Canon RF 5.2mm 2.8L Dual Fisheye is the world’s first VR180 lens for a single full frame sensor. Here’s an 8K VR180 sample video, a primer on VR180, why it’s important, and what this lens could mean for the 360 and VR market.
Canon RF 5.2mm sample video (8K VR180)
Here is a sample VR180 video:
There are several ways to view the VR180 video stereoscopically:
- Oculus Quest, Quest 2, or other VR headset such as Playstation VR or Valve Index: use the YouTube app in your VR headset and look for this video. You can try searching for “canon front row.”
- With a Google Cardboard viewer: use your smartphone’s YouTube app (not browser). When the video loads, tap on the Google Cardboard icon and insert your phone in your Google Cardboard viewer.
What is VR180; difference from 360 video
You’re probably familiar with 360 videos that let you look up, down, left, right or even behind you. When you look at a 360 photo or video in a VR headset, it surrounds your view. However, most 360 photos and videos look flat, like like wallpaper or a movie projected on the inside of a sphere.
Fortunately, there are stereoscopic 3D 360 photos and videos. Not only can you look around you, but what you see will have appear to have depth. They are like 3D movies and 3D photos but you can look anywhere around you.
The problem with 3D 360 is that it’s difficult to stitch smoothly and arguably even more difficult for storytelling. Viewers can see anywhere around them and many complain of feeling confused about where to look. The creator has to use techniques to carefully guide the viewer and direct their attention.
Is there a way to get a view that is more immersive like 3D 360 but without its disadvantages? That’s the reason Google created the VR180 format in 2017. VR180 is essentially a 3D 180 format. The video fills the audience’s field of view, and at the same time, the video is stereoscopic and has the illusion of depth. Unlike a 3D 360 video, however, the photo or video is only in the front hemisphere of the audience’s view. They can’t see anything behind them. You can think of it like a 3D IMAX or stereoids, or similar to the view in some theme park rides such as Disney California Adventure’s Soaring Around the World.
Yet another advantage of VR180 is that it is more convenient to watch without a VR headset. With the action happening in front of the camera, a viewer who pulls up the video on their smartphone doesn’t have to swipe their screen to look for the right direction, which can be tedious. They can simply watch it like any other non-360 video.
Because of these advantages, I believe that VR180 is the most practical format for creating and viewing immersive videos.
Introducing Canon RF 5.2mm 2.8L
Until now, all VR180 cameras and rigs have used two lenses and two sensors. The photos and videos must have the same settings and must be synchronized.
Canon RF 5.2mm 2.8L is the world’s first VR180 lens that is designed for a single full frame sensor. This means that creators don’t have to worry about using the same settings or synchronizing the audio or video.
Canon Dual Fisheye Lens Specifications
|f/2.8 to f/16 (electronic adjustment)
|RF mount, compatible only with EOS R5
|Field of view
|Minimum focus distance
|7.9 inches / 0.2 meters
|Each lens has 12 elements in 10 groups
|Each lens has two UD glass elements
|8192 x 4096, 30fps (with EOS R5)
|2600mbps in Raw video
(with EOS R5)
|Up to 20 mins.
|$1999, available December 2021
Here is a short product video:
The Dual Fisheye lens works only with the EOS R5 8K mirrorless camera. Canon has software that will convert the dual fisheye photos or videos into side-by-side equirectangular VR180 format. The software will be available on the desktop as a standalone app, or as a plugin for Premiere. Each software will cost $5 per month. Alternatively, third party software and plugins can also convert a dual fisheye video into a VR180 format.
Here is a more detailed look at the Canon Dual Fisheye lens.
What does this mean for the 360 and VR market?
Until now, the future of VR180 had been murky because Google abandoned the format. They had entered into partnerships with camera manufacturers and even trained influencers to create VR180 videos. Other camera manufacturers also created VR180 cameras, such as the Kandao Qoocam, Insta360 EVO, and Vuze XR.
But in 2019, Google ceased their VR180 efforts and with the exception of the Lenovo Mirage, most of the VR180 cameras their partners planned to make never made it to production. Meanwhile, the Qoocam, EVO, and Vuze XR continued to sell but after they were sold out, they were discontinued.
Although VR180 consumer cameras all but disappeared, professional 360 shooters continued to create VR180 content, which were published on apps such as Oculus TV, primarily using DSLR or mirrorless rigs.
Apparently, Canon believes that the VR180 market still has potential. Last year, they patented a VR180 lens and to everyone’s surprise, they went on to release it.
The Dual Fisheye lens is $1995, and works only for the EOS R5, which is $3899 without a lens. At this price, the cost is comparable to that of the Z Cam K2 Pro ($6000), which uses two Micro Four Thirds sensors to capture 6K VR180.
What about consumers?
The price of the Dual Fisheye lens and R5 body limits the market to professionals. How about for consumers? Canon may be testing the market and if there are signs of increasing demand, they could easily create a VR180 camera for consumers, now that they have the software for it.
I believe the fact that Canon has now entered the 360 and VR market is also itself significant. Do they have other cameras planned? With the exception of the Nikon Keymission 360, none of the largest camera manufacturers had ventured into 360 or VR. But perhaps Canon saw that the interchangeable lens market and compact camera market are shrinking, while the 360 camera market is doing better, or even thriving. Perhaps they might produce a 360 camera as well.
Meanwhile, going back to VR180, there are also 360 camera manufacturers that can produce a new VR180 consumer camera. At CES 2019, Insta360 announced a VR180 lens called the 3D Mod for their modular Insta360 One R camera. I even got to see a prototype of it. It’s been more than 2 years since that announcement, and the 3D Mod still hasn’t been released. The Insta360 website still says “Coming soon.”
The issue is not in the difficulty of producing such a camera. If anything, it is simpler to create a VR180 camera than a 360 camera. The only issue is whether there is sufficient demand for it. Perhaps Insta360 will see the same potential for VR180 that Canon saw in announcing this lens. If you’re interested in a VR180 camera or VR180 lens, post a comment below and let Canon, Insta360, Kandao and other camera manufacturers know we want it.