No more dedicated virtual reality rigs. Forget stitching. With Canon’s new interchangeable dual fisheye lens, you’ll have no excuse not to enter the XR space.
Last week, Canon announced its first deep dive into virtual reality production—the RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens, which is the world’s first digital interchangeable lens capable of enabling stereoscopic 3D 180° VR shooting to a single image sensor.
Until now, you had to be pretty excited about VR to put up with what it took to shoot it. Rigging multiple cameras or shelling out for a stereoscopic VR rig from a company you’ve never heard of with a lack of professional video settings, followed by post hampered by stitching and syncing issues, have dominated the medium.
Canon has taken the liberty of engineering pretty much all of that headache out of VR production. How? Let's take a 180-degree look.
How does the RF5.2mm Dual Fisheye lens work?
To shoot any stereoscopic VR footage, you need to mimic how human eyeballs see—namely, how we’ve got a right and left lens (eye) with a specific interpupillary distance in between. Until now, to shoot that at the highest quality, you had to rig together two cameras with two right and left fisheye lenses, and with the help of software, stitch that footage together in post.
How could you eliminate the headaches of shooting a 3D stereoscopic image? Make a lens that’s really two left and right lenses that get captured by a single sensor and delivered as a single 8K file.
Enter the Canon RF5.2mm.
The RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens basically puts two lenses together, with an interpupillary distance of 60mm and a parallax as close to the human eye as you can get with a headset. And thanks to a simple firmware update, the Canon EOS R5 will be able to control everything about them, and 8K stereoscopic 3D 180-degree footage is sent to the R5 image sensor.
Canon has not been a big player in the VR world. But Canon sure as hell knows optics. The RF5.2mm has been engineered with a bunch of features that makes cinematic stereoscopic VR easier than it’s even been.
For starters, the Canon RF5.2mm is L-series glass with f/2.8 to f/16 on an interchangeable RF mount. It has a rear filter holder for ND gel. It comes with subwavelength coating for flare control in backlit conditions, so you aren’t limited to shooting at high noon.
Canon engineers have ensured MTF performance to correct many of the aberrations common in fisheye lenses. For help with composition, the Canon R5 will show you Magic Windows for the resting position of a viewer in a headset. It has focus aides like MF Focus Peaking and Background versus Front Focus settings.
And finally, the lens is the length of a pencil and small enough to fit in your palm, so you can stuff it in your camera kit with everything else.
If you need to control the camera remotely (e.g. to make sure you’re not in the fisheye frames) both Canon’s free Camera Connect app and the upcoming Canon's EOS Utility will be updated to offer live view functionality.
Lens specs at a glance:
- Aperture range of f/2.8 to f/16 with a 7-blade aperture and simultaneous electromagnetic diaphragm for both left and right lenses.
- Magic Windows that show the operator the location of headset resting position
- Close-focusing distance of 7.87-inches/0.2m possible, with a max magnification of 0.03x
- Focus aides like peaking and BG versus Front Focus
- Larger field of view (190 degrees) than any other Canon lenses
- Built-in rear Gelatin Filter Holder—allows ND gel filters
- Fluorine Coating on the front lens elements, with a dust- and water-resistant design
- Compact size
Post-production workflow with Canon App or Canon Premiere Pro Plug-In
To make the F5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens work so seamlessly, Canon is rolling out two new pieces of software to streamline post-production. Both will be paid subscription-based software solutions, and will be Canon's first VR software solutions.
Canon’s EOS VR Utility will offer the ability to convert clips from dual fisheye image to equirectangular and make quick edits, and export in a chosen resolution and file format.
Uses for and users of the lens
If you’re a VR creator, this will be a gamechanger for shooting high-quality VR content. But if you’ve never shot VR before because it was too complicated to delve into, now is your chance.
Video journalist? Imagine setting up a tripod for 180-degree capture of a historic event. Location scouting? Paired with the Dual Fisheye, the whole team can share.
BTS? Shooting a sports game? Video campaign for a non-profit? Virtual tour for a real estate company? Wedding? Imagine adding a virtual wedding ceremony upload to YouTube as part of your wedding videography package.
All you need for any of this is to add a lens to your Canon EOS R5 kit.
There are still a few questions for shooters to ponder. Will the lens ever work with any other Canon bodies? So far, it’s just the R5. What will Canon’s EOS VR Utility be like to use, and how will the Premiere Pro plug-in work? Will they be worth the extra subscription price? We’ll have to see!
Want to try it out?
Canon is estimating the lens will cost about $1,999.00 and will start shipping in late December. Canon’s EOS VR Utility App and Plugin will roll out about the same time.