Fujfilm’s been at it for more than a decade. Nikon’s done it, while Sony can’t. And if there’s one camera giant left who could also create a mirrorless reimagining of a classic analog camera, it’s Canon, and I think a modern day AE-1 (above), or similar, would fly off the shelves.
In 2021, Nikon honored its then 40-year-old Nikon FM2 SLR camera with the Nikon Z fc – a crop-sensor, retro fusion that caught the imagination of Nikon fans and more. Finally, there was a decent alternative to Fujifilm, which had dominated the retro digital camera space for many years prior with modern classics like the Fujifilm X100V and X-T30 II.
And with the full-frame Nikon Zf rumored to hit the shelves soon, it really feels time for Canon to fill that retro void in its burgeoning EOS R mirrorless camera lineup by creating an altogether different offering.
Rumors at this stage are mere murmurings rather than solid, but there are a few analog beauties for Canon to adapt into a modern mirrorless classic, so let’s get carried away for a moment and think what it could be.
Analog heritage with today’s tech
The site Canon Rumors recently wondered if Canon has plans to release a retro styled EOS R camera in the future, citing an interview where a Canon representative neither confirmed nor quashed hopes of a retro mirrorless EOS R body. Hardly hot news, even if Canon used the very same language precluding the actual launch of crop-sensor RF-mount cameras. But, like many Canon fans, we have been imagining what a potential retro-style EOS R mirrorless would be.
Canon’s best known 35mm film SLR is the Canon AE-1, selling almost six-million units across the 1970’s and 80’s. It has the classic black faux leather body and silver top plate SLR-look from that era that we’ve seen recently in the likes of the Z fc and X-T30 II. Canon wouldn’t have to stray to far to pay homage to the Canon FTb or Canon EF instead – the latter recently celebrated 50-years.
Or might we see a left-field ‘Canonet’ rangefinder, instead? That would put a potential retro-snapper more in Leica territory, and is much less likely than a classic SLR-style body like the AE-1, given Canon’s current EOS R mirrorless camera range has largely kept that SLR form factor.
What’s the perfect marriage?
After camera design, naturally we’re left asking what EOS R mirrorless camera tech a future retro-style snapper will likely utilize? Will it be full-frame or crop-sensor?
A camera based on old ergonomics – namely without a pronounced handgrip – is a better pairing with small lenses for disciplines like reportage photography, and is more likely to be an inexpensive midrange model. The 24MP full-frame EOS R8 could be a reasonable expectation.
We’re unlikely to see top-end tech in a retro Canon body – it won’t be a serious sports and wildlife machine for gargantuan lenses, like the EOS R3. No, it’s unlikely to need the same degree of performance, and will be pitched more for the love of photography and a tactile everyday shooting experience.
A new, old-school snapper would also demand new retro-style lenses. Nikon did it with the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 SE (though we need more options), and most of Fujifilm’s X-lenses feature an aperture control ring that hark back to the good ol’ days. Canon’s recent R-mount lenses hardly scream retro, after all.
Nomenclature could get confusing; what would a retro EOS R body be called? Nikon added an ‘f’, meaning fusion as in of old and new. Perhaps a Canon EOS RE?
We may not see new tech in a retro-style body, but it will potentially breath new life into what can feel like a very capable but otherwise functional EOS R camera range, and reintroduce a little bit of fun. I’d be all for that.