Is Canon Actually Ready To Produce a Pro Level Mirrorless Camera?

Is Canon Actually Ready To Produce a Pro Level Mirrorless Camera?

A recent article by boss man Cookie reported how the demand of DSLR cameras may delay a professional mirrorless camera from Canon. It makes some sense that Canon would concentrate efforts on a system that still has a great deal of demand, however, I wonder if this an excuse or a mistake? 

Canon recently announced the development of the feature filled 1DX Mark III which I think could be an incredible addition. This camera is set to feature some brilliant specifications including 20 frames per second using the mechanical shutter and the ability to shoot raw video. I'm genuinely interested in this camera because it offers so much all in one body. The only real complaint I've seen several people make is that they didn't produce a camera such as this with the RF mount. The future for Canon cameras is indubitably with their mirrorless RF mount and it's a fair complaint to make, especially considering how many people are looking to shift over. 

The EF Demand Is Real

I don't think anyone can sit and say that no one wants another EF mount camera because that's simply not true. I know that I am personally quite happy to continue with a Canon DSLR; they work extremely well in every condition I need them to. Most of Canon's current customer base is still shooting with an EF mount DSLR and due to this it's somewhat of a tough sell to get them to shift over in huge numbers. The lens line-up currently available for the EF mount is vast in comparison to any other system on the market. To add to that, many people don't like to adapt lenses because it is a little bit of a pain. Due to this Canon continues to sell a significantly greater number of EF mount cameras in comparison to their new RF mount. This of course also has to do with the fact that their mirrorless system is still pretty young and the lens line-up hasn't matured enough. I'm assuming this last point is actually the main reason for the higher demand for their EF mount cameras. The RF mount hasn't matured enough and it's pretty obvious this is the main cause for its lack in demand. The question is, would the demand be greater and grow faster if Canon actually produced a "pro" grade camera with an RF mount.
 

The current cameras, the EOS R and the EOS RP aren't exactly ground breaking and were both met with a great deal of criticism. Canon essentially rehashed old tech and put a new mount on it. Not just that but Canon removed one of the storage slots which was a frustrating choice and it felt like their approach to mirrorless was half hearted at best. Sure, the lenses are fantastic and I've raved on about how incredible they are but that's only one part of what builds demand behind a new system. Could Canon's reluctance to produce a pro level mirrorless camera be adding to the greater demand for their DSLRs? 

An Inadequate Autofocus System

Canon's dual pixel autofocus system is incredible. It's one of the best systems currently on the market. It's so good that when it comes to video it still outperforms all current Sony mirrorless cameras. One of my favorite features is the ability to tap to focus using the touch screen and DPAF will follow and track the subject far better than any other camera on the market. For video, there simply isn't anything better. The problem is that DPAF isn't particularly brilliant for stills.

If you're only interested in photography then Canon's DSLR cameras are probably a better option for autofocus. Not only do most of Canon's latest cameras offer DPAF, they also operate with a very reliable and effective system via the optical view finder. Having two completely different AF systems gives you a much greater degree of flexibility and each system has it's own respective advantages. For example, through the viewfinder the AF system is much snappier and tends to find and retain focus much faster than DPAF does.

Having said that DPAF is fantastic at finding focus even in extreme low light situations. This makes Canon's DSLR cameras far more of an effective camera for photographers. The mirrorless cameras that Canon has are good for autofocus but they're still not ready for prime time. Cameras like the upcoming 1DX Mark III probably wouldn't perform as well with just DPAF. Due to this maybe Canon really isn't ready to produce a high end professional mirrorless camera. Further improvements need to be made to their current autofocus system before it can be ready for the big leagues. 

Delaying Is Not a Good Idea 

One of the points some people have made online is about how "dumb" phones still had a huge demand a couple of years after the iPhone was first released. If we take a look at companies like Nokia for example, there was still a huge demand for their phones even after the iPhone was first released back in 2007. This was a temporary blip and the wheels were already in motion.

Nokia misread the market and were simply too slow to adapt. We can see the outcome of that huge error now and Nokia is not anywhere near the size it once was. I don't believe that something like this could happen to Canon, however, it would be foolish to think that they can continue in the same vein due to the current demand. It's clear to see that the shift to mirrorless is happening as we speak and the wheels are in motion once again. There are clear advantages of being faster on your feet and operating in a more nimble fashion. It's not as though Canon is making more money than ever right now. In fact their financials aren't looking too great especially with the latest reports. To slow down in this environment and delay a professional mirrorless camera could be described as optimistic yet somewhat foolish.

Final Thoughts

When you look at the performance of cameras like the 1DX Mark II it's easy to see why so many people prefer DSLRs over the current RF mount mirrorless cameras. Canon does have some incredible lenses available and with the adapter they have the widest range of lenses available on the market. I can see the potential of the RF system but right now it feels like it's just potential.

The current RF cameras feel like a half-hearted approach and this may be down to the fact that the autofocus system is simply not capable enough yet. Looking at all the manufacturers on the market, almost all of them have produced a high-end professional grade camera except for Canon. Sure, Canon has produced some incredible lenses and recent patents for super wide aperture, wide angle lenses are very attractive; however, these lenses require a high-end camera to match. Hopefully Canon does have something up its sleeve and is able to produce something equivalent or better than the upcoming 1DX Mark III for their mirrorless system. 

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35 Comments

I kinda expect the question in the headline to be answered in the article, but wait....fstoppers. I should've known.

Usman Dawood's picture

Just in case it's not obvious enough the answer is not quite yet.

The article explains why instead of just giving you a one sentence answer lol.

Pedro Oliveira's picture

Uhnnn...sometimes, and just sometimes, articles can be explanatory without being bracketed in a Q&A style. #interpretationmatters

Justin Punio's picture

Canon Execs have already stated in interviews the Pro Canon mirrorless is on the way. We just don't know when.

Tony Tumminello's picture

The autofocus performance reviews of Canon's new M6 Mark II seem to be extremely promising, with some saying they now prefer it over conventional PDAF from SLRs in terms of speed and accuracy. Paired with the ability to shoot either 14fps or 30fps in RAW while still tracking subjects and "stealing" the Olympus' Pro Capture feature of pre-capturing shots before you fully depress the shutter, I think whatever they put out for their professional mirrorless will be quite capable.

Usman Dawood's picture

You're right the AF in some of the new Canon mirrorless cameras is great. It's just not 1D level great and that's what I think Canon needs to properly develop before the top end pros could ever switch.

I hope that Canon doesn't do the traditional hobbling and parsing of features on the ML bodies to protect their Cinema Camera lineup and get you pay more for a camera that does things like reliable AF.

I think this DSLR vs. Mirrorless is similar to ICE vs. Electric vehicles. Someday electric cars and trucks will not be a novelty, in most cases there ain't a lot of difference in what gets you from point A to point B. Same with cameras, most people have spent a lot on their cameras and lenses and don't have a compelling reason to switch. In using a mirrorless camera there are some different features but for the most part the photos are not different from a DSLR.

Just me's picture

I don't get this article.

The problem is that DPAF isn't particularly brilliant for stills.
And the next sentence

If you're only interested in photography then Canon's DSLR cameras are probably a better option for autofocus.

So Canon autofocus is better for still or video?

Usman Dawood's picture

Rest of the paragraph man...

Gary Pardy's picture

The risk of cannibalizing 1DX3 sales aside, it boils down to glass. Without professional RF lenses for sports or wildlife theres no point in launching an A9 competitor. Canon's mirrorless glass catalogue is growing super fast and seems fantastic for the most part. They'll pull the trigger when it suits them.

The EOS 11 series may be a tool for professionals but they are a small segment of the market numberwise.
They are for a particular segment of the market with particular demands.
For the longest time, I thought that Canon could deliver a truely innnovative camera but I am beginning to doubt it.
They have released anything ground-braking in the past 5 years. Most cameras are already behind the curve at the introduction.
It would be good for competition and all of us it they introduced a ground-breaking camera, but I sincerely doubt their willingness to do so.

Shawn Kenessey's picture

I'm actually shocked and suspicious of this article because DPAF has been great for me on the EOS R. The PDAF on my 6D II was haphazard and would randomly miss all the time. Oddly enough the worst offending lens was my Canon EF 35mm L f/1.4 mk II. It would miss by half a foot and the camera would flash like I should take the picture, and unfortunately I did quite a few times and missed great shots because Canon's DSLR and a premier L lens wouldn't work right together.

When you get into low light the difference is even more pronounced. No more waiting for the camera to get focus and taking what you can get, the EOS R can find and hold focus in low light and let you choose when to pull the trigger! That was never possible with the 6D II.

Long story short, I won't be buying another DSLR anytime soon.

Usman Dawood's picture

DPAF is brilliant and especially in low light you can find focus far better than any DSLR right now. The issue is that it's not as capable at high speed photography when you compare it to something like a 1D series camera. I'm discussing the performance at a very high level which is not something most of us will need but for cameras like the 1DX Mark II and III it's not quite there yet.

If we're looking at the EOS R individually and looking at the AF then yes it's a brilliant camera with a fantastic AF system. I'm looking at it relatively for a very specific crowd.

Also the 6D II with liveview can focus in low light in the same way as the EOS R as far as I can remember.

Scott Wardwell's picture

Wow, so Canon is going to produce another high-end DSLR. And the world is going to spin off it's axis.....WHY? You whiny mirrorless fans probably need your own Greta Thunberg admonishing the rest of us with "How Dare You!"

Usman Dawood's picture

You’re the only one here throwing a fit.

Scott Wardwell's picture

The endless stream of these anti-dslr articles qualifies as throwing a fit Usman. Find a camera and stick with it and show us a portfolio of why it is so great. And i will show you a portfolio of just as good dslr images. Big whoop. In the meantime, stop trying to impress us with your supposed hipness.

Usman Dawood's picture

From the article.

“ I don't think anyone can sit and say that no one wants another EF mount camera because that's simply not true. I know that I am personally quite happy to continue with a Canon DSLR; they work extremely well in every condition I need them to.”

You’re the only one here throwing a fit lol.

art meripol's picture

I delayed a bit before buying a EOS R. I read so many negative reviews and frankly wanted to wait on that 'pro' version. But I bought one and my 5Ds has gotten very lonely. I love that camera. The updated eye-focus is remarkable, the files are just beautiful and my shoots haven't missed a beat. You're pretty negative about the camera in this article. I can see drawbacks for certain fields of interest like sports but for portrait, food, lifestyle and architecture It's super. The adaptor for my lenses isn't a concern. Very few shooters need 20fps. I do wish it had dual memory slots but it's been years since I had a card give me an issue.

Brian Stricker's picture

Other than stupid high frame rates most of this article is wrong. I particularly like this line..."Not just that but Canon removed one of the storage slots " . They didn't remove anything, it is a new system so it never had anything to remove. Also the DPAF is more than fast enough, I used an RP last weekend to shoot cyclocross and the AF was great if subjects moved towards me, were backlit, were moving side to side, moving away, in shadow, etc...

I am also curios how you can think it is the best for video but don't think the same af system can't work for stills. If it can lock on and track in one it sure can do it in another.Where the Canon suffers compared to the other systems I have is the ability to easily use the cameras capabilities.

Usman Dawood's picture

You’re being pedantic.

Also video AF is different from stills af in many situations. Look at Nikon cameras, great af for pictures but for video they suck.

Do you have experience shooting a lot of video?

Also the AF systems in these cameras are good but they’re not 1DX series good.

Brian Stricker's picture

Sure there are plenty of cameras that the AF are great for stills but not as good for video, the GH5 is probably a decent example. However you said the DPAF is great for video but not great for stills.

Do you have experience shooting any type of action or sports with a DSLR or mirroless from Canon and other brands?

Usman Dawood's picture

Great for video but not for still relative to what is expected for cameras like the 1DX. I’m comparing it to a very specific type of camera. Consider the context.

Colin Robertson's picture

I think the AF topic is more nuanced than 'PDAF is best for stills and DPAF is best for video'. Coming to the R from a 7D (granted, an older body), I did notice that DPAF seemed a little slower to acquire focus, but I found it more accurate. DPAF combined with a camera that didn't have a flapping mirror that induced shutter shock, I get a lot more keepers. Also, since the 1.4 update the AF tracking has been superb—far better than my 7D.

For my photography, I'll take accuracy and cool features like face/eye tracking over the snap of a PDAF system, but it makes total sense that Canon is introducing a new flagship 1DX body in time for the Olympics.

"Also the DPAF is more than fast enough, I used an RP last weekend to shoot cyclocross and the AF was great if subjects moved towards me, were backlit, were moving side to side, moving away, in shadow, etc..."

the af and burst rate on RiP is nowhere near what is available now and required for certain situations where a mirrorless 1dx would be ideal

https://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/canon-eos-rp/canon-eos-rpA.HTM

"When it comes to performance specs, it's very clear that the EOS RP is not a sports- or action-centric camera by any means. (Again, it's not designed to be.) For continuous shooting, the EOS RP can shoot up to 5fps in single-shot AF mode, or just 2.6fps with continuous AF in Tracking Priority (it'll do up to 4fps with Servo AF in "shooting speed priority" mode). Admittedly, those are rather measly burst rate by today's standards, but for a full-frame camera designed for entry-level users, it's not all that surprising. Is this going to be a go-to camera for the serious action shooter?"

Of course they are, this camera has been in the pipeline for what, 2 years? Maybe more if we saw the sequence of development chart somewhere in the basement at Canon. In 3 or 4 years this cameras replacement will most likely be ML and much of the hand wringing will fade away when the mark4 comes out.

Terry Poe's picture

I begin to question whether Canon is actually capable to produce a pro level mirrorless camera.

They can if they decide to, I think they pretty much need to do it...but what is the sales direction of pro cameras? Up, down or flat?

Maybe the delay is because Canon is putting all their resources trying to release a worthy competitor to Nikon's Noct .95.

Try shooting at f 0,95 and get the focus right. Won't be easy. This is a showlens but I doubt you the difference between f1,2 and 0,95 is useful. Besides the thing is monstrously expensive.
And it weights 2 kgs. Good luck shooting with that lens for a day.

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