Canon EOS R: More than the specs

Introduction

To be honest, I’d never even contemplated about moving towards mirrorless. Mostly because I really enjoy using and have become so accustomed to the solid performance of Canon DSLRs. Currently in my kit I have both a Canon 5D Mark IV and a Canon 6D. Although it was nice to hear Canon were releasing a competitive full-frame mirrorless, I never actually thought I would want to buy it. But that would all soon change.

I gave the EOS R a solid test across a number of varied conditions during a recent trip to Japan. Over the two weeks I was shooting up to and over 8 hours a day, mostly with the EOS R and occasionally with my 5D IV as a backup. This was only on photo, so unfortunately I didn't get to give video a solid test.

Along with the EOS R I had the standard kit lens, RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and the RF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens. I also carried my usual 5D Mark IV and full stock of regular lenses. During the trip I rarely reached for my trusty 5D and quickly became used to the EOS R.

EOS R and kit RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

EOS R and kit RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Design and Ergonomics

Perhaps the thing I enjoyed most about this camera was the design and ergonomics, which came as a big surprise. Typically I love the feel and solidness to a big DSLR like the 5D IV. Not only do I really like the look of the EOS R, for me it actually feels wonderful in hand. This was true even when using longer lenses with the EF adapter.

When going back to the 5D IV for brief periods I was immediately searching for the wrong buttons after getting so used to the EOR R and its setup. Although I’m very used to Canon menus and settings I feel this camera would be very easy to navigate even for new users. It’s clear Canon have put quite a lot of thought into innervating this camera, including the design.

While testing the EOS R I spent a large majority of this time using the new RF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens. Although it’s quite bulky and heavy I actually loved the feel of using this camera and lens combo together. I wish I had it in my usual setup. Not to mention the amazing quality of this lens, which is perhaps enough alone to make me want to move to this system.

The EOS R - A real winner for me on both look and feel

The EOS R - A real winner for me on both look and feel

Image Quality

Supporting a 30MP full-frame sensor with Dual Pixel autofocus, which is almost identical to the 5D IV, its naturally very hard to spot the difference between the two in image performance. Both of which are great. Without a more in-depth analysis of the files I certainly couldn’t tell the difference when editing the files. Other than one obvious thing… The sharpness of the RF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens is just unreal! Even straight from the camera you can tell this is one of Canon’s best.

It’s worth noting that due to the performance of the RF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens it’s fair to say that the RF lenses may be sharper than EF lenses. This is certainly at least true for the 50mm. Again showing how serious Canon are about this line of camera.

Auto-Focus and Speed

The AF system is nothing short of excellent, both fast and accurate. This is another reason why I enjoyed using the EOS R so much, as well as a few options that the EOS supports for both AF and MF.

One feature not available on the 5D IV which performs really well is the auto-eye detect. The only downside to this is it cannot be used in SERVO mode. I still used it frequently on both portraits and street scenes. It's amazing how easy this makes photography, it almost feels like cheating.

Another feature is the ability to use focus peaking when shooting manual focus. Although this is a feature on most mirrorless cameras, for someone coming from a DSLR I have not used it before and I was surprised as a newbie just how easy it was to use on the EOS R. Even at an aperture of 1.2 it was extremely easy to use and maintain accurate focus.

Touch-and-Drag Auto Focus

I immediately loved the idea of this feature but wasn’t sure how practical it would be. If you aren’t unfamiliar with this, it allows you to slide your thumb on the touchscreen to select the focus point while still looking through the viewfinder. It did take a little bit of getting used to, however once I did I found it super useful. An awesome idea and super practical once you get the hang of it. This worked particularly well when shooting busy, fast moving street scenes, when needing to quickly select a focus point.

Control Ring & Customisation

Another innovative idea that is both incredibly practical and simple to use is the control ring. A ring at the front of the RF lenses which allows you to adjust aperture, shutter speed, ISO and even exposure compensation. There is also an EF adapter that has this same functionality so you take advantage of this feature using your EF lenses. This along with other customisable options means you can really streamline your settings and how you like to control them, something I definitely enjoyed when using this camera.

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Using the Adapter for EF Lenses

Other than obviously adding a bit of length to the lenses I couldn’t notice that the lenses weren’t native to the camera. They were fast and worked as well as they would on my 5D IV. I have a few Sigma and one Tamron EF lens which all worked as I would normally expect them to. This is huge for me knowing I can use all my existing lenses with both cameras without losing any speed or performance.

Flip Out Screen & Electronic Viewfinder

Another great addition to the EOS R is having a flip out screen and also an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Both features certainly improve the general workflow across this camera compared to the 5D IV. Again there is advantages to not having an EVF as the 5D IV has significantly better battery life because of this. Again this comes down to what is more important to you. This also really makes a difference if you use a gimbal or use the camera for vlogging.

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Video

Unfortunately I didn’t get to use the EOS R for a lot of video so I won’t go into much detail here. Similar to the 5D IV it supports a crop factor of around x1.7 when shooting in 4K, which is a downside for a lot of people. Personally, as I use the 5D IV this isn’t a problem for me. It is worth noting that the video quality looks amazing from the few tests I did have the time to do. All I can say is if you’re mostly a photographer who still likes to do a bit of video (like myself), this camera definitely gives you more than enough to work with in terms of video settings. I’d be very keen to give it more of test!

My Verdict

Simple answer, I want the EOS R in my kit.

It’s safe to say I was pleasantly surprised by this camera. The fact I never had a real desire to buy it prior to using it says a lot about its general functionally and how nice it is to use. Often when a new camera comes out we can get very caught up in the specs alone (which are no doubt important), but sometimes looking at the specs alone can’t tell you everything about a camera. You need to use it. A valuable lesson here even for myself. If you have the option always try a camera before you buy it. I think it’s even worth loaning out a camera first. Buying a camera can be a big investment and it's worth getting something that suits you and your workflow. And that you enjoy using!

It’s obvious Canon have put a lot of work into this camera and also the RF lenses. Certainly showing how serious they are about the mirrorless market, showing up with some really innovative features. Although there is still room for improvement, its performance was by far enough to make me to want to buy this camera. Here’s a summary of the things I liked and a summary comparing it to my current camera, the 5D Mark IV.

Summary:

  • Beautiful camera ergonomics and handling

  • Seamless easy to use menu and settings navigation

  • Extremely clear and detailed electronic viewfinder

  • Flip out and highly responsive touch screen

  • Much more compact body if you’re used to full-frame DSLRs

  • Fast and accurate AF performance, including auto eye-detect

  • Simple to use and highly effective focus peaking for manual focusing

  • Touch-and-drag AF, a great new feature that works well once you get the hang of it

  • Adapter for using EF-mount lenses worked well (even with non Canon lenses)

  • Extra control ring and other customisations make this camera fast and easy to setup for the perfect shot

  • Impressive RF lenses - blown away by the RF 50mm F1.2 L USM

So EOS R or 5D Mark IV?

Seeing the advantages in both, my ideal setup would definitely be having both the 5D Mark IV and EOS R together as a first and second body in my kit. It would be hard to rank which would ultimately be my first camera but if this trip was anything to go by I would likely be reaching the EOS R more frequently. That in mind I would definitely see different times I would prefer one over the other. But I love the fact I can use all my current lenses with both cameras.

If you’re deciding on which to buy, that ultimately comes down to what you shoot and the features that are important to you. Personally I would reach more frequently for the DSLR when shooting timelapse. It has better battery life as well as the in-built intervalometer. Having the two memory card slots I also think it’s preferable for event photography, especially weddings.

The advantage with the EOS R for me would be any conditions such as travel, where I plan on shooting long days and a lot of street photography, and genuinely just a whole mixture of stuff. I just really do like the handling, the AF functionality, focus peaking, the auto eye-detect and just some other really handy functions. Overall I just found it made shooting in some conditions easier.

5D Mark IV

  • Dual memory card slots

  • Longer battery life

  • Built in intervalometer

  • Solid / robust body

  • More typical Canon camera layout / adjustments

EOS R

  • Lighter / more compact body

  • Amazing image quality of RF 50mm f/1.2 lens

  • More customisation on both body and lenses 

  • Electronic viewfinder

  • Touch and drag AF

  • Eye detect AF

  • Focus peaking for MF


Sample Images

Canon EOS R with    RF 50mm f/1.2L USM     ISO 100 | f/1.2 | 1/6400 sec

Canon EOS R with RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

ISO 100 | f/1.2 | 1/6400 sec

Canon EOS R with    RF 50mm f/1.2L USM     ISO 50 | f/2.0 | 1/20 sec

Canon EOS R with RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

ISO 50 | f/2.0 | 1/20 sec

Canon EOS R with    RF 50mm f/1.2L USM     ISO 100 | f/1.2 | 1/640 sec

Canon EOS R with RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

ISO 100 | f/1.2 | 1/640 sec

Canon EOS R with    RF 50mm f/1.2L USM     ISO 100 | f/1.2 | 1/640 sec

Canon EOS R with RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

ISO 100 | f/1.2 | 1/640 sec

Canon EOS R with    RF 50mm f/1.2L USM     ISO 100 | f/1.2 | 1/320 sec

Canon EOS R with RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

ISO 100 | f/1.2 | 1/320 sec

Canon EOS R with    RF 50mm f/1.2L USM     ISO 100 | f/1.2 | 1/320 sec

Canon EOS R with RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

ISO 100 | f/1.2 | 1/320 sec

Canon EOS R with    RF 50mm f/1.2L USM     ISO 200 | f/1.2 | 1/1600 sec

Canon EOS R with RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

ISO 200 | f/1.2 | 1/1600 sec

Canon EOS R with Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens (EF Mount)    ISO 100 | f/1.8 | 1/800 sec

Canon EOS R with Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens (EF Mount)

ISO 100 | f/1.8 | 1/800 sec

Canon EOS R with Tamron SP 15-30mm F2.8 DI VC USD (EF MOUNT)    ISO 50 | f/22.0 | 0.3 sec

Canon EOS R with Tamron SP 15-30mm F2.8 DI VC USD (EF MOUNT)

ISO 50 | f/22.0 | 0.3 sec

Canon EOS R with    RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM     ISO 100 | f/4.0 | 1/1000sec

Canon EOS R with RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

ISO 100 | f/4.0 | 1/1000sec

Canon EOS R with    RF 50mm f/1.2L USM     ISO 50 | f/2.0 | 1/13 sec

Canon EOS R with RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

ISO 50 | f/2.0 | 1/13 sec

Canon EOS R with Tamron SP 15-30mm F2.8 DI VC USD (EF MOUNT)    ISO 100 | f/22.0 | 0.3 sec

Canon EOS R with Tamron SP 15-30mm F2.8 DI VC USD (EF MOUNT)

ISO 100 | f/22.0 | 0.3 sec

If you have any questions on the EOS R please do not hesitate to contact me. I’d be more than happy to discuss anything and my experience using this camera.

For now… Peace out,

Tk.