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Public Outcry: Too much video in the Canon EOS R5
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Public Outcry: Too much video in the Canon EOS R5

I’ve noticed especially after the last Canon press conference that there seems to be an increased outcry that some want a “stills only” camera – or a camera for the stills photographers.  The R5 is "too much video".

The basics of this seem to be that they don’t want to pay for video features that they’ll never use.  DCW does as far as suggesting that this camera may not sell well because of all the video hype directed at it, ignoring the more traditional stills photographers because it's not a 70MP stills camera.

I think this is a relevant point to make: Since the 5D Mark II - the Canon 5 series cameras have all tried to achieve a balance of video and stills photography for professional and semi-professional users.  The 5D Mark II set the world on fire for DSLR videography and caught even Canon by surprise.  Since then, Canon has lethargically tried to create a camera that did well for both (and failed really).  The 5D series may have left some photographers behind in trying to make this balance.

Most of Canon’s marketing on the R5 has been video because it’s been for the leadup to NAB, and this last press conference was all about the products that were coming out for NAB.  If NAB happened, you can bet that Canon would have focused on the R5’s 8K during NAB. NAB is all about video, it would have been a very strange narrative for Canon to extol the stills performance during the last conference, as the viewers of the press conference primarily care about video.

Frankly, I think Canon's marketing is more of a shout out to the world.  Okay, we finally did it, are you happy now?

Okay back to stills only camera.  Having a stills only camera, now, first of all, I get this.  I never shoot video outside of;

  1. Accidentally hitting the record button on the camera and cursing when I realize it's been running for over 5 minutes.
  2. The 20 seconds I recorded when I first got a camera that could record video and went “oh, that’s really cool.”

I’m very much in the “stills only” crowd as well.  But I am of the mind that video being augmented into our cameras isn’t really costing us that much and that there are benefits that we've gotten from having video integrated into our cameras.  Now this is only my opinion, but I think I can appreciate a stills only camera, and let’s take a dive into the R5 – is it really that bad for stills photographers, and are stills photographers being forces to pay a lot more because of the video features added to the R5.

So let’s go…

Let’s assume the specifications of the R5 without video features would be what stills photographers would love to see;

  1. 45MP
  2. 12 fps
  3. Top Plate LCD
  4. Joystick
  5. Touchscreen
  6. Tilting or articulating screen
  7. high performance low lag EVF
  8. deep buffers to support 12 fps
  9. IBIS
  10. Dual UHS-II card slots
  11. Excellent fast refresh EVF
  12. Excellent haptic controls always associated with the 5D class of cameras
  13. and most importantly NO Video!!

I'm going to assume the same sensor resolution, but ideally, it could be a little lower, assuming that the 45MP is only there because of 8K video, but to be honest, I think that's a nice compromise and a good increase from the 30MP of the EOS R and the 5D Mark IV. The stills camera would probably just be using UHS-II cards, as the CF Express cards would be relegated to hybrid cameras that need the transfer speed of gigabits per second.  That’s okay in reality, having dual UHS-II cards just may be better for a stills only camera.  However, conversely, adding in more buffer depth into the camera becomes more expensive. 

Now the camera has to shoot some video of course, because it has to livestream from the sensor to the LCD and the EVF, but that’s pretty low resolution.  We’re going to assume that liveview doesn’t require any special hardware outside of a normal stills sensor and standard DIGIC.  I'm also going to assume that hybrid cameras still exist so developments such as linear USM, and STM lenses still exist because hybrid cameras aren't simply disappearing.

This sounds like a nice middle of the road camera.  High performance, fairly high MP’s .. and a great camera for most of us to lust after.   It’s what the Nikon Df should have been 😉

Now to get an idea on how much more complex a hybrid camera like the R5 would be let’s look at the features that have to be tacked onto our mythical stills R5 to support the real R5's video performance;

  1. h.264 and h.265 encoders for video
  2. Video record button
  3. Ultra fast sensor to support high fps video and low rolling shutter
  4. Additional heat management to support video recording for a long duration of time.
  5. Better batteries because recording video really sucks the life from batteries.
  6. Additional firmware;
    1. for actually displaying / saving video
    2. selecting video options
    3. EVF/LCD displaying video information
  7. Focus Peaking
  8. Zebras
  9. additional AF features for slow racking of focus to give that cinematic look to auto focus.
  10. CF Express card for high bitrate video

Okay that seems like a big list.  Maybe stills shooters have a point here.  But wait. Out of that list, only hardware is the encoders, high speed card slot, and the heat management.  Heat management would be the main engineering challenge, as supporting fast video running for more than a few seconds requires careful and ingenious engineering, especially in a sealed camera.  Support for faster cards, would have been built into DIGIC, and we're assuming we're using the same DIGIC has the hybrid cameras to save costs here.

Some of those features as a still shooter I want though.

There are times where an ultra fast sensor that shoots up to 20 fps would be useful for me.  Bursting through a 7 shot AEB in a split second helps eliminate motion blur.  Shooting waterfalls without a tripod, the more frames I have the smoother the stacking and averaging of the frames appear.

Silent shutter with a low rolling shutter is a necessity in some events where the clicking of even a shutter is disruptive.  I have to admit, I found the complete silent shooting of the electronic shutter a total revelation during some concerts over this winter (those that I dismissed in the past about this - my apologies).  I wish my camera's sensor had an even faster refresh rate, as some images would not have exhibited the banding associated with lighting and a slower sensor.

I do not think there is a mirrorless camera user out there that goes, no I love switching batteries.  Having better battery technology is really a benefit to stills photographers as well. I would love to live recklessly and out of ECO mode and the at times, annoying 15 second LCD shut off time.

Focus peaking is a benefit, especially for macro shooting, or still life photography for me.  There are plenty of times, when my camera is on a tripod, that I’ll simply shut off auto focus and use focus peaking to focus in on a zone that I want in focus.  I think I’d miss focus peaking if it didn’t exist.  Zebras, I’m not so sure of, but I do know there are quite a few stills shooters that swear by using zebras with stills photography.  If I still did ETTR (exposing to the right) often, then I think zebras would add a lot of flexibility to determine when I'm getting close to the clipping point.  If you are trying to maximize your dynamic range, then yes, I can see zebras being important as well.

So for me, I would take that video list and eliminate some of the features I’d want from it;

  1. h.264 and h.265 encoders for video
  2. Video record button
  3. Additional heat management to support video recording for a long duration of time.
  4. Additional firmware;
    1. for actually displaying / saving video
    2. selecting video options
    3. EVF/LCD displaying video information
  5. additional AF features for slow racking of focus to give that cinematic look to auto focus.
  6. CF Express card for high bitrate video

Is there really a significant cost to these items? Of course, we don’t really know but we can hazard a guess here, that the costs are pretty insignificant to the overall costs of the camera.  Yes, there's more engineering especially for heat management, but that's mostly a one-time development cost. The sensor, the processor and the main guts of the camera has to be the same regardless of it being a hybrid or a stills only camera.  Especially because as a stills photographer, I would want some of those features that are derived from a hybrid camera's development. 

So I think I'd be willing to put up with the good from the bad, the additional video features if it gives me the performance and features that I've grown to accept as being part of a mirrorless camera's portfolio even for stills shooting.

How about an EOS R5s?

All we've heard are rumors, but they have been pretty steady.  So this is based upon conjecture that a high megapixel RF camera is coming.  I'm going to also assume that like the 5D lineup in the EF ecosystem, that this will be a corresponding R5s or R5sR.

I think the R5 is a pretty amazing stills camera – but it’s certainly not for me personally.  I’m looking for the R5s camera from Canon.  While the R5s will most likely have some video, it’s higher resolution sensor will be the dominant feature of the camera.  I also don't feel that the R5 should have have been a high MP camera.  I think there are enough people that would react negatively if the R5 was only available as a high megapixel camera.  I've seen people complain about 45MP let alone if Canon released this as an 80 or 100MP camera.  But even with the R5s, I want those features that came from video such as a higher speed sensor, fast refresh, focus peaking, and zebras.  Even as a still shooter I'm going to benefit from having that video DNA in the camera.

But if you aren’t looking for massive megapixels of what an R5s would deliver then the R5 is an incredible still shooting machine from what we currently know of it.  While Canon marketing is pumping the video features, the stills features are still featured prominently, and it just may be the best of both worlds.  The video features in this camera have also augmented the stills shooting experience with a sensor capable of 20fps, zebras, and focus peaking.  That is really what the 5 series cameras have tried to be since the 5D Mark II, and the R5 may have achieved the best of both worlds.

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