Canon's New Entry Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

Canon today introduced the RP, a 26.2mp entry model for their R full frame mirrorless camera lineup.

bythom canon rp

This is a small, light, and modestly-featured camera. Smaller than the current top-end Rebel DSLR. There are not a lot of buttons and controls (and no track pad), but they're very traditional Canon UI, including the two vertical dials. The camera is also not heavily weather sealed. By de-contenting and concentrating on the basics, Canon has produced a camera that's only 17.1 ounces (485g), and with one of the smallest full frame profiles overall. So small, in fact, that Canon has a "pinky extension" grip available for the camera (EG-E1; seen above in the red, black, and blue versions). 

The displays are lower-end, too, with the rear LCD being a 1.04m dot one (the R is 2.1m dot) and the EVF 2.36m dot (the R is 3.69m dot; both are OLED). The camera isn't a speed demon at 4 fps with autofocus, but it's not likely that people are going to complain about that. As appropriate for a lower-end camera, the RP has one SD card slot. Also, the mechanical shutter maxes out at 1/4000 with a 1/180 sync speed.

Inside we have the 6Dm2 sensor repurposed. I'm sure that will raise a lot of eyebrows, but sensor re-use is one of the ways that Canon is flexing its pricing advantage over competitors; it's the reason why the RP only retails for US$1299 for the body only. It also means that the RP has dual pixel AF across 88% of the horizontal frame (100% vertical), and a maximum of 4779 focus positions.

Other features that might not look state-of-the-art are that 4K video is only available at 24/25P. 

I have more to say about Canon's strategy in a supplemental article, but it's clear that Canon has had enough of Sony whittling away customers. In essence, the KISS (Rebel) strategy has now made it to full frame mirrorless, and aggressively so. In the home market of Japan, both the low price and small size play well into what sells best, too. 

On the other hand, the RP is basically a 6Dm2 that was put on a mirrorless diet. You can get the full DSLR version of the same camera for US$1499 body only these days, and it hasn't exactly been a hot seller. The perception is that the 6Dm2 (and now RP) are a bit behind in technology—note the 24P speed on the 4K output, not even 30P available—and aiming mostly at the price conscious. 

This gives the Internet much to debate (or complain about, or troll, depending upon your view of the Internet). Certainly the US$1299 price point puts a new stake in the ground for entry full frame. I find that to be overly aggressive in a contracting market, and probably self-destructive on Canon's part. There's nothing else between it and the US$1999 Nikon and Sony models, so I'm pretty sure that Canon left money on the table here. I'm reminded of when I argued with Adam Osborne for a long time about his decision on pricing of the Osborne 1. He just had to create an arbitrary new price point well below any existing one. By my count, he left US$7.5 million on the table that first year by not putting the price point at US$1999. 

The problem in a contracting market is that you really want to do the opposite: you want to try to leverage the price points up if you can, not down. I'm sure every camera company in Japan has a sophisticated model of what happens with various pricing choices. I'm pretty sure that the folks at Nikon and Sony who run their models are scratching their heads and asking "what did we miss?"

Nothing, dear salarymen, nothing. Canon just signaled their absolute fear of losing market share. They're willing to take less profit in order to hold share (opposite of Nikon). Sony made Canon blink.

Meanwhile, the complaints from the usual folk will start soon about the RP: no IBIS; crop 4K with low frame rate low bit rate and no Log capability; a lessor shutter; a sensor that's a stop and half behind Sony at ISO 640; lack of controls and customization; and so on. 

I don't any of those things will resonate with the price conscious folk. To the Canon mass market crowd the RP looks like a smaller, lighter, and lower price 6Dm2. What could be wrong with that?

Meanwhile, we also got news of six RF lenses under development for release in 2019:

  • 15-35mm f/2.8L
  • 24-70mm f/2.8L
  • 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS
  • 85mm f/1.2L and f/1.2L DS
  • 70-200mm f/2.8L

As I note in the supplemental article, this is a complete mismatch to camera bodies, other than the 24-240mm, which clearly is a superzoom intended for RP users.

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