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Canon EOS R Mirrorless System Announced

See my Canon EOS R wishlist. (if not yet live, use this link to Canon EOS R system).

PLEASE pre-order on September 12 using my links—thanks!

I’ll be reviewing the Canon mirrorless system in detail, just as with Nikon Z system. But what a jam-packed challenge—both will apparently arrive in October.

I’ll have to grit my teeth on resolution—30 megapixels is awfully disappointing compare to the 45 megapixels of the Nikon mirrorless system—it takes the same effort to compose and shoot—but I don’t think the Canon EOS R is aimed at landscape photography. Its about $2299 price point is clearly a conscious choice, with the pro model presumably to come in 2019.

When I finish analyzing the feature set of the Canon EOS R mirrorless system, I’ll have more to say, but a few quick notes: apparently the Canon EOS R has Eye AF (huge plus) and it lacks in-body image stabilization (huge minus). EVF magnification of 0.76 is not as nice as the Nikon Z7 0.83.

A huge drawback for my usage is using the touchscreen to select focus with a thumb rather than a joystick—good luck with that with gloves on, and it means that my nose will be selecting AF a lot. But maybe it’s still possible to select AF another way and turn off the focus-by-nose. IMO, requiring touchscreen for fast/fluid operation is a major design flaw. But I cannot assess that until I have the camera in hand—is there some non-touchscreen way to operate the camera.

The single SDXC slot is fine and very convenient in some ways, but I’d much rather use XQD—my SD cards are too small and some are damaged—just not robust over time.

Although the Canon EOS R is targeted at video, its video features appear to fall well short of the Nikon Z7—1.7X crop—super lame and very limiting on the wide end.

On the lens front, the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2 USM is going to be loved by some pros (wedding photographers and similar uses), for that extra stop plus the bokeh/blur possibilities, and the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L will slot in as a beautiful environmental portrait style lens. The Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM is a solid all-arounder workhorse, while the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is an oddball but quite interesting offering.

Like Nikon, a lens adapter solves the Canon EF and Canon EF-S compatibility transition, either the Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R or the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R.

Flange focal distance

It seems to me that Canon has unwisely chosen a relatively long flange focal distance of 20mm (versus 16mm for Nikon mirrorless) along with a mount that is 7mm narrower in diameter (55mm vs 62mm for Nikon Z). Together, this means that Canon lenses will be more constrained in optical design freedom. By “unwise”, I mean that when introducing an incompatible all-new lens mount, why make it sub-optimal?

Canon: ??mm outer diameter mount, 54mm inner diameter, 20mm flange distance
Nikon: 62mm (?) outer diameter mount, 55mm inner diameter, 16mm flange distance

Does the mount + flange distance matter much? Perhaps not. Canon’s own white paper would argue “yes” on both counts, but maybe the differences are small enough to be of no practical concern. I’ve contacted an optical expert for a view on whether this difference is signifcant.

From Canon’s EOS R System White Paper:

The reduction from a 44mm flange back distance in the EF mount system to the 20 mm of the new RF mount system opens important additional degrees of freedom in lens designs. The pivotal innovation offered by this short distance, combined with the large 54 mm diameter RF mount — is the freedom to deploy large diameter optical elements at the very rear of the lens and closer to the large image sensor. This adds new optimization capabilities to the lens-camera imaging interface.

The new RF mount makes possible greater lens design flexibilities: 1. Large diameter rear lens elements that are much closer to the full frame image sensor — enhancing overall optical performance (in particular, tighter control over optical aberrations at image extremities) 2. Lenses having the same specifications for focal length and maximum aperture as current EF mount lenses—but having significantly higher image quality — within the same size and weight 3. High optical performance, large aperture (F1.2) prime lenses for full frame cameras 4. Zoom lenses of higher brightness with constant aperture over their focal ranges — while still modest in size and weight.

...

If, however, the back focus distance could be shortened, this then opens up space to move the final lens element closer to the image sensor — and if this element is made large then an equivalent control for aberrations of the ray bundle projected on to the corner of the image sensor can be made — as shown in the lower image in Figure 10

So one has to ask: if 20mm is good, is 16mm even better? It seems so, since Canon has the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L but Nikon has gone a full half-stop further with the Nikon NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 Noct S and f/0.95 is not the limit to aperture brightness, according to Nikon. But the f/1.2 vs f/0.95 difference might be just a marketing/cost decision and nothing else.

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