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Interesting Article: Canon was blinded by Sony
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Interesting Article: Canon was blinded by Sony

I read an article on petapixel who in terms of opinions are usually even-keeled. This article was interesting, and I thought it deserved some conversation and thought.

The author of the article, Usman Dawood explains his feeling that Canon made the wrong decision coming up with the RF mount.  He raises some interesting points.

I can see why he feels the way he does, and in some small way, I can agree with his opinion.  Canon could have added more pins to the EF mount and made a mirrorless EF camera body.  It wouldn’t be much different in size to the Canon EOS R that is out today – just a bit thicker around the lens mount.  It would have made it so the vast library of EF mount glass would seamlessly work on the new mirrorless camera, and outside of perhaps creating some lenses that are mirrorless specific that go deeper inside of the mount, Canon’s lens library would have been complete.  Using the EF for mirrorless also would have gotten around the EOS-M problem as well.  Yes, the lenses would have been more complicated, either using large ingresses into the mount or also supporting dual camera protocol switching between RF and EF mount.  Using the EF mount would have prevented the massive disruption we’ve seen in the market in the past 10 months as well. 

I think that was the main gist of his article, or should have been.

There are some points I feel are important to make after reading his article;

Even though focus peaking and focusing from the sensor can be made available for a DSLR through the LCD.  DSLR’s were never a good solution for video, and by extension, never a good solution when you want to focus, view, and otherwise shoot stills using the live feed from the sensor.  For either, you must use the back LCD panel and cannot use the viewfinder.  Unless some patents become reality, they will never use the optical viewfinder, making the experience less cohesive than with a mirrorless camera and EVF. 

I see a common misconception that Canon (and the same applies for Nikon too) panicked and created these mirrorless cameras quickly and without much consideration or thought.  We know from discovering this patent applications 2018-101080, that Canon was quietly researching the new RF mount back at least to December 2016, as that is the filing date of the patent application.  So no, this wasn’t a panic decision after watching the great sales of the A7 III (as some Sony fans seem to think).  Canon was already working on the solution in 2016, at least two years before the release of the EOS R and the start of the Canon RF mount.  If I had to guess, they probably started in earnest sometime in 2015 after the designs for the full frame DPAF sensor was ready for production in the 1DX Mark II that was officially announced on February 1, 2016.

The author also felt that Canon was “holding back” that they should have simply put better technology into their cameras.  While it would be wonderful if Canon had the best technology in the business, the current state is that they are behind.  Their sensor readout speeds are slower, and their processors are struggling with the increased workload that mirrorless demands.  My belief is that we will see Canon move forward, possibly quickly, however, it will be most likely based upon when they have faster DIGIC processors available to work with.  Not to mention new sensor designs such as stacked sensors. 

Some feel this is intentional crippling, but it's difficult to imagine that Canon would cripple every one of their cameras.  Yes, the Cinema lineup has better video features.  They also use smaller sensors (S35 sized) and their DIGIC's are vented to outside air with active fans.  Those two design features alone allow a far greater degree of flexibility in camera development.

Overall there is a lot of good that the RF mount can provide that the EF mount currently cannot.  It allows Canon to achieve a balance on the lenses that is impossible to do with the EF mount.  As Canon explained here, and here, the new RF mount allows them to “switch” the order of the elements, making it easier to place the larger elements closer to the lens mount.  This eases the lens design, but also changes the internal balance of the lens, making the lens heavier closer to the mount, and more comfortable to carry attached to the camera.  

Even though a mirrorless EF mount camera could support lenses with a greater ingress into the mount (such as what EF-S lenses do), to minimize the back focus distance between the sensor and the lens elements, it is difficult to do this and at the same time, make the back elements large.  The RF mount allows the elements to be moved closer to the sensor, and also supports them being as large as possible.

The RF mount also provides faster communication between the lens and the camera.  This much quicker communication allows Canon to store digital profile information in the lens itself and transmit that information to the camera body.  In the future, this DLO / profile information could possibly be customized on a per lens basis from the factory - now wouldn't that be something.  The faster communication also seems to allow for IBIS and IS communication, as we have seen a few patents discuss IBIS and IS synchronizing to maintain a high level of image quality.  It should be noted that the EF mount could have been expanded to do this, and in fact, according to this patent, it looks like they very much did explore this possibility.   

It seems like most of the panic is happening from Canon users lately, either they are seeing their beloved EF mount be superseded by the RF mount, or they aren’t seeing Canon dominate sales of mirrorless full frame as quickly as they imagined.  Canon is negotiating a change of direction, and because of their massive user base, this change will take a considerable amount of time.  Take a deep breath.  It will take years for Canon (and really Nikon as well) to navigate the course correction they have decided on, but in the end, Canon should have some amazing system.  The competition will drive them forward, hopefully at a much faster pace than before.  Canon before now has always risen to challenges of their supremacy.  This will be no different.

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