Competition in the mirrorless APS-C market has largely been a race between Fujifilm and Sony, with Leica tagging along to the rear. In the past year, all the emphasis seems to have been on the new crop of full-frame cameras to the point w
The launch today of the Nikon Z50 is therefore of great interest. The deployment of the large Z mount is significant. Nikon follows Sony and Leica in introducing one mount to cover both formats. Sony started the ball rolling with the E-Mount, although it was introduced at a time when a full-frame version was probably not envisaged. As a result, the 43.6mm throat diameter of the E is on the borderline of suitability for a full-frame sensor and very fast lenses. Leica designed the L with a 48.8mm throat diameter while Nikon’s Z mount is the largest with a 53mm throat.
Such considerations haven’t stopped Sony dominating the large for the past few years, although I bet they wished they added a few millimetres to the mount diameter at the outset. They’re stuck with it now.
This is not the case with the L-Mount, or Nikon and Canon’s new designs. These mounts are designed first and foremost for full-frame use but also work well with APS-C. Leica designed the L-Mount specifically for the full-frame SL which was in development even before the TL was signed off. It just so happened that the TL hit the streets before the SL.
Now, however, the L-Mount forms the basis of a mature system, with five camera bodies (including the new Sigma fp) and a wide range of lenses at a number of interesting price points.
Leica fans are hoping that the CL will be given some TLC in the near future. The range of lenses, in particular, has stagnated since the launch of the T in April 2014, and we are due for some updates. Significantly, the entire system is currently lacking image stabilisation, either IBIS or ILS. While this has advantages in size and weight (especially in lens size) stabilisation is becoming a must-have feature.
Many are also hoping that Sigma will step in with an APS-C offering with crop bodies and lenses to offer a real alternative to Fuji and Sony and a cheaper option to the current sole L offerings, from Leica.
While Leica, Sony and now Nikon, offer both APS-C and full-frame systems using one mount, Panasonic and Fujifilm are rather stuck with a second lens mount that isn’t universal. Panasonic chose to leapfrog APS-C while retaining its m4/3 system in addition to L, Fuji has jumped in the opposite direction, opting for medium format and ignoring full-frame. The old X mount, with its 41.5mm throat diameter, is presumably unsuitable for full-frame and this could well explain Fuji’s decision to skip over full-frame.
However, both companies are now supporting two mount systems which is not ideal.
For now, Fuji is top of the APS-C tree. But with increasing competition from Sony and Nikon, could Fujifilm meet a strong challenge? Leica, as always, ploughs its own furrow and, largely because of the price structure, seems to exist in a parallel universe. But competition is hotting up in the APS-C world at a time when the overall market is shrinking. Something will have to give.