News/Views

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Do Camera Launches Change Anything?

Today I want to talk specifically about the mid-level, full-frame offerings: Canon R6 Mark II, Nikon Z6 II, Panasonic S5, and Sony A7 Mark IV. I'm going to use those specifically to reiterate something I've been advising for quite some time.

First, look at the launch dates:

  • Panasonic S5: September 2020
  • Nikon Z6 II: October 2020
  • Sony A7 Mark IV: October 2021
  • Canon R6 Mark II: November 2022

Since we're two or more iterations in for all four models—I consider the S1 the S5 predecessor—it should be relatively easy to see that we're playing leapfrog at this camera level. Canon's simply the most recent frog to jump, and given the two-year product cycles at this level, one would expect Nikon to be preparing to jump (probably delayed due to supply issues). 

bythom frogleaps


One critical thing to notice is that the two most recent frogs to jump also increased their price. The old price point had been basically US$2000 +/-100. The new price point appears to be US$2500 +/-100. 

Anyone that's read my advice on the Internet in the last three decades—yes, I'm well into my third decade at this—knows that I favor staying with a brand rather than constantly trying to pick the frog that's leaped most recently. You can see that best right now with Sony, who's iterated their A7 four times in nine years (again, about a two-year development cycle). If you had bought the original A7 in 2013 and taken my usual advice—update every other generation—you'd be using a very versatile and absolutely competent A7 Mark III right now. The recent Mark IV (and A7R Mark V) gave you a preview of what you're likely to get when you update to an A7 Mark V in late 2023 or early 2024. I'll bet you have been, are, and will be a happy camper. 

It's when a cycle goes a little long or a company is perceived as playing catch up that the user angst sets in and I start seeing the "should I switch to X" emails begin to rise in volume. This is happening today with Nikon, who some believe have missed a Z6 III drop. 

Not really. Yes, the two-year cycle expectation would have been October 2022, but I'll bet we'll see the Z6 III before March 2023. That's not a significant change in cycle, as critical parts—typically image sensors—often push regular schedules off by as much as a year.

But even if you were to believe that the Z6 II is "getting old" and the new cameras were passing them, is that really true?

For US$500 more (at MSRP) you can get the the latest frog (Canon R6 Mark II) with the same pixel count, better still bursts, and video that's just caught up, compared to a Nikon Z6 II. Oh, and the Z6 II currently has a US$200 discount, so the difference is really US$700. We could get into more esoteric arguments about fine details between the two, but guess what, in a few months we'll be arguing about the next frog leap and those short-term arguments will have die off. 

So, no, if you're in the Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, or Sony mid-level, full frame world, the new camera launches probably don't change anything for you. At some point you bought (buy) into the brand, and then you should probably upgrade no faster than every other cycle to maximize your capability versus price over time. Using the subscription model that's so popular these days, upgrading every cycle means you're paying ~US$100 a month for your camera subscription at this level, while upgrading every other cycle is ~US$50 a month.

Where things might change for someone is if they're not at all committed to a brand right now. Those new to the market have to pick a frog. There are really no bad frogs in this bunch, though some are more recent jumpers than others. If the goal is to buy into most current frog, your choice here is Canon, or maybe Sony. 

However, the confusion comes in for those that have been following frogs in the DSLR market. A Canon user might have gone 5D, 5D Mark III, now what? A Nikon user might have gone D700, D750, now what?

The simplest answer is just hop on over to the mirrorless equivalent (see what I did there? ;~). 

For the Canon user, that would be an R6 Mark II, for the Nikon user that would be a Z6 II, though in both cases you're not gaining pixel counts, you're just getting the latest mirrorless equivalent of what you've been using (which should have a number of other performance, focus, feature and video advantages). These users could consider moving up a step to get even more (R5 or Z7 II, for example), but that comes with extra cost. 

The problem, of course, comes in all the combinations and permutations of where a user has been with cameras and where they could go. I've seen users do backflips, lateral leaps, and even trip as they attempt an upgrade. 

So, two words of advice:

  • Budget — Is your budget at the same level as before, or can you contemplate a move up?
  • Brand — Given that all frogs are in the same jumping competition now, why not wait for your frog to jump?

It's very easy to get enamored by shiny new magnesium alloy, extra buttons and features, and some well-crafted Marketing manipulations messages. None of those things really make your photography better. What I've tended to find is that the newest camera might make your photography easier, but that comes at a big ticket expense coupled with the time to learn how to use it properly. If you're doing the frog upgrade at the expense of not buying an excellent, full, and proper lens set for your work, you're probably making a mistake. 

I wrote an article that outlined the order in which you should do things over ten years ago that's relevant to frog jumping. Here's the order:

  1. Upgrade the photographer.
  2. Upgrade the support and discipline.
  3. Upgrade the lens.
  4. Upgrade your understanding.
  5. Upgrade your camera.

I stand by that. So as you contemplate the frog jumping contest and what it means to you, make sure that you've paid attention to number one through four in my list. 

I would be remiss to not point out that #2 might be improved by moving from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera (the built-in sensor-based stabilization) and #3 might be improved because some of the new mirrorless kit lenses are better than some of the older DSLR lenses you might have, even top ones. You still have to do #1 and #4, though ;~).

Buying Mirrorless, Holiday Season 2022

It's the buying season again, and the winds of demand and recession are blowing opposite directions. The supply chain still has kinks. Logistics still whiffs on a whim, particularly if it involves China (which is still pursuing Zero COVID policies to the point of extreme disruption). Predicting inventory of popular, recent products now requires a Fortune Teller. If you charge something to your credit card and don't pay it off, expect usurious interest rates to make your gear purchase even more expensive. 

Ho, ho, ho.

Or maybe for some of you that will be no, no, no. 

Still, I'm asked every year at this time for recommendations. Mostly because I'm one of the few that actually tries and tests virtually everything and am known for straightforward responses. Thus, I'll tackle this no-win game again for the 2022 Holiday Season. 

One difference this time around is that I haven't had more than a bit of time with a few cameras. In particular, the Fujifilm X-H twins, the OM Digital Solutions OM-1, and the Hasselblad X2D. I'm in the process of trying to correct that, and even tried to push an extra trip into my year-end schedule to help me get real photo time to evaluate them. So my comments on those four cameras, in particular, need to be taken with a grain of "opinions might change" salt.

Crop Sensor Mirrorless

As I wrote at the end of the summer, we're in a revolutionary period with APS-C in mirrorless. Until this past year, the APS-C products were mostly just simply transfer of existing APS-C DSLR image sensors into mirrorless bodies and then iteration of that body until it became as mature as a DSLR in form and function. Nothing particularly wrong with that. Now, however, you have some new and potentially exciting choices. 

Let's get to my recommendations for late 2022:

  • Canon — The only thing I can really recommend from Canon this year is the R7 (see my review), and even there I need to warn you to make sure that the lenses you want to use with it are available. Canon's lawyers warning off the third party lens makers was not a welcoming move to customers, so you have that to get past, too. But an R7 is turning out to be a "consumer D500" in most senses of the adjective. That's not overly bad, but the build quality and buffer aren't necessarily as robust as you might want chasing birds into the woods. Still, a recommended camera, particularly for the Canon faithful not wanting to spend US$2500 on a full frame body. 
  • Fujifilm — Okay, we have a (dual) dichotomy to solve here. I have no problem recommending an X-H2 or X-H2S, but you're going to be a little on your own trying to figure out which one is really right for you until I can do a lot of testing. I liked the X-H1, and Fujifilm appears to have addressed most of the things we all complained about on that camera, so plenty of good news with the second generation, it seems. My hesitancy mostly centers around lenses. The X-H2S doesn't have enough lenses to support its use for sports and wildlife, and I'm not convinced that the X-H2 is as good to the corners as Fujifilm says it is with the current lens set for landscapes. So tread carefully, but I think you'll be fine if you can figure out which twin is the one you want to marry and then give it the lens bling it demands. The other dichotomy has to do with the rest of the Fujifilm lineup. I like the X-S10 at its price point, but it's two year's old and starting to show that, and it's been out of stock a lot lately. Ditto the X-T4. The newer X-E4 seems to be vanishing, while the X-T30 II would be buying old tech on the trailing edge. That's the problem with introducing flagships: all the old models suddenly seem, well, old. So, I'll tentatively stick to just recommending the X-H twins this holiday. The X-T5 looks to already be wait-listed for 2022, so stick to the H's if you have to buy now.
  • Nikon — Here's the thing: the Nikon 20mp triplets all are competent. None excel. You're buying a beater, basically. A beater vlogger, a beater manual focus camera, a beater just-above-point-and-shoot. You buy these recommended cameras on price/package. Not list price with no goodies, but discounted price with some goodies. For the Z30 get the dealer to throw in one of the SmallRig accessories. For the Zfc get the dealer to throw in cards/batteries/remote. For the Z50 get the dealer to look the other way while you steal it. (Just kidding. I use my Z50 all the time and love it. But I don't think it's a US$1000 camera, so I'd need much more incentive to pick one up this holiday season.)
  • OM Digital Solutions — You want me to say I recommend the OM-1. Admit it. You want me to write "buy an OM-1." Sorry, can't do that at the moment. That's an expensive camera I need some extended experience with before I can clearly say whether it's worth the moolah. On the other hand, I can whole-heartedly recommend the often overlooked E-M10 Mark IV. Particularly at its US$800 kit price (take that, Nikon Z50). I still get a headache when I look at the OM menus for the first time in a long while, but just get in the habit of writing every setting down and saving that so you can reset the camera if you have to.
  • Panasonic — Panny snuck in some interesting last minute changes. Several of their older G cameras (starting with the G95) have gotten a minor update, basically a higher resolution LED rear screen. That's probably a parts supply thing that lets Panasonic keep those models on the market. I'm not really a fan of the remaining G models because they tend to be DSLR-sized but with a smaller image sensor, basically. I'm not sure what the real benefit is. However, the GH6 is a beast for someone who needs to swing between stills and high end video. With an emphasis on the video side. If that describes you, then a GH6 should be in under your tree this year.
  • Sony — This is tough. Sony's still selling the original A6000, and frankly, it's a competent camera at a good price these days. The problem is that the A6100 and A6600 tend to be out of stock, and even the A6400 slips in and out of stock depending upon which package you want. I'm going to say you don't need to be waiting (and spending more) for the A6600, and the A6000 (price) and A6400 (features/performance) are better choices than waiting for an A6100 to show up on the shelves. Videographers now have two choices in the Sony crop sensor lineup, the ZV-E10, which I find decent but not really an upgrade from the Nikon Z30, and the just introduced FX30, which is a bells-and-whistles video camera. There is a reason to buy the ZV-E10 over the Nikon Z30, however: some price benefit plus a far better selection of wide angle lenses that are appropriate. 

So, my abbreviated Holiday 2022 Recommended list:

  • Canon R7. Make sure the lens you want exists.
  • Fujifilm X-H2 or X-H2s. Choose lenses carefully.
  • Nikon Z30, Z50, or Zfc. But you need incentives.
  • OM Digital Solutions EM-10 Mark IV. 
  • Panasonic GH6. But mostly if you lean video.
  • Sony ZV-E10, FX30, A6000 or A6400. 

Hmm. Two fast action cameras (R7 and X-H2S), one high resolution camera (X-H2), four video-oriented cameras (Z30, GH6, ZV-E10, and FX30), and five older stills cameras. If you look at it temporally, three leading edge stills cameras (R7, X-H2, X-H2S) and five trailing edge stills cameras (Z50, Zfc, EM-10 Mark IV, A6000, A6400). I wish there were really something in the middle of the tech edge extremes I could recommend, but it doesn't exist in crop sensor. Oh, and you won't be getting a holiday discount this year on the leading edge cameras, only on the trailing edge ones. Ouch.

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Full Frame (Canon RF, Leica/Panasonic L, Nikon Z FX, Sony FE)

As the camera makers all started to take their mirrorless offerings upscale, the full frame arena is where we saw much of their effort. Nikon, Panasonic, and Sony all started with a megapixel pairing in the same body and then started to diversify. Canon started with two oddball choices before delivering their two megapixel choices in a (mostly) common body. 

The big competition is in the lower megapixel count cameras that fall in the US$2000 to US$2500 range. That arena now offers Canon R6 II, Nikon Z6 II, Panasonic S5, and Sony A7 Mark IV as current options. All are excellent cameras, but with different personalities. The second biggest competition is in the high pixel count camera, where we have the Canon R5, Nikon Z7 II, Panasonic S1R, and Sony A7R Mark V. Again, all are excellent but different. Thing is, only the Canon R6 II and Sony A7R Mark V are new-for-2022 cameras. The Sony A7 Mark IV was the other most recently updated (late 2021), so has a brief period where it pushes a little further than the others. 

What's a bit new for summer 2022 is that the Canon R3 and Nikon Z9 now compete with the Sony A1 at the flagship level (though Canon will likely have an R1 true flagship eventually). All were introduced in 2021 (two very late in 2021 and still difficult to get, so put those holiday orders in early). All are superb cameras, but again with their different brand personalities.

Here's what I'd say: four cameras—R3, Z9, A1, A7 Mark IV—are the arguably "hot" full frame products at the moment, and only the Sonys seem to be easily buyable off-the-shelf right now. But all the rest of the cameras I've mentioned so far are "warm" products still, and also reasonable choices, particularly the hot-off-the-presses Canon R6 Mark II and Sony A7R Mark V.

Lenses are a different story this past year: everyone produced some full frame offerings. In the last 12 months:

  • Canon released 6
  • Nikon released 8
  • Panasonic released 2 (plus Sigma 4)
  • Sony released 3 (plus Sigma 4, Tamron 3)

Thus, if you haven't looked at full frame lens offerings recently, you really should take another peak, as this is an area of constant change at the moment.

In terms of what I'd consider as being a camera I'd consider picking up this holiday season, I have a broader range of recommendations than for crop sensor, as the full frame cameras are all quite good. For each brand I'll go from low to high in price in my listing:

  • Canon R6, R5, or R3. These are the modern, on-going designs. We're still waiting for replacements for the RP and R, and I wouldn't consider them because they need to catch up to where Canon's design team is today. But I'm perfectly happy with any of these three in my hand. Which one you pick will depend upon price (e.g. R6) or task (e.g. R3), with the R5 being right in the happy middle. Rumors have it that the R6 will get an update soon, so I suspect we may see some discounts there.
  • Nikon Z5, Z6 II, Z7 II, or Z9. Four full frame bodies, two category wins (Z5, Z9) and two solid placements (Z6 II, Z7 II). Nikon is going to be promoting the Z5 a lot this holiday, and that will seem to be a clear bargain for those wanting to enter truly competent full frame. The Z9 will require you to get lucky that one is in stock when you walk in the store, or for you to get on your dealer's wait list. Fortunately, those wait lists are clearing every couple of weeks, so your wait won't be long. 
  • Panasonic S5, maybe S1R. Panasonic's best camera is the all-arounder at 24mp. The 47mp S1R is feeling a little long in the tooth. But both are solid cameras, and the L-mount has been actively producing more lens choices, particularly because of Sigma's presence in the alliance. 
  • A7 Mark IV, A7R Mark IV or V, A7S Mark III, A9 Mark II, or A1. Plenty of goodness now shows up in the Sony lineup, plus you might consider the A7C or FX3 if you're more into video than stills. However, let me say this: stick with the A7 Mark IV and A1. That's all most of you would need (not both, just the right one), and in my opinion Sony's two finest efforts for photographers. I don't see much benefit of the A7R Mark IV/V over the A1 for pixels, believe it or not. The others are specialty cameras. So: on price buy the A7 Mark IV, while on task need buy the A1.

The fact that Sony has been in mirrorless full frame since 2013 shows. Sony started in a decent place, and have iterated a full, broad lineup that's attractive. That said, if you've been a long-time user of a specific brand, all four brand choices now are highly refined mirrorless implementations of that brand identity and UX. It's probably not worth it to be a switcher in full frame any more. All four companies are likely to continue iterating regularly in their full frame line, and the full frame lens sets are becoming full and robust.

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Thom, Pick a Lane for Me!

Yeah, I've identified 26 cameras I'm recommending this holiday season. That big number of choices seems a bit daunting, and might not help make your decision easier. 

However, I wrote it earlier, and I'll reiterate it here: staying with the brand you're used to has an advantage. The days of Olympus and Sony being the only reasonable crop sensor choice are over. The days of Sony being the only competent full frame choice are also clearly over. 

Canon and Nikon users should stick to their brand. First, most of the DSLR lenses and accessories you bought can still be used. Second, both companies are now (mostly) hewing to their well-established UX, and their mirrorless cameras will seem very familiar to their DSLR users. 

More importantly, we've entered the period in mirrorless where all the companies are moving the same direction and simply playing games of leap frog. 

So:

  1. Stick to your brand.
  2. Consider moving from crop sensor to full frame.
  3. Pick the general interest camera if you're a general interest user; Pick the task-specific camera if you're a task-specific user.
  4. Enjoy!

To put that in perspective: a Canon Rebel/Kiss user stays with Canon, considers moving to full frame, then probably buys an R7 or R6. A Nikon consumer DSLR user stays with Nikon, considers moving to full frame, then probably buys a Zfc or Z50, or they buy a Z5 or Z6 II. Changing lanes to other brands gets expensive in both purchases as well as in time spent learning new things. To little advantage long-term. There's not a single camera I've recommended above that I wouldn't be happy using for the next couple of years. 

Final Thoughts

If you're not brand loyal and were just starting out with interchangeable lens cameras, we're currently about where we got to a decade ago with DSLRs: solid crop sensor and full frame choices across multiple brands. Take your pick. 

Personally, I'd be buying based upon lenses over cameras if starting from scratch. Fujifilm's lens set for APS-C is the most extensive, though still needs work in the telephoto range. Sony's lens set for APS-C has recently expanded at the wide end. So, if lens choice is high on your list, Fujifilm and Sony are your clear choices for APS-C at the moment. Olympus and Panasonic also have a full set of m4/3 lenses. Nikon's the odd man out at the moment, so Nikon DX is not a safe choice for anyone starting in APS-C from scratch (buzz, buzz). Canon, too, doesn't have any real RF-S lens choices, either, but I'm expecting that to change faster than at Nikon.

That leaves four full frame mounts to discuss in terms of lenses (remember, you're buying first based on lenses when you start from scratch if you're following my advice):

  • Canon RF — Some odd choices, and many of them aperture constrained or aperture relaxed. The middle needs a lot of work for full frame. We have 27 lenses currently, but take a closer look and actually count the ones that you might really get; the number you might be interested in may be far less. I expect this to change for the better over time, but Canon's leaning a bit too heavily on EF-adapted lenses at the moment, and their threats against third-party lens makers is just mind-bogglingly anti-customer. 
  • Nikon Z FX — Nikon pumped up the volume quickly, and now has an arguably strong lineup, with the telephoto side starting to stand out as a strength. That provides us 25 FX lenses now, with quite a few being best in class, and a nicely chosen array of choices. Like Canon, I expect Nikon to continue to improve their lineup over time, and they seem to be making really good decisions on how to do that. Tamron is now making Z-mount autofocus lenses, too, and I expect others to follow. 
  • Panasonic L — Long ago I wrote an article about what lenses every mount needs as a minimum. Panasonic seems to be following that article. 16-300mm covered in seven zooms, 24, 35, 50, and 85mm covered in four fastish primes. Those 11 lenses basically cover the minimum I noted in my article. However, the L-mount alliance with Sigma is filling out plenty of other options, and one could argue that within the wide-to-200mm range, Panasonic L cameras have about as much choice as Sony FE ones. 
  • Sony FE — I give Sony full marks for not just filling out their lineup, but pushing it forward. Like Nikon, Sony has quite a few best in class lenses now. The total number of available lenses is currently 42, but there's a lot of focal length duplication going on (even more if you count the Samyang/Sigma/Tamron offerings). If you count near neighbor focal lengths, for example, Sony has produced seven "normal" primes. Three or four would have sufficed. In zoom lenses that cover the mid-range, we get eight. Four or five would have been fine. Choice is good, but Sony still has clear gaps in their full frame lens lineup, so I'd rather have those filled than all this lens duplication. 

Finally, you might ask about me. Am I buying anything this holiday? 

No. 

Once I had the Nikon Z9 and Sony A1 I was set for work cameras. Nothing cries out to me as something I need on the camera side. In terms of lenses, there, too, I'm happy. I've got the full Z-mount set coupled with the FE-mount lenses I need. Nothing new there I need, either. I keep putting a top-end Apple Mac Studio in my bag, but don't click on the purchase button. It's difficult to believe it would actually move my work forward, either. 

So I'm in the no, no, no category this holiday season. 

More New Cameras

Today Canon and Fujifilm updated key mirrorless models in each line.

bythom canon r6ii

Canon introduced the R6 Mark II, an unexpected update of the popular R6 camera. The big news here is the move to a 24mp image sensor (the original was 20mp). This new image sensor isn't BSI or stacked, though Canon does indicate that has improved rolling shutter performance—i.e. faster data offload—than their previous full frame 24mp sensor. So much so that, with electronic shutter, the camera is capable of 40 fps (12 fps with mechanical shutter).

Also new is that 4K video is not cropped, but oversampled, and supports 60P for this (40 minutes specified, probably due to heat). FullHD also gets a boost to 180 fps, though it is sub-sampled. With the appropriate Atomos recorder, you can record 6K raw from the entire image sensor, or 3.7K raw from an ASP-C crop. 

The R6 Mark II also inherits some of the focus tracking from the R3. 

Price remains at US$2500, body only. Camera size is unchanged, though it dropped 10g in weight (.4 ounces).

bythom fujifilm xt5top

Fujifilm introduced the X-T5, the latest iteration of the X-T# lineup that had been the key model for them. I write "had been" because it's now clear that the X-H# line is the top of the XF lineup and where Fujifilm chooses to innovate now. The X-T5 appears to be relegated now to a lower-than-top-end camera. To that end, the X-T5 gets the 40mp X-Trans image sensor from the X-H2, with some simplifications in the camera itself that mostly center on still photography. 

For example, the X-T5 retains the legacy four-dial design, but there's no battery grip, and the camera itself has downsized slightly in the process (both width/height and weight). The EVF stays at the 3.69m dot level, despite the higher resolution image capture. 8K is not available, with 6.2K being the maximum size. If you look at the X-H2 and X-T5 specs, you'll see a number of other small implications, as well. No headphone jack, for instance.

Of course, there's a lot that's improved from the X-T4 beyond just the extra pixel count. The new X-Processor 5 engine powers better autofocus and some improvements in burst rates, as well as better video. The film simulations are back to the full set Fujifilm supports, as well.

Since I mentioned the X-H2, the difference in price between the two bodies is US$300 (the X-T5 is listing at US$1699). For a still photographer, I'd tend to say opt for the X-T5, but for a videographer, get the X-H2. It's small differences that power that advice, but I think relevant ones. 

Fujifilm has been moving considerably upscale with their XF line recently (X-H2s, X-H2, X-T5), mostly driven from the new image sensors and image processor. The question now is what happens to the rest of the line (X-S10, X-T30, in particular). Is 40mp X-Trans the new 26mp X-Trans? Given Fujifilm's lowish overall volume, I can't imagine them running with three or more image sensors for long. More intriguing is something I haven't heard anyone else predict: will the compact X100 VI become a 40mp camera? That might be the jolt to make the X100 solidified as the remaining compact champion. 

Sony Announces the A7R Mark V

Take an A7R Mark IV, improve the image sensor, add the new BIONZ XR image processor, add the hint sink and a new articulating LCD design, improve the IBIS performance (and add a new pixel shift mode that corrects for movement), then improve the autofocus system with a new AI layer, and you have the new camera.

In some ways I feel like I’m writing the same thing over and over this week. Once again we see iterative improvement as opposed to revolutionary improvement. No doubt that Sony is trumpeting loudly as if revolution has taken place, but I’m not expecting this new camera to turn out to be anything more than a refined Mark IV with new video capabilities. 

That said, the A7R Mark V is now an 8K video camera (recording up to about 30 minutes without overheating), and clearly should perform slightly better than the model it replaces. But it also increases in price to US$3900 (body only), a US$400 bump. 

Can Backside Illumination (BSI) actually be improved? Yes. Even I have been using a shorthand in reporting about BSI. Basically FSI (Frontside Illumination) puts both data/power lines and electronics on the same surface as the light collection. That means that not all of the surface is available for light collection. The shorthand for BSI has been that “all of the surface” is available for light collection (the electronics goes in a layer below light collection). That’s not exactly true. No current BSI implementations have 100% light collection because they all have rounded corners, and some still have a line or two in and among the light collection area. Some corners (Nikon’s 45mp ones, for instance), are highly rounded. Coupled with other aspects of the light well itself (e.g. microlenses, walls, etc.), it isn’t true that 100% of the light hitting the sensor surface gets into the collection area. So, yes, there are still improvements that can be made, though they might not particularly large. Sony didn't make any specific claims in this respect other than to note that the BSI orientation was improved. It seems that much of the image sensor change, however, went into bandwidth processing, as we no longer bin the 4K full frame video output on this camera, but downsample from 6K instead. 4K/60P, however, is done with a 1.24x crop, as is 8K/24P.

Sony makes their biggest claims on the new camera centered around the dual BIONZ XR and new AI processors, particularly regarding the focus system, which now has newly extended subject detection capabilities, including human pose tracking. It was interesting that Sony chose to show comparisons with how the A7R Mark IV failed in a number of autofocus situations where the A7R Mark V succeeds. So much for the fan boy "it focuses perfectly" chants. No doubt the new system is better, and no doubt we'll find new things where we want a bit more capability. That said, I didn't find the Mark IV as a problematic camera for focusing—particularly for the types of things I'd tend to photograph with it—but the Mark V is clearly better, which I always approve of. Do note that the new subject detection also gets very complicated in the controls, as we have animal/bird and animal or bird as separate detections, and you still have to chose what part to focus on (eye, head, body, or some combination). I like this form of control, but some won't, and would probably prefer the Nikon Z9's "just let the camera figure it out" approach.

bythom sony a7rv rear

The new tilting/articulating Rear LCD solves the "tastes great/less filling" debate that's gone on for some time with Rear LCD positioning. Like Panasonic's recent change, you can have it both ways: tilting on the back, or articulating around to the front. Meanwhile, the EVF is now a 9.44m dot one, another upgrade.

The sensor-IS system appears to have been improved (to "8 steps"), though Sony once again has a lot of footnoting that comes into play. More important than the two-axis improvements at the image sensor are the multi-axis capabilities with the combined sensor- and lens-based IS working together. 

We get a number of raw options, including medium and small raw files (downsampled) and an improved 16-image Pixel Shift 240mp mode that Sony's desktop software can remove motion from. The Mark V also becomes the first Sony Alpha to support focus shift photography. 

Plenty of other new bits and pieces make up this new model. While I know some will be disappointed that the image sensor resolution didn't change, my initial reaction is that many of the things that Sony addressed with this new model actually cover many of my complaints about the older model.

Four Vendors, Similar Models

Here's the observation to note today: we have four players in the full frame mirrorless market today, and they all seem to be opting for a similar model lineup:

Canon Nikon Panasonic Sony
entry RP Z5 (A7C)
basic R6 Z6 II S5 A7 IV
pixels R5 Z7 II S1H A7R V
flagship R3 Z9 A1


So is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Historically, attempts to dislodge the Film/DSLR Duopoly (Canon/Nikon) didn't work. But that was because it's just difficult to build a full line of product quickly while the duopoly is iterating theirs, so most perceived any new competitor to not be complete, to not have as many useful options, and possibly not ever able to fill in those addition models. Competitors that hesitated with autofocus back in the film SLR days quickly found themselves outgunned once Canon and Nikon went all AF.

With mirrorless, Sony had a many year head start, so had already built out their line—including many niche models not listed above—prior to Canon and Nikon making their DSLR to mirrorless move. So things changed a bit. Effectively, today we have a Triopoly in full frame mirrorless, and I'm happy we do. Three strong competitors force everyone to be a little more responsive to customer needs and make them all a little more innovative in their iterations. We've seen glimpses of that already (e.g. removal of the mechanical shutter by Nikon), but I'm hoping we'll see more. 

With a fourth competitor lurking (Panasonic), this, too keeps the competition heated and everyone trying to avoid self-inflicted wounds and mistakes. I think the Panasonic cameras are quite fine, it's just that they don't have any legacy they're playing off of, so you technically have to abandon what you've been using to go with the Panasonic full frame mirrorless system.

However, there are questions we should ask. For instance, are these the right four standard full frame models to define? As you might note, the Sony A7S, and A9 don't show up in that simplified table, and I've got the A7C in brackets because it's really more of a vlogging camera. Cameras such as the Nikon Zfc suggest that there might be yet another position (e.g. an eventual Zf), and we haven't even gotten to the dedicated video options (Canon Cinema, Sony FX models). 

Since this is primarily a still photography-oriented Web site, I'll stick with the stills-oriented cameras in my comparisons. 

One thing to note is this: Canon is in first generation of their basic, pixels, and flagship cameras, Nikon is in the first or second generation, and Sony is in their first, fourth, or fifth generation. While this might seem to be an advantage to Sony, the late entry of Canon and Nikon to mirrorless full frame gave them the chance to see how Sony iterated before producing their own models.

Take the Nikon Z6 versus the Sony A7 models, for instance. The original Z6 came in just slightly behind the Sony A7 Mark III in terms of ability, in my opinion, while the Z6 II now exceeds the A7 Mark III and is just behind the A7 Mark IV. We all expect Nikon to iterate to a Z6 III in the next six months, and it's possible that will move it ahead of the Sony model. So don't get too hung up on generations. We're definitely already in a leap frog game with the basic and pixels models, and probably eventually will be with all four model levels.

Here's what I think overall: most enthusiasts would be quite happy with any of the models I label as "basic." As we enter the holiday season, I'd put the Sony A7 Mark IV a bit ahead of the other basic models from the competitors, mostly due to the upped pixel count and many small refinements. But the Z6 II is US$1900, while the A7 Mark IV is US$2500. That's a US$600 difference that could pay for a very good lens. Sony dealers will try to talk you down to an A7 Mark III if you're price sensitive, but I don't judge that older model to be as good as the Z6 II. 

I mentioned lenses, and that's becoming more of a distinguishing trait than the camera bodies at the same level. Let's take 24-105mm or 24-120mm, for instance (current pricing in US):

  • Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS (US$1300) — A very decent lens, but not at the level of the Nikon and Sony offerings, in my opinion. Also at the top end of the price range here.
  • Nikon 24-120mm f/4 (US$1100) — In my optical testing, the best of the bunch, though it doesn't have lens-based IS as the others do. I haven't found that omission to be a meaningful liability on the Z6 II body, which has effective body IS.
  • Panasonic 24-105mm f/4 OIS (US$1300) — A solid lens with one feature the others don't have: a real macro capability (though the Nikon does focus near the macro range).
  • Sony 24-105mm f/4G OSS (US$1100) — My goto mid-range on the Sony bodies, it's a really good performer optically, and like the Nikon, tends to be priced at the bottom of the range.

So, you can save a couple of hundred dollars and get "better" lenses. I believe that you now have to think about camera body and lens simultaneously if you're just now opting into the full frame market. To use a baseball metaphor: Nikon and Sony are hitting triples and home runs with their S-line, G, and GM lens lines, while Canon is hitting singles and doubles with most of their L lenses. If the choice is between a great lens on the worst body or the worst lens on a great body, I'd pick the former. 

That said, my long-held belief still stands: stick with the brand you've been using. That's particularly true at full frame. So Canon EF users should stick with Canon RF, Nikon D owners should stick with Nikon Z, and Minolta/Sony A owners should probably stick to Sony FE. Nomenclature, menus, buttons/controls, accessories, and much more all tend to be similar within brands as they switched from DSLR to mirrorless (Canon has more exceptions to this, particularly the R and RP models). 

What I primarily want to reinforce with this article is that we have very direct, intense competition between four brands at two of the positions, and between three of the brands at three positions in full frame. Competition is good for consumers. You can already see Sony trying to paddle faster to keep their bow ahead of the old DSLR duopoly. We're going to see a lot more activity in these camera lines in the next 18 months. Lots more. 

OM Digital Solutions Announces the OM-5

bythom omds om5

Take an Olympus E-M5 Mark III body, put some of the E-M1 Mark III features inside, and you have the new OM-5. Literally. The new camera is ostensibly the same physical body as its predecessor, just with new markings.

Most people will consider the OM-5 a “minor” upgrade, and to a large degree they’d be right. On the other hand, is it arguably better than the E-M5 Mark III it replaces? Yes, in modest ways. We have built-in ND filters available, the image processor is newer and faster, IBIS got an extra stop of capability, Starry Sky autofocus, and there's a 50mp handheld pixel shift resolution mode. But the OM-5 doesn't get subject recognition or the OM-1 phase detect system, and it uses the same E-M5 menu organization. Likewise, we don't get a USB-C connection, as the body is still using the old E-M5 microUSB port. You can trickle charge the camera, but not get USB Power Delivery capability. The new camera is US$1200 for the body only, US$1600 with the 12-45mm f/4 PRO lens.

In the m4/3 community, it appears that the initial reaction is mostly one of disappointment. Many seemed to think that the OM-5 would get the OM-1 image sensor and autofocus system at a minimum, but the feature changes seem much more like E-M1 Mark III internal ones that migrated to the lower body. 

I’ve written for some time that any current interchangeable lens camera is capable of producing excellent photos when used properly. If there was a market for the E-M5 Mark III, then there’s still a market for the OM-5. Moreover, the new camera is now fully under the wing of OM Digital Solutions, and not just a camera they inherited from Olympus. That it isn't something particularly exciting with lots that's new isn't much of a surprise. The OM-1 series is where the new engineering really is occurring at OM Digital Solutions. I suspect we'll next get an OM-10 that takes a similar path (e.g. getting a few features from a former higher model).

X Summit Launches New Fujifilm Products

Today at the X Summit in New York City, Fujifilm formally announced three new products, as well as gave updates on the XF and GFX systems. 

bythom fujifilm xh256

First up at the summit was a brief marketing gloat about the X-H2S's success. But the big news was the announcement of the X-H2, the companion "pixels" camera to the X-H2S "speed" camera. Housed in the same body, the new X-H2 ups the APS-C sensor pixel count championship to 40mp (previously, Canon's 33mp APS-C sensor was the highest). 7680 x 4320 is the final pixel count, which means that the X-H2 also becomes the first crop sensor camera with 8K video as a result. As with the X-H2S, you get 10-bit ProRes capability, now at 8K/30P, but the X-H2 also supports 12-bit 8K raw, as well. 

We also get pixel shift via the sensor-based stabilization. So if 40mp isn't enough, the camera can produce 160mp files via a 20-image shift sequence. Meanwhile, we get the first 1/180,000 second electronic shutter speed, obviating the need for some ND filters. 

The biggest shock to many will be the US$1999 price of the body (US$2499 with the 16-80mm f/4 kit lens). 

You might wonder if the XF lenses hold up under 40mp. Fujifilm claims that the 18mm f/1.4, 23mm f/1.4 II, 33mm f/1.4, and the redesign of the 56mm f/1.2 II are all up to the 40mp image sensor. But they also published a list of 20 lenses they say "get the maximum benefit from [the] X-H2's 40.2 megapixel sensor."

That's right, the 56mm f/1.2 lens for the XF mount got an update, with a new optical formula, better focus performance, and weather-resistant construction. This raises the size and weight a bit, but also brings the lens more in line with the other recent fast Fujifilm optics, and provides for the highest possible quality for the 40mp image sensor.

The GF mount wasn't forgotten, either, with a new 20-35mm f/4 lens becoming the widest of the medium format lens options. With the .79x crop factor, that's equivalent to a 16-28mm wide angle zoom (for full frame). 

Meanwhile, the X Summit is also a place where future products get talked about by Fujifilm. Probably the most interesting ones are the 30mm f/5.6 and 110mm f/5.6 Tilt/Shift lenses coming for the GF (medium format) cameras.

It's Launch Week in Mirrorless

It seems like everyone is launching products this week in the mirrorless world. Part of the reason why was the big IBC show in Amsterdam, the first real live, in-person trade show since the pandemic for video. This conference is the European equivalent to the US NAB convention. 

bythom sony fr7

Sony was up first with the launch of the FR7, which is a pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera with a full frame sensor and the FE lens mount. Think of it as something like a stripped down A7S that's set up to be remote controlled. At US$9700 for the camera, it's not likely on your purchase list, however it does provide a pro video PTZ option that prior to the FR7 wasn't really available in one package.

Next, Panasonic added the 18mm f/1.8 to their L-mount lineup, making my just published autofocus prime lens table already out-of-date. Given the lenses I know are coming, I'll update those tables probably on a monthly basis, rather than with each lens that comes out.

Hasselblad, long quiet on the mirrorless front, came back to life today with the X2D-100C, a 100mp medium format camera, along with three new lenses for their XCD mount. The big news here is 100mp BSI image sensor (previously was 50mp), sensor-based image stabilization (up to 7 stops CIPA), faster phase detect autofocus, tilting Rear LCD, higher resolution EVF, and a new color top LCD. Overall, the new camera is a dramatic upgrade in performance over the older one, with attention to fixing the UX of the older models, as well. The new X2D-100C body is US$8,199. This wasn't an IBC-related announcement, as the X2D-100C has no video support at all.

The three new XCD lenses are the 38mm f/2.5 V, 55mm f/2.5 V, and 90mm f/2.5 V. Each use faster stepper motors, are smaller than previous lenses, feature DOF markings on the focus ring, as well as a customizable ring. The lenses range from US$3699 for the two shorter focal lengths to US$4299 for the telephoto.

Next up we have Samyang with a quintet of cine lenses for the Sony FE mount: 20mm, 24mm, 35mm, 45mm, and 75mm, all t/1.9 and autofocus. The unique things about this lens set is the gimbal-friendly center of gravity and size that's consistent across all the lenses, as well as video-centric features such as tally lights on the front and side of the lens. These lenses seem to be a new design variation of the Samyang f/1.8 lenses, as most of the optical specifications are the same. In one unique note, Samyang has directly expressed the focus breathing amount of each lens in percentage, something I haven't seen any other maker do yet, and which would be a useful specification to know and compare for videographers. The 75mm t/1.9 is first out of production, with the others to follow almost on a quarterly basis. 

Tamron officially launched the Z-mount 70-300mm this week, the same week that Canon acknowledged that they are taking legal actions to prevent third-party autofocus lenses appearing in the RF mount. We now have two known Nikon Z-mount licensees (and the company has seemed to embrace a third), so in terms of full frame mirrorless:

  • Canon RF — Closed mount, not open to third parties
  • Leica/Panasonic/Sigma L — Open consortium mount
  • Nikon Z — Licensed mount to third-parties
  • Sony FE — Licensed mount to third-parties

Fujifilm will be dealt with in a separate article as soon as they've made their public announcements.

Available Mirrorless Autofocus Zoom Lenses

Yesterday I tackled the autofocus primes available in the various mirrorless mounts. Today I'll tackle the zoom lens choices. 

Here's the full list of what I came up with for full frame, autofocus, zoom lenses that are currently available (organized by mount, in declining aperture order, alphabetically by brand):

bythom ff zoom 92222

You'll note I've used color in this table. The yellow section is wide-angle zooms, green is mid-range/superzooms, and the blue is telephoto zooms. Generally, zoom lens users tend to eventually end up with one of each type of zoom (or sometimes two lenses in two distinct zoom categories). That's because the notion of "zoom" is really "cover everything." 

The photojournalism (PJ) needs eventually netted us a trio of zoom lenses, often called the Holy Trinity, which tended to be wide-angle, mid-range, and telephoto zoom lenses with an f/2.8 maximum aperture. You'll note in the full frame mounts, all three of the major mounts (RF, Z, and FE) have that trio of lenses available, though they tend to differ on the wide-angle focal range a bit. The L-mount substitutes an f/4 optic at the wide end, and that overlaps with the mid-range focal length. 

So what can we glean from the above table?

  • Canon RF — A Canon go-it-alone approach is evident. Fortunately, that gives you three choices in wide angle, five in mid-range, and four in telephoto. Canon also has both f/2.8L and f/4L trios, so they're covering the historical PJ needs well. Canon also has a trio of more consumer zooms, too (non-L), with slow top focal end apertures (f/6.3, f/7.1, or f/8). One could say that Canon is well diversified in their offerings, but they are also unimaginative or unexceptional in them (other than perhaps the 28-70mm f/2).  The Canon full frame RF zoom line feels like "a safe choice" so far. As an aside, I'd point out that in my testing of various zooms across the mounts so far, the only Canon I found to be at or near the top of the heap optically compared to direct competitors is the 100-500mm f/4-7.1L. I'd say the lineup is solid, but unexceptional.
  • L-mount — Once again the trio of partners in the mount are what gives the options some strength. Surprisingly—considering the lower performance DFD or contrast detect autofocus in the available L-mount cameras—We have a solid set of telephoto choices, but less support in the wide-angle realm. It really should be the other way around as far as I'm concerned. Optically, the options I've tested in the L-mount are all very good, perhaps a notch above Canon's offerings, but still not what I'd call exceptional.
  • Nikon Z — Nikon put a lot of their early emphasis on the mid-range. We have six zooms there from Nikon compared to two each in the wide-angle and telephoto ranges. That said, what I've found in side-by-side testing is that the Nikkors tend at minimum to essentially equal the optical best-in-class, in a few cases they beat the competitors optically. Nikon wasn't mailing in their R&D results. All of the S lenses deserve their designation, for sure. At the same time, until recently, Nikon wasn't getting any third party help, either. This produced a set of zoom options that are great, but only if you like the focal range Nikon provided. Nikon needs more diversity of options at the wide angle and telephoto zoom end. Tamron has stepped in with a telephoto option, and I'm pretty sure they'll add the 150-500mm at some point, too. That Tamron, coupled with the 200-600mm Nikon has on their road map (and is overdue to appear), should shore up the telephoto side, but the wide angle side needs more work (and I don't think Tamron will quickly step in there). 
  • Sony FE — The earliest Sony zooms, including that Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm f/4, now look like junk compared to what's happened with the G and GM efforts since. Like Nikon, Sony is either offering equal-to-best or best-in-class options in their zoom range. There's not a G or GM lens in the bunch I'd have issues with in daily high-end use. And just picking G/GM gives you three wide angle, three mid-range, and five telephoto zoom options. That's augmented by the Sigma/Tamron offerings, which tend to be quite good, as well. One interesting note is that Tamron now offers you 17-180mm in three matched f/2.8 lenses that are smaller than the usual trio and all take 67mm filters. We need more of that out-of-the-old-box approach in lenses, and it's really only in the FE mount that you see serious rethinking of zoom lens focal lengths at the moment.

So, Sony FE is probably the best-covered mount at the moment, though Nikon has been surprisingly quick and nimble, particularly in the mid-range. My current feeling is that I'd be highly comfortable with any Nikon S or Sony G/GM zoom lens in my work. Not a dud amongst them, and most produce exceptional image quality across all attributes. I can't quite say that for the options in the other mounts, though the Panasonic fixed aperture zooms are right behind their Nikon/Sony equivalents. 

Sony FE users, however, get the added benefit of some out-of-box thinking (mostly by Tamron), with options you don't see in the other mounts. Canon's apparent prohibition of RF third-party autofocus lenses puts the onus on the Canon team to do something less conservative than they have (unlikely), while Tamron's recent step into the Nikon Z-mount seems to indicate that we'll eventually see the Z and FE mounts offering much the same choice. Does Canon understand that they're making a "systems camera"? 

On to APS-C:

bythom aps zoom 9222

A quick glance at the APS-C chart can be a little misleading. So let's look at the mounts individually:

  • Canon M — No new zooms in six years says: dead mount. Particularly in APS-C, convenience lenses are the norm, and zooms are the way you provide that convenience. What Canon's no-new-zooms approach in the M mount tells you is that the Canon R&D team has left the building. Any that remain are over in the RF building now. The M mount choices are likely as convenient as you'll ever get from Canon. Of the five choices, I only liked one (11-22mm) well enough to use with any regularity. For mid-range to moderate telephoto I just used primes (32mm f/1.4, basically). On the 33mp Canon M6 Mark II, the rest of the zoom range tended to not live up to the image sensor, IMO.
  • Canon RF-S — Two zooms are the total extent of the current RF-S lens lineup (no primes). Of these, I've only tried the 18-150mm, and I found it pretty decent (review coming), though not exceptional. It's actually better than the 18-150mm in the M mount, so perhaps that R&D shift got Canon rethinking how good their lenses needed to be. But a sample of one isn't really a sample. So I'd say the verdict's out for the time being. Moreover, Canon's 1.6x+ crop for APS-C means that the widest you can go is about 29mm. Right now all I hear is buzzing (buzz, buzz*).
  • Fujifilm XF — Ah, the motherlode. Seventeen zooms! Two wide angle, nine mid-range, and six telephoto. On the surface that appears to be a very solid set of choices. Scratch the front elements and, uh, not so much. I've found the relative quality of the Fujifilm XF zooms to be somewhat random. No doubt there are some exceptional lenses in the bunch (the wide angle zooms, the 16-55mm and 50-140mm f/2.8 pair come to mind first and foremost), but I've found myself fairly disappointed in many of the others. The 16-80mm f/4, in particular, just didn't live up to what I need from a 24-120mm equivalent mid-range zoom. I don't know if it's individual lens samples I've been having issues with, or whether the wide variation in optical quality is just a thing in zooms you find in the XF mount. I suspect the latter given other people's comments. I'd say that "trust but verify" is very much needed with the Fujifilm zooms, and I suspect that's going to blow up on Fujifilm with the 40mp camera that's coming. 
  • L-mount — Wait, what? The L-mount has more options—and at least one in each category—in APS-C than the Canon RF or Nikon Z mount for zooms? How'd that happen? The Leica TL, basically, though that model seems to now be retiring permanently. The Leica Elmars are solid basic performers, and not at all stressed by the TL's 24mp sensor, even though it doesn't have an AA filter. 
  • Nikon Z DX — Nikon currently has an equal number of DX cameras as it does DX lenses (three of each). If that doesn't tell you something is wrong, I'm not sure what will. Worse still, we don't have any wide-angle zoom option, though there is one on the Road Map. The good news is that the 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit lens is exceptional for a kit lens (and even holds up against non-kit lenses in the mid-range), while the 18-140mm f/3.5-6.3 option is a top level superzoom performer (28-210mm equivalent). But there's not a lot of meat on the bones in Z DX. Nikon needs to up their game, considerably. Fortunately, Canon RF-S has almost no game. Still, a lot of buzz, buzz* is in Nikon's future if things continue as is in Z DX.
  • Sony E — As with Fujifilm XF, this part of the chart looks like a motherlode. Three wide angle, 13 mid-range, and two telephoto options. But looks once again deceive. As with the full frame side of the mount, I have no issues at all with the Sony G lenses. Unfortunately, only three of them exist. In my testing, Sony's 16-50mm is not as good optically as Nikon's (or Fujifilm's 16-45mm for that matter). Three of the lenses are PZs (power zooms), which shows Sony's strong lean towards video. Only two of the Tamron's zooms really live up to what I want (11-20mm and 17-70mm). What I end up with is that there is only five or six E zooms that I really want to use on my A6### bodies. Fortunately, that's good enough for me, as I'm covered from 10-300mm with those lenses. 

While I've tried to be complete, up-to-date, and accurate in this article and charts, please inform me of any errors you might find so I can correct them, as necessary. This is a big task, and the sands shift on an almost daily basis.

*Buzz, buzz is my shorthand for acting like a fly in the management's face while they're just sitting on their butts doing nothing. Yes, I'm trying to annoy them. Maybe they'll get up and go to the R&D lab and ask for some lenses to act as fly repellant. 

Available Mirrorless Autofocus Prime Lenses

Updated: 9/2/22

After coming down hard on dpreview's attempt to show what's available in terms of autofocus lenses for the full frame mirrorless camera mounts last week, I decided I needed to put my keyboard where my mouth is and attempt to do the topic better justice. Today, I'll start with prime lenses (zooms are a little more difficult to categorize due to their variations). I'll also cover APS-C mirrorless mounts, which dpreview didn't tackle.

If you need to understand how the focal lengths differ, see Lens Angle of View.

Here's the full list of what I came up with for full frame prime lenses that are currently available (organized by mount, in declining aperture order, alphabetically). I've used color to distinguish wide angle (yellow), mid-range (green), and telephoto (blue) lenses. I know that my definitions are a little arbitrary, but doing this gives you a quick way of sussing what a mounts strengths and weaknesses are.

bythom ff prime 9222

As far as full frame primes are concerned, it should be clear that Sony's FE mount has the widest choice currently available, though that tends to logjam between 24 and 85mm, and is clearly due to better third-party support. 

However, it's easy enough to see some clear patterns within the four mounts:

  • Canon RF — Canon's mostly going it on their own at the moment, with only two third-party primes from Yongnuo giving any supplement (and that's not fully a given due to Canon's attempts to shut down third party choices). Significant lenses are missing: 20mm, 28mm, and 135mm, for instance. If there's a strength in Canon's early RF prime lineup, it comes in the long telephoto choice. Indeed, it's the widest range of options for the four mirrorless mounts at the moment, though Nikon is about to whittle that advantage down some more.
  • L-mount (Panasonic) — A surprising number of choices. More choices than Canon or Nikon, but this is mostly due to the fact this is a mount alliance with three primary suppliers (Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma). Panasonic's offerings are mild: four primes. It's mostly Sigma that's filling in the gaps, though Leica also fills in three of the focal lengths. While Panasonic is currently only providing 24mm to 85mm, the Leica/Sigma connection extends that to 14mm at the wide end and 135mm at the telephoto end. Significantly missing from the L-mount are lenses that would appeal to sports and wildlife photography (e.g. >200mm prime). 
  • Nikon Z — Gets some help from TTArtisans, Viltrox, and Yongnuo, though those really only provide additional choices where Nikon already has a lens. Nikon has nothing below 20mm, and Nikon's 86-399mm range has only a lonely macro lens at present. As with Canon, one of Nikon's stronger showings is in long telephoto, particularly with the 600mm f/4 about to hit coupled, with the built-in teleconverter of the 400mm f/2.8 already also covering the 500mm f/4 length.
  • Sony FE — With all that third-party support filling in the wide to modest telephoto range, it's really only the long telephoto range where Sony needs more choice. I would argue that telephoto primes are still Sony's weak point, and getting more so each day as Canon and Nikon announce new lenses. 

Were Samyang or Sigma to start making Canon RF and Nikon Z lenses, the prime landscape—other than the long telephoto options—would level out very, very quickly. Of course, Canon is threatening legal action against third party lens makers, so that's not going to happen in the RF mount (and note how that also impacts RF-S, below). Nikon, on the other hand, seems to be playing a quiet game with third party lens makers, allowing them but not promoting them. Nikon's closest third-party supplier would be Tamron, which has only three prime lenses in their current lineup that might come aboard eventually (20mm, 24mm, 35mm, all f/2.8). 

I'd guess that the current situation in primes for full frame is going to continue much as it is now: Canon and Nikon will be mostly going it alone, Sigma will continue to be the primary supplier in the L-mount, and Sony will be well supported up through 135mm, but starting to fall behind above that focal length.

Okay, let's try APS-C. How is the autofocus prime lens lineup shaping up for crop sensor mirrorless users?

bythom 2124

Very different! Sony users should be having a bit of concern, even with the recent wide angle options that have appeared. It's the third party support that's bolstering Sony APS-C, not Sony. Meanwhile, Fujifilm has stormed to the lead.

Once again we see some clear patterns:

  • Canon M — A scattering of support, both from Canon, Sigma, and Viltrox. But that only provides options from 24-85mm equivalent. Unfortunately, the M-mount cameras seem to be at a dead end, and we've seen no new Canon M-mount lenses for four years. I don't see the M-mount situation getting better in the future. 
  • Canon RF-S — Crickets. Buzz buzz*. Nada. I suspect we'll see the transfer of a few M lenses to RF designs, since that should be easy enough for Canon to do. But that's just three primes. The prohibition on third-party lenses in the RF mount that Canon is trying to enforce isn't going to help them. Basically, you're going to be buying M-mount conversions from Canon, and RF full frame primes to fill in for RF-S, is my guess.
  • Fujifilm XF — The mount with the mostest. I'd characterize the XF options as both broad and deep, as you have the largest range of choices in focal length, and with multiple brands at several key focal lengths. Both Fujifilm and third parties have really filled out the options in the XF mount, giving you 16-300mm equivalent choices. Nikon executives have only to look at this column in my table to understand how they ceded away all those DSLR DX users to Fujifilm mirrorless cameras over the years. Even in the now end-of-life DSLR DX line, the available choices would look far slimmer, and that was after 20 years of building them. Now you know why I was writing buzz, buzz, all those years. I saw it. Fujifilm saw it. Nikon? See what? 
  • Leica L — The TL cameras now seem to be on closeout—they're the cheapest way to buy a new Leica at the moment—and partner Panasonic isn't interested in APS-C, so L-mount APS-C options modest. Sigma added their trio, which helps and makes that column stand out even more from Canon and Nikon ;~). Still, L for APS-C seems to be done. The list you see here is probably the final list. 
  • Nikon Z DX — Fortunately Nikon hasn't tried to shut Viltrox down as Canon has, otherwise it would be crickets in the Nikon DX column, too. Nikon has announced a 24mm DX prime is coming, but when it will appear is impossible to say. The only good news is that a few recent FX primes also provide some options DX users will like, most notably at 28mm f/2.8, 40mm f/2, and 50mm f/2.8 macro. I'd guess that Nikon saw those lenses as targeting both Z5 (FX) and Z50 (DX) customers. Still, Nikon currently has infinity more cameras than lenses in APS-C (DX in Nikon-speak). Oh wait, you can't divide by zero, can you? (buzz, buzz).
  • Sony E — Of these mounts, E is the one with the longest history, but curiously, not with the most options. Sony appears to be taking competitive advice from Nikon DSLR DX, and starving their APS-C line while emphasizing full frame cameras and lenses. Sony also took a long rest in APS-C lenses after Samsung decided to stop competing with them head to head. Apparently the Sony executives went sleeping at that point, as the Fujifilm bullet train passed them on the tracks and disappeared into the distance. Recently, we've seen some renewed interest in delivering APS-C lenses from Sony, but mostly in the wide angle end to help support their vlogging camera. That said, from 16-85mm equivalent you have a decent range of choice in the NEX, uh, E mount. 

For those contemplating APS-C cameras and primes, let me say this: the Sigma, Viltrox, and Zeiss options are all quite good, and shouldn't be ignored. I'll eventually finish my full set of Viltrox reviews over at zsystemuser.com. At one point I had reviews of all of the Sigma lenses on this site, too, but I've removed them as they're now out of date to the cameras you'd be using them on. I reviewed them on 12mp to early 24mp cameras, and we're now in a much better 24-33mp world, so I need to redo those reviews to be current.

While I've tried to be complete, up-to-date, and accurate in this article and charts, please inform me of any errors you might find so I can correct them, as necessary. This is a big task, and the sands shift on an almost daily basis. Permanent link to this article is in lens section. 

*Buzz, buzz is my shorthand for acting like a fly in management's face while they're just sitting on their butts doing nothing. Yes, I'm trying to annoy them. Maybe they'll get up and go to the R&D lab and ask for some lenses to act as fly repellant. 


Looking for gear-specific information? Check out our other Web sites:
DSLRS: dslrbodies.com | general: bythom.com| Z System: zsystemuser.com | film SLR: filmbodies.com

sansmirror: all text and original images © 2022 Thom Hogan
portions Copyright 1999-2021 Thom Hogan-- All Rights Reserved

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