My thoughts on a low-end R series FF camera

Started Sep 11, 2018 | Discussions thread
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Jonathan Brady
Jonathan Brady Veteran Member • Posts: 6,725
My thoughts on a low-end R series FF camera

A Canon exec said he believes the R is a 5D Mark IV level camera and that he envisions a camera below the R. A thread just popped up about that and I responded, but didn't want to go as in-depth there as I will here and possibly hijack the thread. That thread got me thinking about what a cheaper FF mirrorless could look like. Then, I started thinking about how I could do without video, personally. Then I went crazy tailoring a stills-only camera to my specific needs/wants.

I'll start with my drawing and then I'll explain things. Don't make fun of my pre-K drawing skills! lol

I'm going to take a shot in the dark and assume you noticed the lack of buttons. It's VERY intentional. Here are some of my design justifications...

  • In my mind, this camera is designed for casual photographers. Some examples would be personal use with one's family/kids/vacations, social, food, street, travel, etc.
  • When shooting, especially with wide and standard lenses, I find that the easiest way to hold my camera is with the lens resting in my hand and my right hand free. If it's a physically shorter lens, I'll rest part of the body in my hand as well. My right hand is free to move around. When I move to take a picture, I bring the camera towards my face with my left hand while moving my right hand to meet the camera and grab the grip to stabilize the camera and fine-tune my composition. In other words, my left hand is the primary supporter of the camera while my right hand is the accessory. Therefore, all of the buttons/dials/etc. are on the right side of the camera so one never has to change how they're supporting the camera. Additionally, other than using the touchscreen, all of the physical controls should be reachable with your right thumb or forefinger.
  • Canon's touchscreen interface is phenomenal so we're going to rely on it for the less-used functions of the camera.
  • The design is simple (hopefully not to a fault), probably more intuitive for younger folks (who are probably using their phones for video), and theoretically, the camera is substantially cheaper.

Here's what's different from the EOS R.

  • NOT a DPAF sensor. SAY WHAT?! Yeah, you heard me read that right. DPAF sensors are EXPENSIVE compared to other sensors and DPAF excels at video and this camera doesn't have video. Also, it's theorized that the DPAF design is robbing about a stop of PDR. So, instead, we'll go for something like what the A7III or Z6 have.
  • Slower refresh rate in the EVF with a really good, but not necessarily exceptional EVF resolution.
  • No touch bar.
  • Slower frame rate, like 3 FPS in raw, maybe 5-6 in jpg.
  • Smaller buffer.
  • Less expensive processor. Without a DPAF sensor, with a slower refresh rate EVF, slower frame rate, and smaller buffer, we don't need to move a ton of data around REALLY fast. So, it stands to reason that we can use a processor from a prior generation, perhaps several generations back. The Rebel T7 has a 24mp (non-DPAF) sensor with 3 FPS and it's using a Digic 4+ and that camera was announced 7 months ago! Maybe Digic 4+ is what this needs? Or, maybe it's not enough. I have no idea. But it does NOT need Digic 8 (I'm guessing, anyway).
  • 4.5" tilting LCD as opposed to a 3.2" fully articulating screen. A fully articulating LCD is more useful for selfies and vlogging which are things that casual photographers don't really do very much. And, their phones are probably better suited for it, anyway.
  • Two dials. When in Manual mode, they can be assigned to shutter speed, aperture, or ISO. The ring around the new RF lenses can be assigned to the third. In other modes, or with Auto ISO enabled, one could be for exposure compensation.
  • One switch - the power switch, located around the shutter button.
  • 4 buttons
    • Shutter
    • Menu/Q - press it to access the menu or press/hold for 1 second to access the Q menu.
    • AF-ON - I would have this button be similar to the AF area select button on the 5D Mark IV. Of course, it could be customized to be off, Servo AF, or whatever you choose.
    • Playback (eliminate the trash can button and just do it via touchscreen when in playback mode)
  • Joystick for those times you don't want to use the screen for AF touch & drag, etc.
  • no top LCD - this info is displayed on the screen/EVF instead.
  • No ports for things like a mic jack, headphone jack, PC cable sync, HDMI, USB, etc. No on-camera mics either. So no seals are needed for those areas because those areas don't exist. Body seams will just be engineered to be very tight as extensive weather sealing isn't needed for the fair weather photographers this camera is targeted towards. This is essentially what the 6D had and I shot with that in the rain and at the beach more times than I can possibly count without issue.
  • Battery and UHS-1 slot are both behind one door. UHS-1 is all that's needed given the amount of data that needs to be moved. I suppose we can throw a weather seal around this (and the bottom plate) to avoid the Sony battery door debacle.
  • I'm not sure which communication tech allows these cameras to send pictures to a phone, but I'd eliminate whichever 2 were unneeded for that, be it wifi, bluetooth, or NFC.

FOR ME, the only thing missing from this camera would be a silent shutter like what's in the Sony A9. But, that tech is currently prohibitively expensive. So, I'm thinking that could be the version 2 of this camera 3-4 years down the road because the tech will be much cheaper and, for a slow FPS camera, we don't need ALL the tech from that sensor, just the faster scanning.

Regarding the Q menu it can be customized like in the 5D Mark IV (and I assume other recent models) but I have the layout tweaked a bit so that it resides at the top and bottom of the screen as opposed to occupying all of it. Notice that with this design, the area not taken up by the Q menu is 3:2. This means that the menu can stay up permanently, if so desired. In my mind, it's grayed out and unresponsive to touch and becomes active when you hold the Q button for 1 second. Once you half-press the shutter, it turns grey again. I'd also allow for customization where both rows could be at the top or bottom of the screen if the individual didn't like them split like this, or they could just choose to have one row. Alternatively, they could be removed entirely and replaced with other information in order to move that information off of the scene being displayed on the screen (like a histogram, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, battery remaining, etc. Remember, with the Q menu showing the remaining screen real estate is still 3:2 while also occupying the entire screen meaning if you hide the Q menu, there's blank real estate unless you fill it with other info. Here are the example options I filled my image with. Others could, of course, be chosen.

  • Shooting mode (M, Tv, Av, etc.)
  • Picture profiles
  • Metering mode
  • AF operation
  • AF method
  • Frame rate (continuous/one shot)
  • File type (raw/jpg)
  • White balance
  • Anti-flicker
  • Touch and drag AF settings
  • etc.

And don't forget, "My Menu" is still around for any overflow. But, if you NEED more than 10 options in the Q menu, then it's quite possible this camera isn't targeted toward you and you need the R.

During playback, I'd have the Q Menu disappear and instead, fill that space with histograms and other exif info, defined by the user. When magnifying an image to check for focus in playback, all info would disappear.

Hopefully that gives y'all an idea of what using this camera would be like.

I feel that a camera like this could be in the neighborhood of $1300-1400 (US) thanks to all of the omissions and scaling back of certain pieces of hardware and that will reduce the design costs, R&D costs, software costs, and support costs as well as the hardware and labor/assembly costs. Heck, even the packaging can be smaller meaning less expense for that and more cameras per shipment. All that's needed is the camera, battery and charger, plus the paperwork.

Another justification for the price I'm suggesting is that the price difference between this and the R is the same price difference, percentage-wise, as the launch prices of the 6D Mark II and 5D Mark IV.

Finally, at $1300 you're in APSC territory, price-wise. There could be significant uptake from that group, especially those who see EOS M as a dead end now. This volume would, of course, help offset the lower price point. So, I think $1300-1400 is realistic, personally.

As for lenses, I'd launch this camera with a compact 24-70/4 or even maybe a 24-85/5.6 (APSC equivalent of 15-53/3.5, so it's not terrible) along with a selection of moderately fast, moderately priced wide, standard, and short telephoto primes (like the new RF 35/1.8 Macro IS) like 18, 24, 35, 50, 85, all at f/1.8 or f/2, preferably with stabilization. This would be a GREAT offering for budget-conscious photographers who don't aspire to shoot sports, weddings, nature, etc.

Note: I fully acknowledge that some will say that the lack of video features will doom a camera like this. The kind of fate that many say the Df suffered. But, that camera was priced at a premium as Nikon forgot they weren't Fuji and couldn't charge for aesthetics. This camera would be priced at less than half the Df launch price. Some will say that the reason the Df was priced at $2750 at launch was because there were no video features and they had to make up for the lack of sales volume with a higher sales price. I think that could come into play for some people, but I believe that the vast majority of photographers still aren't doing diddly squat with video and so it's essentially irrelevant to them.

Finally, Canon has stated emphatically that the R is a COMPLEMENT to it's DSLR system and not a replacement. Another way to interpret that is that the R is NOT meant to be a person's ONLY camera. Well, MOST people don't have more than 1 camera so I feel like Canon needs an offering which can be that camera, and I believe something like this could be it! Especially, again, given that most people use their phones for video and don't have the knowledge/expertise, or even software to edit video (but phones do).

So, what do y'all think? Am I a complete nutjob/moron or might I be onto something? What did you say? I'm a nutjob? Yeah... that's probably right...

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