AP editor Nigel Atherton recently caught up with three top Canon executives to discuss the EOS R: Shingo Hayakawa, shown, who is Deputy Group Executive, ICB Optical Business Group, Image Communications Business Operations; Masato Seita, who is Manager, ICB Products Development Dept 11, Image Communication Business Operations; and Minea Uchida, who is Manager, ICB Integrated Business Design Dept. 333, Image Communication Business Operations
What do you think are the most important technologies in the Canon system?
SH: The distance between the lens and the sensor is much shorter. With EF lenses the space taken up by the mirror in the body imposes certain restrictions. The EOS R opens up all kinds of possibilities for lens design because of the shorter back focus. By removing the mirror we are able to use the space that it occupied for optics, which enables us to make more compact lenses. As for the mirrorless structure, we chose a large diameter for the mount because of the flexibility this offers for lens design. If we want to achieve smaller lenses, we can put the whole focus on making the lens compact. If we want a high quality, or wide aperture lens we can put the focus on that. This is key for us.
AP: You have to prioritise, so which one of those types of lens do you think the typical EOS R customer is more interested in: compact or high quality?
SH: Our target user of the EOS R is the advanced amateur, who is using maybe the 5D Mark IV or something like that. This user has a lot of different needs so we thought it was important to show straight away what’s possible with this system. Our strategy was to offer, at launch, two high spec lenses, one comfortable kit lens, and one compact lens.
AP: When you decided to make a full frame mirrorless camera what were the main priorities for the system?
SH: We started out thinking about the lenses we wanted to make and what the ideal lenses would be. That gave us the mount specifications and flange distance we needed. Only then did we start to consider how Canon could improve the main body. We decided that we wanted to make a completely new body, and to reconsider the ergonomics and operation so that it would be different from previous models. Our task is to give our customers more choice and then let them choose.
AP: The response to the M Fn bar has been mixed. Some people don’t like it. How do you feel about that?
MS: We expected that response, and guessed that would be the case. Our customers’ feelings about it vary, and different customers offer different criticisms, but the new technology has a value that we would like to offer to those of our customers who like it.
AP: Will this technology be on all R-system cameras? Will it also go on DSLR cameras in the future?
MS: We don’t know yet, but it depends on the features of each of the cameras that we have to consider.
AP: Why did Canon not include an exposure mode dial on the EOS R?
MS: When you have a mode dial on the left hand side your shooting mode is fixed, and it becomes fiddly to change while shooting. With the design of the EOS R it is easier to switch between modes, or between video and stills, with just the right hand without taking the eye from the camera.
AP: The new Fv exposure mode is very clever. Is this something you came up with specially for the EOS R or is it something you have been thinking about for a while but saved for this camera?
MS: We had the idea before and we thought it was good, and had been considering implementing it. Then we decided to introduce it on the EOS R.
AP: So it could appear on future Canon DSLRs?
MS: It could but it depends on what we want to prioritise on each individual camera.
AP: The low light auto-focus performance is very impressive. How did you achieve that?
MU: Thanks to our Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology, a greater number of pixels can be utilised for autofocus. In addition, the EOS R’s image processor has enabled faster data processing. This combination achieves the low light performance.
AP: There has been some criticism that the camera only has one card slot. Did you consider having two? And did you think about going with the XQD card, like Nikon?
MS: To have two card slots, as well as the DSLR battery that we decided to use, the camera would need to be bigger, or the battery would have to be smaller. As for the type of card, we have always understood the demand for high speed. We thought SD would be the best choice overall for the EOS R when we considered the size, speed, familiarity and cost of the cards.
AP: Some other manufacturers publish a road map for future lenses. Will Canon consider that?
SH: If we publish a roadmap to the public then we are telling our customers what we are going to give them and we just have to focus on that alone, But we prefer to be more responsive to the market, and find out what our customers want and prefer. Technology is also advancing and evolving.
AP: So now, you have four lens systems. Are you going to continue all four of them in the foreseeable future?
AP: And if you’re an EOS M user, can you expect new lenses as well?
SH: If there is a demand for such lenses, then we will release them.
AP: Do you think that in five years time, Canon will still be making new DSLR’s?
SH: Of course the situation is always changing and in the future, DSLRs will most likely experience a decline in popularity compared to mirrorless cameras, , but the optical viewfinder still has some advantages and we will continue to offer a choice for as long as our customers want it.
AP: If there was a mirrorless version of the EOS- 1D X, do you think people would still buy the EOS- 1D X?
SH: We would guess that a mirrorless camera like that would be popular, and have already analysed which technology will be required in a camera in five years time.
AP: The EOS R does not have a number. What will future models be called? Are they all going to be EOS R plus a number?
SH: We have not decided the numbering convention of future models yet.
AP: Could you say how many cameras you expect to have in this system by this time next year? How long will people have to wait for new models? I’m guessing that perhaps the EOS R will be the middle camera in your range and there will be cheaper one, and a more expensive one?
SH: That is a good idea! (joke)
AP: The EOS R is quite expensive for what it is, compared to other mirrorless cameras…
SH: We think the camera is not expensive or inexpensive, it is average. Let’s see what the customers think. In the system as a whole, we are working on a wide variety of attractive lenses.
AP: One more question, what design feature of this camera are you most proud of?
SH: The new mount system. Of course the design itself is brand new, but also the high-speed communication. That is part of the new system.