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Home / Cameras / Canon Joins the Full-Frame Mirrorless Fray With the EOS R | News & Opinion

Canon Joins the Full-Frame Mirrorless Fray With the EOS R | News & Opinion

Details started showing up on camera rumor pages over the weekend, but now it’s official—the EOS R, Canon’s full-frame mirrorless, is here. And while it’s early, there’s reason for the competition to take serious note. One is Canon’s brand name itself—while Sony may have led in full-frame sales over the first half of this year, Canon remains the elephant in the room when it comes to cameras, the name most associated and trusted in the space.

The EOS R

The first model in Canon’s new series, the EOS R, sports a 30.3MP full-frame sensor, presumably based on the sensor used in the EOS 5D Mark IV. That’s a good thing—our tests show that the 5D Mark IV sensor is the best Canon has to offer, balancing resolution and dynamic range, and including on-sensor autofocus.

The EOS R sports an unfathomable 5,666 autofocus points. The sensor design, which splits every pixel into two halves, allows for this. Instead of using masked pixels dedicated to focus spread across the sensor as you get with the Sony a7 III and Nikon Z 7, both of which count focus points in the hundreds, the Dual Pixel AF design allows any pixel to detect focus in theory. There are practical reasons to limit which are active. Image processors can only track so much data in real time, and it’s not effective to scroll through every pixel for manual focus point selection. We can presume that Canon has done its homework when it comes to optimizing its autofocus system.

Autofocus coverage is a more practical measure of comparing modern sensors. The EOS R covers the entirety of the sensor from top to bottom and 88 percent of its width. It’s not far off from the 93 percent coverage you get with the Sony a7 III or the 90 percent offered by the Nikon Z 7 and Z 6.

Despite dense autofocus coverage, the EOS R isn’t a world-beater when it comes to tracking focus. Canon states that it’s capable of capturing subjects at up to 5fps when adjusting focus from shot to shot, or at just 3fps with both tracking and focus confirmation. If you are fine photographing with focus locked in at the first shot you can push the capture rate to 8fps. It still pales in comparison with the Sony a7 III, which tracks and shoots at 10fps with stunning accuracy, or the Nikon Z 6, which promises to do the same at up to 12fps.

Canon EOS R

Also missing is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). Sony and Nikon’s cameras incllude the feature, which adds stabilization to any lens, even those mounted via an adapter. Canon continues to rely solely on in-lens stabilization. This is a missed opportunity, as IBIS is a real benefit, especially for video work.

The camera is sealed to protect it from dust and splashes—now a standard feature on models aimed at pros and enthusiasts. It’s powered by the same LP-E6N battery as in most of Canon’s current SLRs. Battery life varies based on camera settings, but CIPA estimates about 350 shots when using the EVF in standard mode and 430 with power saving enabled. You’ll get more shots with the rear LCD, but using the wireless transmission capabilities or recording video will cut into battery life, as with any camera.

In terms of style, the EOS R looks like a Canon camera. It’s black, with a textured finish over a magnesium alloy chassis. The grip looks comfortable, but I haven’t had the opportunity to pick up the camera as of yet—I’ll report back as to how it feels when it arrives for review. It’s a bit smaller than a 5D Mark IV. The EOS R is 3.9 by 5.4 by 3.3 inches (HWD) and 1.5 pounds without a lens, while the 5D is 4.6 by 5.9 by 3.0 inches and 1.8 pounds.

The body sports a vari-angle rear touch LCD, an OLED EVF with 0.76x magnification (a little bit smaller than the Sony and Nikon competition), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a mic input and headphone jack, and a single card slot for SD memory with support for UHS-II speeds. Nikon also opted for a single slot with its two Z mirrorless camera, although with one that uses faster, pricier XQD media. Sony includes dual SD slots in its a9 and a7 III family, although only one supports UHS-II.

Canon EOS R

Video recording is supported at up to 4K quality, with your choice of 480Mbps All-I and 120Mbps IPB compression formats. That’s the good. There’s bad too—the 4K footage has a heavy 1.7x crop, so you’re not using the entire width of the image sensor. It limits wide-angle coverage, so video captured with Canon’s unique EF 11-24mm zoom won’t be quite as epic.

You can shoot at 23.98, 24, or 29.97fps. HD recording, at 1080p or 720p, is also supported. You can push 1080p footage as far as 60fps, while 120fps is available at 720p. There is support for HDR video, but only at 1080p 23.98fps and 720p 29.97fps settings. Your ISO is limited to the standard range, which starts at ISO 100 and tops out at 25600 for video. (The standard range goes up to ISO 40000 when shooting sitlls.) In other video modes you have access to the extended ISO settings, which range as high as ISO 102400. The low extended setting, ISO 50, is only available for stills.

A New Mount and Lenses

Canon has opted for a different lens mount for its mirrorless system, a departure from what Sony and Leica have done with their respective systems. The EOS R features an RF mount, different from the EF found in full-frame SLRs, the EF-S found in its APS-C SLR offerings, and its APS-C EOS M mirrorless mount.

The EOS R supports EF SLR lenses via an adapter. Canon is selling three versions, one with no additional controls, one with a programmable control ring, and a third that supports drop-in filters. The latter is likely to be a hit with videographers, as they’ll be able to use a single set of ND filters with all adapted lenses. Because focus is on the sensor, adapted lenses should work just as well as they do with with a Dual Pixel AF SLR in Live View mode. You can mount EF-S lenses using the adapter, and while they won’t cover the entire sensor when shooting stills, they will work for 4K video with its heavy crop factor.

Canon RF 28-70mm F2 L

Canon isn’t fooling around when it comes to native lenses either. It is releasing four, any of which is enough to get serious photographers excited. The most stunning is the RF 28-70mm F2 L. It’s only the second f/2 zoom for full-frame systems, and while it doesn’t have the wide-angle coverage of the first, the Sigma 24-35mm F2 DG HSM Art, it should be a hit with event photographers, as it gathers twice as much light as an f/2.8 zoom when shot wide open.

It’s being joined by the more pedestrian, but still useful, RF 24-105mm F4 L IS, which is two stops slower but offers a much longer zoom range and image stabilization, and is much smaller. Prime lenses at launch include the RF 50mm F1.2 L, two-thirds of a stop brighter than an f/1.4 prime, and the RF 35mm F1.8 IS STM Macro.

Mirrorless Is the Future

The writing has been on the wall for some time, but the future of interchangeable lens cameras was cemented with last year’s Sony a9. It boasted a lot of firsts, including the first full-frame sensor with a readout fast enough for freezing quick action without the aid of a mechanical shutter and 20fps Raw capture with subject tracking and no viewfinder blackout.

In the past two weeks, both Canon and Nikon have joined a space that Sony has easily dominated to this point. All recognize the benefits of eliminating the mirror box assembly—fewer moving parts, faster frame rates, sensor-based autofocus, and a real-time preview of what your finished image will look like thanks to the stunning quality of modern electronic viewfinders.

Canon EOS R

If rumors play out to be true, Panasonic will be joining the fray before the end of this month. Though, as with all rumors, you should take that one with a big grain of salt. But Panasonic is Panasonic, making everything from microwaves to high-end video cameras. Canon is Canon. It is, along with Nikon, one-half of the most famous names in Japanese cameras. Both companies releasing new systems within such a small amount of time is no small amount of potatoes.

Even if Panasonic doesn’t jump in soon, photographers shopping for a new full-frame camera now have two big mirrorless system options that they didn’t before. Sony has a big head start, including five years of lens development and compatibility with Canon EF lenses using a third-party adapter like the Sigma MC-11.

I’ve had some hands-on time with the new Nikon system, a lot of time with the Sony system, and absolutely no time with the just-announced Canon EOS R. Check back for reviews of the new players as soon as I’m able to put them through their paces.

Pricing and Availability

The EOS R is set to ship in October. It’s priced at $2,299 as a body only, or $3,399 when purchased with the 24-105mm lens.

The basic adapter for EF lenses, the Mount Adapter EF-EOS R, costs just $99.99, while the Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R is twice that, $199.99. Both will ship in October, and will be followed by the Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R in March. It will be sold with a circular polarizing filter for $299.99 or with a variable power neutral density filter for $399.99.

For lenses, the RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM is shipping first, in October, for $2,299. You’ll need to wait until December to buy the RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM outside of the bundled kit. It’s priced at $1,099 on its own. It will be joined that month by the RF 28-70mm F2 L for $2,999 and the RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM for $499.


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