Does RF mean that the EOS M is dead? No. But it’s been entirely sidelined.

The long wait is over. The EOS R has been launched. And it has a new full-frame mirrorless mount, the RF mount.

Needless to say this has left current EOS M owners somewhat perplexed and concerned, does this mean the death of the EF-M mount?

Well, the answer is “No, EF-M will continue, but it’s been entirely sidelined.”

To explain why we need to look into the specifics of the EOS R camera and compare this with how both Nikon and Sony have approached their full-frame mirrorless camera systems.

The obvious question is “why did Canon need to launch a new mount only six years after launching the EF-M mount?”.

Both Canon and Nikon have come to the same conclusion – that to increase flexibility in lens design they need a mount of around 55mm (similar to EF mount), but much closer to the sensor (around 20mm on Canon and 16mm on Nikon.) What did Sony do? They simply reused their E mount for APS-C cameras and put a full-frame sensor behind it.

Couldn’t Canon have done the same, and put a full-frame sensor behind the EF-M mount? Yes, they could, and it would have made great sense in many ways, but Canon are playing the long game here.

Having a smaller diameter mount gives a disadvantage to Sony in terms of some lens designs. One could argue that Sony seem to be perfectly capable of producing the lenses that most photographers want to use (the f/2.8 “holy trinity”, and a bunch of f/1.4 primes for example). Both Nikon and Canon have showcased lenses that claim to take better advantage of the wider mount, and it certainly appears that Canon’s RF 50mm f/1.2L lens is exceptionally good.

Switching to a new mirrorless mount at this time helps Canon future-protect their system and, eventually, they aim to get one-up on Sony by being able to produce better, faster and sharper lenses than Sony would be capable of producing due to their FE mount having a smaller diameter. But, where does this leave EOS-M?

 

The EOS M system

 

 

This is the EOS M5, it’s a great APS-C camera. It’s compact, light, fast focusing and there are some superb EF-M lenses to complement it.  We were all expecting an EOS M5 Mark II to be announced soon after the EOS M50 to add missing new features such as 4K recording and Eye Autofocus.   But that didn’t happen, and it won’t now be released until 2019 at the earliest.

What we do have released is a 32mm f/1.4 prime lens, the EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM. As of writing I haven’t seen any reviews of it, but I have no doubts it will be a great performer.

So, it certainly seems that the EF-M mount is far from dead. Neither is the EF mount, but no-one really expected Canon to ditch EF entirely and move to RF. But eventually that will happen. Sony promised they wouldn’t kill off the A mount, but it’s been 3 years since the last A mount lens was launched. Eventually Canon will stop releasing new EF lenses and switch entirely to RF, but that day is a long way off.

The assumption has been that the EF-M mount would eventually replace the EF-S mount for APS-C cameras and lenses, but the RF mount has thrown a huge spanner in the works here.

4K Crop on the EOS R

As you are probably aware, the EOS R has the same 4K 1.7x crop mode as the EOS 5D Mark IV camera, which strangely enough turns the flaw of the 5D Mark IV into a beneficial feature on the EOS R.

The main benefit is lenses such as this:

With the EF to RF adaptor, the EOS R can use EF-S lenses in crop mode. For photography that’s a bit pointless, but for 4K video production it’s fantastic. Lightweight, high-quality and inexpensive lenses such as the EF-S 10-18 f/4.5-5.6 IS STM can shoot ultra-wide angle 4K footage with the new EOS R.  So, your EF-S lenses have a new lease of life as great video lenses for the new crop system.  And even when Canon eventually catch up and provide full-width 4K recording, you can be sure the option to use a crop will remain so that these lenses can be used in conjunction with future RF mount bodies.

Now, this is great news if you have an EF-S camera and lenses, but it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth if you have invested in the EOS M system and your mirrorless lenses are now all EF-M mount. Because although theoretically they could work great as video lenses on a full frame body, they won’t fit on the EOS R, and they cannot be made to fit.

So, for those of us who have invested in the EOS M system all we can hope for is that a future EOS M5 Mark II or similar does full width (or close) 4K video, because at the moment there’s no way to use EF-M lenses to shoot ultra-wide 4K video.

Does this now mean that the EF-S mount lenses are now more versatile than the EF-M lenses? the EF-S 10-18mm can be adapted to fit on both the EF-M mount and the RF mount, and of course fits natively onto APS-C EF-S mount DSLRs such as the 7D.  A month ago it may have seemed that the EF-S line would have no real long-term future in the mirrorless world, but the ironic thing is that even though the new EOS R has ditched the EF mount it has, in some way, cemented the future of the EF-S line and sidelined the EF-M line entirely.

What about high-end APS-C mirrorless?

The big question remaining is what will eventually sit in the same place as the 7D series for mirrorless?

Traditionally, the 7D series have had the same ergonomics, body styling and size as the equivalent 5D series models. It’s designed to be a semi-professional body with an APS-C sensor.

Will Canon release an APS-C version of the EOS R? Or will all APS-C mirrorless cameras remain with the EF-M mount? Or will Canon abandon all non consumer-level APS-C cameras?

I don’t think we will see a future mirrorless 7D with a native EF-S mount. I don’t think we’ll see any mirrorless cameras with EF mount either, not even a 1D class. Canon can’t afford to send mixed messages about the future of the RF mount, so I think we can guarantee the only EF or EF-S mount cameras that Canon launch from now on (other than Cine cameras) will be DSLRs.

I personally think that if a 7D class mirrorless is released, it will be using the RF mount.  I wouldn’t even rule out seeing one or two RF-S lenses for APS-C being launched – as they would also be perfectly useful for the EOS R as video lenses.

And the EF-M range?

This pretty much sidelines the EF-M range of lenses. It’s never been very well developed, and I feel that the addition of the EF-M 32mm f/1.4 is almost an apology to existing EOS M camera owners for sidelining them. The irony is that the 32mm f/1.4 would be a FANTASTIC video lens for 4K crop on a full frame camera, and there is absolutely no affordable equivalent for the EOS R system that can do this – maybe we’ll see an RF-S 32mm f/1.4 launched at some point in the future…

But the market for the EOS M has been defined now for low to mid-range photography with only casual video recording included. It was no mistake of Canon to launch the EOS M50 inbetween the M5 and the M100 rather than launching an updated M5.

I’m sure we’ll see more EF-M lenses. But they’ll be uninspiring updates to the standard zooms.  You won’t see any f/2.8 zooms. You might see an ultra-wide prime, and maybe an EF-M 50mm f/1.4 if you’re really lucky, but lens releases for EF-M are going to carry on no faster than they have until now.

Canon, if they were smart, should release a road-map for future EF-M lens releases. If the system has a future Canon needs to show it.

What next?

I like the EOS M series. I like the EF-M lenses. But I’m considering selling up. Do I get an EOS R and the new generation of Canon lenses, or do I invest in Sony?

Sony has IBIS, better 4K video, dual SIM slots, faster shooting, exceptional low-light performance and it has the ability to record cropped 4K video using the wide range of APS-C E mount lenses. Canon has better support, obviously, for EF lenses, and the new 50mm and 28-70mm lenses for RF mount look fantastic. But I can’t afford those, and I can afford the Sony.

Or do I stay with what I have for another generation and wait for a future EOS R Mark II with IBIS?  Or for a EOS M5 Mark II with full-width 4K?

There’s no easy answer. I can understand Canon wanting to ensure their mount on full-frame mirrorless doesn’t restrict them in the future, but there’s quite a mess left right now that no-one really knows how to deal with.

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