At Photokina 2016, Nikon told us that it was considering producing a full-frame mirrorless camera, then a year later in September 2017, we had confirmation that the next Nikon mirrorless camera will feature a full-frame sensor. It’s a logical step and one that will be warmly welcomed by many photographers.
There now seems to be rising tide of opinion that we can expect to see a Nikon full-frame mirrorless camera by the end of this year. So with Photokina 2018, the world’s largest photographic trade show just around the corner In September, we thought it timely to give some thought to the likely specification of Nikon’s mirrorless full-frame camera.
Name and Audience
Nikon‘s first mirrorless digital camera system featured 1-inch type sensors and was called Nikon 1. It seems unlikely that Nikon will continue this name for the mirrorless full-framer. It’s hard to call its name.
It’s possible that Nikon will plump for a name that underlines the company’s heritage, maybe going for something like Nikon D6, to make clear its links to the top-flight Nikon D5. There could be an additional letter to give some distinction from the DSLR range, so perhaps it will be called the Nikon D6X?
Another option is to develop the Nikon Df line and introduce a mirrorless camera as the Df II.
Of course, Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera may not be a D5 successor or competitor, it’s possible that we’ll see something aimed at a wide audience. But, Nikon really needs to stem the flow of photographers to the Sony A7-series, so it needs to introduce a camera (or cameras) that will entice serious photographers. Could it be the Nikon D860 or D850X perhaps?
One of the most significant questions that photographers want answering about a Nikon mirrorless camera is, what lens mount will it have? It’s a very safe bet that it will be compatible with Nikon F-mount lenses, but this may well be via an adaptor.
Earlier this year we heard rumours that Nikon is planning to introduce a new Z-mount for its mirrorless full-frame camera.
According to Nikon Rumors, the manufacturer filed patents with illustrations of a new lens mount design that has electronic contacts in locations that are different from those on the F-mount.
Furthermore, the rumour site said that the external diameter of the new mount is 49mm while the flange depth is 16mm. This suggests that the new camera will be shallower than Nikon’s current DSLRs and have a wider lens mount as the Nikon F-mount has a 46.5mm flange depth and diameter of 44mm.
If Nikon is going to compete with Sony in the full-frame mirrorless camera market it will need a sensor that has phase detection autofocus pixels embedded on it. Currently, Nikon’s DSLRs use contrast detection in Live View mode so this will be a significant leap forward.
It’s possible that Nikon will use an evolved version of the D850’s 45.7Mp sensor. It’s proved to be very capable, delivering high-quality images in a wide variety of situations and its clean image signal could help improve the focusing performance.
Nikon might also launch the Expeed 6 processing engine to help boost speed and performance.
Viewfinder and Screen
While Fujifilm has successfully integrated a hybrid viewfinder into cameras like the X-Pro 2, I think Nikon will opt for a high-quality electronic viewfinder in its first mirrorless full-frame camera. This will bring the advantage of being able to see images with the camera settings applied before they are captured.
Nikon has already acknowledged the usefulness of a vari-angle screen in its D5000-series, most recently the D5600. It would give the company’s first mirrorless full-frame camera an advantage over the Sony A7-series if it also had a vari-angled screen. It would make framing landscape and portrait format images from creative angles far easier than with a fixed or tilting screen.
Fully-articulating screens are also favoured by videographers and vloggers, especially when paired with touch-control to give a quick and silent means of controlling the camera.
I’m confident that Nikon will ensure that its first mirrorless full-frame camera is 4K enabled. The Nikon D850 can shoot 4K/UHD (3,840 x 2160) video at 30, 25 or 24p with no cropping and I expect the new mirrorless model to be able to do at least that. Perhaps it will even be able to record C4K (4096 x 2160) at 24p to match the Panasonic GH5.
Announcement and Release Date
I think we can expect Nikon to announce its first mirrorless full-frame camera at Photokina in September, but given past rumours circulating about it being announced in spring 2019, I think it’s unlikely that it will go on sale until 2019.
Keep your eye on Camera Jabber because we’ll bring you all the news as soon as we have it.