8K video, leading AF technology and 8 stops of image stabilization - unlocking new possibilities for visual expression
Canon’s full-frame mirrorless camera lineup continues to evolve. The EOS R5, released in 2020, expands creative possibilities and is highly acclaimed by professional and advanced amateur photographers. Such vastly improved specifications are usually achieved only after lengthy development periods. However, by continuing to make breakthroughs, Canon has managed to produce a game-changing camera ahead of its time.
High-resolution cameras for landscape photography, cameras capable of high-speed continuous shooting for sports, and cinema cameras for movie production—until recently, it was only natural for professional and advanced amateur photographers to decide which camera to purchase based on their specific photographic subject and use cases. However, photographers longed for a camera model that could handle any scenario, including landscapes, sports and video production, all in one camera body.
Fulfilling that desire is the EOS R5, an all-rounder camera released in July 2020 as one of Canon’s second-generation full-frame mirrorless cameras. With its high pixel count of 45 megapixels1 and support for 8K video recording, it also boasts a high-speed, high-precision autofocus (AF) system, up to 8 stops2 of In-Body Image Stabilizer and high-speed continuous shooting. Developing the camera required the union of advanced optical, electrical and mechanical technologies, and achieving a significant improvement in specifications requires time. Anticipating current and future imaging needs, Canon develops products years ahead of their time. The EOS R5 is one such product, achieved through a series of technological breakthroughs that would make the camera a reality.
The EOS R5
(Left: when equipped with the Battery Grip BG-R10)
The EOS R5 is the world’s first interchangeable-lens camera to support 8K video shooting capabilities. But why now, when 8K viewing systems have yet to become mainstream? The dedication of Canon’s developers played a key part in this decision.
The EOS 5D Mark II, released in 2008, was the first DSLR camera in the world to feature Full HD video capabilities. At that time, Full HD displays were not yet mainstream, and many people thought that the EOS 5D Mark II was over-engineered. However, after the camera’s release, Hollywood movie creators were captivated by the unique shallow depth-of-field and excellent image quality of its 35mm full-frame image sensor, which was larger than those on cinema cameras. This sparked a new trend that could be considered a DSLR videography boom.
The development philosophy for the EOS 5D series was to “create a camera with the ability to ‘capture,’ and it will give rise to the future of imaging.” The EOS R5, which also bears the significant number “5” in its name, was developed in the same spirit. Whether the new camera could shoot 8K would strongly influence the possibilities in how imaging evolved. Therefore, Canon’s engineers set their about on “equipping the EOS R5 with Canon’s latest technologies and enable it to vastly expand the possibilities of photographers’ visual expression.”
Canon has spent more than 10 years developing 8K video cameras, and Canon 8K cameras are already being used in such applications as professional video production, academic research and the documentation of important cultural assets and natural heritage.
8K video recording produces ultra-high-definition images that hold 16 times more information than Full HD video. Recording in the 8K DCI 30p format supported on the EOS R5 requires processing a tremendous volume of data equivalent to thirty 35-megapixel still images per second. From developing a new 45-megapixel CMOS sensor and new DIGIC X image processing engine capable of high-resolution, high-speed readout, to addressing issues specific to 8K shooting such as the CFexpress card writing speed, the EOS R5’s 8K recording capabilities were made possible by leveraging Canon’s front-line experience in movie production, including playback environments.
The DIGIC X image processing engine used in the EOS R5
The new 45-megapixel CMOS image sensor
The EOS R5 also features significantly improved AF technology, focusing exactly where the photographer wants, as though it can read the photographer’s mind. This was achieved by incorporating deep learning technology into the camera’s subject detection algorithm.
To enable subject tracking even during high-speed continuous shooting at up to 20 frames-per-second (fps), the EOS iTR AF X (Intelligent tracking and recognition) subject recognition capabilities of the EOS R5 were enhanced using deep learning, rendering the camera capable of detecting human heads as well as animal (dog, cat and bird) eyes, faces, and bodies. Ensuring high subject recognition accuracy through deep learning requires a massive volume of image data to “train” the system.
For human head detection, a collection of sports-related images were used to train the system to reliably and accurately track the complex movements of athletes. Bird detection, however, posed a different set of challenges. There are many different species of birds, and even within the same species, the shape of a bird is drastically different when its wings are folded compared to when its wings are spread, which makes recognizing birds far more difficult than recognizing dogs and cats. From collecting training images from academic texts, to using their off time to test the bird detection capabilities by photographing birds. Canon’s engineers personally strive to improve the technology, finally achieving high subject detection accuracy.
If subject detection had been designed using conventional methods, with the developers abstracting rules and programming them into algorithms, development would have taken many times longer, and therefore would not have been completed in time for the EOS R5. Using the latest deep learning technologies not only improved development efficiency but also made possible significant improvements to AF precision for the EOS R5.
The new subject detection system of the EOS R5 can detect the eyes of birds—one of the most difficult subjects to detect—with high accuracy.
Autofocus can detect the eyes, faces and heads of humans, as well as eyes. In addition, the system also detects the eyes, faces and bodies of dogs, cats and birds.
Image stabilization (IS) is a crucial photography feature that can even be found even on modern smartphone cameras.
Prior to the EOS R5, Canon had leveraged its strengths in optical technology by equipping its lenses with Optical Image Stabilizer to prevent camera shake. However, starting from the EOS R5, the second-generation EOS R system, cameras became the company’s first camera to be equipped with an image sensor-shift type In-Body Image Stabilizer. The mechanism corrects camera shake by up to 8.0 shutter speed stops, making it the world’s strongest3 IS system. 8 stops of IS means that camera shake can be kept under control even with a 256x increase in exposure time. This makes it possible to take slow shutter-speed shots of such scenes as nightscapes, or rivers and waterfall that harness motion blur effects, without the need for a tripod.
Image captured with IS on (top right) versus IS off (bottom right)
In order to make possible 8-stop image stabilization, Canon not only used high-precision gyro sensors, but also revamped the entire system to include a sensor unit that could accurately move the full-frame image sensor as well as an image processor and algorithms that could calculate sensor information from the camera body and lens in real time.
One scenario in which the camera’s 8-stop maximum IS capability has proved invaluable is during long exposures, where even the slight movement that occurs due to the Earth’s rotation tends to result in blurring in images. Due to the camera’s high precision, this becomes a serious issue. In order to resolve it, Canon utilized an algorithm that detects the movement resulting from the Earth’s rotation and factored it into the image stabilization function, thus ensuring proper stabilization. This results in ultra-high-precision IS that ensures the rotational movement of the Earth does not affect the sharpness of images.
An image stabilization system as precise as 8.0 stops is not something that can be achieved simply by putting together high-spec parts. The high quality and level of precision that makes it good enough to be a Canon product is the result of know-how cultivated by many years of developing, testing and manufacturing cameras.
The EOS R5 is packed with many cutting-edge technologies including up to 20 fps high-speed continuous shooting and Dual Pixel CMOS AF II autofocus technology that boasts up to approximately 100% of the image area. These advancements enable the camera to provide a pleasant shooting experience regardless of use case. Canon has created a camera that can capture images that were previously thought impossible, thereby expanding the range of imaging possibilities. Canon will continue to improve on the EOS R system’s technologies as it aims to support the expansion of creative possibilities for photographers.