How Nikon’s mirrorless could make me sell my Sony

Introduction

nikon 20mm 1.8g close up marmot
Nikon D800 | Nikon AF-S 20mm 1.8G | f/2.8

So far Sony is pretty much the only noteworthy contender when it comes to fullframe mirrorless cameras, but it is only a matter of time until Canon and Nikon will join the party. But what would it take for me to sell my Sony cameras and get a Nikon (once again)?

Why mirrorless?

Why did I sell my Nikon DSLR and most of the lenses I had and went for Sony mirrorless in the first place? Probably the most important aspect is the lens choice. I am now using lenses not only from different manufacturers but for different mounts on my Sony cameras. Small manual M-mount lenses up to Canon EF superteles (even with AF) and a lot in between.
This lets me cherry pick the best lenses for my needs across a pretty damn big board.
And there are simply lenses, which there are no equivalents for in the DSLR world. Obvious ones would be the Voigtlander 10mm 5.6 or the Mitakon 50mm 0.95, but this is not the whole story: try finding a lens with sunstars as nice as the Loxias for your Nikon DSLR…

I don’t want to make this article too long in ordner not to bore you, so here are a few other things the A7 cameras do a better job for me than a Nikon DSLR:

  • manual focus experience
  • you see the correct DoF in the viewfinder (barely anyone knows this is not the case with modern DSLRs though…)
  • in camere image stabilizer (IBIS)
  • no back-/frontfocus issues
  • eye-AF
  • focus peaking and zebra mode (for overexposure warning)
  • size/weight
  • electronic/silent shutter

Why Nikon?

nikon new mirrorless z-mount noct
Nikon D800 | AF-S 200mm 2.0G VRI | f/2.0

After having used Nikon DSLRs for several years I can say they get three things right: handling, image quality and AF (are you aware the D5 also has eye-AF?).
I really miss the responsiveness and the fast processor in the Nikon DSLRs.
Furthermore it was a tough fight to finally get lossless raw-files, but why uncompressed? Nikon has that one right for almost two decades now.
There are also some interesting lenses (300mm 4.0 PF, 200-500mm 5.6, 58mm 1.4 to name a few) which there is no equivalent for and which are not that much fun to adapt to Sony compared to Canon lenses.

What it would take for me to consider getting the Nikon mirrorless

  • fullframe sensor without reflection issues
  • short flange distance
  • in camera image stabilizer
  • better manual focus experience with split image (see Fuji)
  • faster processor for good responsiveness
  • better EVF (see Leica SL)
  • programmable menu system
  • electronic and mechanical shutter with auto option (see this article)
  • lossless compressed, not precooked RAW files

The big question marks

I am sure Nikon will get the handling and the image quality right. I don’t expect to see the same flaws we have seen with the first gen Sony A7 cameras like sensor reflection issues, lossy compressed raw files, unresponsive camera and slow AF.
I am also sure their Nikon F adapter will work really well with AF-S and E lenses, maybe also G lenses but probably won’t AF with AF(-D) lenses.
I am not so sure how much attention they will pay to people that want to adapt manual focus lenses. Will it get a split image like the Fuji cameras? Will it be possible to dial in lens data and scroll through these lenses like it is possible with Nikon DSLRs? Maybe, probably not top of Nikon’s priority list.

zeiss distagon 35mm 1.5 zm t* adapter leica m a7rII a7r a7s a7 sony review
Sony A7rII with Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter and Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 T* Distagon

Lenses. Right now 4/24-70mm, 1.4/35mm and 1.4/50mm are rumored to be the first three lenses with patents out for 1.2/36 and 0.9/52.
For the first three consider me not interested, unless the primes have great image quality while being really small (like Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 and Leica Summilux 50mm 1.4), which I doubt will be the case.
The faster ones on the other hand would raise my eyebrows, a decent 1.2/36 with (eye-?)AF, that would be quite tempting.
For all of Nikon’s new mirrorless lenses we will have to wait and see what the design criteria are that you usually don’t find in a spec sheet:
as sharp as possible to compete with the MTF of Sigma Art lenses? Undercorrected for SA to yield a more pleasing bokeh (which I doubt as the 1.4/58mm is a lens like this and received very bad press)? Well corrected for loCA (most of Nikon’s fast lenses are not)? How many aperture blades (my guess is 7 or 9)?

We also have to wait and see what third party manufacturers will be doing. Will we see the Voigtlander, Zeiss Loxia and Batis lenses for other camera brands?

Conclusion(?)

I switched to Sony cameras mostly because of the lens options (via adapter at that time) not because of the cameras themselves.

Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 21mm 2.8 | f/5.6

Now the Zeiss Loxia lenses – and also some of the Voigtlander and Laowa lenses – meet my own criteria for landscape and architecture photography like none of the Nikon DSLR lenses ever could.

nikon new mirrorless z-mount noct
Sony A7rII | Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM | f/1.4

Of all the portrait lenses I used, reviewed and owned so far the Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM is the best match to my taste in bokeh with its slightly undercorrected SA at f/1.4.

So all the teasers of the new Nikon mirrorless camera are of little interest to me, the lenses I would be interested to know more about to see where Nikon is going with the full frame mirrorless entry.

Further Reading

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

17 thoughts on “How Nikon’s mirrorless could make me sell my Sony”

  1. I switched from Nikon as well and I definitely agree with you on the subject of what Nikon does right over Sony. I wonder if Zeiss would be willing to adapt their Loxia lenses to Nikon’s new mount, they may be able to “pull a Sigma” and stick a Nikon mirrorless mount on their existing lenses.

  2. I switched from Canon DSLR to Sony because of size, weight and the possibility to use my Leica M lenses. Especially the last reason could be a game changer depending on the filter stack size of the Nikon sensor.
    The only thing that makes me worry is, that I am not sure if Nikon will give use the possibility to use that many other lens manufacturer instead of “Nikon only”.

    1. It will be very interesting to see what kind of sensor stack the Nikon mirrorless comes with.
      But we will have to wait at least a few weeks for the first adapters anyway.

  3. I also switched from Nikon to Sony (and previously I had switched from Canon to Nikon). But now, after loosing so much money while selling all that gear, I’m much more reluctant to change again unless… the new Nikon system were a real game changer! 🙂

    1. I think you make a very good point as the cost of converting a system is high.
      I would need a really significant change in the photo experience to take a loss on all my Canon gear.
      OTOH, with adapters one could conceivably minimize switching costs to just the loss on the bodies and adapters.

  4. Thanks for this article Bastian.

    I’m eagerly waiting for the Nikon FF ML, but if they won’t release the specs of their mount like Sony did so that we’ll be able to adapt any lens to the new system I’m definitely not going to buy into it and remain with my (recently acquired, after a NEX-5T and a NEX-7) a7 Sony camera.

  5. I switched to Sony from Canon for the same reason. I wanted to use Zeiss manual lenses and now my lens kit is made exclusively of the Loxia line. I like the rendering of these lenses so much that I sacrificed autofocus. It will take Nikon a few years until their new system has as many native lens options as Sony does now.

  6. Thank you very much, Bastian, for this lucid and reasoned article!

    It has a beneficial effect to read your text after I took a look at the endless (and still growing) comments on the DPReview article about Nikon’s second teaser (https://www.dpreview.com/news/7223113002/latest-nikon-mirrorless-teaser-gives-a-closer-look-at-body-and-lens-mount). The discussion there contains some useful hints and ideas, too, but there are many rude and stupid comments, especially arrogant sideswipes against Sony cameras and even general insults of all users of Sony cameras … That’s not the appropriate way to discuss about stuff like digital cameras. Your article shows how to do better.

  7. Hi Bastian,
    as you know, I am an old Nikon lover, having used them for 35 years. My switch originally was also induced by free lens choice, especially by the lack of high quality affordable longer tele lens in Nikons line up at that time (no 4/300, no 5.6/400, no GOOD 70—300, no GOOD 70 or 100—400…). One may assume I have changed from Nikon to Sony to be able to use Canon lenses, funny thought.
    From a mere camera point of view, I still feel that lets say a Nikon D810 (was my last) not only handled much more pleasingly and ergonomically compared to Sony, but also is MUCH sturdier and more robust. It feels much more relaxed to have a big lens on the Nikon bayonet compared to a Gen. 3 Sony. And that Sony’s moisture protection means almost… nothing, well, we all know. Oh, and the big quality issues, like totally inappropriate bayonet mount on the first generation combined with simply arrogant claim handling… my company surely would loose the customer treated like Sony’s customers.
    As for the lenses, Sony also started with a (mediocre) 4/24—70…. often badly decentered… So, I am pretty sure Zeiss and Sigma will launch lenses for CaNikon mirrorless, simply because the SLR segment will shrink into a niche and I think they still like to sell or (Zeiss) license lenses. I am also not so fixed (in a freudian way) upon 10 blade apertures, you yourself have posted very nice sunstars coming from 9 blades…
    But would I change back? No, most likely not, not even, if the new Nikon is marvellous. For once, I am too old, it would take too long to change the system (not considering the cost), better to spend that time exercising photography. And finally, I got used to my Sony’s, they work for me and I like them (not as much as my late D810, though). Also the lens line up is ok.
    What Sony could do (besides the usual sensor improvements): make the cameras sturdier. Implement a better sensor cleaning, and implement something like a curtain, which protects the sensor during lens changes (like OLD medium format film cameras with changeable magazines could do 40 years ago). Add GPS, I still find it very cumbersome to employ a smartphone for that. Maybe make a separate “PHOTO line” of cameras without too much video capabilities, but better features for still. Implement multiple exposure capabilities like Fuji. That’s it for me.
    Cheers,
    and thanks for your thoughts,
    Uwe

  8. Bonjour,

    Thanks Bastian!

    I do not think I will go back to Canon or Nikon.
    I like the small camera body’s, and do not need more grip.
    I have no problem with the menu’s.
    Lots of people laughed at Sony, but they had the guts to come with something new. And they do not stop inventing and make things better.
    Small is… YES!
    So please, make small lenses like the FE 55mm, or the Loxia’s, Bâtis or Voigtlander, with perfect glass. f1.8-2.0 is OK with me.
    24×36! Do not need a bigger sensor, which means bigger and heavier lenses.
    The A7R3 is not Sony’s last Camera I bought.

  9. A Sony A7rII working flawless with Leica-M lenses, even in Leica-M Mount, with Fuji help for focusing, and the IBIS of Olympus… A dream

  10. Very nice article Bastian!
    We have to admit the generation 3 of our beloved Sony A7xx became more serious.
    I switch 5 months ago from a A7II to a A7RIII and I can definitely say the camera is faster than its predecessors.
    Sadly I cannot compare with any Nikon high-end DSLR but I have got several times a 5D Mark IV in my hands. The Sony A7RIII feels serious, no doubt.

    What I would like to see in the near future is more choice when it comes to mirorless full frame cameras.
    Please Nikon, make your first iteration a good camera and please Fuji, come into the game!

    Cheers,
    Thomas

  11. After switching from Nikon to Sony, I’ll stay with Sony. I’m very happy with my great lens collection (Batis 18/25/135, 55/1.8, 85/1.4 GM, 90/2.8 G, 70-200/4 G) and it will take a long time, until I can get something similar for that new Nikon.

    And will the Nikon be any better, except having a bigger grip (which can easily be added to the Sony)? I don’t care.

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