Everything Canikon DSLR in 2018

One question I keep getting is “are DSLRs dead?” Well, one thing you can do is an audit. So let’s look at everything that was introduced DSLR-wise for Canon and Nikon in 2018.

Canon

  • Rebel T7 body
  • 4000D body
  • 70-200mm f/2.8L III
  • 70-200mm f/4L II
  • 400mm f/2.8L III
  • 600mm f/4L III

Nikon

  • D3500 body
  • 180-400mm f/4E
  • 500mm f/5.6E PF

Well ain’t that curious?

Low end bodies and high-end lenses. Meanwhile, the R and the Z are sort of medium bodies with high-end lenses. So my immediate question is this: where are the higher-end DSLRs and the lower-end DSLR lenses?

Good question. 

I’d say it’s pretty likely that we get some new high-end DSLRs soon. While Canon and Nikon might have something mirrorless that is coming for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, I’m betting that we get 1Dx Mark III and D6 DSLR bodies from them as the primary thrust. There’s too much riding on that home game to experiment, and to ask agencies to completely rework their camera/lens inventory at this point is probably not going to work, particularly if that means adapting DSLR lenses to mirrorless cameras or going without something. 

But we have some other clear milestones coming up in 2019 that will be telling.

Canon is starting to see the 5D Mark IV get a little long in the tooth, while the 7D seems to have been forgotten having now passed the four year mark without an update. I’ve already mentioned the 1Dx, which is due for its update and will almost certainly get it.

You can almost see Canon’s big boat trying to change direction. The 1Dx gets an update because they’re not ready for a flagship mirrorless (boat inertia keeps it moving in same direction). The 5D Mark IV basically is where the R mirrorless thrust will be, so it doesn’t need an update (boat’s steering has been moved). The 5Ds/r seems to not be doing anything (check the thrusters, we might have lost a gear). Then there’s the 7D…"oh, we forgot about the 7D. Is anyone still buying it? No, then good thing we forgot about it.” Sometimes things become self-fulfilling.

I’d argue that the 7D update mystery exposes some flaws in Canon’s strategy. Nikon stole some wind with the D500, Sony stole some wind with various A6xxx models, Fujifilm keeps trying to steal the wind and gets more successful each attempt in the X-T realm. And then something like the D850 comes along and really steals the wind because it’s a “two-fer".

It’s tricky out there in PM (product management) land. You’ve got a declining market, more competition, an emerging transition from DSLR to mirrorless, and a whole slew of models to produce, iterate, market, and sell. That leaves you plenty of potential product points where you can inflict self-harm. Canon seems to have done just that. Moreover, the EOS M and EOS R strategies don’t match up, and there’s the Cinema cameras to bring along, too. 

On the Nikon side, both the D7500 and D850 would be due for their regular two-year updates. The D5600 update is overdue by a year, but Nikon’s been mailing in the consumer DSLR updates anyway, so it’s difficult to call anything they’re likely to do there an update. The D610 and D750 updates are so overdue as to almost be written off at this point. The D5 didn’t get the usual two-year slight refresh at the top, and it’s a little early for the next major update, but they could simply have decided to meet in the middle and release a new top model six months or more earlier than expected.

Rant on. The D500 is the most neglected product in the Nikon DSLR lineup. This started with the missing D400, when Nikon de-prioritized the top DX model and started calling the D7200 a “flagship." Other than a short blast of popularity when the D500 launched with the D5, the D500 has been slowly short-shrifted by Nikon pretty much every chance they get. And yes, that means I’m going to be going buzz-buzz and talk about the lenses Nikon never provided.

Realistically, the D500 should have easily held off the X-T1/2/3 and the Sony A6xxx. The reason it didn’t was in Fujifilm’s case, appropriate DX lenses; in Sony’s case, lack of attention, marketing, and updating of the D500.  

It’s not for lack of sensors that Nikon can’t update the D500 and make it shine again (Sony has at least two and maybe three sensors that would do that, all the way out to 32mp). It’s the lack of lenses and the fact that eventually starved sales to zip. 

This is where the DSLR looks dead to me: both Canon and Nikon seem to have a long line of planned RF and Z lenses. In Nikon’s case, that Z Road Map pretty much takes up their usual annual expected output (about six lenses). Which means that any DX lenses to truly help the D500 (and D7500 and their updates) just don’t seem to be coming.

Personally, I don’t know how you expect to sell a high-end camera without a full line of lenses that support it. It shouldn’t have been that difficult in DX: update the 12-24mm, add two or three DX primes, and perhaps add a DX telephoto zoom that’s appropriate (50-135mm f/2.8). Had they just gone with a “one lens a year plan” we’d already have three of the five lenses I just mentioned. 

To me, this indicates a lack of clear coordination between the camera and lens teams. Oh, they’re able to coordinate on something as big as the Z launch (to the detriment of DSLRs, unfortunately), but even there I see disconnects (really, manual focus NOCT that isn't optimized for video?). 

Or perhaps Nikon’s lack of commitment. As in “lets see how the D500 sells before committing lens resources.” Well, we know how that ends ;~). There’s simply no clear guiding hand managing to make camera, lens, accessories, and software all come together to exceed the sum of the parts. And I’d say that’s because management is all engineers and bean counters, and not photographers, let alone is there a really good product line manager at the top. Rant off.

Meanwhile, in the major third-party lens makers we got:

  • Samyang 14mm f/2.8
  • Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Art
  • Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 G2
  • Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4
  • Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art
  • Sigma 40mm f/1.4 Art
  • Samyang 50mm f/1.2
  • Tokina 50mm f/1.4 Opera
  • Samyang 85mm f/1.4
  • Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 Sport
  • Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro Art
  • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 Sport
  • Tamron 70-210mm f/4
  • Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art

Again with the higher-end lenses. 

What this all boils down to is that if you’re a full frame, higher-end DSLR user, 2018 looked pretty good to you (despite no new body from Canikon, though one from Pentax). Your lens choices blossomed and your bodies are already really good or likely due for a refresh soon. 

So, no, the DSLR is not dead. 

I’m starting to get a little worried about the consumer DSLR though as we get mailed in updates and no new interesting consumer lens options. And that in-between DSLR position held by the 7Dm2 and the D500 is getting a ton of neglect from both companies. I’d say that the reason those two cameras aren’t selling well is because Canon and Nikon have basically told you by their actions that they’re not overly interested in you buying them. 

Well ain't that curious?

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