What does the EOS R tell us about Canon and the RF mount's future?
Despite not being tremendously exciting, I believe Canon's EOS R shows a more adventurous attitude, at least by Canon's standards, than we're used to seeing. Having shot with the camera, spoken to Canon and read the tea leaves, here's what I think the EOS R tells us about Canon and the RF's mount's future.
The RF mount
Interestingly, both Canon and Nikon have settled on a similar solution: a short, wide lens mount and have both said it gives them greater design freedom when it comes to making lenses. Canon gave a little more detail about the ways in which it does so.
Both Canon and Nikon have settled on a similar solution: a short and wide lens mount
The shorter flange-back distance allows Canon to mount a large rear lens element much closer to the sensor, and the wide diameter means they can create lenses that don't need to squeeze light through a narrow tunnel. Designing lenses that don't have to make such dramatic adjustments to the course of the light passing through the lens allows lenses with fewer optical aberrations. It also gives the option to use fewer elements, which can make some lenses lighter.
I said I thought it was an uncharacteristically bold move by Nikon to step away from the F-mount and I think you could say the same for Canon. If someone were trying to be really cynical, they might suggest Canon and Nikon are making such a noise about the use of wide and short designs just so they can imply a design limitation in Sony's narrower E mount. But having shot the 28-70mm F2 wide-open a little over the last few days, I'm more likely to believe there's some benefit to what Nikon and Canon say they're doing.
But perhaps that's where the comparisons with the Nikon should end.
The quiet radical
While Nikon tried to mimic its DSLR's behavior as closely as possible, but primarily using its live-view AF modes, Canon seems to have taken a more open-minded approach. The general perception we see from our readers (and it's one we have some sympathy for), is that Canon is a cautious company with a dominant market position that discourages the kinds of unexpected innovation we see from the likes of Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony.
But that's not true of the EOS R. For years we'e been calling on manufacturers to try to work from a blank sheet of paper, rather than just doing what's always been done. And the more we've used the EOS R, the more it feels like Canon has at least tried to do that. Not to the extent of throwing everything away, but at least using this new system as an opportunity to think about which existing elements they want to maintain and where there's room for something new. So not quite a blank sheet, but at least stopping to consider existing assumptions.
It looks to me like a genuine attempt to create the best of both worlds
More so than the Nikon Z cameras, Canon has taken some elements of its live view AF system: Face + AF Tracking mode, for instance, but then blended this with the way AF points work on its DSLRs. It looks to me like a genuine attempt to create the best of both worlds, rather than being completely constrained by trying to deliver what they think their existing customers will expect.
|The EOS R takes the Face + Tracking mode from its live view system but adds the custom option from its DSLRs that lets you choose whether to specify the starting subject or let the camera choose.|
There is a lot of continuity, though. For instance in continuous autofocus mode, Face + AF Tracking works, by default, analogously to Canon's 61-point auto system: automatically picking a subject and following it. And, like on those DSLRs, there's a menu option to change this behavior so that you specify the starting point and subject for the camera to track. It's an interesting blend of the live view AF mode with DSLR behavior that I think says a lot about the approach Canon has taken.
The EOS R feels like a 'version 1' product
Of course the down-side of starting afresh (relatively), is that you introduce new problems and bugs that you'd ironed-out of your existing interface. There are certainly aspects that make the EOS R feels like a 'version 1' product: something we don't usually expect from Canon.
Innovative touches (for better or worse)
The EOS R also shows some innovative touches in its design, some more visible than others.
|The M-Fn Bar along the back of the camera can be customized to act as two buttons and a 'swipeable' control pad. None of us have been very impressed, so far.|
The funky 'M-Fn Bar' control strip along the back of the camera, for instance. To me it feels a touch gimmicky. I've yet to find anything I really want to assign to it, find it easy to inadvertently operate and have experienced the occasional glitch when I do intentionally use it (another very un-Canon-like experience).
The M-Fn Bar will need to evolve into something useful or will die-out.
It's a fun idea and a very prominent display of original thinking, but it feels to me like the 'Touchbar' that Apple has added to its recent laptops: a device looking for a purpose and one that I think will need to evolve into something useful or will die-out in a couple of generations. Worse still, it occupies a prime location on the back of the camera and, while you can configure it to essentially just act as two buttons, there's only a limited choice over what those two buttons do.
|We were all quite impressed with the clicking control dial on all the RF lenses. We were even more impressed that Canon has made an adapter ring that means you retain the capability when working with EF lenses.|
An idea I suspect will persist is the additional, clicking control ring on the RF lenses (whose function, cleverly, is duplicated on one of the EF-to-RF adapters Canon offers). It's a cute move - one first tried by Samsung - that lets you quickly access another camera parameter without the body being overrun by dials. We're also told Canon service centers will (for a fee), 'de-click' the dials on your lenses if you need smooth or silent operation for video work.
The illusion of customization
But there are also signs of Canon still being, well, Canon. A criticism we've leveled at Canon over the years is that, even when it does offer customization, it's often very restrictive in how much change it lets you make. Sadly, while the EOS R initially appears to take some steps in the right direction: a large number of buttons are customizable and have an extensive set of custom options available (between 25 and 45, depending on the button), the reality is different. In many instances they're not necessarily the custom options you might want, and you'll still have to learn which features can be placed on which buttons before you can find your preferred setup. Or, at least, the closest to it that Canon allows.
You still can't always do everything you might want: despite lots of options about which dial controls what setting. There's relatively little choice over which dial controls Exposure Compensation, for instance. And there's no easy way to gain access to the Auto ISO threshold setting, without digging into the main menu. There's also little access to drive mode or metering mode, meaning the EOS R is a camera that demands you use the Q.Menu, rather than letting you put everything at your fingertips.
In perhaps the most un-Canon-like move imaginable, it's said it will improve these cameras via firmware updates.
However, in perhaps the most un-Canon-like move imaginable, the company has also said it will implement a new policy of improving these cameras via firmware updates. Fingers crossed.
RF > EOS R
What perhaps makes all of the positives harder to see is that the first camera, the EOS R, isn't very exciting. The pre-launch rumors and use of the 5D IV's sensor led a lot of people to expect an EOS 5D IV level camera, which it most certainly isn't. But even as something more comparable to a 6D Mark II it's still a little underwhelming.
The pictures it takes are great, which shouldn't come as a surprise for a camera with the 5D IV's sensor. The dynamic range isn't class-leading but it's much closer to being competitive than Canon had previously been. It also feels superb when you first pick it up: solid, comfortable and with well-positioned controls, at least for the most part.
|After admiring the hand-feel of the camera, the second thing you'll notice is the apparent lack of means of controlling the AF point. The touchpad mode, disabled by default, is the only sensible way to operate the EOS R.|
The rest of package is a little less impressive. Heavily cropped 4K video with visible rolling shutter isn't the level of performance most other brands are offering (though the inclusion of Canon-Log and 10-bit output suggest the company wants to do video properly in these cameras). Separate exposure settings for video (which was part of what sounds like an anxiously-made decision to dispense with the conventional mode dial), and separate button custom settings for video are big steps forward.
The EOS R's burst rate (with AF at least) is also poor by contemporary standards, again suggesting a sensor or processor bottleneck.
The bigger picture
But while we're not especially blown-away by the EOS R, I think we're all quite impressed by the system it hints at. It should be pretty obvious that Canon didn't develop a $3000 28-70mm F2 zoom or $2300 50mm F1.2 to be mounted on a $2300 mid-range full frame body. Nor does it seem likely that its engineers works away to produce a 24-105mm F4 with silent autofocus, 1/8th EV aperture control and extremely well controlled focus breathing for a camera whose 4K capture gives it a 40mm equivalent wide-angle field of view.
Canon didn't develop a $3000 28-70mm F2 zoom to be mounted on a mid-range body.
Beyond the system, I also think that the EOS R shows Canon being more flexible and innovative than we're used to seeing, whether it's in the apparent approach to the UI development, the creation of the M-Fn Bar or its stated willingness to improve the camera via firmware updates. Just as I said of Nikon, I hope Canon will retain this more adaptable approach as the system continues to develop.
If you're a Canon DSLR shooter, it's probably not yet time to begin the migration across to the RF system, but the work the company has already done and its apparent approach make us believe it'll look increasingly compelling in the coming years. If that's enough to stop you thinking about jumping-ship (with your existing lenses) to Sony, then I suspect Canon's done what they were trying to achieve. It'll be interesting to see what the RF series leads to.
|Mayfield Preserve Peacock by davidjcook|
|Look Ma, no cashiers by CalBoy87|
from The retail store of tomorrow
|Rower by gary0319|
from -Man Power- (Portrait in Full Colours Only)
Tune in this week to see Chris and Jordan's review of the Nikon Z6 full frame mirrorless camera, and also find out what Chris thinks of the popular 35mm focal length. (Rant alert!)
There are plenty of ways to spend well over $250 on photography gear, but we've picked out some standout accessories that are sure to wow the photographer on your shopping list.
Facebook has disclosed a major photo API bug that left the private images of millions of users exposed to third-party apps from September 13, 2018 to September 25, 2018.
Loupedeck has added support for Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 to Loupedeck+, its newest keyboard-style editing module.
YouTuber Casey Cavanaugh has produced a handy video guide for those looking for buy their first film camera.
If you're looking for a photography gift that's a bit more substantial than a stocking stuffer, we've got some suggestions that should fit the bill.
Chinese optical manufacturer Kipon has added the Nikon Z and Canon R mounts to its range of adapters made to attach medium format lenses from Hasselblad, Mamiya, Pentax and others to full frame cameras.
Palette Gear has announced an update to its modular, physical editing interface that lets MacOS users now use their palette with Capture One 11 and 12.
German company OPC Optics announced that it has acquired the trademark rights to Meyer Optik Görlitz at the insolvency procedure of NetSE in Koblenz.
Shopping for a photographer? We've got some gift ideas for all budget sizes, but here you'll find our budget-friendliest suggestions – just right for stockings.
It's not always easy to find marble, wood or concrete surfaces on demand. Enter Replica Surfaces, small tiles designed to replicate popular photo surfaces and backdrops.
Lensrentals Founder Roger Cicala set aside some time to take apart Canon's new 50mm F1.2L RF lens and in doing so revealed a number of interesting discoveries.
Google is cracking down on unsupported video files being uploaded to its Photos platform and taking up free storage space.
With a nickname like 'bokeh master,' we had to see what the Sigma 105mm F1.4 was all about. Take a look at our gallery of samples shot with the Sony a7R III.
The Nikon Museum in Shinagawa, Tokyo has an exhibition showing off some of the most rare and unique prototype lenses Nikon ever developed.
VSCO has announced it will stop selling its film emulation presets for desktop programs March 1st, 2019.
On their latest models the two smartphone manufacturers have replaced the dreaded display notch by a design that features a circular hole for the front camera in the display.
With the latest version, Adobe Camera now lets you import Raw files from the newest iPhones, Pixel devices, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Nikon Z6 among others.
The Nikon Z6 may not offer the incredible resolution of its sibling, the Z7, but its 24MP resolution is more than enough for most people, and the money saved can buy a lot of glass. Find out what's new and notable about the Z6 in our First Impressions Review.
Sigma says its 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport lens is set to hit shelves by the end of December 2018 at a retail price of $1,499.
DxO PhotoLab 2.1 brings a collection of new features to MacOS and Windows users alike.
The new 'Elegant' lens series includes entirely manual F2.4 lenses in 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm and 90mm focal lengths.
A feature alerts pilots visually and/or verbally when their drone is approaching airspace that is unsafe or areas where drone flying is not permitted.
GoPro announced Monday morning that it plans to move production of United States-bound cameras out of China, citing tariffs concerns.
The Sigma 56mm F1.4 combines a sensible sub-$500 price tag and excellent performance, providing a portrait-friendly 85mm equiv. view on Sony's APS-C mirrorless cameras.
Azriel Knight of the YouTube channel This Old Camera explains the history of DX encoding.
The 250mm F4 is Fujifilm's longest lens for its medium-format system. It's equivalent to about 200mm on a GFX camera, and we put it to work on some portraits as well as some scenes around Seattle's waterfront – take a look.
Sony has removed the ability to download firmware version 2.0 for its a7 III and a7R III mirrorless cameras from its website.
Handing out awards for the best gear of the year is a big job, so we called in some reinforcements from Calgary to help us.
A new patent from Canon lays out the schematics for a speedbooster-style adapter for mounting Canon EF lenses onto EOS M cameras, but with a variable baffle to reduce the risk of flare.