Nikon and Canon Go Mirrorless.  What Does it Mean?

The last DSLR I owned was the Sony A-850 back in 2011.  At the time, it was at the cutting edge of sensor technology.  It had a 24-megapixel sensor that could be cranked to ISO 6400 (to truly awful result) with a huge bright optical viewfinder and some really cool Minolta and Sony lenses like the Sony 135mm f\1.8 and the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and on and on.  That was the last full-frame DSLR Sony ever rolled out.

Shortly after that, Sony began the great mirrorless debacle.  There were A-mount translucent mirror cameras, e-mount mirrorless cameras that could use A-mount lenses and other lenses with various adapters.  The early e-mount cameras were touted for their tiny size but what went along with this new line of mirrorless cameras was a lack of usable auto-focus, long black out periods while shooting and almost no native lenses.  For the Sony and Minolta faithful these were the wilderness years.  Like the Israelites marching endlessly through the desert, we Sony shooters trudged despairingly from one mirrorless camera mirage to the next always hoping to reached the promised land of a competent full frame mirrorless camera.  And then finally in 2017 there was the A9!  Can I get a hallelujah?  And we were there.  Of course, after renting the A9 and proving that it was real (to torture the religious metaphor further) like Doubting Thomas, I then waited until the A7 III was available to save a thousand bucks.  But finally, life was good.  I started to round out my lens collection and anticipate being able to get more specialized lenses in e-mount, things like 200 – 600mm zooms and long macro lenses.

But just to prove that the Sony mirrorless line had arrived, the DSLR heavy hitters Nikon and Canon rolled out full-frame mirrorless cameras with their own new mounts.  And this proves the point because this was the only way for Nikon and Canon to prevent their users from jumping ship.  It is now possible to get all the advantages that mirrorless provides like an electronic viewfinder that works in any light level from pitch black to direct sun without sacrificing the advantages that DSLRs provided, like excellent autofocus and professional lenses.  You might think this competition from Nikon and Canon would bother me.  A Sony fanboy would fear the competition from its rivals would harm his brand.  But in actuality, it will force Sony to step up their game.  For instance, I foresee Sony improving the weather-sealing on their A9 level cameras to compete head to head with the mirrorless cameras that their competitors make.  But by the same token Nikon and Canon are going to have to provide sensors at Sony’s level even in more modest cameras.

And finally, this new situation takes away the biggest detraction that Nikon and Canon used in the past, that the only real cameras were DSLRs.  Without a doubt they were the ones who blinked first in this staring contest.  Sony no longer has to prove mirrorless is better.  Canon and Nikon just did.  So, here’s my prediction.  In ten years, there won’t be a single new full frame DSLR camera to be bought.  I would have said five years but as in everything else I am conservative.

2 thoughts on “Nikon and Canon Go Mirrorless.  What Does it Mean?

  • September 27, 2018 at 8:00 pm
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    I had an 850 too and would defy you to look at images taken in ideal circumstances with my old 850 and my new A7RII and A7III and say one is better than the others but consider that “ideal circumstances” represents a fraction of your photographic opportunities. The new cameras are lightyears more advanced in focus ability and it is focus that makes a shot. Add to that the ability to make perfect shots in low light situations with no flash and professional level video ability.

    If you remember the time in the late 1970’s & 1980’s when the Japanese auto industry dragged the US auto industry kicking and screaming into the realm of solid engineering, reliability and economy, what Sony (+ Panasonic & Fuji) have done to the dominant, and calcified, camera companies is reminiscent.

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    • September 27, 2018 at 8:36 pm
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      I loved the A-850 and I love the A7III but at some deep psychological level I want revenge on the Sony Corporation for years of mental torture. Sure they were right eventually but it was cruel and unusual punishment to put us through the translucent mirror and NEX experiments without full disclosure of what it would take to reach the other side.

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