Canon Is a Brand New Company and I Love It

Canon Is a Brand New Company and I Love It

A few years ago, a lot of photographers were a bit frustrated by Canon's seeming lack of desire to push the technological envelope and often arbitrary handicapping of camera feature sets. Fast-forward to 2020, and suddenly, Canon is an entirely different company. 

Even two years ago, in 2018, a lot of photographers felt somewhat frustrated by Canon's lack of urgency when it came to pushing the envelope. To be fair, Canon held (and still holds) the majority market share, and countless professionals rely on their products. No doubt, they make solid, reliable cameras that are highly refined after years of iterations, and they have the most expansive and interesting lens library in the world. Still, photographers generally lamented both the seemingly arbitrary handicapping of features in different bodies and Canon's slow rate of innovation, particularly as mirrorless was exploding, with new and exciting products from both Fujifilm and Sony, leaving Canon fans wondering when the company would get serious about mirrorless. The EF-M line was peculiar, offering little in the way of features or lens options.

We saw glimmers of advancement. Cameras like the 80D and 5D Mark IV showed significant steps forward in dynamic range, and the latter offered an interesting feature, Dual Pixel Raw, which let photographers refocus their images in post to correct slight errors. We also saw an entirely new lineup of tilt-shift lenses. Later in 2018, the EOS R came out. Essentially a mirrorless 5D Mark IV, it was a competent camera, but with photographers looking at cameras like the Fujifilm X-T3, the groundbreaking Sony a9, the Sony a7R III, and even the Fujifilm GFX 50S, it felt somewhat more like a company being forced into mirrorless by the rest of industry rather than taking the reins. Along with it, though, came the remarkable RF 28-70mm f/2L, a lens unlike any we have seen from any company before. The lens combined an extreme design that had an unheard of aperture in a normal zoom lens, spectacular image quality, and the innovative control ring feature, making for a truly exciting optic. The RF 50mm f/1.2L continued that trend with fantastic image quality even at its extreme maximum aperture. The high standards continued with the RF 85mm f/1.2L and other f/2.8 pro zooms and lenses. 

No doubt, it was clear Canon was taking mirrorless seriously, with the sort of astounding and innovative lenses that also established the EF mount as a leader. Then came the 1D X Mark III. Though it is a DSLR, as the flagship of the brand, it offered a good look at where the company was headed, and the future was bright. With features like a 20 fps burst rate using both the mechanical and electronic shutter and 5.5K 12-bit internal raw video, the camera was a quantum leap forward from the already great 1D X Mark II and put the 1D X Mark III side by side and even ahead of some of the best cameras in the industry, making it exciting to see what the next mirrorless body out of the company would bring. 

And then came that mirrorless body, the R5, a camera that has probably generated more excitement in the industry that any other in recent years, and deservedly so, with features like uncropped 8K internal raw video, uncropped 4K video at 120 fps, a 20 fps burst rate, and in-body image stabilization. With the camera about a month away, anticipation is building, but what is even more remarkable is that Canon essentially confirmed that it is the equivalent of the 5D in their mirrorless lineup, meaning that an R1 (1D equivalent) is still to come, likely in 2021. If I had told you in 2019 that by the middle of 2020, we would still be waiting for the a7S III, but would be looking at a Canon camera with 8K raw video, you would have probably called me crazy. And yet, here we are. 

And while the R5 is definitely exciting, what has me even more excited is the recently leaked lens roadmap. The lenses in it aren't the extreme designs like the 28-70mm f/2L; in fact, they are in the entirely opposite direction. We'll see lenses like an RF 50mm f/1.8 and a 70-200mm f/4L. These are likely to be much smaller and far more affordable. Throw them on the EOS RP, and you have a very affordable entry point into the RF system. And thanks to the excellent performance of Canon's adapters, you can use your EF glass as long as you want.

What I find even more interesting are the RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM, RF 600mm f/11 DO IS STM, and RF 800mm f/11 DO IS STM. These are some fantastically interesting lenses. First up is the RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM. You might balk at the f/7.1 maximum aperture at first. But remember first that 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 is an extremely common lens design, and this lens probably sits at f/6.3 at 400mm, only a third of a stop past f/5.6, practically a negligible difference with modern sensors. So, instead of lamenting the f/7.1, think of it more like the classic 100-400mm design with a bonus 100mm of reach on the long end. 

Anyone want to give me $13,000?

Most interesting, though, are the RF 600mm f/11 DO IS STM and RF 800mm f/11 DO IS STM lenses. Sure, f/11 is a really narrow maximum aperture, but if you need extreme reach, your only option right now is the EF 800mm f/5.6L (Nikon is the only other manufacturer that makes such a lens, aside from Sigma's older 300-800mm), and that lens will cost you $13,000, plus it's massive, tipping the scales at just a hair under 10 lbs (4.5 kg) and measuring over 18 inches (461mm) — not the sort of lens you toss in your bag for a birding hike. On the other hand, an 800mm f/11 would be significantly smaller and cheaper, and a lens using Canon's diffractive optics (DO) design shaves even more weight and length off the design. Sure, it won't be as versatile as an 800mm f/5.6, but it'll also likely be about a tenth of the price, and it will enable photographers to explore genres like wildlife photography without dropping extreme amounts of money or give them a great option for throwing in their bag for the occasional shot while out hiking or the like. It's a chance for many more photographers to try out extreme focal lengths. Canon is turning traditional lens design on its head at both ends of the spectrum while also filling in the more traditional optics and releasing a spectacular camera to match. It's certainly a bit unexpected, but it's incredibly exciting to watch, and I am very curious to try out these new lenses and see how they enable new creative avenues and change my work. 

It seems the company isn't just making a premium mirrorless system; it's making a mirrorless system for everyone, with room to grow into the highest echelons of full frame technology should you so choose. And that's exciting, as even if you aren't a Canon shooter, this sort of innovation keeps the pressure on other manufacturers and drives the industry forward. 

What are you most excited for from Canon? 

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57 Comments

Ryan Mense's picture

Canon said the R5 has Bird Eye AF.... so, uh, that.

R A's picture

Honestly, this is the feature I'm most excited about. I mostly photograph birds, so I really hope it works well.

I'm also hopeful that something more like Sony's 200-600 f/5.6-6.3 is in the pipeline over at Canon. I'm sure there are a ton of uses for those rumored f/11 long primes, but I'm not convinced that birds in flight (given the usual necessity of fast shutter speeds) are one of them. I'd be happy to be wrong on that last point, though - wouldn't mind at all if they manage to surprise me.

David Pavlich's picture

The You Tube reviewers are certainly getting apoplectic about the next year or so considering the Canon goodies AND that Nikon is hinting around about a couple new bodies. :-) I'm still a big D850 fan, but Nikon needs to do something to ease the pain of the D6. Shoulda' called it the D5s.

Rayann Elzein's picture

All those Youtubers who swore only by Sony and denigrated Canon every chance they could should NOT receive any Canon goodie to review. Trustworthy customers like me should get those :-)))

J Cortes's picture

I agree , Nikon should have called it a D5s. However, I feel too much much has been made of the so called D6 shortcomings. It's a camera that's suited to a niche of photographers , and maybe Nikon wanted to save its RD money for mirrorless.

Rick Rizza's picture

They maintain compatibility with EF which makes me still hunting for 2nd hand EF lenses even though I would migrate to R one day. Let's hope that this compatibility remains for the next 20 years or so.

Deleted Account's picture

Stoked for the R5. Not thrilled about what it'll do to my wallet and the hit to my A7R2's resale value.

Michael Comeau's picture

I have hopes for the future but the lens selection is horrible. That 28-70mm f/2 is as big as a house with a price to match. Totally impractical for 95% of photographers.

Ieuan Flowers's picture

good thing they made a 24-70 f2.8 then. and a 24-105 f4. and a 24-105 f4-7.1

Michael Comeau's picture

The 24-105 is very well priced. But there still aren't many affordable lenses, like a 50 or 85.

Christopher Hagen's picture

RF 50mm f/1.8 STM
RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM
RF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM

These are all coming later this year. I suspect that they might be announced at the same time the R6 is announced. These all should be affordable, with street prices similar to their EF versions.

Jeff S's picture

I’m stoked to finally get dual card slots on an RF body. The lenses are fantastic so far- I’m not sure we need f/11 lenses at all, but hey I guess not every lens they make is going to be useful. I’m interested to see what happens with the compatibility of the extenders. Since the RF 70-200 f2.8 IS wont take an extender, will the f/4 version? Will the f/11 teles take an extender?

Rick Rizza's picture

What? Really? The extention nit compatible with RF70-200?

Christopher Hagen's picture

there has not been any leaks except a roadmap of teleconverters for RF. I don't know if this is confirmed, but it is all but confirmed that 1.4 and 2 converters are coming.

R A's picture

They announced 1.4x and 2.0x extenders a while back along with the 100-500. That's not the issue, the issue is that the TCs won't physically work with the RF 70-200 due to some design choices canon made on that lens.

R A's picture

The rear element of the RF 70-200 is only a couple mm past the mount, there's no place for the protruding front element of a teleconverter to go. I'm assuming that this version is optimized for its small size and to do so they made that trade-off as well as the change to external zoom. Hopefully they will at some point put out an RF 70-200 II that has the traditional internal zoom and will take a TC.

Christopher Hagen's picture

I see they announced and displayed these.

weird that they designed it like this. https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/news/super-telephoto-canon-rf-100-500...

I guess they really want you to buy the 100-500 to go further than the 70-200.

Tom Lange's picture

Thank you Sony.

David Love's picture

Lens are everything. They are the most expensive and every time they come out with a new camera system they are just waiting for everyone to have to buy the same lens lengths all over again. Cha ching. One good lens is half the price if not more of the camera you slap it on. Starting to feel like I'm buying the same music over and over (8-track, LP, cassette, CD, spotify.)

Michael Clark's picture

EF lenses perform just as well on RF bodies as they do on EF bodies. They lose nothing due to the "adapter" that's really more like 24mm spacer with pass-through communications.

David Love's picture

That's good news.

JetCity Ninja's picture

A judgment call based on pure speculation of products not yet released, many of which are shockingly underwhelming. Telephoto lenses with f/7 and f/11 apertures?

If it were any other company, they'd get throttled.

Michael Clark's picture

How many other companies are offering sub $2K 800mm lenses? If you don't mind paying $15K for an 800/5.6, or 12K for a 600/4 and another $0.5K for an EF 1.4X III, then these lenses are not for you.

These lenses are squarely aimed at APS-C users who buy 150-600mm zooms and even µ4/3 users who buy 400mm µ4/3 lenses. In terms of field of view and the effect on noise, 400/5.6 with µ4/3 is "equivalent" to 800/11 on FF. Ditto for 500/8 on APS-C.

Steve White's picture

It's perhaps a bit much to ask Canon to focus on all their ILCs. While the R line and RF lenses appear to be coming together, the xD and xxD cameras, the Rebels, and the M line, aren't making much sense to me right now.

Case in point: the 90D and the M6ii. Both have the same sensor and (mostly) the same feature set. But why update the xxD line if the future is mirrorless? Make the M6 the best it can be and let the market understand that SLR cameras are going away. As it stands the 90D seems like a hedge. Either the future is mirrorless or it isn't.

Canon has introduced new Rebels -- why invest in one of those today? A thoughtful person will understand that a Rebel is a dead-end investment, and a less educated person will not be pleased when they figure it out. Sure, most Rebels are one-time sales to casual family photographers (and nothing wrong with that), but Canon could move those folks to the M line and simplify their product line.

And the M line: if APS-C is going to live on in the M line, Canon needs lenses that will interest a more serious amateur as well as the family photographer. Right now one can adapt EF lenses (clunky) or choose from a set of Canon EF-M lenses that are mostly, meh. It's telling that the new Sigma lenses for EF-M are much more interesting. I don't expect Canon to come out with 'L' glass for the M line, but what are you going to put on the front of that M6ii, or the M5ii (assuming it ever comes out)? The lack of good glass ultimately drags down the M line.

Two years I thought Canon had it figured out: for full frame the R line with several bodies, each equivalent to what was being done in the xD series, and two lines of RF lenses, standard and 'L'. Then for the APS-C frame the M line, again with several bodies reaching down to lower price points for the family photographer but with at least one high quality enthusiast body equivalent to a 7Diii, and good quality EF-M lenses. You wouldn't be able to move your lenses if you moved from APS to full-frame but that's the only negative.

Now I wonder if the R line is everything and APS is going to go away. The xxD and Rebels make less sense than two years ago and Canon apparently doesn't love the M line. So R5, R6, RP (re-brand it the R8?) and then an R1 or R3 to replace the 1DX. That might make sense if sales continue the downward slide.

Terry Poe's picture

Fully agree with you. EF-M line has no place in the market. R-line is still subpar. I still see the same half-assed approach and crippleware mentality and not a new Canon.

Michael Clark's picture

The EOS-M system is the best selling mirrorless system in the world. Canon isn't killing that line any time soon. Just because you don't live within the Asian market does not mean it does not exist, and perhaps holds more growth potential that the U.S. and European markets do. At least it did before the coronavirus.

Michael Clark's picture

Why not make a 90D? The future may be mirrorless, but the present is both DSLR and mirrorless.

There are a lot of buyers who still want DSLRs. Based on the maturity of Canon's DSLR product line, the additional R&D cost after they've already spent what it takes to create the M6 Mark II is negligible. They're likely making far more profit per body on the 90D than the M6 Mark II.

Michael Clark's picture

Canon sells a lot of cameras to those buyers you think exist is very small numbers. In fact, Canon sells more cameras to those types of buyers than the types of cameras they sell to the typical readers of f-stoppers. The EOS-M system is not aimed at you and similar buyers. They are aimed at the same type of buyers who would consider a lower end µ4/3 system. They want compact, portable bodies and compact, portable lenses that won't break the bank. All of the EOS-M lenses are the same diameter. Canon doesn't seem interested in creating any lenses for EOS-M that can't fit that form factor. Most EOS-M users are buying a camera and a single lens or a camera and 2 or 3 lenses with no intention or desire to add anything later and build a lens arsenal the way you are thinking,

The reason Canon dominates sales numbers worldwide is because they understand the differences between all of their customers and offer something for all of them, rather than just catering to a vocal minority of one type of buyer.

mohammed altaher's picture

Alex, thank you for writing a full article this time! I much prefer this to just pointing out interesting videos on Youtube. Keep it up!

Alex Cooke's picture

I'm hoping to give you 30 original articles in 30 days this month! :)

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