This review for the EOS R might have came a little late, what with Canon's recent announcment of their new EOS RP, but we finally got our hands on it so better late than never is what I’d say. The EOS R is Canon’s premiere camera into the full frame mirrorless game, along with it are the new R mount and RF lenses. If you’ve been following this camera, you probably have heard less-than-savoury things about it, but are they warranted? If my title has anything to say, then that’s a ‘Yes. Maybe?’
There’s quite a number of things to love about the EOS R with the build quality and ergonomics being a great place to start with. Canon definitely was not concerned with making a smaller mirrorless camera for their first go at it. The texture of the rubber feels great too which resulted in a camera that is just amazing to have in your hand. Also, being a Canon full-frame camera, it’s built robustly and is weather-sealed. The most fragile thing on the EOS R is probably the top LCD screen.
The layout for the controls feels extremely familiar, especially as someone who actually uses Canon DSLRs. The ‘Mode’ dial, which usually is the thickest component on top of a DSLR, is now a ‘Mode’ button, and you switch between modes by pressing the button and scrolling the dial around it. Although switching between video and photo isn’t a flick of a finger anymore, it’s still kept quick and easy by pressing the ‘Mode’ button and then the ‘Info’ button. While the dials near the thumb and index finger remain generally the same, there’s a new Touch Bar control next to the viewfinder. You can customise this Touch Bar for different settings, e.g. focus modes or ISO sensitivity. But for the duration of me testing the EOS R, I didn’t find myself using it very much, mostly because I was more used to other methods for changing settings - I also didn’t find using the Touch Bar any easier for me while shooting. I decided to just disable the Touch Bar, but its usability will differ from user to user.
The EOS R has the standard ports that you’d expect - a headphone and microphone jack, a remote jack with USB-C and HDMI ports. Yes, it only has one UHS-II card slot, which some would hate and some are alright with - I’m in the “alright with” camp, but professionals that expect more clearly aren’t.
We definitely have to talk about the tilty flippy screen, which I love - well, two of my current cameras have it, so I guess I’m used to it. But as a person that does a healthy mixture of video and photos, the flippy screen does give me a degree of flexibility when shooting above or below my eye level, and I also monitor video recording when working in a smaller space by viewing the screen even at a perpendicular. It is also a touchscreen, which is in almost every recent mirrorless camera these days, but the feature I used heavily was using the touchscreen to move my focusing point while having it flat on the back and using the electronic viewfinder (EVF). It might take a few swipes sometimes, especially if you’re moving it from one edge to another, but it’s super convenient for me.
Speaking of focusing, the EOS R, of course, has Canon’s proprietary Dual Pixel Autofocus (DPAF) System, and because it is a mirrorless camera, it is deployed full-time - unlike the their DSLRs that only uses it during Live View mode and the phase detection system, while using the viewfinder. So, the DPAF resulted in really fast focusing speeds, and when combined with the wide focus area coverage, makes compositing for shots a lot easier than most DSLRs that have all of their focusing points in the centre of the sensor. Focusing is, again, definitely fast - there are several modes for you to choose from, from Single Point to Expanded Wide. There is also Eye Autofocus and Tracking, though this only works in Single Focus and not in Servo continuous focus which is slightly disappointing, but I hope they add that functionality with firmware updates like Nikon did.
Like I mentioned, I used the Single Point AF heavily for photos while testing the EOS R, simply because it’s my preferred focus mode, and moving the focusing point with the touchscreen made taking photos a breeze. For video, since we make online content, it’s pretty important to have the face in focus, which the face tracking definitely took care of. The tracking is smooth and face are pretty much always in focus.
Since, the EOS R comes with the new R Mount, Canon has and will release EF-RF adapters. Yes, adapters, three in fact - A standard one that just adapts the lenses, one with a Control Ring that is present in RF lenses as well, and lastly the yet-to-be released adapter with drop-in filters. The standard adapter that I tried out worked seamlessly with my 50mm f1.8 and 16-35mm f2.8 without me having to worry if my shots will be in focus or if it will hunt.
This is where Canon got a lot of flak for, and looking at it on paper, it’s clearly justified. Let’s start with Full HD recording which only tops out at 60fps. This is still forgivable since you would only use 120fps for specific kinds of shots, particularly slo-mo, and you probably wouldn’t use it for extended durations in a video. 120fps is only available in 720p. That being said, it would’ve been nice to see that upgrade since their last two full-frame DSLRs, the 5D Mark IV and 6D Mark II, didn’t have it and they were released in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The only Canon camera that does 120fps at Full HD is their professional sports camera 1DX Mark II which is priced at MYR24,949.
The 4K recording is far graver a crime for a 2018 release, due to the fact that there is a 1.8x crop for the recording so the usual focal lengths that you’d want from your full-frame lenses isn’t there anymore. You might think you could use APS-C lenses but the crop still applies. The RF 28-70mm, probably their best lens for the R mount, would be a 50-126mm in 4K with the crop also resulting in less shallow depth of field. Clearly you can’t shoot wide shots unless you get some specific lenses, and once you enter telephoto lengths, there’s no in-body image stabilisation to compensate for it.
I won’t ever a attempt to go into the professional implications of codecs, bitrates or colour bits because that’s whole nother can of worms that I’m not versed enough to comment on. But at this point, it shouldn’t be up to the consumer to figure out how to work with such limitations. I sincerely hope that Canon will have a surprise firmware update(s) for the EOS R and not just let the constructive criticisms fizzle out.
RF Lenses and Adapter
As mentioned, the EOS R comes with a new R mount and RF lenses - Canon definitely did not hesitate to release fast lenses right off the bat. Beside the kit 24-105mm f4, Canon also launched the RF 28-70mm f2L, RF 50mm f1.2L and the RF 35mm f/1.8. However, fast lenses generally means that they’re expensive and also less accessible. So, you don’t want to shell out MYR4,800 even for the kit lens, and you probably have to start with EF lenses - like the 50mm f1.8 STM which is one of the cheapest lenses out there.
Despite the poor CIPA rating of 370 shots, the battery life is surprisingly long-lasting. I can do short burst of photos and videos over the course of several days and it still had energy to spare. That’s not exactly a good indication, but realistically I don’t go out to shoot for hours for my work. At least I can say that the CIPA rating doesn’t clearly depict the battery life. It is using the LPE6N battery after all, the one found in the 5D Mark IV and 6D Mark II, so if you have those cameras and extra batteries, you could use it on the EOS R as well.
The EOS R is Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera that is a great stills camera but lacking in the video department. The Full HD recording is still workable as most videos, be it online or cinematics aren’t shot in their entirety at any higher than 60fps; and the 4K might not be as wide as you want it to be, but still takes great footage especially static shots. I would recommend the EOS R for people who are doing more photography and touching slightly into video.