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The Nikon Z50 is out - is Canon EOS-M doomed?
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The Nikon Z50 is out - is Canon EOS-M doomed?

Nikon finally came out with an APS-C mirrorless camera, called the Z 50 and two consumer zooms.  They also have a 18-140mm consumer zoom on their roadmap as the only other APS-C lens in the foreseeable future for APS-C Nikon users.

Obviously, the competition between Nikon and Canon regardless of how Nikon is faring is always strong, so does this spell the end of the EOS-M, and does Canon need to move APS-C to the RF mount to combat the Z mount?  Will this spell the shift from the EOS-M to the RF mount for Canon?

There is quite a bit of speculation that now that the Z50 is out that Canon needs to shutter the EOS-M and move everything to the RF mount.  There’s certainly a benefit to that, especially if Canon wants to make a high-end mirrorless APS-C flagship camera. 

What if the APS-C cameras are simply relegated to the cheaper, consumer line?  Does it make sense to do move everything to the RF mount?  Probably not – and I’d argue that it is in Canon’s best interest to stay with what they have.

That’s not to say that Canon can rest on their laurels, if they are to continue with the EOS-M, then they now certainly need to give it a bit of lens love.  Canon needs to develop more primes and also some higher end zooms.  If they do that and make a bigger lens ecosystem that is tailored exactly for the EOS-M camera and EF-M mount, then the benefit of the Z mount for Nikon for the most part disappears. Consider that for the foreseeable future, to have a standard prime on the Z50 you have to use something like this as compared to the M50;

On one hand you can use the FTZ adapter and the existing DX lenses for the F mount, but has Thom Hogan always states, pssst, pssst, they really don’t exist there either.  Otherwise, you’re forced to use full frame lenses, and with full frame size and weight.  In this example the Z 50 is equipped with the excellent 35mm 1.8 Z mount lens that cost $849, while comparing that to the M50 with the 32mm 1.4 that costs under $500.  Nikon seems to want you to use full frame lenses with this camera, thus the bigger grip and also even the lack of a single prime on its roadmap for the DX Z mount.

There is of course some benefit to the single mount solution, for example, if you have a high resolution camera, your smaller ultra light APS-C kit lens can still perform quite well and give you a half-decent resolution in crop mode.  Another advantage of a single mount is that you can share full frame lenses if you have both a full frame and a crop camera.  Whereas, if you have an RF and EOS-M system, you would need to duplicate lenses across the system.

But there are benefits to Canon’s approach.  Having two different mounts allows Canon to optimally create cameras and lenses that suit the sensor size.  This is something that doesn’t affect Sony because they use a mount around the same size as the EOS-M for full frame and APS-C, but when  you have a larger mount, like the RF mount or the Z mount, the difference becomes obvious.

You can see that with the Z50 the mount dominates the camera, and in reality, with a center mounted EVF, that the Z mount cameras will always be nearly as tall as the Z50, and there’s little room to shrink the camera down more horizontally either.  Whereas with the EF-M mount, the camera has a mount that suits the camera size, and there’s still room if Canon wanted to even make it smaller.

On the RF mount, Canon has the EOS RP which is more expensive than the Z50 (850 versus 1299), however is nearly the same size as the Z50.

If Nikon forces its users to use primarily full frame Z mount lenses, then why even bother with an APS-C sized sensor?  Especially if a full frame camera is around the same size?  In time, Canon will have strategically created cameras that go under the $1299 price point for full frame mirrorless – is this really a sign that for the majority of users, why even bother go to anything but full frame? Canon has stated that they will develop cameras above the EOS R and also below the EOS RP.  The appeal for the majority of users for APS-C is the lenses and cameras are cheaper (not including you sports or bird photographers out there).  If Nikon forces users to use the Z mount full frame lenses for the majority of use cases, then there's no real benefit over Canon's approach of simply having cheaper full frame cameras.  In either case, you're using full frame lenses.

If Nikon comes out with a Z70 high performance APS-C camera, and sells it for dramatically less than $2000, then that is a huge competitive advantage for Nikon over the EOS-M and RF mount.  Especially considering it’s unlikely that Canon would create a 40-50MP full frame camera (that would have a 20MP crop mode) for less than $2000 to counter it.  As we have always stated, the problem domain for Canon is not the Z50, but what to do with the mirrorless 7D, or now if Nikon comes out now with a Z70 high performance APS-C camera.

Even if Canon ultimately decides to come out with an RF APS-C camera system especially a higher performance one, they could also do something very similar to Nikon.  Release 2-3 APS-C lenses for it and basically that’s it.  Canon could simply re-use the EOS-M lens designs and quickly manufacture some APS-C RF lenses.  If you want anything else, use EF or use full frame.  At the same time, Canon can also support the EOS-M system for those that truly need the size advantage and portability.   Each system plays to its inherent benefits.

With the release of the Z50, it's possible that we can now see a bit of Canon's strategy with the EOS-M mount and why the M6 Mark II came out now.  It is certainly likely that Canon decided to wait to see what Nikon released before releasing their flagship, and it makes sense to why the EVF was also contained in the M6 Mark II kits.  With this, Canon provided a competitive camera to whatever Nikon released with the M6 Mark II, and still allows Canon to decide on what to do with the M5 Mark II now that they know what Nikon has delivered.

In summary, the Z50 provides some renewed competition for Canon for APS-C cameras.  The EOS-M is specifically tailored for the sensor size and has some advantages and disadvantages when compared to the single Z mount solution offered by Nikon.  It will be up to the market to decide if the single mount solution is relevant enough to cause Canon to transition from the EOS-M system.  It remains to be seen if Nikon decides to create a high performance Z70 and causes Canon to need to counter it.  Because Nikon came out with a Z50 doesn’t mean that the EOS-M mount is going away, if anything, it highlights the strength of using a smaller mount for a smaller sensor size. Even if the RF mount gets an APS-C system, there’s still unique benefits to the EOS-M that will most likely keep Canon continuing to support it.

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