A Prime Lens Strategy for Canon

SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
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35mm, 50mm, and 85mm are the most common prime focal lengths and can profit from having several solutions available. 24mm and 135mm may also fit this strategy. If I were Canon I'd segment the product line as follows:


Category​
Spec​
Image Quality​
Low Size/Weight​
Low Cost​
Durability​
Street
critical​
critical​
critical​
Amateur
important​
critical​
Pro
important​
critical​
critical​
Halo
critical​

The Street categy may be the lowest spec, yet more expensive than amateur lenses with higher spec. This should pay for better image quality, durability and weight savings. The epitome of this category would be the Leica APO ASPH lenses such as the APO-Summicron 50mm f/2 ASPH. It's a boring-sounding spec but one of the sharpest lenses on the planet, and you could almost buy a cheap new car for the price of one. Canon pricing would be far lower but it might make sense for a 35/2L to cost $1000-1500 if it is sharp enough and small enough.

The Halo category may range from relatively common lenses like the EF 50mm f/1.0L to the basically unobtainable EF 1200mm f/5.6L. It could also include tilt-shift lenses, for instance, or perhaps even fisheyes: these lens types aren't used most of the time by most shooters, but the mere fact they're in the catalog gives a prospective buyer the feeling that wherever they need to go Canon will have the lens they need.

The lenses I'd offer for various focal lengths and categories would be:

Category​
35mm​
50mm​
85mm​
135mm​
Example:
EF 50mm​
Street35/2 L50/2 L , 50/1.8 L, or 50/1.4 LI'd say 85/2, but a 85/1.4 recognizes that even 85/2 is no longer so portable; if you've got that length, perhaps widening to 1.4 is in order. (too big for street?)50/1.8 Mk I (pro chassis)
Amateur35/1.8 IS Macro50/1.4 IS MacroI'd say 85/1.4 IS Macro but 85/2 IS Macro emphasizes cost over spec135/2.8 IS Macro50/1.8 Mk II heading towards 50/1.4 as amateur gets richer
Pro35/1.2 L50/1.2 L85/1.2 L135/1.8 L50/1.4 heading towards 50/1.2 L as time goes on
Halo35/1.0 L or 35/0.9 L50/1.0 L or 50/0.7 L85/1.2 L DS. It doesn't matter if no-one buys it, it's just cool that Canon even has it.135/1.4 L or

135/1.0 L DS (see below)
50/1.0 L


35mm f/1.0 or even f/0.95 lenses are available for smaller sensors and with manual focus, so I think an RF 35mm f/1.0 may be technically achievable.

A 50mm f/0.7 lens was made in 1966 by Carl Zeiss. 6 were sold to NASA, 3 were used by Stanley Kubrik who used them for the candelight scenes of the movie Barry Lyndon, and 1 remains at Zeiss. Some glasses used in the past containing lead or radioactive elements are no longer available, but we also have 60 years more technology to throw at the problem and I believe Canon could turn out an RF 50mm f/0.7 in small numbers and this would attract some users to the product line as well as making certain special projects possible.

The one lens I'd most like to see Canon make is an RF 135mm f/1.0 DS. Wide open this would give typical American-football-shaped highlights in corners, but stopped down to 1.4 would have perfectly round highlights across entire image. Then, a DS filter would cut transmission a stop to T/2.0. So you'd have the "amount" of blur of a 135/2. On one hand, to me that's plenty, as any user of the 135/2 would attest, but on the other, it's hardly absurd. The key though is that instead of hard circles, turning into hard footballs, it'd be soft-edged round cotton balls 40% wider than a 135/2's circles that fade into nothing, and are even across the image. Note the front element would be the same as a Nikon 300/2 or Cannon 400/2.8 or 600/4: huge, but not at all unprecedented. Personally I would make the DS and aperture as drop-in filters like on the big white lenses, so you wouldn't have the DS if you didn't need it.
 
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Antono Refa

EOS R
Mar 26, 2014
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I doubt Canon will make some of those Halo lenses.

There must have been good reasons for Canon not to revive the EF 50mm f/1.0, and AFAIK the lens didn't have any elements with either lead or radio active elements. Furthermore, it shared a barrel with the EF 85mm f/1.2, which would have made it a bit easier to revive. My guess is price (or price / performance) and newer technology (sensors with higher ISO, post processing software to clean up images) allowing photographers to buy slower & cheaper 50mm lenses.

All the more so with 50mm f/0.7. I wonder what the usage scenario for the lens would be, before space tourists reach the moon.
 

SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
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All the more so with 50mm f/0.7. I wonder what the usage scenario for the lens would be, before space tourists reach the moon.

Exactly: nothing like this has been in the general public's hands so you can't even imagine what it could do.

But just as an example, you could potentially get the same bokeh with a full-body portrait that a 50/1.4 would with a loose head and shoulders. Imagine someone standing far enough away to do a full-length portrait at 50mm and the background being a total melt of bokeh.
 
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SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
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Furthermore, it shared a barrel with the EF 85mm f/1.2
You mean the outside? I know they looked similar but you think they were literally the same part number? And anyway with modern CAD/CAM its so much easier to design such things and CNC machine off just a few copies than it ever was in the 60s.
 

Antono Refa

EOS R
Mar 26, 2014
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You mean the outside? I know they looked similar but you think they were literally the same part number? And anyway with modern CAD/CAM its so much easier to design such things and CNC machine off just a few copies than it ever was in the 60s.
IIRC, I've read the external metal tube is the same, that is has the same part number. With different elements, there must differences inside, e.g. metal holders.
 
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SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
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With different elements, there must differences inside, e.g. metal holders.
Right, parts commonality is always great. I'm sure there's a lot of commonality such as: switches, the mount itself, various cams used in the focusing or zoom barrels, ribbon connectors, screws, front threads, lens hoods, USM motors, IS sensors and activators, the brain used for IS even if the exact coefficients that power it are lens-specific, etc. etc.

I agree that's all a plus, and it's key to making it affordable to make lower production volume lenses.

The only thing I don't agree with you with is the implication that sharing one outside part (the outside barrel) is going to make or break a new lens design, when the lens surely already has 1000 parts (just wild guess) with (another wild guess) 20% already shared.
 

Peter Bergh

EOS M50
CR Pro
Sep 16, 2020
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Forgive my ignorance, who are the category "Halo"? Saints?
In this forum, the term Halo Lens refers to a lens that is way "above" a typical lens in some respect or other. For example, the rumored RF 60 F1.0 is a halo lens. Seemingly, a halo lens is a "see what we can do" lens. AFAIK, there's no religious connotation.

BTW, I haven't seen the term used outside this forum.
 

AlanF

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Aug 16, 2012
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In this forum, the term Halo Lens refers to a lens that is way "above" a typical lens in some respect or other. For example, the rumored RF 60 F1.0 is a halo lens. Seemingly, a halo lens is a "see what we can do" lens. AFAIK, there's no religious connotation.

BTW, I haven't seen the term used outside this forum.
Thank you Peter for the courtesy of replying and providing the information. I don't needlessly ask questions without looking for answers first myself and had googled the term "halo" for lenses without success in this context. Halo is an undesirable phenomenon when usually applied to lenses.
 

SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
576
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In this forum, the term Halo Lens refers to a lens that is way "above" a typical lens in some respect or other. For example, the rumored RF 60 F1.0 is a halo lens. Seemingly, a halo lens is a "see what we can do" lens. AFAIK, there's no religious connotation.

BTW, I haven't seen the term used outside this forum.
Thanks for the good reply. I haven't seen "halo lens" used as a term elsewhere, but "halo product" is quite common.

If I search for "halo product" Corvette you find many pages discussing how the low-selling, super-high-price Corvette is a "halo product," giving consumers the feeling that Chevrolet engineering is really good. Likewise Ford makes the Ford GT, and Dodge makes the Viper, Honda makes the NS-X, Toyota makes the the luxury sedan Century and the Lexus model LS-A.

 

AlanF

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Thanks for the good reply. I haven't seen "halo lens" used as a term elsewhere, but "halo product" is quite common.

If I search for "halo product" Corvette you find many pages discussing how the low-selling, super-high-price Corvette is a "halo product," giving consumers the feeling that Chevrolet engineering is really good. Likewise Ford makes the Ford GT, and Dodge makes the Viper, Honda makes the NS-X, Toyota makes the the luxury sedan Century and the Lexus model LS-A.

That definition isn't even in Urban Dictionary, the first port of call for street lingo or neologisms.
 

Antono Refa

EOS R
Mar 26, 2014
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The only thing I don't agree with you with is the implication that sharing one outside part (the outside barrel) is going to make or break a new lens design, when the lens surely already has 1000 parts (just wild guess) with (another wild guess) 20% already shared.
I didn't say it would make or break, nor a new lens. I said it lowered the bar for re-manufacturing the EF 50mm f/1.0, and didn't help any.
 
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Bdbtoys

R5
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Jul 16, 2020
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Thank you Peter for the courtesy of replying and providing the information. I don't needlessly ask questions without looking for answers first myself and had googled the term "halo" for lenses without success in this context. Halo is an undesirable phenomenon when usually applied to lenses.
In context, I took "Halo Lens" to be the same as a "Statement Lens"... which is basically similar to Peter's 'see what we can do' definition.

However, usually these lenses do factor in IQ as a minimum of Important.
 

SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
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However, usually these lenses do factor in IQ as a minimum of Important.
Thanks for hearing me out, and sure, you're right. I guess the best way to put it might be: we want the image quality to be very good, for the given spec. If we have a 50mm f/0.7, it's not going to use bottle bottoms. It's going to be about the nicest 50mm f/0.7 we can come up with. On the other hand, of the EF halo models, the 50mm f/1.0 L was severely astigmatic and looked far worse than the 50/1.8 from 1.8 to 5.6 or so. So Canon's already built halo lenses with poor IQ. (Albeit, probably as good as they could with the design technology of 1988.) (And actually sold a bunch of that lens... and more to the point probably sold a lot of EOS systems to ex-Nikon guys because lenses like that were available.)

A "blank" for cost doesn't mean we're going to carve the things out of solid diamond and platinum.

A "blank" for durability doesn't mean that it will be held together with rubber bands.

I guess the squares I left blank look like "don't care" but I guess it'd be more accurate to say "very good but the way this category is traded off against other categories will be product-specific and there's no general rule."

And there's always an exception that proves the rule. Leica's APO-Summicron 50mm f/2.0 ASPH is a halo lens for its sharpness, and arguably the RF 50/1.2 is just about as sharp and halo-y, and clearly the 50/2's spec isn't mind-blowing and 50/1.2 isn't hugely mind-blowing either.
 

Bdbtoys

R5
CR Pro
Jul 16, 2020
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Thanks for hearing me out, and sure, you're right. I guess the best way to put it might be: we want the image quality to be very good, for the given spec. If we have a 50mm f/0.7, it's not going to use bottle bottoms. It's going to be about the nicest 50mm f/0.7 we can come up with. On the other hand, of the EF halo models, the 50mm f/1.0 L was severely astigmatic and looked far worse than the 50/1.8 from 1.8 to 5.6 or so. So Canon's already built halo lenses with poor IQ. (Albeit, probably as good as they could with the design technology of 1988.) (And actually sold a bunch of that lens... and more to the point probably sold a lot of EOS systems to ex-Nikon guys because lenses like that were available.)

A "blank" for cost doesn't mean we're going to carve the things out of solid diamond and platinum.

A "blank" for durability doesn't mean that it will be held together with rubber bands.

I guess the squares I left blank look like "don't care" but I guess it'd be more accurate to say "very good but the way this category is traded off against other categories will be product-specific and there's no general rule."

And there's always an exception that proves the rule. Leica's APO-Summicron 50mm f/2.0 ASPH is a halo lens for its sharpness, and arguably the RF 50/1.2 is just about as sharp and halo-y, and clearly the 50/2's spec isn't mind-blowing and 50/1.2 isn't hugely mind-blowing either.

Don't get me wrong... I think your chart is pretty great (and your points). I guess when thinking RF and Halo my mind went right to the 28-70/2 (or the 1.2 primes)... which checks all the boxes (but that one could also be easily classed as pro in your chart). In my opinion, the RF high end line really follows a 'look at what we can do lenses' cost and weight be damned... while at the same time sharing the Pro's needs.
 
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SwissFrank

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Dec 9, 2018
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Don't get me wrong... I think your chart is pretty great (and your points). I guess when thinking RF and Halo my mind went right to the 28-70/2 (or the 1.2 primes)... which checks all the boxes (but that one could also be easily classed as pro in your chart). In my opinion, the RF high end line really follows a 'look at what we can do lenses' cost and weight be damned... while at the same time sharing the Pro's needs.
They tried a grab bag:

1) 24-105/4 IS fit my "pro" category. A lens good enough for all reportage, as well as serious amateur usage.

2) 50/1.2 "halo" at the moment for sharpness and fairly high spec , but will move to "pro" if they release a yet crazier 50mm.

3) 28-70/2.0 "halo" for a spec so high it still looks like a typo! FWIW I can't imagine a pro using this, and typical amateurs can't afford it. It seems to be the epitome of "halo" product: 10/10 for "look what we can do, so go ahead and switch to Canon even though you'll never buy this!"

4) 35/1.8 IS is "amateur," with just enough spec (f/1.8) and features (macro, IS) that an amateur is intrigued

Now of course the categories might overlap a bit: RF 50/1.2 is halo... but would be the choice for pros at least until a small f/1.4 comes out. And groups of users won't be utterly disjoint. The 35/1.8 IS is surely used for some street photog, even though its not optimized for it (specifically, its macro and IS make it bigger than need be to give features a street photog wouldn't need). It could also be used by a pro even though its not the last word in sharpness and f/1.8 isn't going to take pictures with the allure of f/1.2. But even though it can be used by street or pro, it's OPTIMIZED for the amateur who is intrigued by getting a bunch of different nice features at a nice price.
 
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