Canon filed a patent for a VR180 lens a year ago and there are rumors that they will actually release this lens. Here are the details. UPDATE: the lens has been announced. Here is a sample video.
Canon may finally be entering the 360 or VR market with a VR180 lens.
VR180 is a format for immersive photos or videos that captures stereoscopic hemispherical photos and videos. With a VR headset, viewers can not only look around the image, but they can also perceive depth, which in my opinion makes it much more immersive than 2D 360 photos and videos. On the other hand, unlike 2D 360 or 3D 360, the viewer can only see in front of him — with nothing visible behind him. While this is a disadvantage for immersion, it also makes it easier to tell a story. Viewers don’t have to wonder if they are looking in the right direction.
Until now, all VR180 cameras and rigs have used two fisheye lenses and two sensors. For DSLR or mirrorless rigs, this requires frame-accurate synchronization and identical settings. The resulting files must also be paired before being combined into a single file.
Canon has a simpler solution. They have filed a patent for a lens designed to produce a dual fisheye VR180 image, which can simplify the VR180 capture and editing workflow. Here is the patent, first found by Canon News.
The lens is for a full frame sensor and has a focal length of 5.6mm, with an aperture of f/2.8. Each of its two lenses uses two prisms to direct the image on the sensor using a folded optical path. Each lens appears to have 13 elements to reduce aberrations. The lens is a bit asymmetrical and offset to the left, with a slightly longer optical path for the left lens to ensure that the right lens will not block the grip, while the lenses still have a sufficiently wide interpupillary distance to create a realistic parallax effect. The patent does not specify whether it is for Canon’s EF mount or its mirrorless RF mount.
By using a single lens to produce both images on the same sensor, synchronizing the videos is a non-issue, and the images will always have the same settings. On the other hand, the design uses only about half of the full frame sensor, therefore the image has a lower resolution than a circular fisheye on the same sensor.
Will Canon produce it?
The fact that Canon has filed this patent does not necessarily mean they will actually produce it. Companies sometimes file patents for designs that they have no intention of producing. However, Nokishita, a Japanese camera rumor site has claimed that Canon will produce an RF 5.2mm 2.8 Dual Fisheye lens.
キヤノン「RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye」の商品カテゴリーはVRレンズになるらしい。#噂
— 軒下デジカメ情報局 (@nokishita_c) October 1, 2021
Nokishita has been quite reliable in the past so it appears that this lens may be produced after all. If Canon does produce this lens, I expect that it could be quite expensive because of the complex design.