Solo hybrid-shooter’s camera? Not the Nikon Z and Canon EOS R…

Now that a specification sheet has been leaked for the Canon EOS R full-frame mirrorless camera we see more about the camera in general. It’s missing some information, likely intentionally removed for whatever reason. The camera rumor game is fun, but also irritating at times.

Today I’m talking about a hypothetical camera I’m interested in transitioning to as my primary still photo camera, yet one that has solid video features as well. I’ll be calling it the solo hybrid-shooter’s camera. I do almost all of my videography on my own for the purpose of Youtube (and now Amazon Prime video I’ve started uploading to). I’m usually in the video at some point or another as well as the person filming b-roll, or basically any type of visual storytelling footage.

Assuming that this is true information about the upcoming EOS R, let’s talk about it. I’m also going to talk about Nikon’s Z cameras and a few others like Sony’s full-frame offerings and the Panasonic full-frame mirrorless rumor.

I have the pair of Canon M50 cameras. As I mentioned in my previous post, they are solid tools, but have a few quirks due to missing held-back features (no mic levels shown while recording; no true custom settings save slots so I can switch between photo and video work quickly; video modes have a few drawbacks; no usb charging). The M50 fills a good deal of my video needs, but I’ve found out they are solid for photo taking as well. Given my pretty positive experience with the Canon Rebel SL2 and the EOS M50, I have high hopes for the EOS R. Seeing the leaked spec sheet dampened my enthusiasm, but we will get to that later in this post.

First, I’m going to describe what I want equipment wise. The goal here is to provide context to my opinion on features. Every photographer and videographer is different. That means one collection of features might be perfect for someone, or terrible for another person. For me it comes down to wanting to accomplish various things and having tools that do the jobs as well as possible. A tool that can do multiple jobs, or interchange with other gear, is the most appealing to me. The resources I can spend on tools is limited, so each desired feature for a given price that the camera fulfills is important. Something that can do photo and video really well in my solo style is the ultimate goal. The M50 surprisingly hits that multi-purpose tool mark, but there is another level above it that I’d like to be capable of from an equipment standpoint. Camera companies often hold back ergonomic features for their more expensive cameras. Such as a good deal of physical buttons/dials that directly control important functions, or firmware features like custom settings save-slots. Those are features I’d want in at least one of my cameras. Right now I have some of it on my full-frame Nikon DSLRs, at least the ergonomic aspects to some degree.

On the photo side of things I have the Nikon D600 and D750 with a few lenses. Now whenever I switch to using these compared to the M50 they feel a bit like large hollow boxes. Outside of that, the D750’s nice grip is a pleasure. It also has a pretty solid photographer centered control scheme overall. I’d say the D750 is #1 or #2 on my list of favorite still photo orientated cameras. The other one would be the Pentax K-7 (or K-5, but I had and used the K-7 for longer).

Why not keep the traditional DSLRs?

  • The times I went to airshows I felt like I was risking my eyesight with a traditional DSLR. It’s the same case with any attempt to get some flare/rays from the sun in photos. I’d rather have my camera’s sensor destroyed in super bright situations than my eyes, so mirrorless is ideal when trying to photograph things in extremely bright situations. This moved up on my list a lot over the years. Obviously, mirrorless EVFs can be super bright and output “blue” light, but if I have to I can turn that down or adjust to “safer” colors temporarly. There has been a lot of talk about blue light from computer screens. If you have Windows 10 you can enable “Night Light” mode to give you a strongly orange/yellow screen which apparently helps. I use that when I’m not editing photos. Basically the point is that EVFs are versatile and likely easier on the eyes.
  • Having missed focus due the inherent design of AF as a separate module that is inherent to DSLRs. Often AF only takes up a certain area of the frame which makes it more difficult. The D750 is alright, but the D600 was always a pain given my accuracy with focus and recompose was never great. When you want to focus on a person’s eye you need a system that will do it reliably and have the ability to focus further out from the center of the frame.
  • It’s basically manual focus only in video modes with these specific cameras. The D750 has done a solid job with the hands-on Camera Craft gear videos I’ve been making, but I did a test with the M50 and it allowed for a smother more complete workflow (I no longer need the little action camera for filming myself handling cameras footage because the M50 video AF is good). The 20mm f1.8g lens is great for these hands-on videos, but the Canon 11-22mm works perfectly fine here as well. Considering I’m shooting around f5.6 for the sake of decent DOF, it’s a wash to use a larger aperture lens for that use case.
  • Nikon’s Android “snapbridge” application is for still photos only (as of the last time I used it). Also, the D750 uses their old app they basically retired. The D600 has no wifi/bluetooth. I use Canon’s Android app a lot when I’m recording “in the studio” footage. It’s well featured and extremely useful for my needs.
  • Registration distance of the F-mount means I can’t adapt much to the camera.
  • They are pretty large, especially compared to the M50 cameras that I have. That means larger bags or taking less stuff with me that I might need.

Moving forward, my ideal camera would have these features below.
I’d call this the solo hybrid-shooter’s camera:

  • Full-frame sensor. I don’t mind APS-C, but I would like to use film era lenses as they were intended. There are other benefits, but basically I do see benefits to larger sensors in general. I have no reason to go m4/3 because my M50 is compact enough, has compact lenses, and has less crop.
  • Short registration distance system. Something like the old Pentax K-01 wasn’t ideal as a mirrorless camera with its k-mount. I honestly think it could have been viable with the right approach, but it didn’t happen.
  • Video modes of 4k 30fps full sensor width; 120fps 1080p full sensor width. Minimal rolling shutter of course.
  • I’d really like nice weather resistance. When using native lenses I’d expect it to be fine in light rain. That would allow me to safely do more videos in these situations. Companies like Pentax and Panasonic excel at this.
  • Great video auto-focus. Even-though I am using the M50 bodies for video, I’d expect this camera to perform double duty or offer things the M50 doesn’t have (given the higher cost). So far good video AF is a Canon and Sony game. It looks like Nikon might be there with their Z system. Panasonic oddly holds on to their DFD contrast AF system, which doesn’t appear to work well for video. I suspect that they couldn’t justify funding the development of a m4/3 sensor with phase detection. Considering Sony isn’t in the m4/3 camera market they probably upcharge m4/3 sensor production and offer very little in the technical design aspect. So Panasonic and others downplay really good video AF in marketing interviews.
  • Fully articulating screen. So far this looks like a Canon and Panasonic game. I suspect there is some patent and licensing issues with this specific design of screen which would explain why companies like Nikon are selective in which cameras it goes into (basically D5000 series and consumer digicams only in their case).
  • USB charging would be nice.
  • Dual memory cards slots would be nice.
  • I’d like in-camera stabilization that works well in video and works even better with IS lenses. It’s not absolutely necessary, but having something like Panasonic’s GH5 stabilization would be amazing. I get nice results with the M50 and their IS lenses when vlogging, so it isn’t necessary, but I’d certainly take in-camera image stabilization if it’s in there.
  • Great ergonomics. A nice tall deep grip. A good deal of physical buttons that directly control important photography related settings. Considering I have smaller cameras already, I’d like something of a decent size, but still a bit more compact than traditional full-frame DSLRs.

Panasonic is in a position where they might put all of the features I’m looking for into one camera. They’ve been quoted as wanting 30% of the interchangeable camera market, which means they might see the opportunity and actually make a camera to fill that need. They have been known to mix things up (G1… GH5, etc).

I think Panasonic could fill my complete list, assuming they did cave in and embrace some type of phase detection or dual-pixel focusing system with this rumored full-frame mirrorless camera.

They have the best in-camera and lens stabilization system available. I haven’t used it, but people equate it to being like a gimbal without the gimbal. They have the rugged build quality. They have the video settings and features. They have the full-articulating screens. It’s all there and they might be in a position to make it happen. Though all that said, I would expect this camera to be pretty expensive.

Canon could have made it happen, but they didn’t based on the rumored specifications. I still see this camera as an option, but it will depend on price. If it drops hundreds of dollars like the M50 did and it’s starting price is somewhat low I’ll still consider it.

How did they miss the mark?

  • 120fps is only at 720p. If I’m paying $2000+ I’d expect this feature.
  • Likely single card slot. If I’m paying $2000+ I’d expect this feature. Nikon also failed here, but not quite as bad as Canon given the more advanced memory card format on the Z cameras.
  • Though unconfirmed there might be some cropping in video modes like they did on the M50 and 5DmIV.
  • Their starter lenses look either too expensive or not the focal lengths I’m after. Of course that’s temporary and I could work with the kit lens, but I have no desire yet to adapt EF lenses. Another huge negative is that anything I’d buy for this new R-mount wouldn’t work on the EF-M system (thanks Canon…ugh). The registration distance difference is 2mm. I’d be super surprised if they could design an adapter. I still don’t get why they couldn’t have used the EF-M mount. It suggests they don’t have a lot of foresight. From my perspective it seems like a large waste of development resources. If Sony can fit full-frame and image stabilization into their mount size, then Canon should have been able with EF-M.

Given that the EF-M system is something I’ll be sticking with for a while and it appears to have literally zero compatibility with this new mount, the only thing keeping my interest in the EOS R is Canon’s usual features of DPAF, flip screen, and their solid Android app.

The Nikon Z6 is still kinda sorta an option, but extremely unlikely. At the very least they have 120fps at 1080p video recording. They have the potential of very high image quality based on MTF charts for their initial “S” lenses. Outside of that, I don’t see any really appeal. The cameras seem a bit sparse from a physical control standpoint compared the the Canon EOS R, and of course the screen doesn’t articulate. Plus the single XQD slot means another large expense to get into the system. The only decent Nikon F-mount lenses I still have are the 50mm f1.8g and the 20mm f1.8g. Even if I went into this system I’d likely trade in these lenses to help offset the cost. I enjoy adapting old film lenses to mirrorless, but adapting pricey current generation lenses doesn’t have much appeal because I can spend that value on something native. I’d need around $3500 to get a decent starter kit of the Z6, 24-70, 50mm, and two XQD cards. That sounds like a big expense for still lacking features I’d want.

Sony is another contender for my personal use case. I’ve handled the A7 III and think it’s pretty nice, but I’d really like a fully articulating screen. I don’t know… I’m still on the fence with that camera. It’s the best option at the moment. Their native lens offering tend to be on the pricier side (looks like Nikon and Canon are going that route as well). The low cost FE 50mm f1.8 literally soured me to a switch when I was about to jump to the A7ii way-back-when because it felt so lackluster to use. I guess I’ve been spoiled by Nikon’s set of good-for-the-price f1.8g f-mount prime lenses, but FE mount is starting to get more and more native auto-focus lens options.

I think there is a lot of potential in the rumored A7Siii, but I expect a low resolution sensor (of course) and at a premium price. I’d also say there is still a 50/50 chance they might not put a fully articulating screen in. I’d be fine with 18-20mp, but again, the price is probably going to be $3500+, which is more than I’d want to spend.

The main goal I have with this camera is to act as my primary “feature” camera in my photography videos. I’d use as my primary still-photo camera for my serious photography outside of my video work. I’d use it often when I’m demonstrating or exploring aspects of photography in Youtube/Amazon videos, likely more often than with the M50 cameras. I’d expect this camera to perform double duty by offering higher-end photo and video features over the M50 in general. That means things like 120fps at 1080p instead of 720p that the M50 has (heck, maybe even 60fps 4k if I somehow managed to get the rumored A7Siii/Panasonic FF mirrorless). That way I could use this camera to film b-roll and story telling styled slow-motion video instead of just getting by with the M50’s video capabilities. Basically, for all intensive purposes, the advanced tool in my kit when I’m fine to carry something larger than the M50.

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