Canon Introduces 180° Stereoscopic Lens to Support a “bright future for VR content creation”

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Canon, one of the world’s leading camera makers, today introduced a new dual-optic lens which captures 180° stereoscopic views through a single sensor on the company’s high-end EOS R5 camera.

Canon today announced what it calls the EOS VR System which includes its new dual-optic camera lens, new firmware for its EOS R5 camera to support immersive capture, and new software for handling post-processing.

The new RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens is interesting because it captures both views onto the single image sensor in the Canon EOS R5 camera. Although this divides the resolution (because both views are captured in the same frame), it also stands to simplify the process of capturing 180° imagery because both views will necessarily have matching time sync, alignment, color, calibration, and focus.

Image courtesy Canon

If any of these factors aren’t matched they can have a negative impact on the vieweing experience because it’s uncomfortable for the eyes to reconcile the discrepancies between each view. Capturing this way also means that the output is a single file for both eyes, which can streamline post-production compared to cameras which capture each eye’s view in a separate file (or many views which need to be stitched together).

Image courtesy Canon

The lens has an aperture of f/2.8 to f/16 and can be focused as close as 8-inches. The distance between the lenses is fixed at 60mm to be close to the typical human IPD. The company plans to update its Canon Connect and EOS Utility programs to offer a remote live-view through the lens for monitoring and shooting at a distance. Canon says the lens will be available in late December and priced at $2,000.

Around that time the company will also release two pieces of subscription-based software, an EOS VR Utility and EOS VR plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro.

The EOS VR Utility will be able to convert the captured files from dual-fisheye to an equirectangular projection (which is supported by most immersive video players), as well as make “quick edits” and choose the resolution and file format before exporting.

The EOS VR plug-in for Premiere Pro will enable equirectangular conversion right inside of Premiere and allow the footage to be easily managed within other Adobe Creative Cloud apps.

The company has yet to announce pricing for either utility.

Image courtesy Canon

Canon calls the new lens “an important milestone in our company’s rich history as a lens manufacturer,” and says it “welcomes a bright future for VR content creation.”

“This new RF lens produces a stunning 8K virtual reality image and sets itself apart through its simplified workflow. Our goal is to make immersive storytelling more accessible for all,” says Tatsuro “Tony” Kano, EVP and GM of Canon Imaging Technologies & Communications Group.

Live-action immersive video was thought by many to be the next-generation of filmmaking to in the early days of modern VR, but it hasn’t seen nearly as much traction as pre-rendered CGI or real-time rendered content. Complicated immersive camera systems surely didn’t help, and to that end, Canon hopes its new lens and software tools can make a difference.

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However, most live-action immersive video also lacks volumetric capture, which means the view can rotate (3DOF) but can’t also move through 3D space (6DOF), which tends to be less comfortable and immersive than VR content which can. Several companies have been working toward volumetric live-action capture, but several key players—like Lytro and NextVR—ultimately didn’t survive and were sold off before finding a market fit.

Whether or not simplified capture and production pipelines are enough to reboot 3DOF live-action immersive content remains to be seen.

In addition to its new lens, Canon has also experimented with XR headsets, most recently the MREAL S1 which it showed off earlier this year.

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  • Scientism

    photographic/video VR content requires a lightfield capturing sphere of a decent size.

    • kontis

      Computational photography to the rescue. There is already a lot of impressive research synthesizing volumetric results from single view or stereo view capture.

      Smartphones are gonna do it all by faking it with AI just like they do fake bokeh and other tricks. We don’t need expensive complex spheres, because we don’t need scientifically correct results. It’s all about plausible illusion and AI is good at hallucinating images.

      Companies with complex, expensive and superior optics and sensors will struggle to compete with silicon valley “cheap” toys because they won’t have access to the latest algorithms.

      • Scientism

        Hard disagree. Fakery/synthesis is something inauthentic, wouldn’t be good enough for professionally made content, wouldn’t seat well with both creators and discerning consumers. At least I sincerely hope so. Even in the worst case scenario there would still be a market for the real deal. Light field capture and compression also requires the latest algorithms, and AI could be used for noise reduction/sharpness.

        • Patrick Hogenboom

          Authentic lightfield capture is great, but it’s not easy or affordable, otherwise Lytro wouldn’t have gone out of business.
          Check out this research on view synthesis in combination with AI, it is getting amazing results. https://nex-mpi.github.io
          We’ll need these kind of techniques to tackle a huge problem like lightfield capture and authoring. They will make it attainable way sooner than just hard-core capture.

    • HindsiteGenius

      This is for creating content for the popular VR180 video format currently used by VR filmmakers. No lightfield is needed for that specific format.

  • kontis

    In the promotional video Canon showed using Apple Pro Res codec for the video rendered for an HMD.

    Hmmmm… ;)

  • No. The future of VR wasn’t 360 video back in 2016 and it’s not the future now. This is the old way of doing things: You shoot for a 2D screen, people sit in a seat to view it, popcorn is eaten, ect.

    There are no seats in VR. No 2D screen. No popcorn. The user directs the shot, not a director. Media is interactive. There is no real screen direction, no framing the shot. The user’s view is their HEAD, not a camera.

    360 video has it’s place for events, at fixed locations, which should NOT move. A handheld camera like this just doesn’t make sense for VR. It makes more sense for 3D movies. I can see the use-case there.

    • Thud

      180. And there are many good uses for this. Vacation footage, Real Estate, Sports. You shouldn’t present you opinion as uncontrovertible fact.

      • silvaring

        But it’s not true 180 is it? Meaning you don’t get a full image across 180 degrees.

        • HindsiteGenius

          The FOV is 190 degrees each eye. So it is true stereoscopic VR 180.

    • HindsiteGenius

      VR content creators currently need solutions like this. We have been clamoring for it for a while now. Content is already being made and consumed using the specific VR180 format but the workflow is cumbersome with dual camera setups requiring expensive dual genlocked cinema cameras or dedicated cameras like the K2pro, alongside cumbersome stitching in post. This is a compelling product for those specific people. I and many others will buy this unless another company comes up with something better. Canon are smart to recognize this specific niche. If the raw footage cuts the mustard they will sell a bunch of these. Oh, and pretty much any VR porn creator that doesn’t have a K2pro will now buy this instead.

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  • xyzs

    A bit expensive but amazing for creating the best video content for VR: stereoscopic videos, that are way too rare.

    I never really liked 360 videos with no stereoscopy, it just makes you feel like a fly inside a dome. Seeing a product that’s not aimed a these 360 videos but true stereo is good to see.

  • oomph2

    This is great
    180 deg VR is the real thing because most of info is this portion.
    Actually rest of 180 deg is useless info most of time.
    With this lens one can expect great videos

  • Adil H

    $2000 just for lenses!!
    180° dual cameras in front of a standalone headset for filming and tracking, I think it is a good adea.

    • shadow9d9

      THat actually isn’t too bad when it comes to cost of lenses.

  • Amazing piece of hardware, I think all content creators would love it!

  • Foreign Devil

    Hope this leads to there being more high quality VR 180 footage out there. 360 footage is overated. . . I don’t want to be swiveling around in a swivel chair the whole time trying to figure out where the point of interest is. Also 360 VR gets a huge quality hit wasting bandwith on unseen areas.

    • VRFriend

      …and is 2D most of the time. 3D 360 would make some sense.

  • fredzvt

    I couldn’t find any link to download and watch examples of what it can be done with it. Does anyone know any?

  • As a hobbyist who uses an Insta360 EVO this is way out of my price range. It’s still nice to see new high-end VR180 video gear!

  • VRFriend

    Good initiative, buy Canon EOS R5 body costs 4500 EUR. This attachment should work with all models, including DSLRs for 500 EUR.

  • VRFriend

    The problem also is this canon EOS R5 records 8k at 29 fps. Should be 8k 60 fps.