It’s official! Canon has launched an APS-C RF mount camera. It has released two cameras, the R7 as well as the R10. Although it might seem odd, considering that Nikon and Sony have had APS–C models for some while, this is a huge deal since Canon already has the EF–M mount and EOS APS–C mirrorless range. Canon is considering removing the EOS M line.
With the creation of the Micro Four Thirds consortium, the Panasonic G1 and the release of Olympus’s G1, Panasonic and Olympus introduced a new era of mirrorless cameras. This bold move was strangely rooted in Olympus’s failures to convert the original film OM from digital. It was unable to transition the original film OM to digital, which led it rethinking what a modern digital camera should look like and releasing the Four Thirds E-1.
Although the camera was intended for journalists and sports photographers, it never saw commercial success. Micro Four Thirds, which was released in 2008, is the same camera but without the mirror box. It replaced the optical seefinder with an electronic one (or rear view) and simplified the design by allowing for the removal of the pentaprism and mirror box.
Although it may seem obvious to us now, technology was leading the way at the time. Every manufacturer produced a new mirrorless system, and Pentax even had two! Each manufacturer had their own take on what mirrorless should look like.
The Canon EOS M Line, and EF-M Mount
Canon joined the mirrorless revolution, but it took a while to do so. It released the EOS M with an APS C sensor (1.5 crop factor), just like Sony, Nikon and Fuji. This was in order for a pleasing balance between image quality and size. This contrasts with Nikon’s CX sensor (2.7-crop factor), which may have seemed like a great idea at the time, but had limitations in terms of image quality and depth-of field.
However, Canon and Nikon had one thing in common: they both looked at mirrorless as consumer products. There was no intention to make a mirrorless camera for professionals. This strategic decision was based on two factors. The technological foundations of mirrorless cameras are sound but the implementation is flawed. They were not ready to be used in the mainstream because of their poor contrast-based autofocus systems, and their limited battery life.
Second, DSLRs were making a lot of money. They reached their peak in shipment value, and were the largest camera segment. You don’t want to introduce a camera system that cannibalizes your DSLR sales while performing worse.
When Sony introduced the full frame a7, everything changed. Suddenly those bulky DSLRs looked like they were from yesterday and the future was clearly visible.
All of this brings us back the EOS M line, and the main problems with the transition to a full frame mirrorless system. The mount is similar to the Sony Emount, and was made for an APS C sensor. Although you can fit a full-frame sensor in the mount — Sony has done this, it does have technical limitations compared to mounts specifically made for full frame.
Canon would not be following the path taken by Sony to create a full-frame mirrorless system camera to replace its DSLRs. Instead, it would be creating something new and best-in class. Secondly, the existing EF-M lens lineup was vanishingly tiny and only eight are available. It was much easier to start over with a new mount.
Enter the RF Mount
Although it is possible to argue about when Canon developed the RF-mount after seeing the success of a7, it was most likely around 2015. Both Canon and Nikon were faced with a dilemma. They both had full-frame DSLRs and APS-C cameras, as well as separate mirrorless systems that are consumer-oriented. How should the professional mirrorless systems look?
Sony already had full-frame and APS-C models. These were equipped with interchangeable lens systems that could be used for any size sensor. This flexible system was popular with consumers. Nikon will follow suit and implement a “ground zero” solution. It already scrapped the mirrorless 1 System, and it has made it clear that it will soon abandon its DSLR offerings. The Z-system is the only one that will be available. It has full-frame and ASP-C offerings, all of which can be interchangeable. The company was clear in its intentions from the beginning, releasing the Z6 and Z7 cameras, followed by the APS-C Z50.
Canon remained steadfast in its full-frame-only mantra, and it took until the APS-C rumors emerged, before the cameras arrived. PetaPixel has been impressed by the R7, while we are very pleased with the R10, which is a more affordable option.
Both can take full-frame lenses. However, it appears that APS-C models are also in the works. Although Canon has greatly expanded its RF lens selection, they are not necessarily a good fit for the new APS-C cameras due to their price, weight, and focal length.
What is the Future of APS-C?
Given Canon’s history in mirrorless cameras, one can only wonder what Canon will do with its EOS M and RF APSC cameras. This is a lot of APSC lenses and cameras to keep selling. The second point is the most important. It seems unlikely that either EOS M or EOS EOS lines will be developed. The DSLR EOS range is in its final days, and although Canon seems happy to produce them for buyers willing, that’s it. Although Nikon’s exit may give this segment a new spin, sales could start to rise for Canon. However, it is unlikely that this will lead to new models.
Canon’s determination to keep the range alive is evident in the EOS M and Canon, even though the lineup of four cameras was last updated with the M50 Mark II back in 2020. They sell well in Japan, and consistently top the BCN sales rankings. They both make money and are well-known in their home markets. Are they able to keep developing them? Two RF-mount cameras were released and one RF-S lens was also released.
Canon categorically denies the EOS and EOS M ranges are being discontinued. This — at face value — makes economic sense. It remains to be seen how long this will continue, but it would surprise me if there are many cameras from these ranges that survive beyond. It’s an RF future.