It’s a Lensy Time

In the run-up to CP+ at the end of February, we only had three new cameras announced (Canon R8 and R50, Panasonic S5 II). 

Lens announcements, on the other hand, have been much more on display during the first two months of 2023:

Some of these are not yet officially released yet, but then again a few previously announced lenses that weren’t previously available are starting to come into stock (e.g. the Tokina mirror telephotos). Overall, however, there’s a little bit of something for everyone in the lenses that have come into view. If you’re counting:

  • Canon RF — 5
  • Fujifilm XF — 6
  • L-mount — 4
  • Nikon Z — 7
  • M4/3 — 1
  • Sony E — 6

Again, something for almost everyone. 

More new cameras all seem to be targeted for the March-June timeframe. I believe that Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, and Sony will all have new camera launches in those three months. That’s going to make those considering buying for a summer vacation or trip be right at their decision threshold date, particularly when you know that some of those products will certainly not be delivered in quantity to meet initial demand.  

Canon Announces New Cameras, Lenses

bythom canon r8angle2

Canon today was the first with significant new camera announcements prior to the CP+ trade show in Japan. We got the RP replacement in the new R8, and an M50-like replacement in the new R50. Both cameras are the new RF entry levels: the R8 is the entry level full frame model, while the R50 is the entry level crop sensor model.

The R8 will get a bit of a pushback from its lack of sensor-based stabilization (IBIS), as one of the cameras it competes against, the Nikon Z5 has that function. On the other hand, the R8 does add Canon’s subject detection to the autofocus system and can photograph at 40 fps (electronic shutter), which the Nikon can’t do.

As usual these days we see some attention to video, with the 4K 60P being a 6K oversampled input, so should be high quality. Meanwhile, FullHD now gets a 180P capability, which is effectively 6x+ slow motion, something you don’t tend to see in entry cameras. C-Log3 and H.265 codecs help preserve the image quality. 

The R8 loses 0.9 ounces (24g) from the RP body, despite all the changes. 

Body only, the R8 is US$1500. With the also just announced 24-50mm f/4.5-6.3 IS kit lens the price is US$1700. 

The R50, meanwhile, is a bit like a slightly cut down M5 in RF cladding. While many were spreading rumors this camera would have no EVF, that turns out to not be true; it’s an M50 replacement. In many ways, the R50 matches the R8 in feature set. Where it doesn’t has to do with performance. 

Maximum fps on the R50 is 12 fps mechanical (EFCS) and 15 fps electronic. While the 4K is also 6K oversampled, the maximum 4K speed is 30P. 

Both cameras feature dual pixel AF with subject detection. Both cameras use the 7.5Wh LP-E17, so have limited battery life.

Body only, the R50 is US$680. With the 18-45mm f/4.5-6.3 kit lens the price is US$800.  A two-lens kit that adds the new 55-210mm f/5-7.1 is US$1030.

Commentary: I just don’t get Canon’s naming policy. The R7 and R10 really messed up any consistency in messaging, I think. Nikon uses two digits (or an extra letter) for APS-C, Sony uses four digits for APS-C. Both use a single digit for full frame. Thus, just by name you can tell what the sensor size is for both Nikon and Sony. 

Fujifilm uses X for APS-C, and GFX for medium format naming. Panasonic uses G for m4/3 and S for full frame. Again, in both cases naming provides a consistent indicator of sensor size.

Canon’s marketing team seems to think consistency is not useful. R3, R5, R6 are full frame. R7 is APS-C. R8 is full frame. R10 and R50 are APS-C. 

This inconsistency has its roots in previous inconsistencies. I’m sure that Canon wants to simply tell a 7D DSLR user to buy an R7 to transition to mirrorless. Meanwhile, a 5D DSLR user should get an R5, and a 6D user should get an R6. But Canon’s showing their cards here: they really need to get those particular DSLR camera owners to transition to mirrorless, and want to send a clear signal as to which one. Unfortunately, that also means that a current non-Canon owner doesn’t understand Canon’s naming as clearly as they do Nikon or Sony. 

And it could get worse. What’s the 90D equivalent body going to be, an R90? Okay, then what’s the M100 equivalent body going to be, an R100? Let’s not even try to make sense of the Rebel/Kiss/SL names, which come in 1 to 8 numbers and thus would need to be something else in the mirrorless line. Plus then there’s the M5 and M6, whose numbers lined up with the full frame models for some reason. 

When a transition gives you the chance to rethink your marketing strategies, you should. Canon appears to be muddling forward using the hodgepodge they created over many decades. Which leaves a hodgepodge. 

Update: Reporting in Japan says that Canon has decided to drop the Kiss branding in Japan, which would also imply that they’ll drop the Rebel branding elsewhere (Kiss/Rebel were only regional naming differences). So it appears for now, at least, we’ll just get consistent R# branding across the entire EOS mirrorless lineup. Still, my point is that the numbers being used aren’t conveying proper categorization. As Mike Johnston reported on The Online Photographer, Canon Japan uses four categories for cameras: professional, high amateur, middle class, and entry. So the current naming looks like this:

  • Professional — none
  • High Amateur — R3, R5, R6 Mark II
  • Middle Class — R7, R8, R10
  • Entry — R50

Those are not my categorizations, they’re Canon’s. At least the numbers get higher as the market goes lower ;~). It strikes me that Canon could have rationalized the branding this way:

  • Professional — R — Just an outright statement that this is the father of all
  • High Amateur — R# — Adding a single digit shows how these models are different
  • Middle Class — R## — Adding two digits show that these are one level down
  • Entry — R### — Adding three digits provides the entry position models

Note that you generally have more models at the bottom of your lineup than the top, and thus going from ### to ## to # also provides naming space that’s consistent with that need. 

On the other hand, Canon has now started the second generation of RF bodies (R6 Mark II, R8 instead of RP, with more coming). One of those came quickly, the other took longer than expected. I suspect that pattern will repeat, as Canon has a lot on their plate they need to do.

Most of the commentary elsewhere is centered on Canon kicking entry level into a higher gear. We now have three distinct APS-C cameras (R7, R10, R50), certainly with more coming (but only 3 RF-S lenses, buzz, buzz). We now have a refreshed entry full frame camera (R8) that can better compete with the Nikon Z5, and a refreshed mid-range full frame (R6 Mark II) that can better compete with the Nikon Z6 II, Panasonic S5 II, and Sony A7 Mark IV. 

The two new lenses also are low-end offerings, as they’re essentially kit lenses. The RF 24-50mm f/4.5-6.3 IS seems to be Canon’s answer to the Nikon 24-50mm f/4-6.3 and Sony 28-60mm f/4-5.6 kit muffins. The RF-S 55-210mm f/5-7.1 IS is the previously missing telephoto zoom for two-lens APS-C kits, again matching Nikon and Sony.

The fact that all this low end action is happening long before an R1 appears shows that Canon is still market share oriented. The proliferation of <US$2500 cameras is more important to Canon’s 50% share goal than matching the Nikon Z9 or Sony A1 fully head to head. Sony’s upcoming A9 Mark III is going to put the R3 under more intense pressure, I’ll bet. If I were a professional Canon user, I’d be scratching my head about why Canon is spending more energy at the low end of the lineup and not trying to beat the Nikony offerings. 

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