The Canon Mirrorless Journey from Canon EOS M to EOS R

Canon officially entered into the full-frame mirrorless digital interchangeable lens camera (DILC) market with the Canon EOS R on 5th September 2018, establishing a milestone in their Canon mirrorless family line-up. With the launch of the Canon EOS R since September 2018, it had created a lot of buzz among the photographers, on the internet and social media networks. Just like another other camera launch, there are both supporters and critics with the amount of article reviews, video review and coverage published in the digital world.

Although most people were nit-picking on the good and bad points of the Canon EOS R, there weren’t many articles covering on the history and development from the Canon EOS M series and Canon EOS DSLR series that led to the eventual development of the Canon EOS R, the first full-frame mirrorless camea launched by Canon.

Photo Source: Canon Singapore

In this personal article of mine, covering on my photography topics, interests, developments and reviews over the years. I would like to share my personal views, information and timeline on the Canon mirrorless journey from their maiden Canon EOS M mirrorless camera (in June 2012) to the first full-frame mirrorless camera Canon EOS R in September 2018.

Year 2012 At the very beginning of a new milestone 

At the very beginning, there was the first Canon mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, the Canon EOS M in July 2012.

I can still vividly remember my funny moments when I try to take the photos with the Canon EOS M at the media launch event, bringing it close to my eye, just like using the optical viewfinder on a DSLR camera, except that there wasn’t an electronic view finder on the Canon EOS M.

That marked the start of Canon’s entry into the mirrorless DILC market

The history and development of the Canon EOS M family of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras

Year 2012

Canon EOS M (July 2012)

Year 2013

Canon EOS M2 (December 2013)

Year 2015

Canon EOS M3 (February 2015)

Canon EOS M10  (October 2015)

Year 2016

Canon EOS M5 (September 2016)

Year 2017

Canon EOS M6 (February 2017)

Canon EOS M100 (August 2017)

Year 2018

Canon EOS M50 (March 2018)

Followed by the Canon EOS R (September 2018)

Over the years since I first saw and touched the Canon EOS M, I had various opportunities to review a number of the Canon EOS M series of mirrorless digital interchangeable lens cameras, as well as other Canon EOS DSLR cameras that were crucial in setting the foundations and base line for the EOS family series of cameras.

Therefore, I had first hand experiences on the history, changes, development and improvements on the Canon EOS M camera series as well as other Canon EOS DSLR cameras through my camera reviews.

Canon EOS M mirrorless cameras reviews completed

  • Canon EOS M (Not an official review, it belongs to my parents camera, they are still using it and I have friends who are still using the Canon EOS M till date when this article is published)
  • Canon EOS M3
  • Canon EOS M10
  • Canon EOS M5
  • Canon EOS M6
  • Canon EOS M50

Canon EOS DSLR and EOS M technology set the foundations for EOS R

  • Dual pixel CMOS AF that started from the Canon EOS 70D
  • Eye AF from Canon EOS M50
  • Sensor from Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
  • Camera body features from Canon EOS 6D Mark II

Year 2016 Canon EXPO 2016 Shanghai (May 2016)

During May 2016, I was very honoured to be invited to Canon EXPO 2016 Shanghai conference. This was a huge eye opener for me, from Canon’s history, diversity of products and services beyond just photography and imaging and the most intriguing to me were the trends and future of Canon’s technology and development.

There were also media sessions that I attended, listening to the key Canon Inc executives answering questions from the regional media outlets. During the media interaction sessions,  I tried my best to write down as many quotes and views from the questions posed by the other media outlets and the replies by the Canon Inc executives.

“We are not complacent”

“We may look conservative but we know the trends”

I wrote down these two quotes inside my favourite Canon Moleskine book (with a Canon EOS 1DX picture embossed on the cover). The regional media outlets were keen to know more about the mirrorless camera situation and development versus other camera manufacturers at that point in time in May 2016.

Although they didn’t go into any specifics and details, the two quotes were sufficient for me to analyse that Canon was serious and committed in the mirrorless camera market. I reckon there were a number of skeptics around the world that might had grown impatient during that time.

There were four more Canon EOS M models that were launched after May 2016 before Canon officially announced to the world in September 2018 that they have released the Canon EOS R, their first full-frame mirrorless DILC camera.

Year 2018 The arrival of the first Canon full-frame mirrorless camera, the start of another milestone – Canon EOS R

Now in the year 2018, Canon announced their first full-frame Canon mirrorless camera, the Canon EOS R. This camera was probably long overdue for some of Canon’s supporters out there.

Upon reading the Canon EOS R press releases, from various photography website and portals, articles from selected photographers who were given the opportunity to test and share their works with the pre-production Canon EOS R and from Canon Singapore press release, I consolidated my thoughts and views after reading them and having a short hands on during a media event in Singapore.

Quotes:

“There has never been a time in history in which visual expression has been so prolific. Imaging, both still and video, are the communication mediums of today’s society. Much in the same way we learned to type in the past, today’s youth are skilled in shooting, editing, and visual storytelling in ways that only the masters of each craft were decades ago,” said Kazuto Ogawa, president and chief operating officer, Canon U.S.A., Inc. “Knowing this, we needed to step back and design a system that delivers all the creative expression and functionality today’s youth crave, now and in the years to come.”

“The EOS R system is not just a new camera or a new lens mount, it is a new design that will allow us to produce visual tools that were previously impossible, and allow our customers to tell their stories with greater depth, richness of color, and creative flexibility, in optically stunning ways.” states Kazuto Ogawa

Source: Canon USA Press Release

“Canon is dedicated to raising the bar in imaging technology, and we’ve redefined photography limits with the new Canon EOS R,” said Edwin Teoh, Head of Marketing, Singapore Operations, Canon Singapore. “Equipped with a DIGIC 8 image processor, focus speed of 0.05 seconds and 5,655 focusing positions, the new 30.3MP full-frame camera amalgamates the perfect balance of optical excellence and creative freedom.”

Source: Canon Singapore Press Release

Short summary from my limited time first hands experience

  • Firm and solid feel with good grip
  • Design is similar to the EOS 30V film camera
  • Excellent native RF lenses for the the new Canon EOS R
  • The Canon EOS R with sensor from Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and features from EOS 6D Mark II.

Questions in my mind and the Answers

  • Q1: Single card slot, is it enough for today’s market?

A1:

(a) Having a single card slot, allows the Canon EOS R to be priced in a reasonable price range. In the scenario of the camera having a dual card slot, the price and camera body size would have to be increased.

(b) It’s not a must to have dual card slots, how often do photographers use both cards? It’s good to have, is it a must have?

(c) How many times have your memory card failed you during your photography?

As a current Canon EOS 1DX user, I usually use 1 card slot, sometimes, I use both card slots when the photography assignment requires e.g. JPEG – card 1 , RAW – card 2. In my years of photography, I haven’t had a card failure while shooting.

Although I speak from my personal experiences, I can understand if photographers encountered card failures while on the shoot and some might have a preference/assurance that they have 2 card slots, especially for those professional photographers.

  • Q2: Lens Image Stabilisation versus 5-axis In-Built Image Stablisation? Does the customers and photographers know about them and the differences?

A2:

A brief history into image stablisation. Canon introduced image stabilisation (IS) in 1995 and Nikon introuced vibration reduction (VR) in 2000. In-Built Image Stablisation (IBIS) was introduced by Olympus (Sony has a stake in Olympus).

“1 suspension might not fit for all”  a.k.a 1 size does not fit all, the IBIS requirement is different for each len and IBIS is only good for short lens such as 50mm or a 24-70mm focal length range. Different lensses has different IS needs.

For Canon, they have the Dual Sensing IS (camera body) and lens body image stablisation IS (lens).  The lens body IS do the work first while the digic processor inside the camera body supports and rectify low frequency shake that the lens IS cannot detect.

On a personal basis, this topic on image stablisation and in-built image stablisation is not straight forward, it can be very technical that not everybody would be able to learn and absorb the technicality and engineering topics built inside the camera system.

If the IBIS is that 100% perfect, all future lenses won’t need IS but we still see lenses manufactured with IS.

I personally encourage photographers to learn more about them, understand the technology, engineering and technical aspects behind them, why it is being designed and how it works out during various scenarios of your respective photography assignment.

Best scenario – lens IS + camera body IBIS

  • Q3: Cropped 4K video capability, what’s the rationale?

A3:

In the context of the Canon EOS R, having a cropped 4K video capability, gives it a competitive price point. If this new model has 4K FF video, the price would be higher, battery life lower and risk of sensor overheat. With the Canon Log feature, you can have 12 stops of dynamic range (at ISO 400 and above).

Tip: When you want to shoot 4K video on the Canon EOS R

If you use EF lenses – > 1.7x crop

If you use EF-S lenses -> no crop = Full Frame

Personally, everybody likes and wants to have 4K video, are your laptops, desktops and televisions 4K ready and enabled? We can’t have everything in 1 camera body.

I would like to sincerely thank Canon Singapore Marketing for giving me the insights and explainations on the Canon EOS R along with the questions that I posed to them during the media event. The answers above were a mix of their replies to my questions and I further added my own thoughts and views inside.

With the information provided, all these gave me the idea and inspiration to publish my own photography article on the Canon mirrorless journey from Canon EOS M to EOS R.

The Canon EOS R White Paper  – Have you read it?

Canon USA has a Canon EOS R white paper available for download. Have you download, read, understand and analyse the design and engineering behind the Canon EOS R?

Do you know about the differences between the EOS R and EOS M mount? Why does the EOS R mount uses the same dimensions as the Canon EF mount? How does the RF lenses set the standards for future Canon lenses design? This Canon EOS R White Paper can provide the answers and insights.

Personal Thoughts and views

  • I predicted a full frame mirrorless camera in the EOS M, I was totally wrong, it was a new mount, the EOS R.
  • This article is not meant to be a camera / technical review.
  • The Canon EOS R announcement may not come across to the photography world as revolutionary because the mirrorless camera technology has not produced something technological advanced and mind blowing that can give this industry an exponential spike and attention
  • With its documented technical limitations worldwide by various first hand reviewers, the Canon EOS R full-frame mirrorless camera, their very first, is still able to showcase the amount of planning, design and production, that arise to this maiden model, the foundation that photographers requires – trustworthy, stable and available lenses database.
  • Similar to the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, this is probably where the Canon EOS R is also being positioned at.
  • Position of the Canon EOS R ~ Canon EOS 6D <- -> Canon EOS R <- -> Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
  • They might be slower than their competitor yet they have acknowledged and produced a full-frame mirrorless camera that gives exisitng Canon photographers trust and reliability
  • The RF lenses are going to be a new legacy of excellent quality lenses by Canon.
  • This is the first Canon full-frame mirrorless DILC, the expectations are set for future EOS R camera models.
  • 2 distinct mirrorless cameras series in the Canon mirrorless DILC line-up, the EOS M and EOS R, with its own distinct markets and lenses.

My future Canon EOS R full-frame mirrorless cameras and RF lenses wish list

  • Since there is RF 28-70mm f/2, is it possible (From an engineering, manfuacturing and costing perspective) to have RF 70-200mm f/2 ?
  • I wish for a RF 85mm L lens, f/1.4 or f/1.2 is fine!
  • Next EOS R models to have dual card slot and 4K video full-frame (no crop)
  • IBIS in the next EOS R camera, combined with Canon’s lens IS, I reckon it’s going to be a great combination for most types of photography shoot (if not all).

In Summary

The full-frame mirrorless camera battle is going to open up even further and wider, with Nikon’s Z6 and Z7 along with Panasonic partnerning with Leica, coming into the full-frame mirrorless camera market soon. Sony is definitely feeling the heat and competition coming from rival companies in the imaging industry.

As I mentioned earlier that this is not a technical review, this is a sharing on my thoughts and views from their first Canon mirrorless camera in the EOS M that was announced in 2012 to the EOS R that was announced in 2018.

The Canon EOS R is not an advanced EOS M, that is my personal humble opinion,  based on the differences between the technical specifications and physical size of the two mirrorless camera series. My personal view is that the two mirrorless camera series by Canon, the EOS R and EOS M, would operate and expand in their own space and target market, along with its own photography niche, style and usage.

Building up a family and range of different lenses for photographers are very crucial and important for photographers. Even if a company can design and manufacture camera bodies, without the various range of lenses to “arm” the photographer for their professional work or leisure fun, the growth would be subdued.

When I saw Canon’s new range of RF lenses that I reckon would be as legendary as the EF L lenses, probably setting a new standard and benchmark for Canon’s range of lenses for the future. Using available adaptors, the range and variety of Canon’s lenses from the EF, EF-S and EF-M lenses can be used on the Canon EOS R, seamless and applicable.

Once you have a stable and wide range of reliable and legendary lenses database, the flexibility and usablity would give the photographers the trust, confidence and happiness, they can go out to the field and deliver their works on both professional and leisure basis.

Coming from a photographer perspective, building up lenses is more important and crucial than upgrading to the next camera body available. With the extended family of Canon’s lenses from EF, EF-S, EF-M to RF, photographers can confidently build their setup  with the Canon EOS R full-frame mirrorless camera.

Customers today in this modern digital world with fast moving and changing technologies, are the ones that are more fickle, spoilt, demanding, getting more lazy yet expecting perfect photographs from perfect equipment. All these would happen in an utopia world.

There are customers out there who want the small and light weight camera bodies such as the mirrorless cameras with sharp and fast lenses that somehow challenged the engineers and designers to design the customers “ideally perfect” mirrorless camera without knowledge and understanding of engineering and manfacturing constraints and limitations.

I would write and share my Canon EOS R review photographs and article when the review opportunity arrives.

On a very personal note, the Canon EOS R is very enticing and attractive (even without doing a review yet) for my commercial aspect of my photography while I would prefer the EOS M series (e.g. EOS M50) for my  leisure, social media networking, vlogging and daily usage camera when I am not doing commercial photography work.

What is my final photography setup to complement my Canon EOS 1DX remains to be seen, you just have to stay tuned to my website and social media networks for updates!

At this point in time when this article of mine is published, there have been a lot more discussions, thoughts, views, reviews and rumours of the future Canon EOS R full-frame mirrorless cameras. I reckon there would be new and exciting times ahead for the Canon EOS R, let’s wait and see!

The above article and contents are mainly my personal works, research, analysis, thoughts, views and experiences with Canon EOS cameras and lenses over the years (since 2004 when I started off with the Canon EOS 300D).

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