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.

m4/3 Catches Canon and Nikon Lens Catalogs

bythom m43lenses

Four-thirds.org today published a catalog of available lenses for the m4/3 mount, with full specifications for nearly 70 lenses, plus a lot of marketing material and photo eye candy.

The sheer quantity of lenses for m4/3 now puts that mount an near equilibrium with the number of lenses that Canon currently produces for the EOS EF mount or Nikon for their F mount. True, there are speciality lenses still missing in the m4/3 realm, plus a lot of duplication and overlap in terms of what is available given all the competing makers within the group, but still, the days of only Canon and Nikon being able to have the big, slick, lens catalogs for a single mount are history.

Canon can, of course, point to the fact that all of their lenses can be mounted and used on their mirrorless camera entry, so they still have a strong case. Worse case, you get a 1.6x crop.

Nikon, on the other hand, has an apparently dead in the water mirrorless product line with such a severe 2.7x crop that it essentially makes everything in their regular catalog a normal or telephoto lens when you use an adapter for them on a Nikon 1. Plus abilities go down and a lot of lenses are completely blocked when mounted on the most recent cameras. Way to go Nikon. If Nikon management is wondering what to call that, it's referred to as "enabling a competitor" in business school. That's also not something top managers should do.

It's worth downloading the m4/3 lens brochure and perusing it if for no other reason than to show just how far a new system can come in less than 10 years.

Update: an earlier version of this article referred to only the Japanese version of the brochure.

Leica is Healthy, But There's a Surprise

It turns out that Leica's basic financial information is available in some reasonable level of detail with a bit of a delay, even though Leica is a privately held German company. With a little help from a friend in Germany, some dusting off of my college German, and some time in airline clubs with not a lot else to do while waiting for rescheduled flights, I took a look at several of their most recent financial statements to understand what my friend was reporting to me.

Overall, Leica is profitable, and growing modestly (latest report showed 11% year over year overall revenue growth, with a 6.1% growth in their main business, cameras). What's really interesting is that the mix of camera products they've been doing shows why Leica probably does so much model thrash.

Clearly, a lot of their success is in releasing something that resonates with enough people at launch that it makes up for the smallish audience their high-end products tend to have. For example, in the most recently posted year sales of the M line—including lenses if I'm reading things correctly—declined by about one-fifth in value. In glancing through some earlier reports I can see small upticks when major M revisions launched, but very quick decline to lower volume. The latest M10 is likely to reverse the M decline again during the coming year, but one wonders how often Leica can pull off that trick.

Meanwhile, the T decreased in sales by about three quarters in value while the SL increased in that same time period. There also seems to be a strong trend for full frame among Leica purchasers, which explains why cameras like the X-Vario and X-U seemed to disappear from mention so fast. But the T is an interesting case: a one year blip upward in sales, followed by a strong drop downward.

But the really interesting tidbit in looking through the Leica financial postings is that their overall compact camera sales of Panasonic-derived models declined by something less than the CIPA numbers would suggest for the period, though still significantly down. But another compact camera, the Q, is what clearly made Leica's last reported year and caused them to slightly beat their own expectations for that year. More than half of Leica's compact camera sales for that year appeared to have been the Q, and when you throw that into the mix, Leica turns out to bucking the trend: their compact camera business has grown, and grown with a US$4000+ camera.

Of course, the Q is a pretty big compact camera, and I'm using the CIPA definition here of "digital camera with built-in lens." It's hard to argue that a camera that weighs well more than a pound is a "compact." Still, Leica seems to understand where their bread is buttered, and has been managing that area with most of their product development lately.

A few other tidbits that I noted while wandering around the Leica financial documents: North America isn't exactly their hotspot for sales (18% of sales; while Germany alone is something like 13%). The West Hollywood Leica store does seem popular, though ;~). Overall, Europe is the biggest sales region for Leica, with Asia right behind.

When I get a chance I'll take a deeper dive into the Leica reports to see if I can find anything else of interest. But as much as some folk like to claim that Leica is a relic of the past clinging for life, that simply isn't true. It's a profitable, healthy, growing company, though of modest size.

Fujifilm Surprises

To kick off the CP+ show in Japan Fujifilm managed to still have a couple of surprises, despite their big official announcement earlier.

The first surprise is the new lens roadmap (and it contains the other surprise). Fujifilm has three X (and 2 Sony E mount!) lenses scheduled for 2017. But now the roadmap has been extended to 2018 and we see a new ultra wide angle zoom lens and a long telephoto prime lens. The best guess is that these are an 8-16mm f/2.8 and a fast 200mm.

bythom fujifilm roadmap

But the roadmap also reveals the other surprise: video-specific lenses for both the Fujifilm X and the Sony E mount: 18-55mm t/2.9 and 50-135mm t/2.9.

bythom fujifilm 18-55
bythom fujifilm 50-135

Yep, those are definitely video lenses. Both feature three geared rings with identical placements for easy rigging, have minimal focal length breathing and optical shift during focus operators, and both are marked as videographers prefer, with clear, focus-puller oriented markings. Matte box placement would be identical for both lenses.

Interestingly, the E mount versions of the lenses will come first, with the 18-55mm available next month and the 50-135mm this summer. Note that these lenses cover APS and Super35 sized sensors, not full frame. X mount versions will come after the E mount versions.

Canon EOS M5 Gets a Smaller Brother

bythom canon eosm6

Canon replaced the EOS M3 today with the EOS M6. This new US$780 camera (body only) is basically the same as the EOS M5 in most ways, except it does not feature a built-in EVF. Instead, you use the rear LCD or add the new optional EVF-DC2 electronic viewfinder via the hot shoe.

There are a few simplifications from the EOS M5 model—no ISO/WB button/dial combo up top, for instance—but the primary thing you’re giving up by picking the M6 over the M5 is the built-in EVF. This means that you have a pretty clear option of picking the slightly smaller and less expensive EVF-less option, or the slightly larger and more expensive mini-DSLR style.

The optional EVF-DC2 is similar to the older one Canon had for earlier EOS M models, but does not tilt. This new EVF is US$250 and works on the EOS M3, EOS M6,PowerShot G1 X Mark II, and PowerShot G3 X.

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Leica Launches M10 Camera

Leica today officially announced the M10, it's fourth digital generation of the venerable rangefinder style camera it's most famous for.

bythom leica m10 baclk

At first glance, the M10 is obviously a Leica rangefinder. Leica hasn't abandoned the large soap bar shape or viewfinder at edge-of-camera style that has distinguished the line for almost its entire decades-long history.

Most of the changes are subtle, but important. There's now an ISO dial at the top of the camera on the viewfinder side. The On/Off switch no longer contains an overloaded shooting method function. Up top, the centered flash hot shoe is now the type found in the TL, which means that the M10 can also use the TL's EVF. On the front, the Frame Selecter switch has returned.

The back is where the most obvious external changes show up, though (note how simple it looks in above photo). We now have a 3" LCD. Only three buttons sit next to the LCD instead of the previous six.The subtle thumbrest has been re-engineered and looks a bit more functional than the current model's hump (though there is still no front finger grip).

Somehow in all the changes the camera has dropped a bit of depth (3.8mm thinner than the previous model, which means the lens mount sticks out a bit from the front now). In essence, the M10 is as slim and small as the old film-based M4. Weight is about a pound and a half (660g). Leica is making a big deal about the size of the new camera, but this doesn't come without penalty: the battery is lower capacity (a dismal 210 shots CIPA, though Leica claims most users will see over twice that in "normal" use), and the camera has no physical interface connectors of any kind.

Inside the camera we get a newly tweaked 24mp sensor and the latest Maestro II processing engine. The camera can shoot up to 5 fps. Strangely—for a traditional Leica camera—there's built-in Wi-Fi. But most people will note that Leica has moved away from video in this model: no video of any kind, and no external connectors for things like video, microphones, or earphones.

The rangefinder itself has some changes, with LED framelines now on a 0.72x magnification view (previously 0.68x) and the return of the line preview lever.

Traditional Leica enthusiasts should be happy with this new version of the camera. It tidies up a number of things from the previous model without messing up the Leica-ness that they expect. Other than the battery, there's no real surprise in this update, just a lot of careful and thoughtful refinement.

One reader did point out something I hadn't considered while reviewing the introductory materials: Leica is pulling a bit of an Apple in terms of reductio ad absurdia. If you're a MacBook user you're really going to hate the combo of camera and laptop: there's no way to connect the two physically to get those images off the internal memory (even Wi-Fi is a bit of a problem, as there's no Leica app for macOS to perform the connection; there is for iOS, though).

And in Leica style, you have to remove the baseplate of the camera to even get to the SD card, then you'll need a dongle on your MacBook to get the files. Not exactly user friendly.

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Corrections: earlier version of this article said third generation. Also added comment about Apple and image transfer.

Fujifilm Officially Launches GFX, Adds X-T20

Fujifilm unleashed a wide range of products today. One was the official launch of the GFX, which includes pricing and availability information (the product was introduced back at Photokina, though with incomplete specifications). Another was the follow-up to the X-T10, the X-T20.

bythom fujifilm xt20

Since the X-T20 is new, let's start with it: basically the X-T20 is to the X-T10 what the X-T2 is to the X-T1. We get the same bump in sensor to 24mp X-Trans, we get the latest imaging ASIC, we get 4K video and a few other additions. In terms of external body size and controls, the X-T20 is pretty much the same as the X-T10. Body price is US$899, with kit lens options at US$999 and US$1199.

bythom fujifilm 50mm

Fujifilm also announced the 50mm f/2R WR lens for the APS models, a small and lightweight moderate telephoto lens. This new lens means that Fujifilm now has four compact and light lenses for the X series cameras (18mm, 23mm, 35mm, and 50mm; or 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm equivalent), making them the third mirrorless camera lineup to have a manufacturer provide a full, basic, small prime set that goes from moderate wide angle to moderate telephoto (Leica M and m4/3 would be the first two). Kudos to Fujifilm (meanwhile, what the heck is wrong with Canon and Nikon in the crop sensor DSLR world in leaving this elemental lens set unavailable?).

The GFX is now officially priced at US$6500 with availability slated for late February. I've filled in any of the missing specifications on the camera data pages. Fujifilm also announced a lens adapter for the GFX that allows you to use any of nine GX645AF lenses with the GFX camera (though only in manual focus). The GX645AF was basically the same as the old Hasselblad H1—Hasselblad rebadged the Fujifilm version.

bythom fujifilm x100f

If all the above weren't enough, Fujfilm also announced the latest version of the X100, the X100F. Like the other X models, it now gets boosted to 24mp and the latest Fujifilm goodies. The hybrid viewfinder gets some tweaks, ACROS film simulation has been added, and the rear side of the camera has a few redesigns to it. The X100F also gets new wide angle and telephoto lens converters. The X100F will also be available in February, for US$1300.

Overall, Fujifilm enters 2017 with a strong enthusiast and pro lineup that has been almost completely updated (or launched) within the last year (X-Pro2, X-T2, X-T20, X-A3, X-A10, GFX 50S, X100F). It's going to be difficult for the Big Three—Canon, Nikon, and Sony—to continue to ignore Fujifilm, as the X models are now starting to bracket a wide range of products from the triopoly, and with strong feature sets and reasonable pricing.

While it took Fujifilm a long time—and at least two misfires—to get to this point, they now have a serious lineup from large sensor compact to medium format camera that has to be considered by anyone contemplating new gear. The fact that Fujifilm is paying strong attention to lens availability—even on the GFX 50S—tells me that they understand that enthusiasts might not buy every lens they make, but that they understand that having a full line available is part of the buying decision making process for users.

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Japanese Market Shares

BCN has released their year-end retail sales rankings for the Japanese market for 2016, and as usual it's provoking a lot of whipped up Internet forum frenzy across the sites that cover mirrorless. A reminder: BCN is an organization that tracks cash register receipts in Japan. Their data is based on actual sales.

Before we get started, here's the full set of data as BCN releases it, for the entire history that they've released it for mirrorless cameras:

bythom bcn 2010-2016 mirrorless

You'll note that I present the data in a different form than BCN. They award first, second, and third place shares, but that disguises a lot of what is really going on.

Back in 2010 Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony were the only mirrorless players in town (literally ;~), and thus held 100% of the mirrorless market share in Japan. The trend over time has been for the top three to hold a smaller portion of the overall market, meaning that the market is getting much more competitive. That trend led to only 63.2% in 2016, which means that the other four players not in that chart are taking about 37% of the market between them. I don't think there's a lot of distance between third place Sony and whoever took fourth place (probably Panasonic). And companies like Fujifilm, Nikon, and Pentax have significant sales, too.

Other trends seem to be in play, as well. Panasonic started strong and has clearly been on the wane in their home market since. Canon has suddenly emerged to quitckly take over the second place market share, which has to scare everyone (other than Canon). Olympus and Sony have strongly fluctuating numbers over time, and I'm pretty sure that's due to pricing of the models that appeal to the Japanese: both companies have had periods where they've emphasized low end models and sales versus other periods where they backed off from that.

Which is the tricky bit of trying to interpret the BCN numbers. BCN used to publish much more data that allowed external parties to better assess what was producing the most sales. During the time that they provided that more detailed information, it became clear that previous generation models on fire sale did quite well in Japan, particularly if they were small cameras physically. The Japanese market is especially price and size sensitive, it seems.

This, of course, disturbs the fan boys, who expect that their maker's flagship—XT-2, EM-1II, GH5, A7rII, etc.—should be mopping up. That's not the way it works. Most of the camera buying action is at a much lower level. It's really the entry-consumer up to the mid-consumer levels that tend to speak to market share.

Panasonic Officially Launches GH5

Panasonic today at CES took the wraps off the GH5, which was previously disclosed as being in development at Photokina 2016.

bythom panasonic gh5

One curiousity. The Panasonic press conference lasted <tk> minutes. The GH5 took all of two minutes of that. Before we got to the camera, Panasonic had to talk about batteries, autos, convection ovens, Technics audio products, Denver, Disney, and more (yes, Denver and Disney).

"Every single feature in [the GH5] was added after listening to customer feedback."

The new GH5 is similar externally to the GH4, with a few tweaks. This allows the use of most GH4 accessories, such as cages, with the GH5. That said, you can see external differences if you look: the internal flash is now gone (though the body is now better weather sealed); the record video button has grown in size and taken a prominent spot up top behind the shutter release; there’s a joystick to control autofocus point; and some distinct shape and position differences are clearly evident. The body is now freezeproof (14F) as well as splash and dustproof.

Internally is where you’ll find most of the changes.

Not only do we have a new 20mp sensor, but the sensor now has 5-axis image stabilization behind it. As you might expect, there's 5Ghz Wi-Fi, with Bluetooth 4.2 LE connectivity. Interestingly, the GH5 is the first ILC camera I know of with a USB-C (3.1) port. The autofocus system is still depth-from-defocus (DFD), but with 225 areas now, with response to -4EV. The big change some will object to is the removal of the internal flash.

Video is where the GH4 shined, and it's where the GH5 shines, too. The 4K capabilities of the camera have been expanded to shoot 60P (though at 4:2:0 8-bit). The big news is that the GH5 can record 30P 4K at 4:2:2 10-bit internally onto an SD card. Or 180 fps at 4:2:0 8-bit and 1080P. That's one heck of a lot of data, and arguably the best spec we've seen from a still-camera-doing-video. It appears that not everything is done yet in firmware, though. Several of the highest end capabilities appear to need a firmware update in the near future to be active.

Thankfully Panasonic has moved on from the ugly and cumbersome DMW-YAGH Interface Unit. Instead we get a less expensive XLR audio interface unit that clips into the hot shoe. That's a little awkward, in that you'll be using up your only mount point for the XLR interface, and any microphone or radio receiver you use starts to get a little problematic in terms of where you'll mount it. Thus, you should probably be thinking "cage" if you're really going to start upgrading the camera with external units.

I'm sure you'll hear about 18mp stills at 30 fps, but this is a special burst shooting setting that relies on the video stream, and has limits on how it buffers. There's also 8mp stills at 30 or 60 fps. But normally, the camera is restricted to 12 fps shooting stills. Note that autofocus is limited to 9 fps.

Panasonic is walking that fine line between keeping the things that made/make a product great and giving it new and longer life into the future with the GH5. For the most part, they seem to have succeeded. No unnecessary reshaping the body, moving communication ports to new locations, and the other things that would have gotten the existing GH4 crowd worked up. I suppose a few will lament the passing of the internal flash, but it doesn’t strike me that many GH4 users were using that feature, let alone relying upon it. I’m a firm believer that light sources shouldn’t be small, low-powered, and anchored near the camera/subject axis anyway.

The real question is whether the GH5 moved the internal video capabilities far enough to get the GH4 crowd to spring US$<tk> for the update. Without running a GH5 through its paces in production video, I’m not sure I can answer this question, or even predict the answer. It does seem like Panasonic has been paying attention to the details that the professional video crowd looks closely at, though.

Thus, I suspect that those using the GH4 as a primary video camera will be impressed by the new version and think strongly about updating. Those using a GH4 as a B-roll camera might have a slightly different evaluation, however. It would really depend upon what their main camera was, whether the B-roll camera was mounted or handheld, and whether the GH5’s 4:2:2 internal recording matches up better with what they primarily shoot with.

Along with the GH5, Panasonic also introduced the GF9, the camera that sits pretty much at the opposite spectrum as the GH5 (e.g. low consumer versus high pro). <tk>

In addition, Panasonic launched four new versions of current lenses: 12-35mm f/2.8, 35-100mm f/2.8, 45-200mm f/4-5.6, and 100-300mm f/4-5.6. These updates were all minor, to the point of no real visual differences externally. A new lens, the 12-60mm f/2.8-4 was also launched.

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Nikon's Mirrorless Options

Given that Nikon attacked GoPro in the action camera market and also tried to attack the high-end compact market with DLs before they tripped over their own toes, it's only a matter of time before Nikon opens up a new defense in the mirrorless realm. The simple matter of truth is this: Nikon is a camera company (over 60% of their revenues and even more of their profits). Not competing in the healthiest of the camera markets is suicide.

So what are Nikon's options? I identify five basic approaches Nikon could take:

  1. Stay the course. The "course" being Nikon 1 and the CX mount. The problem here is that the Nikon DLs basically already steal the 1" thunder. The only thing that Nikon can do with CX is make new Nikon 1 models that are as good and compatible with DSLRs as the DLs are, but have interchangeable lenses. Only one problem with that: the interchangeable lenses Nikon currently offers in CX aren't as good as the lenses built into the DLs (or other 1" compacts from Canon, Panasonic, and Sony). You end up with the problem that a compact camera performs better than an ILC, is more compact, and in the case of Nikon's previous Nikon 1 pricing, costs less.

    While a lot of folk believe that a Nikon J6 is just around the corner, this would be a terrible signal by Nikon. Basically they'd be giving the Nikon 1 owners one last gasp via purchasing a DL-type body for their already-owned lenses. Yet for the same price (probably) those same folk could just get the body and a better lens by buying a DL (and keep their existing Nikon 1 to use with their existing lenses). I fail to see how such a Nikon 1 extension plan would work. It just has no legs.

  2. Improve the course. Keep the CX mount but put a larger sensor in the new Nikon 1 bodies (or are they then Nikon 2's ;~). It's unclear how big a sensor the existing CX lenses might be able to support, but there's always the old DX/FX type of auto-cropping that could be done, coupled with new lenses for the new sensor size.

    The question has always been what size sensor could Nikon fit into the CX mount. Certainly m4/3, but I think DX (APS-C) is a size too far. Nikon's not likely to join the m4/3 group, as the Nikon mantra has been "proprietary all the way." So anyone thinking that Nikon would go this route would be believing that a new sensor size is coming. I find that difficult to believe, frankly. That would make Nikon the only user of said sensor, which has cost implications. I just don't see this happening.

  3. Deprove the course. Build a DX entry mirrorless system, ala what Canon has done with EOS M. This is trickier than it at first looks, as Canon themselves discovered through their experimentation. You can make a smaller DSLR (witness the Canon SL1), so why is a largish mirrorless camera that uses similar sized, but different, lenses the answer?

    One reason, basically: cost and manufacturing implications. If you want to build US$500 ILC cameras moving forward, you really need to be building them with fewer parts—and silicon-based parts that derive cost benefits from volume—plus fewer manufacturing process and alignment steps. The lowest end Nikon DSLR has over 2000 parts, the original Nikon mirrorless, the J1/V1, less than 300. The lowest DSLR has multiple alignment steps, the mirrorless cameras basically one.

    This course has two sub-routes to it: (a) use the existing DX mount; or (b) create a new mount (and offer a DX/FX adapter). Canon chose (b) for the EOS M, but I'm not sure that's necessarily the correct choice. As I've noted before, you could build lenses in the future that use Nikon's existing mount but which use the empty space vacated by the mirror to keep their size down (that works fine for DX, not so much for FX).

  4. Choose Sony's course. Build a new FX mirrorless system. Based upon my email and surveys, a lot of you reading this think that's the correct route. I don't. First, there's the signal it sends ("DSLR is dead"). That's a hugely dangerous signal for Nikon to ever consider sending, as DSLRs represent such a huge percentage of their sales and profits (at one time, over half). The only way this works is if the mirrorless cameras are better than the DSLRs (and clearly better than Sony's mirrorless entries), and a full set of lenses is available. Yeah, you just realized why it won't happen.

  5. Find a new course. This is Nikon's 100th anniversary and Nikon started as a different kind of camera maker. So why not start again? In particular I'm thinking of a Nikon S inspired system that uses an optical rangefinder and shoots for staying small and classic. That means more of a Df type control design, a small set of new primes (28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm minimum), and a still-camera-only focus (again Df-like). Sensor could be DX or FX, though I think most of the Nikon loyalists would all vote for FX over DX.

My best guess is that Nikon will attempt 3b. First, there's the fact that Canon chose that route, and Canon is Nikon's primary competitor. But it's also the least risky path for Nikon's already existing products. After announcing a 3b type mirrorless system, Nikon could even then pop out a J6 (course 1) to placate their small existing mirrorless base, coupled with having a CX mount adapter for the new mirrorless system. A J6 at that juncture no longer becomes a terrible signal if there's a clear future Nikon mirrorless path and Nikon is perceived as giving CX users some way to stay active or move up (much like FX did with DX).

Personally, my temptation would be to try 5, and at the same time take as much size and weight out the DX DSLRs as I could (the older Canon SL1 approach). Why? Because I think that Nikon actually hurts themselves by spending too much time studying what Canon is doing and responding. That almost invariably insures that Nikon will be #2.

Then again, retaining #2 may be all Nikon aspires to now. After all, the other alternative is to fade to #3 behind Sony and end up significantly downsizing the entire Nikon company in the process.

As I've written on dslrbodies.com, I'm somewhat doubtful that Nikon will tell us which mirrorless course they've taken in 2017. Nikon is a company with many fires burning that all have to be dealt with, and I think 2017 is more dedicated to putting out fires in their existing lines than it is in starting new ones.

You might say that Nikon 1 (CX) is one of those fires that need to be attended to. But it's probably the smallest fire that the Tokyo Brigade is dealing with right now. I'm not expecting Nikon to get around to that fire in 2017. Indeed, I'd argue that it's more important to get their choice right than it is to rush to the market.

What I Want From Mirrorless in 2017

You might have noticed that I took the separate "still missing from..." commentary for each system out of the Article section and consolidated it into a single article, Missing Items in Each System.

This is a good point to assess what it is we really want from each mirrorless system in a more general way rather than call out specific products and features. We're almost 10 years into the mirrorless era after all, so it's a good time to get out of the weeds, move to higher ground, and survey what we really wish for in the future.

So here's my wish list for each mirrorless camera brand in 2017:

  • Canon — Now that Canon has indicated that they're all in with the EOS M—a couple of years ago it looked more like a regional experiment—what we want from them moving forward is simple: to really be all in. That means a full line of bodies and a full line of lenses, minimum. But it also means that Canon has to more clearly tell us how they see EOS M as different than EF-S (crop sensor DSLR), and how it's different from the mirrorless competitors. The fear is that Canon sees EOS M solely as a gateway drug to DSLRs, and thus holds something back in the mirrorless line. If that's going to be the case, we need to know what it is they're going to hold back.
  • Fujifilm — The 20mp X-Trans bodies are their best effort, but then along comes a 50mp Bayer medium format and more low end Bayer models. I'm of the opinion that Fujifilm has a lot more explaining to do about X-Trans, and it could start by making sure that every converter program in the world is optimized for the different filtration pattern, complete with Fujifilm's spectral shifts. In other words, I—and you—need to see Fujifilm work harder to make sure that whatever tangible gain there is by switching from the traditional pattern is held throughout the workflow, no matter what the workflow. As most of you know, I'm a little bit of a skeptic of the X-Trans story. That's especially true since Fujifilm had previous unique sensor designs in the past that they eventually discarded. There was a lot of false marketing hype with X-Trans when it appeared ("no moire"), but the truth of the matter is this: all sensor filtrations that spread color rendering across the sensing area—as opposed to Sigma/Foveon's spreading it through the depth of the sensing area—produce artifacts. I see it encumbent on Fujifilm to make sure that those artifacts are minimized no matter what software I use. Things are better than they were when the X-Pro1 first appeared with X-Trans, but they're not perfect.
  • Nikon — What's the plan? Nikon never really gave us one—the only mirrorless company never to have a lens road map—and now the silence out of Tokyo is deafoning, to use the cliche. No new cameras, no new lenses, compact cameras that look like they were forged on Nikon 1 models, and not a single peep out of management. So what we need from Nikon is simple: communication. Clear communication. Communication of their intentions for mirrorless moving forward. Because at the moment, they're not moving.
  • Olympus — Send in an ergonomics and UX expert, stat. It's not so much the controls and buttons are bad, it's that the whole gestalt of the Olympus UX (user experience) wreaks of geek engineer sweat and jargon. I think I was the first to write that the Olympus menu system gave me a headache every time I had to set up a new camera. That was seven years ago. Recently, another experienced photography blogger, Lloyd Chambers, wrote about setting up the E-M1 Mark II "Plan on spending at least an hour messing around just to make it work properly and having your brain and eyes fried after trying to grok it all." So it's not just my brain that hurts trying to get Olympus gear set for use. Users have been making excuses about this for years saying "well it's fine once I get it set properly." No, it's not fine, and sometimes the cameras refuse to stay set properly. But the real issue is that it's just a turn-off to the photography crowd Olympus wants to sell to. How are the sales doing? Down after being flat for awhile. I have to think the unapproachability of the cameras has something to do with that.
  • Panasonic — 26 cameras in eight years. Personally, I'd love a simpler Panasonic lineup that had a bit more thought in terms of clear differentiation. Of course, some of the problem is that Panasonic doesn't have any clear marketing. Quick, what's the difference between no extra letter after the G and ones that add an H, F, X, and M? And really, G80, G81, and G85 to differentiate models for different regions? Nikon eventually failed at that (and still is with serial number differentiation that makes them unable to shift inventories globally). Overall, my biggest wish for Panasonic in 2017 is that they get their distribution and marketing sorted out.
  • Ricoh/Pentax — Hello? Anyone still there? Both sides of the company had early mirrorless entires. The K and GXR are gone, the Q is so small I can't see it. So Ricoh/Pentax gets the same wish as for Nikon: what's the plan?
  • Sigma sd — Let's just admit up front that Sigma is marching to a different drummer. In fact, it might not even be a drum they're marching to. Still, there's something amiss here. If you're going to rely on a sensor that's really only excellent in bright light, it seems that the camera ought to be designed for a type of shooting that benefits from that. The sd bodies feel awkward and sluggish. They're not optimized for landscape shooting (which benefits from the sensor), nor studio (ditto), nor for anything that I can see. The feature set seems a little random ("what we've been able to implement so far") and you get the impression that you've bought a DeLoreon, best case.
  • Sony E — Lenses, lenses, lenses.
  • Sony FE — As much as the Mark II designs fixed many problems with the original A7 models, I've still got a fairly long list of things I'd like addressed. Many of them are UX things, so it would be nice to see releases in 2017 that don't get 100% stuck in how much technology they can add to the cameras, but that make the cameras better balanced tools.

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