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Gear Rumors

Nikon Files Patent, Hints At Full Frame Mirrorless Offering…

By Anthony Thurston on December 16th 2014

It’s just a matter of time until Canon and Nikon come to their senses and actually compete in the mirrorless space with a full frame option. If a new patent is to be taken seriously, it appears that Nikon could be well on their way to answering Sony’s A7 series.

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According to a new report over on Nikon Rumors, they have uncovered a new patent in Japan for a 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 VR full frame mirrorless lens. Now, there would be absolutely no reason for Nikon to be working on patents for such lenses, unless they were also working on a body to go along with them. That, or they are going to start making Sony FE lenses, but I think we all know the more likely of the two scenarios is that they are making their own.

Just to be clear, there is no patent for a camera, not one discovered yet anyhow.  So, there is no way of knowing how soon Nikon may come to market with a full frame FX offering. But as I mentioned above, if they are working on the lenses, then they have to be working on a body as well or it makes no sense to work on lenses. That is where we are today. It’s just a guessing game at this point, but it looks promising.

Nikon is at the very least looking into an FX mirrorless system, when or if they decide to move forward with it is still the big question.

What are your thoughts on this new patent? Do you agree that this points to Nikon at least toying with an FX mirrorless body? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

[via Nikon Rumors]

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Dave Haynie

    I don’t think Sony set out to make full frame mirrorless for enhanced image quality or anything other than the simple fact that their mirrorless cameras were selling much better than their DSLRs. And going to mirrorless full frame, they’d own that segment for awhile. They need lenses, but they hit this hard, with the three (now four) versions of the A7. It made complete sense for Sony.

    For Nikon and Canon? I don’t know what it buys them. If you’re making a EF-mount Canon or F-mount Nikon, you’re making the same sized mirrorless as your DSLR. I can see some logic in making a switch-hitter — a camera that could run mirrorless or with a mirror (done, of course, with mirrors — the electronic viewfinder is an overlay over the optical, and when the mirror’s up, that’s all you see).

    But they’ve both spoken on their view of mirrorless. Canon made what’s basically a interchangeable lens G-series camera, with the EOS-M, except that most of the G-series have better controls. Nikon seems to be trying to pull an Apple with the Nikon 1 — they’re pretty little cameras, but not for serious use, and way overpriced for most consumers.

    So, here’s the thing… with Sony doing the FF mirrorless thing and micro-four-thirds and Fujifilm doing a really nice job with compact and some really nice still photographer’s cameras (I added Olympus m43 to my existing Canon system… as an OM-series refugee from the 70s, it felt pretty good), I don’t see what advantage Nikon or Canon bring in a new lens mount. And keeping the existing mounts, they lose the only real advantage of full-time mirrorless, the smaller bodies.

    I think this is why Nikon and especially Canon have treated mirrorless as a hobby. They don’t see the threat (and given that mirrorless is about 30% of the 25% of the interchangeable lens market that isn’t Canon or Nikon, they have a point) and don’t see how moving to mirrorless sells more cameras. Clearly Sony does, but they’re also riding high on sensor sales, they bring real video experience (matched by Panasonic and Canon, sure), and they need to offer something different than Canon and Nikon, since they have no glass (I’d suggest some more lenses, but that’s just me).

    I don’t think Nikon or Canon will get serious about mirrorless until they’ve had some kind of religious conversion and become true believers. And that’ll be the “oh, wow” camera, not the “huh, what” we’ve seen so far. May never happen….

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  2. Rome Wilkerson

    I would love to see a professional full frame mirrorless body I would buy it.

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  3. Rafael Steffen

    If Nikon comes out with a good full frame mirror less camera then we are all nicely set up to have just one system.

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  4. Matthew Saville

    Do you think Nikon might have signed some sort of death-certificate-esque contract with sony stating that they would NOT make full-frame mirrorless cameras until after X date? That’d be really stupid, of course, but then again Nikon might have had to make some kind of crazy firstborn-sacrificing agreement in order to get their hands on the D800 / D810 sensor…

    Either way, the one thing that Nikon has going for them is their decades-old legacy of knowing how to design a camera. So unlike Sony, which has, let’s be honest, been doing nothing but throwing crap against the wall to see what sticks, …Nikon stands a chance at creating a home-run camera in just the first 1-2 models they release.

    Nikon has always been all about “slow and steady wins the race”. When Nikon dawdled on making their first full-frame, they created the D3 that blew everything else out of the water. When Nikon dawdled on leaving 12 megapixels, they gave us the 36 MP sensor, which is still the greatest sensor ever made for the FF format.

    Why then should we have any doubts that when Nikon dawdles on creating a mirrorless camera, it won’t be the most ingenious, ground-breaking option on the market?

    Just my wishful thinking, maybe…

    =Matt=

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    • adam sanford

      Matt,

      This Canon guy has total respect for Nikon’s ability to make a great camera. However, I *do not* have faith in *anyone* to define the mirrorless market well enough to make a brand that will conquer it.

      Consider the various large and differently opinioned groups on the mirrorless front:

      1) Those who truly see mirrorless as a technical advantage over SLRs: no mirror slap, magnifiable EVFs, hybrid OVF/EVFs with great realtime tools in view, super high burst rates, better durability without a mirrorbox assembly and (hopefully) lower costs from less mechanical parts. They see mirrorless as the categorical future of photography on all fronts for all forms of shooting — they want an industry migration to mirrorless and full stables of lenses developed expressly for the mirrorless mount (who will shoot a football game with a lens mount adapter?).

      2) Those who really don’t care about (1) and solely see mirrorless as a gateway to better IQ, even if it’s bassackwardly pulled off with adaptors, MF, Liveview, tripods and such. Size is irrelevant for these guys. They just want a great sensor they can bolt their existing glass on to. Many of these folks might only use mirrorless as a ‘sensor crutch’ until their chosen company delivers a better sensor in their native mount. (This bucket is also known as “Jealous Canon Landscape Shooters”).

      3) People who want a small, discreet overall rig size with stellar glass. The Leica crowd, perhaps with less money and a need for AF. These folks *don’t* shoot everything and don’t expect their mount to do it all — so lenses covering 16mm – 135mm FF are all they really need. They’ll use adapters for *small* lenses, but there is zero chance they’ll bolt a pickle jar on to these rangefindery little cameras.

      4) Retro style lovers / film enthusiasts that love the simplicity of older rigs. The ‘joy of shooting’ people, all that. Don’t give me bells and whistles, just give me something simple, reliable and (hopefully) nice looking.

      Just from that crude bucketization of mirrorless, we’d see that Fuji/Olympus are tacking hard to cover #3 and #4, and Sony is betting the farm on #2 and trying to flip pros to their side.

      But no one has developed a compelling vision or value proposition for what #1 — the ‘total mirrorless’ world — will look like without adapters, clunkyness, limitations, and compromise. I throw the gauntlet down to CaNikon to think it through, sort it out, and offer that compelling ‘all-in’ mirrorless future.

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      I think Adam hit the nail on the head! It’s an odd category that is attracting a variety of photographers, including me.

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    • adam sanford

      Steven, I just think what everyone wants with mirrorless is something different than the next person you ask. I mean this even more so than with SLRs, which are a mature market with well-segmented user groups and price points.

      The post that sums it up: a person on Petapixel, posting a response to their same story on this, only said:

      “Dear Nikon,

      Don’t F— this up.

      Love,
      The World”

      He/she said this *as if it was abundantly clear* what Nikon needed to do in FF mirrorless, and that really makes me giggle.

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    • Austin Swenson

      Nikon better come out with a super camera body that does everything and tons of lenses to fit it if they are going mirrorless, because everyone and their mom that reviews mirrorless cameras lately likes to point out what they are not meant for as if one camera body is supposed to do everything; if they do like Sony and only release their bodies with just a few lenses, everyone is going to have a field day criticizing them for not having or doing what they want.

      I do wish Nikon luck trying to make a full frame sensor camera that can shoot 8+ fps to shut up all the sports shooters that dump all over mirrorless…

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    • adam sanford

      Austin, high-end sports/wildlife shooters will the *last* holdouts, the “you can pry my OVF from my cold dead hands” people. The rigs for those folks need to be built like tanks, have razor sharp responsiveness, super high burst rates and endless buffers. High MP sensor mirrorless will spectacularly underwhelm those folks for a number of years to come.

      But step back from $10k+ lenses and safari gear and it’s possible. A 7D2 killer in mirrorless could absolutely happen in the next 2-3 years — if the MP count is reasonable (say 20-24 MP), there’s no reason you couldn’t offer a high burst, top notch AF system in a high end APS-C setup in the near to mid term.

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    • Matthew Saville

      It’s not even the burst rate that I’m dying over; I’d be happy with 8-10 FPS really. I know that mirrorless is bragging about 15 FPS burst rates, but that doesn’t do me any good without solid AF tracking, and a big, deep buffer.

      So, dear mirrorless,
      Please give me solid AF tracking, extreme low-light AF precision / reliability and a fantastic buffer, and THEN I will consider you truly superior to what I currently use.

      =Matt=

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    • Holger Foysi

      Using the A7ii side by side with the D810 and D610 recently, the A7ii is great fun but performance (not IQ) is still far from the DSLRs I use (different of course when using entry level DSLRs). As M. Saville wrote, AF-tracking is still mediocre, as is AF in low light. The A7s is a different story when shooting stills, however. As soon as you go to the tele end, you will end up with lenses of similar size negating the smaller body (which by the way could be a little larger for me; 70-200F4 from Sony is similar to Nikons in size and wieght).
      This will change. The NX1 and A6000 already hint into the direction possible with mirrorless. But if you are happy with a D750 and D810, there is almost no reason for me to switch completely, at least _right now_. What I miss is that the cost reduction in production translates more into real world prizes (XT1,OMD EM1), which if cheaper is negated by very high lens prices. Good mirrorless glass is expensive, even for small m43 and APSC format, especially if you go to lenses providing shallower DOF (75mm/1.8,42.5/1.2,40-150/2.8, or the 1.2 and 1.4 Fuji lenses). Price/performance of the Nikon 1.8G lenses is hard to beat and weight when paired with a D750 is not an issue for many, too. But to stay competitive, a well thought out mirrorless system from Nikon is welcome.

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  5. Steven Pellegrino

    Hopefully they’re looking at the success Sony is having with A7 and will head in the mirrorless direction. Personally, I’m on the edge. I’m working with two different systems right now, Nikon and Fuji. I’d love to combine the best of both worlds and right now that seems to be Sony. Every time you do a Sony article I’m that much closer to jumping, but I’m playing a waiting game. Will Nikon or Fuji go full frame mirrorless?

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    • adam sanford

      The A7 sensors are dynamite, but do we know how well they are actually *selling*? Sony’s hemorrhaging money at the corporate level, but I don’t know how their imaging division is doing, let alone this new brand.

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    • Austin Swenson

      I think it’s all going to be about what kind of lens selection these guys have first… One of the things Sony gets criticized for is not having enough lenses to support what everyone seems to say they need, but now they at least have the holy trinity of 16-200 focal length zooms to cover the basic needs. Now if they can only come out with sweet larger length primes like an 85 and 135mm lenses…

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  6. adam sanford

    Nikon has invested a fair amount in their Nikon 1 system, but they chose the ‘tiny’ road and saw a very small sensor was a means to a very small body+lens setup. However, no enthusiasts got on board due to relatively poor IQ against its larger-sensored competition.

    At some point, I see them poaching another good Sony sensor as the basis of a ‘more-serious’ future mirrorless platform. Whether that’s FF or crop remains to be seen, but this patent might suggest FF.

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  7. Greg Silver

    I sure hope they’re coming out with mirrorless cameras. I’m wondering if because they’re looking at patenting a mirrorless lens – does that mean they’re existing lenses wouldn’t work on the new mirrorless cameras.

    Would be nice if photographers could use their existing lenses and save them some $$$.

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