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Yes, I welcome EOS R

  |   Article, Articles and reviews, Canon EOS R, Personal views   |   5 Comments

Why EOS-R interests me

A move gets closer…

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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 below]

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?

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  • June 2020 The R5 and R6 and a host of lenses show Canon’s direction – from a pro Canon user’s POV the choice gets serious in July. 
  • January 2020: The RP works a treat with the Fotodiox M645 tilt/shift adapter [review], making a useful lens collection from my old M645 lenses ±15mm of shift and 10º of tilt. 
  • 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 2018Testing 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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  • Keith | Aug 25, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Thanks Allan.

    Testing the Panasonic S1R and Hasselblad mirrorless definitely helped me get used to the idea of no optical viewfinder – add to that the EOS RP which I’m using for snaps and testing, and I now feel ready to move on from my 5Ds – however, it needs to be something that gives a suitable step onwards, so the R5 doesn’t cut it for me. I’m waiting for the much higher resolution version.

    What I’ll be really curious to see is what Canon does for mirrorless at ‘One Series’ level – that and battery life for mirrorless, which will always have the ‘always on’ problem.

  • Allan Thornton | Aug 25, 2020 at 10:17 am

    Hi Keith,
    I came across your site when looking for reviews of Canon printers. IMHO you provide the kind of ‘no-nonsense’ commentary that is the exception rather than the norm when browsing the net. I use Canon equipment for my wildlife and portrait photos and have a POV that states that it is the lens that takes the photo, while the camera records the image. So when reading your comments on mirrorless, you make the exactly the point that marketing depts. don’t want to hear. What advantages does mirrorless currently provide over existing cameras and lenses? From my POV, I see a lot of new mirrorless equipment and lenses that seem to be more about brand than value. Canon recently announce the new version of the EF 600mm L lens plus the new 1DX3 body. Conversely, Sigma have stated that they will concentrate on new lenses for mirrorless. Why continue with old tech, if mirrorless is the way forward? Because printed photographs don’t have a banner across them that state “taken with the latest mirrorless camera”. Do I use mirrorless? Yes I have a Leica Q which is a joy to use. But until I see a quantum leap in value, (i.e. the good old cost/benefit analysis), then I see little point in “upgrading”. To say that the market at present is confusing would be a slight understatement.

  • Karl Austin | Aug 2, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    Looking at the specs of the current release, it’ll be a while before you get anything like 100MP, the sensors just seem too slow at the moment – that’s not to say Canon won’t get there though, they aren’t stupid and this is the first foray in to the market, it’s the 6D of the mirrorless range.

    It’s not for me, as I really do like 2 card slots, it saves expensive disputes when a card inevitably goes bad and loses the shots on it (been there, done that, had the backup card). Silent shooting is the big bonus with mirrorless for me.

    Looking forward to seeing what comes above it.

  • Neil Fiertel | Aug 2, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    Just like you, I too have and appreciate my 5DS r and though one must be a lot more cautious about camera shake and focus with it as well as sufficient lighting in the shadows the results are stupendous. As I see it, the nice small camera size of the new mirrorless technology will be good for what right now a battery grip and a hefty lens on this camera requires almost working out to handle it but I wonder if my use of a newer body will change much. The focussing ability will no doubt be a huge improvement. As I essentially deactivate the bells and whistles in the camera right now opting for centre focussing and the smallest of its focus points it will be interesting to see what a real replacement for my camera will impart. I suspect getter slow shutter security for sharper hand held use but with this massive combination I am using more likely it will not much matter as momentum helps me and oft times a tripod. I never did microsadjusting the camera as I admit to fearing messing it up. I find the menu system extreme and not intuitive so my choice of 1960s simplicity is exactly why I chose the single point focussing for example. Having the shutter and aperture priority set up works for a person steeped in that habit. To each their own in that regard. In terms of any newer camera model, I am elated that my own comments on forums regarding a new mount were congruent with whatnCanon has given us. All my lenses are compatible and that is a gigantic relief. I never expected the EFS lenses would fit so a few I got when the full frame camera was beyond reach are now usable. I am hopeful my third party specialty lenses will work such as the Tamron 15-30 zoom which is wonderful by the way but oh, the need to do weight training to handle the mass of this with what I described! Another thing that Canon ought to do is hire some software designers to do something about that ridiculous slow and non intuitive Raw file system. is embarrassing even if the results are superior, I tend to forego it and convert my files to DNG immediately after importing them from the camera. I suspect I am not the only one and yes I know I lose some advantages but it is such lousy software for a Mac based user that I would avoid its tiny image previews and oh so slow performance issue. Anyway, that is a precis as to where I am on the new and old system except for one more statement. I have found all my lenses were massively improved using the 50 megapixel sensor contrary all the warnings of the need to upgrade my glass and I have not had to do so at all.

  • James Aston | Aug 2, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    Hi Keith, well written, once you move away from the “You Tubers” veiws on the differning model range & gauge what you need from either Canon or Nikon the answers become a lot clearer. Great effort from both manufactures, they have thier downsides, but this is generation 1, its a market they are playing catch up in.
    Its the start of things to come. I work with a 1DX Mk2, wouldnt change it for the world, back up is a 5D mk4, so tempted with the 5DS, at times i wished i’d bought that instead of the MK4, but i was able to secure a deal, that was silly to pass on.

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