Before I start, I’d just like to point out that I was a Canon user for over 30 years. Starting with the Canon T70. I absolutely loved that camera. It was my take everywhere body, that served me well for many happy years. Canon, are the camera company that I have favoured throughout my photographic life. Until that is, I switched to Nikon when they launched the D3, which I added to with the likes of a D300, D7000 and a D800 along with many lenses.
I’ve also owned Leica with the M8 (lovely camera, but flawed), Pentax with the K7 and even tried the Foveon option with a Sigma SD14, during my earliest attempts at weight reduction.
Thanks to tennis elbow in both elbows, at the same time, weight of gear became of paramount importance, so I started investigating alternatives to bulky DSLR gear. That’s where my introduction to mirrorless cameras started.
I’ve had several different Fujifilm X- Series, starting with the X-Pro 1 (great camera), X-E1, X-E2, X-T1. I’ve had Sony NEX 6 and the a6000 a couple of times, an A7, but eventually found the Panasonic Lumix GX8, to be the ‘almost’ perfect camera for my needs, at that time.
I was one of the original buyers of the EOS M, very flawed and returned, until Firmware 2 came along which did sort out many complaints. I really took to the EOS M, with it’s flaws and it has become one of my favourite little cameras.
Currently, thanks to an incredible offer I got, I am now using a Sony A7ii, which is a fantastic camera (battery life aside). The image quality is stunning and it is really nice to be using Full Frame again.
Hopefully, that brief gear history, will hold back the haters out there, because this is my impressions of the recent Nikon Z6 & Z7 bodies, but mostly about the Canon announcement and their new EOS R system.
Where do you start with Canon and Nikon, when it comes to mirrorless cameras?
Reluctant, would probably be the politest way to put the offerings each company has given us so far, but recently, Nikon announced their Z range of Full Frame Mirrorless cameras and today, as everybody expected, Canon officially announced the new Canon EOS R:
First though, a little trip down memory lane. . .
Nikon, decided to go with a 1″ Sensor, which wasn’t really a 1″ sensor, but gave us the Nikon 1 range. A CX format interchangeable lens camera, which was relatively expensive, but compact and did at least offer a small upgrade over a point and shoot.
Nikon continued to update the Nikon 1, increasing the 10MP first offering to 14MP, then 18MP, all the while, Sony had a 20MP 1″ sensor offering in it’s ultra compact, RX100 series.
Nikon did offer J, V and AWS offerings, the V moniker being the ‘enthusiast’ level flag ship, which was way over priced and when the optional EVF was added in, made the entire cost, an inadvisable (being polite) purchasing choice. Here ends any further significant mention of Nikon’s 1 range of Mirrorless cameras.
Canon, sort of started a little more promisingly, by offering their first mirrorless camera, the EOS M, with a significantly better APS-C sized 18MP sensor. This offered excellent image quality, paired as it was with the Digic IV processor. It was marketed as a full EOS, only smaller: Enter, the Canon EOS M.
It was built like a metaphorical tank.
It was small but solid.
It felt like a precision instrument.
It had a slick and responsive Touch Screen interface.
It had 18MP APS-C sensor.
It was made from magnesium alloy.
It was really expensive.
And, the auto focus was an absolute disgrace.
It was so awful, trying to capture anything that moved, was near impossible.
Obviously, the reviews went out and, to cut a long story short, the Canon EOS M was panned.
Regular readers of this blog, will know that I absolutely loved the original EOS M and have owned several of them over the years. The Firmware 2 software release, did address many of the complaints, but the AF, although improved, was still pretty useless for anything faster than an almost stationary tortoise.
The complaints of the EOS M, amongst the many, were mostly focused on the lack of input methods. Everything, pretty much depended on using the TouchScreen, which for what the EOS M was, was absolutely fine in my opinion.
The EOS M, in my opinion, was never intended as a single camera outfit for pro users. It was more geared towards point and shoot users, who wanted to step up from a fixed lens to have a bit more flexibility when it came to shooting. For Pros and enthusiasts, the EOS M, was the ideal carry anywhere snapper. Familiar enough output, with enough touch based flexibility and adjustments to satisfy any photographer having a day away from lugging that hefty ‘pro’ kit around.
The actual auto output settings, were pretty good on the EOS M, and with touch focus adjustments, the camera did a really good job of getting good shots.
As I said earlier, I absolutely loved the EOS M. It was a small, compact, take anywhere, although limited little camera that, lets not forget, produced beautiful images.
Video, thanks to the release of Magic Lantern firmware, really opened up the EOS M to an entirely new audience and it has become an almost ‘cult’ camera in videographer circles.
However, unlike Nikon, Canon, did improve subsequent offerings, although made some bizarre ‘availability’ options.
The EOS M2, with improved next gen hybrid AF, was only released in Asia. The EOS M3 with better AF and more physical control dials, was released in Asia and Europe (not Americas).
When Canon decided to take the mirrorless world more seriously, they released the EOS M5, with Dual Pixel AF from the EOS 80D, Digic 6, EVF, control dials, Touch screen etc. It was a vast improvement on the original EOS M (in some respects) but again, the price was higher end DSLR territory. They made yet another design choice which then crippled the potential uses.
The EOS M5’s rear LCD flipped down, 180 degrees (woohoo selfie lovers), but downwards. You what? Yes, it tilted down, 180 degrees to face forward. I’m sure you can work out the deliberate errors in that design choice? Read on. . .
Canon did add to the EOS M lens line up, the EF-M range, but crippled the newer offerings with awful plastic bayoneted mounts. Guaranteed to break with an overly accidental knock or three.
Canon then added a scaled down version of the EOS M5, in the EOS M6, which unlike the EOS M5, which had a flip down 180 degree rear LCD, the EOS M6 had a flip up 180 degree LCD, so selfie loving videographers could actually use it for self recording (unlike the crippled EOS M5, without serious work arounds).
They then added another, the EOS M10 and then the EOS M100 and the latest scaled down EOS M5 look-a-like the EOS M50. All variations on the same theme, but all struggling to really make a statement or find a clear ‘sector’ to appeal to.
It was clear Canon were too concerned about their DSLR customers to take mirrorless seriously (despite by then having quite capable APS-C cameras available).
Nikon, well who knows what happened after the Nikon 1V3? Not much.
Then just a week or so ago, Nikon announced the Nikon Z6 & Z7 Full Frame Mirrorless cameras. . .woohoo! All you Nikon 1 lens owners will be chuffed to bits about this. . .
Or not. New lens mount, bigger lenses. Nikon 1 owners, there’s nothing here to make you happy. Money paid = down the consumption drain of losses.
The Z6 & Z7 (Nikon want everybody to pronounce them Zee 6 and Zee 7, but here, where the English language originated, they will forever be known and called the Zed 6 and Zed 7. Sorry Nikon, no Americanisations here thanks. Having to endure Drive Thru’s is bad enough. The word is through, not thru).
The Z6 & Z7, are almost identical to look at, but the 7 has a higher MP sensor and more AF points than the 6. Both have 5-way IBIS and look very like the Sony A7ii /A7iii to look at.
Nikon developed a new lens mount for the Z range and that’s about where I lost interest. I really didn’t care a whole lot about either camera. Nikon were, as far as I was concerned, too late to the party.
Imagine my surprise to hear just today, that Canon have officially announced the Canon EOS R. . .dun dan daaaaah!!!! EOS R for Retarded? Restrained? or as I suspect, RELUCTANT?
The EOS R is, a Full Frame Mirrorless camera, which looks pretty much like the Nikon Z, both of which look very much like the Sony A7ii/ A7iii, but I think the Sony’s take it on the looks front.
Design awards to both Nikon and Canon for originality (NOT!). Congratulations Sony, a deserved win.
So, the Canon EOS R has been officially announced. Whoop-de-do.
It has a new lens mount (yeah another lens mount from Canon), it has a touch screen, it has a mode dial it has, blah, blah, blah. It does look like a nice camera as can be seen in the video above (which I am sure Canon will ask me to remove, so here’s the link to the video on YouTube:
It doesn’t have a conventional Program Mode Dial. You have to select how you want to use the camera, either on the Touch Screen or using the dials and selecting your preferred mode, via a small B&W screen on the top plate (incidentally, in roughly the same place as the B&W top screen on the Nikon Zzzzzz range). Wreaks of originality folks. Panasonic brought us that little screen on the LUMIX G9 months ago.
There is no ISO instant access. There is no AE/AF Lock button etc. Just like the original EOS M, Canon have made engineering choices, which will involve a completely new learning curve for users, further slowing down the process of taking photographs.
But, being a new ‘range’ of lenses, the camera being simply a means of using the lenses (odd way to look at the world, but hey ho), the new RF lenses include a new second dial, which can be adapted to change settings depending on what the end user chooses on the camera body.
Samsung offered a similar arrangement on their NX lenses, with a function button on the lenses, instead of an extra dial ring, but Samsung sadly, left the interchangeable lens camera market shortly after releasing the incredible NX1. If only Samsung had decided to stay in the ILC market. I loved the Galaxy NX, which had flaws, but was an incredibly capable camera and was certainly one of the hottest and most innovative introductions into the camera market for decades.
At least Nikon, with their Zzzzzzzz range, have made the interface familiar to any Nikon DSLR users out there. But still, their Zzzzzzz moniker, pretty much tells you what Nikon think of Mirrorless cameras.
Here’s what Chelsea and Tony Northrup, had to say about the Nikon Zzzzzzz:
I haven’t had any hands on experience with the EOS R or Nikon’s Zzzzzzzz cameras, but from the previews and first look videos I’ve read and watched, Nikon at least have made the physical workings, as close to their DSLR as they can. Canon? Seem to be making the same mistakes as when they launched the EOS M.
It reminds me of the time when Sony launched the Mini Disc Walkman (MD). Smaller than CD, more robust, great sound, recording capability. The world was Sony’s for the taking, but they deliberately crippled the MD with proprietary file formats and dedicated PC software (no syncing to media player or iTunes there). You had to create an entirely new ‘duplicate’ library, just for your MD Walkman.
Each MD generation, got a bit better, but the overall experience was crippled by their obsession with keeping it exclusive and on their terms. It was only when Sony launched the very last MiniDsic NetMD capable RH1, that they allowed pretty much any file format from any source. It was a proper fully fledged recording studio in your pocket. But by then, Apple had launched the iPod, the world had moved on and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
At least Sony learned a lesson. Listen to what your customers want and respond to it. Hence firmware updates galore for the original A7 (just as Fuji do with their X Series cameras), extending the capabilities of the older models, while offering evolutions in the newer models. And it’s paid off for both Sony and Fuji.
Users love the Alpha 7 cameras (and the smaller highly capable APS-C Alphas too) and Fuji X shooters, absolutely love their Fuji X cameras. By contrast, Canon traditionally launch a camera, which has a few bugs and then eventually, Canon reluctantly releases a firmware upgrade to remove the bugs that a new camera shouldn’t have had upon release.
Canon, however, don’t seem to have learned anything from the mistakes made with the EOS M (I repeat, the EOS M was a camera I personally loved, with firmware 2 installed) and from what I can tell from the Canon USA EOS R guide videos, are making similar mistakes with the EOS R.
Essentially, it’s typical Canon: “this is how we’ve made it, you have to learn to do it OUR way”. Not the “it’s a familiar interface to get you up and running quickly, with minimal fuss” way.
Advising anybody to start using an enthusiast level camera, with default settings first and then gradually ‘learning’ how to adapt to the camera’s way of shooting, is a bit backward, no matter how good the camera results are. Muscle memory plays a big part and enthusiasts, like to try out familiar ways of doing things, but on a new toy. Not fully auto and adapt from there.
Canon have introduced some interesting technologies with the EOS R, like WiFi, NFC and Bluetooth all pretty much standard stuff these days, but the ‘Touch Bar’ selector and the lens mounted ‘adjustment ring’ are quite clever, once the end user has familiarised themselves with the placement etc. How they perform with gloves, cold fingers etc is another matter. Sometimes, just a nice dedicated button or dial, is the best solution when it comes to functionality.
Canon tried a whole new way of interacting with the camera, with the EOS M and look how that entire affair worked out? Despite professional marketing, the snazzy and glitzy point of sale, the teaser posters in publications and all the promises of being a full EOS experience in a smaller form, the reality was prior to Firmware 2, a camera that could barely take images, because the AF was just so slow and it hunted and hunted and hunted until either the object had moved on, or the photographer had given up.
Poor reviews pretty much everywhere and the seeds of failure for the EOS M, were set. Price cuts, price cuts and further price cuts followed. The EOS M was doomed to failure, despite eventually, being a really nice little camera to use. I’m a fan of the EOS M, you might have guessed by now.
With the EOS R, Canon appear to be making the same mistakes all over again.
When the EOS M was launched, the competition in the mirrorless field, excluding Nikon 1, were offering control dials, some clunky touch screen stuff in some models, in body stabilisation, built in EVF, fast(ish) enough AF, built in flash, a good range and fast release of new lenses and latest generation of Sensors etc. in a small form factor, offering great image quality in a lighter more ‘familiar’ design set up.
The EOS M, turned that on its head. No EVF, no built in flash, no real dials along a sensor that had been around for a couple of years already. It was ‘old tech’, still a great sensor though, but tech moves on quickly. Canon made two native lenses available on release, the excellent 18-55mm IS and the super excellent 22mm pancake. But that was pretty much it. New mount new system, promises of a lens roadmap promising more options, to get buyers invested in their latest system.
Unlike other competitors’ offerings, there was no option to add an EVF if you wanted one and nobody was making third party lenses, which combined with Canon’s original pricing, made the EOS M an ‘unlikely’ purchase by anyone, other than die hard Canon shooters.
The EOS R, is being released with two excellent lenses on launch day. The lenses are huge. Great specs, but physically massive, if you consider they are designed for a smaller mirrorless system. Seems a bit counter intuitive to me and somewhat familiar:
Canon, launch a new expensive system, with promises of a great lens roadmap, we buy into it, but then Canon, fails to deliver on the promises they made? The EOS M, now has 7 native lenses. That’s 7 lenses in total, since 2012.
Compared to the available competition, Fuji, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, even Sigma (for their own camera bodies) have launched more lenses for their offerings than Canon (or Nikon for the Nikon 1 range) has for their EOS M system.
Why should we believe them when it comes to the EOS R system? We’ve heard the promises before and got burned.
Another mistake Canon, are making with the EOS R, is the price. Just like the EOS M, Canon are offering lower spec (with older tech inside) than the competition, but asking a few hundred more than the competitors, presumably because they’re Canon and can charge more for inferior spec’d goods.
I’m not saying the EOS R is a bad camera or poor quality camera. The original EOS M was the highest quality EOS M monikered model Canon have made. All others since the original, have felt a bit less ‘durable’. The EOS R appears to follow the same trend.
But, at @£2500, the EOS R isn’t cheap, although it does offer a 30.3 MP Full Frame sensor, I’m guessing the same one from the older 5D MKIV (which will help to keep the cost down), but looking at the competition, the Sony A7iii, offers a newer generation of the 24.3MP Sensor synonymous with the A7 range for under £2K (body only) (as well the higher priced and higher res. A7Riii offering @£2.9K). The Nikon Zzzzzzzzzzz, offers the 24.3 Zzzzzzz6 @£2100 and the 43MP Zzzzzzzz7 £3.5K (bodies only).
Sony, has a wealth of glass available for their A7 series with the FE mount and third party manufacturers’ offering as well. Canon and Nikon have their limited offerings, which to be fair, is typical for a new mount, but Sony has the edge and the experience, having introduced us to Full Frame Mirrorless @5 years ago with the A7.
Each generation of A7 has improved and refined the shooting experience to the point that the A7iii, was sold out for months after it was first available for pre-orders. A first for Sony.
The fact is, the Sony A7iii, is the best value Full Frame mirrorless camera you can buy. The AF, much improved battery life, controls, innovation, 4K capabilities and overall handling, is, compared to the newest offerings from Canon and Nikon, in my opinion, a much better long term investment than what the new Canon or Nikon offer.
Nikon may have equipped their offerings with IBIS, just like Sony did with the A7ii onwards, but Canon in their infinite wisdom, hasn’t included IBIS on the EOS R.
So, again, just as with the original EOS M, Canon appear to be crippling their mirrorless offering, before it even gets a real chance to build a user base. It’s more expensive than either the Nikon or equivalent Sony and isn’t as feature rich, since it is missing the IBIS the Nikon and Sony have installed. It might very well be a great camera, but perception is everything when it comes to people spending their own hard earned money.
If I have the potential of getting more keepers, thanks to a system which combines lens based stabilisation in unison with IBIS, and a wider range of more compact lenses, for less money than Canon are asking for the EOS R, with the promise of more, bigger, faster and way more expensive lenses, sometime in the future, I’m going to go with the camera that offers me more keepers with a wider range of decent to great quality and more compact lenses. I think most others would as well.
Sure you can buy adapter rings to use your existing Canon EF lenses, but without the benefit of a more compact and lighter set up, the EOS R becomes a questionable purchase in the first place. You might as well stick with the DSLR, you know and are familiar with if you’re going to be using the same bulky lenses as before. The size of a smaller camera body becomes less relevant and more awkward, when using a huge lens, than a bigger camera body. The bigger body helps balance the setup better, so the potential benefit of the EOS R is compromised by the bigger lenses.
Canon touted the EOS M the same way, making an adapter ring available, so buyers could use their wealth of EF glass on the more compact EOS M.
While this might have sounded great, it did and does, the reality was less than perfect. I know the cheap shot would be to say “imagine a 600mm lens on the tiny EOS M” and you would picture that image in your head and say “looks stupid”. You’d be right. It does. But, that 600mm lens worked with the EOS M (as long as your subject wasn’t moving very quickly, or at all).
Canon’s mistake, in my opinion, was in thinking that someone with a massive EF lens selection, would want to use their massive lenses on a much smaller camera body. When the lens is the heaviest part of the gear being carried, a few hundred grams more in bulk of the camera body, really doesn’t make a lot of difference. It may have marketed well, in PR speak, but reality told a different story. It was impractical and frankly pointless.
The EOS R, is significantly more expensive than the EOS M was offered at on launch. At @£2.5K, it is more expensive than the equivalent competitors models. The Sony A7iii is the best value of the three main manufacturers’ offerings, at under £2K for the Sony A7iii, £2.2K for the Nikon Zzzzzzzzz6 or £2.5K for the EOS R?
With the three lenses Nikon have for the Zzzzz and the four lenses Canon are introducing for the EOS R (two at time of launch, 2 more to follow shortly after), the answer is simple. Buy the Sony A7iii. The money you save, can go towards a very nice Zeiss or G lens and will give you stunning results.
Canon have at least made the lens offerings fast lenses, but for a smaller footprint mirrorless camera system, the lenses are absolutely huge. They may be well designed, they may be sharp, but what is the point in making a smaller system camera, which uses lenses almost as big as the DSLR offerings they are intended to sway you away from?
The benefit of mirrorless, is less weight, less bulk. Canon don’t seem to have cottoned on to that basic reality. Not everyone wants to carry a 3Kg lens or two around with them all day on top of a slightly smaller camera body. Although, when you add in a vertical grip for your EOS R, it’s almost the same size as a Full Frame DSLR with grip attached equivalent.
Mirrorless, even full frame, can have not only body size benefits, but lens size benefits too.
Sony’s FE offerings, show what is possible (although even these faster FE lenses are quite bulky compared to smaller sensor mirrorless offerings, which is to be expected).
Personally, I’m still using my Sony A7ii. It does what I need it to do and is a fantastic camera. I love the results I’m getting from it.
This is where Canon and Nikon have made their mistakes. There is absolutely nothing on offer from either the Nikon Zzzzzz or the Canon EOS R, to make me think of buying into their ‘reluctant’ Mirrorless offerings.
Canon and Nikon, may have finally decided to take Mirrorless semi seriously, but it is simply too little and too late for those who have already jumped to the excellent Sony Alpha offerings.
Neither have anything on offer, to encourage a Sony A7 shooter, who bought the original and has upgraded the bodies over the years, whilst building a nice selection of FE lenses in the process, to give that all up for their new yet ‘reluctant’ offerings. Remember Zeiss is nice 🙂
Canon and Nikon’s offerings may be about the same size as a Sony A7iii, but the equivalent lenses are much bigger than Sony’s current offerings. And there is the nub f the problem. Smaller bodies, with DSLR sized lenses, may offer photographic opportunities with faster and faster lenses, but photographers switched to mirrorless to get away from all the bulk that DSLRs and their lenses had evolved into.
Sorry Canon and Nikon. Having been a user of Canon, for over 30 years and switching to Nikon with a D3, back in the day, then the D800 amongst others in between, it was clear to me, that Mirrorless was the way to go, a few years ago. Canon and Nikon, could have led the way, but chose to sit back and treat it all like a bad joke.
The only joke here, is that Canon and Nikon expect brand loyalty, when there are much better alternatives out there, from Sony for Full Frame (and APS-C), Fuji’s excellent X-Series, extended further with the latest X-T3 release, then you have Panasonic and Olympus’s M43 offerings (Panasonic are rumoured to be releasing a Full Frame sometime apparently. Not sure how Lumix users will feel about that one but something to look forward to if true) to choose from.
Sony’s ability to increase camera capabilities through additional Apps, is leaps and bounds ahead of anything Canon or Nikon are offering with the EOS R or Zzzzzzzz ranges.
Sony’s interface may be a bit clunky, but this could be tidied up easily enough with a software update or two. The capabilities would be even more encouraging, if Sony opened up the API of the system, to third party developers. Look what happened to the EOS M when Magic Lantern did their thing.
While it is exciting that the big two manufacturers, have finally decided to join the mirrorless revolution, the offerings from Canon and Nikon, I would surmise, are predominantly aimed at users of existing Canon and Nikon systems, as a slightly more compact secondary back up, although with the AF systems in both the Canon EOS R and Nikon Zzzzzzz, coming from non DSLR type cameras, adding either to a DSLR based set up, will involve a new learning curve for dealing with the new AF systems in both new systems.
This may be enough to put off enough potential buyers form wither camp, as a back up is traditionally, something ‘like enough’ the main workhorse to just grab and go, without having to think too much about it.
Both Canon and Nikon I think are setting the bar in fairly safe territory. The EOS R and the Nikon Zzzzzz, are indicators really aimed at their DSLR users, to start thinking about making the switch. Some will, but most I would guess won’t.
There certainly isn’t enough from either of them, to warrant or justify switching from Sony’s A7 range. But, both Canon and Nikon have shown us where they are setting the future roadmap. Both have introduced completely knew mounting systems. Camera makers generally don’t do that for short term motives. This is the direction of travel from the big two in photography.
Canon and Nikon, have reluctantly, decided to start playing catch up with Sony. Good luck, but as one former long time Canon user and then a Nikon user, it’s too little and too late. Panasonic’s awesome GX8, GH5, GH5s to name a few and Sony’s A7 offerings, are the bees knees.
As for the Canon EOS R(eluctant) and Nikon’s Z(zzzzzz) offerings? There really isn’t anything new on offer. Sony have been doing it better than what Canon or Nikon are offering, for over five years. They offer a cheaper and better range of lenses than anything Canon or Nikon are making available. Sure, you can buy adapters from each, to use all your old heavy glass on the new smaller and lighter bodies, but Canon already tried that approach with the EOS M and look how inefficient that turned out.
Canon, it seems, just doesn’t learn from its previous mistakes.
I have just sat through the Canon USA Keynote for the launch of the new EOS R system. Forty two minutes managed to feel like hours. An incredible feat in and of itself. Don’t believe me? You can watch it below for yourself.
What is clear, from Canon USA, is the EOS R, is NOT designed to replace your DSLR system. It is to ‘compliment’ your current set up. Now, right there, is the belief in your new mega, super, duper, latest tech system Canon? So much for that new era!
I’m a bit confused by Canon’s motives here. But, once again, it supports my theory of Canon’s reluctance to commit to a Mirrorless future. DSLR users are after all Canon’s bread and butter for their lenses and lens makers generally don’t want to ‘upset’ the people they want to buy into the new line of lenses, by effectively telling them that everything they’ve bought and paid for to date, is now essentially relegated to the ‘old tech’ bin, where it can join the FD mounts Canon dumped, back in the mid to late 80s.
There was a minuscule treat for Canon EOS M shooters out there. Canon announced a new 32mm EF-M mount lens, bringing the 6 year old system, its 7th native lens. Such commitment from Canon to their loyal EOS M range owners out there.
So, there you are. The new EOS R system from Canon. The EOS R(eluctance). The new system, Canon have introduced, which is not designed to be a stand alone system.
Does anyone think that makes sense?
Just one final question, why should potential buyers bother?