Times are indeed strange and the response to the current global pandemic has been one of enforced #socialdistancing for virtually everyone. To help with maintaining your distance a new firmware for your EOS camera is available today.

Canon firmware with ESP

Derived from early prototype testing of social distancing tools, Canon realised that their initial idea dubbed CanoStick 200 would not be viable or easy to deliver. Initial attempts to automatically remove the stick from photos were inconsistent, furthermore portrait subjects said that shoots felt more like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Rare archive shot of CanoStick 200 prototype


Undeterred Canon engineers realised that far better solutions were possible if they just thought logically and leveraged capability already in the cameras. All EOS cameras control the focus motor in the lens. Amongst the fabulous hardworking software team, the idea of a poke in the eye with a sharp stick struck some chord. They’ve used the abbreviation ESP for the functionality that supports the #socialdistancing requirement and named it the Electronic Stick Protocol.

The new firmware will be available for all EOS digital cameras regardless of the existing firmware version.

Firmware 1.4.20 brings ESP to every digital EOS camera ensuring appropriate #socialdistancing

- C.Inc AF-san

With the new firmware installed, as soon as the camera time and date is the 1st of April the ESP capability is switched on, and will last until around midday.

I was delighted to be invited to join the beta test group of this version 1.4.20 firmware in my EOS R. I can report that it works fine with a range of lenses, both EF and RF models. I was instructed to set the time and date forward to 1/4/20 to see ESP in operation.

This picture was taken on an EOS R with an EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens. Thanks to the 1.4.20 firmware it was impossible to be closer than 2 meters. Canon ESP clearly working well to ensure the minimum distance is assured.

Download firmware 1.4.20 with ESP


The firmware does not depend on the subject, in my test with the local birds I couldn’t get the lens closer than 2 metres.

ESP undocumented side effects

Like any emergency response, the focus is on solving the primary problem, and I’m told that testing time was limited. I can report that the only unexpected effect I found was the inability of my camera to take any photos at all, when I fitted the TS-E 90mm f/2.8 tilt-shift lens. I’m awaiting confirmation, but my hypothesis is that as a manual focus lens, the ESP firmware cannot limit where I turn the focus ring, so instead it’s made it impossible to take photos. Perhaps someone can test if they set the lens to manual focus will it allow ESP to be overridden? In my years of delivering workshops I’ve found many people who didn’t know what the MF switch on their lens was for so maybe it’s not a problem at all.

Firmware 1.4.20 ESP not required for some lenses

portrait with EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM #socialdistancing
Some current lenses don’t need the functionality of the new firmware, as they already have #socialdistancing built-in at the manufacturing stage. The portrait above is an example, as it was taken with the EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM. Current lenses with Integrated Social Distancing** include…

  • EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM
  • EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM
  • EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM
  • EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM
  • EF 400mm f/5.6L USM
  • EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM
  • EF 300mm f/2.8L IS III USM
  • EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x

** Integrated Social Distancing = minimum focus distance greater than 2 meters.

Please stay at home, keep smiling and maintain your #socialdistancing for the good of everyone.


About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag