Equipment

Review of the Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera

Canon has, at least in recent years, been a bit boring with their product announcements. Whereas Sigma is developing incredible lenses pushing what we once thought was once impossible, and Sony is adding focus points by the hundreds with each new announcement, Canon has just sort of coasted along, adding minor adjustments and tweaks with each new DSLR and lens announcement. As a result, Canon more than anyone else was mocked when news leaked of an upcoming mirrorless system. Their first entries into the mirrorless world with the Canon M series of cameras and lenses were far from impressive, and never really got much attention from both consumers and Canon itself. So with the new Canon EOS R, has Canon finally brought a fighter into a market already saturated with Sony and Fujifilm? Yeah, I think so.

Features

 

The Canon EOS R is equipped with a 30-megapixel Dual Pixel full frame sensor, a DIGIC 8 processor allowing for 8fps shooting speeds, and an incredible 5,655 individual AF focus points. While 5,655 feels like an unlimited number of focus points, the reality is that it only covers 88% of the display and sensor plane on a horizontal axis (and ~100% vertically) – but you’re really splitting hairs if you call that a notch on the negative side – it’s still the best in class and a huge upgrade from the Canon of 5-6 years ago with only 60 or so.

Additionally, the Canon EOS R has a fully articulating LCD, as well as a 3.69M dot OLED viewfinder. On the video side, Canon offers UHD 4K video at 30p, and admittingly a disappointing 1.83x crop on the 35mm sensor. It does, however, support 120fps shooting at 720p, and has the familiar Canon color profiles that color grade easily and nicely in video. To round out the remainder of the touted features is the single UHS-II SD card slot, a bit of a disappointment for those wary of losing data.

Testing the Autofocus with an energetic squirrel.
Shot using the Canon EOS R. Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L at f/1.8 | 1/400s | ISO 200

However, the Canon EOS R also comes with a series of features that were buried in the announcement pieces. Perhaps the biggest advantage is the USB Type-C port, which allows for both charging the camera while in use, and for tethering (though limited to USB 3.1 Gen 1 speeds (roughly 300MB/sec)). Charging via USB type-C makes this a viable camera for those working eCommerce studios and not wanting to swap out batteries every few hundred shots, and the faster transfer speeds are much welcomed to those who tether. One hopes the possibility of recording to a USB Type-C hard drives and thumb drives will be added as a feature through a firmware update, but we’ll see.

My favorite feature though comes with the Canon EOS R‘s sensor dust prevention measures. Mirrorless cameras are far more prone to sensor dust, as there is no mirror box obstructing the sensor. Canon makes a preventative effort to this problem, by having the shutter close when turning off the camera – preventing dust from entering your camera when switching out lenses. One can’t help but think this thing brilliant feature will be seen on all Sony’s in the coming year.

Build Quality and Size

I won’t touch too much on build quality, because the higher-ups here at Lensrentals.com haven’t yet approved my 3ft/5ft/10ft/50ft drop test idea, and notably didn’t like the idea of having a 10 unit variance test like those found on Rogers MTF tests. However, one with more insight on the build quality would be Roger, as he recently took a Canon EOS R apart to see what was inside. One thing I can talk about though is size.

To put it bluntly, the Canon EOS R system, and the Canon EOS R platform isn’t designed with space saving in mind. While I’ve touched about the illusion of moving to mirrorless to save camera bag space before, it really needs to be addressed with the Canon EOS R. The Canon EOS R isn’t particularly small for a camera system. While it does feel good in your hand, especially compared to other mirrorless systems (Fujifilm, in particular, have no interest in making a camera feel comfortable in your hands), the Canon EOS R won’t feel too much different than your latest DSLR. For visualization, the Canon EOS R is nearly a full centimeter wider and another centimeter thicker than the Sony a7rIII. When accounting for the hand grip, the EOS R is 11% thicker than even the Canon 5d Mark IV. (though I recommend checking out camerasize.com to get a full comparison of the two.)

The biggest size constraints don’t really come from the body though, but rather, the lenses being developed for the system. Calling the Canon R series of lenses big would be an understatement. While at PhotoPlus Expo this year, I sat down with Canon to ask about the size changes in the lenses, and they merely said they weren’t interested in making their lenses smaller if it was going to sacrifice image quality. A noble reply, but let’s find some examples of what I’m talking about when I discuss size issues.

Canon EOS R Size Comparison

While Canon promises the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L will outperform the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L in sharpness and focus accuracy, the size comparison shows precisely what I’m addressing. The Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L is enormous. Even with the RF to EF mounting adapter, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L looks significantly smaller by comparison, and that’s just the start of it. Once you start looking at the other lenses announced for the R platform, you start to see the size differences. While not yet released, I was able to get a sneak peek at the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L, and was immediately shocked by the size of the lens. By taking the image of the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L above, you’re able to get an idea of how large the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L will be using the image below. In short, the RF 28-70mm f/2L looks closer in size to a Canon 200mm f/2L than it does to a practical, well-rounded zoom lens.

 

Using the Canon EOS R

For those who are used to the Canon systems, transitioning to the Canon EOS R is a pretty painless one. The menu system makes sense, and the use of the touch bar system is a decent alternative to the joystick typically found on their line of DSLRs. My biggest gripe with the Sony mirrorless systems has always been their convoluted menu system – it seems to have no user functionality of sense in it at all. Whereas the ‘My Menu’ tool within the Canon systems is generally unused, it’s a necessity when using Sony’s platform. Canon’s menu system is almost a straight rip from their previous DSLR systems; so if you’re a Canon user, you’ll find the transition to the EOS R an easy one.

 

Whereas I was a skeptic on the 5,600+ autofocus points when the camera was first announced, I must say that I’m quite impressed with the camera’s autofocus system – even though I was often accidentally switching the focus points by using the touchscreen. When testing it around New York, I found that walking subjects were no match for the tracking system, and was incredibly accurate during my brief testing – even at f/1.2. Additionally, I didn’t encounter any problems with focusing in low light conditions, and while I didn’t have a DSLR with me to compare, I have a suspicion that the Canon EOS R might be able to topple the Canon 5d Mark IV on low light autofocus.  And the autofocus system boasts some new specs as well. Most notably, the Canon EOS R is the only camera with the ability to autofocus at f/11 on all focus points while using an extender. For those who are not wildlife and sports photographers, Canon’s autofocus used to be extremely limited on cameras after f/5.6 while using extenders such as a Canon EF Extender 2x III. This change, while useless for many, will be a significant improvement to those who need it.

Canon EOS R Review

Shot using the Canon EOS R
EF 50mm f/1.2L at f/3.5 | 1/1000s | ISO 200

Canon EOS R Review

Shot using the EOS R + 85L f/1.2 at f/1.4 1/2500th ISO100
Photo by Duke Pham | Used with Permission

However, there is its short list of shortfalls as well. One can’t help but wonder why Canon didn’t implement some kind of In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) like that found on virtually every other mirrorless system. While Canon has made it clear that they believe the future remains within image stabilization within the lenses, IBIS is cheaper and works just as well. With the size of the camera, it’s apparent that they could have possibility build an IBIS system into the Canon EOS R, and leaving it out is a disappointment. Secondly, the no blackout shooting system within the Canon EOS R is more frustrating than useful. If you’ve used the Sony a9, you may have fallen in love with the no blackout shooting, where you’re able to shoot continuously without your viewfinder ever being obstructed. Sony’s solution was to just make a black box indication system to let you know you’ve taken a photo. Canon’s solution – briefly freezing the image within the OLED viewfinder, obstructing your shooting in the process. While this can (and hopefully, will) be fixed with a firmware update, one hopes it comes sooner rather than later.

 

What I Liked

  • Extremely Comfortable Mirrorless System to Hold and Use
  • Great Low Light Focusing
  • 5,655 Focus Points, for Super Accurate Focusing
  • USB Type-C for Charging and Tethering
  • Affordable Camera System at $2,300

What Could Be Improved

  • No In-Body Image Stabilization
  • Cropped Sensor 4K and other Limited Video Options.
  • Very Large System Size; Especially for Mirrorless

Conclusion

Canon seems to have learned from their mistakes from the EOS M mirrorless platform from a few years ago and has finally made a mirrorless system with professionals in mind. As long as you’re not expecting to save camera bag space by transitioning to mirrorless, the Canon EOS R looks to be an incredibly capable camera system for only $2,300. And of course, if you want to try before you buy, the Canon EOS R is available for rentals for as low as ~$10 a day.

Author: Zach Sutton

I’m Zach and I’m the editor and a frequent writer here at Lensrentals.com. I’m also an editorial and portrait photographer in Los Angeles, CA, and offer educational workshops on photography and lighting all over North America.

Posted in Equipment
  • dsut4393

    Let me fix that for you:
    “Canon should make a supercompact 24-70/4 as well as show-off behemoth 28-105/2.”

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Thank you, Zach, for the detailed answer.
    The thrust of my argument is this: I understand that you don’t want to bore readers with very long reviews, but if the goal is to be early, well, it’s not working. Competing sites have had very in-depth content up for weeks, and even if they’re not complete reviews, they have lots more information than can be found here.
    I think that LR’s blog would benefit from an alternative approach, one that doesn’t compete directly with the established review sites. I understand that the gear available to you changes wildly, and you can’t count on it being there for a given day and shoot, so it may pay off to be opportunistic and produce shorter articles highlighting a given combination of gear. LensRentals’ greatest strength is their access to a selection of gear beyond the reach of almost all reviewers, in my view, and you should exploit that.

  • Brandon Dube

    If size and weight were most important, the market wouldn’t be trending towards bigger and higher optical quality. The players involved do their homework before investing many millions in a new product.

  • Gordon Lewis

    I for one feel your review told me all I really needed to know about the EOS R, and more words would not have added a cent more value. My impression is the EOS R may be the perfect camera for someone, but it’s almost certainly not me.

  • Hopefully it will be.
    But when I think of something in the ~28-70mm zoom lengths, I think of event photographers, wedding photographers, and the type of people who will have their camera slung around their neck for an entire day. Size and weight matter most for those people, and I’m worried that Canon missed the mark when it came to making this system.

  • Hey Athanasius,

    I appreciate your comment. We’re in a pretty consistent state of trying to churn out reviews of new gear as quickly as possible, while providing insight that no one else can offer. Examples of that are that with Roger’s teardown of this camera (the only one on the web) (https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2018/10/teardown-of-the-canon-eos-r-mirrorless-camera/) while also having a practical review of the camera (this article) faster than most other sources online. While it’s viable to test this camera with ever Canon lens in the lineup, it’s neither efficient or practical. In order to do that, we’d have a review out 8 months after everyone has already bought, rented, or used the camera in some capacity.

    Additionally, this review sits at roughly ~1700 words. That’s sort of our max length to achieve a decent reading base. Once an article goes beyond 1800 words, we lose a lot of our reader base due to disinterest. Our goal is to have a maximum outreach with a focus on accuracy, importance, and brevity – while maintaining cost effectiveness and a priority to our customers. For this article for example, I was able to get a one week rental of the camera and adapter, while in New York. Anything longer would have delayed other customer rentals, and any additional gear would have delayed the review considerably. We have to find middle grounds that are both practical and informative – it is free content after all. Hopefully, as time goes on, stock goes up, and the hype dies down, we’re able to do more of these crazy tests that you’ve suggested. But the camera did only come out six weeks ago.

    Hope that clears some of this up.

  • Stanislaw Zolczynski

    Canon should make a supercompact 24-70/4 instead of show-off behemoth 28-105/2

  • “Canon’s solution – briefly freezing the image within the OLED viewfinder, obstructing your shooting in the process” I don’t think that’s a solution 😉 It’s just slow processing speed. The EOS R is a beginners FF camera unlike the A9 which is sports-oriented. Nevertheless it’s worth the asking price, mostly thanks to the updated DPAF, brilliant EVF and the well developed Canon ecosystem. The lack of IBIS is a somewhat bummer indeed… A lot of wide angle lenses would benefit from it. Hope they will add it to the “rumored” high res R.

  • It works very nice with the 200/2, 300/2.8 II and 600/4 II. As good as the 1dx2. I don’t have the 400/2.8, but I guess it will be the same. The only difference is when you’re doing AF from 0 to infinity – the 1dx2 wins and I guess it’s because of the higher battery voltage. The AF works when the 1dx2 can’t catch anything at all… No problem AF @ 1/3s ISO 12800 with the 100mm/2.8 macro and the AF assist lamp is off. I don’t have many 3rd party lenses, but it works amazingly well with the Sigmas 85 and 105 Art.
    The 4k video is NOT as sharp as the 1dx2, because of the lower subsampling (I think). Getting the Ninja V on Wed, hopefully it will improve the situation by going 4:2:2. Overall it’s a great camera. It’s just “not cool” to say that 😉

    Here is a sample from the 200/2. Unfortunately disqus doesn’t allow to upload in full res…

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/562c3284749aeb486651157178c39ea297ff54ef8199eeedec811072faba8021.jpg

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Umm, you really shouldn’t call this a review. It’s barely a “first impressions”, and it doesn’t cover anything of interest (for me).
    What did you think about the M.Fn. bar? And about the new mode dial? Fv-mode? The touchscreen? Its customizability?
    Where are all the crazy lens tests? You are a part of LensRentals, after all, and in a prime position to try all the weird combinations that are off-limits to most of us. How does the EOS R perform with the TS-E lenses? With the MP-E 65mm? With a 400mm f/2.8? With the Sigma/Tamron 150-600mm?
    That is the kind of content that I’m looking for, and the kind of content that would set LensRentals’ blog further apart from the rest. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I personally found this milquetoast, pat-in-the-back article a complete disappointment.

  • zogzog

    Zach, I tried the 28-70L at a Canon showroom in Tokyo. At 1430g it is almost as heavy as the EF 100-400L2 on paper, but since its center of gravity is much closer to the grip, it feels much better balanced when handheld. I did not feel uncomfortable swinging it around with one hand for a few minutes, which is definitely not what I would say of my 100-400L2. I have a suspicion it will be very popular among your customers….

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