2018 in Review - A Year to Remember
Well, that is it, 2018 has come to a close. It was a great year for photographers in some areas, particularly product announcements! 2018 will likely be remembered as the year the large sensor mirrorless wars began. Twenty years ago we had the emergence of digital SLR’s and now it seems that the next massive change is upon us, the evolution of dSLR’s to mirrorless. Sure mirrorless aren’t able to touch SLR’s in some aspects (just look at battery life) but as more R&D goes into the new format, the drawbacks to mirrorless will get ironed out. Here is a list of the biggest announcements of 2018 in chronological order.
Sony A7 mk III - 26 Feb
The first new full-frame mirrorless announcement of the year, there were loud cheers from the crowd when Sony unveiled their new consumer full frame camera. The camera had a vastly improved AF tracking system with Sony’s new eye-tracking technology. Added to the new 4k video, this is great to be super-sharp video wherever you go without having the annoying focus hunting. There were some spectacular upgrades from the previous version of the camera, for example, the previous version only had 117 Phase-Detect autofocus points and was rated for 350 shots on a single charge. The new version upped the number of Phase-detect autofocus points to 693 and the new battery is rated for 710 shots so it will likely be higher in real world applications.
Nikon Z-Series Cameras - 23 Aug
In Aug, Nikon officially entered into the Full-frame mirrorless fight with two models. The high-megapixel Z7 and the more consumer level Z6. The lack of a mirror in the camera allows for a shorter distance between the lens mount and the sensor, this means Nikon had to develop a new lens mount. Nikon’s new Z-mount takes all the lessons learnt from the Nikon F-mount, which is the oldest mount still in use by any of the brands on this list. Nikon has increased the diameter of the mount and can now produce f/0.95 lenses when they were previously limited to f/1.2 on non-AF lenses and f/1.4 on AF lenses. They have already announced developement of a 58mm f/0.95 lens that should be released next year.
In both of their new camera’s, Nikon has included In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) which is a first for them. It seems that the Nikon Z6 and Z7 are quite comparable to the Sony A7 MKIII and the Sony A7R MKIII respectively and nikon has been praised for how well their first attempts at mirrorless camera’s stack up to the third generation Sony mirrorless. It will be very interesting to see how Nikon continues to hold their own in a market that was monopolized by Sony only a few months ago, especially after the Nikon 1 mirrorless system bombed only a few years ago.
Canon EOS R - 5 Sept
A couple of weeks after Nikon unveiled their new Z-series cameras, Canon announced their new full-frame mirrorless camera system. The Canon EOS R system launched with more lenses than the Nikon Z-series, one of which is the 28-70mm f/2 lens. Like all of canon’s lenses, the sharpness of their lenses are astounding. However, rather than doing what Nikon did and releasing a high-end and a consumer end camera, they released just one model, and the current rumour is that they will be releasing a higher-end camera sometime in 2019. There were some grumblings about a lack of full-frame 4k video (it does have 4k at 1.8 crop) and no IBIS when the EOS R was released, but hopefully Canon fixes them in the high-end version. The rumour mill is currently stating that they will at least have IBIS in the next version.
Panasonic/Sigma and Leica in The L-Series Alliance - 24 Sept
The first camera manufacturers to bring the mirrorless genre of cameras to the masses was a joint venture between Panasonic and Olympus with the Micro 4/3 mount. Determined not to be left behind, Panasonic wanted to enter the full-frame battle as well. However, recent reports state that although asked, Olympus did not want to join them. This meant that Panasonic ended up forming an alliance with Sigma and Leica to create a new full-frame mount and standard. Panasonic also unveiled development of their first entries into the battle, the S1 and the S1r. Like the Sony and the Nikon, the S1 and S1r are a high-end and a consumer version. The S1r is the high-megapixel camera with 47mp and the S1 has a 24mp sensor. Like the Sony and unlike both the Nikon and the Canon, the Panasonic cameras will have dual card slots, one running XQD cards and the other running SD UHSII cards. Both cameras are supposed to be released in early 2019 so it will be interesting to see how they stack up in real world situations.
Fuji GFX-50R Medium Format - 25 Sept
The last camera brand to announce a large sensor camera was Fuji. However, unlike the rest of the brands on this list, Fuji announced they will not be making full-frame cameras. So how is a brand that won’t make full-frame cameras enter the battle with a camera that isn’t full-frame? Well you make the sensor larger than full-frame obviously. Fuji has announced the development of a new entry level medium format camera that has the price tag of a high-end full-frame camera. The larger sensor should give incredible tonal and dynamic range for people doing landscapes and portraiture. Especially if you look at how well Fuji did with the dynamic range of the GFX-50s, the previous model to the rangefinder styled GFX-50R. The new camera has the highest resolution of any of the other contenders at 51mp and is built specifically for still photography. The camera can do 1080p video, which is the lowest resolution of video in the group.
It will be very interesting to see how all of these cameras are supported and how the battle turns out in 2019. Competition benefits the consumer, after all. 2018 was a great year and lets hope the excitement continues in 2019 with the release of more lenses from Nikon, Canon, Sigma, Fuji and Panasonic. These new contestants will be judged against the reigning champion in the large sensor mirrorless market, Sony.