A moment before Canon's major announcements and following the two major exhibitions in the US and Japan in the past two months, MegaPixel.co.il had a chance to have a talk with Canon, ask some questions about recently released products as well as some future plans.
This interview was originally supposed to take place during CES 2012 but it was canceled at the last minute due to some technical issues. However this gave us the chance to expand the scope of the questions after the announcements that preceded CP+ which took place in Japan earlier this month. Recently Mike Burnhill, DSLR product specialist from Canon Europe, and John Maurice, Canon Europe, DSC product specialist were both kind enough to answer some of our questions which we are bringing today to you.
Canon booth during CES 2012 (all images by Josef Gottlieb/MegaPixel.co.il)
Q: Let's start with the new 24-70mm f/2.8 lens – a lot of speculation surrounded the existence of a prototype with built in image stabilization – why did you eventually decide not to go with it in the new version and was it the right decision when you look at the new Tamron with the built in stabilizer?
A: The primary objective when designing the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM was to deliver exceptional image quality and a compact design. While including optical IS was desirable, we felt adding the technology in this lens would have comprised these prime goals.
Q: The new 24mm and 28mm seem to be really perplexing, they are not extremely fast, surly not cheap and have image stabilization which doesn't seem to be that necessary in such a short focal length. To top this you have the 17-55mm f/2.8 with IS which admittedly isn't a prime lens but can give you much more flexibility – so who is the real target audience here – videographers?
A: Videographers are indeed an ideal market for these lenses, but the main group who prompted the design of these lenses where in fact photojournalists. While a f/1.4 lens is desirable, they do tend to feature quite large optics. So for example in situations where photographers are trying to blend in and be less obtrusive, a lens with a smaller diameter is more suitable. We included IS to help these photographers to continue shooting in low light, even with smaller aperture that these lenses offer. It’s also worth noting the original versions of these lenses are nearly 25 years old. When designing their replacements we wanted to look forwards to ensure that these lenses enjoy a life span to match their predecessors.
Q:Moving to the January announcements – the Canon PowerShot G1 X – can you try and explain why was the sensor designed with a ratio of 4:3 (common in small sensor compact cameras) and not the more traditional 3:2 ratio of larger sensors?
A: One of the key benefits of using fixed lens design is that the sensor and lens combination can be optimised to make best use of both the sensor and the lens. By utilising the 4:3 aspect ratio, the G1 X sensor makes very efficient use of the image circle produced by the lens and at the same time enables users to get a high resolution result. We recognise that some users prefer to shoot using different aspect ratios, as such, the PowerShot G1 X offers a multi-aspect shooting option that’s available via the menu – so users can shoot with a 3:2 framing guide that’s displayed on the LCD screen while shooting. Additionally, the supplied DPP software allows easily cropping to a variety of different aspect ratios.
Q: When announced, there was some disappointment with the G1 X lens aperture – specifically with the aperture at the longer end of the tele (112mm – f/5.8) - this means that in many situations you will not get a shallow depth of field despite the large sensor – this was obviously a size/weight/cost compromise – how does canon look at this?
A: During the product’s development we conducted surveys with professional photographers who indicated that they experienced a level of background blur on the PowerShot G1 X which they thought was not possible from a compact camera. Furthermore, our own tests show that when shooting a portrait using the telephoto end of the zoom, at the same focal length and f number, the level of background blur that can be achieved with the PowerShot G1 X is actually very similar to a Canon APS-C camera when used with the 18-55mm lens. Compared with previous G series cameras, the background blur achievable with the G1 X is 2.6x greater – a remarkable achievement when you consider that the lens barrel diameter is only 1.4x larger on the G1 X.
Q: Looking at the other end of the zoom range – 28mm is not really wide compared to many recent advanced compact cameras – maybe it would have been better to do a 25mm or 24mm with a shorter tele?
A: The wide angle specification of the lens was designed to achieve the best balance between the total camera size and the most suitable image quality performance.
Q: Our world is becoming more connected however beside a few compact cameras (such as the ones Canon recently announced) and expensive add-ons to a few DSLRs, we don't see WIFI/Bluetooth, not to mention 3G, integrated into refelex cameras – what is the hold back here? (cost/user demand? something else?).
A: Largely the reason is down to user demand.
Q: What about GPS – don't you see a demand for integrated GPS in the more advanced compacts and the DSLR line (Sony for example did that in the A55 and A77 and it works very well)?
A: The PowerShot SX230 HS, PowerShot SX260 HS and PowerShot S100 are all advanced compact cameras from Canon that include GPS functionality. These cameras make it possible to record the location in which a user’s image was taken. They can also create a log file recording a user’s journey that can later be viewed on the supplied Map Utility software. As for DSLR’s as seen with the EOS-1D X and GP-E1 we are introducing this feature to advanced users.
Q: What do you think about Magic Lantern (the non official firmware for canon DSLRs) – did Canon looked at some of the features implemented there and would consider adding them to future Canon DSLRs or future Firmware for exiting Canon cameras (for example features like HDR video, live sound monitoring on the screen etc.)?
A: Unfortunately we cannot comment on third party firmware. Looking at the 5D Mark II as an example, since the launch of the product in 2008 we have listened to the feedback from videographers and where possible, have added new features via firmware updates – such as improving the video capabilities (manual exposure, different frame rates, manual audio control). We have also recently launched the EOS-1D X which features the next wave of video enhancements made possible with the DIGIC 5+ processor and new sensor technology which now offers live sound monitoring on screen.
Q: Do you think it is technically possible to control the lens focus limiter (in macro lenses and maybe a few others) from the camera – i.e. to set a limit to whatever range you like – say 2-5 meters – making the AF significantly faster with much fewer back and forth movement (i.e. "hunting")? [We recently asked Nikon the same question and they really liked the idea].
A: While this is technically possible with some lenses (depending on the focus electronics within the lenses), we like to fully understand why people request such features and in what situations they would be most used. With this knowledge we can then design a system that meets or ideally surpass the requirements of photographers.
Q: Several manufacturers are quite open about their upcoming lens line (Samsung, Olympus, Panasonic have all published lens roadmaps in the past) – is there a chance we shall see a lens roadmap from Canon?
A: Unfortunately no, Canon has no plans to publish roadmaps. Roadmaps are sometimes required for new systems, to help build customer confidence in the continuation and expansion of the system. EOS will be 25 years old this year and currently features over 60 different lenses – from everyday to specialist use lenses. With this heritage Canon has demonstrated its continued commit to the EOS system and its customers.
Q: Knowing what you know about Canon future plans – what would you say will be the most significant change we will see in 2-3 years compared to what we have today in the photography market (if you have to state just one major change above all the rest)?
A: One of the most significant ‘changes’ could be the greater integration of still and video, to reflect the growing popularity and sharing of rich multimedia based online content. Canon has demonstrated its vision in products such as the “wonder camera” Shown at Shanghai EXPO and the 4k camera shown at the Canon EXPO in 2010.
This is an English version of an article originally published on the Israeli Photography website MegaPixel.co.il