After Nikon announcement of its entering the full-frame mirrorless segment (our in depth article available at this link), it's Canon time that couldn't stand by the window and see photographers move to Sony. Yesterday Canon has announced the new RF mount and the first full-frame mirrorless, the EOS R, that will have to face competition with the new Nikon Z6 and current comparable Sony model that is the highly regarded A7III.
To start, here you have the official presentation videoclip of the new RF system.
Let's dive into the details of the new system and compare it with the competition, beginning with some considerations about the new mount.
The new RF mount
As in Nikon, Canon too introduces a new mount for its 35 mm mirrorless system: the RF mount (R will not stand for Reflex for sure ????), with the same diameter of current EF mount at 54 mm but with a reduced distance to the sensor (flange distance) from 44 mm to 20 mm - it's longer than 16 mm in Nikon and 18 mm in Sony mirrorless systems. The shorter distance compared to the reflex system allows more compact lenses and bodies as well as improving optical quality reducing for example some aberrations.
The new mount is designed with 12 pins to support communication between the camera and the lens - Canon claims the new communication protocol allow very fast and additional data transfer aimed for example to improve auto focus, that is already very fast in Canon models. This new protocol implies that current EF lenses attached through an adapter will not be able to provide the improved performance that the new RF system is able to provide.
Canon provides even 3 adapters from RF to EF/EF-S mount: one base that is included in a new EOS R camera purchase, one intermediate that offers a ring which function can be set from the camera (e.g. changing ISO or aperture) and one advanced and more expensive that beyond the ring supports also insertion of filters (so that you can put rear gelatine filters for lenses that do not support front filters). The adapters are compatible also to EF-S lenses, those ones for APS-C format: of course the image will not cover all the full-frame sensor but for example to shoot 4K video with the new EOS R it will be (unfortunately) very useful - "unfortunately" since it is for a severe limitation of the new camera that we'll see below.
Along with the new mount and camera, first 4 RF lenses have been announced - specifications available in our Lens Catalogue:
- RF 28-70mm F2L USM - it's the first consumer zoom in the world with this focal range and an aperture as wide as f/2 (it is usually f/4 or f/2.8), so very fast, unfortunately not stabilized. But be careful of the weight - 1.4 Kg - and the price - around $ 3000 + VAT / around 3500 € incl VAT!
- RF 50mm F1.2L USM - priced around $ 2300 + VAT / 2500 € incl VAT.
- RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM - classical all-around zoom, stabilized and more compact than its equivalent for reflex system.
- RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM
The new camera - EOS R
The first mirrorless full-frame camera with RF mount is the EOS R - the main specifications are available in our Camera Catalogue at this link.
Let's see the main improvements and also what's missing.
- Sensor: a new 30 megapixels sensor, with higher resolution with respect to both the Nikon Z6 and the Sony A7III that have 24 MP. About the sensor performance in terms of dynamic range, sharpness, depth of color, we have to wait for real-field tests. Until now Canon has not been the best for dynamic range, surpassed by Sony and Nikon on this aspect, we'll see this time.
- AutoFocus: the very good Dual Pixel system of Canon is employed here and even improved providing... 5655 AF points, a never seen value on any consumer camera (it even seems as they are too many). These points are placed to cover 88% of the width and 100% of the height of the frame - for comparison in the Sony A7III the AF points coverage is 93% of the overall image. The AF is able to focus in extremely low light, even down to -6 EV, better than any other camera - reading the small notes, you will notice that this value is possible only with a f/1.2 lens, that are quite rare and expensive - we can guess that on a f/2 lens it may be around -4/4.5 EV that is anyway a very good value and not inferior than competition. The focus on the eye is introduced, as Sony and Fuji offer since some time, but it is working only on one-shot focus, not on continuous focus while the named competition does not have this limitation.
- Viewfinder: as in the new Nikon, the best on the market tecnology is employed here, with a 3.69 million dots electronic viewfinder (EVF) - be careful that we are talking of dots and not pixels, since each dot has one color so if you want to calculate the equivalent RGB pixel count you need to divide the dots number by 3. The resolution is the same of the new Nikon Z6/Z7, while the Sony A7III have less, 2.36 million dots. The magnification, on the other side, is not optimal being 0.76x, while the Sony A7III have 0.78x and the Nikon Z6 even 0.80x.
- LCD rear display: Canon is known to put excellent LCDs in its recent cameras, completely articulated so that for example the shooter can see him/herself, and this type of LCD is being employed in the EOS R, with a resolution of 2.1 million points, as in the Nikon Z6 and with about double resolution than in the Sony A7III. Both Sony and Nikon does not currently offer a fully articulated screen as Canon.
- Controls: on the back there are 7 buttons plus the usual central wheel with 4 clickable points and a new innovative control bar that can be pressed on the left/right/center and also sliding on it is supported - the purpose of this new control can be configured in the camera for example to change something about focusing; unfortunately there is no joystick, that most of the advanced/pro cameras have nowadays. On the top of the camera, the on/off button, shooting button other 4 ones, a vertical wheel, one horizontal to cycle among the different mode (the historical PASM selector is gone!) and a little monochromatic display to show main settings as it is common in the reflex models.
- Connectivity: beyond the standard ones (HDMI, microphone, headphones, wifi) also a USB-C port is available and can be used to charge the battery, the bluetooth connection is available too.
- Video output: it is possible to output the video recording to an external device in high quality: 4K resolution, subsampling 4:2:2 at 10 bit (in other words with higher luminance/color precision respect to the average camera outputs) and Canon-log tonal curve to preserve the maximum dynamic range for post production. This external output at 4:2:2 10 bit is available also on the new Nikon Z6/Z7, while the Sony A7III provides a 4:2:2 8 bit output.
- no stabilized sensor: Canon is the only brand not offering a stabilized mirrorless camera, both the new Nikon and the Sony recent models provide it. It's an important missing feature that for fixed subjects in low light forces to raise ISO or to have all stabilized lenses - instead of having 1 stabilizer in the body you need as many ones as the number of lenses you have... though on longer focal lengths the stabilization in the lens is more effective than in the camera body.
- storage: just one card slot is provided, a strong point against event pros, for which risking to loose the shooting for a corrupted card can be unacceptable (it's rare but it happens and when it happens.... it's so serious if you don't have a backup card). In my opinion it's a bad mistake, done also by Nikon with its new Z6/Z7, probably to launch in the future other models that will have the dual card slots and will be ever more expensive, but here we are talking about a $2300/2400-2600 € camera, how can such a premium device miss the double slot? The Sony A7III (that is cheaper) does have it, as other cheaper cameras of other brands.
- video: of course the new camera supports 4K shooting but in the video area there are some important limitations with respect to the competitor (e.g. Sony A7III):
- 4K shooting does not read from the all sensor area but only from a small central part, with a crop factor of about 1.8 (in various Internet sites you can read 1.7 but taking into account both horizontal and vertical crop you get more than 1.7 factor). This fact, not clearly stated in the promoting Canon material, means that you buy a full frame camera and then when you shoot video at high resolution you have a smaller APS-C sensor camera! It's not good for a camera of this level and Canon should state it with more evidence.
- the slow motion at 120 frame/sec is possible only at lower resolution than FullHD, at 1280 x 720 and for no longer than 7.5 minutes. Being in 2018, it's really not up to the competition.
- first independent tests have noticed a strong rolling shutter effect - skewed/inclined subject when it is fast moving. We will see more in depth tests to compare with Nikon and Sony but it's a bit worrying.
- bitrate are very high (up to 420 mbit/sec), so you could assume then that the quality is very high at the expense of very large video files produced. It's not like that, since the Canon conversion/compression is not efficient so the size of the file is not proportional to the quality compared to a file produced by a Sony for example with the same shooting length. At least Canon the MJPEG video format employed in EOS 5D Mark IV that produced even bigger files.
- burst: it is advertized the 8 fps burst rate, that is anyway lower than 12 of Nikon Z6 and 10 of Sony A7III, but that is possible only with fixed focus, if you need continuous focus you need to go down to 5 fps or, if you need to have "guaranteed focus" - tracking priority-, even a miserable 3 fps. The Sony A7III has a 10 fps burst rate with continuous AF.
- battery life: the official CIPA value is of (only) 370 shots, better than the very low 310 of the Nikon Z6 but much lower than 710 of Sony A7III. Said that, we do know that CIPA values are quite pessimistic, meaning that under "normal" usage conditions more than double of that can be achieved; anyway here the Sony in comparison is much better.
- price: in the United States the initial official price will be around $2300 + VAT including the basic adapter for current EF/EF-S lenses. The new Nikon Z6 will be priced around $2000+VAT so cheaper, and the Sony A7III has the same price of the Nikon.
Concluding this analysis, it's surely an interesting camera but in my opinion there are (too many) limits/missing feature, probably just holding off for another more expensive model in the future, but for the price tag maybe it's better to wait the next proposal from Canon, or... wait that the price will drop, if you want to stay with Canon.
The new RF mount is promising for the new lenses that will be native, now first 4 ones and quite expensive, but probably more affordable models will be pushed out and in the long run they could make the current EF mount lenses fade away.