This year has been... memorable. While half the world is locked in their homes, forests are burning down to celebrate a child's gender, companies are going belly up, and it's starting to feel like the apocalypse, Canon has finally awoken from their slumber.
If you had to briefly give an overview of 2020, it would be pandemics, volcanoes, fires, riots, dead legends, and a veritable feast of other disastrous features in this smörgåsbord of catastrophe. Turning away from the smoldering embers to bury yourself in cameras would yield little respite too. Olympus might be no more (or at least not in the way we know them to be), Nikon seems to be sinking, camera sales are nose-diving still, and many photographers can't work properly. But in billows of deathly black smoke is a silver lining I am clinging to, and it's as unexpected to me as 2020 has been: Canon.
Who Woke the Sleeping Giant?
I primarily shoot on Sony bodies, but that wasn't always the case. My first camera was a Canon, and so was my second, third, fourth... I only moved to Sony when I tried a mirrorless body and decided it was the future. After a year with Sony, I started to become frustrated. Not with my Sony body — that's still great — but with Canon. They had shown signs they might enter the mirrorless market (which I'd been hoping for as a lot of my favorite glass is Canon's and I kept and adapted them.) Then, when they did, it was a more timid entry than the footballers into no man's land on Christmas day. As I wrote in my recent article on the most disappointing camera releases, it was a half-measure, and dreadfully middling. Where was the Canon that released exciting products with industry impact?
I started to look back, and it was a common story. Yes, their flagship cameras were always around the top of the DSLR leaderboards, but their innovation had been, for all intents and purposes, in hibernation. Sony had been pushing forward at a rate of knots, Fujifilm was making huge waves in both APS-C and medium format, and even smaller brands like Olympus were creating staggeringly powerful software to put in their cameras. Canon was releasing tired DSLR after dull point-and-shoot, and then, when they finally looked as if they were about to challenge Sony, they released the EOS R. It seemed to me that Sony and Fujifilm were rampaging up the sales charts and Canon and Nikon, who had been the "big two" in terms of mass commercial success in the camera industry, couldn't care less. Then, Canon woke up.
Who or what exactly woke Canon up, I don't know. Yesterday, while discussing the industry with fellow editor Alex Cooke, I joked that the EOS R might have been a purposely weak softball, that Canon might have decided they'd show just enough of mirrorless to their fan base to stop them jumping ship, but also offer a camera so underwhelming that when they launch their R5 and R6, the industry was floored. Well, intentional or not, it worked. Not only had they released mirrorless cameras that were going to compete with Sony for the title of MILC Overlord, but the R5 looks to be thwacking everyone else out of the way on its way up to take the crown of the best mirrorless camera on the market.
Great, thought I, Canon is making an effort again, albeit at a rather unusual moment in global history. But they weren't done.
Hibernation Is Over, and They're Hungry
The R5 and R6 — but particularly the R5 — had many Canon shooters vindicated and dribbling. While I haven't got one on preorder due to a difficulty utilizing creative enough maths to justify the purchase, I would use one in a heartbeat. If Canon offered me one, I'd sell my Sony tomorrow, and I really love that camera. But it seems as if Canon is just getting started. This week, they launched their third mirrorless body, even more, video-centric than the R5: the EOS C70
This far more compact camera in Canon's Cinema range looks to — if delivering on what it promises — replace the cumbersome members of the cinema family so far, and while sporting the shiny new mirrorless RF mount (though your old glass will still work via an adapter.) At half the price of the EOS C300 III and a fraction of its weight, all while retaining the Super 35 sensor, the C70 has the potential to be a monster in the videography sector. So, well done Canon — impressive stuff. 2020 has been a dreadful year and it's good to see you back in the game. Oh, wait, what? Did you just say "flagship"?
Canon's flagship camera, the EOS 1D X III is the pro body you'll see in the hands of most top sports photographers, photojournalists, and the like. It's consistently an expertly executed camera body that can withstand the rigors of heavy use in challenging situations. We've pondered at Fstoppers for a while now whether a 1D X IV is even in the cards in DSLR form, given that Canon appears to be pivoting to mirrorless is glorious fashion. If the rumors prove to be true — and it seems likely they will — the R1 is going to be their first titan of the mirrorless world; this is an area Sony too has been linked to entering, which if accurate, may expedite their plans.
I'm not sure what woke Canon up or whether they were ever truly asleep, but I'm glad they're back. Perhaps it was the sense that they were losing ground as the top dog, perhaps it was a ploy to let Sony fluff the mirrorless sector while they prepared to let slip the dogs of war, fittingly during the world's cry of havoc. Whatever the case, competition in the mirrorless sector can only be good for the consumers and prosumers alike, and whether I stay Sony or trot back to Canon with my tail between my legs dragging a knapsack of lenses, I'm pleased to see they're back to raising the bar during these tumultuous times both in and outside of the industry.