Going mirrorless has been the name of the game for most camera manufacturers these days with brands like Sony adopting it early and being a strong advocate for mirrorless tech and the features it boasts.
Arguably, going mirrorless is probably the way to go for cameras, due to the wide range of conditions it can shoot in, for photographers and filmmakers alike.
Canon though, has arrived a bit late at the mirrorless party, but hopes to create some waves by finally debuting its first mirrorless, full-frame camera. Canon veterans now have the opportunity to upgrade to the new tech. But should they? We have taken the aid of professionals to find out.
Design and Build: Very DSLR like
Canon has stayed true to its traditional design, not emulating the other mirrorless designs that embrace compactness. Anyone coming from a Canon DSLR like the popular 5D series, will manage to figure things out pretty easily as most buttons and settings are exactly where you would expect them to be.
There are a couple of minor differences though. For example, the on/off switch has been replaced with an on/off dial. The joystick used for navigation has been scrapped as the touch screen makes it redundant, and the Shooting mode dial is now a button/dial combo. The EOS R also includes a touch sensitive panel next to the viewfinder that the user can assign various functions to. The M-Fn touch bar can be configured to adjust ISO, white balance, focus, shift to movie mode and others to name a few.
Apart from those few minor changes, the EOS R looks and feels quintessentially Canon. It is not as chunky as their professional DSLRs, but resembles the 70D quite closely especially with the swivel display.
The various input/output ports are all along the left hand side and the single memory card slot (yes we were surprised as well) finds its way along the right hand side.
There is probably no better way of describing the build quality except “top-notch” with the buttons providing good feedback and dials being precise and satisfying to use.
Overall the camera with the 24-105 lens that we tested, feels well balanced. Absolutely ideal then for hand held video shooting.
Features: Plenty, but are they usable?
The EOS R brings a ton of new features to the table. But there are also a few glaring omissions that may deter professionals from buying the EOS R.
One of the features we found most usable was the track pad-esque functionality of the display. Confused? Let me explain. While using the viewfinder to take pictures, the display can turn into a makeshift trackpad where you can use to move the focus points within the viewfinder. This is extremely quick compared to using a joy stick or arrow buttons.. The best part of this feature is that left handed people can get access to some of the settings as most physical dials and adjustments are on the right.
Another feature that we could definitely get used to on other cameras was the Command Ring that can be found on all the new RF lenses. This Command Ring essentially allows the user to adjust any of the camera functions that adjust exposure, like ISO, Shutter Speed or Aperture. It is extremely handy when particular settings need to be changed quickly like shooting sporting events with the Command Ring set to Shutter Speed.
Surprisingly Canon has retained the tiny monochrome display on the top of the camera which probably makes the EOS R the only mirrorless camera that has that.
We also liked the M-Fn touch bar and the customisation options it brings, It is a great concept in theory, but implementation saw it being placed in a pretty unfortunate spot. It is right where your right thumb rests and it can be pretty irritating to find the camera has some settings changed while you were showing off your handiwork. There is of course a way to get rid of accidental touches but activating that just slows you down and makes the whole concept useless.
The lack of two features surprised us the most though with the EOS R. Firstly there is no way to shift from video to photo mode or vice versa without going through the mode menu. It is surprising because Canon has always had that physical switch to shift between stills and videos quickly on its more professional cameras. And secondly, why Canon decided to go with a single memory card slot rather than a dual one, considering most professionals almost always write to two memory cards while shooting events.
Image & Video Quality: Quintessentially Canon
If you are familiar with Canon you probably know that it is renowned for its no-nonsense, true-to- life picture quality and amazingly accurate skin tones. Happily, that aspect is inherited by the EOS R and it’s not surprising, considering it has the same sensor as the 5D mark 4, albeit an updated one. So in terms of quality, it performs in an almost identical fashion to the 5D series. There is tremendous amount of detail with great colour contrast and dynamic range.
Like the 5D Mk 4 the EOR R features Dual Pixel Autofocus which is blazing quick and comes with a whopping 5655 focus points. What makes focusing a real joy though is the touch- sensitive display that’s quick, precise and absolutely lag free. Just tapping on an object or person within the frame results in quick focusing and the camera will keep the subject in focus even when the distance changes. It does a fantastic job on slow moving subjects but, it does end up fumbling slightly when it has to focus on fast moving objects. So photographing or filming weddings are a go go for the EOS R but you might be better off with something else if you are into sports.
While shooting fast moving objects, the EOS R suffers again, as the maximum continuous shooting mode only goes up to 8 frames a second which is a bit slower than the average mirrorless camera.
If you happen to shoot much in situations void of light, the EOS R will serve you well. It boasts an ISO range of 100-40,000 and even at its maximum, shots are quite usable. We wouldn't be surprised if it was an EOS R that finally solved the mystery that is a black hole.
Professional photographers might be deterred by the fact that the EOS R does not feature in body stabilisation. But we did not face any problems with that particular aspect as the 24-105 lens that came with it did offer stabilisation.
4K film makers would love the performance of the EOS R, if it did not have the abysmal 1.7x crop factor. Granted, that won’t matter much in most cases like shooting weddings where the subjects tend to be close to each other, but expanse of sceneries or interior design videos will definitely be problematic. We are sure filmmakers can find ways to work around it but the competition is not handicapped by this crop, or at least don't crop out as much as the EOS R in 4K.
Canon EOS R verdict: Getting competitive
The Canon EOS R falls in a kind of no man's land where the amateurs and photography enthusiasts may feel like a it’s a worthy upgrade to their existing kit, but the pricing is a bit out of reach for all but the most deep pocketed of individuals. On the other hand, professionals would love it too, but the lack of a couple of features makes it tough for them to justify the investment, namely the lack of dual memory card slots, the 1.7x crop factor in 4K and the lower than average 8fps continuous shooting speed.
However, it is great to see Canon taking a step in the right direction. The EOS R is a massive step forward for Canon, being the first full-frame mirrorless camera from the brand and debuts the new RF lens mount. We hope to see the number of natively compatible lenses for EOS R to increase over time, but in the meantime, buyers can use their existing EF lenses with an adapter, which incidentally was a great move from Canon.
Overall the EOS R would make a great investment for amateurs who can afford it and professionals who do not need the features it lacks. But we hope to see those creases in the EOS R’s repertoire to be smoothed out in its next iteration. But as it stands, the competition better watch out because Canon is gearing up for a tough battle.