Canon EOS R Conclusion

RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens at 24mm, f/8.0, 1/125s, ISO 100.

"Full-frame frenzy" seems to be the theme for 2018, especially for the latter half of the year, as Canon, at last, joins the ranks among Sony and Nikon with its first full-frame mirrorless camera: the EOS R. Sporting a 30MP full-frame sensor like its 5D Mark IV DSLR sibling, but coupled to a new DIGIC 8 image processor within a sleek and compact design, the Canon EOS R may not have all the latest bells and whistles nor the most innovative new features, but it is still a solid camera in most regards.

Design & Handling

Svelte, angular and modern-looking, the Canon EOS R, like most full-frame mirrorless cameras, is much lighter and more compact than a full-frame DSLR counterpart, yet it still retains characteristic Canon styling and a superbly comfortable handgrip. However, the smaller size does impact usability in some regards. Compared to a full-size DSLR, the EOS R is fairly sparse when it comes to physical buttons, and the buttons that are there can feel a bit cramped. It still has front and rear control dials as well as a directional control pad on the back, but the smaller body size has forced Canon to remove buttons or re-think how to change settings or operate certain functions.

For instance, there's no dedicated ISO button like there is on the 5D Mark IV, and the familiar and traditional mode dial has been replaced. You now press the "Mode" button and rotate the front dial to change shooting modes, similar to Canon's 1D line of pro DSLRs. Further, to switch back and forth between Photo and Video modes, you have to press the "Mode" button and then the "Info" button, which feels very unintuitive and confusing. And we'd be remiss not to mention the new Touch Bar control slider on the back of the EOS R. While it's certainly unique and allows for various function customizations, it feels awkward to use in practice. To avoid accidental touches, you have to hold your finger on the Touch Bar to "unlock" it, which is frustrating and slows you down in the field. But if you disable this "lock," it is indeed very easily to accidentally touch the bar, which also isn't great. We wish Canon had instead simply added a couple of customizable Function buttons there and perhaps a joystick-style control on the back for added operability.

On the plus side, however, the EOS R's build quality is fantastic. Again, the grip feels great, and the whole camera's fit and finish is top-notch. The camera feels extremely solid and very durable, and the weather-sealed construction did its job during our testing. Furthermore, the EVF and rear touchscreen display are both really nice, though we weren't expecting anything less. The EVF is large, bright and crisp with no discernible lag or quality issues. The rear touchscreen, much like on other modern Canon cameras, is sharp with accurate and responsive touch functionality. The LCD also works well in bright, sunny conditions, and the tilt-swivel display feels solid and helps avoid any noticeable glare. Plus, the articulated design is great for video shooters.

RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens at 24mm, f/8.0, 1/200s, ISO 100.

Image Quality

Overall, the image quality from the EOS R is very good and in-camera JPEGs are slightly improved over the 5D Mark IV thanks to revised default sharpening. However, the image quality isn't all that different from the 5D IV, as the EOS R shares a very similar sensor. The 30MP full-frame sensor captures sharp, detail-rich images with pleasing colors. Canon's color-rendering is excellent; it's a characteristic of Canon cameras that earns praise model after model. Colors appear accurate and rich without feeling overly saturated, which we like.

Fine detail looks nice, but keep in mind that the EOS R still employs an optical low-pass filter to combat moiré and other aliasing artifacts, which reduces the level of super-fine detail ever so slightly. More and more cameras nowadays are doing away with an OLPF in favor of increased resolving power. Aliasing artifacts are tricky to remove in post-processing, but depending on the types of subjects you shoot, these artifacts might be few and far between. If you want the utmost in fine detail, the EOS R might be a bit underwhelming in that regard.

Dynamic range is good, and our field tester found the raw files offered plenty of flexibility for tonal adjustments. However, like the 5D Mark IV, the EOS R's dynamic range falls short of most competing full-frame cameras from the likes of Nikon and Sony.

When it comes to high ISOs, the EOS R is an excellent camera, with great low-light and high sensitivity performance, particularly when shooting in raw format. The native ISO range is slightly expanded from that of the 5D Mark IV, despite the similar sensor, but overall both cameras offer a similar level of high ISO performance. The EOS R is capable of excellent image quality at higher ISOs, with a good balance of fine detail with well-controlled noise levels.

RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens at 24mm, f/4.0, 20s, ISO 1600.

Performance

Despite some design quirks, the build quality and construction of the EOS R is excellent. Image quality, too, is impressive. However, when it comes to performance, this is the area where the EOS R struggles, especially compared to its rivals, not so much in terms of autofocus, but rather with continuous shooting speeds.

On the positive side, the AF performance is wonderful, thanks to its impressive Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, resulting in fast AF speeds that are competitive with most prosumer DSLRs. Much like on previous Dual-Pixel-powered Canon cameras, the EOS R's AF is both fast and accurate and didn't show any noticeable hunting or wobbling. The AF system on the EOS R is particularly great, since AF point coverage spans the vast majority of the image sensor's area, which lets you pinpoint focus where you want, or track subjects easily.

Now, while AF is great, the EOS R's continuous shooting performance leaves something to be desired. With single-shot AF, the EOS R shoots at up to 8fps, which is fine, but far from ground-breaking or industry-leading. However, if you want to shoot sequentially with continuous AF, the camera slows down to 5fps, or even to a measly 3fps with "Tracking Priority" AF mode. That's quite sluggish by today's standards, particularly for a full-frame camera that's not an ultra-high-res model. In the end, the EOS R is a fine camera for general photographers, landscapes, travel and other still subjects, but its slow burst shooting speeds with C-AF really limit its usefulness for sports and wildlife subjects.

EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III lens + Adapter (Beta Sample) at 35mm, f/2.8, 1/1000s, ISO 100.

Video

Video, too, is an area where the Canon EOS R does quite well, but there's sadly nothing ground-breaking here. The EOS R does offer video features that the 5D Mark IV doesn't have while being much less expensive, such as 4:2:2 10-bit HDMI out and, obviously, the flip-out LCD screen.

Quality-wise, the EOS R offers very good 4K UHD video (and includes the C-Log profile option, too). Much like with stills, 4K video has good detail as well as very pleasing, natural colors. The main downside to 4K in the EOS R is the lack of 60p; 4K here only goes up to 30fps. There's still no 4Kp60 in a full-frame Canon camera unless you go up to the 1D X Mark II.

Canon EOS R: 4K video framegrab from Premiere Pro. Click for video review.

Full HD is offered as well, but there's a noticeable drop in image quality with 1080p footage compared to 4K that's down-res'ed to 1080p. This is similar to what we observed with the 5D Mark IV. If possible, we recommend always shooting in 4K. However, 4K video on the EOS R has a ~1.7x crop-factor, which is a disappointment to a degree, but we think many video shooters will be able to work around this limitation.

The main two downsides to shooting video with the EOS R is rolling shutter, which is pretty strong, unfortunately, and the lack of in-body image stabilization. Many of the faster lenses, including the upcoming RF 28-70mm f/2 lens, aren't optically stabilized, which make handheld video shooting difficult without additional support gear, and lens-based stabilization can't correct for roll.

Summary

By itself, the Canon EOS R is a very nice camera. It feels great in the hand, it's compact, it offers solid weather-sealed construction, and it takes excellent photos and very good 4K video. But it's not a ground-breaking camera. Perhaps future EOS R models will bring more exciting features to the table. Right now, the EOS R feels somewhat limited, especially when it comes to performance. And some of the design choices feel under-utilized or downright confusing or awkward.

The Canon EOS R, much like its Nikon Z7/Z6 rivals, feels very much like a full-frame mirrorless camera for current full-frame Canon DSLR owners, rather than trying to bring in new customers or even pull former customers back from other brands. We understand that the EOS R is an all-new system with an all-new lens mount and new lenses, so in some ways it makes sense for Canon to take a slower, more calculated approach to this new full-frame mirrorless R system. However, competition is fierce, especially in the full-frame market, and the EOS R feels out-gunned and out-paced from the start. Right now, it seems that Canon has an uphill battle ahead of them.

All said, however, despite some notable drawbacks, the Canon EOS R is still a very nice camera, and it certainly earns a spot on our Dave's Pick list.

 

Pros & Cons

  • Very good overall image quality
  • Good dynamic range and very good high ISO performance
  • Pleasing "Canon color" in both stills and video
  • Improved default JPEG processing over the 5D IV (but mostly just a default settings change)
  • Dual Pixel RAW allows for post-capture tweaks to focus, bokeh and ghosting
  • Durable weather-sealed body
  • Compact and lightweight (but see Cons)
  • Very comfortable grip
  • Optional BG-E22 battery grip
  • Large, high-res OLED EVF
  • Fully articulating touchscreen
  • Swift single-shot autofocus
  • Good top burst speed of 8fps (but drops to 5fps and below with continuous AF)
  • Generous buffer depths
  • Compressed C-RAW support
  • Impressive Dual Pixel CMOS AF system
  • Able to autofocus in extremely low light in the lab
  • Excellent 24-105mm f/4 kit lens
  • Adapted EF and EF-S lenses work well
  • 4K video capture up to 30p
  • Clean HDMI out with 10-bit 4:2:2 color and C-Log
  • USB 3.1 Type-C port
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • In-camera battery charging supported
  • No IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization)
  • Limited native lens selection
  • Aging sensor lags behind the competition in terms of dynamic range and high ISO performance
  • Revised JPEG processing makes noise more visible at higher ISOs (but again just a default settings change)
  • Top 8fps burst speed, while good, is not as fast as Nikon Z6's (12fps) and Sony A7 III's (10fps)
  • Burst speed slows to 5fps with C-AF, 3fps in "Tracking Priority" mode
  • Evaluative metering tended to underexpose in the lab
  • No interval timer for stills (but in-camera Time-lapse Movies are supported)
  • Single card slot
  • Buffer clearing can be slow
  • Mediocre CIPA battery life rating
  • Large ~1.7x 4K video crop
  • Pretty bad rolling shutter distortion in 4K video
  • Ergonomics could be better
  • Limited physical controls
  • Non-traditional Mode Dial control slower to use, more difficult than regular PASM dial
  • Awkward mode switching between still & video modes
  • New Touch Bar control feels over-engineered & isn't very practical
  • Touch controls can be limiting when using gloves


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