A Canon DSLR Mirrorless Hybrid Camera?

Are you a DSLR person, or are you a mirrorless person? What if you could be a DSLR/mirrorless person? Yes, a camera that acts as both a DSLR and a mirrorless. Would this be the best of both worlds or the worst of each system hacked together?

According to Canon Watch, Canon is working on an EOS R body that will accommodate both EF and RF lenses. They believe this might be accomplished with a movable sensor and a hybrid lens mount that fits both lens lines. But why would Canon do this, and what are the advantages of a hybrid system?

This video from Tony Northrup does a great job of explaining how Canon might achieve this unique camera technology. Yet more impressive is Northrup’s explanation of why Canon might be interested in producing a DSLR/mirrorless hybrid and why photographers would be interested in such a system.

To me, it seems like an awful lot of effort to straddle the DSLR world and the mirrorless world. One of the improvements of a mirrorless camera is the reduction of mechanical parts by removing the mirror. The DSLR/mirrorless wouldn’t remove the mirror, thus not incorporating the one improvement mirrorless systems boost. Not only would it not remove the mirror, but it would also actually make the system even more complicated by adding even more mechanical moving parts.

So, what do you think of a hybrid DSLR? Is this something that you would consider if you are a current Canon DSLR photographer?

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24 Comments

Not chance to create a universal camera .. there will be to many compromised features to be really good.
Mirrorless are far to be as comfortable as DSLR for any action/sport reports (viewfinders are laggy and jerky during continuous shooting or even blurred like video when searching a subject..
But, DSLR are definitely too limited for many other needs when a huge AF zone is needed with far more efficient AF for F1.2 lenses (totally true with Dual Pixel active).
Definitely better having both bodies with a good DSLR (1D type) and a Good Mirrorless (R(sr) type) for pro uses or a 6D type beside a M6II/RP type... no chance to replace DSLR with ML or ML with a DLSR.
Compromising can't be a good way for cameras.

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

I honestly don't understand what the "best" of the DSLR is that would show up. DSLR is a technology that had to be invented because they didn't have EVF technology yet. You can even put optical viewfinders in a mirrorless camera (X-pro 3 for example) if you want to (not sure why you would, EVF's are awesome).

The mirror makes the body larger, introduces vibration into the stability of the mechanism and provides a less capable viewfinder (in my opinion) that can't be used as a replacement for the rear screen in bad lighting conditions in addition to not allowing silent shooting.

Other than that, the cameras and sensors are ultimately the same. Mirrorless cameras are already the "hybirds". You're just crippling them in an attempt to market to people who grew up on DSLR.

Tony Northrup's picture

Evfs have real disadvantages for sports photogs... The lag is real and measurable. But in the Canon world, mirrorless stills focusing is just nowhere near as good as the SLRs. Existing Canon users will want a DSLR, and Canon figured out how to give them that while letting them buy their new R lenses.

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

I can't say EVF's aren't worse in that single feature, but "real and measurable" may be about as meaningful as all the other stats we love to argue about. They exist, but probably don't affect 99% of the people saying they do, even IF they shoot sports.

And let's be honest, if you frame up the action of a play and go into high speed burst mode, you aren't exactly relying on razor sharp framing capability through the OVF to get your shot anyways.

Rayann Elzein's picture

The lag is real. And don't forget us who can't stand having our eyes almost stuck on a tiny LCD with its flickering, etc. But who am I kidding. We are a tiny minority. The day I'm forced to look at an EVF is probably the day I'll have to quit photography altogether unless something spectacular happens with the EVF technology.

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

Obviously I can't speak for your preferences, but I shoot on an EVF and have never noticed lag in fast action and have no issues having one more LCD screen in my life since we stare at them every day anyways. It's a great technology that has more plusses than minuses in my book.

The EVP lag in EOS R is pretty bad for shooting fast action sports where you have to pan fast for example when shooting basketball. Even worse with shutter lag tracking moving objects in servo. IMO these two things hurt it more than the slower FPS compared to typically shooting with 1D bodies. It's not only sports, but the EVP resolution is lacking, so in one case where I was focusing on a small tree branch it could not detect it, but no problems with an optical viewfinder. After testing the R for nearly 2 weeks, if your one who shoots an 1D body regularly they have a ton of work to do to make a comparable mirrorless or hybrid.

also not all EVF's perform well in low light. Some are out right black and you can;t see anything. Especially for astro photography. ther just is no consistency in evf's from camera to camera. i will say though the ones that are really nice ARE REALLY NICE.

Phil Tography's picture

Seriously Tony take a break from this world from at least Xmas to New Years. I don’t know how you aren’t completely burnt out from dealing with this industry and some of the people in it all year.

I was in the retail side of this industry for twelve years and by the last year I pretty much made my staff deal exclusively with all the customers unless I really had to. Because after years of researching photography equipment every day and using all the equipment we sold so I was more knowledgeable and experienced than any customer that came in so I could honestly explain photography then the benefits of the photography equipment that would suit the customers needs best. Admittedly I was more committed than most but by that last year I was ready to stick a camera where the sun don’t to any customer that came in lol. Been out of the industry a few years now but still keep up with everything out of habit and of course love of photography.

But if you don’t want to post a video one day just completely slamming the industry, the people in it and everyone that comments on forums etc take a break from it dude. I can tell you have come close several times already lol.

Douglas Turney's picture

Tony, I agree. I tested the Nikon Z6 last year at the Houston Monster Energy Supercross and the lag in the EVF was very noticeable. I mis-framed numerous images with the Z6 that I would have easily framed with my D500s that I normally shoot with. This was especially noticeable while shooting in burst mode.

michaeljinphoto's picture

I don't think that the optical viewfinder in the X-Pro actually shows you the image through the lens the way a DSLR does so it probably wouldn't be that great for trying to frame sports with a long lens. There's definitely an advantage in the lack of any delay when viewing an image through an OVF as opposed to an EVF, I'd wager that it's only serious action photographers who would really care about that sort of thing. For the rest of us, EVF is fine even though it's not perfect.

Matthew Teetshorn's picture

I'm definitely not suggesting the Xpro should be used for sports, I'm just saying better optical tech could be found than putting an unnecessary mirror in your camera. I don't think sports photography is big enough to drive a market segment. No single discipline likely is.

michaeljinphoto's picture

It seems to me like most of the people who are concerned about the EVF lag seem to be sports or action photographers, which is why I brought it up. If DSLR's survive, I think that's probably the niche it's going to find until we get close enough to zero delay in the EVF.

As far as people who might be excited for a hybrid body like this, I imagine that it's far less about the OVF and more about having a mirrorless camera that natively supports their existing lenses without the need for an extra adapter to fiddle with.

Thomas H's picture

Who is to say that a EF/RF hybrid will have a mirror? It is thinkable that the camera will merely shift the sensor to a proper flange distance. I think that the RF mount was designed so in the 1st place. See Canon's white paper, page 8: Identical diameter, pin protrusion, lens rotation to engage and remove, identical overlapping contact location. Any further speculations are senseless.

Once more: the wise sign in every Zoo says: "Do not feed animals." Stop please with this Toni nonsense. I cannot even count the upsetting/ridiculous videos from him. #notafriendoftoni

Edward Blake's picture

#clickbait #whydopeoplelistentothesepeople

Rk K's picture

It's only because canon mirrorless has no chance of competing with an a9 or even an a6100 on speed and af given their current level of technology.

michaeljinphoto's picture

To be fair, nobody does. It's not just Canon that is having that challenge...

I think a OLED screen could be put behind a translucent mirror in the prism at the top of the camera and when the switching into evf from ovf the mirror locks up and the sensor moves forwarded. Much simpler mechanics, much less to go wrong...

Maybe an articulating sensor, down for RF, up for EF with a mirror behind it seems like a possibility. The RF->EF adapter is not that big of deal, especially so many other shortcomings with the R that should be addressed first.

Tony Northrup's picture

Note that the pinned comment on the video has a couple of design changes to the third design possibility. Basically the focusing screen needs to swap places with the EVF and the mirror needs to flip with the shiny-side hidden... But it's still all very doable and even a likely design for a 1DX III or 5D V IMO. I see many comments saying it's too complex or expensive, but lenses have similar rail systems for moving focusing elements, and flipping mirrors is standard on all SLRs.

Jerome Brill's picture

So where's this transparent display tech we have been seeing for years? Why not a transparent EVF on a DSLR? Turns on with mirror lock up.

Robert Nurse's picture

I don't know about anyone else. But, I hope this "hybrid" is mere speculation. It seems way too complicated IMO. I'm sure that a vastly improved EVF system has to be on the drawing board. Sure, it won't be in time for a 2020 commercial bonanza. But, it would make a lot more sense than this thing whose lifetime won't be long with better EVF that's surely on the way.

Interesting take from Tony, though I mostly disagree.

For one, it is absolutely no problem for an EF shooter to add an EOS R to their system, if they don't reject the whole mirrorless thing. Buy the body, pick your adapter, get out your mental crazy glue, put on the adapter, keep it there forever. Just fine for a EF shooter. Not good for Canon or the RF platform... kind of like when I bought my Sony PS3 and only ever used it as a Blu-ray player.

The most important question I think informs the design: is this a pro R body, as all the rumors suggest, or is it a 5D Mark V or other DSLR body, as Tony seems to have conjured out of his own imagination or inside knowledge.

If it's a R body, I am 97% sure Tony's #2 design is it: you get a full fledged EOS R body in DSLR dimensions that is 100% mirrorless, takes RF and EF lenses. No separate PDAF sensor array. Is Canon's EOS R AF as good as that of the 1Dii or the 5Div? Nope. But it's also not as good as that of the Sony A9ii. Canon needs to improve the current tech, not kludge in the last-gen tech.

Now, if this is an DSLR body that oh-by-the-way takes RF lenses, that is a different thing. I actually expected Canon in particular to do this rather than a whole new mount. After all, they already had EOS M for consumer mirrorless, so the only real issue was pros leaving Canon for mirrorless. For that, size doesn't really matter since you're full frame anyway and bodies get smaller by removing separate controls. So instead of RF, they could have made a true hybrid mirrorless. We add a transparent OLED in the viewfinder. In DSLR mode, we use the optical viewfinder. In mirrorless mode, the mirror locks up and the OLED becomes the EVF. Just my idea, never anything rumored. This still works with RF, adding a movable sensor and, most likely, a retractable PDAF sensor array, since based on the usual geometries, I'm not sure the RF mode sensor position clears the PDAF array, which is fixed by its need to be at the focal plane.

On Tony's other ideas, I don't think Canon makes a pellicle camera again. They certainly did -- my only remaining Canon is an EOS RT. But do they really want to deal with dim viewfinders and per shot EV loss again? I think no.

The flip up EVF is just way too Rube Goldberg. For one, the 24mm between RF and EF flange focal distance isn't enough to flip up a FF EVF, given that sensors and screens are not 0mm thick. So either they make an even thicker camera and swing both up and forward, it won't work. You can't move the sensor further forward, both because it could potentially whack the lens (the canera will be in EF mode when lens is detached, so switching to RF happens with lens mounted) but also because that RF position will ge a precision aligned hard stop.

So I'm going with the EOS R that can also mount RF lenses. That also maximizes the benefot to Canon. They want the R system to be successful, they have spent big on RF glass development, and they would like more pros buying these, many of which are true hero lenses. Make EF usable without adapters, get mirrorless AF working at least as good as Sony's, put in a fast refresh high resolution EVF, and they win, without building a camera too mechanically weird to withstand pro use.

Mark Bohrer's picture

managed the first 100BASE-TX transceiver ever released for fast Ethernet networking back in 1995. If you bought a CIsco or HP router in those days, it had our part in it. During the design, an auto-calibration circuit I suggested and designed was scrapped in favor of simplicity and getting it out on schedule.

Point is, extra complexity lengthens any product development cycle, and makes the final product less reliable. I don't quite see why Canon would want to do that without a really compelling reason.

Yes, a mirrorless EVF can be nice to view with in dim light, but a dSLR optical viewfinder is much better to show the full contrast range outdoors. But it's not like either camera type is unusable under non-optimal conditions. No, this is just another way for camera manufacturers to sell more gear.

Given that the money is likely more in the lenses and the pundits all say dSLRs are dying, why would Canon do this? It makes no sense. That's why I've always viewed rumors as vapor. The only thing that's ever certain is the product release.