NEWS

New horizons: meet the groundbreaking virtual reality lens

Creating high-quality and immersive three-dimensional 180° VR content is easier than ever with the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens.
A Canon EOS R5 camera with a Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens positioned on a mossy surface next to fallen autumn leaves.

The L-series Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens is part of a pioneering new virtual reality system that aims to simplify the whole stereoscopic 180° VR content creation process. "Canon's EOS VR SYSTEM will enable more people to create more content in less time and with less effort, while delivering professional levels of quality in a simplified and robust workflow," explains Mark Fensome, Product Specialist at Canon Europe.

Fancy a hyper-real walk through the ice caves of Iceland? Want to watch a concert and feel as though you are really there? Virtual reality can provide that immersive three-dimensional experience. Yet for content creators, professional stereoscopic 180° VR can be an intimidating industry to enter, filled with complex camera rigs and painful post-production processes. That was, until now.

"I'm really excited about how simple Canon has made it to capture 180° VR content, opening up the doors for so many individuals and companies to create more," says Mark Fensome, Product Specialist at Canon Europe. "The Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens simplifies everything from capture to post-production. It takes the fear and complexity out of VR content, which means more people are going to be able to create it."
A CAD drawing showing beams of light being projected through the two lenses of the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye and onto the single full-frame sensor behind.

The Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens is two fisheye lenses in one. The centres of the two front lens elements are fixed approximately 60mm apart – the average distance between the centre of a human's pupils – to provide a natural stereoscopic viewing experience.

Canon's EOS VR Utility software.

Canon's EOS VR Utility software simplifies what was once a complex process of alignment, synchronisation and stitching.

With the three-dimensional stereoscopic action focused to a 180° field of view where viewers can look up, down, left and right through a compatible headset or viewing device, the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens creates an incredibly immersive experience, especially when compared to monoscopic two-dimensional alternatives. The field of view is also perfect for a wide range of applications, including education, documentary, travel, retail and entertainment.

So how does this lens work? As its name suggests, the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye projects stereoscopic left and right eye images onto a single image sensor. Attached in the same way as any regular lens to a compatible RF mount camera, the lens makes use of the camera's 8K video capture capability to create a single high-quality, high resolution stereoscopic 180° VR image file, which is easy to capture and process using Canon's EOS VR Utility1 software. The Canon EOS R5 is the ideal partner for the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye, thanks to Canon's latest firmware update, which adds VR functionality and compatibility.
A technician wearing white gloves cleans the sensor of a Canon camera.

Do you own Canon kit?

Register your kit to access free expert advice, equipment servicing, inspirational events and exclusive special offers with Canon Professional Services.
The innovative technology has numerous advantages over existing alternatives across the entire 180° VR image-making process, from ease of use to image quality and workflow. We spoke to Mark Fensome and product engineers from Canon Inc. to find out more.

Hear more experiences from behind the lens in this episode of Canon's Shutter Stories podcast:
A man filming a martial arts practitioner with a Canon EOS R5 and a Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens fixed to a boom arm mounted on a tripod.

Canon engineers recommend mounting the lens to a tripod on an extending boom arm in front of the tripod legs and positioning it at head height, as director Mary Matheson and DoP Richard Stegmann did on a shoot with Muay Thai champion Grandmaster Sken. To gain the best depth perception effect, subjects should be placed between 0.5m and 2m from the lens – the further away, the lesser the effect.

A man filming two martial arts practitioners in a ring with a Canon EOS R5 and a Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens. A woman behind him is viewing the footage on a laptop.

It is also possible to control and view the camera recording remotely via Canon's EOS Utility or Camera Connect apps, including the dual fisheye or equirectangular live previews.

The back of a Canon EOS R5 camera showing the dual fisheye view generated by the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens.

"Canon's RF mount system enables this amazing compact dual fisheye lens to be created using an innovative 'folding' optics design, whilst maintaining high image quality, which is something that wasn't possible before," explains Mark.

Ease of use: the versatile 180° VR option

"Until now, the shooting method to realise 180° VR has generally been to use a dedicated camera compatible with 180° VR or to build a dedicated rig using multiple cameras," says the Canon Optical team. "The Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens is a totally new and unique concept."

Photographers who use a compatible camera such as the Canon EOS R52 can simply add the compact lens to their kitbag and swap it in and out like any other lens, switching from shooting portraits to VR in an instant without the need for a dedicated VR camera. This also means they can offer clients 180° VR content within the same shoot as their standard images.

Canon's more versatile option is also much simpler, enabled by the RF mount system. "Setup is as simple as attaching the RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens to the camera and selecting your shooting parameters, with no specialist rigs, synchronisation of settings/image parameter or alignment needed," says Mark. Eliminating those otherwise time-consuming daily realities frees up VR creators to do what they want to do – create.

The effective angle of view of the dual fisheye lens is approximately 190°, meaning the camera operator can stand behind the camera and view the scene yet remain out of shot while recording. The same is also true for any on-set kit behind the camera, such as lighting. Composing, lighting and creating the shot is inherently easier and much more flexible than it is for 360° VR where everything in sight is in shot.

And while there is still a case for 360° VR, it is easier to keep the viewer locked into the action with 180° VR – where it is still possible to look up down, left and right via a compatible headset or viewing device – than it is for 360° VR, where turning around can mean missing the action happening in the other direction.

Image quality: L-series quality in an entirely new lens concept

Like all Canon RF mount L-series lenses, the RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens boasts sharp detail with excellent edge-to-edge quality. This is all the more challenging in a fisheye lens where the circular image is converted to an equirectangular projection.

"It is critical to ensure a very high edge-to-edge performance to enable a high-quality conversion to an equirectangular projection, as it is the edges of the frame that are remapped to a more extreme level," explain Canon Inc.'s product engineers.

"By adopting a lens configuration that is optimal for short back focus and optical path blurring, and by effectively arranging two UD lenses in the final lens group, high image quality is achieved on the entire screen while achieving an angle of view of 190°."
High defined image quality is not all down to the lens and RF mount, though, as the potential for high quality VR also comes down to 8K video capability. VR creators can naturally rely on native Canon gamma profiles, Canon Log and Canon Log 3 for increased dynamic range performance and heightened flexibility in post, all compatible with full-frame RF-mount cameras such as the Canon EOS R52. Furthermore, the dual fisheye lens utilises the high resolution of the 45MP CMOS sensor within the EOS R5 for a highly detailed and realistic final image. The left and right eye lenses each project a circular fisheye image, side-by-side onto the EOS R5's 8K sensor. The light rays entering each lens are converged onto the single full-frame image sensor using two right-angle prisms, "a clever and compact 'folding' configuration enabled by the RF mount system's large mount aperture and short back focusing," explains Mark.
A mountain biker performs a mid-air stunt against the sun. The image is shot from below and framed by red poppies and grasses on the hillside.

Filming 8K and oversampled 4K on the Canon EOS R5

Martin Bissig and Ivan D'Antonio explore how the Canon EOS R5's 8K capabilities expand creative options.
A computer screen showing the two circular images taken by the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye side by side.

Here we can see the two circular fisheye images in EOS VR Utility, Canon's VR control and conversion software. A checkbox allows you to toggle between this view and the equirectangular projection.

A man looking at a computer screen showing the two images from the lens within an editing program.

Alternatively, files can be imported automatically via Canon's EOS VR Plugin for Adobe Premiere Pro, where there is greater control over the grade and edit, plus the ability to add music and audio.

Workflow: Canon EOS VR SYSTEM

With the left and right eye images now simultaneously recorded onto the same image file, there are many benefits to the VR production workflow. The two images are aligned perfectly and at an identical time from the start, so there's no need for labour-intensive image alignment or to time-synchronise the recordings as you would have to with multi-sensor alternatives.

"Editors of stereoscopic VR will love the efficient one-step conversion of the original camera files to an equirectangular projection – there's no more pairing, syncing or stitching of files, saving huge amounts of time and effort in post-production," says Mark.

There's no risk of human error either, such as exposure settings not being matched on all cameras in a multi-cam setup. Working with multiple cameras introduces other complications, too. "In a system that captures the left and right images with different sensors, there will be colour and brightness differences between the left and right images due to individual differences in sensor characteristics, which will require correction in post-production," explain Canon Inc.'s product engineers. "By using a single sensor, it is not necessary to consider individual differences between sensors."

Essentially, the EOS VR SYSTEM – a compatible camera, the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens, EOS VR Utility and the EOS VR Plugin for Adobe Premiere Pro – simplifies the entire 180° VR image creation process.

Looking ahead: will the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens shake up the VR industry?

"The lens is good value when you consider the system and what it can do and who it's really aimed at – professional VR creators," says Mark. "I hope it makes their lives a lot easier, so they can be excited about creating content rather than worrying about how to create it."

Bringing together such a high-quality 180° VR three-dimensional image into a competitively priced and easy-to-use package opens up a seemingly technically daunting industry to a much wider audience of content creators. We've seen the drone market open up to more and more creators, so could this new lens have the same impact on the growing VR industry?



1EOS VR Utility and the EOS VR Plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro are required to perform the equirectangular switch of recorded 180° VR images from a compatible Canon camera. A paid-for subscription service may be required to convert video files longer than two minutes in length.

2Firmware update required in order for the Canon EOS R5 to support the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L Dual Fisheye lens.

*Adobe and Premiere are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe in the United States and/or other countries.

Σύνταξη Tim Coleman


Related Articles

  • A technician on a step-ladder adjusts one of a large number of lights and camera arrays positioned in a circle around a flat scissor lift.

    ARTICLE

    3D photogrammetry: turning photos into 3D models

    Find out how arrays of Canon EOS cameras are being used to create lifelike 3D models for video games, movies, manufacturing and art.

  • ARTICLE

    Creative colour: how Canon Log enhances filmmaking

    Cinematographer Ivan D'Antonio describes how he uses Canon Log to get the best from his cameras, refine his footage and realise his personal vision.

  • 12 Canon EOS R System FAQs answered

    ARTICLE

    12 Canon EOS R System FAQs answered

    Is full-frame mirrorless right for you? Canon's Mike Burnhill answers 10 frequently asked questions about EOS R, EOS RP and RF lenses.

  • Martin Bissig in the mountains, wearing a coat and woolly hat, holding a Canon EOS R5 camera.

    ARTICLE

    The EOS R6, EOS R5 and EOS-1D X Mark III updated

    A firmware update unlocks new features in Canon's top cameras. Richard Walch, Martin Bissig and Eddie Keogh put them through their paces.

  • Get the newsletter

    Click here to get inspiring stories and exciting news from Canon Europe Pro