Let’s Talk Mirrorless: Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm


Now that the Nikon Z announcement has passed it’s time to talk about the growth of mirrorless. Sony and Fujifilm have blazed much of the way after m43 kicked off the move to mirrorless, but there have been growing pains. Current generation mirrorless cameras are largely good enough any task with cameras like the Sony a9 hitting a new high water mark that beats almost any DSLR on the market today.

From the Panasonic G1 to the Sony a9/Fujifilm GFX mirrorless has come a long way while Canon and Nikon have largely ignored the professional mirrorless market. During this time they should have been preparing for the transition away from DSLR to mirrorless by measuring what does and does not work in order to try to leap ahead of Sony and Fujifilm. Unfortunately it seems like Nikon might have ignored some valuable lessons along the way and I wouldn’t be surprised if Canon does the same.

The Good
Nikon’s new mount looks very well designed and they did a good job of balancing size and ergonomics. They also have an aggressive lens roadmap and skipped SD for XQD so Nikon is definitely looking forward instead of back. Nothing about the Z is legacy at first glance and the system will likely have a very bright future among mirrorless fans. It also performs any current Nikon camera for recording video and I’m sure the image quality will be great too.

The Bad
Sometimes adopting technology too early can be detrimental and it’s still unclear if XQD will replace SD. So many storage formats have failed over the years with SD becoming the defacto standard today for most applications, that including a new storage medium in a camera for prosumers could be a big mistake if the format fails. Not even Sony has transitioned to XQD yet and it’s their technology.

Also the lack of a second card slot could be fatal, because it was one of the top reason many avoided Sony cameras. Sony’s lack of a second slot made many professionals snub the brand up until the current generation of cameras launched.

Poor AF performance was another reason why professional avoided mirrorless for a long time, but now cameras like the Sony a9 destroy the competition, with the cameras like the Sony a7III and Fujifilm X-T2 doing a very respectable job. So far it seems Nikon’s AF performance is between last generation and this generation.

Nikon can easily correct these issue going forward though via slight design tweaks and firmware updates like Fujifilm is known for. We haven’t seen this from Nikon in the past, but aggressive firmware releases could be huge for them since companies like Sony do not update their cameras much between generations.

The Ugly
THE BATTERY!!! Early reports state the the Nikon Z can take around 300 photos per charge. If this is the case Nikon has created a systemic issue that is uncorrectable if they use a standard battery architecture like Fujifilm and Sony.

Sony just broke free from their battery woes with their new Z battery and Fujifilm continues to be heavily criticized for not doing the same when the Fujifilm X-H1 launched. Battery performance is the primary issue still holding mirrorless back when compared to DSLRs today and Nikon made a pretty serious misstep here.

Wrap-up
The Nikon Z7 and Z9 are a good first attempt for users unwilling to give Sony or Fujifilm a try. These cameras should stop users from leaving in droves, but will Nikon follow them up quickly? We know little of Nikon’s future plans for mirrorless bodies and if they copy Sony’s model than we might see a few more models beyond a standard and high resolution camera.

Also Canon is supposed to go mirrorless this year and if they don’t make the missteps that Nikon has they might have a shot of growing even larger. I largely expected Nikon and Canon to have some growing pains and I was right about it with Nikon. Nikon needs to work on their AF algorithm and find a battery that performs similar to Sony’s Z batteries, but it’s still unclear what will be coming from Canon in the near future.

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Sony a7RIII: B&H Photo / Amazon / Adorama
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