Canon and Nikon Released the Worst Cameras of 2018

Canon and Nikon Released the Worst Cameras of 2018

I've been sitting here for a bit, wondering what the worst gear release by a major manufacturer was in 2018, then I realized the answer was crystal clear.

We talk a lot about the best gear of the year, but that got me thinking: what was the worst gear of the year? I could easily go for something hideously bad, but then I thought that "worst" should also be measured by expectations and context. When a company you've never heard of sends you a camera that clearly shows they've bit off more than they can chew, the results are hilarious, but I have a hard time calling that the "worst," because expectations were never high for that camera. Rather, the more I thought about it, "worst" should be a label applied to products put out by companies that know better, that can do better, and that know their customers want (and would mostly happily pay for) better. That's the type of gear that you feel truly let down by.

When I thought of it that way, the answer to the question was blindingly obvious: the Canon EOS R and Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 cameras. These were by far two of the most highly anticipated pieces of photography gear not just in 2018, but of the last several years. Finally, Canon and Nikon were responding to the ever-growing success of Sony and Fujifilm. Finally, after years of consumer frustration, migration to different brands, and rumors flying about, the real deal. Finally, we were going to see what the two oldest photography companies with the most history would be capable of when they threw their weight behind mirrorless technology seriously. Except, it turns out they were only sort of serious.

Let's get something out of the way first: yes, they're capable cameras that you can take great pictures with. I'm not disputing that. What's so frustrating, though, is that Canon and Nikon could have done so much better. They have the experience and the funds to do so. Rather, what we got was almost an insult to photographers: the bare minimum to appease the growing chorus demanding a response to the companies that have made great strides in the mirrorless realm. These are the cameras released by companies with the hubris to believe that the inertia of their market shares, brand names, and photographers being invested in their systems will keep them in the game. They've chosen wringing every last bit of momentum out of the old state of affairs over leveraging their market positions to push forward all the more.

Perhaps particularly infuriating was Nikon's ad campaign leading up to the release of the Z 6 and Z 7. If you don't remember it, it was a series of YouTube teasers steeped in melodrama, as silhouettes danced and Nikon dropped grandiose hints about how 100 years of camera experience were going into this revolutionary device. They dragged on for weeks, teasing photographers into thinking that whatever Nikon was planning, it was going to be something that officially put Sony on notice. At that point, it seemed like Nikon was not only going to match Sony, but blow them clear out of the water, and given Sony's progress (the remarkable a9, the a7R III, the first camera that doesn't make one pick between resolution and fast frame rates), we expected something spectacular. The teaser video below seems really silly in retrospect. 

Canon didn't go so overboard with the buildup to their release, and while we've all come to expect Canon to build solid cameras that evolve at a glacial pace, we hoped that with them finally acknowledging a paradigm shift led by a company with the polar opposite philosophy that they might recognize the need to at least meet them at the same level if not surpass them. That, of course, did not happen. They tripped over their own shoelaces just like Nikon did.

A lot of people make the argument that Sony has been at the full frame mirrorless game longer than Canon and Nikon and thus has the advantage of several generations of development. I don't buy that argument. Sony may have a couple years up on Canon and Nikon in full frame mirrorless development, but Canon and Nikon have decades on Sony in camera development. And were the issues highly technical things — things that take intense research and development to solve and integrate into a complete system, I might give them a pass. Thing like dynamic range and sensor architecture? I might be inclined to give the companies a pass.

But those weren't the issues. The issues were the most basic, fundamental sorts of things — common sense to the point that most people had assumed they were now unquestionable standards at this level. Things that Canon and Nikon had watched Sony make mistakes with and evolve from. The most glaring? The single card slots. It's not exactly a secret that cameras of this level are used by professionals and serious amateurs for whom in-camera backup is not a luxury, but an expectation and often, a dealbreaker. To make matters worse, Nikon inexplicably went with the expensive and proprietary XQD format.

Then there's the ludicrous 1.83x crop factor for 4K on the EOS R. Middling autofocus performance from all three cameras. No IBIS in the EOS R and a lack of IS in some of its lenses. Lackluster continuous rates on the Canon. A limited buffer with long write times and exposure lock on the first frame on the Nikon. The battery life of mirrorless camera two generations back. As Tony Northrup put it regarding the Z 7: "they promised me my D850 in a mirrorless form, and that was not my experience.”

This is what I like seeing.

I will give credit where it's due. One thing that does excite me is seeing Canon and Nikon (to a lesser extent with the 58mm f/0.95) taking advantage of their new mounts to push the boundaries of lens development. Seeing a 28-70mm f/2L zoom and the spectacular albeit ludicrously expensive 50mm f/1.2L is awesome. More of those, please. 

That doesn't change the fact that these cameras felt like getting a gas station gift card that your brother picked up on the way to the house on Christmas morning because he waited until the last minute and had to address the occasion somehow. And it's upsetting because big bro has plenty of money and knows you well enough to put thought and resources into something that will really wow you. Let's see if Canon and Nikon can do better in 2019. I know they can. Come back to the forefront, Canon and Nikon. Excite your customers again. Make the market more competitive. Show us what you're really capable of.

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234 Comments

John Dawson's picture

Alex - I appreciate your perspective, but I don't know it's voracity because I haven't used any of the cameras.

I have to respectfully ask, are your opinions formed strictly by the press, or do you have first-hand experience with each camera?

Alex Cooke's picture

Hey John, I’ve not used the Nikons, but I went out of my way to speak with and read opinions of industry professionals and colleagues I trust. That said, I also tried to stick to things that are objective quantities no matter the use: things like number of card slots, buffer clearing times, 4K crop, etc. Like I said, these are certainly capable camera that can produce great shots, but knowing the technology in them versus knowing what Canon and Nikon are capable of is what upsets me.

John Dawson's picture

Thanks, I appreciate the transparency.

Alex Cooke's picture

A person is nothing without their integrity!

Adnan Bubalo's picture

Alex, it is not ok to make misunderstanding on the market. When you say "worst cameras" it is big. Many guys will understand that you are talking about bad cameras. I have tested both Canon and Nikon mirrorless. Man, even being Sony guy myself, I can tell you both cameras are so good and produce great files. And just for the record, I'm still making sales of images made years ago with my Canon 10D. Cheers

Alex Cooke's picture

I’ve still got my D30! The old Canon DSLRs are great, aren’t they? That’s why I went out of my way to define what I meant.

Hi Alex. re-reading your post a full month into 2019 and recalling the recent NORTHRUPGATE youtube content, I wonder whether in light of your comment 'A person is nothing without their integrity!', you are considering editing your post and pulling every T&CN reference in order to preserve your own 'Integrity!'.
In the meantime, would other recent posting's and side-by-side comparisons tempt you to update your article, if only in part, to address the all encompassing statement of your post, that appears to be two-thirds incorrect!
If your time is of the essence, then perhaps consider hiring equipment to assert your view, rather than depend on other such individuals who have expressed their views (possibly without the necessary evidence) that resulted in the trashing their own integrity to a likely unrecoverable state.

Spy Black's picture

It's obvious that Nikon and Canon are simply protecting their DSLR product range. Still.

Nikon did this miserably years ago with the Nikon 1 system, crippling what could have a fantastic miniature ILS camera and system to protect their APS-C market. Canon's lukewarm product was similar.

I do think however that in about 2 years time you'll start to see really serious mirrorless products from both Canon and Nikon.

Alex Cooke's picture

Agreed on all points!

except by that time, fuji and sony would had moved the goalpost further down the field. it is going to be tough!

Spy Black's picture

Except that Fuji and Sony don't have the Canon and Nikon user base. I suspect in two years time Nikon and Canon will dominate the mirrorless market as they now dominate the DSLR market.

except there are a lot of them are switching now. even if Ca/Nikon users wants to switch back, it will be extremely costly.

Spy Black's picture

That will be their decision. I doubt Canon and Nikon are losing sleep on it. It won't matter once they dominate the mirrorless market. It won't matter to Sony either, because they manufacture the sensors for everyone, even lower-end Canons. ;-)

Wait you write this story but you have not used the Nikon Z camera. But your friends that you trust who most likely have not used the camera tell you things like no pro would use a camera with one card slot so you believe them. So now you write this story just because you got bored and decided to make statements that have no facts behind them. Seems today young people just expect everything to fall in their hands. Perfect camera, perfect car, etc, etc. Well I've been a pro for almost 40 years now and use both Canon and Nikon and I have been using the Z6 for about a month now and find it to be an amazing camera. And have no problems having only one card slot since its not a stupid SD card. Just think what cameras will be like when you have 40 years into the profession. Guessing they will just stick to your forehead and you will just think take a picture and they will.

Alex Cooke's picture

What? My friends aren’t liars. And yes, all the statements are facts from which opinions are derived. The cameras have one card slot. The crop factor is almost 2x. The battery life is below the generational standard. These are all quantifiable properties.

Martin Nesvarbu's picture

Jesus Christ for some reason every single “pro” is like a dog that wouldn’t let go of a stick is going about the one card slot, it’s like in film days all big manufacturers were making cameras that could load two films.
In my country we say :”for a bad dancer, even the balls are in the way”. I really think that applies to all the moaning “pros” out here.

Alex Cooke's picture

Just because things were a certain way in the past doesn't mean we have to continue to accept that as the standard.

Martin Nesvarbu's picture

Yes, but neither we should take it as standard what Sony puts in their bodies.

Dass Ala's picture

Hey Alex, I use the Nikon Z7 since they released and the camera gives me 1850 or 2000 photos per battery charge used with the Adapter and the NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR that consume more battery, I work 24/7 as a photographer and the Nikon Z7 don't let me down om any way, I doubt that the conclusions you make are 100% true or fact

JOHN FRANZEN's picture

Your friends lied to you, there is no crop on the Z6 4K. It uses the full sensor. "Video recording options include UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) using either the full-frame area or a DX crop area in 30p, 25, or 24p frame rates. Full HD video is also supported at up to 120fps."

I bought the Z7, used it two weeks, and sent it back. Useless for anything but landscape photography. No eye-AF. Continuous AF is worst of any camera on the market today. Smallest buffer of any camera on the market today. My D810 and D500 were much better. If you want to be annoyed, try the lockon-AF. Nikon didn't fail at image quality--they failed at everything else.

There's no need for a big buffer when you can write at speeds from 1 to 10Gb/s. May I ask you what XQD card have you used?
The problem is not from Nikon, but from the CFExpress manufacturers, that for making more money selling memories for the SDDs haven't started putting in the market CFExpress cards until the last quarter of 2018 (when they promised the manufacturers of devices that they'll be in the market by the summer of 2018).
But, right now, you can buy cards with writing speeds of up to 1Gb/s for the Zs.

Can you say click bait?

If you haven't used a camera then you really have no ground to stand on when evaluating it. A camera is only a "fail" if it fails to fit your particular shooting style and preferences. Statistics can't touch those areas.

user-156929's picture

Let me guess... You shoot Sony. :-/

Alex Cooke's picture

Actually, I shoot a Canon 1D X Mark II, 7D Mark II, and Sony a7R III with a lens library that is 90% Canon. Up until this year, I shot exclusively Canon.

youre under oath at the court. so the answer is yes. you shoot sony. ;p

Alex Cooke's picture

Lol, you'd make a good attorney. :P

Rafal Wegiel's picture

I hope one day people will realize its not about the gear anymore. Its about what You can do with it and how creative You can get. We have fantastic tools in our hands nowadays and we still bitch, complain and compare which camera is better. Why don't we leave this behind us and focus on creating images and have fun with it. With article like this You just confuses people and make them doubt in their ability to create wonderful images.

Alex Cooke's picture

That’s exactly why I said “Let's get something out of the way first: yes, they're capable cameras that you can take great pictures with. I'm not disputing that.” You can recognize that today’s tools are very advanced while still holding companies to the standards of the times. Do you want your doctor to operate at 2018 standards or just say: “well, at least it’s not bloodletting”?

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