*Mirrorless mania, or just another brick in the wall?

I had a read through mirrorless rumors today as I do most everyday and saw that there was an article posted regarding Canon’s recent ideas on a mirrorless system.  Having been a fan and user of the micro 4/3 system as my mirrorless system to date, it had me questioning what I’d like to see in a Canon system.  My thoughts may be off base, but c’mon in if you’re interested…

Canon is arguably the last of the major manufacturers to enter this growing market which seems to be settling in between the compact point and shoot camp and DSLR land.  About a year and a half ago I wrote an open letter to Panasonic and Olympus in regards to the growing competition from the likes of Sony and Samsung which have brought some big guns to the party over that time.  To an extent the Micro 4/3 system has answered some of my concerns, but still seem to be focused on engineering small, slow zoom lenses vs. maintaining small, fast lenses and pushing sensor performance (give us useable ISO 1600-3200 and 14bit RAW files please oh please).  Sony has landed quite the blow with the recent NEX 5n and if the NEX 7 lives up to the hype, it looks to be the camera to beat for the enthusiast and I must admit, it has me very interested.  If the NEX 7 wasn’t so expensive, and had a realistic balance of price and performance in their lenses, I might be tempted, but as is, they’re asking way too much of the average shooter looking for that proverbial price and performance golden egg.  That said, I think people willing to throw down about $2200 for the NEX 7 + the Zeiss 24 f/1.8 will have a beautiful combo with unparalleled IQ in the mirrorless realm.

While Nikon recently announced their J1 and V1 compact MILC cameras, they seem to have missed the boat to the discerning eye.  Granted, a cool package, but I just cannot get over the fact that they A) used such a small sensor, and B) then chose to build such a bulky “compact” camera with said small sensor.  I think that Nikon, more than any other manufacturer missed the mark.  They could have offered an F mount option and kept the body size relatively the same.

Which brings me to Canon.  With the recent interview posted at mirrorless rumors, it seems that they’re calculating an entry into this market.  I see two possibilities, one being a new mount a la Nikon/Sony, or secondly being one that will be directly compatible with an EF/EF-s mount.

Personally, I’d love to see an APS-C sensor mirrorless interchangeable lens compact replace the T3 in the next iteration.   The reasons being that it would fit nicely in this “bridge” category between the compacts and DSLRs all while allowing those already using the system’s many lenses the ability to immediately incorporate a high performance compact camera.  They’d immediately be selling to two very eager demographics, both of which are growth markets.  Of course, I’d like to see a couple pancakes released to accompany the new release which would also immediately benefit the users of any other EOS camera to date which would like a smaller lens for portability or more low profile street type shooting.  Instead of asking users to reinvest in an entirely new system (as each other company has so far done) why not buck the trend and not only satisfy existing users, but use it as a vehicle to retain and grow your customer base.  Compact users looking to upgrade to a mirrorless compact… Existing users looking to supplement their kit with a compact body… Generating needed hype for your brand in an increasingly challenging marketplace…

I’m no Canon fanboy.  I do shoot with Canon DSLRs along with a variety of other cameras, but, I’m really confused as to why no one has done this.  Offer a Panasonic G3 sized body (very compact all things considered) using an existing lens mount that would immediately allow users access to an established lens lineup without having to buy an expensive adapter to enable AF and you would win, assuming the design was innovative and offered image quality to back it up.

I understand that due to physical mechanics, the mount would require a bit more bulk to remain compatible with current EF/EF-s lenses, but taken into account, I’m sure you could remove the mirror and pentaprism from the base model rebel, recess the sensor as far back as physically possible, decrease the overall body size, include an electronic viewfinder and make a compelling little package.  Certainly smaller than an M9 for instance.   This market segment, more than any other currently is pushing the digital landscape to great technological leaps and I find it frustrating from a consumer’s standpoint that no one has offered existing system users an answer like this.

My ideal direction for a new mirrorless from Canon?

  • Make compatible with EF/EF-s lenses
  • Remove as much bulk from the Rebel T3 (keep the T3i or whatever it becomes as your entry DSLR)
  • Incorporate a cutting edge EVF (akin to the NEX 7 or even a hybrid like the Fuji X100)
  • Introduce a couple pancakes to play to overall system size all while having access to full EF lens lineup. (look to the full frame/APS-C compatible pancakes like the Voigtlander 40mm f/2 or Pentax 40mm f/2.8)
  • Focus on low light performance.  So far the Sony’s seem to be doing the best all while keeping up with the megapixel war.
  • Build this to satisfy both the crossover crowd AND the enthusiast crowd.  (ie: don’t dumb it down, keep the same functionality as the current Rebel line)
  • Keep the price competitive with the entry level DSLRs (sub $800)

Do this, redesign the base level rebel into something slick and compact and I think as long as the design wasn’t horrendous, Canon would absolutely kill it.  Canon has the resources to do this, it is something I think would not only retain Canon shooters jumping to compliment their “bulky” DSLR systems by going to m4/3 or Sony, but attract new users into the EOS system.

Agree?  Disagree?  Fire off a comment.

Happy holidays to everyone and here’s to hoping 2011 has been great for all.




7 thoughts on “*Mirrorless mania, or just another brick in the wall?

  1. I need the short flange to sensor distance provided by MILCs.. Need to have computer control and video image display on the monitor. Need as many megapixels as practicable.

    The T3i is now my best option. However, the flange to sensor distance is too long for some of my applications.

    I take pictures thru microscopes. On some scopes there is not enough mechanical clearance using a DSLR for direct projection of the image onto the sensor and parfocality with the eyepieces.


    • I think that by going with an existing SLR mount and attributable flange distances, the only major drawback aside from the slight size increase is that (I assume) it would limit the compatibility with certain optics, and that would be something they’d need to asses. There are already multiple systems capable of providing the shorter flange distances for those applications though, and while it would be good to compete on all fronts, I feel that being this late to the game both benefits them in that they have been watching whats worked and what hasn’t, but also that they’d need to choose their battles to an extent as many existing systems (and users) are becoming pretty established.

      I admit, I love using various lenses on my GF1, in fact I think it is one of the better qualities of the micro 4/3 system (and NEX, etc). I’m not saying that Canon shouldn’t take third party compatibility into account, but I feel that to truly offer something different, and potentially redefine the mirrorless segment to their advantage moving forward (as mirrorless seems to be more and more a realistic part of the future in crossover/enthusiast digital photography), if they were able to offer a camera that immediately had the most diverse and extensive proprietary lens catalogue, it would be a major draw. Would it be as compact? Nope, but it could be compact enough to compete with the GH series or NX-x series or even the NEX7, all while also competing against entry level DSLRs.


  2. i’m enjoying this discussion…
    i think micro 4/3 is magic!
    right now i just need high ISO in my camera… 🙂
    the sharpness depends on light and lens… not from the machine…
    i’m thinking to have another prime lens… 😀


    • Thanks Inna 🙂

      I too really enjoy the m4/3 system, but like you, would like to see better high ISO performance. Gratuitous in camera noise reduction aside (which is rarely ever the best way) this will always be a challenge for a smaller sensor like the 4/3 lot vs an APS-C (or larger) sensor. Not that better S/N (signal to noise) performance isn’t able to happen on a smaller sensor, it’s just that its physical limitations will always be behind a larger sensor, which (in theory) should be able to employ the same advancements in S/N performance.

      No matter the sensor, a good fast lens will always be a fun tool though! 😉



  3. uhhh sounds so sexy!
    i think when we’re starting to go to commercial area… we would havent enough time to sit in our chair doing processing! we will get tired… 🙂
    so, having a great camera is a must!
    i dont know T… till now i still enjoy learning than making money from this hobby!
    i want to teach… that’s the planning!


    • Well Inna,

      Maybe we can combine forces and offer educational photographic tours of lovely locales 🙂

      When all is said and done, I’m sure that Canon will have jumped into this new market, I only hope that they don’t force users to reinvest in a new mount. They’re too late to the dance, and if they want to retain/gain/steal users, they’ll need to offer something better than what Nikon did. Sony is moping the mirrorless floor of late and the micro 4/3 camp is far more established as a system then any of the others at this point, so the only way I see Canon being successful is to flex their muscles which in this case would be by allowing the millions of EF lenses out there to be immediately useful with a cool new compact system camera whether that is a rangefinder styled body, or a slimmed down Rebel style body.

      We’ll see though.

      Happy new year Inna, I hope all’s well!



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