The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for photographers. Nikon announced their first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Z6 and Z7, and the new Z-mount. Two weeks after, Canon announced theirs, the EOS R with the RF-mount.
True to the form of today’s hot take news cycle, people were up in arms over the new cameras. Even people who’ve never seen or held one have been vocal about their disdain.
There are things to gripe about them, of course. That’s par for the course for any complex product that a large audience uses in different ways. You can’t satisfy everyone.
But what these quick takes are missing is that these cameras are simply the first shots in a long war.
First-generation products are hard. Panasonic, Olympus, Fujifilm, Sony, Canon, and Nikon’s first generation mirrorless products had problems. But the building blocks were there for their systems’ futures (except for the Nikon 1, sorry). It took these companies many iterations to get their products where they are today. You’re not going to knock out an A7 Mark III or X-T3 on your first try.
First-generation products are also hardly ever mass-market hits. More likely than not, they’re bought by adventurous early adopters who have the cash to spare. The conservative majority usually jump onto the bandwagon later, when the system has stabilized. So don’t be surprised if the Nikon Z7, for example, doesn’t make the same dent in the market that a Nikon D850 does.
No matter what Canon and Nikon made, they were always going to play catch-up. From everything I’ve read about the new cameras, they’re reasonable first contenders. Put them into the hands of a competent photographer and they’re more likely than not to produce good images.
Today’s mirrorless cameras can supplement but not replace the DSLR. But at their rate of improvement, it’s likely that mirrorless cameras will one day either match a DSLR’s capabilities or deliver unique propositions that outshine DSLRs.
When that crossover point happens — and it’s likely to happen within the next ten years — the majority of DSLR users will shift to mirrorless. Canon and Nikon need to prepare for that crossover point, and their new cameras are simply the first rounds in the battle for this market. Mirrorless cameras may be 10 years old, but 2018 marks a new beginning in this war.
Canon and Nikon are here to play the long game. They just have to keep improving their system until the crossover point arrives. We have to review their products as they are, but it’s still early to make a call on the new Z and RF-mounts. We have to be willing to look at them with a wider lens, otherwise we risk missing the battleground for the bullets. That’s something you won’t hear from a hot take.
I like coffee and cameras, but not together.