Sunday, December 20, 2020

Blasph-M-ous Rumors

There are rumors now of prototype crop-sensor RF-mount Canons (supposedly called the R7) running about in the wild.

The nomenclature would seem to hearken to the classic 7D/7D Mark II, which were the tough, pro-grade crop-sensor bodies that were rough equivalents to the full-frame 5D series bodies.

This would indicate that the M-series APS-C mirrorless system's days are truly finally numbered. There are a couple of indicators that the M line will limp on for another year or two before finally getting the Old Yeller treatment.

The first is that nowhere in the current RF-mount library, nor in any roadmap that's known, is there a lens that's got a crop-sensor appropriate focal length. There's no RF 17-55mm f/2.8 nor 18-135mm travel zoom. Which makes sense for a camera like the hypothetical R7, which is going to be used by birdwatchers, sports photogs, and airshow geeks to give an effective focal length boost to their long L-series zooms while probably having a frame-rate advantage over its full-frame siblings.

The second is that it's unlikely Canon's willing to entirely abandon the entry-level market, the folks who buy a boxed set of camera and lens(es) at Best Buy or Wally World, and an $800-$1000 RF body with no cheap kit zooms doesn't cover that. 

EOS M6 with the 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM travel zoom

Canon's already discontinued the closest thing to an enthusiast/prosumer body in the M-mount lineup, the M5, and pretty much admitted that it won't have a successor. The M6 line is, on specs at least, a serious enthusiast camera, with its dual control wheels, and can certainly be used to do good work...but the single card slot, located inside the battery compartment on the bottom where it can't be accessed with the camera on a tripod...tells you that this camera is ultimately marketed toward users for whom that won't be a concern.

The M50 and M200 round out the bottom of the line, roughly equivalent to the Rebel T_i and Rebel SL_ slots in Canon's DSLR lineup. These are the cameras sold in boxed sets at Mart-Marts and make up the base of Canon's sales pyramid. Until and unless Canon comes up with a crop sensor RF body and matching lenses to fill this niche, they're going to have to soldier on.

The EF-M doomsayers point out that Canon's only introduced a single M lens in the last three years, and that was two years ago, as well as the paucity of enthusiast-grade EF-M lenses: There are only a couple of fast primes and no constant-aperture zooms in the M library. 

In response, I can only point out that Canon's treated APS-C cameras that way for years. Canon's only released a few EF-S lenses for their crop-sensor DSLRs that are worth getting excited about, and the most recent of those, the 24mm f/2.8 pancake, came out way back in the Obama administration, an eternity in digital camera marketing terms. The EF-M library already has all the lenses it needs to make 1- and 2-lens box sets to hawk at Best Buy.

Ultimately, though, having the future Canon mirrorless world irrevocably divided into non-interchangeable crop sensor EF-M and full frame RF mount would prevent Canon execs from being able to tell themselves lies about upgraders.

See, with the EF and EF-S lenses sharing the same mount, there was always the idea that the person buying the entry-level crop sensor Rebel would have an incentive to stay inside the Canon ecosystem if they got into photography as a hobby. The lenses they bought could ride along as they moved up to ever more sophisticated bodies (until they got traded out for better glass.)

It's questionable how often that actually happened and, with the current division of the Canon mirrorless world between crop-sensor EF-M and full-frame RF-mount, there is no upgrade path.

I think the guys who say the M's days are numbered are right, but either it's likely to limp along until there's a true entry-level RF replacement...or Canon is going to abandon the inexpensive entry level altogether. My money would be on the former, but I have no special insight, here.

Anyway, I like my little M6. It's a good travel body, and I went ahead and bought a good fast manual-focus prime lens for it as a Christmas present to myself. I'm also looking at maybe a TTArtisan 50mm f/1.2. This would give me an ultra-portable kit for the M6 of a travel zoom, fast primes in the equivalent of 35, 50, and 85mm focal lengths, and a twee little SpeedLite in case I need more juice or flexibility than the on-camera flash.

I like my little M6...but I don't think the M system is long for this world.