Canon EIS 60 revealed? High end mirrorless camera with pixel fusion technology

*Diagram and logos for illustration purposes only*

Detailed information has just been leaked onto the internet regarding Canon’s mirrorless camera, which right now is posted all over internet forums in Asia. No idea how yet – may be a marketing leak, trying to find more.

Due for launch in the second quarter of 2011, Canon’s mirrorless is branded EIS. The first in the series – EIS 60 – is a high end mirrorless camera, not an entry level GF / NEX competitor. It will feature a 22 megapixel sensor. This is a brand new back illuminated design, 18mm x 12mm in size (approximately Micro 4/3rds sized*).

EIS stands for Electronic Image System, as opposed to the famous Canon EOS moniker which is Electronic Optical System.

Canon are developing new EIS lenses, at least two of which will be available at launch – these are the 12-75mm F2.8-4 IS Macro and 70-300mm F3.5-5.6 IS, which retract into a much smaller barrel than EOS lenses.

The camera also has a feature that windows the centre part of the sensor. This will be great for c-mounts. In this sensor windowing mode, the camera’s continuous shooting rate increases to a whopping 20fps and resolution drops to 5.5 megapixel whilst offering a tighter crop of the image – great for sports shooters.

In addition to sensor windowing, the EIS 60 has a new Canon technology we’ve not seen before. I am dubbing it Pixel Fusion for now since the leaked information doesn’t assign a name to it.

Video is sampled using ‘9 pixel fusion’ according to our source. Instead of scaling the image by binning pixels, 9 pixels are merged together to form just 1.

Visualise this as multiple square matrixes of 3×3 pixels on the full 22MP sensor, merge each block together to form 1 and you have a 1920×1080 frame but using all the data on the sensor. This is an absolutely mega idea, because it means that each pixel in video mode is effectively produced from 9. That will increase dynamic range and reduce noise. What a great way to scale the 22MP sensor.

The pixel merging technology is hardware supported on the sensor and new DIGIC according to the source, and is also used to produce higher ISOs in stills mode. The EIS 60 has ISO 100-6400 with an extended range of to 12800, 25600 in 5.5 megapixel pixel fusion mode.

Canon have further lenses in development, not all will be available at launch. However it pleases me immensely to see all those fast primes – something Panasonic just did not deliver on with the Micro 4/3rds line-up. To quote our source via Google Translate, starting from wide-angle to telephoto, here is the full list from R&D:

• 5mm F4 Fisheye
• 8-25mm F4 wide-angle zoom
• 14mm F2 pancake – which our translation of the source’s dialect hilariously termed ‘biscuit head!!’
• 25mm F1.2 pancake
• 45mm F1.5 standard biscuit head(!)
• 65mm F2.0 Macro (1:1, 2:1 is equivalent to full-size)

Canon will of course launch an EF – EIS adapter. EF lenses will auto-focus on the mirrorless body and aperture can be selected (which is electronic on EF and EFS lenses). This is not something you can do on other systems right now – of course Canon have built the electronic contacts into the ring, as only they can. The lens communication protocols are their IP and the only other company to license them so far have been RED. The camera will be compatible with most EF lenses out of the box. The source does not mention whether OIS will function on EF lenses – I expect it will be powered and operational just fine.

The EIS 60 has dual SDXC memory card slots and can capture stills whilst recording video via the main shutter button. It has a dedicated video record button alongside it.

If this leak is genuine, it sounds like the be all and end all of mirrorless cameras in 2011.

It is great to see this ‘future’ form of DSLR breaking out of the rut it has found itself in during 2010 with the glut of lower end step ups from compacts, like the GF and NEX series all pandering to the lower end of the market.

Mirrorless cameras have to continue to push the concept of what an interchangeable lens camera is forward into the all-digital future, unlike the lower end models we’ve seen. The GF1 and NEX 5 only place an emphasis on size and ease of use relative to DSLRS.

It is clear that Canon are not following suit and will make a highly advanced mirrorless system with a fantastic video mode.

* Standard Micro 4/3rds is 17.3 mm × 13.0 mm. Canon’s is 18mm x 12mm because it is in 3:2 aspect ratio not 4:3. The GH1’s non-standard M4/3rds sensor is multi-aspect, supporting 16:9 and is slightly larger than both.

Update: Here is a roughly translated version of the link given to me by my forum member. It is not the original source, that is here