Back in December 2020/January 2021, as I was surveying the state of mirrorless camera manufacturing in the midst of a global virus pandemic, I predicted gloomily that, though the major camera manufacturers would be busy working on their flagship full-frame mirrorless cameras, they would not release them because the economic landscape was just not right for it. Perhaps, I was wrong.
First, Sony beat everyone to the punch with the release of the Alpha 1. With a name like the Alpha 1, it’s got to be their flagship camera, right? I know the naming convention is crazy: the A9 is better than the A7, but the A1 is the best of them all.
Now, in an interview with DPReview, Keiji Oishi (Department Manager of Nikon’s Imaging Business Unit, UX Planning Department) has quietly let the cat out of the bag:
A flagship Nikon Z-series mirrorless camera can be expected within the year, and is being developed with the goal of surpassing the D6. It will respond to the advanced needs of professionals. The upcoming model will debut a newly developed high-resolution stacked CMOS sensor. While this camera will be a major technological leap for still photographers of a wide variety of genres, our engineers are considering powerful video features such as 8K that respond to the needs of all kinds of content creators and professionals.
Read that again: Nikon’s new flagship full-frame mirrorless camera (should logically be named the Z 1, but it’s rumored to be the Z 9) “can be expected within the year, and is being developed with the goal of surpassing the D6.” If you ever wondered whether Nikon is fully committed to mirrorless technology, you have it black-and-white here in writing. If the release of the Z 6 and Z 7 was any indication, we can expect lots of teasers and intentional leaks before the Z 1 is formally announced “within the year.”
That leaves Canon as the only other major camera manufacturer who has yet to announce (officially or through teasers and intentional leaks, though rumors have already started to surface) their flagship full-frame mirrorless camera. Now, what will it be called? They already have the R, and the RP, Ra, R5 and R6. It could be called the R8 or R9. If Canon follows past naming conventions, it should be called the EOS-1R and EOS-1R X, but it is rumored to be the R1. After the EOS R5 marketing mishap, Canon will be just a little bit more careful with their announcement this time around. But just a little bit.
I was perhaps wrong about the major camera manufacturers not releasing their flagship full-frame mirrorless cameras this year. Sony already did, and now it looks like Nikon is planning to. Canon won’t be far behind. Both companies are working on it, but will they be able to release their cameras — or will they only show working prototypes? Both the Nikon Z 9 and Canon EOS-R1 may well show up at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. We hope both flagship cameras can actually be released this year. Mirrorless technology is the future and deserves to have the two biggest players give Sony some serious competition so that mirrorles technology can develop further, better and faster. And every progress will inevitably filter down to lesser and more affordable models. Users can only rejoice that there will be more full-frame mirrorless choices ahead soon.