2016: Glass 3/4s Full or 3/4s Empty?

It’s amusing to watch all the posts and rhetoric on the Internet that have some camera companies managing to land people on Mars while other camera makers seem to need a Mars bar so as to get their energy back (or some other labored metaphor; sorry, it’s the end of the year and I’ve used up my annual supply of good metaphors ;~).

Nikon
Let’s start with Nikon. Oh my, what a terrible year! I mean we only got an incredible D5; an incredible D500; the incredible 19mm f/4 PC-E, 105mm f/1.4, and 70-200mm f/2.8E FL lenses, plus a head-scratchingly good 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G AF-P lens; and oh yeah, that radio-controlled flash system everyone’s been asking for since forever. 

Sure, the D3400 was even less than a lukewarm update, the KeyMissions managed to forget the Key and not complete the Mission, and the DLs simply wandered off into the Thailand high mountains somewhere where no one could find them. Plus SnapBridge didn’t have any snap and is a terrible bridge to almost nowhere. 

Still, personally I’m getting focus and image quality above and beyond what I’ve gotten before from Nikon in my shooting, and so are a lot of others I know. That doesn’t count for anything? 

Yes, we’re disappointed that Nikon seems to be clueless in mirrorless, that DX lenses still seem to be on the endangered species list (buzz, buzz), and that all the special stuff Nikon tried this year just didn’t make anyone feel special (again, DL, KeyMission, SnapBridge). But certainly for a high-end photographer, how can you complain about two seminal cameras and three seminal lenses? 

Canon
Not that Canon did any better (or worse ;~). We got an incredible 1Dx Mark II and very credible EOS M5 and 5D Mark IV cameras, basically equalling Nikon in the “good body” race. The Rebel T6 and 80D seem more in the less-than-lukewarm category to me, though, as was the G7 X Mark II. 

The EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III and EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II didn’t rise to optical levels as far as I think the Nikkor trio did, but those are really nice updates for the higher end crowd. I haven’t tried the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II or the EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS yet, so can’t really comment on them. The EF-M 28mm f/3.5 also seems like a winner, though not exactly a focal length I want for a macro, myself. 

Over at Sony, the main camera rollouts were the many-numeralled RX100 Mark V and RX10 Mark III, plus the strange quick double-clutch of the A6300 and A6500. Yet somehow the RX100 Mark I, RX 10 Mark II, and A6000 still seem to be “current." Yes, there’s the A99 Mark II, but is it really shipping yet? Feels more like a pre-announced 2017 camera to me. 

The glass blowers at Sony were working on overtime compared to the rest of the world, but of course, they started from a nearly 100m unit hole against the duopoly, so they’d better be blowing hard. Every one of the seven new FE lenses was a winner in some way, though why we have three 50mm lenses now seems wrong to me. 

The Dwarves
While it felt like it was a big year with the rest of the makers given all the exclamation points in the press releases and additional marketing hype that was bestowed on anyone who passed within earshot, let’s be honest here: Fujifilm took three cameras from 16mp to 24mp where they belong (and yes, they refined two of them), did the less-than-lukewarm thing on two others, and only produced two new lenses. Fujifilm’s (literally) big news (GFX) was a pre-announcement, so another 2017 camera. 

Olympus almost matched that, with a smaller move to 20mp: a Pen F at the start of the year, the P-late, delivery of a 2015-announced lens (300mm f/4), a trio of other very nice new lenses, and just barely in time for the New Year celebrations: a small handful of OM-D E-M1 Mark IIs.  Panasonic gave us a couple of minor lenses, a couple of mid-range body updates, and the promise of a GH5 in 2017. Oh, and a new slate of 1” cameras. 

Hasselblad swung for the fences and…well, the ball is lost somewhere in roof of the dome at the moment. They say they’ll dislodge it and get their home run soon. Of course, the referees might call it a ground rule double when it appears (look it up). 

Summary
In short, Nikon’s 2016 does not look quite as bad as the Internet herd seems to be moo-ing. I’d say the glass was three-quarters full. Let’s hope for another three-quarters in 2017, since I drank pretty much everything that tasted good in the 2016 glass.


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