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Nikon Mirrorless: What is the Value Proposition?

Yesterday’s post Nikon to Enter Mirrorless Camera Market discussed the vague details Nikon has provided along with a wish list which is not likely to be realized more than fractionally. Indeed, some of the required tech might still be some years away.

Here are the general areas I wonder about with respect to Nikon Mirrorless:

  • When? And why so vague if soon? This teaser approach has gotten very, very old; I don’t see it offering any value to anyone.
  • What does Nikon bring to the table that Sony does not? I can think of ergonomics, reliability and a focus on making a photographer’s camera (versus an electronic gadget)—all good. I am hoping for more than that, a few things that “wow” me.
  • Who is Nikon aiming mirrorless at—classic markets like sports and wildlife? Landscape? Portraiture and weddings? General use? The answer to that will drive both camera features and initial lens offerings.
  • How does one transition to Nikon mirrorless short of a massive new investment? Though essential, I don’t see an adapter for F-mount lenses as a good solution in general—adapters are awkward at best and if the adapter lacks a tripod foot, then I don’t see an adapter as even viable due to lens mount stress with larger lenses, e.g., most of my Zeiss primes. It is why I never even use adapters on Sony mirrorless any more. Which raises the twin issues of lens line breadth and cost of re-buying lenses, particularly if new lenses are optically superior.
  • Sony has a broad lens line, including its own lens line, plus Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis and Voigtlander and more. How many years will it take to achieve something similarly broad and deep in terms of lens selection? Will Nikon even allow Zeiss and/or other companies to offer lenses for the Nikon mirrorless lens mount (patent licensing)? I am guessing that Nikon will license Sigma, but maybe not given Sigma’s aggressive rollout of high grade lenses.
  • Sony has a deep reservoir of mirrorless experience across many model cameras. Does Nikon have any chance of keeping up, having only a small fraction of the R&D budget of Sony and also with Sony dominating the sensor market? Will Sony sell leading-edge technology to Nikon that might compete with itself? Can Nikon possibly acquire sensors of similar performance, let alone quad-core processors and high-res EVF and so on that can keep up with Sony?

Reader comments

Glenn K writes:

I am actually pretty excited about Nikon entering the mirrorless competition. At this point, I don't own anything (other than a little Sony RX100), so I would like more choices. Although the image quality of the D850 is exactly what I want, I am not going to invest in a DSLR system at this late date.

I have rented the Sony AR7III and Loxia lenses on several occasions, and although the results are good, the shooting experience isn't. Surprisingly, I was most disappointed with the ergonomics of the Loxia lenses. They are small and smooth, but the lack of any surface to grip while mounting and unmounting, and the lack of an automatic diaphragm were annoying. When shooting a focus stack, having to open up to a reasonable focusing aperture and then stop back down to the shooting aperture for each shot in the stack was painful. The lens hoods are also so small that I can't use a good polarizing filter with them.

What I want from Nikon is a mirrorless D850, with real lossless compression, no star eating or other messing with raw data, and comfortable controls. I am also excited about a high quality 24-70 f/4 lens for travel. The Sony/Zeiss is not particularly good, and certainly not worth the cost.

You are right that Sony might dominate Nikon in the sensor area... which would be a great outcome of the completion as well, and I might end up with a Sony after all, but at least with two serious contenders in the FF mirrorless market, things will improve. I have no hope that Canon will bring anything of interest to the party... just more 5DMkXXXX clones.

DIGLLOYD: it is a nice position to be in to not have a DSLR—green field for buying a system.

I also have a Sony RX100—amazingly good images and amazingly poor ergonomics.

I agree on the Zeiss Loxia criticisms, which I noted back in 2016. On the other hand, the compact size is a huge win when hiking and carrying several is just so convenient. It’s a tradeoff, but one that for me is a big win when hiking. Plus the Loxia 25mm f/2.4 has no peer in its 3D subject separation rendering in the mirrorless space—it’s hard to get that look in any zoom or most primes. As to polarizers, I haven't found that to be an issue with Loxia myself.

The Sony 24-70mm f/4 makes very pleasing images, but has its performance limits; the Sony 24-70/2.8 is a strong performer, but large as with all 24-70 f/2.8 zooms. Again, a tradeoff, but surely a very strong f/4 lens can be made. It’s just that all manufacturers seem to see f/4 as descending into consumer grade, which is an unfortunate attitude.

Competition should prove very interesting, and surely Canon will come on board, so it might become the golden age of full-frame mirrorless in the next 2 years.

Claude C writes:

The Nikon wish list and comments regarding the upcoming camera and lenses is spot on.

The smoke is horrendous!

DIGLLOYD: AFAIK, the entire Eastern Sierra is polluted with smoke (Claude lives over there). Heart disease and pulmonary problems along with diabetes are all very real risks. See The Ferguson Fire near Yosemite Valley: Save your Lungs and Your Health if Traveling in California, But Applies to Much More than Smoke.

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