Nikon is developing a full-frame mirrorless camera system

The Nikon F kicked off the SLR revolution way back in 1959, and the lens mount of that iconic camera has persisted all the way to today's lineup of Nikon DSLRs. Nikon and rival Canon have both struggled to adapt to the burgeoning revolution in mirrorless cameras that's gained steam over the past few years, though, a shift led by Sony and its relentless refinement of its Alpha family of mirrorless bodies.

The Nikon F. Image: Dnalor 01 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Nikon is facing the music today with the news that it's developing a professional-grade mirrorless system of its own. Unlike the abortive Nikon 1 family of small-sensor interchangeable-lens cameras, the Nikon mirrorless system being announced today uses a full-frame 35-mm image sensor, known as “FX” in Nikon parlance.

In what may be the most painful thing to read about the new system, Nikon says this FX mirrorless camera will use a new lens mount, too. It'll therefore break the largely unbroken line of compatibility that the F-mount has boasted until now—and the hearts of many of the Nikon faithful.

Nikon says an F-mount adapter will be made available for the new camera system, but that adapter will almost certainly be a stepping stone for pros who already have a large investment in F-mount lenses. It's clear that in order to take the pictures of the future, Nikon will need to make a clean break with the past. This Nikon user is eager to see what that future holds.

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    • Kretschmer
    • 1 year ago

    This is a bit of a tangent, but what would be a good inexpensive ($<900 with zoom lens, preferably less) starter mirrorless or DSLR camera to pick up as a first interchangeable lens system? I’m currently taking pictures with an RX100M3 and it’s quite nice, but some of the low light and zoom shots are tough with the pocketable camera. I’ve been looking at a used A6300 or new X-T100 but am ignorant of lens selection.

    Priority is still shots and APS-C sensor, with a preference for EVF over OVF, articulating LCD, and touchscreen.

      • oldog
      • 1 year ago

      I have a A6000 sitting on my desk in front of me right now with the stock 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Alpha E-mount Retractable Zoom Lens. I quite like it, but it is strictly an enthusiast camera.

      I have resisted upgrading to the newer A6* series bodies due to their weight. I lug mine around the world and weight is everything. The Sony can take really good photos but I agree that with the advance of modern cell phone cameras the best reasons for a non-pro to carry a cam is for low-light picts, zoom shots and fixed lens portraits.

      As you know the stand alone camera game is all about lenses. Once you buy your first expensive Alpha lens you’re on the Sony train and it’s expensive to get off. If you’ve got old good Nikon lenses about you’re probably best off waiting for this cam as the new cam will almost certainly have an adapter available soon after launch.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 1 year ago

      Disclaimer: I shoot a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, so I am much more familiar with Canon gear than with Nikon and Sony.

      The Canon [url=https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/refurbished-eos-rebel-sl2-black-ef-s-18-55mm-f-4-5-6-kit<]EOS Rebel SL2[/url<] is the smallest DSLR in the world. Fitted with a compact pancake lens like the [url=https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/ef-40mm-f-28-stm-refurbished<]EF 40mm f/2.8 STM[/url<], it will fit into a jacket pocket. It's bigger than mirrorless cameras, but for a DSLR, it's pretty handy. The mirrorless [url=https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/eos-m5-ef-m-15-45mm-f-3-5-6-3-is-stm-lens-kit<]EOS M5[/url<] or [url=https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/eos-m50-ef-m-15-45-f35-63-and-55-200-f35-63-is-stm-bundle-black<]EOS M50[/url<] use EF-M lenses by default, but they can mount and fully-utilize all of the same EF and EF-S lenses as Canon's DSLRs can, if you install an inexpensive [url=https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/995005-REG/fotodiox_eos_auto_eos_m_p_canon_eos_m_camera_mount.html<]spacer ring[/url<]. Refurbished stuff directly from the [url=https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/refurbished-products-information<]Canon store[/url<] is always a safe bet. [url=https://www.cpricewatch.com/prices/<]Canon Price Watch[/url<] is [b<]the[/b<] place to shop for Canon gear, whether you're shopping for new or used equipment. Likewise, they have a [url=http://www.nikonpricewatch.com/prices/<]Nikon Price Watch[/url<] sister site for all things Nikon.

        • Kretschmer
        • 1 year ago

        Thanks for the tips! The Canon EOS M50 looks like a great camera for its price point – are there tradeoffs to using DSLR lenses with a spacer?

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 1 year ago

          The only trade-off of which I am aware is ergonomic. The mirrorless camera body is small and light compared to a telephoto lens. Instead of manipulating a camera body with a lens mounted on the front, it feels more like you’re aiming a lens that has a tiny camera hanging off of the back.

          An example of mounting the large and expensive (at $11½K) EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM super-telephoto lens to an EF-M camera can be found in this review:
          [url<]https://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-EOS-M-Adapter-Review.aspx[/url<] I thought I saw an EF-M camera mounted to one of the extremely rare ginormous EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM lenses a few years ago, but Google isn't finding an image for me today.

            • Kretschmer
            • 1 year ago

            It looks like the Rebel SL2 offers broadly equivalent functionality but is much cheaper for a base + kit lens + zoom lens package. I’ll have to dig into the low-light performance and start budgeting. 🙂

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 1 year ago

            Camera + lens kits (from Canon, Nikon or Sony) are a great value [b<]if[/b<] you want the lens(es) offered in the bundle. For Canon’s EF-S (APS-C), you want the [url=https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/ef-s-55-250mm-f4-5-6-is-stm-telephoto-zoom-lens-refurbished<]EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM[/url<] or its predecessor, not the terrible EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III telephoto zoom lens. EF-M has a native [url=https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/ef-m-55-200-f-45-63-is-stm-refurbished<]55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM[/url<] that is noticeably more compact. There are several good review sites. [url<]http://www.the-digital-picture.com[/url<] is fairly comprehensive for Canon gear.

            • Kretschmer
            • 1 year ago

            Thanks for the tips. I’ve been digging through DPReview.

            Still getting a handle on my RX100, but I’ll be interested in more zoom and low-light performance soon. 🙂

            • WhiteDesertSun
            • 1 year ago

            Can’t say I’m much of a fan of the Rebel line at all. The ergonomics are sub par and the viewfinders are awful. Love Canon’s high end gear but their low end stuff is not my slice of pie.
            The usual Sony 6xxx recommendations are always solid. Can’t go wrong with them but they can get expensive, especially when those X numbers approach 500. Otherwise, I’d look into Micro Four Thirds cameras. Both Olympus and Panasonic make great cams and Oly’s glass is 10/10. Best of all, they’re tiny as lent to them by their Micro 4/3 and mirrorless form factor.
            My favorite cheapassgear on a budget is Sony’s DSLR A mount and it boils down to one reason: Minolta. For the uninitiated, Minolta is the manufacturer that Sony bought to enter the DSLR market but while their camera brand is defunct, their A-mount lives on so….full compatibility yay! Basically what I’m getting at is that you can buy comically cheap yet quality Minolta lenses and put them on a modern yet affordable Sony A-mount camera and have yourself a jolly ole non-bank-breaking good time. You want a killer combo? Look for a used A77ii and a Minolta 35mm f2. I’ve personally shot with this combo (with the A77mk1) for 6 years now and it doesn’t disappoint on sharpness or contrast or any parameter of image quality for that matter.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 1 year ago

            Once you’ve acquired a surviving example of each of the few semi-decent Minolta A-mount SSM lens designs from two decades ago, what do you do then?
            [url<]https://www.keh.com/shop/lenses/sony-a-minolta-a--new--like-new--like-new-minus--excellent-plus--excellent.html?multi=true[/url<] Many of those old A-mount lenses don't perform as well as their modern replacements.

    • liquidsquid
    • 1 year ago

    It seems a long time coming.

    It is hard to argue with Sony, who has been slowly nibbling away at Nikon’s and Canon’s market share with their amazing mirror-less FF cameras. Watching Nikon has been like watching Kodak stubbornly hold on to film until it was too late.

    Lets hope they get it right, and target high-end market first rather than some barely above point and shoot features. They should provide a path with adapters on existing lenses. Initially, they should create a nice walk-around native lens like an 24-60mm F2.8 or something similar with great OOF/Bokah that only FF can demonstrate fully. They can steak back Sony users if the lens + body is a winner.

    Otherwise it is an uphill battle to get Sony users back.

      • faramir
      • 1 year ago

      Mmm, Sony user steaks …

    • derFunkenstein
    • 1 year ago

    Stupid naming conventions, I’m confused about something.

    Nikon already has FX lenses for full-frame cameras and DX lenses for the smaller-sensor cameras (like my cheap-ass D3300). The lenses can be used interchangeably. A DX camera captures just a center crop of the full visible area when paired with an FX lens, and an FX camera captures the full image from a DX lens with just the center pixels on the sensor. Nikon documented all of that (in more detail) here: [url<]https://www.nikonusa.com/en/learn-and-explore/a/products-and-innovation/the-dx-and-fx-formats.html[/url<] and Ken Rockwell talks about it a little bit here [url<]https://kenrockwell.com/nikon/fx.htm[/url<] But FX as I used it above is NOT the same as this new FX mount? Those older lenses are F-mount lenses, I suppose. Do I have that right? Presumably lenses won't be backward-compatible with older cameras, though the older lenses will be adaptable. I wonder if this new mount will be in all of Nikon's range or if it's just going to be on pro range. That lens interchangeability would have been kind of nice in the past for people who were in the midst of upgrading and it'd be a shame to see that get the axe.

      • BurntMyBacon
      • 1 year ago

      Certainly it is never comfortable to break compatibility and I would discourage it unless absolutely necessary. So the question is whether this was really necessary. On the one hand, they’ve managed with the same mount for over 50 years. It is hard to imagine what suddenly changed that broke a system that over 50 years of innovation and modification did not. Furthermore, if you can adapt the old lenses to work with the new mount, it stands to reason that the new camera could have been designed with that mount in the first place. On the other hand, it has been over 50 years and there may be properties associated with the old mount that are not beneficial to new technologies. Less than two mount changes a century seems pretty conservative. How does this compare to other manufacturers? Also, it is unclear to me whether this new system is supposed to replace the F mount or if it will exist concurrently like the DX mount (mirrorless only).

      • Phr3dly
      • 1 year ago

      On current Nikon cameras FX/DX refers to the sensor size. FX is full-frame, DX is crop-frame. F-mount lenses are used for both FX and DX lenses.

      The new mirrorless cameras will be full-frame (they may or may not be referred to as FX) and will use Z-mount (the rumored name) instead of F-mount. So if you get a new mirrorless full-frame Nikon you will need an adapter to use existing F-mount Nikon lenses on that camera.

      Nikon would have /loved/ to maintain native lens compatibility; my understanding is this is not practical because the depth to the sensor is too shallow. It’s very unlikely that new lenses will work with old cameras, but there are a wealth of lenses already available for F-mount.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 1 year ago

        Thanks for the explanation. I’ve owned my D3300 for around 3 years, but I’ve only recently started to become interested in getting the most out of it outside of automatic/scene modes. It’s kind of daunting to do it on my own but I’m having fun, at least.

        Big compatibility changes in any industry almost always means some form of attrition. Folks will figure “well if these lenses won’t work, or if I need to buy new lenses to get the most out of my new camera body anyway, let’s see what else is out there” and people generally feel no brand loyalty. That may be different in the high-end professional photographer crowd, but Nikon has to figure they’re going to lose SOMETHING due to this. All that’s to say I totally agree with your final paragraph.

          • faramir
          • 1 year ago

          Yup, we/they sure will. What this article neglects to mention or emphasize enough is that Nikon is killing their ONE system along with its own lens mount (“1-mount”) in order to jump on FF mirrorless hype train, leaving a number of suck^H^H^H^Hcustomers stranded with their assortment of lenses which becomes worthless once the cameras stop functioning as there will be no replacement camera model coming out.

          I for one will stick with the (long-lasting) F-mount. If I’m jumping ship for a completely different lens mount I will take camera features into account as well and Fuji really has some appealing products with better manual controls there … (yeah, I’m old fashioned and like knobs)

    • not@home
    • 1 year ago

    So, are they going to drop their mirrored line or are they going to have two concurrent lines, one mirrored and one mirrorless?

      • Kretschmer
      • 1 year ago

      They cater to different user preferences. Optical viewfinder vs electronic viewfinder, autofocus performance, and catalogs of modern and legacy lenses, for example. Someone who is deeper into the hobby could tell you more.

        • WhiteDesertSun
        • 1 year ago

        The autofocus performance point now leans in the mirrorless direction. Sony’s A9 was the proof of concept that DSLRs are now obsolete even in their traditional strong point of autofocus.

        That being said, Nikon will most likely do what Sony does. They will likely put the majority of their R&D money into their new mount while recycling tech into old F mount cameras much like how Sony took the guts of the A7rII and stuffed them into the A99II (and will likely do for the A99III). The problem for Nikon (and Canon) is that they have FAR more to lose in their DSLR line than Sony did as Sony’s DSLR mount was never too popular; making A99x bodies w/ no R&D cost is basically free money for Sony but for Nikon it is cannibalizing its own market share.

          • Kretschmer
          • 1 year ago

          Aren’t mid-range DSLRs still better than mid-range mirrorless cameras? The new Sony tech is insane and priced to match!

            • oldog
            • 1 year ago

            Yes and yes. But size matters (said the actress to the bishop).

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 1 year ago

    In a mirrorless design, you don’t need room for the mirror between the lens and the sensor. Therefore, you can place the sensor closer to the back of the lens. Making the camera this much thinner requires a lens designed to produce an image at the shorter flange focal distance.

    In Canon’s rival EF-M mirrorless system, the distance from the flange to the sensor is 18 mm. To use an EF-S or EF lens, you must mount a spacer ring to extend the flange focal distance to the 44 mm that was established with the EOS SLR design in 1986. The adapter also extends the electrical contacts between the camera and the lens.

      • jts888
      • 1 year ago

      Yeah, thinner mirrorless bodies require new lens mounts and/or adapters for lenses built for mirrored designs, but the tradeoff is that you can support apertures even wider than 1.0:1 with a broader and more cheaply constructible set of lenses. Mirrorless seems like the inevitable was things will have to go, since the challenges there (global electronic shutter, integrated AF & exposure metering, viewfinder lag and sharpness, etc.) revolve more around electronic design than SLR’s shortcomings (mirror lag and slap, no split pupil AF and no optical viewfinder when mirror locked up/capturing video, and deeper bodies/narrower aperture limits), which are largely physically unavoidable.

      • davidbowser
      • 1 year ago

      At the bottom of the page below, you can see the size of the Canon spacer. It’s not terrible, but it will likely only be standard for people with lots of existing glass.

      [url<]https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/explore/eos-m-series/ef-m-lenses[/url<]

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