Back in the oldie times (90s) cars makers still had distinctive feature sets and designs. Let’s use family sedans. Each manufacturer had some manner of brand specific quirk that could be used as a basis for being loyal to that company.
- You want reliability, personality be damned? Toyota.
- You want near as much reliability with a sprinkle more panache? Honda.
- You want a bit more personality, better handling, and do not mind if the odd bit breaks off in your bare hand now and then? VW (me).
- Care about none of these things? American.
- Want something expensive, lacking some features, odd, or exciting with no promise of dealer support, or anything remotely resembling reliability at all? Peugot, SAAB, Renault, and even Alfa Romeo had you covered before they left our shores or existence.
Fast forward a few decades and I am hard pressed to tell one family sedan from another. As consumers became more savvy feature set and value took precedence over brand loyalty. Most are even shaped alike after air tunnel sessions pursuing ever better fuel economy. Noble pursuit, but does nothing for brand individuality. As every year passes they grow to be more and more alike. Not to say that one model is not better than another for a specific reason or another, but taken in total they will all get the job done. Sedans and minivans are no longer the rage, but the same can be said for other automotive sectors even now. Look at a row of large or small SUVs and Pickup Trucks. Absent their badge many would be hard pressed to tell them apart from a distance. Many share very similar specs and options. Many are simply the same vehicle with different designs and badges. If one company does get out ahead it usually is not long before all have that same comparable feature or something like it.
Why do I say all this?
With the last wave of released and announced models the same can be said for mirrorless cameras now. Any recent camera could do. Save Leica M cameras and the Sigma fp mirrorless cameras are mostly the same right now, give or take a feature or two. Some are essentially the same cameras with different badges, like Leica SL and Panasonic Lumix S series that share a mount and 225 Contrast Detect AF Point specs. Panasonic and Leica remind me of Toyota and Lexus. Different controls and a few added bells and whistles, if even that, with much of the same hardware underneath. Not a ding. Makes good business sense if nothing else. Panasonic and Leica save a buck on development costs (another example). Customer gets themselves a Leica badge or a markdown. Everyone is happy. What is the harm?
Sidebar: Now that I am reading this again Leica adherents would likely howl and Leica would not want another film Leica/Minolta CL situation on their hands but like the CL I would buy a Lumix branded digital rangefinder for a mark down in a NY minute. I am sure I am not alone. That is a brand share I would be down for. Will never happen though.
After some surprising first generation stumbles and oversights all of the latest released or announced mirrorless cameras have:
- 2 card slots.
- 20MP plus sensors.
- A mess (technical term) of focus points across the frame.
- Usable AF.
- Some manner of articulating screen.
- Passable battery life.
- Decent EVFs.
There are some system pet peeves or issues.
- Sony gets dinged for ergonomics, labyrinthine menus, and AF only touch screen functionality.
- Nikon has had its AF issues but it looks like that may have been sorted with the latest firmware and models.
- Canon has only added IBIS to its most recent and currently most expensive models.
- Panasonic and Leica only offer Contrast Detect AF, unlike the others, and it lacks any manner of DSLR AF lens backwards adaptability. According to some tests they also have less than stellar video AF.
- Fujifilm lacks a full frame option and the jury still seems to be out on video AF and stepped exposure transitions.
So the cameras are comparable. I could use any of these cameras. And the recently released and announced Canon and Nikon models are interesting. I am big on bang for buck so the Nikon Z5 sounds the most interesting right now but I like Canon’s RF lens line up better. Looks like they will match Sony’s main advantage, AF, which is a modern camera’s most important feature for me.
Spin the wheel and pick one, right? Well not so fast. Current cameras are only a part of the equation.
- Sony’s lead time in the full frame mirrorless market means there are more affordable cameras available.
- Except for the most recent Nikon APS-C model, the Z-50, only Sony gives you the ability to share lenses across multiple sensor sizes with the same mount like DSLRs. This allows things like using my 85mm f/1.4 on a crop body for an effective 127.5mm f/2.1-ish equivalent which has been great for low light events. Also expands the reach of my tele-zoom as well.
- Lenses. While we are on lenses Sony has a definite mirrorless lens selection leg up. Sure many allow you to adapt DSLR glass, but they are often large and heavy as they were not designed for mirrorless. So the lenses available are:
- comparably sparse in number
- expensive new with no used market to fall back on yet
- often still large and heavy even though they were designed for mirrorless
- mostly only native brand AF for now, where Sony has a healthy roster of very good third party glass to choose from
- Sony models yet to come. An A7SIII is
comingwas just released as well as the inevitable A7IV down the road. I would be very hesitant to trade away from Sony before I see what those models have to offer. If 2 (A7III) and 6 (A7II) year old cameras are still holding their own that bodes well for future models. Plus there are also other options like the MP monsters, A7III and A7IV.
Sidebar: Also rans. With their inability or unwillingness to release a larger sensor (Olympus) or a proper mirrorless camera (Pentax) I do not see how a camera brand remains relevant moving forward. I have owned many Olympus and Pentax cameras. Still have film cameras from both. I really like the Pentax K-1 and it has a great feature set, but it is now many years old and currently costs as much as a not as robust lower MP, but much better in near every other way A7III. Just like Pentax (K-3/K-70/K-1) I have owned plenty of Olympus digital cameras (E-PL5/E-P5/PEN-F) and my wife currently uses an older model and prizes its portability over all else. At least Olympus has released models recently. But I just saw a review of the latest Olympus E-M1, which I once aspired to own, and while capable I could not get past the full frame territory asking price. As much as I enjoyed using both it appears they are being left behind. While still capable for sure I would not call either competitive currently. Hoping the future has more in store for both.
So while there are some intriguing flagship lenses (Canon 85mm f/1.2 and the weighs like and costs like a used Buick, can’t see how I could possibly focus it consistently, makes no sense but I still want one Nikon Noct for example.) there are few solid performing small value options (I really liked the RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro lens, and just noticed a very interesting 85mm f/2 Macro that would be right up my alley, but two lenses are not enough to sell a system.) for me all things being equal camera wise Sony still pulls ahead when you take the whole system into consideration.
Should be happy, right? Nope. This is boring.
I got the toy gene from my Dad and the shopping gene from my Mom. But now no new product release brings anything new to the table. With every camera or lens release all I can think is that I have that covered already. I have literally almost purchased utterly redundant gear… sometimes that I already owned.
- The Z5 and older Z6 are intriguing but offer nothing that pulls me away from my A7III and A7II. The Z mount 50mm and 85mm are interesting, but I lean more to the Canon primes and zooms at this point.
- The EOS R6 and older RP are interesting but offer nothing that pulls me away from the A7III and A7II. Fares a bit better prime wise with the 35mm and upcoming 85mm Macro lenses mentioned above, but that is about it. Cannot fill out a full kit in my price range at this point.
- Really liked the full-frame Rokinon/Samyang 45mm f/1.8 but I sold it when I got the f/1.4 Sigma crop trio and the 30mm f/1.4 I like just as much, and hews closer to the size/weight prime scenario I am after, works out to a 45mm equivalent. So functionally pointless to have both.
- Got all happy when I saw the reasonably priced TTArtisans 11mm f/2.8 fisheye lens until I remembered that I already have the even less expensive 7Artisans 7.5mm f/2.8 fisheye for APS-C with a similar effective focal length.
- Was looking closely at the reasonably priced 7Artisans 60mm f/2.8 MF macro lens (noticing a pattern here), but I already purchased perfectly serviceable AF Macro tubes so why?
So at this point left unchecked I would just be buying stuff to be buying stuff. A fine diversion, but not interested in that right now.
There is an upshot to all of this.
With gear out of the way I can focus on what should be the whole point of it all. Photography. Admittedly a bit of a challenge nowadays with the world burning and all.
And while catching up on gear news is still an interesting distraction it seems appropriate not to focus on such frivolities as spending money unnecessarily at such a time as this.
All that being said I would totally understand why one would purchase any of the current cameras on the market including Leica M or even the Sigma fp (So what if I do not get the fp. More power to someone if is up their alley.). To each their own. I find the comment section gear rants exhausting and avoid them like the plague. You do you. Let others live in peace. If all you have to get bent out of shape about is someone else’s gear choices you really do not have any real problems… or are perhaps using this platform to distract you from some bigger problems?
If so rant away. You do you.