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RUMOR: Canon will produce a VR180 lens

Canon files patent for VR180 lens
Canon files patent for VR180 lens

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.

Canon's VR180 lens design
Canon’s VR180 lens design

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.

Canon's lens produces a dual fisheye image
Canon’s lens produces a dual fisheye image

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.

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.

About the author

Mic Ty

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  • This is interesting news! It was easy to find some info in early October. Thank you for verifying! Now which tool manufacturer will offer the best practicality as well as performance? It is greatly appreciated having 360 Rumors stay on top of this issue and answers to the questions. Thanks.

    • Thanks Ranaldo! I’m really curious to see what Canon is planning when they chose to produce this as opposed to, for example, a 360 camera.

  • (re-posting comment without link to avoid spm-filter?)

    It’s actually an old patent CanonNews, CanonRumors and other Canon rumors sites reported the patent a year ago.

    The news is that a “RF 5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye” categorised in VR lenses and some accessory has emerged on some recent Canon product lists. So a release of such a lens is probably happening very soon.

      • Stig is quite right. I saw this patent months ago and discussed it on some 3D forums. The design seems to be for Canon’s RF range of lower-cost full-frame cameras. I didn’t bring it up to you simply because, as you say, a patent is no more than that. There is no telling whether they will ever make it into an actual product.

        What’s interesting at the moment is that VR (as in “VR headsets”) has been making tremendous progress in the last two years in terms of increased resolution and compactness. Therefore 3D 180 VR cameras are once again becoming viable as a means to create content for those headsets.

        Personally, way back when I first saw this patent, I thought if ever Canon actually manufactured this lens, it would motivate me to purchase a Canon full-frame camera to go with it ! It’s a great solution because when you are not shooting 3D 180, you can still use the camera body with regular lenses.

        I very much hope they move ahead with it and… that you will test it for us !!! 😉

        • Thanks Francois. Nokishita is usually quite reliable so if they think it’s on Canon’s product list then it seems likely that it will be produced, which is great news.
          As for whether I can test it, tbh it’s unlikely because I don’t have an RF mount body and also because the lens is probably too expensive for me. haha

    • Ha Ha ! Michael… ever so cautious !

      Of course I agree with you. However, take a look at the follow-up 3D patent drawings. These are clearly showing a product that is ready to manufacture – not just a concept.

      If you haven’t seen the 3D drawings yet, just google “RF 5.2mm 2.8 Dual Fisheye lens” and check out the Petapixel article on same. It is starting to look pretty real !

      But of course, let’s wait and see !”

  • What canon cameras have the resolution to support VR180? 6k by 3k won’t really cut the mustard at this point. There is an emerging need for for more VR180 solutions at various price levels. I think an easy solution is for camera companies to make more proper box style cine cameras with proper syncing and genlocking. Some good 200degree plus fisheye optics out in the wild at various price levels. Hopefully the mass VR adoption which is taking place around us will get these camera to meet a slowly emerging market.

  • Thanks for the reporting! I hope they release this lens soon. I also hope the Oculus/Facebook Connect VR event later this month has some VR 180 camera or lens announcements too!