Artists's Rendering of Imaginary Nikon Z60 APS-C Camera
Artists's Rendering of Imaginary Nikon Z60 APS-C Camera

Nikon Z60 and Z70 APS-C Z-Mount: Why Nikon Might Win the Mirrorless Market

Looking for some wild speculation about the mirrorless camera market? You've come to the right place.

Sony is the clear leader in the mirrorless full-frame camera market at the moment, and although they have recently lost market share to Canon and Nikon, it is likely the result of an expansion of the market rather than a drop in units shipped by Sony. For over five years, Sony has been updating and refining their A7 and A9 mirrorless camera lines and building up a respectable collection of high quality full-frame lenses.

And yet, Nikon may catch up.

This is not because of the success of the Z6 and Z7 cameras, although they are very nice. It is because APS-C market still represents a massive portion of digital camera and lens sales, and Nikon is probably about to introduce at least two new mirrorless APS-C cameras with the Z-Mount. At least, that’s my guess. I have no inside information.

The chart above represents lens sales, which may serve as a rough proxy for body sales, if taken with a few large grains of salt. Full-frame numbers include medium format (a tiny percentage of overall sales) and crop numbers include APS-C and Micro 4/3. Numbers are according to CIPA Data.

Why Will Nikon Catch Up?

Industry rumors are swirling, as usual, but suggest that Nikon has registered five new cameras to be announced in the near future, probably the CP+ show in Japan at the end of February. If at least one of these cameras is not an APS-C mirrorless, then Nikon is a hive of fools. Consider the following points:

  1. Nikon has developed all of the technology necessary for high-quality mirrorless cameras, and they could dramatically increase sales by packing it into an affordable APS-C body in the $800-1200 range.
  2. When the DSLR market was in its boom period, it was because of APS-C cameras. Sales of professional, full-frame models have remained relatively steady while APS-C sales have dropped.
  3. Canon already has an APS-C “EOS M” camera line that is the segment market leader in Japan, and it doens’t use the “RF” mount, so Canon users who want to shoot with APS-C and full-frame (or who want to buy with the option to upgrade in the future) will have to use two different lens mounts with adapters. If Canon wants to make RF-mount APS-C cameras, they’ll either have to waste money by continuing to develop two separate lines of APS-C cameras (which seems unlikely), or discontinue the EOS M line, which will immediately lose them millions in Asian EOS M sales. Current lens patent filings indicate that new M-mount lenses are being actively developed.
  4. Sony has an excellent line of APS-C cameras, but it has two noteworthy problems: first, Sony has somehow failed to produce a great collection of high-quality lenses for them (excluding FE mount lenses). There are few APS-C primes and no f/2.8 APS-C zooms, and the more popular consumer-level zooms have optics of mediocre quality.
  5. Second, the E-mount is significantly smaller than Nikon’s Z mount, which has been a (perhaps needless) cause of concern for people considering the switch to Sony from Nikon and Canon (for this to be justified, we’d have to all agree that Canon lenses, with their larger EF-mount, have been obviously better than Nikon lenses over the three decades). Regardless, there is at least a theoretical advantage to a larger mount, and many of us make buying decisions on theoretical factors.

These factors leave a window of opportunity open for Nikon, and it won’t last forever. At CES and again during Sony’s press event to announce the a6400, they made a big deal about Sony being the only system on the market that has APS-C consumer cameras, professional full-frame cameras, and consumer video and pro cinema cameras that all use the E-mount.

If Nikon produces a Z-mount APS-C camera, they can at least compete with Sony where photographers are concerned, and because of the paucity of Sony’s lens offerings for their APS-C line, Nikon wouldn’t have far to go to catch up.

Add Nikon’s strong reputation and huge, loyal fanbase that they have already developed over the past century, and combine it with Sony’s reputation for producing miserably designed user-interfaces, and Nikon just may climb to the top of the mirrorless camera marketplace while Canon is still flailing around with three different lens mounts.

Two cameras on a white background
Matthew Gore | Light And Matter The M-mount Canon EOS M50 camera, left, and Sony a6400, right.

On the other hand, if Sony produces a few solid lenses for their APS-C cameras and announces them at CP+, such as a 16-55 f/2.8, an 11-24 f/2.8, or even something more ambitious like some ultra-large aperture primes or zooms, then Sony may finally run away with the market.

Predictions for the Nikon Z60 and Nikon Z70

I’m only guessing about the camera names, but Z60 and Z70 seem likely. These names mirror the existing Nikon Z6 and Z7 and also the naming structure of the original lineup of Nikon APS-C mirrorless cameras like the D60 and D70.

Nikon copied the features and market positioning of the Sony A7III and A7RIII so closely that it seems reasonable to assume that they’ll do the same thing with the their APS-C line (the a6300/a6400 and a6500). If so, we’ll see the following:

Nikon Z70 Features:

  • In-Body Image Stabilization
  • 4K Video, full-sensor readout (Canon EOS M50 crops heavily for 4K)
  • 10 fps
  • 24 to 28 megapixel sensor with no anti-aliasing filter
  • Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th sec (like the D7000 line, not the Sony)
  • High-Speed Sync / CLS Flash

Nikon Z60 Features:

  • No In-Body Image Stabilization
  • 4K Video, full-sensor readout
  • 8-10 fps
  • 24 megapixel sensor with no anti-aliasing filter
  • Shutter speeds up to 1/4000th sec
  • No High-Speed Sync (like the D5000 line, not the Sony)

Of course, both cameras will have a Z-mount, and I’d expect both to be fairly well weather sealed, with high-quality touchscreens that flip out to the side to face forward (if Nikon is smart).

And if I were Nikon, I’d also release a Z600 (or similar) full-frame, entry level Z-mount camera around now. This is where the bulk of the market will be shopping.

What Do You Think?

Much of this is wild speculation, and your guess is as good as mine. Do you think Nikon will create an APS-C line of Z-mount cameras, or do you think that they’ll release a similarly priced full-frame camera? There are, of course, advantages to both.

Anyone think I’m just crazy? Let me know in the comment section below.

For what it’s worth, I’m currently a Sony & Canon shooter, though I shot Nikon digital for several years. I don’t have any camera brand loyalties.

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Hi, I’m a camera repairman, you may not find this information useful, but I’m writing. Among the few cameras on the market for many years, I promise 100% that Nikon cameras are much more durable, and even easier to repair, and I see very few weird, unrepairable breakdowns. It is true that Sony cameras have not been repaired yet and I can not write an exact comment, but by a professional camera and lens repairman and technically inside Nikon cameras and electronic boards, materials used on the board, copper, lead And tin, sockets, and even open and close every Nikon screw will be fun. There are brands and models other than Nikon that can not be replaced as before, even after unscrewing any other screw.

Ian P

Hi; thank you for covering this aspect.
I shoot 24mp DX, I like smaller and lighter and for most of photography the DX vs FX argument is largely mute these days. For me the issue is simple. Give me a 32mp DX body with a sensor cleaner in either F or Z mount. I have good glass that I can use in either scenario and I want the resolution for cropping. If Nikon don’t move this way and I’m looking at FX with new glass then I’m going to Canon RF!

Ian P

The Canon FX 50mp sensor requires smaller receptors relative to FX. 32mp DX is much the same sensor pixel density. Canon have now followed this path to 32mp DX with excellent reviews of resolving power.

Wolfram Sauerteig

thank you for your opinion. Hopefully Nikon goes a way like that you described.
For me a switch to the Z system currently is not on the roadmap, as a body comparable to my D500 is missing.
For sure I’m not the only one expecting something similar to the D500/D7500 series. The Z50 is not.
The D500 is currently a optimum choice for me as the only camera I own for the following reasons:

  1. Low-noise APS-C sensor
  2. compact, ergonomic and very professional housing
  3. No-matter-what always reliable, precise and fast autofocus
  4. APS-C compared to full frame not only leads to smaller and lighter bodies, but also to smaller, lighter and less expensive tele lenses. You do not only save money, you carry less. I therefore do not follow the full-frame hype
John Klassen

A great read. If, as current trends seem to indicate, mirrorless cameras are the wave of the future, then your speculations are certainly not farfetched. In order to capture any reasonable segment of this market, Nikon and others will have to produce cameras targeting all segments of same, from rank amateur to professional,and there is no reason why what worked so well for DSLR sales cannot work here. As a longtime user/owner of Nikon cameras, I hope that the movers and shakers in Japan read and take your speculations to heart.