Is it too late for Canon?
My Canon 7D with 50mm f1.4
The rumor sites are working overtime trying to predict the arrival of Canon’s mirrorless system camera, with good reason. Canon is the only major camera manufacturer with no mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Now the rumors say that maybe, possibly next week Canon will introduce something. I too have waited with anticipation for Canon’s entry. How big will the sensor be? Would it work with EF Lenses? Would it look modern or retro? Would it purposely be neutered like the Nikon 1? But a funny thing happened as I waited for Canon. If found Olympus. I bought 3 bodies and 5 compatible lenses. Then I started to use these Olympus PEN cameras more and more. My beefy Canon 7D began to sit idle more and more.
Despite my foray into Olympus, in the back of my head, I was always thinking Canon; a mirrorless Canon would be great. I could use my existing Canon EF lenses and …. then I ran out of reasons. I know the new camera will use a different battery. Its native lens format will be a different, smaller mount. Maybe the menu structure will be similar to the EOS interface but maybe not; It might emulate the Powershot line instead. If EF lens compatibility is the only reason for the mirrorless Canon, then it really isn’t that important anymore. I now own the Olympus and Panasonic equivalents for my often used Canon prime lenses. The Olympus 45mm f1.8 is more than a match for my Canon 85mm 1.8. The Panasonic 20mm f1.7 is better and sharper than either my Canon 35mm f2 or Canon 50mm f1.4.
The only lens equivalent that I don’t own is my favorite Canon 70-200 f4 L. But you know that lens is so big that it would look a bit ridiculous on a small mirrorless camera. So having a Canon mirrorless that would support that lens might be a bit silly anyway. I like these mirrorless cameras because they are small. Anything that makes the camera bigger takes away from my reasons for having one. Which means that if I were to buy a hypothetical Canon mirrorless system camera, I would have to invest in yet another lens format. Something that I’m not enthusiastic about.
So what would it take for me to open my wallet and get a Canon? It would clearly have to do something that I can’t do right now. What if it has a hybrid phase detect and contract detect focusing system that works fast and accurately for all situations. Kind of what the Nikon 1 has but not constrained by a small sensor. What if we had a large, high quality sensor at least APS-C sized? The camera will definitely have to have in-body image stabilization. I also want a camera that does seamless still photography and video; something that I thought the Sony NEX-5 might do but I found it lacking. This Canon can go retro and small and have a approachable compact range finder design. I want a selection of large aperture, high quality prime lenses. And finally it needs to be relatively affordable. Not a high-end $2000+ (with lens) Leica wannabe like the Fuji X-Pro 1.
Ultimately to make this a success, Canon needs to make this camera good enough that it would cannibalize sales of its DSLRs. It can’t be purposely limited like the Nikon 1 series. Nikon tried to protect their DSLR sales and their point and shoot sales and aimed for a very narrow middle ground. Canon needs to come up with a killer mirrorless camera that would overwhelm the current contenders. Something that would be so good that the current micro 4/3, Sony NEX, Nikon 1 and even DSLR users will look at and take notice. Will Canon do that. I doubt it but I can hope. And if they don’t make the best possible mirrorless and compromise then I probably won’t be a customer. You see for Panasonic and Olympus they are playing for keeps with their micro 4/3 line. They don’t have a lucrative DSLR line that they can fall back on like Canon or Nikon. Is it too late for Canon? We will see soon enough. I can’t wait.