Points in Focus Photography

Musings on the EOS R and Canon’s RF Platform

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Rough Transcript

Welcome back.

Today, I’m going to talk a bit about Canon’s EOS R platform, my impressions about their execution so far, and what it’s going to take to get me to buy in to it.

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about this for at least a couple of months now. Pretty much ever since Canon had refurb EOS Rs on their store for $1800. I was real tempted to pick one up, but I just couldn’t bring myself to.

Truth be told, I’m still on the fence about mirrorless cameras as a whole.

On one hand, I get the advantages. On the other, when I look at the overall costs and benefits, for me, well, those advantages just aren’t as big of a deal as so many mirrorless proponents want to make them out to be. At least not for me.

That said, I’ve also learned that I need to put something through its paces to really understand how everything shakes out.

For me, this is especially true about the EOS R’s touch controls more than anything.

But when you’re talking about a two thousand plus dollar camera, it’s hard to dive into something like that just to test the waters.

This is doubly the case for me, since the EOS R is a step down from the 5D mark fours that are my normal cameras, and many of the missing features are things I rely aren’t obviated by removing the mirror.

That said, while it’s hard for me to justify getting an R since it’s more of an entry level camera, I think Canon was right not trying to start at the pro end of the market.

If they were trying to sell the EOS R, as it stands, as the mirrorless counterpart to the 5D mark four; well, it really doesn’t stand up that well. Even against their own DLSR, never mind the competition.

However, positioning it as the mirrorless counterpart to the 6D, it looks way better.

Besides, if there’s one thing that’s been pretty obvious in the mirrorless industry, it’s that it’s not as easy to produce a solid pro level camera, as most commenters sitting on the sidelines would want to believe.

Sony certainly had problems with the alpha nine. Specifically when you combine the electronic shutter with PWM based lighting, and it wasn’t their first rodeo by a long shot.

But it’s not the cameras that confuse me about Canon’s RF platform right now. It’s the initial crop of lenses, and specifically the market segments they seem to be targeting.

When Canon released the EOS platform in 1987, they didn’t just focus on L lenses. In fact, only two of the 14 lenses launched in the first year carried L branding.

With the RF platform, only 2 lens released so far haven’t been L lenses. Worse, the average cost of an RF mount lens is almost $2000, and 3 of the 6 current RF mount lenses cost as much as, or more than, the EOS R.

Simply put, Canon doesn’t have the entry level lenses to go with their entry level cameras.

Take the EOS RP, at a tier below the EOS R, it’s a decidedly entry level camera.

However, what lens did Canon pair it with in the kit?

Answer; one that’s valued at 85% of the camera itself.

And don’t get me wrong, investing in good glass is probably the smartest thing you can do as a photographer.

But when the cameras are decidedly enthusiast level, $3000 f/2 zooms and $2500 f/1.2 primes doesn’t seem quite right.

On the other hand, now some six-ish months after the RP was launched, Canon is just launching a 24-240 millimeter f/3.5-6.3 zoom. That would have been a perfect lens to put in a kit with the RP when it was launched. Heck it would have been a perfect lens to pair with the R at launch. But they didn’t have the lens ready then. Why?

The RP didn’t sneak up on Canon. That’s not how engineering and manufacturing works.

I would argue that the 24-240 should have been on the market when the RP was released. Even if that meant bumping something like the 28-70 f/2L to a later release date to get the engineering done.

And of course, now it seems like Canon is working on another f/2 zoom.

I get that there’s value in using these flagship lenses to differentiate the platform form its competition, and the EF based DSLR line. But they’re also niche products, that are going to sell in small volumes compared to staple lenses like the 16 to 200 millimeter f/2.8 triad.

And I have to really question how much of a market there really is in these lenses in the bigger scheme of things.

Sure, I’m projecting a little here. I don’t have any interest in them. Then again, I can jump on pretty much any discussion form and there are tons of posts from people bitching about $1000 lenses, let alone $3000 ones.

Personally, I don’t see an RF 28-70mm f/2L in my future ever, and I think I’m more willing to spend money on glass than most. The speed doesn’t do much for me, and the weight is a killer.

The RF 28-70 weights 50% more than my old 24-70 f/2.8 did. I’ve been there, I’ve carried that around all day, and it’s not pleasant. In fact, weight was one of the primary reasons I replaced that lens with its lighter successor.

Sure there are options. EF lenses work perfectly well on RF cameras with the mount adapter. But Canon goes a long way to push how the RF mount is so much better, and the mount adapter is at least another $100.

I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing something in Canon’s strategy.

Two entry level cameras, and no native entry level zoom. On the other hand, there’s no pro level cameras, and there’s already a ton of niche high end pro level glass, with a price tag to match.

How many people are really going to spring for a $3000 28-70 f/2 instead of a $1600 24-70 f/2.8? Especially when that f/2 lens is substantially bigger and heavier.

Granted, all these high end lenses mean that when Canon finally gets a 5D or 1D class mirrorless to market, there will be a good selection of high end glass for it.

Then again, I wonder how important that really is too.

This isn’t like the FD to EF transition. EF glass is perfectly viable on the RF platform. And high end users are going to have a lot of high quality EF glass already that they’ll be more than happy to keep using.

In fact, when I was looking at the EOS R, I wasn’t looking at any of the RF glass at all. I have good glass, I don’t really need to spend more money for slightly different versions of lenses I already have.

And ultimately that’s kind of my problem right now. There’s nothing, lens wise, on the RF platform that is so compelling to me that it’s a siren’s song I can’t resist.

Which I guess kind of brings me to my final point, what does Canon have to do to get me buy an EOS R, or into the RF platform?

Well, I guess if they ran a special for like $1400 or $1500 I’d consider an R as they currently stand.

This isn’t to say that the camera isn’t worth what they’re charging in general, it’s just not worth that to me. I already have a pair of 5d mark fours, and picking up a less featured version isn’t real attractive.

But in the broader context, I want a camera that’s meets or beats my 5D mark 4 in terms of features. And I’m not talking about the sensor here either. If that was the only factor, I’d be much more keen on the R than I am. It’s all the ancillary things that ruin it for me.

To start with, 5 FPS with tracking AF isn’t acceptable to me; it’s a step backwards. It needs to be 7, and honestly, given where the industry is now, I’d say 10 FPS is more reasonable for a 5D class camera running in the 30 to 40 megapixel range.

Actually, I’d love to have a 6K hybrid photo/video burst mode, similar to Panasonic’s 6K 30 FPS/4K 60 FPS PHOTO burst mode.

I’ve already used the 4K video mode on my camera this way in some instances, however, an 8.8 MP video aspect frame isn’t ideal for photography. And cropping it to a 3:2 image drops the res to 7 megapixels.

6K, even in a in a 16:9 aspect ratio gets a much more reasonable 21 megapixel image to start with.

Secondly, I want the full control over the AF system with multiple rear AF-ON buttons and modes, like I have on my 5D mark 4.

There’s nothing inherent in a mirrorless camera that obviates the need to control the AF system. The R, like the 6D, doesn’t have this; the 5D does, and this is a big stumbling block for me.

Third, I want a GPS unit in the camera. I don’t care for the R’s Bluetooth link to a smartphone as a solution.

I want all of the battery drain for my camera to stay in my camera. Moreover, there’s a lot of times where I want to be able to turn my phone off to preserve battery life, or just keep it from disrupting me at all, and still geotag my pictures.

And no, airplane mode doesn’t work, that disables the GPS system.

As for video features, what I’d like to see is probably decidedly different from what I’ve seen constantly trotted out online.

To start with, I’m not bothered by the 1.7x crop for 4K shooting on my 5D mark fours. In fact, there are many times where I shoot in that mode deliberately for the crop then downsample the video files to 1080p after the fact. Depth of field doesn’t go away, and the 1.7x crop gets me a stop and two thirds more depth of field for the same composition and aperture value.

That said, one thing I’d really like to see is better control over the output resolutions — not that this only applies to the RF platform. On the 5D mark four, I have DCI 4K and 1080p, on the EOS R there’s Ultra-HD 4K and 1080p. What I’d really like have both DCI and UHD 4K modes, and a similar choice between 2K and 1080p.

Moreover, I’d really like to have in-camera downsampled 2K and 1080p formats. I’m already doing this with some of my video shooting in 4K and downsampling after the fact. But it would be nice if I could skip that step and have the camera do it for me, if only to let me have 1080p sized files.

Ultimately, I’m really curious to see what Canon has in store for higher end mirrorless cameras. There’s rumor that they’ve accelerated the work on a 1D class camera, which would certainly be interesting. That said, I think they need to really bring a lot more of the DSLR ergonomics to it. Additionally there’s talk about a high resolution 5DS style model, though again, the ergonomics are going to be a big factor for me.

Well, I think I’ve rambled enough here, so I’m going to wrap this up.

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For more detailed written content on photography, travel, and gear please visit my website at www.pointsinfocus.com.

Also you can follow me on twitter, @pointsinfocus.

Thanks for watching, see ya next time.

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