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Yes, I welcome EOS R

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Why EOS-R interests me

Even if I won’t be jumping just yet…

With Canon and Nikon making significant mirrorless full frame camera announcements Keith has been wondering just how this affects the photography he does for a living and for fun.

What cameras and lenses need to arrive before a switch to mirrorless becomes a good idea? [see updates at the end of the article]

Very much a personal view since there are many areas of photography he just doesn’t do.

How does your equipment choice matter to your photography?

eos r body

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Updates – July 2019: The EOS RP has replaced my 5Ds as my ‘just going out to take some photos’ camera where I don’t need the 50MP. I’ve re-discovered why I bought my Olympus 50/1.2 lens back in 1983
June 2019: Using the Panasonic S1R [review] gives a real feel for ‘pro’ level mirrorless
April 2019: Writing my detailed EOS RP review gives me a good feel for what I like and what needs doing for a Canon ‘Pro’ mirrorless.
December 2018  testing the Hasselblad X1D-50C  – very nice – I decide I do like some aspects of mirrorless

The new 35mm – or is it?

You can’t have missed all the frantic writing about Canon and Nikon’s new camera systems. It’s something I can be interested in from my longstanding camera technology curiosity, or I can look at from the POV of taking photos. Can I draw any meaningful conclusions about how this will affect my taking of photos?

The things that matter to my own photography will be different to many – the point is, to think about what you do, and when all this mirrorless stuff might matter to you.

Do we have info to work on?

I’ll avidly read manufacturers’ PR materials such as Canon’s EOS R white paper [PDF] despite the knowledge that they are still pitching a product. There is interesting stuff there though, giving a few hints as to where the system could go.

There are publicity materials to suit different end user styles, so you’ll find videos for those that find text too challenging (oops, did I say that out loud ;-)  and ‘Sample Images™’ for those that think they show any meaningful information about the camera, as opposed to the photographer, art director and PR agency behind the shoot.

I’m afraid I also need to ignore, or at least being duly skeptical about, any so call ‘Hands On™’ reviews – this is the portmanteau term that now gets applied to picking up a camera, showing a few shots of it in someone’s hands and making a few pronouncements.

Like many, I await considered reviews from trusted sources, using actual production cameras and lenses – those are a few months off as yet.

This is just the start

The Nikon Z6/7 and EOS R are just the opening salvos in the companies’ campaigns to present their mirrorless options as ‘The Way Forward’ in photography.  From my own view, neither are compelling reasons to adopt mirrorless yet.

You can be sure that both companies have introduced models aimed at market segments they think are susceptible to making a jump in systems.

Both recognise the importance of existing systems, witnessed by their emphasis on lens adapters to make use of older lenses. I’ll come back to this, but I’ve already written an article looking at the historical context of Canon’s EF to RF lens mount change .

I’m concentrating mainly on Canon’s EOS R system here, since I currently use Canon kit for my work. I’d love to expand some of my reviews, but Nikon UK (and Sony) don’t seem interested. It’s also reasonable to assume that if/when I do switch to mirrorless, I’m not going to  immediately switch all my lenses.

Camera body

Looking at the first EOS R, the camera features look very much like a slightly newer version of the 6D mk2. It has some similarities with the 5D mk4, but I’d pitch it at the ‘base full frame’ level.

There is a much increased use for the rear screen for AF settings – something I look to (optionally) reduce in future more ‘pro’ models since I can use my DSLRs without reaching for my reading glasses. This is why live view is strictly a slowed down tripod option for me, and partly why I rarely have a mobile phone with me for anything much more than phone calls. As an aside I look forward to seeing the problems today’s ‘always connected’ generation face as their eyesight ages ;-)

Given I use a 50MP 5Ds, primarily for the resolution, this isn’t a model for me  – it’s no backup camera either, I still have my old brick of a 1Ds mk3 (both seen here in my Peli 1535 Air case review)



The first RF lenses and range of adapters (3x) give a distinctly different message to the specs of the camera.

They are the Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM, RF 50mm F1.2L USM, RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM and RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM.

Of the four lenses three are of the premium ‘L’ variety. They show aspects of what can be done with the new RF mount and with something like the RF 50mm F1.2L USM a very clear indication that the EOS R system will have better cameras to go with it in the future.

rf50mm F1. 2 L

An EF-M mount lens was announced at the same time, but as I mentioned in my Canon lens mount article I think EF-M is going to be just for small cameras and not any form of gateway to full frame. Worries over the future of EF-M and its lack of compatibility with RF are overblown, I simply don’t think the lack of EF-M APS-C to RF Full Frame ‘migration path’ that you could have with EF-S xxxD to EF xD full frame is an appreciable issue.  Where I’m much more interested is to see what happens at the ‘7D’ advanced APS-C level.

Do we see an APS-C EOS R camera and what level is it pitched at?

Update: A translated interview with someone from Canon [MyNavi] mentions higher/lower level EOS R, as well as high megapixel cameras.

What makes the real difference with EOS R

All the talk over single card slot, sensor performance and video capabilities are just froth from my POV. Even the AF performance and changes to control layout are things that can and will change with new camera bodies.

As I said, the specs of the first EOS-R body are of no real interest to me from a camera purchase viewpoint.

I’ve yet to try any camera with an EVF (electronic viewfinder) I really liked, but even that will change as technology develops.

No, to me it’s the change of lens mount that really signifies a step change. This is something Canon must likely expect to be using for the at least the next 15-20 years, which covers my reasonably expected professional career (I’m in my late 50’s).

I don’t expect to take up wedding photography, videography,  portraits and editorial work or sitting for hours waiting for a small animal to do its tricks. I’m also unlikely to start hiking long distances to take photos.

In a nutshell I’m after high resolution, wide angle and macro lenses, and ones with tilt and shift – in other words all the kinds of lenses I cover in my lens reviews. Oh, and an update to my EF24-70 F2.8L and EF70-200 F2.8L IS some time.

When looking at what impact the EOS R system might have, consider what sorts of photography you do – not the vague concerns of ‘forum experts’, especially when they haven’t even used the camera yet.

I look at the range of EF lenses since the change from FD mount in 1987 and wonder what can now be achieved.

So, what will be of interest in RF mount?

The choice of  the same diameter mount as EF (54mm), but a flange distance (mount plane to sensor) reduced from 44mm to 20mm makes for some interesting lens design options.

RF mount design

One is being able to put the rear element of the lens much closer to the sensor. Add this to being able to make the rear element bigger and your design options for handling aberrations are expanded.

This works primarily for shorter focal length lenses, although I noted a recent Canon US patent application that included a 24-300mm design. In the optical layout below, you can see how close the rear element is to the sensor and how big the rear lens element is.



rf24-300 F4-5.6

With the recent announcements of EF400mm and EF600mm lenses I suspect that it will be a few years until we see native RF mount versions, and even then they will be very similar, but a bit (~20mm) longer at the back.

I suspect they won’t appear until there is a flagship (1Dx) level camera body for them to fit onto.

The shorter back focus also means that with tilt/shift lenses, there is less lens mount to get in the way between rear element and sensor. The current EF mount leads to an asymmetric vignetting at wider apertures with any significant shift (see my recent TS-E reviews such as for the TS-E24mm F3.5L mk2 for examples).

Both the TS-E17mm F4L and TS-E24mm F3.5L mk2 are about 10 years old. Although some say they are overdue for update, I’m still happy to use them with my 5Ds.

Both lenses could be redesigned for RF mount, probably with significant improvements. Maybe even some electronics to send movement (tilt & shift) data to the camera – who knows, maybe even electronic setting of shift/tilt and focus.

Whatever the case, such RF lenses won’t appear until once again there is a body worth using them with.

Saying that the EOS R system has no interest to you is akin to saying in 1987 that you see no need to ever leave the FD mount cameras and lenses because the EOS 650 didn’t look so great.

That was maybe true for a short while, but the change from FD to EF is what made for a lot of what the EOS EF based system what it is today.

This time it’s easier to move or stick with the old, with adapters, but I still don’t expect to see any new EF lenses featuring at Photokina in 2023.

I’ll also note that Sony’s choice of the smaller E mount was one reason that their efforts to date may have impressed me from a technical point of view, just not for taking photos. I also wonder how many lens designers at Nikon are relieved at finally getting rid of the strictures of the ‘F’ Mount – the Z mount is something to encourage ‘Because we can’ lens designs – I really hope it goes well for Nikon from a business POV. Canon needs competition from a genuine optical company, and in that area I hope they have not made the RF mount so proprietary that no-one else can ever make lenses for it. To do so is short sighted IMHO

So Keith, when are you moving to RF?

When my camera has been clearly superseded for what I want to with do with it by an RF mount body.

As to buying lenses, the only ones that would cause me to switch sooner are when a body offers at least as good performance as I’ve got and a significantly better lens is only available in RF mount.  The prime example would be an RF17mm tilt shift (or even a RF15mm T/S)

Bring out a flagship level (1 series) quality body with ‘s’ resolution (~100MP) and better than current best dynamic range and I might have a camera I can take to my retirement (and beyond!)

What will make -you- think of moving?

I’m very aware of the fact that my photographic needs are a mix of advanced and old fashioned (high resolution, no video and mostly manual focus and exposure settings), so I’m curious to hear where your own particular tipping points will be or were, if you’ve changed already.

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