Welcome to the (R)evolution

So there you have it, Canon has announced the new EOS R system, with its new RF mount. And before you ask yourself if the world needed another opinion-piece about this let me just state that before the actual launch event I was contemplating writing something similar to what you’re about to read, with roughly the same title. And then Canon actually used that at their press demo in Hawaii. So bear with me, I might be onto something. :)

Canon EOS R, the dawn of a new age. :)

A lot of people are bummed about the camera lacking a second card slot, or the fact that 4K video is cropped pretty heavily or that the “eye tracking AF” is only available when paired with “one shot AF”. Or the lack of in-body image stabilization. Let me just remind you this, which should be pretty obvious: it’s the first camera in the system. Canon has announced they’re committed to mirrorless and they’re going to give it everything they’ve got. Just have a little patience. From what I can imagine, I believe those are limitations of processing power or maybe they would have required active cooling, which isn’t an option. But I’m willing to bet they’ll have the new EOS-1D X Mark III and the (tentatively named) “EOS RX” in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. I’m hoping they’ll treat the RX like a 1-series camera——large proprietary battery, integrated vertical grip, high fps, the works.

The R is a good introduction —— I’m more interested in what will follow, and let me speculate a bit on that. I’m positive Canon will want to up everything Nikon and Sony are doing. There will most likely be a (tentatively named) “EOS Rs” with 50+ megapixels resolution, better dynamic range than the “old” 5Ds, probably another one for video with ~24 megapixels, (tentatively named) “EOS RC” with 10-bit 4:2:2 C-log recording internally, global shutter, full sensor readout, anything you guys want and the R wouldn’t deliver on day one. Eventhough that feels like wishful thinking now, it’s only logical the system will evolve along those lines.

I think Canon will keep producing lenses for all four mounts (at least for the next ten years): EF, EF-S, EF-M, and RF. There is never going to be a cropped “RF-S” mount (but you can use EF-S on the EOS to R adapter and voilá, cropped camera!). But for those of us who will commit to this I see pretty exciting times ahead.

The new mount makes it easier to create much brighter lenses. Take a look at two of the introductory ones: RF 50mm f/1.2L, 28–70mm f/2L. Yes, we’ve had the 50mm f/1.2 on the EF mount for quite some time, and there was also an f/1 produced a while ago but the 28–70mm f/2? And let’s speculate on this aspect considering that Canon has been killing it in optical quality lately. Times have changed since “f/8 and be there!” made sense. The zeitgeist is people prefer as much bokeh as they’re able to get. The new lenses can and will be sharp and contrasty even wide open à la Sigma Art. The new real-time lens optimizer that’s built into the firmware will make a big difference in the viewfinder too, considering it will mitigate vignetting and distortion.

When I bought into the Canon EF system 15 years ago I did it because it was the one with the most lens options — and I’m not saying just half-thought ones, like f/4.5–6.3 zooms. You had the option of getting a 70–200mm constant-aperture lens in three flavors: f/2.8, f/4 and f/2.8 stabilized! And just a couple years later an f/4 stabilized. And all were “L”-grade glass. You couldn’t get that from Nikon. Canon had two “L” ultra-wide-angle zooms, and most importantly, affordable long “L” primes —— 300mm f/4L IS USM and the 400mm f/5.6 USM. No such options were available from Nikon. Third party manufacturers Sigma and Tamron were mostly busy inventing 18–400mm all-in-one lenses at the time.

I’m just having a ball thinking what could be theoretically possible with this new RF mount. Have you noticed that the front element of the new RF 50mm f/1.2L lens is much smaller than the front element of the EF 50mm f/1.2L? There is just a question of time until a 50mm f/0.9 will debut; maybe even brighter. As is an 85mm f/1 and 100mm f/1.2. Lenses that seemed crazy a while ago are now possible —— 24mm f/1, 14mm f/1.4? It might take some time before you wrap your head around those. But crazy and out-of-this-world ideas as they might seem now, they’re definitely going to be real-world crazy-expensive. But photographers have been subjected to this over the past half-century —— this is the new normal.

Just a quick mention, the new control ring on the lenses is going to be revolutionary (that word again). And what about the fact that you can retrofit this on any EF lens when mounted on the adapter? Pure genius. I can’t believe Nikon haven’t thought of this given a blank slate for the new Z mount.

The question will inevitably come up regarding third-party lenses and I am completely speculating but I believe communication between camera and lens is encrypted, so good-bye third-party lenses. In 1986, when Canon introduced its all-electric EF mount, public-key encryption hadn’t been invented and nobody imagined photography would get so… popular. I reckon Canon will want to sell a lot of glass to make up for lost profits.

So, to wrap things up, here’s what I’d want from a future flagship mirrorless, Canon:

- 18–19+ stops dynamic range;

- 10fps continuous-AF with eye-tracking;

- no lag and no freeze-frame in the viewfinder when shooting continuously;

- horizontally and vertically-sensitive touch-bar for selecting AF zones, with acceleration support, just like a computer mouse;

- less rolling shutter;

And of course, dual cards! :)

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