Sunday, September 12, 2010

Canon's rumored EIS mirrorless DSLR

EOSHD.com has broken preliminary details of Canon's answer to Panasonic's and Olympus' Four-Thirds and Sony's NEX series: The mirrorless EIS (Electronic Image System). The first model, the EIS 60, is rumored to be scheduled to ship in calendar Q2 2011. The EIS 60 is said to have a 22 megapixel imager, which should immediately be a cause for concern for a couple of reasons:
  • More pixels means less surface area (and thus less light sensitivity) per pixel.
  • The rolling shutter problem that DSLRs have in video mode is due to the process that they use to get the resolution of the image data coming off of the sensor down to 1920 x 1080. In most cases, manufacturers simply throw most of the lines of image data away, but the result is the "jello effect" when either moving the camera or shooting fast motion. Tossing lines away also results in image softness and moire patterns, especially when shooting objects with close horizontal or vertical lines, such as brick buildings and striped clothing.
To get around both problems, Canon has reportedly developed a technique called "Pixel Fusion" that merges a matrix of pixels together to form a single pixel. In still mode, 4 pixels (2 x 2) are merged into a single pixel, for a net resolution of 5.5 megapixels. In video mode, 9 pixels (3 x 3) are merged into a single pixel, for 1920 x 1080P resolution. The result is that the EIS 60 can achieve better speed in still mode (up to 20 fps) with excellent low-light performance (in "Pixel Fusion" mode, the extended maximum ISO of the EIS 60 will be 25,600,) and can read the data off the imager much faster in video mode in order to avoid the rolling shutter effect.

EOSHD.com reports that the new EIS format will use a new lens mount, but Canon will also offer a EF-to-EIS adapter. The lenses under development for the new format (some of which won't be available at launch) include:
  • 12-75mm F2.8-4 IS Macro
  • 70-300mm F3.5-5.6 IS
  • 5mm F4 fisheye
  • 8-25mm F4 wide-angle zoom
  • 14mm F2 pancake
  • 25mm F1.2 pancake
  • 45mm F1.5 pancake
  • 65mm F2.0 Macro (1:1, 2:1 is equivalent to full-size)
Obviously, all of this should be taken with a grain of salt until Canon makes an official statement. If this camera is actually under development and the timing is correct, it's unlikely that Canon will announce anything about it at Photokina later this month to avoid hurting sales of its cameras for this holiday season. I don't expect any confirmation from Canon until January at the earliest, but we may also hear about a true camcorder using the same imaging system at NAB next April.
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