Mirrorless Camera News and Commentary

News and commentary about the mirrorless camera world (latest on top). Hover or tap on News/Views in the menu bar above to see the full list of recent articles as well as folders containing all older ones dating back to 2011.

Fujifilm's Big Announcement Day

bythom fujifilm xe3

Fujifilm today went on a binge of announcements, mostly centered on the new X-E3 camera, an update of the X-E2/X-E2s.

The X-E3 brings Fujifilm's latest technologies to the E body: 24mp X-Trans sensor, 4K video, Bluetooth connectivity, touchscreen, and phase detect autofocus on the sensor. You also get the focus position joystick that premiered with the X-Pro2.

Overall, the X-E3 takes a bit of volume and weight away from its predecessor, keeping it more clearly in the compact and light category in the Fujifilm lineup. The rangefinder style EVF got a few tweaks, including a different eye point and magnification than the preceding model. In many ways, the X-E3 may now be a slightly better choice than the X-T20, adding some additional focus controls and Bluetooth while sacrificing the built-in flash (the X-E3 comes with a small external flash).

Body only is US$899, unfortunately a step up.

bythom fujifilm 80mm

Along with the X-E3, Fujifilm had a torrent of other things to talk about, including the new 80mm f/2.8 Macro for the X mount, the 45mm f/2.8 for the GF mount, new firmware updates pre-announced for the X-Pro2, X-T2, X100F, and X-T20, a new lens roadmap, and a new Fujifilm X RAW Studio software program that is sort of weird (it requires the camera hooked to the computer, as the actual raw demosaic is done by the camera's imaging ASIC chip, not the computer).

Overall, Fujifilm continues to be quite active in releasing mirrorless products and then refreshing them with firmware updates. At present count the APS-C lineup consists of six current bodies and 22 lenses, plus a small medium format body with five available lenses (soon to be six).

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Trade Ins

Both Olympus and Sony currently have trade-in events going on. With Olympus you get a US$300 bonus on your trade-in towards their current mirrorless cameras (other than the E-M10III just introduced), with Sony you get a US$300 bonus towards the A7 series, or up to US$500 bonus towards the A9.

Here are the two relevant B&H pages [advertiser links]

Get used to this, you're going to see more of it, and from more manufacturers in the future.

Why? Simple, Japan wants you to update faster.

Digital cameras, including mirrorless models, got quite competent very fast. I wrote years ago about Last Camera Syndrome, where users simply decide that what they've got is good enough and they stop looking at and buying new models.

Realistically, how many of us need more than 16mp? Or ISO 64,000? Focus stacking? 20 fps? Full-time EVF with no blackout? Answer: not many. Are those things nice to have? Sure. But are they enough to get you to pull out your credit card and yell Charge! Probably not.

Moreover, the camera makers have been all swimming upstream with their models, reaching new higher price points (not in inflation-adjusted dollars, but consumers don't think in inflation-adjusted dollars). So not only are those nifty new features not really necessary, it looks to most like they'll be a pain in the credit score to obtain them.

Thus the trade-in bonus. Not only do you get the trade-in value for your camera—which, by the way, is being driven down by this same insidious practice—but you get some bonus cash. By definition, you have to give up your old camera to get the new one (as opposed to keeping it as a backup), which basically cures your Last Camera Syndrome.

For now. As with all marketing/sales schemes, these things tend to run their course and some new scheme will be needed once the last updaters are squeezed using this technique.

So, if you've been jonesing for a new mirrorless camera from Olympus or Sony, there's a way to reduce the financial pain, at least by a bit. The Olympus program ends in late October, the Sony program at the end of September. Just remember this: there's likely to be lots of new marketing programs that hit in mid-to-late November.

Canon EOS M5 Repair

I should have taken a photo.

Of course, I would have taken said photo with the camera that was damaged. That's because my other two cameras at the time were Nikon D500's with long telephoto lenses. And I don't use my iPhone on long trips where there's no cell service (let alone Internet service).

Of course, I could have taken a photo when I got home with one of my other cameras or a macro lens on my Nikons. But I'd already partially repaired the camera and was in a hurry to get things off to where they needed to be so I could catch up on a month's worth of being off the Internet.

Here's the story:

I took my Canon EOS M5 with me for a month in the middle of nowhere in Botswana in July as my wide angle to normal photographic option. About halfway through the trip, the camera got jammed against something in the vehicle and the viewfinder eyepiece drooped off the back of the camera. This is a vulnerable point on the M5 design: the eyepiece sticks out behind the camera a significant ways, and in looking at the design after the fact, there's a clear joint that can fail if you put too much pressure against the back of the eyepiece.

At first I thought the camera was going to be unusable. But in my tent that night I took a close look, pulled out my tool set, and did a little improvised repair. I was able to get the eyepiece back aligned with the inner EVF and the joint basically back together (with some duct tape). But the automatic eye detection no longer worked. For that I simply programmed one of the function buttons to do the display transfer manually.

And voila, the camera worked for the rest of the trip.

Obviously, I sent the camera off to Canon for repair when I got back. I had no expectations of what they might do or charge.

Well, here's the result: CanonUSA decided to replace the camera entirely, and for US$292 (plus shipping). For those that want the details, it took one day for them to create the estimate, another two days to ship the replacement after I okayed the cost.

I consider that result fair, and quick.

Oh, and here's a strange thing: Canon really sent a complete boxed item, complete with manual, battery, charger, straps, USB cable, etc. That's despite the fact I sent my unit back with no battery or accessories.

I do have a question into CanonUSA about what happens with the damaged camera. Do they scavenge it for parts, take it back to the factory for refurbishment, or just wrote it off and scrap it? When I get an answer back, I'll let you know. Answer: "We have a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. As such, we have a robust program to recycle all possible components from damaged products." A little non-specific, but an answer that points the right direction.

They'll Be Back (Nikon, That Is)

I'm going to go out on a limb here. (I don't usually drop into rumors and speculation about future model announcements.) Nikon is going to show back up in the mirrorless camera realm, and very likely within the next two to three months. They really want to ship before the end of the year.

But exactly what is it that they'll ship?

Ah, the 64,000 yen question.

As I've indicated elsewhere, Nikon has pretty much prototyped everything, from new CX (Nikon 1) options to entirely new DX to FX mirrorless cameras, both with and without the F-mount.

If the news I'm getting out of Tokyo is correct, though, it's without F-mount. I say that because more than one source in Japan tells me that what gets announced by Nikon and when it will be announced is dependent upon the lenses. That hint tells me two things: Nikon will have more than one new sensor size in mirrorless, and it will have a new mount of some sort that requires new lenses. (Before panic sets in among Nikon faithful: I'm pretty sure Nikon will go the adapter route for current F-mount if they come up with a new mount.)

Here's my current bet: we'll first see a DX mirrorless option from Nikon targeting about the low DSLR point in performance/function (though it is likely to be more EOS M5 priced). While I know a lot of you have been clamoring for Nikon to compete with the Sony A7/A9 series using a full frame entry, I don't believe that will be Nikon's first move out of the gate, and for the same reasons that Canon didn't make that move first. The risk of being perceived as coming out with something too little, too late is higher in full frame than with crop sensor. Moreover, Nikon's weakness is in the under US$1000 mark right now, and that needs fixing.

Thus, my additional bet is that full frame from Canikon in mirrorless happens around Photokina 2018 time (fall).

The D5, D500, D850 introductions have nicely solidified Nikon's performance camera base in DSLRs. Nikon doesn't want to be sending mixed signals, just as Canon didn't want to send mixed signals with the initial EOS M models. DSLRs for performance aren't dead, but certainly mirrorless for convenience/travel cameras is very alive. Nikon is also averse to self-cannibalization. Thus, Nikon isn't going to undercut the D5, D500, D850, D7500 just after having produced them.

On top of that, Nikon's lineup weakness today is all below the D500 (or perhaps below the D7500, it's difficult to judge on the early D7500 numbers). Nikon has proven that with a bit of sales promotion they can move plenty of D500, D750, and D810 bodies, plus the D850 is an announcement hit and should be tough to find in stock between now and the end of the year. Where Nikon is weak is between the Coolpix P900 and the D7500, exactly where a crop sensor mirrorless system would live.

The critical thing for Nikon is messaging right now. The Nikon 1 message being sent is that it is dead. Samuel Beckett would probably be writing a play called Waiting for V4 at this point ("Nothing to be done/I'm beginning to come round to that opinion.").

So, if Nikon is reading this, here's a guide:

  1. There must be a clear statement as to what happens with Nikon 1. Better still, fix Nikon 1 and continue it as the small entry option in place of the DLs. But that requires feature, compatibility, ergonomics, price, and other adjustments.
  2. There must be a clear statement as to where any new system fits in the full Nikon product line. Hint: it currently would go Coolpix->(CX)->new mirrorless->pro DX->pro FX, with each level gaining performance and ability, but all having the same base ergonomics and feature set, and recognizably Nikon.
  3. There must be a full and useful initial lens set plus a lens road map at launch. Not the "some things behind glass" you did at the Nikon 1 launch.
  4. If you can't match or beat the EOS M, you're not ready to launch.
  5. Don't panic, and don't forget to carry a microfiber cloth.

Olympus E-M10 Hits Mark III

bythom olympus em10iii wlens

The tiniest DSLR-like in Olympus' lineup got a refresh today. The E-M10 Mark III doesn't really change a lot, as it continues to use the 16mp sensor and other parts from the previous Mark II model. Indeed, the body itself is virtually unchanged.

Most of the changes come in nuances to modes and handling. We get a new AP mode that gives faster access to things like Live Composite, Live Time, Multiple Exposure, HDR, and bracketing without having to menu dive (thank goodness; I can never remember which lives where). The autofocus system has been raised from 81 contrast points to 121. 4K video has been added, as well. I'd call this a quite modest update, but it does smooth off a few rough edges.

The new camera should be available in the middle of September in black or panda (silver over black) forms, for US$650 body only.

Canon's New Entry Mirrorless Camera

bythom canon eos m100

Canon today added a third dual-pixel, 24.2mp APS-C mirrorless camera to round out their current lineup: the EOS M100.

This entry level camera shares a lot of the key components and feature set with the M5 and M6 models, but cuts down on the number of controls and a few of the deeper features. Compared to the EOS M10 that it basically replaces in the lineup, the new M100 has 24mp instead of 18mp, the dual-pixel focusing system on the imaging sensor, some additional video functions, and more shots per battery.

Compared to the M6, the next camera up in the lineup, the M100 is a little smaller (though without a hand grip), has a slower frame rate, fewer dedicated controls, and drops some of the higher end functions, such as the combination IS.At US$600 for the camera/lens kit, the M100 is also US$300 cheaper than the M6.

The new camera is available in black or white, and is scheduled to be available in October.

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Lots of Olympus Gear on Sale

I asked earlier this year if you wanted to hear more about significant discounts on good products, even if that seems a bit on the promotional side, and the overwhelming response was yes, as long as the discounts were meaningful.

Olympus seems to have almost all of their good lenses on sale at the moment, with some turning into real bargains.

For example, the excellent 25mm f1.8 and my favorite 45mm f/1.8 are now effectively US$300, with the latter a bargain at that price. Most of the Pro lenses all have US$100 off, as well, with the recent 12-100mm f/4 and 300mm f/4 being about the only exceptions (though these are discounted if you buy them in conjunction with an E-M1 Mark II body). A fast, sharp mid-range zoom (12-40mm f/2.8) at US$900 is a bit of a bargain compared to what you'd pay in other systems, and even the 40-150mm f/2.8 at US$1400 is at the lower end of pricing expectations for a really good telephoto zoom.

Bodies are another story. At the moment, no real discounting going on for Olympus bodies except for a few holdover older cameras.

As a reminder, here are my current recommended Olympus lenses and their currently discounted price (links for reviews):

Note: I haven't tested the 8mm f/1.8 fisheye (US$900) and 300mm f/4 (US$2500) yet, but I expect them to be added to this list when I do. Remember, the crop factor for m4/3 is 2x, so basically double the focal length to see how these compare against full frame lenses.

Every one of the lenses I list above is arguably excellent on current Olympus and Panasonic m4/3 bodies, and in several cases beyond excellent.

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Mirrorless in July (Bits and Pieces)

While I was off the Internet in July on my annual break, a few odds and ends happened in the mirrorless world you'll want to know about. Here they are:

  • The Fujifilm GFX 50S seems to now be staying in stock, and we've even seen a few discounts start to appear here and there. I'd have to say from the evidence that those that really wanted this MF camera now have it. The question now is whether it has any legs. The 23mm and 110mm lenses started shipping, too. Review coming.
  • The Hasselblad X1D got a new firmware update (1.17.0) that adds a few minor features and a number of fixes for issues. As always, the camera database section has been updated with this information. The full release notes can be found here.
  • Leica released the TL2. The big news here is that the sensor goes from 16mp to 24mp, the camera adds 4K video, frame rates were boosted to 7 fps (mechanical) and 20 fps (electronic shutter), and the buffer almost doubles in size. The dimensions and handling of the camera are essentially identical to the original model, as are most of the other specs. The camera did gain a slight bit in weight and lose a bit of capability in photos per charge. Price also went up US$100 to US$1950. By the end of the month, firmware 1.1 was released to fix a bug with the optional EVF.
  • The Sony 100-400mm lens for the FE mount began shipping.
  • Voigtlander announced the release of the 65mm f/2 macro lens for the Sony E-mount. Later they announced it will be delayed slightly in getting to the public. B&H is taking orders for it now, though.
  • 7Artisans introduced new lenses for a range of mirrorless mounts.

Generalissimo Nikon 1 is Still Dead

The German Web site digitalkamera.de announced the death of the Nikon 1 just as I returned from my Internet hiatus.

I started asking the question if Nikon 1 was officially dead back in early 2016. I pretty much pronounced it dead in the middle of that year. I got pushback from a number of people on that, but nothing has changed. No new Nikon products have appeared in 2016 or 2017, and slowly but surely the existing models all end up on Nikon's official discontinued list (the V3 is now listed as discontinued in Japan, for instance).

The strange bit is that Nikon executives were going around in July giving interviews with vague comments about "new mirrorless products." The implication in those statements was that these won't be Nikon 1 updates, but something higher end.

Canon's success with the EOS-M cameras (70% growth from 2016 to 2017 first half) has got to have Nikon thinking response. And that response can't be a 1" sensor camera ala another Nikon 1 update. The Canon M5 and M6 cameras are fast becoming the best-selling mirrorless bodies now, and they slot into the "compete with crop-sensor DSLR" segment. Even I own an M5 instead of a Nikon D3400. Why? Because I get crop-sensor results in a very small form that's easy to pack into the briefcase (especially with the 22mm pancake lens).

So, despite all the heated rhetoric that occurred about "Nikon mirrorless" while I was off the Internet in July, nothing has changed. The Nikon 1 is still dead, Nikon is still not likely to show a new mirrorless system in 2017, and no one knows exactly what it is they're working on, and probably won't until sometime in 2018.

Update: Not sure when dpreview posted Nikon's official response to digitalkamera.de, but in my opinion nothing changes. Nikon's response was "[we] continue to produce and sell the Nikon 1 line. We cannot comment on future product or speculation." Okay, so let's go to the marketing interpretation AI on this:

The first line actually says "we have inventory of Nikon 1 products and will continue to sell them. We haven't officially discontinued the J5 and AW1." No one's disputing that, actually. As with other products Nikon has produced, they'll run the parts they have in stock through the production line until they run out. At which time they'll officially discontinue the products, as they have the V3 and S2 recently.

The second line is bull****. Let's see, Nikon, D850 Development Announcement? ;~) That sure seems to be a statement about future product. The fact that Nikon didn't say "we are committed to the Nikon 1 line and will continue to produce CX cameras and lenses in the future" is very telling. Extremely telling.

In essence, by saying they won't comment they are either saying (1) we are happy to let people speculate that the Nikon 1 is dead and reduce our sales; or (2) we just don't want to acknowledge yet that the Nikon 1 is dead. #1 is nonsense from a marketing standpoint. No company should let Internet speculation reign the way Nikon would be if they were choosing #1. That would imply either that Nikon is wickedly incapable of understanding how the Internet works in regards to sales support, or that they couldn't care if Nikon 1 sales go down. Which one would you like us to believe, Nikon? ;~)

So it's #2: we just don't want to acknowledge yet that the Nikon 1 is dead. As the quote goes: "the first step towards perfect is acknowledging your imperfections." Take the step, Nikon.

2017 News/Views

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