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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66 Comments

Previous comments

Yeah, they could use innumerable different RF lenses, but what they desperately need ASAP, in order to compete with Sony and stop the hemorrhaging of customers, is better bodies. The EOS R needed dual SD slots, IBIS, and full-sensor 4K. The EOS RP needed full-sensor 4K video at the very least, and maybe IBIS and make the camera $1500 instead of $1300, I dunno.

Canon also desperately needs to just kill the sensor/IQ nay-sayers' argument, and deliver sensors that get close enough to Sony's overall DR and noise levels, at all ISOs. Yeah, in most conditions you'll never see the "advantage" if you properly expose your shots, but there are still certain shooting conditions where it all becomes critical, and when it does, Sony is just dominating...

I have a lot of confidence that Canon can stay in the #1 position, but they're slipping, with each new generation of their own bodies, and with each new generation of Sony bodies.

Alex Coleman's picture

Sony's sensor tech is very impressive, and while it doesn't impact every shot, it certainly is nice to have.

As for the body, I agree that most of those features are realistic to expect, particularly when compared to the expected users of those high end lenses. I'll be curious to see what is in the next RF mount body.

Art & Photography of Bokehen's picture

IMO: Canon is missing a flawless customer support team. as I've had to deal with a number of issues which Canon refuses to correct..

It seems Canon is using the "razor blade" strategy, where the body is the "razor" and the lenses are the "razor blades". The bodies are moderately priced to reduce barriers to the new RF system and this leads to sales of the RF lenses. Makes sense to me. Lenses are where the money is.

The EOS R/RP is essentially buying Canon time to get it right for the next generation to compete against the A7iv.

I really hope they keep their sensor tech consistent with what they have put out so far - instead of listening to the goons ripping out MTF charts, I hope they keep making sensors that work better in the real world.

The 5D4's colour accuracy and highlight management is still markedly better than their competitors. Having shot with and owned Sony A7 series and Nikon D8xx series cameras, I've moved back to Canon and it has made a huge improvement to my workflow, and my work. Much more consistent colour in both normal and extreme lighting conditions means less work correcting files and happier clients.

I am still curious why people are pulling Canon up for their "lagging" sensor tech. I suspect it is because people equate dynamic range and extreme ISO measurements as a sign of a good sensor, and haven't actually used these cameras side-by-side in the real world.

Nobody complains about the dynamic range of film, but it tops out at around 12-13 stops. It's not the range, but how you reach the limits of that range: film bleeds and blends from near-white to white and near-black to black very gently, where digital simply snaps from one to the other. Managing and controlling that bleed is more important than having more dynamic range.

Similarly, you can have all the high ISO capability in the world but if colour accuracy deteriorates as you move up through the ISO range (hello Nikon), it becomes pretty useless. I was topping out my D810 at ISO1600, but I am still pulling perfectly usable files from the 5D at ISO12800.

Canon seem to have focused on getting the bleed management and colour accuracy right, where Sony have always been pushing more DR, more megapixels, more ISO sensitivity. Quantity over quality - and that is always how they have done it - it is engrained in their culture.

I'd rather see some more quality sensors from Canon than something with 1000 megapixels and 18 stops of dynamic range. Hearing the rumours of them switching to Sony sensors, I might be holding on to my 5D for a while!

Gaetan Osman's picture

I have the canon EOS R and I must admit, the quality in both video and image is a decent step forward compared to my previous Canon 5D mark iii. However, when comparing the camera to other brands, Canon falls incredibly short. I've seen the video and image quality from my friend who owns a Sony a7riii and it's not acceptable for Canon to take their customers so lightly. At this rate, by the time they'll release a pro body, they'll already have lost the majority of their client base to their competitors.
If it wasn't for the amount of canon glass that I own, I would've made the switch a long time ago.