Maintaining a legacy or building for mirrorless, who benefits?
|If Canon makes a full-frame mirrorless camera, should they forego some of the potential size benefits to maintain full EF-mount compatibility? And just how compatible would it be?|
More than ever, rumors are circulating that Canon and Nikon are finally going to take mirrorless seriously by building full-frame mirrorless cameras. These rumors, which may well turn out to be nonsense, all seem to suggest that these cameras will be built around the companies’ respective DSLR mounts.
It’s an interesting quandary: develop a new, space-efficient mount or stick with your existing system?
I’m going to argue that the right answer is much clearer for a manufacturer than for the end consumer. And I think I can guess which option we’re likely to see.
Supporting your legacy
The benefits of supporting your legacy mount seem obvious: the manufacturer gets to keep selling their existing lenses and the consumer ends up with a huge range of lenses to choose from. Surely there’s no conflict there?
The advantage of all (or most) of an existing system’s lenses being compatible from day one seem overwhelming. Plenty of choice, the ability to sell mirrorless cameras to existing lens owners and no reputational damage. Everybody wins, right?
The problem with building a mirrorless camera with a full-depth mount goes deeper (pun intended) than all of your mirrorless models being bigger than necessary. That said, even people who prefer larger cameras are usually referring to grip depth and spacing of controls, rather than demanding their camera has a big box of fresh air in the middle of it, for no functional reason.
A question of focus
No, the bigger issue is that most DSLR lenses aren’t designed for mirrorless. I’m not just talking about some designs being larger than necessary, I’m talking about the use of focus motors that are great for DSLR phase detection but that are woefully clunky when driven using contrast detection AF. Secondary sensor AF, as used and painstakingly optimized for DSLRs is very effective at telling the lens where it needs to move its focus elements to. The ring-type ultrasonic motors used in most high-end DSLR lenses are great at responding to such a command.
Contrast detection asks very different things of its lenses. Instead of racing to a particular point, they need to smoothly scan through their focus range then perform a series of back-and-forth movements to find perfect focus. The result tends to be more accurate but requires a lightweight focus element and a very differently type of focus motor.
|The K-01 used a full depth Pentax K mount which gave instant access to lots of lenses. Unfortunately, none of them had really been designed with contrast detection in mind...|
The alternative approach: on-sensor phase detection, is in its relative infancy. It may be able to make better use of existing lenses with ring-type motors, but it’s still not clear how well it can interpret significantly defocused scenes.
Also, at present, most on-sensor phase detection information is fed into what are more precisely described as 'Hybrid' AF systems: they get very close to focus using phase detection then perform a CDAF hunt to confirm the optimal position. Perhaps this will change, hopefully without the loss of the precision that mirrorless AF tends to excel at, leaving us just with the size disadvantage.
|It's notable that, when it's trying to build fast-focusing lenses for its mirrorless E-mount, Sony doesn't tend to use ring-type focus motors. In the case of the 16-35mm F2.8 GM, it uses twin piezoelectric actuators.|
Alternatively, of course, there's a risk of building a system that prioritizes backward compatibility over maximizing performance. It's noticeable, for instance, that Sony makes very little use of ring-type focus motors in the lenses its developing for the E-mount, despite having experience of using them for its DSLR A-mount.
‘It fits’ isn’t the same as ‘it’s good’
Either way, there's a risk that we'll be offered something that fits but doesn't necessarily work as well as it could.
As an enthusiast photographer with limited lens-buying resources, one of the things that has always irritated me is seeing camera companies produce high-end lenses for their full-frame customers and carefully marketing the idea that this benefits all their users, so they need not develop anything good for their APS-C users. It’s a situation that leaves APS-C users with poor choices and the arguably false impression that by buying these poorly-suited lenses, they’re making progress along an upgrade path (a fallacy that benefits the camera makers more than the photographers).
The decision to adopt a new mount or continue with a legacy one risks the same thing: the appearance of lots of choice when what you’re actually being offered is compromise, and a situation with limited incentive for the manufacturers to dedicate their efforts towards the needs of their mirrorless users. Instead they can produce a lovely picture of their mirrorless camera flanked with 30 years’ worth of lens development and watch as brand loyalists insist that ‘their’ system has the most lenses, regardless of performance.
And this wouldn’t necessarily only apply to existing lenses. Let’s say Manufacturer X needs to develop a new fast 70-200mm F2.8 and the focusing design that would work best for mirrorless turns out to be slower than the one that suits the company’s flagship sports DSLR, which version of the lens do you think we’d see?
There is something of a precedent for this. Canon got its reputation badly burned by abandoning its FD mount – something it took some photographers a long time to forgive –whereas Nikon and Pentax pressed on with progressively trying to modernize their 1950s and 70s film mounts.
Taking the hard decision arguably left Canon in the better position: the long-term benefit was a wide-throated, all-electronic mount. With the introduction of its latest ‘E’ lenses, Nikon’s venerable F-mount has finally caught up: with autofocus and aperture operated by the lens, but with a complex series of compatibility issues cropping up along the way. And, while they are still using a somewhat restrictively narrow mount at the end of it, they've benefited from not having to burn their users on the way (though they arguably handed-off responsibility for understanding the complexities of the F-mount’s development to every user looking to buy lenses).
So what’s the alternative?
|Olympus expressly made the E-M1 to provide continued support for its legacy system but also developed the 'PRO' range of high-end lenses to make full use of the capabilities of Micro Four Thirds cameras.|
The other way of doing things is to develop a dedicated mount and dedicatedly support it. This is the approach that Olympus took with the development of Micro Four Thirds and, to an extent, which Canon has with its EF-M mount. Olympus, along with Panasonic, took the brave step of designing a mirrorless-optimized mount when they developed Micro Four Thirds, rather than trying to press on with Four Thirds. They then offered an adapter to use the older lenses and, with the E-M1 and E-M1 II, developed cameras expressly with the intention of maintaining support for the older, outgoing system. This meant existing customers didn’t get too badly burned and new Micro Four Thirds customers got an increasingly impressive range of native lenses designed for them.
It’ll be interesting to see if Sony takes any pointers from this, as they decide how to support both E and A mounts.
I hope to be proven wrong
Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong in the end. Maybe Canon’s EF-M/EF cross-compatibility will end up reducing the incentives to develop interesting lenses for M series owners, in the same way that I worry sharing a mount would. Equally, perhaps Canon’s Dual Pixel AF (and Nikon’s on-sensor PDAF experience gleaned from its 1-Series cameras) will mean that there ends up being no AF compromise to sharing a mount. It may partly be overcoming this challenge that has led to its camera taking so long to arrive. At which point, using the existing mount would just mean carrying around a camera that’s a little lumpier than it needs to be.
Time, I’m sure, will tell. But, in the meantime, don’t necessarily take at face-value any promises that backwards compatibility is an unalloyed user benefit.
|Blue and yellow in water by fireplace33|
from Ink and water
|Kylmä joki kopio by Kaappo|
from Shutter speed 1/25 or slower
|WR_2.8_13 copy copy by photoprof|
Ridiculous test incoming. What happens when you slap a $50 Yongnuo 50mm F1.8 lens onto a $12,000+ 5K RED cinema camera? One YouTuber decided to give it a shot and find out.
Drone giant DJI has released a teaser video titled 'adventure unfolds,' implying that a new folding drone is coming on January 23rd at 10am Eastern time.
Some good inspiration for current and aspiring wedding photographers out there. If you shoot images like these, you're bound to stand out from the crowd and give your clients that "wow" factor.
In his video Structure, photographer Drew Geraci shows how everyday objects become fascinating landscapes when captured in moving 4K shots at up to 1000x magnification.
The 2018 Japan BCN camera rankings are in, and the most surprising bit of news is that Canon is still outpacing Sony in the mirrorless segment, taking the #2 spot in that segment while still dominating in DSLRs.
Nikon's updated D850 firmware brings a number of smaller bug fixes, including fixing a green cast issue that was happening when users had long exposure noise reduction turned on.
Fujifilm's first 1:1 macro lens for the X-system gives a 122mm equivalent view of the world. We gave it a go shooting close-up subjects as well as some portraits – take a look at how it performs when paired with the X-T2.
According to a Reuters report, US Congress is urging US companies to sever ties with Chinese manufacturers of communication equipment.
A firm launch date is still forthcoming, but in the meantime a sample reel from Kodak's new Super 8 camera has been released.
HTC's newest handset, the HTC U11 Eyes, improves on the standard U11 by slapping a dual camera on the front for 'portrait mode' selfies with real-time bokeh simulation.
Missile scare notwithstanding, we spent a lovely few days in Hawaii shooting with Sony's newest APS-C E-mount lens. See how it measures up capturing the spectacular scenery that the Aloha State is known for.
Now that we've completed our review of Panasonic's Lumix DC-G9, we've updated its entry in our Best Cameras Under $2000 and Best Cameras for Sports & Action buying guides.
Hasselblad has introduced its next-generation multi-shot camera body, built to shoot 400-megapixel photos by using sensor-shift technology to combine up to six exposures into a single monster image measuring 23200 x 17400 pixels.
CVS is banning digitally altered beauty imagery on its store-brand beauty products, and plans to mark other brands' images as "Digitally Altered" if they're not up to snuff by the end of 2020.
Canon has announced that it will introduce a series of printers that allow users to refill the ink tanks themselves—a surprising shift that could, in theory, save customers quite a bit of money.
Adventure and lifestyle photographer Lucy Martin put together a useful little video that goes over her 18 favorite Lightroom shortcuts—a great guide for beginners.
Following a series of allegations of sexual misconduct against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, magazine publisher Conde Nast has severed ties with both of the famed fashion photographers, and released a code of conduct for future photo shoots.
Photographer Christopher Payne captures the 'colorful world of craft and complexity' you'll find in the General Pencil Company's factory in Jersey City... and almost nowhere else.
A new feature in the Google Arts & Culture app compares your facial features to its database of thousands of artworks, finding your fine art "doppelganger."
Recently, we spent a day in Los Angeles with photographer, cook and food blogger Kylie Mazon. Join us and see how Kylie approaches the challenge of shooting lifestyle and promotional images for a downtown hotel with the Canon EOS M6.
Leica has announced a pair of short telephoto lenses for its SL full-frame mirrorless camera. The APO-Summicron-SL 75mm and 90mm F2 ASPH lenses feature an apochromatic design to reduce chromatic aberration, one aspherical element and minimum focusing distances of around 0.5m.
The Panasonic G9 is the brand's top-tier stills camera. We've updated our already large sample gallery with even more photos to enjoy.
The latest product of Huawei's collaboration with Leica is a smartphone with a great all-around imaging feature set that left us very little to complain about.
In this quick video, award-winning travel photographer Bob Holmes shares nine of his most basic and straightforward tips for finding great images, even when you're in a rut.
Gudsen has launched a new gimbal that’s aimed at mirrorless photographers. With a payload of 3.9lbs/1.8kg, the new Moza AirCross can provide stabilization to a mirrorless body even fitted with a cinema lens and a new in-handle option can provide power to Sony and Panasonic cameras.
The Lensbaby 46mm Macro Kit comprises of three stackable filters with different magnification levels, which can be combined with several of the company's "bokeh effect" lenses.
Nikon Rumors is reporting that an upcoming full-frame mirrorless camera from Nikon will sport an all-new "Z-Mount" with an extremely short flange distance of just 16mm.
A lot of people still have positive associations with the Kodak brand and its iconic logos, but it’s worth clearing something up: not everything with the Kodak name on it has much connection to a bunch of clever people in Rochester, New York.
A leaked image of a Galaxy S9 retail box indicates the new model might come with a variable aperture lens and a super-slow-motion video mode.
The portable little scanner features a 3.5-inch color screen, an integrated SD card slot for saving your scans, adapter trays for different types of film, and an HDMI port for viewing your scans directly on an external display.