mirrorless

Nikon embraces a mirrorless future with Z series cameras and lenses

Posted by | cameras, Gadgets, hardware, mirrorless, Nikon, Photography, TC | No Comments

The largest trend in photography over the last five years or so, not counting smartphones, has been the emergence and maturity of mirrorless camera systems. These operate in a very different manner from traditional SLRs, and as such market leaders with decades embedded in the latter — namely Canon and Nikon — have resisted making the shift. That changes for Nikon today with its announcement of the Z6 and Z7, which show the company is making the change wholeheartedly.

The Z series comprises both these two cameras and a new lens mount, which in many ways is the more important news for photographers. The F mount has been around for decades and boasts some of the world’s best glass. But ultimately a more or less clean break was needed, and the Z mount manages to provide that, as well as solid back-compatibility for those who can’t bear to part with their old standby kit.

The cameras themselves, which have been rumored for ages and were known to be imminent, are both full-frame, meaning their sensor is as big as a 35mm still-film frame. Full-frame cameras are generally intended for professionals or deep-pocketed hobbyists: bodies generally cost well over $1,000 but offer improved image quality for a variety of reasons.

So it’s somewhat ambitious of Nikon to aim at this elevated market, where competition is tough, standards are high and prices are higher. Old favorites like the Canon 5D vie with new challengers like Sony’s a9, and it seems as if slowly but surely the latter are coming out on top, due in no small part to the advantages conferred on them by their mirrorless nature.

The Z7 starts at $3,400, which puts it squarely in professional territory. The Z6, at $2,000, sacrifices resolution but offers some other advantages — aside from holding onto that $1,400. If it were me I’d go for the latter, no question.

Big and small changes

The Z7 is the new flagship, and it closely replicates the ability of the popular Nikon D850, while adding a variety of improvements. Most obvious is body size; the camera is much, much smaller and lighter than its SLR predecessor, but is still far from petite. It also improves on a few stats like burst speed and autofocus in ways that will be appreciated by pros, and a new 10-bit N-LOG video output mode should provide more flexibility in post.

Its sibling, the Z6, has a lower megapixel count (24 versus 45) but further improves burst speed and may in fact prove superior in terms of video performance.

Both make the switch to an electronic viewfinder, or EVF, and apparently Nikon was very particular about this component. The resolution of the OLED eyepiece is 1280×960, which sounds low compared with phone and VR displays, but should be fine — and really, motion and color are more important. The rear LCD is also OLED, as is a little up-facing status display on the top plate.

Both also have in-body stabilization, which means lenses can be lighter and cheaper. The stabilization will work with older lenses too (more on this in a moment) and in cases where a long lens has its own stabilization system, the camera will defer to that at least on some axes.

I haven’t had a chance to play with these in person but I expect to soon; in the meantime, as always, DPReview has a solid set of first impressions.

Z-mount into the future

For many, the biggest change will be the switch to the new Z-mount system. There will be a series of Z lenses, and bonny lenses they will be, with the new dimensions allowing improved optics across the board. Everyone is hot about a F/0.95 Noct lens Nikon has been teasing for 2019. But with a hundred million F-mount lenses out there, backwards compatibility is a must.

For them there is the FTZ adapter, which fits between the Z and the old lens, bridging the old technology and the new. If the lens is relatively new and supports automatic aperture and focus, those will be available. And, in fact, these lenses will benefit from the new autofocus system and may perform better than they did originally, if not identically — slight changes will no doubt emerge from the addition of the new optics.

Older lenses, such as classics with manual focus and aperture, will still fit the adapter but can’t be magically endowed with automatic features.

The adapter is not inconsiderable in size — more like a pancake lens than a filter. So your favorite lightweight walk-around setup may be impacted negatively. But overall it seems like it should do nicely for most.

Nikon has made its play, and the Z series looks like a natural jump for thousands of photographers who have stuck with the brand for years out of loyalty and investment. It doesn’t take much away, it adds quite a bit and in a few years it will probably be a no-brainer rather than a “well, maybe.”

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Canon and Nikon are reportedly both planning full-frame mirrorless cameras this year

Posted by | Canon, Gadgets, hardware, mirrorless, Nikon, Photography | No Comments

It’s going to be an exciting year for photographers — finally — as both Canon and Nikon are reportedly planning full-frame mirrorless cameras for debut before the end of 2018. It’s good news for consumers, because it means that both companies have been investing heavily in the next phase of digital photography, and that competition in the mirrorless world is about to heat up.

Photography is a difficult space right now because smartphones have been eating up the low-end and increasingly the mid-range market. Point-and-shoots are effectively extinct, and DSLRs are reserved for serious shooters — though those occupying the middle ground, such as Fujifilm with its lively X series and Olympus with its PENs and OM-Ds, have been prospering modestly.

Mirrorless cameras, which basically do away with the bulky mechanical bits of a single-lens reflex camera but have virtually no drawbacks from their absence, allow for a more compact camera that still seriously outperforms phones.

They seem quite clearly to be a big part of the future of photography, which is why every company has been investing heavily into the technology. Early results weren’t great, and it was clear that Canon and Nikon in particular have had their priorities divided: DSLR sales have been dropping, but flagship full-frame (that is, with sensors the size of 35mm film) DSLRs still represented the best of the camera world, embraced especially by professionals.

But inroads have been made, especially by Sony and Fujifilm, into even that professional space. The Alpha and X-Pro series have shown that mirrorless cameras can perform at least as well as DSLRs, and boy are they easier to carry around.

So, faced with either innovating and cannibalizing their own sales, or allowing competitors to eat their lunch, Canon and Nikon have chosen to do the former… after a couple of years of the latter, anyway. We’ve seen the early results from Canon in the form of the mid-range M50, but it seems Nikon has kept theirs under wraps.

Canon Rumors and Nikon Rumors report that the companies both plan to sell full-frame mirrorless cameras by the end of the year — in Nikon’s case maybe even by the end of the month.

Going full-frame means several things:

  • They believe their mirrorless systems are good enough to compete with SLRs at a professional level
  • They believe professionals are ready to make the transition to mirrorless
  • They are ready to do so themselves, cannibalizing and eventually winding down SLR sales

That last point is likely the scariest for them. These are companies that have been making SLR cameras for the better part of a century — it’s not just part of their core competency but key to their identity as camera makers. This is essentially a point of no return for them. Sure, SLRs will stick around for a while longer, but sooner or later the burden of improving and manufacturing them as sales decline and mirrorless systems take over will prove too much.

What about the cameras themselves? There are supposedly two from each company. Nikon’s have lots of rumored details, the most important of which are that there will be one high and one low megapixel model, in-body stabilization (allows for smaller lenses), a new lens mount and naturally an electronic viewfinder. Less is known (or rumored anyhow) about the Canons, but they will likely share many of these characteristics.

Don’t expect a lower cost to accompany this shift. These cameras will likely cost in the $2,500-$4,000 range, just like the SLRs they’re replacing.

This is also a chance to really go to town on the features and shooting experience; both companies need to make a big impression, not just with the customers they’ve lost to rival systems but to their own loyal shooters. So there may be other major changes, such as to the interface, layout and so on. Expect lots of digital integration like wireless tethering as well — better than the junk they’ve been foisting on us for the last few years.

Will this reverse the tide of smartphones taking over the photography world? No, but it’s heartening to see these rather inertia-bound companies finally embrace the future. I love SLRs, and I plan to shoot on them forever in one way or another, but as an occasional serious photographer I’ll be glad to give these new systems a try.

I’ve asked both companies about the rumors, but I doubt they’ll comment. On the other hand, if the rumors are true, we won’t have long to wait before they turn into facts.

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The Leica TL2 brings mirrorless cameras to point-and-shoot size, but for a price

Posted by | cameras, Gadgets, leica, leica tl2, mirrorless, mirrorless cameras | No Comments

 Leica always has a new artisan camera up its sleeves and today’s announcement is no different. The T series cameras have always been the size of an everyday point-and-shoot, but the TL2 introduces a new 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, making it worth shooting with the interchangeable lenses that range from 17mm to 200mm in focal length. It’s pretty impressive, no matter how you spin it… Read More

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