Canon EOS R

It’s been a long time com­ing, but Canon fi­nally has a full-frame mir­ror­less cam­era to its name. Michael Topham re­veals his hon­est opin­ion

Amateur Photographer - - 7 Days -

Michael Topham tests Canon’s long-awaited full-frame mir­ror­less

Canon’s en­try into full-frame mir­ror­less has ar­rived with one cam­era and four full-frame lenses that cen­tre around the man­u­fac­turer’s new RF lens mount. This large- di­am­e­ter, short back-fo­cus mount has been de­signed to en­able faster fo­cus­ing and ex­tra flex­i­bil­ity in lens de­sign, which com­bined with the de­but of the EOS R, marks a mo­men­tous chap­ter in the com­pany’s his­tory. Canon users haven’t been silent about what they’ve wanted from the com­pany’s first full-frame mir­ror­less cam­era. This poses the ques­tions: has Canon de­liv­ered what mil­lions of Canon-faith­ful users around the world want and has it made the best-full frame mir­ror­less cam­era it can? With the EOS R be­ing the first model in Canon’s new sys­tem it has a lot to an­swer for, but be­fore we get stuck into the nitty- gritty let’s re­fresh our­selves with the cam­era’s key fea­tures.


Canon has taken a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to Nikon, re­leas­ing one ver­sa­tile all-rounder as op­posed to two cam­eras built around the same body with dif­fer­ent sen­sors and spec­i­fi­ca­tions. The EOS R is the first model in the fledg­ling sys­tem to be built around the new RF lens mount that has a 54mm in­ter­nal di­am­e­ter, 20mm flange dis­tance and 12-pin data con­nec­tion. Be­hind this rests a 30.3- mil­lion-pixel full-frame CMOS sen­sor that we’re told is a dif­fer­ent chip to the one used within the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. The pair­ing of sen­sor and Canon’s lat­est DIGIC 8 im­age pro­ces­sor pro­vides a sen­si­tiv­ity range of 100- 40,000, which like on the

5D Mark IV is ex­pand­able to 50-102,400.

The faster pro­ces­sor al­lows the EOS R to boast what Canon claims is the world’s fastest AF speed of 0.05sec and a max­i­mum burst rate of 8fps with fixed fo­cus. This equates to be­ing 1fps faster than the 5D Mark IV and 1.5fps faster than the 6D Mark II. Switch­ing to AF track­ing sees this speed drop to 5fps, but at 8fps the buf­fer can han­dle 100 JPEGs, 78 C-raw im­ages or 47 raw files be­ing cap­tured con­tin­u­ously.

The EOS R in­te­grates Canon’s sen­sor-based, phase- de­tec­tion Dual Pixel CMOS AF sys­tem that works by split­ting all the ef­fec­tive pix­els on the sur­face of the sen­sor into two in­di­vid­ual pho­to­di­odes – one for left and one for right. This sys­tem is good for pho­tog­ra­phers and videog­ra­phers who’d like to fo­cus quickly with­out hav­ing to put up with clumsy fo­cus­ing in live view. Bet­ter still, the EOS R can fo­cus down to an im­pres­sive - 6EV, where it per­forms ex­tremely well when chal­lenged by low-light sit­u­a­tions. On the sub­ject of fo­cus­ing, the EOS R of­fers users no fewer than 5,655 se­lectable AF po­si­tions us­ing the touch-and­drag AF func­tion on its vari-an­gle screen, cov­er­ing 88% and 100% of the frame across the re­spec­tive hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal axes.

To coun­ter­act the rapid on/off puls­ing you can get with some ar­ti­fi­cial lights, the EOS R in­her­its Canon’s anti-flicker tech­nol­ogy that made its de­but in the EOS 7D Mark II and pro­vides ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion across +/-3EV, but this isn’t as ex­ten­sive as the +/-5EV range as you get on the 5D Mark IV or 6D Mark II.

While op­ti­cal sta­bil­i­sa­tion is fea­tured on some of the new RF lenses (if not the 28-70mm f/2 or the 50mm f/1.2) and many ex­ist­ing EF lenses, the EOS R lacks in-body im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion (IBIS) like its Nikon and Sony ri­vals. Un­like Canon’s DSLRs that you’ve been able to qui­eten but never to­tally mute, the elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled fo­cal-plane shut­ter on the EOS R en­ables com­pletely silent shoot­ing when you’d like to work in­con­spic­u­ously, and it fi­nally sup­ports USB charg­ing on the go via its USB Type- C port that sits along­side an HDMI mini out port and 3.5mm mi­cro­phone and head­phone sock­ets at the side.

This takes us nicely onto the EOS R’s video ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but again un­like its Sony and Nikon ri­vals, the EOS R falls be­hind the com­pe­ti­tion here as it’s un­able to achieve full-sen­sor read­out 4K video. Just like the 5D Mark IV, the EOS R’s 4K video has a 1.7x crop fac­tor, with 4:2:2 10-bit video out­put via the HDMI port. In­ter­nal 4K 4:2:2 8-bit record­ing and Full HD 1080p video us­ing the full width of the sen­sor at up to 60p is avail­able, and there’s a 4K frame grab op­tion that al­lows users to ex­tract an 8.3-mil­lion-pixel JPEG im­age from 4K footage.

In a sim­i­lar move to Nikon, Canon has equipped the EOS R with a sin­gle card slot, but rather than opt­ing for XQD, the cam­era ac­cepts SD UHS- II cards. Wi- Fi is built into the cam­era too, of­fer­ing the flex­i­bil­ity to take con­trol from a smart­phone or tablet run­ning Canon’s Cam­era Con­nect app. The EOS R doesn’t fea­ture built-in GPS func­tion­al­ity, but it can col­lect GPS data and au­to­mat­i­cally add it to im­ages via the same app. Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity can be used to re­motely con­trol the cam­era with­out hav­ing to

mess around set­ting up a Wi- Fi con­nec­tion, plus it can also be set up to in­struct the cam­era to fire up Wi- Fi when you’d like to copy im­ages across to your phone.

Build and han­dling

The EOS R of­fers the size and weight ad­van­tages we’re used to when choos­ing a mir­ror­less cam­era over a DSLR. The body weighs 660g with a card and bat­tery in­serted – a sav­ing of 230g over the 5D Mark IV and 105g lighter than the 6D Mark II. Canon has man­aged to up­hold a re­as­sur­ingly solid feel to the body, which partly comes down to it be­ing built around a mag­ne­siu­mal­loy chas­sis. To en­sure it’s up to the task of en­dur­ing heavy and de­mand­ing use, it’s con­structed to the same weather re­sis­tant stan­dard as the EOS 6D Mark II.

From the front, the EOS R has a dis­tinc­tive Canon DSLR look about it, al­beit less thick­set than Canon’s 5D-se­ries mod­els. With less space on the top-plate it’s forced Canon to re­think the ar­range­ment of but­tons and di­als, some of which won’t be in­stantly fa­mil­iar to ex­ist­ing DSLR users. There’s no mode dial on the top-left shoul­der of the body where you’d ex­pect to see one, just a ba­sic on/off switch. In­stead you get a mode but­ton lo­cated in­side the rear thumb dial. Be­low the EOS R’s top-plate LCD, to the left of where your thumb lays, you’ll spot a new cus­tomis­able multi-func­tion M- Fn bar – the first on an EOS model. Hold your thumb across it and you’ll be prompted to cus­tomise var­i­ous set­tings to it in shoot­ing and play­back modes us­ing slide or touch move­ments with your thumb. To pre­vent ac­ci­den­tal changes to this Canon has also in­tro­duced a safety lock fea­ture that re­quires users to hold the left end of the bar for one sec­ond to tem­po­rar­ily ac­ti­vate it. Back on the top-plate, the LCD il­lu­mi­na­tion but­ton has two pur­poses. It can be held to darken set­tings against a lighter back­ground or tapped to switch the stan­dard view of ex­po­sure vari­ables to an ad­vanced one that shows a broader over­view of shoot­ing in­for­ma­tion. There’s a ded­i­cated movie but­ton to start record­ing video in an in­stant and you’re re­quired to hit the mode but­ton fol­lowed by the info but­ton to switch be­tween movie modes.

Like the 5D Mark IV, it has a small multi-func­tion (M- Fn) but­ton be­hind the shut­ter that can be cus­tomised, but it works well set to the Dial Func­tion set­ting for in­stant ac­cess to ISO, drive mode, AF mode, AWB and ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion. The level of cus­tomis­able con­trol is by far the best we’ve ever seen on an EOS cam­era and there’s the ad­vanced op­tion to seg­re­gate cus­tomised set­tings be­tween stills and movie modes. The cus­tomis­able con­trol ring at the front of RF mount lenses is a clever idea that’s been ex­e­cuted nicely. It brings aper­ture, shut­ter speed, ISO or ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion con­trol di­rectly to your left hand sup­port­ing the lens, leav­ing your right hand to con­trol the rear dial and shut­ter but­ton.

One of the dis­ap­point­ments is the lack of an AF tog­gle to move the AF point in­tu­itively around the frame. In this re­spect it’s a bit like the EOS 6D Mark II, but then again un­like this en­thu­si­ast DSLR, the EOS R’s four-way direc­tional pad isn’t set within a ro­tat­ing rear com­mand wheel, mak­ing it lit­tle dif­fer­ent to the ba­sic four-way direc­tional pads you get on en­try-level DSLRs. In an at­tempt to make up for these omis­sions Canon has in­tro­duced the M- Fn bar and a touch-and- drag AF func­tion that lets you shift the AF point with your thumb on the screen when the cam­era is raised to your eye. It’s most ef­fec­tive when the po­si­tion­ing method is set to ab­so­lute, but even with the ac­tive touch area as­signed to the top right of the screen it’s not easy shift­ing the AF point to the edge of the frame with­out han­dling be­ing com­pro­mised. One thing in the EOS R’s favour is that touch-and­drag AF isn’t af­fected when the screen gets wet, and per­forms just as well with water droplets on the screen’s sur­face as when it’s dry.

There’s the op­tion to use the EOS R’s AF point se­lect but­ton in com­bi­na­tion with the four-way direc­tional pad too, but when you’re un­der pres­sure this sim­ply isn’t fast enough and can re­sult in shots be­ing missed. Go­ing from a DSLR with an AF tog­gle to the EOS R which doesn’t have one feels like a step back­wards and un­der­lines the EOS R as more of an en­thu­si­ast-friendly cam­era than one that’ll sat­isfy semipro­fes­sion­als and work­ing pro­fes­sion­als who ul­ti­mately need the finest er­gonomics and con­trol.

Viewfinder and screen

At the rear of the EOS R is a 0.5in OLED EVF boast­ing a

3.69-mil­lion- dot res­o­lu­tion with a 0.76x mag­ni­fi­ca­tion. The eye sen­sor switches the feed be­tween screen and EVF in an in­stant, with ex­po­sure in­for­ma­tion, bat­tery life and shoot­ing mode all dis­played clearly be­low the preview im­age. There are two per­for­mance modes – power sav­ing (30fps) and smooth (60fps), but for the fastest re­fresh rate and finest view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence you’ll want to keep it set to the lat­ter.

In terms of its per­for­mance, it’s the best EVF we’ve ever used on a Canon cam­era. It’s ex­cep­tion­ally sharp and faith­fully rep­re­sents how an im­age will ap­pear, with the lux­ury of ac­cu­rately show­ing live ex­po­sure ad­just­ments and changes in depth of field. Hit the info but­ton and you can call up more shoot­ing info on ei­ther side of the frame or view the elec­tronic level at the same time as the his­togram. Un­for­tu­nately, though, it’s not pos­si­ble to view these two shoot­ing aids in­de­pen­dently.

Canon is known for its ex­cel­lent touch­screen dis­plays and the EOS R up­holds this rep­u­ta­tion. The 3.15in, 2.1- mil­lion- dot screen is the fully ar­tic­u­lated type, al­low­ing it to be pulled out and tilted to al­most any an­gle. It’s more ma­noeu­vrable than the tilt- only units on Nikon’s Z-se­ries cam­eras, mak­ing por­trait for­mat shoot­ing a breeze, es­pe­cially from low or high an­gles. It dis­plays ac­cu­rate colour that’s con­sis­tent with the EVF and is re­spon­sive to light touches, mak­ing nav­i­ga­tion of the main menu easy and quick if you don’t use the four-way con­troller.


The EOS R’s stag­ger­ing number of 5,655 se­lectable aut­o­fo­cus po­si­tions makes it one of the most ad­vanced of­fer­ings of any mir­ror­less cam­era on the mar­ket. Hav­ing the abil­ity to shift the AF point so ex­ten­sively across the frame with the choice of two dif­fer­ent AF frame sizes (nor­mal or small) is great, but as briefly men­tioned, what it re­ally lacks is an AF tog­gle to shift the AF point around the frame in­tu­itively. Users are given ac­cess to AF area and AF modes from the quick menu and if the M- Fn but­ton is set to its Dual Func­tion set­ting, it’s pos­si­ble to switch be­tween One Shot and Servo AF in an in­stant. If users would like an im­me­di­ate way of chang­ing the AF area this can be as­signed to the M- Fn bar. The real high­light of the EOS R’s aut­o­fo­cus is its abil­ity to ac­quire fo­cus in light lev­els as low as - 6EV. The way it locks on and fo­cuses ac­cu­rately in dark con­di­tions is re­mark­ably im­pres­sive. This will go down well with pho­tog­ra­phers who reg­u­larly work in poor light­ing con­di­tions or shoot un­der the cover of dark­ness.

Test­ing the var­i­ous AF area modes in com­bi­na­tion with Servo AF demon­strated that the AF is fast and silent just as you’d ex­pect. The dis­ap­point­ment when shoot­ing with AF track­ing is

that the burst drops from 8fps to 5fps. Though I did cap­ture some rea­son­able shots of mov­ing sub­jects, high-speed ac­tion and sport isn’t the EOS R’s forte. Try­ing out the EOS R’s Eye AF sys­tem, which is en­abled as part of the Face De­tec­tion AF op­tion, re­vealed that it only works in AF-S mode and not AF- C. It’s rea­son­ably ef­fec­tive for sta­tion­ary por­traits when the face is fairly large in the frame, but less so for peo­ple who move or are at a dis­tance from the cam­era. From my ex­pe­ri­ence it isn’t a patch on Sony’s highly ac­cu­rate and re­li­able Eye AF func­tion­al­ity.

Our re­view sam­ple was sup­plied with the EF- EOS R mount adapter, which was used to cou­ple EF and EF-S lenses as well as a va­ri­ety of third-party EF-mount lenses kindly sup­plied by Sigma. Tests con­firmed that all these lenses per­formed no dif­fer­ently than if they were cou­pled to a Canon DSLR, with the EOS R go­ing about its busi­ness of pro­duc­ing cropped 11.6MP im­ages that match the smaller im­age cir­cle of EF-S op­tics au­to­mat­i­cally.

It’s no­tice­able that the EOS R gets through its power quickly. In au­tumn tem­per­a­tures, I was get­ting around 400 shots from a sin­gle charge, whereas with cam­eras like the 6D Mark II we’re used to shoot­ing closer to 1,200. You do get good power-sav­ing modes to pre­serve bat­tery life, but users shouldn’t ex­pect a sin­gle bat­tery to be enough for a full day’s shoot­ing.

With eval­u­a­tive me­ter­ing be­ing linked to all aut­o­fo­cus points, the EOS R can be trusted to an­a­lyse scenes and ex­pose for them cor­rectly. Users will feel con­fi­dent us­ing the cam­era in its eval­u­a­tive me­ter­ing mode, but for scenes that are harder to ex­pose there’s al­ways spot, par­tial and cen­treweighted av­er­age modes to choose from.

Like we’re used to see­ing from Canon, the EOS R proved to be a re­li­able per­former dur­ing the time we used it and the way it de­liv­ers punchy im­ages and strong re­sults at high ISO makes it ver­sa­tile for those who like to shoot a va­ri­ety of sub­jects. The op­er­a­tion and con­trol is very dif­fer­ent to Canon’s tra­di­tional DSLRs though, so much so, it’s not a cam­era Canon DSLR users will pick up and feel at ease with straight away. The EOS R’s idio­syn­cra­sies take time to learn and al­though an im­proved level of cus­tomi­sa­tion is a good thing, not hav­ing but­tons for things such as ISO, drive mode and AF mode makes it feel rather pe­cu­liar the first few times you use it. I can imag­ine many Canon users feel­ing lost when they pick it up, just as I did at the start. As with switch­ing to any­thing new you do slowly get used to it, but my opin­ion is that the er­gonomics and us­abil­ity are by no means per­fect.

Avro Vul­can XM655 pho­tographed at Welles­bourne Air­field cour­tesy of Time­Line Events (www.time­li­ ) Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, 30sec at f/11, ISO 50

This por­trait was taken while test­ing the EOS R with EF lenses us­ing the EF-EOS R mount adapter Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM, 1/1250sec at f/1.8, ISO 800

A real strength of the EOS R is its fo­cus­ing abil­ity in low light Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM, 1/320sec at f/1.8, ISO 12800

The Eye AF func­tion is most ef­fec­tive when the per­son you’re pho­tograph­ing is fairly large in the frame Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, 1/1000sec at f/2.8, ISO 400

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