Canon joins the full frame mirrorless camera fray with their Canon EOS R – some thoughts

Written by Gary on September 5th, 2018

Finally, Canon have been dragged into the full frame mirrorless world kicking and screaming – but what have they given us and will it be competitive?

The short answer based on specs and promo videos is that they have created a fantastic portrait and people photography camera – as long as you are not into action or sports – you will have to wait for their pro version to come for that!

Their approach to this Canon EOS R and their initial RF mount lenses is quite different to that of Nikon with their new Nikon R system.

Nikon’s approach seemed to be one of uncertainty – perhaps they did not want to take away from their pro dSLR system, perhaps they did not have enough self-belief in their mirrorless technology – but their initial lens offerings were certainly not aimed at enticing the pros into the system, but perhaps just to stem the tide of enthusiasts and pros moving from Nikon to Sony.

Canon’s approach was very different – sure, they had to develop a new lens mount, just like everyone else has done, but they have essentially created a mirrorless version of their Canon 5D Mark IV with a number of important improvements, some wonderful pro lenses and not one but three EF lens adapters to entice current Canon users to buy into this new RF system – including a rear filter drop in for those with ultra wide lenses or the Canon TS-E 17mm f/5 tilt-shift lens – this may be a godsend to many Canon landscape and architect photographers.

The new Canon EOS R

The camera is clearly priced to compete with the Sony A7III and the new Nikon Z6 – both of which are marginally cheaper, and in some aspects better.

Let’s be clear, this is not a sports camera, unlike the Olympus E-M1 II which can do 18fps with C-AF, or the Sony’s which can do 20fps, this Canon EOS R can only hit 5fps with C-AF, and only 3fps with tracking on.

Despite all the lead time, Canon has failed to release it with a silent electronic burst mode – they say this will come in a later firmware update – suggesting that perhaps Nikon’s announcement of the Z system has rushed their timeline.

A massive disappointment to me as someone with lots of pro Canon lenses such as the tilt-shift lenses which would be awesome on this camera is the failure of Canon to add a sensor based image stabilization system which has now become the de facto standard of modern cameras – but it seems Canon has staunchly refused to add to any of their cameras – sure, for people photography you can avoid it by using higher ISO, but IS allows those prime lenses to be used far more creatively hand held by dragging the shutter – so for me it is almost a deal breaker.

I was pleasantly surprised by Nikon adding sensor based IS to the Z cameras despite never having used this technology in prior cameras – perhaps Canon has not developed it or just is being stubborn, in which case it could end up being a significant factor against them.

Like Nikon they failed to address another need of the professionals – dual memory card slots – perhaps this will come in their pro version.

The new RF lenses.

Unlike Nikon’s new Z mount lenses which are somewhat underwhelming, the new Canon lenses are impressive – especially if you are a people photographer.

For portraits, Canon easily trumps the Nikon Z cameras as well as ANY dSLR available, not only with their DualPixel AF and Eye AF capability (we are yet to see how well this works compared to the Sony but at least it has this feature), but also with two awesome, albeit large, heavy and expensive lenses:

  • Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L
    • in their promo material, Canon announced this was the world’s 1st constant f/2.0 standard zoom lens – well they should have added full frame zoom lens because Olympus beat them many years ago with their brilliant 14-35mm f/2.0 and 35-100mm f/2.0 “Super Pro” lenses
    • nevertheless, this could be a ground breaking lens which brings the Canon pros into the RF fold – if they don’t mind carrying another 1.4kg expensive lens ($US2,999)
    • I can see it would be fantastic for the wedding and fashion photographer – just a pity the camera only has one memory card slot and no image stabilisation
  • Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM
    • almost 1kg and priced at $US2,299, this lens promises to be a far better portrait lens than it’s EF predecessor thanks to the far better AF including Eye AF and better optical design, plus the new controller ring

The other lenses are somewhat run of the mill expected lenses – a 24-105mm f/4 kit lens with IS and a small 35mmf/1.8 IS macro lens which would be great for street photography except it is not weathersealed, so a pain when you bump into that person eating an icecream!

There are two interesting features on this initial lens line up to ponder:

  • Canon has created a novel user interface – the customizable control ring on each lens which could be programmed to control aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.
  • The mix of AF systems:
    • the larger lenses use USM – albeit it seems in a fast, quieter version “Nano USM” (at least the 24-105mm uses this) – but how well will these fair with Eye AF and subject tracking compared to a stepping motor?
    • the 35mm f/1.8 lens uses a stepping motor as on nearly every other lens designed for mirrorless cameras

As usual, I will post specs and links to reviews on my wiki when they become available.

It is exciting times indeed, but I wonder if all this full frame hype may in a few years be taken over by medium format hype – after all, if everyone has a full frame you might want to be better than them and get a sensor that is 2.5x larger so it must be better right?

Well Fuji is bringing down the price of medium format rapidly, and looks like they might have a 50mp mirrorless on the market for the price of only 2-3 entry level full frame mirrorless cameras.

Meanwhile, I will stick to my compact, light, fun Micro Four Thirds system and watch how this all plays out.

When shooting well lit scenes with the pro lenses, you will have trouble discerning any differences in image quality on a 1m print taken with either a 20mp Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II or a Canon 5D Mark IV at twice the weight and price – don’t believe me – check out this Youtube video that tests this and even compromises the Olympus output by cropping it further to 3:2.

Next up into the full frame mirrorless arena is likely to be Panasonic – presumably sporting a Leica SL mount (given that they make the Leica full frame mirrorless cameras already) – why would Panasonic do this? Primarily to allow 8K video for the Olympic Games in Japan and at this stage there is no cropped sensor capable of 8K video.

 

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