This article attempts to identify things that are still missing in each of the various mirrorless camera systems. This article updates and replaces a small section that used to appear in the Articles section of this site.
Canon EOS M
Not a lot of options in this system at present. We have three body choices, though two of them are older and don’t differentiate a lot. We do have seven EOS M lenses, through three are mid-range convenience zooms.
What EOS M doesn’t have at the moment is:
- A coherent set of body choices that are all on the same (or near same) technology.
- Quite a few compact primes (at minimum: 16mm, 33mm, and 50mm).
- Fast primes (the above could be f/1.4 or f/2 and help solve this, but right now we have one f/2 option, and that clearly makes for a gap with other “full” systems).
- Fast or semi-fast fixed aperture zooms (16-50mm, 50-135mm, either f/2.8 or f/4).
- Long telephoto zooms (50-300mm, or anything that would get us to 400mm equivalent).
The bigger question is whether Canon actually wants to fill any of these holes, or whether they just see the EOS M as a gateway system that’s now reasonably complete. I fear the latter. Which means that if you want something beyond what the EOS M system provides, Canon really wants you to buy one of their DSLRs.
As a complete stand-alone system that can solve an ILC customer’s full set of needs, the Canon EOS M currently doesn’t come close for serious enthusiasts; it really only satisfies the lowest common denominator consumer.
Fujifilm now has a reasonably full set of products.
I’d tend to argue that Fujifilm has a few too many camera options. The X-A and X-M lines seem overly represented by models and Fujifilm really doesn’t have the small, light zoom lens options that would really match up well with them.
Elsewhere on the lens side, only a few things seem missing now. In particular:
- Longer telephoto primes. The prime lineup currently stops at the 90mm f/2. At some point we really need something like a 200mm f/2.8, maybe a small handful of telephoto primes of which the 200mm is the mid-point and anchor.
- More niche options. Tilt/Shift, macro, and a host of other speciality lenses are currently missing or in short supply in the X system.
- Some better telephoto zoom options. Fujifilm could really use a 50-140mm f/4, and probably a better 55-200mm option.
Accessories, particularly flash, are one area where Fujifilm now needs some more or better options.
The brand new medium format camera has one giant hole: lenses. We saw five lenses at Photokina last September, which Fujifilm said would likely appear as two in the first half of 2017, three in the second half. But even if and when they do, we really only have 18mm plus 35-80mm (equivalent) really covered. The gap between 18mm and 35mm equivalent seems like a real gap that needs quick filling.
There’s also the question of flash, as with the smaller APS systems Fujifilm makes. A full radio-activated wireless flash system controlled from the camera seems like another gap to be filled.
Another new medium format camera, and with the same hole: lenses. Hasselblad has announced three lenses, giving us two wide angles and one short telephoto. We need something faster in the “normal” prime range and perhaps a mid-range zoom to make this system fully useful, I think.
I’m not quite sure what to make of the TL/SL cameras. Why? Well, the TL seems to be targeted at convenience (variable aperture and smaller lenses), while the SL seems to be targeted at highest potential image quality and has produced some of the biggest and heaviest mirrorless lenses we’ve seen to date.
This clearly seems by design (strategy).
Thus, who am I to say that the TL needs more primes and some faster zooms and the SL needs some smaller lenses? Neither seem to be in Leica’s future, and intentionally so.
Thus, I think you only buy into the Leica approach if the model you like has the options you desire. Whatever gaps exist in the Leica system are there because Leica doesn’t see them as gaps.
Nikon 1 (CX)
First off, until evidence to the contrary appears, I’m of the belief that the Nikon 1 is a dead system. Nikon did not release anything for the system in 2016, and you have to go back to mid-2015 to see anything that says it still has a pulse. Nikon’s DL compact-style cameras tend to trump what you can do with the Nikon 1 mirrorless cameras except for one thing: on the Nikon 1 you can change lenses. You have to go all the way back to March 2014 to see any new lenses for the Nikon 1 system.
It’s possible that the Nikon 1 is on life support and we’ll see a new product or two appear in an attempt to get loyal enthusiasts to upgrade. But I don’t believe that Nikon will do anything to fill the gaps in the system:
- No DSLR-like camera. The V1 and V2 were DSLR-like with EVFs, the V3 went to an optional EVF, which is not the same thing.
- No AW1 update. The AW1 is a unique product that’s highly useful, but Nikon hasn’t produced anything new in the AW aspect of the line since its introduction.
- A full set of primes. We’re missing a 9mm and 13mm prime at a minimum.
- Fast zooms. Everything in the Nikon 1 line is convenience-oriented zooms with variable apertures. A 9-30mm f/2.8 is missing, as is a 30-100mm f/2.8.
- Macro and specialty lenses.
Again, I don’t expect these holes to be filled.
Olympus and Panasonic m4/3
Good news. There’s virtually no substantive gaps these days in the m4/3 system. Considering that we’ve had over 40 m4/3 cameras from these two companies, you’d have to say that if there were real gaps, then they should just get out of the business.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a couple of things I’d like to still see:
- No truly small-as-can-be camera. The old GM offerings are missed, I think. I’d like to see a 20mp version of a minimal camera.
- Speciality items such as tilt-shift lenses are still missing (though you can mimic them by using adapters).
If all Olympus and Panasonic did at this point was iterate and improve what they’ve already produced, I think virtually all of the m4/3 crowd would be perfectly happy.
Despite 2016 producing two E bodies, we still have body gaps. Plus we have lens gaps:
- No followup to the A5000, thus no small rangefinder style camera without an EVF.
- No replacements for weak lenses, particularly the 16mm f/2.8.
- Weak prime lineup overall: missing 14mm, and a 20mm that tries to straddle the 28mm/35mm equivalent gap.
- Incomplete and weak zoom lineup: only one telephoto option, and a lot of fairly weak optics in the kit and mid-range zooms.
Sony is replaying the Canon and Nikon mistakes in DSLRs: "hey, the crop sensor camera is just an entry level product and shouldn’t actually be fleshed out: let's force anyone that wants a full system to buy full frame.” So the crop sensor Alpha mirrorless lineup has not seen a lot of action other than updating the bodies to current sensors and technologies.
The bodies in the full frame lineup are due for their Mark III refresh. Meanwhile, the lens lineup has gotten better. So are their any gaps? Absolutely:
- No true performance A (call it the A9). It’s certainly possible to target the Canon 1DxII and Nikon D5, but Sony hasn’t chosen to do that.
- Missing primes: no 20mm, no 24mm, nothing longer than the very big 90mm macro. This is a system that really needs 105mm, 135mm, 200mm, 300mm, and maybe even longer lenses.
- Weak Kit Zoom: the 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 is a fairly terrible option and needs a redo.
- Fast Telephoto prime: a 300mm f/2.8 and/or 500mm f/4 is now starting to fill like it should exist for this system.
- Missing 400mm: no real useful way to get to 400mm, either in a prime or via a telephoto zoom.
The good news is that we have three very different bodies to choose from, the lens set has improved to the point of being decent (especially the basic zoom trio), and third-party lens support has filled out a lot of options.
I need to do more exploration of the flash options for Sony, but my initial impression is that this area could use more work, too. Still, for a fairly new system, the FE side of Sony Alpha has filled out nicely in a very short time, and it’s clear that Sony is emphasizing it over their other ILC choices, so I expect fewer and fewer gaps in the future.