Before I start on this I want to lay it out there that I worked for Canon a few years ago - none of this information was anything that I was privy to and they aren’t paying me to say anything about any of their products.
Functionally, SLR cameras have been the same since at least since the 5d mark 1 came out way back in 2005. This and a massive shift in the way people have been taking photos since then really hasn’t done much to the industry as a whole, yet. I’d argue that in the next few years the low end of the market will nearly fall away to nothing as computational photography expands through mobile phone upgrade cycles. Camera manufacturers have been forced to innovate for the first time in a generation and the result is the mirrorless camera.
So, mirrorless is the future, that is something that not just the industry of camera manufacturers as well as many working professionals have decided. The advantages are obvious - a live preview of the exposure as well as the composition is the main one, but several other small bonuses like peaking and more algorithmic based AF routines (eye-af/advanced subject tracking) are also very important and are going to continue becoming more important as the years go on.
Canon was late to the game, as, historically they’ve been in terms of technological shifts for at least the past decade. Their size, compared to their competition probably fuels much of this, as well as their aim to make sure they get it right (just about) first time. Let’s ignore the EOS-M for now, and probably forever after.
The elephant in the room is Sony. They started their major push into their photographic world with the NEX 3/5 way back in 2010 and have been pushing their system for quite a while now. While it was a bit of a joke for the first years with all the Sony trappings (more bodies than lenses for quite a while as well as a non-existent professional body or service department) they’ve really turned things around and many have been using their full-frame bodies with adaptors for their Canon glass or have transitioned fully over to the Sony A mount completely. Even their professional services seem to be slowly trickling into existence which is nice to see.
Canon hasn’t really set the world on fire with the launch of their take on the space but I don’t think that’s a major problem for them at the moment. The space is still in its infancy - they’re looking still at their high end and low end camera offering and feeling that they’re in good places and will remain the way through at least 2021. Their mirrorless offering will advance with the market in time and I’d imagine will fill more of the niches that aren’t currently served by their current offerings, both higher and lower end than they are at present.
It will get to the point where their “rebel / xxxD / kiss” lineup isn’t a decent value and consumers just don’t want to buy them at all due to the size of the sensor being outdated and the abilities of their mobile phones taking on the quality of all but the highest end cameras. I feel something similar to the recent RP will fill that niche albeit at a slightly inflated price/margin. Canon has alluded to this in financial documents recently as well.
The current iteration of the EOS R does a lot right - ergonomically they’re not the best cameras they’ve ever released but they do stand up to both the 6d and the Sony/Nikon offerings in the same space. Their implementation of the software for eye-AF isn’t as good as Sony’s at the moment either but it does work well enough for a first generation product in my eyes. I’m a big fan of the adaptor selection for previous EOS system lenses. They’re able to be used natively on the camera and a few have neat features that go beyond just fan-service.
Image quality is nothing better than the current round of full frame cameras from Canon and as someone who’s still shooting a camera two generations behind and getting results I enjoy - I’m sure if you’re not getting exactly what you need out of the camera, either you know where else to get it or you’re using it wrong.
Time will tell with their push into a new frontier but I think they did enough right the first time they did a full frame mirrorless system that they’ll be able to push that into the future fairly easily. With sensor-shifting image stabilisation and a raft of new high-end lenses coming I think that the tipping point for most will be a natural evolution from their standard upgrade cycle, especially as all EF lenses are supported.
I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes their offering and I’m all for seeing what the increased competition in the space does for all players in the space. A rising tide and whatnot. As long as I can use my 85mm 1.2 on it, I’m sure I’ll be happy.