News/Views

News & Opinions about the mirrorless camera market appear below, latest article first. Over in right column—bottom if you're reading on a small screen—you'll find the News/Views Archive, which lets you go back in time to look at articles that have trickled off this page. If you're looking for older articles, click here for the deeper news archive.

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The Week in Review (June 3-7)

We're in a time period where a lot of product is being introduced and information added to, so I've opted to wait until the end of the week and use this summary article to cover it all. One of the reasons for the new gear push was the Cine Gear Expo in Los Angeles, which has a long history of seeing new mirrorless offerings that cater to the video community.

Discounts

I usually don't post much about the seemingly on-going sales that happen every month. However, for June I noticed a few things that warrant attention.

Canon got more aggressive with discounts for June (many 10% or higher), but more interesting is that B&H [disclaimer: this site's exclusive advertiser] is offering their PayBoo sales tax rebate on top of that, meaning that in some areas of the country, you can get a 20% discount from the price you'd normally pay (or pay locally). 

In talking with dealers, they all have strong words about Canon at the moment, and those don't tend to be positive. They all report that they're getting pushed hard to move boxes, but not getting the other support they need to do that. One dealer told me that whenever he gets any new notification of discounts from Canon that's inevitably followed by a correction a day or two later. What's going on at CanonUSA?

Meanwhile, canonrumors.com this week had the headline "Expect more delays from Canon for both cameras and lenses." In that article was the sentence "We don't think Canon can stress its retail network like Fuji has with the X100VI." No, not the same way, but consider my previous paragraph: Canon is stressing dealers to unload unsold inventory on the shelves. When a big company like Canon, Nikon, or Sony tries to launch a new version of a product when significant inventory is sitting unsold, the dealers almost always ask to be able to return that old product for credit before taking on the new. Personally, I think Canon has an inventory problem that's not being acknowledged publicly, and that's going to push back launch of some products.

Panasonic is also high on the discount list this month, with US$100 to US$500 off on almost all of their L-mount lenses, and up to US$600 on the S5 II body.

If you're into video, the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 is US$3000 off for the moment, making it just US$3000 in price. This is a pro production rig. Of course, it's already back-ordered ;~).

In the "raises eyebrows" category, Cine-D, a Web site dedicated to video use, announced a Cine-D CFexpress card (made by Angelbird). It's a limited edition 1TB fast sustained write card for US$179. I'm personally curious about how you justify accurate, useful information to your customers when you're pedaling someone else's gear to raise money. Moreover, I'm curious how a US$300 card sells for US$179 with a media site's logo on it ;~). Maybe I should talk to some card companies about a byThom card...

Sony's Plans

In a two-day conference at the end of May, Sony outlined their goals and plans for all of their businesses. Buried in the 262 slides were a few pieces that will be of interest to mirrorless users.

A lot of photo news sites missed it, but one of the key points I caught was strengthening "device coordination as data communication devices." Highlighting that point was an Sony A1 ;~). Other sites did catch the expectation of an average sales growth in the imaging business of 8% annually over the next five years. Cameras, lenses, and "solutions" at Sony are all planning growth. 

Some of that growth—including that slightly cryptic "solutions"—intersects with other aspects of Sony's plans. For instance, using cameras to track players in sports and commercializing the result (both via animations and actual data points). That sort of plays back into other of Sony's businesses, including the both the content and the PlayStation side.

As with everyone these days, "spatial content" is also playing a large part in the device plans. While Sony is capable of building their own 3D Vision headset, I took their comments in this area to mean that they want to participate more in the creation of spatial content, which is consistent with their other businesses.

A number of news sites picked up on Sony's intention to control 60% of the image sensor market—in 2025; today they're in the mid-50's—but they didn't seem to report that Sony is saying that they're a year behind their ambitious plans there (and will fall significantly short of their 2030 goals). Moreover, Sony's capital expenditure is expected to be only 70% in the next three years versus what it's been in the past three, which implies that fab unit proliferation is going to slow.

Another thing that was missed was that Sony sees monthly mobile Internet traffic being dominated by video, and they claim it already is:

bythom sonyestimates

Given that this was in the presentation about image sensors, you probably can guess what I'm about to write: the day of the stills-only camera are pretty much gone. You have to be hybrid (video+stills) at a minimum now. Personally, I see devices such as the DJI Osmo Pocket becoming more and more on the forefront here, and that has implications on just what happens with the historical interchangeable lens camera market. 

But here's the kicker in Sony's sensor presentation: still images "comes close to the human eye through larger sensor and AI, and in some cases even surpasses it." But for video "[Sony] believe further improvements in performance are required in each characteristic." Those characteristics: dynamic range, noise, readout speed, power consumption, and resolution. So please stop sending me emails that say "the camera makers should just make better still cameras and forget about video." As I've reported before, what's happening now is that video demands are driving all image sensor improvements. Thus, you'd better hope that your camera maker is going to keep making hybrid mirrorless cameras, otherwise their primary image sensor supplier is telling them that not much more needs to be done.

The Big News

Cameras always are the thing people look for first, and this week we had two: the Panasonic GH7 and the Canon Cinema C400.

I don't generally cover the video-oriented mirrorless bodies on this site, as they tend to be expensive and less useful for hybrid (still and video) use. This is a photography site, after all. But we're getting more and more of these specialized cameras, and it's important to note what is happening in this area. 

bythom CANON c400

Probably aren't going to use that for still photography, are you?

The Canon C400 is an example of one of these video-first cameras, and with it, we also got the first true RF video-oriented lens, the 35mm f/1.4L VCM. The C400 is a 6K stacked BSI capture and features a triple-gain ADC. Price is US$8000 for the body, US$1500 for the new lens.

The GH7 continues the long line of video-oriented m4/3 bodies from Panasonic. The "news" here is mostly that the GH7 has moved on to the new sensor and features of the recent G9 II, which means a boost to 25mp. Other things that are of interest include the new Lumix LAB app support, 32-bit float format for audio via a new version of the DMW-XLR2 unit, and internal Apple ProResRAW  video. To keep the camera going for long takes, the GH7 now has a built-in fan. Another interesting tidbit: Panasonic licensed ARRI LogC3 so that you can capture video with the GH7 that will tightly integrate with the big ARRI cameras.

Aside: the fact that all the fabs making large image sensors are at capacity (or beyond) at the moment means that in order to up quantity of the newer sensors companies are giving up older image sensors. For models to stay in the lineup for sale either the company had to have built up a stock of older image sensors, or has to move their products to fewer current sensors. Given the economics involved, it's mostly the latter that's happening. Some companies, such as Fujifilm, got lucky on their timing of a new sensor. In their case, the 40mp APS-C sensor produced for them by Sony Semiconductor. There's a reason why cameras you wouldn't normally associate with high pixel counts, e.g. the X100VI and X-T50, got the 40mp sensor: it's easier to increase production of a sensor already on fab than putting a new one on fab. 

Finally, Sony did something interesting with their top end video camera, the BURANO: they published a firmware update road map. This isn't the first time that the pro video side of Sony has done that, but it does indicate something I think we're going to see more and more often top-end pro cameras of all sorts: the camera ships before the software is done. Because of that, you run into the dilemma of whether you announce features at launch or you wait and surprise everyone. Note that Nikon has been mostly surprising its pros with Z9 firmware updates. I'd argue that the road map approach is better at assuaging the pros that are paying top dollar to keep competitive.

Oh, in case you're wondering, the upcoming BURANO 1.1 sometime in June will update will add some anamorphic support, Monitor and Control app support, and a new protocol over Ethernet. The 2.0 update adds new recording formats, monitoring improvements, some new tools derived from the VENICE camera, new stabilization abilities, and focus breathing compensation.

Minor News

Fujifilm announced firmware updates for the GFX100 II (2.2) and the 55mm f/1.7 GF lens. Canon announce firmware 1.4.0 for the R6 Mark II, 1.3.0 for the R8, 1.5.0 for the F7, 1.6.0 for the R10, and 1.2.0 for the R50.

Lenses, Lenses, Lenses

We learned about new lenses that are big (literally) news, and other lenses that just add to the choices we already had. I'll go about this in alphabetical (company) order.

Samyang is now providing their 35-150mm f/2-2.8 lens in the L-mount. Previously it had only been available in the FE mount.

Sigma announced the 28-45mm f/1.8 Art lens for FE-mount and L-mount, which they're touting as the "fastest zoom lens." At US$1350 it's decidedly less expensive than the other fast mid-range zoom (Canon 28-70mm f/2L, for example), but given that aperture values are rounded numbers, there might not be as much difference in light gathering between them as you might expect. 

The thing that strikes me is that this new Sigma zoom's limited range also limits its appeal. The photographer this lens would appeal to is one that is currently mostly using 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm f/1.8 (or maybe f/1.4) primes. Instead of three smaller lenses you'd have to keep swapping in and out, you can just use one big heavy one (nearly two pounds ;~).

Curiously, I think Sigma thinks that user isn't a photographer, but a videographer. I write that because the lens has a lot of things that cater specifically to the videographer (declickable aperture ring, lockable aperture ring, minimized focus breathing, no weight shifting while zooming or focusing [gimbal friendly]), and so on. 

bythom tamron telephotos

Tamron surprised everyone by cramming another lens into their telephoto offerings. Previously, we've had the 70-300mm and 50-400mm (both f/4.5-6.3). Now we get the Tamron 50-300mm f/4.5-6.3. Not only does it squeeze in between with focal range, but it squeezes in between in price (US$800), size (5.9"), and weight (23.5 ounces).  By the way, the published MTFs for this lens look quite good.

TTArtisan released two lenses (both of which had been previously announced, or at least leaked): the autofocus APS-C 56mm f/1.8 for Z-mount, and the full frame manual focus 250mm f/5.6 reflex lens for the m42 mount (which you can adapt to almost any other mirrorless mount). With almost two dozen lenses now with a wide dispersion of mounts and focal lengths, it feels like TTArtisan is throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. They're not alone in that; several of the other Chinese lens makers seem to have the same tactic.

Fujifilm Explains (or Doesn't) Film Simulations

Fujifilm has a new marketing page about the various film simulations in their camera. When a company goes to the trouble of trying to explain how something unique to their product works, one holds out hope that it reveals something useful to your photography.

Unfortunately, that's not the case here. The page seems to be marketing blather with lots of self back-patting. Read the actual words and nothing is revealed. For instance, "a wide variety of looks, while maintaining an overall consistency." What does that mean? Those are two discordant notions—wide variety and overall consistency—so if you're going to bring them up together you need to describe how that works.

Another phrase that is all trumped up marketing: "film simulations inherit the vision of the future we strived for in the analog era." Wow, I had a hard time putting myself into the same time frame as whoever wrote that time traveling jargon. If I parse it as written it says "in the past we had a vision we did not fulfill, but now we have the same vision [inherited]." Was this vision ever fulfilled? ;~)

Then there's this: "two types of film simulation" and "each film simulation is designed using PROVIA as a base standard." Which is it? One type or two two? Apparently the AI Fujifilm used in creating this page doesn't know. What Fujifilm appears to be saying is that they provide two sets of simulations, one that can be used for most subjects and is more natural in rendering, the other which uses exaggeration or a specific individual deviant trait for a more creative rendering. "Neither type claims to be the right answer." Oh, you mean that we might need further types, Fujifilm? Stop me before the AI garbage speak chokes me completely.

Or maybe this: "Color Chrome Effect...[maintains] vibrancy by...controlling the brightness." If we go back to basic color theory, we know that color comprises of hue, saturation, and lightness. What they actually seem to do is put more contrast into some hues. That doesn't "maintain vibrancy," it tends to visually increase saturation. And why is this "Chrome"? 

And don't get me started on their example for Color Chrome FX Blue—why is this "Chrome" named differently than the previous one, by the way?—as their example takes the usual Fujifilm cyanish sky and makes it old Fujifilm slide film magenta. Neither are "natural to the naked eye." Moreover, the copy editor managed to miss this one: "a photo taken outdoors on a sunny day should look blue." Really? 

This new article joins other Fujifilm articles that make claims that aren't exactly correct (e.g. "X-Trans controls moire..." or "replicates a highly random arrangement of silver particles" [X-Trans is not random]). 

Bottom line: Fujifilm's marketing team once again gets an A for effort but an F for information and accuracy.

"Compact" Gets a New Contender

bythom panny s9frontred

Panasonic today announced the S9 camera, a 24mp full frame body with a bit of a difference: it's physically similar in size to the APS-C sensor Fujifilm X100VI, but with an L-mount out front. While Panasonic has made some claims about smallest full frame body, I think the Sigma FP comes in with slightly smaller volume. Still, the S9 is small. The price? US$1499 without lens (more on that in a bit).

bythom panny s9top

In essence, the S9 is a restructuring of the 24mp S5 II: far smaller gripless body (the L-mount barely fits on the front), no built-in EVF, no mechanical shutter, plus more features targeted a "creators" including different body colors (red, blue, green, orange, panda, as well as black; not every color is available in every market) and a LUT button. Surprisingly, the S9 has a large subset of the S5 II feature set, including things like sensor-based stabilization and open gate 6K recording, though the menus have been simplified. The drawback is that, given the small body size, video recording length will be limited to 10 minutes at 6K and 15 minutes at 4K (to keep from overheating).

bythom panny s9back

One new feature is the so-called LUT button. Panasonic is now allowing users to bring up pre-defined looks—up to 39 can be stored in the camera—quickly using a dedicated button on the back of the camera. Along with that function, Panasonic also released a new Lumix Lap application that helps you select, customize, and manage your LUT collection as well as provide direct downloading from the camera.

bythom panny 26mm


Along with the S9, Panasonic introduced a 26mm f/8 manual focus pancake lens for the L-mount, which makes for a nearly pocketable combination and a lot of folk saying "f/8 and be there" again. This lens has a nominal MSRP of US$199. Panasonic also introduced a new 18-40mm f/4.5-6.3 lens, but with no specs or pricing yet. Both these lenses won't be available until late September at the earliest, apparently. If you want an S9 today with a reasonable lens, the current kit will be with the Panasonic 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 L-mount lens. At 3.4" (87.2mm) long and 12.4 ounces (350g), that lens is probably at the "big" end of what most would want to put out front of the S9. 

Commentary: the S9 is just the first competitor attempt to take the wind out of Fujifilm's X100VI sail. More are coming. The question is whether or not any have a real ability to cut into Fujifilm's market share. 

The S9 has a chance. With its fully adjustable touch LCD, small size, full frame sensor, and deep feature set, it may attract plenty of attention. Panasonic's really counting on a combination of things to get creators' attention, though: (1) near X100VI size but a full frame sensor; (2) a simple but customizable style (colors); and (3) the new LUT capability, where pre-defined looks can be created and pulled up with a button. Is that enough? 

Unfortunately, the Panasonic S9 is currently lens starved. The Sigma L-mount Contemporary primes, such as the 17mm f/4, 20mm f/2, 35mm f/2, 50mm f/2, or 65mm f/2 seem to make sense on the new camera, not only size-wise, but also price-wise, as well. But Panasonic doesn't have a great variety of lenses that keep the compact notion compact. Perhaps the 14-28mm f/4-5.6 macro and 85mm f/1.8. 

Once you're beyond 3" long and a pound in weight, I think you're stretching with the S9, I'd just get the S5 II. Panasonic really needs a line of pancakes for the S9 if it really wants to succeed in the "compact" arena. The lightest, smallest gimbals, which I'd want to pair this combo with if I were truly a "creator" only take about a four pound payload and are two pounds themselves. That's just do-able with the S9 and the right lens.

Long term, the right lenses are needed to make the S9 a real success. The Fujifilm X100VI's claim to fame is that it's a (nearly) pocketable option that you just whip out and start both making stylish stills and videos while looking (retro) stylish in doing so. The LUT ability of the S9 takes on Fujifilm's film simulations for the stylish stills bit, and the colors and simple body style take on the X100VI retro style. But for the "whip it out" thing to work requires the right lenses, which really don't exist yet.

One thing that's curious and which few are talking about is why Panasonic hasn't made such a camera in the m4/3 mount. Given that the G9 II is also basically the S5 II body, Panasonic could have made a 25mp G9mini following the same basic size/features simplification, but would have had a source for "small" lenses from day one.

Panasonic's aggressive pricing, as well as launch timing, work to their advantage. At least for the moment, while everyone in the press is still oohing and aahing over the S9. The question is whether things still work once all the announcement hyperbole has worn off and people actually start using the product with whatever lenses are currently available. 

Here in the US there's another problem: marketing and sales. Good luck finding the Lumix Web page without help. The full list of authorized Panasonic dealers is now down to 60, and that's including BestBuy, Buydig, Sky Mall, and a number of other not exactly camera stores. Indeed, one of the authorized dealers, Nebraska Furniture Mart, does not report any Lumix cameras for sale via their Web site. Fujifilm has a wider and more visible dealer set, so it's more likely you can stop by somewhere close and check out the X100VI in person than you can the S9. 


Fujifilm X Summit Announcements

Fujifilm's camera strategy still seems somewhat suspect to me. They appear to undercut themselves for no clear reason. Today's new cameras introduced at the Fujifilm X Summit in Sydney, Australia are excellent examples of that. 

bythom 2404

The new X-T50 replaces the X-T30, and basically is an all-new body with much of the X-T5's specs, including the 40mp sensor. The primary difference in the higher model lies in the Rear LCD adjustability, the higher resolution EVF, the larger battery, ability to use battery grips and fan accessories, and the inclusion of second card slot. Given the US$300 price differential, the changes in the X-T5 might not seem worth the money the some. In essence, the X-T50 undercuts the X-T5.

Meanwhile, the new GFX100S II becomes the lowest priced 100mp medium format camera at US$5000. With a US$1000 lower price the new version manages to get a few clear advantages over its predecessor: 8 stops IBIS, X-Processor 5 and all the abilities that come with that (including subject detection focus), a bigger EVF (5.76m dots), more images per charge, and a slight reduction in weight. Compared to the more expensive GFX100 II, what you really give up is a few Fn buttons, a CFe slot, and a few megapixels in the EVF (still upgraded from the previous model, though). Frame rate and buffer size is lower, and the video specs are also more modest. Again, an undercut. 

I suppose this is "build market share" strategy, but it has to come at a cost to gross profit margin, and I'm not sure that Fujifilm isn't hurting themselves. For example, we now have a number of cameras using the 40mp sensor, but one of those (X100VI) is in extremely short supply compared to demand. Unless Fujifilm has turned on the spigot for 40mp sensors, they run the risk of not being able to take advantage of the popularity of the cameras they've already introduced. Indeed, my guess is that X100VI demand is already dropping, even before Fujifilm has managed to meet backorders.

Fujifilm also announced two new lenses at the summit: the 16-50mm f/2.8-4.8 R LM WR for the XF mount, and the 500mm f/5.6 R LM OIS WR for the GFX mount. The former becomes the new "standard" zoom lens for the APS-C bodies (X-S20, X-T50, X-T5), while the latter is a near 400mm equivalent telephoto for the large medium format sensor bodies.

Canon R1 Gets a Development Announcement

The roles have reversed. 

Back at the Tokyo Olympics (2021 due to COVID delays), Canon had a pro camera ready (R3) and Nikon had a prototype (Z9). For the Paris Olympics (2024, begins end of July), Nikon now has a top pro camera that's been reiterated five times (Z9), and Canon will now have a prototype (R1). 

bythom canon r1

Today Canon posted a Development Announcement for the R1, with the only substantive information being that there is a newly developed adjunct image processor (Digic Accelerator) and new CMOS sensor. Strong hints at changes to the focus system and what it can recognize were also given. 

A photo of the front of the new R1 allows comparison with the R3: the R1 is a little bigger and continues Canon's swoopy design ethos.  

Update: some retailers around the world briefly posted, then withdrew, some additional information: 

  • 30mp stacked image sensor
  • Fast readout speed allows 1/1250s flash sync
  • Frame rates from 40 fps (low compression raw) to 60 fps (higher compression raw), with a maximum of 240 fps (probably JPEG)
  • Increased dynamic range over R3

It's unclear if this information is accurate, however it was interesting that multiple stores seemed to have posted additional information and then withdrew it.

Does Anyone Have an APS-C Plan?

Before we get started, we need to recap where we are with APS-C mirrorless:

  • Canon — Basically re-iterated the bottom of their previous Kiss/Rebel idea, plus a topper camera (R7).
  • Fujifilm — All in on APS-C, but now with a proliferation of “different” cameras and similar primes.
  • Nikon — Had triplets and then stopped birthing anything.
  • Sony — The NEX to A6### story is one of decline. 

Full frame is not an issue for anyone: the entry, mid-range, and top cameras are there for all brands that participate—though Sony uses older models for low-end entry pricing—well defined, and now multiply iterated. One would conclude from examining Canon, Nikon, and Sony full frame mirrorless lineups that each has a plan, knows what they’re doing, and is deep in iteration of that. Panasonic has a mini-plan ;~).

Not so for APS-C. I’ve heard so many varying and confused explanations from Japanese executives about their crop sensor lineup now that I’ve come to the conclusion that they simple don’t know what to do. 

Fujifilm is probably in the best position with APS-C mirrorless, mostly because they skipped full frame and rely on APS-C for the bulk of their sales. But even with Fujifilm I get puzzling explanations of why their models are what they are, how they differentiate them and why, plus what they think a “complete” lineup actually looks like. 

To me, it seems like there are too many pet projects at Fujifilm, as well as some too-strongly held beliefs. I’m not sure why they think they need to make the X-T50 a 40mp camera, for example, or why a new X-TPro needs to be developed. It’s really difficult to say what the entry point is for the Fujifilm lineup (probably X-S20), and the top end in the X-H2S has virtually no sales energy in the market, meaning it was a swing and a miss.

On the lens side, we have a full range of Fujifilm primes that seem to be going through regeneration, while the X-H2S isn’t getting much of the lens support it really needed. There’s simply no clear hand guiding the Fujifilm offerings in a way that someone who doesn’t already follow Fujifilm would understand, which inhibits their growth. 

That said, Fujifilm looks like the gem in APS-C mirrorless world compared to the others. 

Dropping over to the other long-term player in APS-C mirrorless, Sony, we also find large potential for user confusion. The wide, deep, and quickly iterated days of NEX models are long gone now. The A6000, A6300, A6500 trio looked like a strong start to the post-NEX days, but things have been limping since, and are now confused with the ZV-E10 evolution. 

The A6100, A6400, and A6600 showed up as modest iterations five years ago, and since then, we’ve only seen the A6700 add to the iteration, so generations are taking longer, and no longer appear synced. 

We did see Sony produce a few more E-mount lenses, but mostly centered around the uses that ZV-E10 users would appreciate. 

What it feels like to me looking back at the Sony APS-C mirrorless history is that they started with great energy and excitement and quick responses, slowed some as they introduced full frame, and now are completely distracted with “other things.” 

Canon and Nikon, the late entrants, have taken different paths. Canon, for instance, seems to have taken their decontented model Kiss/Rebel idea even further in the mirrorless world, with the R100 being so basic even Canon doesn’t ever talk about it in positive terms. The R10 and R7 at the top of the lineup have had more success, but “success” in this instance doesn’t mean “strong seller.” 

Now it appears that Canon is ceding RF-S lenses to the third parties (Sigma has announced six lenses for Canon APS-C, Tamron one). Meanwhile Canon has just a total of four kit zooms, and hasn’t bothered to bring other M-mount lenses over to RF-S. Parental neglect, for sure.

Nikon is the worst of the bunch so far, having a five year old camera that they “iterated” by giving it cosmetic surgery to create a new body, twice. Somehow, the optical side of the company managed to give those three near-identical cameras five lenses, which is one more than Canon managed. Still, it’s a pretty limited, small scale offering from Nikon, with no clear indication what the future may bring.

One thing I see in all four APS-C players is that their engineering teams aren’t really giving their marketing teams a story, just a few random options to try to figure out how to explain to customers. Which the pathetic marketing teams in Tokyo can’t manage to do. 

/Sarcasm ON

Canon: We Made the Kiss/Rebel worse.

Fujifilm: Don’t Try to Use Two of Our Bodies Simultaneously.

Nikon: Choose a Body Style for Your Five-Year-Old Camera.

Sony: Sorry, but We’re Running Out of Gas.

/Sarcasm OFF

To a large degree, the Japanese companies see APS-C as the last defense line against smartphones. All retreated from 1/2.3” sensors. Most have given up on 1” sensors. So it’s APS-C where the line between smartphone image quality and dedicated camera image quality is being drawn. 

And the line is being drawn poorly. Heck, is it even a line? More like a dotted line in faint gray. If I squint I can almost see it. 

(I said Sarcasm OFF!)

This is a real problem. APS-C is the entry point for dedicated cameras now. But it’s not much of an entry point, and I don’t see any of the Japanese camera companies getting marketing messages out that are clear, direct, and define the expectations. 

As I’m wont to point out, all of the APS-C cameras still have issues with getting images to where the user wants them. I’ll give Fujifilm some credit for getting their camera-to-smartphone software closer to what is needed, but in general it appears that the Japanese companies are so afraid of smartphones that they don’t want to mention them, ever, let alone integrate with them. 

The sum of the parts (smartphone, camera) should be greater than the sum of the parts. Instead, trying to use them together today is a lesson in subtraction, not addition. 

Getting APS-C right should be a critical strategy at every camera company. None seem to be seeing it the same way that I do, so I’m predicting more customer erosion, not a growing customer base.

Catching Up For The Month I Was Away

Here are the mirrorless news bits that happened while I was off the Internet:

  • 4/9 — Nikon Z30 and Z50 firmware updates. The Z30 firmware is now at version 1.11, the Z50 version at 2.51. The only published change has to do with encryption keys and passwords associated with the wireless connection.
  • 4/9 — Sony A6700 firmware update. The A6700 is now up to version 1.03, with the most recent update adding bug fixes, stability, and performance changes.
  • 4/11 — 7Artisans 50mm f/1.8 announced. 7Artisans announced their first full frame autofocus lens for the Z System (the lens had been previously available on the Sony FE mount). 
  • 4/11 — 7Artisans 27mm f/2.8 announced. This new autofocus lens is E mount (APS-C).
  • 4/12 — OMDS updated firmware for the OM-1 and OM-5 models. Not a big deal, just some stability improvements and some new smartphone security options
  • NAB — Sony 16-25mm f/2.8G announced. It seems a bit focal length challenged (not much range), but it does line up with the 24-50mm f/2.8G to produce 16-50mm in two lenses, if that's your thing.
  • NAB — Viltrox 16mm f/1.8 Z-mount announced.
  • NAB — Viltrox 135mm f/1.8 LAB announced.
  • NAB — New cards appear. A number of new storage cards have appeared, including Lexar’s new Armor series of SD cards (basically their version of Sony Tough). SanDisk, meanwhile, introduced a 4TB Extreme Pro UHS-I card, which pushes the SD capacity bar up one. OWC expanded their CFexpress 4.00 card series to Type A (not important to Nikon Z-mount users, but does show OWC’s full support for the latest CFe standards). ProGrade is also showing off both Type A and Type B CFexpress 4.0 cards with maximum and sustained speeds well above what the Z8 and Z9 require (and are rated VPG 400 for video). These new Type B cards are named Iridium and come in 400GB, 800GB, and 1.6TB sizes. Meanwhile, a new Gold 256GB card also is available with CFe 4.0 support. Exascend and Nextorage introduced Type A cards, as well.
  • NAB — Canon announced the upcoming termination of the free 10GB Image.Canon service, once again showing that the Japanese camera companies aren’t understanding the online/social networking connection necessary for cameras in the 21st century. Not that the service was all that useful to a Canon user, as it was effectively just “cloud storage.” If you’re using image.canon, you’ll need to download your images prior to October 31st, 2024. After that, Canon will be deleting them.
  • NAB — Video options proliferate. If you're into mirrorless video (as opposed to stills), Blackmagic Design, Freely, and Kinefinity all introduced updated products, including the new 17K URSA camera. Yes, 17K video, which is just a bit more than 8K video ;~). If you think pixel count/resolution increases will slow, you're wrong.
  • 4/17 — Z5 firmware updated to 1.43. The only changes apply to Nikon’s updated security keys for wireless communication.
  • 4/19 — TTartisan released the 56mm f/1.8 lens for Fujifilm XF and Sony E APS-C cameras. We're starting to get a log jam of APS-C prime lenses at the 23mm, 33mm, and 56mm focal lengths.
  • 4/19 — 7Artisans introduced a 50mm f/1.4 tilt lens. Again for Fujifilm XF and Sony E APS-C cameras, as well as m4/3.
  • 4/23 — Z8 firmware updated to 2.01. The new version applies Nikon’s new security changes for wireless communication, as well as five fixes.
  • 4/25 — Viltrox introduced the 40mm f/2.5 autofocus lens, 7artisans introduced the 50mm f/1.8 autofocus lens for the Z-mount, and Kate introduced the 200mm f/5.6 manual focus mirror lens. 7Artisans also launched a low cost 27mm f/2.8 autofocus lens for the Sony E mount.
  • 4/29 — Zf firmware was updated to versions 1.20. This update forces automatic white balance to remain the same for each image in a pixel-shift sequence, makes the security key changes of the other updates, and fixes three bugs.
  • 4/23 — Canon opened the RF-S lens mount to third party makers. Sigma announced six RF-S lenses starting with the 18-50mm f/2.8 Contemporary. This will be followed by the 10-18mm f/2.8, 16mm f/1.4, 23mm f/1.4, 30mm f/1.4, and 56mm f/1.4 Contemporary lenses (all previously available on other mounts). Tamron also announced that they will produce their 11-20mm f/2.8 for RF-S. 
  • 4/25 — 7Artisans launced an autofocus 27mm f/2.8 lens for the Sony E mount.
  • 5/7 — Viltrox announced the 16mm f/1.8 lens for the Z-mount. This lens is now one of two wide angle full frame autofocus lens prime lens available for the Z-mount that go beyond where Nikon has gone.
  • 5/7 — Hasselblad announced the 25mm f/2.5 ultra wide lens. A relatively fast 20mm equivalent lens for the XCD series that features a leaf shutter good to 1/4000. 
  • 5/8 — Megadap announced new Canon EF to Nikon Z adapter that supports autofocus. The EFTZ21 is now available for US$300.
  • 5/9 — Nikon announced fiscal year results. As expected, Nikon beat the last forecast it made for the complete year ended March 31, 2024, and that was true of the Imaging unit, as well. Sales were up 52.6% and profits up 4.3% year to year. ILC market share finished at 12.9%. The forecast for the coming year is an increase in sales of 7.2% in revenue and an increase in market share by about 1%, but a decline of 5.5% in profit. That decline in profit is partially attributed to the acquisition of RED, for which Nikon paid about US$85m. Be careful of the sites citing the RED purchase as "the deal of the century," as the actual sales, profit, assets, and liabilities of RED are still unknown, and you'd need to know those numbers to make a proper assessment. It's more likely that there was some distress within RED, which resulted in the lowish acquisition price. One likely problem, particularly given the interviews that have been given since the deal was announced, is that the investment cost of future silicon options at RED was starting to exceed their resources. Nikon provides deep pockets and shared tech that would help with that. For what it's worth, Nikon's Imaging forecast seems a bit unusual to me, with a strong year to year increase in sales for the first half of the fiscal year, but a modest increase in sales with a significant hit to profit in the second half. This would indicate a new camera (or more) before October, but some sort of big R&D cost after that. But also note that Nikon, like a number of other camera companies, shows a significant increase in inventory that's built up, too. To Nikon corporate's chagrin, Imaging is still the biggest pipeline of sales and profit at the company (39% of sales, and greater profit than the company overall). I say that because corporate just keeps saying "just sustain the Imaging business" while growing other businesses, with the Precision unit is still "expected" to be far bigger by 2026 (it won't be). R&D is forecast to go up for Imaging and down for Precision next year. Oops. Finally, it's been hypothesized by other sites that Nikon didn't need to release a new camera in Q1 of 2024 because sales were great, so they could delay any new camera. That's not evident in the data: while Q1/2024 sales were above last year, they were weakest quarter of the year, and below those of years where Nikon was said to be "in trouble." The reason Nikon didn't introduce a camera so far this year is that no new ones are ready to release yet. Nikon isn't alone in this; I've now gotten confirmation from three different companies that there is are still parts shortages that are forcing them to choose between producing existing models or new models. Given in Nikon's case that almost any new model they'd introduce this year is going to cost less than a Z8 or Z9, those parts are better used in the higher priced camera, even if you discount them some.
  • 5/9 — Fujifilm released year-end financial statements. The digital camera bits are up 20% year to year. However, I'd like to point out that as much as the Fujifilm fan clubs like to think they've caught Nikon, Nikon sold 279.7b yen worth of product to Fujifilm's 172.1b yen, or 62% more revenue. Both Nikon and Fujifilm have a ways to go reach Canon's 544.6b yen recent year number. That said, Canon hit their number with a near 50% market share, while Nikon did half that with a 13% market share. Which company do you think has a higher gross profit margin right now? (Fujifilm doesn't report profit or market share specifically for their ILC cameras.) By the way Petapixel, "Fujifilm's Camera Profits Soar..." is a headline not supported by the company's financial release; are you clairvoyant? 

Meanwhile, I found a number of rumors in my InBox that had a common theme: everyone is catching on that a "pro compact" camera—witness the Fujifilm X100VI—might sell and now has one in R&D. First out of the gate likely will be Panasonic (and with a companion Leica model). But if I'm to believe anonymous messages in my InBox (I don't always), three other companies will join in sometime in the next 12 months. 

#2 Second Camera: OM Digital Solutions OM-1 II

Next up in the CIPA release queue is the OM-1 II

bythom omds om1ii

Up front (literally) we have a name change. The original OM-1 had an Olympus name plate on the viewfinder front, while the new model gets an OM System replacement. 

In terms of what really makes this new model a new model, the list is short, but potentially significant:

  • The internal memory buffer has doubled.
  • An updated IS system improves the CIPA rating to 8.5 stops.
  • The camera is blackout free at slower frame rates.
  • The camera can now record in 14-bit raw in the high-resolution (sensor shift) mode.
  • A virtual graduated ND filter is available (computational, not mechanical), and regular ND can now be up to ND128.
  • The focusing system gains a full human recognition to its autofocus AI, and the focus system overall has been consolidated and improved.

Overall, the changes to the camera are welcome, but after two years with the original camera feel more like a firmware update than any real change (other than the extra memory). A significant update, to be sure, but still, some things I believe still need addressing aren't changed in this new camera.

bythom omds 150-600mm2

Along with the OM-1 II, OMDS also introduced two lenses, the 9-18mm f/4-5.6 II and the 150-600mm f/5-6.3. Both appear to be rebadging jobs. The wide angle zoom takes away the Olympus markings and replaces them with OM System ones as well as a newer external design ethos, but the optics appear to be the same as the original Olympus lens. The latter zoom is a bit of a controversial one in that the lens appears to be the Sigma full frame telephoto version in an m4/3 mount. The thicker OM filter layer on the top of the image sensor requires a slight tweak to how the focus is projected rearward, but otherwise this seems to be a Sigma optic being rebadged.

Commentary: When OM Digital Solutions took over the Olympus camera group I mentioned several issues with their naming decisions, and now you can see the result of that. If you accidentally type in omsystems.com in a Web browser instead of omsystem.com, well, you don't get the company making the camera. Heck, if you type in omdigitalsolutions.com, you get a Go Daddy "get this domain" page; you need to actually type om-digitalsolutions.com. This is a bit of marketing 101 failure. 

The existing customers aren't going to have any real issues with this, as they've already re-pointed their Web browsers at the new pages, but for someone seeing or hearing the name for the first time, slight misses on what they type into a search engine aren't going to bring up the relevant pages. This is one of those things I call a "friction." In business, you want as few frictions as possible, as each tends to rob you of sales, and if you pile up enough of them, that could be enough to start a downward glide in your results.

Meanwhile, rebadging a Sigma optic means I need to come up with a new name. When Nikon did the same thing with some Tamron lenses back in the F-mount days, I began calling them Tamrikon. I guess now we have Sigmoms. (When I come up with these names, I first do a search to make sure that they're unique. Then it's fun to follow what happens next. You'll see that Tamrikon on Duck Duck Go brings up zsystemuser.com references first, then Internet fora posts, for instance. In other words, I can follow my word usage from my site to Web fora. A fun game for all. Well, okay, for me.)

Here's the problem with the Sigmoms just introduced: it's the same size and weight as the full frame version. In essence, OM Digital Solutions is saying this: we'll give you a 4:3 aspect 2x crop that's 20mp. Okay, but you'd get 26mp out of a Sony A7R Mark V with the same lens ;~). The question then becomes is the OM-1 body smaller and lighter than the A7R Mark V? Well, there's a 2 ounce (66g) advantage to the OM-1, but with that lens on the camera you're also at a minimum of 300mm effective. In other words, you get 300-1200mm at 20mp versus 150-900mm at 61 to 26mp. Oops. I'd rather have the Sony. I first warned about this problem back in 2003 with the introduction of the E-1: if the size/weight and capabilities are near identical, you don't want to be bringing the smaller sensor to the fight.  

#1 First Camera Announcement: Hasselblad

I wrote earlier that the run up to CP+ was going to be full of announcements. First out of the gate is something that at first glance looks very familiar:

bythom hasselblad 100c

Even though it's quite compact, that's really two separate pieces you're looking at: a thin 907x "camera plate" containing pretty much just a mount, coupled with the new CFV 100C back that has all of the control functions. (You can also use older Hasselblad "backs" with the CFV 100C body instead of the 907x plate, but you lose autofocus and end up with a far bigger product with those.)

The CFV 100C packs quite a bit of high-end capability into a really small unit that weighs less than two pounds (27.5 ounces, or 780g with battery and card, but not lens). If you purchase this combination you'll likely be using XCD lenses, of which we currently have fourteen. While I mentioned card—one CFexpress Type B slot—the CFV 100C has 1TB of built-in storage. Out back you have that tilting touchscreen, at 3.2" and 2.36m dots. As usual with the classic Hasselblad designs, there are add-on grips and (Nikon style) hotshoe adapters you can add. But modern features are present, too, including 10-bit HEIF support.

Price for the combo is US$8200.

Commentary: Hasselblad went through a "not sure what to do next" period that included rebranding some Sony cameras with odd body style changes before DJI acquired them and settled them back down into what they do best. 

Personally, I like this new camera better than even the X1D, as it returns to something that was valued in the studio (and to some degree, in the landscape photography world). That, of course, is not hiding the photographer behind the camera. In the studio with the old look-down finders, a Hasselblad user could stay in eye to eye contact with their subjects, only occasionally glancing down to check composition. If you use a camera with an eye level viewfinder in the studio, you have to take the camera from your eye and ready-to-snap position to engage your subject. 

In terms of landscape work, I also prefer composing on a larger screen than a small screen at my eye. There's something about looking at a larger surface further from your eye that's more akin to the way a photo will eventually be hung on a wall that I can't quite explain, but I noticed back when we got Live View on our DSLRs. Moreover, I photograph really low much of the time with nature and landscape work, so having a screen that tilts up is preferable to me laying on the ground to see how my composition looks. Coupled with how small the CFV 100C is and it's big 100mp capture, I'll bet I start seeing more and more of these in the field. 

Yearly Site Update

As usual each year around the holidays, I do a bit of maintenance and updating of my sites. It's taken me much longer than usual to get this done this time around, as the number of changes in the mirrorless market last year coupled with some inattention on my part made quite a few bits and pieces needing some loving attention. A quick summary of what's progressed so far:

  • The 2021 and 2022 news/views has been archived into a sub-folder. Pre-2021 news/views lives here. That's 12 years' worth of news that needed to be dealt with in a more permanent home that doesn't clutter the top menus.
  • The Articles section has been gone through, and I've updated comments and recommendations to be up to date. That includes the System Guides for the five major mounts, as well as my small travel camera recommendations.
  • The Cameras section has been updated, with new charts and information where needed. Some missing Z System reviews have been brought over from zsystemuser.com. 
  • The Books section has been simplified, with the Z System books all now pointing over to the zsystemuser.com site where their information is maintained on a more regular basis.
  • About Sansmirror got a bit of editing and fixes.

Which leaves me with...

Lenses. I've got a lot of work to do to bring this section up to my standards. We've got a dozen years' worth of collected information, some of which is no longer accurate (e.g. lens no longer made, change in specifications/price, etc.). What I'm doing is going through all the autofocus lens databases and making them "current" one by one. Unfortunately, some of the lens makers have been "fiddling" with available lenses/mounts, changing prices with currency fluctuations, and in some cases, finally providing full details on a lens. So I've got a lot of work to do on these sections, and it will take me awhile to do it. My priorities in updating this section are: (1) camera maker lens data, (2) autofocus third party lens data, and (3) manual focus third party lens data. I also need to take another pass at the articles in the lens section. I'll let you know when all this work is complete. For now, I've updated the Canon RF, RF-S, Fujifilm GFX, Nikon Z (DX and FX) sections, and am currently working on the Fujifilm RF section. I'll probably tackle one section each week, but that's at least three months work.

Once I've completed getting most of the lens section up to snuff, I'll start adding new reviews to the site. 


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