Opinion: Nikon Treats Mirrorless Like a Red-Headed Stepchild

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Things haven’t been going well for Nikon in the age of Mirrorless cameras, but there is still time for them to make an impact.

Let’s open this article up with a truth bomb: Nikon dropped the ball in a big way in regard to their first Mirrorless cameras. Out of the big three (Canon, Nikon, and Sony), Nikon is sitting in third place, and they have a lot of ground to make up before they begin to see second-placed Canon in their sights. While their z6 and z7 cameras have been improved via updates since their launch states, the lack of news surrounding new cameras and pro-grade lenses has rocked their faithful to the core. So, let’s talk about what Nikon needs to do in 2020 and beyond to get their fans to stop looking longingly at offerings from other manufacturers.

“Nikon, now more than ever, it is time to show us that you still have some fight left in you.”

You can’t help but wonder what has happened to Nikon. The ’80s, 90’s, and the naughties were very kind to them. Even during the early part of the 2010s they were still holding their own, until Sony came and upset the apple cart. Nikon has made some of the most beloved cameras and lenses of all time, but it is easy to say the Nikon train has derailed. Their first Mirrorless cameras went down a track that led them far away from Canon and Sony, and honestly, it seems like the company is still trying to hold onto their golden DSLR years. While things have improved with their Mirrorless cameras thanks to firmware updates, we need to see so much more from Nikon. Here’s what I think Nikon needs to focus on with future Mirrorless cameras and Z mount lenses.

“Nikon went ahead and released the D780 because they know photographers trust the D7XX series to get the job done, whereas confidence in their Mirrorless cameras is low.”

Nikon Needs a Real Mirrorless Version of the D750

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One thing is for sure; the Nikon z6 is not a direct replacement for the D750. The z6 is not a bad camera: it’s actually quite decent, and the inclusion of IBIS meant that Nikon beat their fiercest rival, Canon, to the punch in this area. But to say the z6 is a Mirrorless D750 is not fair to the D750. The Nikon z6 was plagued with issues at launch; quite honestly, the autofocus was terrible, and the one XQD card slot left a lot to be desired. Many were looking forward to replacing the D750 with this camera, but that didn’t happen.

The Nikon D750 was a workhorse with excellent build qualities, two memory card slots, fantastic ergonomics, the AF system was spectacular for its time, the image output was incredible, and it just worked! It was and still is, a camera of choice for many professional photographers. Many photographers would still rather use Nikon’s old DSLR tech than their new Mirrorless cameras, and that’s really telling. Nikon went ahead and released the D780 because they know photographers trust the D7XX series to get the job done, whereas confidence in their Mirrorless cameras is low. The z6 is no D750.

“The Nikon z6 was plagued with issues at launch; quite honestly, the autofocus was terrible, and the one XQD card slot left a lot to be desired.”

We Also Need a True Mirrorless Version of the D500 Too

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The Nikon D500 will go down as the best APS-C DSLR ever made, and rightly so. Nothing could touch the D500 when it came to its tank-like build, incredible high ISO performance, the ten frames per second it could rattle off, and the gorgeous images it produced. The z50 (which many touted as a Mirrorless D500) will forever be in the shadow of this camera. 

I’m not entirely sure who the z50 is marketed toward. It’s not cheap enough to be geared toward first-time camera buyers, and it lacks too many features to be aimed at pro-sumers; it’s just a weird outlier. It’s almost like Nikon wanted to have an APS-C camera on the market just because. But make no mistake about it, no photographer in their right mind would switch from the D500 to the z50. The z50 sports a similar sensor, similar burst rates, and 4K video, but that is where the similarities end. A D500 replacement it is not.

“The z50 (who many touted as a Mirrorless D500) will forever be in the shadow of this camera.”

So, What Do We Want to See in Your Mirrorless Cameras?

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Nikon, to get back on the right track, it is time to give us bonafide Mirrorless versions of the D750 and the D500. Give us a robust, reliable, feature-packed, two card slot toting, IBIS enabled z750, with an autofocus system that will make us forget about the headache of a system in the z6. Price it like the old D750 so that it can compete with the Sony a7 III and likely the a7 IV. Photographers will flock to it. The D750 is legendary, and you need a proper replacement for it. Continue its legacy by not holding back. Release the best pro camera body for the masses we have seen to date.

We also need a Mirrorless D500 that is built like a tank. I’m all for Mirrorless cameras being smaller, but I would not hesitate to buy a proper, chonky boy Mirrorless z500! A lot of Mirrorless cameras feel quite fragile, even the ones that are supposed to be designed for professional use in the field (looking at you Sony a9 II). Make a Mirrorless camera that will stand up to the test. Keep the D500’s legacy alive by making the Mirrorless version a high ISO APS-C monster that snaps away at twenty frames per second, and give it the best weather sealing of any Mirrorless camera to date. Sports and wildlife photographers will eat it up! These two cameras cemented your place in the DSLR world just five years ago; bring those glory days back.

“Come on Nikon, lay it all on the line. Show us what you have planned. Show us so that we can see you have confidence in the platform, and then we will follow suit.”

Let’s Get Serious About Z Mount Lenses

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The current Z mount lenses are good; there’s no doubting that at all, and we have enjoyed using the ones we have reviewed. The lenses have good optics. There are some relatively fast f1.8 options like the NIKKOR Z 50mm f1.8 S, the 24mm f1.8 S, the 35mm f1.8 S, and the 85mm f1.8 S. There are also workhorse lenses like the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S

Most of Nikon’s current lenses are quite affordable, with many of the f1.8 primes being under $1,000, but has Nikon’s focus on more affordable lenses made the heavy-hitting pros stay away from the Z platform? This is quite possible, and it is something Nikon needs to look at fixing sooner rather than later. 

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Canon has done the opposite with its lens strategy. Instead of focusing on cheaper glass, they have concentrated on professional-grade L mount lenses that have garnered a lot of attention. Their RF mount lenses are so good that many photographers are switching platforms even though the EOS R is not the best camera on the market. Right now, there are no lenses on the Z system that make people want to switch to the platform. Sure, you can adapt older F mount glass, but why buy into a new system just to adapt older lenses?

There is a NIKKOR 50mm f1.2 lens listed on the Nikon lens road map which runs through 2021, but other than that, there are just more f1.8 primes, a 200-600mm, and a few other zooms, but nothing to make you say WOW, I need a Z mount camera for that lens! At $8,000, the 58mm f0.95 Noct doesn’t count either. Come on Nikon, lay it all on the line. Show us what you have planned. Show us so that we can see you have confidence in the platform, and then we will follow suit.

“Give us little snippets of information here and there to keep us on our toes, and to create a buzz around what you are doing. Right now, we have our ears turned in your direction, and we hear crickets chirping.”

It’s Time to Come Out Swinging

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Nikon, now more than ever, it is time to show us that you still have some fight left in you. The current camera market is a brutal place, and you have been eating hooks and uppercuts for a while. It’s time to get off of the ropes.

The z6 and z7 were rushed to market, and we could tell instantly. Yes, you have improved them via updates, but they still are behind the curve. The recently announced D6 was incredibly underwhelming, and the z50 is a nice little camera, but who in the world is it for? The D780 has been the brightest spark from you guys since the incredible D850. The D780 is a nice hybrid camera that will probably do well because of the trust your fans have in that series, but it’s time to cut ties with DSLR cameras. It’s time to go all-in on Mirrorless cameras. 

The time has come to get your workhorse Mirrorless cameras in order. These are cameras people want to see. Start producing higher quality Z mount lenses to go along with them other than the f1.8’s, f2.8’s and the f4’s, and more importantly, start talking to your fan base.

Give us snippets of information here and there to keep us on our toes, and to create a buzz around what you are doing. Right now, we have our ears turned in your direction, and we hear crickets chirping. What are your plans for future Mirrorless cameras? What can we expect next? Give us something to get excited about: if you don’t, confidence in you will slip further and you’ll lose more faithful users to your competitors. That’s just a cold, hard fact. Dig deep Nikon, look at your storied past, listen to your fans, and deliver what they want: because right now, the Z system feels like an experiment rather than a statement from you.

What do you think Nikon should do to get themselves off the ropes? What do you want to see from them going forward? Let us know in the comment section below.