It may seem like VR (virtual reality) has been touted as the “next great thing” for the last decade or so, but the truth is it’s only been coming into its own recently thanks to the increasing availability of cost-effective VR production devices, better image quality and new ways that audiences can experience 3D VR content.
One innovative new product for VR content production is the Canon RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens, which filmmakers are using to create incredible video experiences that immerse the viewer in the scene. The new Canon lens is the world’s first digital interchangeable dual fisheye capable of shooting stereoscopic 3D 180° VR imagery to a single full-frame image sensor. As a result, storytellers can output a single stereoscopic video file at up to 8K resolution for a more streamlined VR workflow. Complex stitching and syncing are now a thing of the past with this technology from Canon.
Director Matthew Celia of Light Sail VR has made many immersive films with a variety of gear, but he calls the Canon RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens a “game changer” because of how easy and effective it is for 180° VR filmmaking. Celia used the lens to create the educational video featured here, “An Introduction to Stereoscopic 3D 180° VR,” which demonstrates why the Canon RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye should be on the wish list of any aspiring VR filmmaker—as well as creatives who will find innovative uses of this technology for their clients.
We talked with Celia about the video and his work with the RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye. In the video, Celia points out the advantage that 180° VR offers filmmakers versus 360° VR content. In creating traditional cinematic experiences, filmmakers have full control over what the viewer sees—and doesn’t see. With 360° VR video, the viewer has control over what they view in the scene regardless of where the camera is pointed by the operator. In this respect, 180° VR provides an optimal balance of shared control by both the filmmaker and viewer.
“There are really good uses for 360° VR,” Celia says. “When you want to transport someone into a place, for example, seeing it in 360° is beautiful, because you can look around the scene.” But for cinematic storytelling, Celia observes, “Most stories aren’t helped by having to look around. A lot of the things VR can be used for—experiences like virtually ‘hanging’ with celebrities or at a concert, you’re not looking behind you, you’re looking at the person you’re with.”
Celia points out another drawback of 360° VR for creative filmmaking: “You’re limited in where you can put things. Where do I put my crew, where do I put my lights when I’m shooting 360°?”
What about image quality? “It’s pixels per degree,” Celia says. “When we deliver a video file, the quality is so much better with 180°. There’s twice as many pixels on the screen so it’s crisper, sharper and more lifelike,” compared to 360°.
Celia likens the introduction of this new lens to when Canon released the groundbreaking EOS 5D Mark II in 2008, the full-frame DSLR that revolutionized HD video filmmaking. “I think the Dual Fisheye is the EOS 5D Mark II moment for VR,” he notes. “Canon may not always be the company that’s first to the game but, they’re the ones that take it to the next level. When they come out with something, they do it right. With the RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens, they’ve leap frogged everyone else.”
The RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens is part of Canon’s EOS VR system and when paired with EOS R5 camera and firmware 1.5.0 or higher and one of Canon’s VR software solutions, you can shoot mind-bending 3D that can be experienced when viewed with compatible head mount displays, such as the Meta Quest 2. These headsets let the viewer immerse themselves in the content by just moving their heads to take in a vivid, wide view.
While Celia’s film is best experienced in a VR headset for the full immersive 3D experience, you can also watch the same film on traditional 2D viewing devices like laptops, computer monitors and TVs by just hitting play and panning either with your mouse or by tapping the controls in the upper left corner of the YouTube video player. When viewing on smartphones or tablets, simply tilting the device allows one to look around the scene like a window into the VR world. This makes the video produced with Canon’s solution much more accessible to a wider audience that hasn’t yet adopted VR headsets, allowing creatives to produce future-ready viewing experiences without excluding viewers today using traditional devices and methods.
In the video, Celia guides the viewer through several scenes that showcase the 180-degree VR worldbuilding you can produce with the RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens. Shot on location in Topanga Canyon in California, the film includes a scene with a boxer that appears to be taking jabs towards the viewer’s face and an intimate concert inside an Airstream trailer with singer-songwriter Abby Posner.
His goal with the film was not only to show the technology and offer VR filmmaking tips but to inspire others to go out and create their own immersive stereoscopic 180-degree content. And because the RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens is relatively affordable for pro-level VR image quality at $1,999, easy to use and produces stunning visuals, Celia expects more photographers and video makers to start shooting VR.
“I love teaching and sharing my knowledge,” he says. “I wanted to inspire people to go out and make something immersive and to think immersive first—not just make a 2D film with an immersive element. I also wanted to produce something at the highest quality so people would say, ‘That does look amazing!’ We’re not in the action camera phase of VR anymore. We’re in the cinematic phase of VR and that’s what this Canon camera and lens combination lets us do.”
To learn about the RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens and Canon’s innovation in immersive filmmaking, visit Canon USA’s EOS VR System product showcase.
See more 3D 180° VR content created with the RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens at Canon USA’s YouTube playlist.
If you have a Meta VR headset, you can experience 3D 180° VR content created with the RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye at the Canon USA Oculus TV Creator Page.