In this article, we explore the design and manufacturing principles behind Canon’s new equipment and share insights into Canon’s design and development teams, from the big ideas behind flagship cameras to the subtle yet important details of lens design.
The EOS R full-frame mirrorless system is innovative, but Canon engineers set themselves the goal of creating more than just a new line of mirrorless cameras. They sought to develop lenses with improved performance and open a new page in the history of optical quality. This goal gave rise to the code name “Project R”.
which later became the name EOS R. From an engineering standpoint, choosing a mirrorless system makes sense because it allows designers to focus on improving the optical design without thinking about the limitations that a system of mirrors imposes on camera performance between lens and image sensor – SLR cameras require more complex optical design to focus the light passing through the lens at the desired point. By removing unnecessary obstacles, the designers were able to create revolutionary lenses with an optimal distance from the image sensor.
According to Hironori Oishi, chief designer at Canon Inc., this is definitely one of the advantages, but the form factor was not the main reason for the creation of the EOS R system, as it was, for example, in 2013 with the creation of the EOS 100D camera. The key decision was to create a RF mount with a wide diameter (54mm) – it is similar to the EF mount, but has a much shorter rear segment, that is, the distance from the mount to the image sensor (20mm – half that of full-frame EOS digital cameras) .
Oishi, this means that the size of the RF mount, for example, determines the size of the base of each of the RF lenses, but the designers have gone to great lengths to ensure there is room for fingers no matter which lens is mounted on the camera. Moreover, the compact size has become a source of additional difficulties for designers. “For a more compact camera, it was difficult to provide the same level of usability as traditional models. Not only pushing the boundaries
Even with a focus on innovation and the adoption of new technologies, Canon’s designers have paid particular attention to the needs and expectations of current users” Therefore, the design process does not start with new technologies, but with an analysis of user needs, and new design concepts are tested for usability. Even a camera as innovative as the EOS R5 builds on familiar EOS controls and menus so users can apply what they already know when working with a new device.
Speaking about the body design of the EOS R5, Mr. Oishi says, “We appreciate the ease of use of the EOS 5D series cameras and wanted to create a system that feels familiar to users. Of course, the technical specifications say otherwise, but the owners of the 5 series cameras pay special attention to usability.”
“What’s more, a camera with the number 5 in its name always means something special to Canon. When creating the EOS R5, we focused on a special style that would indicate that the camera belongs to the 5 series. We tried to create a unique new shape that at the same time would inherit the smooth contours of the EOS body and combine them with sharp shapes that symbolize evolution.”
However, he adds that the balance between innovation and tradition is not always the same. “EOS R (RF) is a system with great potential and we will be trying different approaches, including new and out-of-the-box solutions.”
Building on 30 years of Canon EOS innovation, the EOS R System has given Canon designers the opportunity to redesign the entire family of devices from cameras to RF lenses.
As for the RF lenses, their body, appearance and markings are different from the EF models. “The design philosophy behind EF lenses was based on the lines and symbols on the frame,” says Sanshiro Takano, Head of Canon Inc. Design Center. “Conversely, RF lenses demonstrate the power and ease of use without unnecessary elements.” Technical information is made easier to read by removing the “mm” designation for focal lengths from the lens barrel.
This simplistic design language is also applied to cameras, for example, the design of the viewfinder from its front to the eyepiece is minimalist, which symbolizes the luminous flux, that is, light entering the photographer’s eye directly without passing through a mirror or pentaprism.
In 1987, Canon released the EOS system, which stunned the entire photography industry. The revolutionary EF mount at the heart of the system was fully electronic, with no mechanical connectors, allowing the lens’ iris and AF motors to be controlled by electromagnetic signals, creating the fastest and most accurate AF and exposure control system ever. Now the RF mount – along with a significant power boost for the lens processor – takes performance to the next level.
significantly increasing the speed and amount of data transfer between the camera and the lens. How has everything changed? Mike Bunhill, Canon professional equipment specialist, compares the technology as follows: “In 1987, when we first introduced the EF mount, the speed of interaction was comparable to the speed of walking the distance between the camera and the lens. With the RF mount, you feel like you’re on a high-speed train.”