What’s the difference between a roadmap and a lens lineup? About 2 years, I reckon!

L-Mount cameras and lenses
Lens roadmaps can give you confidence that a format has a future, but they don't solve your problems today. (Image credit: L-Mount Alliance)

I think we're all a bit fed up with camera makers launching a new camera which will only be able to do all it promises at some point in the future when a firmware update arrives.

But it's just as annoying when makers publish a lens roadmap of all the optics you're going to be able to buy at some point in the future. I mean it's good that we know what's coming, but it does feel like the same thing – selling a system based on what it's going to be able to do in the future, not what it can do now.

Look how long we had to wait for some of the best Nikon Z lenses, best Canon RF lenses and even the newest and best Fujifilm lenses. I get that it takes time to get a whole new lens system designed and in production, but it still feels like promises now, products later.

Lens roadmaps often describe products scheduled to appear one or two years in the future. That's a long time in camera tech. In one or two years, you may be looking at replacing your camera or even switching brands. It's also no help if you need a specific lens today.

Worse, the roadmap is only the first stage. It's followed by an official launch announcement which typically quotes a further date when the lens will become availabe, often 1-3 months in the future, sometimes more.

And then when the lens is officially available, you may still have to wait until your retailer can get stock, which introduces another delay.

It looks like Nikon's Z-mount roadmap is now completed. (Image credit: Nikon)

The end of lens roadmaps?

There are signs, however, that this lens roadmap marketing has reached its peak. All the lenses in the Nikon Z lens roadmap have now been released and the same is true of the Fujifilm X-mount lens roadmap. Panasonic's Lumix S lens roadmap now has just a couple of new releases to come, a 'wide tele-zoom' and a macro lens, and the Olympus/OM System lens roadmap seems to have been filled too.

Sony does not publish a lens roadmap, but then its lens system is already extensive and well established. Canon does not officially publish an RF lens roadmap, but has indicated we might expect somewhere around 8-10 new RF lenses each year. 

Lens roadmaps made a lot of sense in the early days of new mirrorless systems as camera makers moved to convince photographers their systems were worth investing in. Now, though, mirrorless systems have reached a point where their lens line-ups are largely complete, or complete enough to do the job.

There is one exception. We still don't know what future lens support the Canon RF-S and Nikon Z DX APS-C systems will get. Until that becomes clear, it's hard to recommend these cameras to enthusiasts who want to build a lens system. Now this is where we really DO need a roadmap.

More opinion pieces by Rod Lawton:

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Rod Lawton

Rod is an independent photography journalist and editor, and a long-standing Digital Camera World contributor, having previously worked as DCW's Group Reviews editor. Before that he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar, as well as contributing to many other publications. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more. Rod has his own camera gear blog at fotovolo.com but also writes about photo-editing applications and techniques at lifeafterphotoshop.com