Canon Primes lenses for release
Zoom zoom zoom... Primes are dead! Well, that's what someone said about film, but if the niche producers like Voightlander, Leica and some others are an indication... film will never die.. it will just be used by fewer, more dedicated people..
So primes will live on in various guises... As medium format digital starts catching up and regaining its market that was taken away by Canon's awesome 1D series cameras, then the only way for the 35mm frame digital to keep up will be to make better sensors.. and better lenses. Zooms are a compromise of usability and image quality... the more usable a lens is, the larger the compromise in image quality, as both are competing features..
I think Canon understands that the digital age is changing lens requirements because of the flexibility and at the same time limitations of digital imaging chips. Higher resolution and better quality images are sure to be the byproducts of advances in this arena, so lenses will have to keep up. Technically you can obtain the best image quality from a fixed focal lens, as there are no compromises to make to accomodate different focal lengths' specific requirements.. Therefore Primes will live..
Now, from the theoretical to the practical.. Which ones?
Well, as I said before, the retirement of the 50f1 and 200 f1.8 leave some gaps in the L segment of lenses. A 50f1.2 makes sense as it will be marketed at a more accessible price than the roughly $2500 necessary for the 50f1. The 85f1.2 is excriciatingly slow to focus.. a f1.4 version (only half a stop slower) can be marketed at a lower price, will be faster, and will most assuredly become a favourite among portrait photographers.
Next up is the 135 f2 which just needs a few technology updates (77mm filter, rubber seal on mount, closer focusing) and better coating on rear element. The 200 f1.8 is problematic.. probably a very expensive lens that few bought.. It would only make sense with IS, and maybe it's too difficult to make a f1.8 lens with IS? That is my speculation.
Other lenses due for a "cosmetic" update are the other venerable "L"'s, such as the 14mm 2.8, 24mm F1.4 and the 35mm f1.4, again with rubber lens mount and perhaps a more standard thread size for filters (77mm being the norm with Canon lenses). Other than that don't expect major surprises on the shorter focal lengths. Things like IS will be absent from this group of lenses (except maybe the 135f2) because of the increased number of lens elements necessary to make IS work, which in the confines of short lenses with large apertures might be difficult, if not impossible to achieve. My conjecture, so I may be wrong. I am no optical engineer either, so it's all gut feeling.
On telephoto lenses Canon has much to do to improve the DO technology to make it mainstream and applicable to longer focal lenghts such as 500mm and 600mm. There seems to be tremendous resistance by pros to readily embrace this technology and is described by some as a "doctor's" lens, I.E. as a rich enthusiast's lens. It is currently more expensive and offers lower image quality (though only slightly) than similar speced lenses. Obviously it is a highly versitile and practical lens on many fronts, so Canon has a lot to do to change the perception of their main market for expensive telephoto lenses. Only if they can solve the contrast issues of DO lenses though. Surely though weight and length reductions for these long lenses will appeal to many, making them hand-holdable (almost!) and able to be carried on-board aircraft more easily. The Japanese have a pencheant for miniturisation.. so they will definately want to shave kg's and cm's off these large lenses. If only they would do that to their 1D series cameras!
Unfortunately it'll be in the area of Zooms that we'll see the most innovation taking place. That's the end of my take on the primes situation. Anyone with a better crystal ball or more info please chip in with your contribution!