Missing Items in Each System

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
We have two basic body choices and the models range from entry level to a near DSLR level. We also have eight EOS M lenses, through three are mid-range convenience zooms. 

What EOS M doesn’t have at the moment is:

  • Quite a few compact primes (at minimum: 16mm and 50mm).
  • More than one fast prime (the above could be f/1.4 or f/2 and help solve this, but right now we have only one 32mm f/1.4 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 already 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 or R models. 

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.

Canon EOS R
We have two basic body choices at the moment, the low-end RP and the somewhat higher R. Both are based on older DSLR sensors at a time when Sony (and others) continue to move forward with their chip technologies. 

We also have eight RF lenses for those two cameras. The problem is that most of those lenses don't match the quality of the bodies. If you buy an RP, the only lens that really matches is the 24-240mm f/4-6.3. If you buy an R, I'd argue that only the 24-105mm f/4 and 35mm f/1.8 macro really match lens and body well. The other lenses are clearly able to resolve better than the top R camera at the moment. 

Thus:

  • We need more consumer lenses for the RP/R (a low end kit lens, a consumer telephoto).
  • We need slow, compact primes. The f/1.2L's are expensive and aspirational with the current bodies, and they're large and heavy; so a trio of f/2.8 compact primes would be highly desirable for the current bodies).
  • The higher-end cameras need to show up, and with newer sensor technology. Rumors of a 5DR replacement in the RF line abound, as do a mirrorless companion to the 1DX. Of the current eight lenses, I'd say that five of them are clearly targeted at those missing bodies. The sooner the bodies appear, the more rationalized the R system looks. Even more important is to make some strides forward with sensor technology (e.g. dynamic range).

Fujifilm X
Fujifilm has a reasonably full set of products. 

I’d tend to argue that Fujifilm has a few too many camera options. The camera products seem overly represented by overlapping generation models and Fujifilm really only has one small, light zoom lens option that match up well with the smaller, lower cost products. Meanwhile, on-sensor IS is only on one camera, so this pushes the need for IS into a lot of the lenses, but not quite enough of those exist, and they are higher priced.

  • IBIS needs to reach more XF bodies. On sensor stabilization is the norm now, and only the X-H1 has it. 
  • Four or five cameras are enough. The X-A7, X-T100, X-T30, and X-T3 are the core of Fujifilm's offerings. Beyond that, pick the X-Pro or the X-H for a final model and simplify and rationalize. There are some who'd argue that the X-E should still be in there, but I'm not seeing the demand for it.

On the lens side, only a few things seem missing now. In particular:

  • Longer telephoto primes. The prime lineup mostly stops at the 90mm f/2. At some point we really need something like a 200mm f/2.8 (yes, I know we have 200mm f/2, but that's a pricey, specialized lens), maybe a small handful of other 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 kit option. 

Accessories, particularly flash, are one area where Fujifilm also needs some additional options. 

Fujifilm GXF
This new medium format camera has one hole: some missing lenses. While we have nine lenses now, with 18mm plus 35-80mm (equivalent) covered decently, the gap between 18mm and 25mm equivalent seems like a real gap that needs another lens, particularly since that 25mm equivalent is from a mid-range zoom. 

I'm still evaluating this, but I think we need more consistent lens quality in the GF mount lenses, too. I've seen and heard about just a few too many "not quite perfect" lenses in the field.

I don't know that we need another camera. For an expensive Medium Format range, we already have three models that do a nice job of giving you a reasonable range of options. 

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, though I suspect most shooters who'd opt for the GF would just move to studio strobes.

Hasselblad XCD
Another medium format camera, now in its second generation. We've got a decent range of nine lenses at this point, and they cover most of the needs a MF shooter would typically have. What we don't have yet is a 100mp version of the X1D camera.

Leica TL/SL
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 currently seem to be in Leica’s future, and intentionally so.

However, Leica's partnering with Panasonic and Sigma on the L lens mount has changed things a bit. The lens selection is about to go way up, and you're also going to have a choice of Panasonic and Sigma bodies, too. This alters the equation quite a bit, and means that Leica will have to do more to distinguish itself from the competition.

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 offerings are there because Leica doesn’t see them as gaps. 

Nikon 1 (CX)
The Nikon 1 is a dead system. Nikon did not release anything for the system after 2015. Officially, the line is now discontinued, though some new and refurbished gear still is available for purchase.

Since the system is dead, you need to be satisfied with what was produced, and rely more and more on the used market to fulfill any additional purchases you want.

Nikon Z
You can't really say that the Z system replaced the 1 (CX) system, but Nikon came back to the mirrorless market three years later (2018) with a full frame set of offerings based around a new lens mount. Initially, we got two new cameras, the Z6 (24mp) and Z7 (45mp), which match up really well against the recent Sony A7 and A7R models.

At announcement, we learned about four Z-mount lenses and the ability to use virtually all Nikon DSLR lenses via an adapter. In short order, we've gotten four additional lenses, and Nikon seems on target to add six+ new Z lenses a year for the foreseeable future. They won't exactly catch Sony's FE lens lineup until 2023 or so at that pace, but as I and others have discovered, Nikon did such a good job with the adapter that a lot of recent DSLR lenses can fill in the gaps very nicely.

Still, there's a lot left to be done in the Z lineup:

  • No APS-C or smaller sensor strategy. At the moment, Nikon seems all-in with full frame. That means that (a) they have no entry level mirrorless camera(s); or (b) they plan on filling that in the future with something. That something would be unknown at present, which puts them at a disadvantage to Sony (E/FE) and even Canon (M/RF, even though they're not compatible). Nikon has done this retrenchment-to-high-end before, and inevitably they re-introduce more consumer-oriented models. But again, predicting when and what that is we can't do at the moment.
  • No small primes. Nikon has elected to build out two prime lens lines, a moderate sized f/1.8 one that is high in image quality, and an even faster f/1.2 one that is rumored to be really high in image quality. Given how compact and portable the Z camera bodies are, what's missing are lenses that play into that size benefit. We need a series of near pancake f/2.8 primes, too.
  • 200mm+ seems to be ignored for the moment. Again, the FTZ adapter does a really good job of bringing the existing Nikon DSLR lenses over to the Z system. But at the moment Nikon seems to be counting on that 100% to fill the long telephoto need. That's not terrible. Lenses like the 300mm f/4 and 500mm f/5.6 PF not only work fine on the Z bodies, they're appropriately sized, even with the FTZ adapter. Still, we need to see what Nikon is going to do in the future with long telephoto, and we haven't even been given a clue.
  • Video is still missing the mark. The Z6 is actually a better video camera than the Sony A7m3 when you look at pixel/frame quality. The problem is lenses. Nikon's fly-by-wire manual focus for video is not really usable (the video autofocus is better than Sony's, IMHO). Nikon doesn't seem to recognize that videographers like gearing on their video lenses, too. Little bobbles like this just aren't going to win over the videographer market.
  • Missing full frame cameras. With Sony now at 60mp and having a mirrorless pro sports camera as well (A9), for Nikon to fully match up we need a Z8 (60mp+) and a Z9 (24mp sports). Moreover, since Canon low-balled the RP, Nikon really needs a D600 type replacement at the low end, call it the Z5. 

Nikon has a lot of work left to do get fully into mirrorless. To their credit, they seem to be doing it. It's just going to take some time for them to roll out all the things that they need to roll out. 

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 50 m4/3 cameras from these two companies, you’d have to say that if there were still any 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 that 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. The operative question is this: how big is that crowd? Clearly not as big as Olympus and Panasonic hoped. 

Panasonic/Sigma L
Panasonic has jumped into the L-mount in a big way: three bodies, four existing lenses and six more scheduled the next twelve months (as I write this). We're still very early in Panasonic's L system, so it's difficult to say where it's really headed or how successful it will be. Nevertheless, it's a full on effort, much like Canon and Nikon are doing. 

Sigma, meanwhile, isn't quite there yet. Their first slightly oddball camera is due later this fall (I type this in early fall 2019), and the "converted" Art lenses are just starting to trickle to production, too.

It probably won't be until mid-2020 that we have a clear idea of what's really missing in the L systems and why. Right now there's a lot of overlap and congestion and I don't think any of the three companies (Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma) have fully sorted out where they really want to be.

Sony E
Despite 2016 producing two E bodies in quick succession, 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, while a 20mm tries to straddle the 28mm/35mm equivalent gap. 
  • Incomplete and weak zoom lineup: only two telephoto options, and a lot of fairly weak optics in the kit and mid-range zooms, though the recent 16-55mm f/2.8 and 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 show that Sony is aware of the problem.

Sony is partly 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 A6xxx bodies to current sensors and technologies. Again, those two recent lens additions show us that Sony is aware of the lens gap issue, but there's still a lot to do to fix it.

Sony FE
Funny thing: in my last update of this article two years ago I wrote:

  • 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. 

Well, Sony filled that gap, so maybe I should try for more ;~). How about this: An A6. Use the 24mp full frame sensor, but reduce the user complexity, take off some of the prosumer-level features, provide more guided menus/controls, use a single, slower SD slot, and drive the Sony full frame entry price down to RP levels (e.g. US$1300).

Meanwhile, the lens lineup has gotten far better. I'd call it reasonably complete in the 14-200mm range (though note the missing 20mm prime).

So are there still any gaps in the Sony E lineup? Absolutely:

  • Missing A7s Mark III: This one is a slam dunk: we’ll see this gap filled in 2019, I believe. Certainly no later than early 2020.
  • Missing primes: we still have some missing lenses at the wide end: no 20mm, no really wide angle, no tilt/shift. In the telephoto realm, Sony has started filling in some of the gaps and now extends out to 135mm (see also fast telephoto prime, below).
  • Weak Kit Zoom: both the 24-70mm f/4 and 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 are fairly poor options and need complete redos.
  • Fast Telephoto prime: a 300mm f/2.8 and/or 500mm f/4 should exist for this system. And a 200mm f/2 wouldn’t be out of the question. And if we go beyond telephoto primes, Sony probably could use a 120-300mm f/2.8 and 200-400mm f/4 option, too.

The good news is that we have four very different bodies to choose from that are in constant iteration, the lens set has improved to the point of being more-than-adequate for most shooters (especially the basic zoom trio), and third-party lens support has filled out a lot of other options. 

I need to do more exploration of the flash options for Sony, but my initial impression is that this area could use a lot more work, too. 

Still, 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. 

It's easy to say that in terms of full frame, Sony has a clear head start over the rest of the competition now. Whether that holds for long is another story and depends a lot on Canon's and Nikon's execution. That's good news, actually, as it should mean that Canon, Nikon, and Sony all stay highly competitive trying to match or beat each other's offerings. That's good for consumers.

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