Back in 2007 to address the deficiencies of my Olympus E510 budget travel dSLR, I bought a pro sports dSLR – the 1.3x crop sensor Canon 1D Mark III supposedly acclaimed for its fast burst mode shooting and subject tracking AF. This camera was built like a tank, but its acclaimed AF system also tanked – issues with the mirror box and AF accuracy plagued this model.
All I really wanted from Canon is a well weathersealed camera with accurate eye AF and effective sensor-shift image stabilisation with an adequate sensor, nice compact and light ergonomics, good build quality.
The ONLY cameras in the subsequent decade to offer these simple requirements were the Olympus OM-D series – first the E-M5 Mark I and then I upgraded to each of the E-M1 models with their built-in grip and PDAF for fast moving subjects.
Meanwhile Canon slept, and slept and eventually they decided it was time to jump into a full frame mirrorless system but their first cameras were far from what I required as outlined above.
NOW, their Canon EOS R6 and their far more expensive R5 camera announced this week FINALLY have the features I have been wanting but which only Olympus and then Sony have provided.
The photography media world has been busy writing the obituary for the Micro Four Thirds but these cameras along with the lovely new Canon RF lenses are just as likely to spell the end of the Canon EF dSLR and Nikon F dSLR systems as unlike Micro Four Thirds, they offer very few benefits over the Canon RF system – mainly only the optical viewfinder and better battery life.
For the full specs and other details of these cameras see my wikipedia pages.
The Canon R6 as an E-M1 Mark III on steroids?
The Canon R6 is essentially a larger, heavier full frame version of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III in terms of its shooting and video capabilities.
Similarities between the two:
- excellent weathersealing (E-M1 is IPX1-rated and much better than the R6 which is similar to the Canon 6D mark II)
- excellent sensor-shift image stabilisation (6+ EV)
- excellent Eye AF subject tracking although the Canon would appear to have the better system with wider frame coverage and ability to track animals as well.
- excellent ergonomics (although the Canon is a bit big and heavy for my liking being almost 20% heavier)
- full swivel rear touch screen (although R6 has twice the resolution)
- 20mp sensor
- improved rolling shutter (but will the Canon R6 be as good as the Olympus – this is important for allowing electronic shutter and video to be useful and this has many other roll on effects as well)
- fast mechanical shutter burst rates with AF (10fps for E-m1 vs 12fps for R6)
- fast electronic shutter burst rates with AF (18fps for E-m1 vs 20fps for R6)
- mechanical shutter to 1/8000th sec
- pro-rated shutter durability (E-M1 is rated to 400,000 actuations)
- reasonably fast flash sync (1/250th sec for E-m1 vs 1/200th sec for R6)
- 4K video (only 30p on the E-M1 while the R6 can get to 60p with 1.07x crop)
- 1080HD video to 120p
- excellent video image stabilsation and AF tracking (the lower weight of the E-M1 makes it far better for selfie hand held vlogging though)
- zebra exposure warnings
- USB-C charging
- Bluetooth and WiFi, microHDMI ports
- webcam software
- Dual SD card slots
- PASM dial instead of a top LCD panel
- rear joystick controller
- ability to shoot in AF with Canon EF lenses via adapters
- optional additional battery grips for portrait aspect holding
- and many more similar features
Specific advantages of the Canon R6:
- full frame sensor allows
- 2 stops shallower DOF but only if you use lenses with wider apertures such as the f/1.2 lenses and some of these are VERY expensive!
- probably 2 stops better high ISO performance for moving subjects as long as you don’t need to stop down to attain sufficient DOF
- 14 bit files instead of 12 bit gives marginally better image quality
- 4K 60p mode
- higher resolution EVF (3.69mdot vs 2.3mdot on the E-M1)
- AF covers almost 100% of frame while the E-M1 covers around 80%
- bigger camera may better suit those with large hands
- ability to output 10-bit HDR HEIF files for stills and video
- option of closing the mechanical shutter to reduce dust when changing lenses but this then exposes the fragile shutter to damage
- both SD card slots are UHS-II (the E-M1, only one slot is UHS-II)
- a new post-processing “portrait lighting” and “background clarity” AI processing option similar to that found on smartphones, although these are probably better applied in computer post-processing.
- option of purchasing a higher resolution camera – the Canon R5
- a brighter future – the Canon RF is likely to rule the camera world along with Sony while Olympus has already announced it will sell off its imaging division and this places future product developments at substantial risk even with Panasonic still around.
Advantages of the Olympus E-M1 mark III:
- smaller and lighter (20% lighter)
- far better weather sealing and build quality (less plastic)
- more affordable (the R6 costs 50% more! $US2499 for the R6 vs $US1699 for the E-M1 III)
- more affordable and greater variety of premium quality native lenses
- twice the telephoto reach for a given size lens (although Canon has attempted to address this with their two new 600mm and 800mm f/11 spotting scope-like diffraction optics lenses which we will have to see how well they work but they are likely to lack the quality and versatility of the Olympus 300mm f/4 lens especially in low light, but at least they are cheap!)
- ability to take a 400mm telephoto reach lens to commercial sports events (many events limit focal length to 200mm so the 2x crop factor of the E-M1 becomes a major advantage here!)
- 15fps mechanical shutter burst mode with fixed focus
- 60fps electronic shutter burst rate with fixed focus
- 1/32,000th sec electronic shutter
- ProCapture mode to ensure shots are captured despite human reaction time
- Improved AF accuracy by having an in-built focus range limiter which can be used on any compatible lens and allows the user to instruct the camera to ignore subjects closer or further than the set range – this means no more accidental locking on spectators in the background
- sensor-shift Hi-Res modes – 50mp hand held and 80mp tripod versions with much reduced moire artefacts
- hand held multi-shot Live ND filter effect mode
- Live keystone correction
- Unique night modes such as Live Composite and Live Timed
- Starry AF mode
- the best sensor dust removal system available (although the R6 has the option of closing the mechanical shutter to reduce dust when changing lenses but this then exposes the fragile shutter to damage)
- 2×2 settings mode switch
- better exposure compensation, bracketing options (R6 only has 3 stops compensation while the E-M1 does 5 stops)
- better battery life (CIPA 420 shots compared with 380 on the R6)
The Canon R5 is certainly the camera that many of us have been waiting for Canon to produce for over 10 years but it does come at a high price point of $US2499 which will put it out of reach for many, particularly if that want to maximise its potential by using the new awesome Canon RF glass such as:
- Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM $US2699 and weighs 1.2kg!
- Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM $US2299 and weighs 950g
- Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM $US2699 and weighs 1070g
- Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM $US2299 and weighs 900g
As you can see above, if you really want to go the pro full frame premium route it is going to cost you a LOT of money to get those 2 stops of DOF and higher ISO performance compared to Micro Four Thirds, not to mention it will be big and heavy!
In comparison, Micro Four Thirds gives up that 2 stop DOF advantage but you can get:
- Olympus 45mm f/1.2 $US1299 and weighs 410g
- Olympus 25mm f/1.2 $US1299 and weighs 410g
- Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 $US1349 and weighs 760g and gain 50% more telephoto reach
- Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 $US999 and 382g
The Canon RF lens kit as above will cost $US9,999 and weigh 4.1kg excl. camera.
The Olympus lens kit as above will cost $US4,999 and weigh 2kg excl. camera and the lenses generally focus closer (eg. the 45mm focuses to 0.5m instead of 0.85m for the Canon 85mm) and they have a very useful manual focus clutch.
The Canon RF lenses will thus cost TWICE as much and be TWICE as heavy while the R6 is 50% more pricey then the E-M1 III and 20% heavier – the choice is yours – do you want to break your bank and your back and get that ultra shallow DOF and high ISO performance or settle for the Olympus and get greater hand holdable telephoto reach as a bonus plus a range of extra functionality as outlined above?
This price and weight difference is further exaggerated if you start considering super telephoto lenses at 600mm full frame reach or more.
Yes, you can get the new Canon RF 600mm and 800mm f/11 lenses, but when I shoot with the Olympus 300mm f/4 lens I am usually using ISO 400 in good light to get sufficient shutter speed for action, if I were to shoot with the Canon 600mm f/11 I would need ISO 3200 (3 stops higher) – if the light drops, you will quickly be getting up to very high ISO levels on the Canon! Furthermore, I suspect the image quality of these lenses will not match that of the Olympus 300mm which is one of the highest quality lenses Olympus has ever made and you do lose 1 stop DOF with those f/11 lenses.