most common problems I came across was students who misunderstood what lenses would work on their camera. It’s not as easy as saying if you have a Nikon, buy a Nikon lens, or if you have a Canon, buy a Canon. Oftentimes, students with a lower model Nikon would get disappointed when they realize that 50mm f/1.8D lens they just got a good deal on won’t autofocus on their D3400. It’s a bit esoteric to explain to someone just learning how shutter speeds work about how some lenses need a focus motor in the camera body just to focus. It’s a similar situation with Canon, when a lens with a white dot can’t be hooked up to the 6D that someone just upgraded to. Then you have to get into a conversation about sensor sizes when you should really be talking about composition.
The new mounts from both manufacturers exacerbates the problem. Instead of just picking up a camera to use, you’ll have to figure out how to get the right lens on it.
Let’s take a look at Nikon’s side with the release of the Z6/Z7 mirrorless models. Up to this point, most everything F-mount has always worked to some varying degree on most of Nikon’s offerings. That varying degree, however, is quite a wide range. Some lenses won’t focus on some bodies, some won’t meter correctly, and then some won’t work at all (for instance, if you look at a workhorse lens like the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR, you’re out of luck if you want to use that on your D200 or D3000, or even a professional model in the D2-series of cameras). To this you add a new mount (the Z) and an adapter which will have its own compatible lens list. That said, that Nikon was able to maintain any compatibility over the years with the same lens mount while dragging it kicking and screaming into 2018 is a miracle of engineering in its own right.For Canon, the RF mount on its new mirrorless EOS R will be added to the existing family of EF, EF-S, and EF-M mounts. None of these mounts are physically compatible except on APS-C DSLRs that can take both EF (red dot) and EF-S (white dot) lenses. To mount those to a current Canon mirrorless camera, you’ll need an EF-M adapter. The spec sheets make it appear that the upcoming RF mount will have three separate adapters: One with a control ring, one without, and one with drop-in filters. This is much more confusing to the consumer than just one simple option, such as Nikon’s FTZ adapter. However, it appears that Canon rectified a longstanding issue with these adapters – EF-S lenses are finally compatible with full-frame bodies in a crop mode.
None of the adapters from Canon appear to be compatible with EF-M lenses, which means a potentially orphaned system a la the Nikon 1. Or it could be a hard split between consumer and professional lines, depending on how you look at it.
Either way, all of those choices are enough to make your head spin, but is it enough to scare away beginning photographers from buying an interchangeable lens camera entirely?
Canon and Nikon are hoping that’s not the case. What do you think?