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Mirrorless Price Wars Offer Terrific Value, but No System Pulls It All Together

A technology surge glacier has calved-off mirrorless offerings over the past half year, which is now putting downward price pressure on all brands.

Sony mirrorless is by far the leader, and shock waves lie over the horizon for Nikon and Canon and Panasonic, or already do, judging by the discounts, with the expected v3 offerings of the A7/A7 II/A7 III.

Check out the aggressive discounts already being offered further below. This surely reflects both slow sales of all brands but particularly Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, which fall way short in lens offerings.

There is something appealing in every brand. But none of them do more than get it more than 3/4 right, no vendor pulling it all together. For example, I want the optical prowess of Canon RF "L" lenses and some of the Sony/Zeiss lenses with the excellent ergonomics/haptics of the Nikon Z7 body with Panasonic S1R Multi-Shot High-Res mode. I also want a camera that makes computational photography a priority, to raise quality and eliminate errors that need never again be a factor (exposure, resolution, dynamic range, perfect focus, etc).

Canon is very serious about delivering the best possible lenses, the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L and Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L awing me with their performance. This doesn’t make sense unless Canon has a high megapixel camera coming.

Whereas Nikon seems intent on boring me with their lenses, though the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S is the best of the lineup yet, and a very good one, but it requires f/4 for brilliance, very disappointing for an f/2.8 zoom. OTOH, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S may be one of the best walk-around lightweight lenses out there for easy carefree shooting and the pair of them is very appealing on a size/weight/ergonomics basis with the Z7.

Panasonic S1R wows with its Multi-Shot High-Res mode, but it is a heavy beast of a camera sure to put off any one looking for reasonable size especially since getting the most out of HighRes mode means expensive and heavy lenses. Sigma has yet to deliver its true-color L-Mount offering.

Sony has a very broad lens line at this point, including many 3rd parties with lens lines such as the Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lines. And new lenses like the Sony 135mm f/1.8 GM are stunningly good. The wisdom that Sony shows in encouraging 3rd party lenses seems lost entirely on Canon and Nikon—a fundamental failure to understand customer perspective.

Panasonic has yet to discount the Panasonic S1R, but how long can that be? I hear that S1R sales are slow.

Mirrorless Camera Rebates
$1999 SAVE $300 = 13.0% $99 FREE ITEMS Canon EOS R Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless
$2899 SAVE $500 = 14.0% $99 FREE ITEMS Canon EOS R Mirrorless with 24-105mm in Cameras: Mirrorless
$1797 SAVE $200 = 10.0% $246 FREE ITEMS Nikon Z 6 Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless
$898 SAVE $500 = 35.0% Sony a7 II Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless
$2598 SAVE $600 = 18.0% Sony a7R III Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless
$3498 SAVE $1000 = 22.0% Sony a9 Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless

John G writes:

I completely agree with your blog titled "Mirrorless Price Wars Offer Terrific Value, but No System Pulls It All Together."

Canon, Nikon, and Sony's systems all offer an enticing combination of virtues, but each also has maddening deficiencies. The Sony is the most complete, but even that system falls short of the Nikon in both IQ and ergonomics. Canon's lenses look to be revolutionary, but you'd have to put them on that POS R. The Nikon body's performance is higher, and its ergonomics much more sensible, but thus far the lenses have been upper-consumer grade at best. And so it goes.

Only Sony's A-system and Fuji's X system's (the only viable APS-C long-term play right now) long-term acceptance seems assured. They are the only two with followers who continue to buy new products and support the respective systems. For Canon and Nikon, the jury is still out. Panasonic and Leica's S system is almost certainly doomed to failure. And the investment dollars before any of these company's mirrorless entries gain real acceptance, let alone turn a profit, is enormous and daunting.

DIGLLOYD: is a year enough to see which “horses” are in the lead?

James K writes:

Apparently store owners are reporting the the new Panasonic cameras are a flop...

Another nail in the coffin: Sony will be partnering with Microsoft to develop AI solutions for advanced photo gear. Now that is a powerful and intelligent move.

DIGLLOYD: Sony has a big lead in mirrorless and a huge R&D budget. If other companies want to be player, they need to redouble their efforts, and bring something new to the table. In my, a key art of that is computational photography: software can move much faster than hardware.

Things that ought already to be available but most are not or are weakly implemented with issues in practical use:

  • iPhone style real-time panoramas, including multi-row and supporting smooth panning on a tripod head for jawdropping resolution and quailty (all without a bang-bang shutter).
  • Automated focus stacking support for both autofocus and manual focus lenses, including support a composite raw image and support for near/far focus points and ultra-fast shooting to minimize motion issues.
  • At least 18-bit dynamic range support via ultra-fast sequential exposures, along with intelligent “rolloff” of highlights and shadows so as to look entirely natural. I limit this to 18 bits because most lenses won’t have much more than 14 bit dynamic range; 18 bits will allow full lens dynamic range along with fine gradation.
  • Multi-Shot High-Res mode should be a standard feature one just assumes is present. And it should be supported in conjunction with focus stacking.
  • Automatic exposure mode that occurs only when the camera detects zero vibration.
  • ... many more things.
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