Canon this week made its leap into the arena of full-frame, mirrorless digital cameras, following Nikon by a couple weeks and Sony the better part of a decade. Some of the Canon’s specs are fabulous: The EOS R camera body has a 30.3-megapixel sensor with 5,655 focus points and the ability to focus almost in the dark. The first lenses are the same quality as Canon’s white L lenses and have a control ring that lets you quickly adjust a setting.At $2,300 for the body with no lens, the price and features seem to put the EOS R closer to the prosumer Canon 6D Mark II full-frame ($1,600) than the pro workhorse Canon 5D Mark IV ($3,100). Optimists will see it as a cheaper 5D. The EOS R and first R lenses ship in October.
What Canon Announced: the Body
Canon’s Sept. 5 announcement included one camera body, several lenses, and adapters to fit existing full-frame EF and crop-sensor EF-S Canon lenses to the EOS R body. The new lenses won’t fit Canon DSLRs because they’re meant to be mounted closer to the sensor than a mirror-box camera allows. EOS R will be the terminology for Canon’s mirrorless full-frame system, and RF (which sounds confusingly like radio frequency) will be the term for the lens system, which appears to be all black. So much for Canon ads showing pros at a sporting event, the majority shooting with Canon signature white body telephotos.
The camera uses the Canon Digic 8 image processor. ISO is up to 40,000 native, expandable to 102,400. You can shoot by streetlight and even moonlight. The 5,655 focus points cover the shooting area to 100 percent vertical and 88 percent horizontal coverage. Canon claims autofocus in as little as 0.05 seconds. It includes some of the things you expect from point-and-shoots, such as eye detection.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has 3.69 million dots and, Canon says, provides 100 percent scene coverage. Subjects should be viewable in near-dark, in correct color. A rear LCD swivels and tilts. “Touch and Drag AF” allows selection of the focus point. GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi are embedded, and video as high as 4K is supported.
What Canon Announced: the Lenses
When the EOS R ships, it can be had with a 24-105mm f/4 lens. It’s $1,100 on its own (later in the year) or adds $1,100 to the kit price. (When Canon bundles the existing 24-105 in a kit, often it knocks $100-$200 off the kit price). There will also be:
- 50mm f/1.2 L-series prime lens
- RF 24-70mm f/2 USM lens
- RF 35mm f/1.8 MACRO IS STM lens
The RF lens mount has a 20mm flange back and 54mm mounting diameter, which should allow for wide, bright lenses in the future. The lens Control Ring lets the shooter quickly change (one at a time) settings such as aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, or ISO. Lenses have image stabilization built in. Canon says it’s better than in-camera IS. But it also makes the lenses heavier and bulkier.
Where Canon EOS R Fits In
The EOS R camera that Canon announced falls into the realm of enthusiast camera for sure. Some pros may see it as a way to get a mirrorless 5D Mark IV for $800 less. If Canon’s focus-speed specs hold up in testing, it’s a solid offering as a video-centric camera.
Existing Canon owners of recent DSLRs from amateur, enthusiast, and working pro realms will like that it takes Canon’s ubiquitous $65 LP-E6N lithium-ion battery, but they won’t be enthused by Canon’s rating of 370 shots per charge. Canon’s DSLRs on a good day of field-shooting (sports) can get as many as 1,000 frames. There’s a two-battery grip that steals the onboard battery slot for its connection and makes the EOS R DSLR-bulky.
Early analyst reports are mixed. For instance, Ichiro Michikoshi, an analyst at BCN Inc. in Tokyo told Bloomberg:
Sony was the only option until now, but with Nikon and Canon now out, we’ll see this space become very active. There’s a lot more buzz now, so maybe people who have forgotten about standalone cameras will take another look. … At above 200,000 yen [USD $1,800], it’s too high. You need to get down to 120-130,000 [$1,075-$1,170] for people to consider it. But lenses are also expensive. So I don’t see a huge number of users flowing in.
On the positive side, the price is in line with what well-heeled enthusiasts will pay. And enthusiast followers of cameras, cars, or entertainment systems are solid brand-recommenders. If Canon hooks them and then their colleagues, it has a good chance at chipping away at Sony’s lead.
Pre-orders for the Canon EOS R start as early as Sept. 12 at some major retailers.