What Is Canon Missing?

What Is Canon Missing?

It’s been about eight months since Canon launched their full frame mirrorless system. In that time, they’ve created or announced 10 lenses to be delivered by the end of 2019, as well as a second body. Despite the fast progress on building out the kit, Canon is missing a critical item.

While the EOS R has a number of competent features, it falls short of market leaders in sensor performance, autofocus, and handling. Despite the body’s shortcomings when judged against other high-end cameras, Canon is producing and developing very high-end lenses, clearly targeted at professionals and users who demand high quality. The only lenses that are even vaguely consumer oriented, in line with the new RP body, are the two mid-range zooms at 24-105mm f/4 and 24-240mm f/4-6.3 and their 35mm macro lens.

For any consumers using the R and RP, the only reasonable option for other lenses requires adapting EF or EF-S lenses. This removes any benefit inherent to the new mount. For example, the only RF mount 50mm currently costs more than the EOS R body it goes on, leaving adapting the only reasonable option. The RF mount lenses definitely deliver the performance, taking full advantage of the flange distance and size of the mount, but don’t make sense on the current bodies, on the basis of cost, size, or performance objectives.

Since it seems the lenses and bodies of the RF mount system are going different directions, it is clear that Canon is building towards a pro body. When that body is coming, however, is a mystery. It is rumored to feature a high-megapixel sensor, but it isn’t supposed to be announced until 2020, meaning early adopters of the system will have waited 18 months for a body deserving of the lenses.

When the body finally does come out, users should have a large number of native mount lenses to choose from, but given the incongruity of the system in its current state, sales may be lacking until then.

Both Canon and Nikon have taken very aggressive pricing actions on their mirrorless systems, with Canon marking down their R body by $300. Whether this is indicative of softer sales across the camera industry, price skimming on a new product category or a push by management to juice up the numbers of their lines remains to be seen.

Given that both Nikon and Canon have mentioned a push for higher-margin products, the more-expensive full frame cameras and lenses are clearly essential to their future plans. That makes the conspicuous absence of a pro RF mount body all the more surprising. It’ll be interesting to see what steps Canon takes in the future. Was this a soft launch of their RF mount production: launch the lenses, while they iron out kinks with the bodies, firmware, and lenses? When the pro level RF body does arrive, it’ll be very interesting to evaluate against the expected Sony a7R IV and any other mirrorless announcements that have occurred in the interim.

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Rk K's picture

Canon is missing a decent, even somewhat competitive body. I don't see them investing the billions required for a new sensor fab either (or for rolling a new high end image processor), they would never be able to recover it.

Dave Morris's picture

Who cares what Canon is missing? If it makes bad tools then just pick up a Sony or any other camera that works for you and shoot with it.

Alex Coleman's picture

Switching entire systems can be a serious consideration for many photographers, and I imagine many would want to understand what potential upgrades exist for their current system. I think the roadmaps provided by these manufacturers are a step in the right direction, while they also provide a great discussion point for users.

Dave Morris's picture

Just buy a Sony body with an adapter then. Personally I can't see anything too serious about that. If you won't like it — you'll sell it.

Nothing personal but it's just a very silly conversation. All our cameras and lenses are awesome. We have god-like technology. Canon, Nikon, Pentax – it doesn't matter. Even the phone in your pocket is superior to what Henri Cartier-Bresson had at his disposal.

So is that really Canon that prevents you from creating meaningful works of art and escaping the misery of writing endless nonsense for another mediocre and doomed website?

Alex Coleman's picture

I don't argue that Canon's gear would preclude photographers from accomplishing the shot.

I'm examining the business and product management side of Canon's mirrorless line, by exploring how the disconnect between their launched lenses and bodies may impact sales.

As I already mentioned, for many photographers, the kit is a significant outlay of cash. Just like any other large purchase, it pays to consider its value now and in the future. Upgrades and availability are a significant part of that.

sometimes it is also funny to remeber that the current cheapo mirrorless cameras are blazing fast and have super power af in comprehension to pro dslr 10 years ago. maybe sometimes the photographer is just not good enough. especially with af. there are so many test with different winners, maybe they are all really good and close and it is more up to the user, who to setup the af and how he gets around with the system.

I recently evaluated EOS-R for myself, despite being one of most hated cameras. I like that Canon is leading with great lenses as compared to the route Nikon took, and fully expect that Canon will follow-up with a body that justifies the new lenses.

That said, no amount of online reviews could prepare me for how bad the ergonomics on the R (and I presume RP as well). It's as if Canon went out of their way to put button placements in the most unexpected and awkward of places. In time, brain and muscle memory will learn to adapt but a hallmark of any good design is for it to be natural and intuitive. The R is not that IMHO.

On a positive note, the autofocus is as good if not superior to just about anything out there (modulo eye-autofocus). And, I'm very partial to the colors SOOC that Canon delivers, and R does not disappoint here either. That said, I decided to pass on the R and wait to see what Canon brings in late 2019/2020. At 2K, I think the R is too poor of a value, and resale will be horrendously bad once Canon delivers a pro variant (and it they don't soon, then I wouldn't want to be more bought into Canon ecosystem anyway).

Alex Coleman's picture

I agree with a lot of your points- if you're looking at Canon's mirroless lenses based on their performance, you'll be let down by their current mirrorless bodies. Given the current state of the roadmap, it seems like it'll be 4+ years before they have a fleshed-out consumer and pro-grade mirrorless lineup.

Grant Beachy's picture

They are missing a pro mirrorless body around 30mp that volume shooters can use day in and day out. We don't need 75mp (or honestly 30mp most of the time) but we would kill for great ergonomics with weather sealing and the focusing abilities of the R (which are completely superior to the 5d mkIV). The lenses are going to be next level, skip the statement camera and make a great one, and I'll be there for it.

David Pavlich's picture

This!! I'm fairly certain that there's an R MkII or something similar that will quench the appetites of those of us that want what you've outlined. It will be very 5DIV like, but with all the advantages of the R; good weather sealing, 2 card slots, durable, etc.

When that happens, you'll see some of us move to it. However, until in happens, there's nothing that would make me move from my 5DIV.

4 years of technological advancements

While the RF 50mm is expensive at $2K, I think the RF 35mm f1.8 IS is not high cost at around $450. at B&H Photo and a reasonable price for a prime which you do not need adapter. Also the RF 24-105mm f4 is discounted $200 now to $899. (from 1099. orig.) which is a reasonable price for an F4 native mount lens. These 2 are decent low (moderate) cost lens for RF mount. There should be more consumer lenses coming. Isn't there a RF 24-240mm lens coming of variable aperature which should be consumer priced, coming out this year.

Alex Coleman's picture

I think Canon's consumer mirrorless has the same problem Nikon's DX lineup has- photographers don't need 10 flavors of 24-XX consumer zooms (in Nikon's case, it was a proliferation of 18-xx lenses).

Even looking at those 3, Canon's consumer R lenses have no wide option, and nothing even slightly serious for tele. Is an RP user really expected to buy adapters and EF mount lenses to make it work, or splash out on their pro-grade 70-200 f/2.8?

The Canon RP is a consumer or prosumer camera for hobbyist and semi-pro use or as a second body for a pro to adapt lenses to. The regular non pro buying RP is not likely to add any pro glass as they do not have the budget and will more likely either adapt lenses or buy the $450 RF 35mm lens or add RF 24-240 lens once that is available. For now they can adapt EF 24-105mm F3.5--5.6 lens which is about $400 bundled with RP. Canon wants pros to buy the more expensive R camera. Also for wide option, you can adapt the Canon EFs lens 10-18mm lens, however at a cropped resolution. Adapter allows both EF and EFs lenses to body. Adapter is not that bulky to add.

As far as offering different price point DX for Nikon, that is because consumers are very budget conscience and pick the price point they want. So one only DX would not work at all. Nikon offers 3xxx, 5xxx, and 7xxxx in DX for upgrading features and price points. Smart to do so, as you cannot lump the buyers into one category. 3xxx users at that price point will not buy a 5xxx or 7xxx as do not want to spend this money. (ask my brother in law :) . Buyers of 5xxx and 7xxx are willing to spend these prices at these price points for features. Nikon knows this and are right.

Uneducated buyers will also buy a lower priced Sigma 18-250mm zoom in Sigma over a superior C lens 18-200mm Sigma (for only $100 more in price), and have no clue that the shorter zoom is sharper is an other example. Educated buyers know better. Trade off in how much zoom you want vs. quality. Shorter is always better. All in one longer zoom is more convenient for general masses, but not sharper.

Sony biggest draw is adapted lens options, Canon and Nikon seem reluctant to encourage but is proving to be a poor strategy in the long term. Always holding stuff back, trying to be too clever for their own good. Canon especially need to realise the consumer is now King once again.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

*** warning, old man rant

As a small business owner that wants the largest ROI on my gear, I'm fine with waiting. These ridiculous comments about Canon not caring or not being wowed are hilarious. I've had the Mark IV from day one and can only hope the pro version of the mirrorless comes in 2020 with all bugs tested and modified. I honestly see my self shooting on that camera for at least one more year. Fucking kids these days care about the DR, lazor sharp focus, eye autofocus, mirrorless and switch systems left and right instead of grinding it out with old gear. Stop this mobile phone style obsession with needing to upgrade every year or two. Put some roots into your current gear and dial that shit in. If you're legitimately switching because you're having focusing issues or any other excuses to get the shot, maybe it's not the camera... 99% of clients give zero fucks on what your shooting with. It's your book, who and what you've shot and more importantly that they continue to hire you for future jobs.

I agree and I'm still using the mkiii and it's great. I was going to get the mkiv but like you ill look forward to the pro version of the mirrorless when it comes out. Unfortunately the new breed of photographer is obsessed with what you described - DR, eye autofocus etc. They watch Peter McKinnon and then think they know everything.

So true. You're spot on.

Marcus Joyce's picture

The pro body argument is stupid. The 5d iv is plenty professional for plenty of photographers and it's a slightly slower 5d iv in a mirrorless.

And it's going to be a stupidly expensive wtf price which will be out of reach of the majority and despite any amount of logic reasoning won't justify it.

Alex Coleman's picture

The 5D4, like Nikon's D850, is among the high water mark for DSLRs. Despite that, Nikon and Canon have made it clear through their actions that mirrorless is the way forward for them. So, as a photographer, switching to mirrorless will be a consideration in the next couple of years, as bodies break down, so preparing for that transition is important.

Daniel Cseke's picture

I own a 6D, which I know isn't the best and newest camera. I know it in and out, but I wanted to switch to Sony. I bought one, and thanks godess I didn't sell my 6D right away, because it was way too uncomfortable for me. It's small the buttons are tiny, and in totally illogical positions, and the grip is way too small for my not even that big hands.

I understand that it's technologically superior, but long term, comfort is a lot more important. And that's where Canon is still way better than any other company.

Oh, and I had an EOS R for a week as a loaner machine. The same applies. Comfort and ease of use > specs.

Honestly it's a MILC. I understand that it can only do 4k in cropped mode, and the Sony cameras can do a whole sensor readout in 4K, but... Still. 3 colleagues of mine have a7III's, they work as concert photographer, and 2 wedding/portrait photographer, and they don't even use it for videography. I understand that it looks good on paper, but in my experience barely anyone uses it apart from Youtube vloggers.

“While the EOS R has a number of competent features, it falls short of market leaders in sensor performance, autofocus, and handling.”

Alex, have you used an EOS R? The DP AF is instant and you can AF on almost the entire sensor. Or do you mean eye AF? Latest firmware 1.2 improves it with servo eye AF but Sony still probably has better AI for eye AF.

Sensor performance, yes I agree with you.

Handling... you mean ergonomics? Again have you held/used an R? The ergonomics are excellent and almost always mentioned on reviews. The Touch Bar isn’t great, but the control ring is awesome.

I can attest to what Roland mentioned using the EOS R for the first time. It wasn’t intuitive at first, I’m fact I was frustrated.

it takes a bit of time to remap your haptics but you can reprogram every button and dial on the camera... I should have taken the time to really dig into the manual before using.

Alex Coleman's picture

Hi Robert- AF performance is too complex to reduce to a single phrase, so I should have been clearer. AF performance as it relates to accuracy is strong, like most mirrorless cameras currently available. Placement of the AF point, as it is missing a joystick, feels clunky, while continuous AF is a tradeoff between FPS and accuracy, since it knocks the frame rate down to 3 FPS in some configurations.

Sounds like we agree on sensor performance.

For ergonomics, reviews state "frustrating ergonomics: poor button placement... touch bar is impractical in use", "quirky, questionable ergonomics may turn off some users", and "After several weeks of shooting, I remain unconvinced by the new controls"- via Photography Life, DPReview, and Cameralabs, and corroborated by my own hands on experience.

Ben Bezuidenhout's picture

I bought the EOS R and must say, I am very impressed. Specs do not tell the full story. I do hope for more software updates.

I used my cheap 24mm pancake lens on it, my nifty 50mm and my Tamron 70-200mm G2. All delivered excellent results.

When I took pictures at very low light the focus was still amazing and fast as in normal light.

Missing, body wise, let me count the ways:

1. If you are an action sports photographer, the Canon mirrorless are almost unuseable. 5 fps on stills. My 7D does more, my 3 year old Sony A6300 shoots 11 fps.

2. No 1080p 120 fps video, so poor slow motion video.

3. 4K video inferior.

The bottom line is I am forced to wait to upgrade my Canon because although Canon fanboys don't want to admit it, Canon is at least 6 years behind the Sony an I am mainly a Canon guy.

Alex, here's the roadmap, but allow me to digress a moment:

When Apple switched from the PowerPC to Intel chips for their computers, what did they do first? Did they switch the Mac Pro (G5) first and then trickle down? No, in fact the opposite happened -- all those white plastic laptops (remember them?) received Intel chips first, then the desktop iMacs, then the pro laptops, and finally the Mac Pro. They went in "reverse order".

Why? First, that's where the money was. Lots of white plastic laptops were sold for every Mac Pro. And second, the pros were settled pretty well with the G5; they could wait a bit.

Now look at what Canon is doing through the same lens (sorry). The pro users, that is, the 5D and 1Dx users, can bide their time -- indeed, there is no point to them switching quickly to mirrorless, they still need to amortize their current rigs. Canon sells far more dSLRs to the amateur / prosumer crowd, and so it makes sense to come out with the R and RP (essentially a 6D-plus and a 6D-minus) first. The amateurs are the easiest to switch; for us it's an emotional response and gear-acquisition syndrome that drives us, not the need for a "better" camera. So get them done and get the high quality RF lenses out the door, and then it's easier to switch the pros to a "5D-like" or "1Dx3-like" mirrorless R system. The pros will have seen it coming and will plan accordingly, plus they'll have seen the great RF lenses.

Switch your volume customers first. That's where the money is. Then take care of the pros. They'll wait.

Alex Coleman's picture

No question about that Steve. Both volume launches and trickle down, like Tesla's launch of the S and later the 3, have proven track records in business. Unfortunately, Canon seems to have split the difference.

To use your metaphor, it's like Apple launched the low end Macbook, but only made it available with a Core i9 processor- since Canon launched the R and RP, with the bulk of native lenses being $3,000 f/2 zooms and f/1.2 primes.

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