Sunday, 17 January 2021

Thoughts on System Selection in 2021


Fuji X-T2, XF 55-200mm

So here we are in the beginning of 2021 and the viable options for camera systems have shrunk a lot.

Pentax and m43 might as well be dead, well except m43 for video, where BlackMagic and Panasonic are still active. Olympus is dead, the replacement organization might as well not exist and we haven't seen a new sensor in 4 years with nothing on the horizon, Olympus having refreshed essentially their whole lineup over the last 18 months while only actually doing much for one model, the E-M5III, which got as much decontenting as it did upgrades. Pentax hasn't even done that much.

L mount is making noise, but it's hard to tell whether or not that noise is anything more than the last gasps of 3 companies that keep failing at the camera business, while doing something else very well (Sigma sells lenses, Panasonic does video, Leica sells jewelry for doctors)

That leaves 4 mounts of significance, which can be broken up into 2 real categories.

1. Buy if you are transitioning from their FF DSLR's. That's RF and Z mounts. While both systems have enough high-end lenses for somebody diving in at the deep end, both remain very weak at the low end in lenses, despite both systems having a solid entry-level body (unlike Sony today). The workaround is to re-use SLR lenses on adapters. That's a pretty good experience on either system if the lenses have lens-motor AF (a limiter for Nikon, not for Canon). Canon at least has a handful of real low-end lenses in the 24-105 STM and 50 STM. Nikon does not, even their cheapest lens, the 24-50, is wildly overpriced both in kit and retail forms.

2. If making a fresh start, it's pretty simple, pick APS-C or FF and buy Fuji or Sony respectively.

For crop systems, the only ones worth investing in are Fuji and Sony, and the Fuji bodies simply handle a LOT better than the Sony's, especially with larger lenses. Fuji's better JPEG's make them a better choice for the newbie as well and the lens lineup is better than Sony's haphazard selection of APS-C lenses. The one shining light for E mount is the excellent Sigma primes. Canon's EF-M line is crippled by its status as a dead-end mount with no upgrade path to RF mount and Nikon's efforts in DX Z mount are on par with Pentax's DSLR's (really nice in the hand, but they're making zero effort to move anything).

Do yourself a favour here and unless you plan on growing into FF, go Fuji. And don't hesitate to buy older Fuji's, the 24MP bodies in particular are great values, with features like USB charge and power which are missing on same-era bodies from other makers. The only downside is AF-C performance, but since the Sony bodies kind of suck in long-lens handling, it's tradeoffs down the line. Sony really needs to stuff the A6600 replacement into an A7III frame and call it the A7000.

For FF, it's FE or L and L might as well not exist. FE has the bodies (with one major exception) and it has the lenses, from ultra-cheap stuff like Yongnuo's line ($100USD 50mm f1.8's and the like) to very high end lenses like the Art, GM and Zeiss lenses.

The one gap is the entry level body. The A7c is a horrid joke, combining an EVF that would be embarrassing on a body at half the cost with a poorly implemented size reduction and complete failure to keep things consistent with the other IV series bodies, largely because it's a poorly cut down A7III at an almost not cut down price. And it's WAY too expensive, with barely a price break over the A7III.

Nikon did everything right on the Z5 and Sony should take a very close look there. The only reason why the Z5 isn't cleaning Sony's clock is lenses, Z lenses are WAY too expensive for the Z5 buyer, making it as or more expensive than the more capable A7III once you buy your second lens.

As to me, I'll continue down the Fuji path for now, although I'd be interested in an A7R series body at the right price. An A7R or A7RII would be a nice FF toy alongside my Fuji's, but an A7RIII or IV could replace them entirely (I'm still convinced that the A7RIV is the best crop mirrorless camera, and it's also a killer FF body).

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