Canon EOS R Image Quality


Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Realistic saturation levels though with pumped reds; above average hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links above to compare ISOs, and click to load a larger version.

Saturation. The Canon EOS R produces images with saturation levels that are slightly less pumped (ie., more accurate) than most cameras at default settings. Dark reds are boosted quite a bit, with orange, dark greens, dark browns and dark blues pushed a little, while cyans, yellow and light green are slightly muted. Mean saturation is 108.4% (8.4% oversaturated) at base ISO, a little lower than average these days, though still quite pleasing. Mean saturation is pretty stable across the ISO range, varying from a minimum of 106.5% at ISO 12,800 to a maximum of 109.1% at ISO 40,000 which is a fairly tight range. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Canon EOS R produces pleasing, natural-looking Caucasian skin tones in our tests when using manual white balance in simulated daylight. Darker skin tones show a small nudge toward orange, but lighter tones are more pinkish and healthy-looking. Excellent results. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The EOS R's hue accuracy is quite good when manual white balance is used (as it always is for these results). There are the usual shifts in cyan toward blue (though it's actually quite small), red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow to green, but all are quite minor. Average "delta-C" color error at base ISO is 4.12 which is better than average. Delta-C color error increases with sensitivity, but remains better than average at all but the highest ISOs. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images


Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Default Auto and Incandescent settings both struggled with household incandescent lighting, though Manual white balance worked well. Slightly higher than average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance (Ambient Priority)
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance (White Priority)
+0.7 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.7 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.7 EV

Indoors, under incandescent lighting, the Canon EOS R's default Auto white balance as well as Incandescent settings struggled, producing very warm orange/yellow color casts. The Canon EOS R's White Priority option for Auto white balance resulted in a much more neutral color balance, however it has a slightly magenta tint. The Manual (custom) white balance setting produced the most accurate results, but has a slightly green bias. The Canon EOS R required +0.7 EV exposure compensation for this shot, which is slightly higher than the +0.3 EV average among the cameras we've tested. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Very good color and good dynamic range. Higher than average exposure compensation required.

Manual White Balance,
+1.0 EV

The Canon EOS R required +1.0 EV exposure compensation to keep the mannequin's face reasonably bright in our"Sunlit" portrait shot, while the average needed for this shot is about +0.7 EV. We preferred skin tones with Manual white balance slightly better than Auto, as they were a little pinker and healthy-looking, but both settings were quite good. Despite the deliberately bright and harsh lighting, relatively few highlights were blown in the mannequin's white shirt, and shadows are quite detailed with relatively low noise, indicating pretty good dynamic range.

~3,200 lines of strong detail from a JPEG, about the same from RAW.

Strong detail to
~3,200 lines horizontal
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,200 lines vertical
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,200 lines horizontal
ACR Converted RAW
Strong detail to
~3,200 lines vertical
ACR Converted RAW

A best quality JPEG of our resolution chart showed sharp, distinct line patterns up to just over 3,200 lines per picture height horizontally and to just under 3,200 lines vertically. Some may argue for higher numbers, but lines begin to merge at this resolution, and some aliasing artifacts in the form of moiré patterns can be seen as low as about 2,600 lines. Complete extinction of the pattern did not occur before the 4,000 line limit of our chart. An Adobe Camera Raw converted .CR3 file shows similar resolution as the in-camera JPEG, but it also contains more moiré patterns and false colors. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

Sharpness & Detail
Improved sharpness with default settings, and with less noticeable sharpening artifacts around high-contrast elements. Minor detail loss due to noise reduction processing at low ISOs.

With default settings the
Canon EOS R's JPEGs are a
little crisper than the 5D IV's
with less noticeable sharpening
haloes, but are still slightly soft.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon EOS R produces slightly sharper JPEG images than the 5D IV at default settings, though images are still a bit soft compared to most competitors. (Keep in mind Canon has decided to keep an optical low-pass filter in the EOS R to reduce aliasing artifacts at the cost of slightly reduced sharpness, unlike most competing models which have gone the other way.) The EOS R's default sharpening has been tweaked compared to prior models (see below for more), producing slightly sharper images while generating smaller but brighter haloes around high-contrast edge. We think it's a nice improvement at low ISOs, however competing models from Sony for example continue to do a better job at sharpening JPEGs without producing obvious halo artifacts. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some minor detail loss due to noise suppression in darker areas and in areas with low contrast, but performance here appears slightly improved over the 5D Mark IV as well. A very good performance for a 30-megapixel full-frame camera, with very low chroma noise. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

Aliasing Artifacts. The Canon EOS R is equipped with an optical low-pass filter, however it must be pretty weak as some aliasing artifacts such as moiré patterns can be seen in some of our test shots. This is quite common these days, though, as a lot of ILCs no longer include optical low-pass filters or use weak ones to increase per-pixel sharpness and resolution at the risk of increased aliasing artifacts.

In-Camera JPEGs: Standard vs Fine Detail Picture Style setting
The EOS R offer Canon's Fine Detail Picture Style first seen on the Canon 5DS R and 5DS DSLRs. Below is a comparison with the default Standard Picture Style.

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, Standard Picture Style
Camera JPEG, Fine Detail

In the table above, we compare the Canon EOS R's default Standard Picture Style setting (left) to its Fine Detail preset at base ISO. Like other recent Canons, the EOS R offers users much more flexibility in sharpening than older models, allowing you to adjust not only the "Strength" (from 0 to 7) but also the "Fineness" (1 to 5) and "Threshold" (1 to 5) operators. We believe these parameters correlate to unsharp mask options for strength, radius and threshold available in photo editing software such as Photoshop, although we don't know what the equivalent units might be.

As you can see from the crops above, unlike the 5DS/R in which Fine Detail was first introduced and was a huge improvement over the Standard Picture Style, the EOS R's Fine Detail Picture Style doesn't offer as much of an improvement over the default, as Canon has tweaked the default values of the operators for the Standard Picture Style. In the 5D IV, Standard Picture Style's Sharpness, Fineness and Threshold defaults were 3,4,4 respectively, while in the EOS R, the defaults are now 4,2,4, increasing Sharpness a notch while emphasizing finer detail with Fineness reduced by two. Fine Detail remains at 4,1,1 respectively, the same as the 5D IV.

Overall, we like the change to the Standard Picture Style defaults, however it does have the side-effect of making noise more visible, especially at higher ISOs.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon EOS R produces JPEG images with very good detail. With a good RAW converter, additional detail can often be extracted with fewer sharpening artifacts. See below:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 11.0 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see ACR extracts additional detail that isn't present in the default JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf and pink swatches where some of the fine thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine and thus blurred away. Fine detail in the mosaic crop is also slightly improved, but as is often the case, the conversion isn't as clean and smooth looking, with more noise that can be seen for instance in the flatter areas of the bottle crop. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. Also notice that sharpening haloes aren't as visible as the default camera output, and overall contrast is lower. Not bad in-camera default JPEG processing, but as usual you can do better by shooting in RAW mode and using a good RAW converter.

ISO & Noise Performance
Pretty good high ISO performance for a full-frame sensor.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200 ISO 6400 ISO 12,800
ISO 25,600 ISO 40,000 ISO 51,200
ISO 102,400

EOS R images are clean and detailed up to ISO 800, with a only a minor loss in image quality as ISO rises within this range. At ISO 1600 luminance noise and blurring become noticeable resulting in a more evident drop in image quality, though fine detail is still excellent and chroma noise is well-controlled. ISO 3200 is a bit grainier and softer, but chroma noise remains low and fine detail is still quite good. ISO 6400 is of course noisier with noticeably stronger blurring due to noise reduction, but a lot of fine detail remains intact and chroma noise is still low. ISO 12,800 is still pretty detailed with reasonable luma noise and low chroma noise, but ISO 25,600 and higher show a more rapid decline in image quality, with progressively stronger luma noise and blurring, although chroma noise remains well-controlled up to the maximum native ISO of 40,000. Extended ISO of 51,200 is pretty noisy but the noise grain is still fairly tight and chroma noise is only an issue in darker areas and shadows. The top ISO of 102,400 is very grainy and contains a lot of ugly chroma blotching in darker areas though overall color and saturation remain surprisingly good for the sensitivity.

Overall, high ISO performance is pretty good for a full-frame camera, though noise is a little more visible than in the past with Canon's revised default processing. And while image quality at lower ISOs is now more competitive, high ISO performance is not quite as good as from some competing models from Nikon and Sony.

See the Print Quality section below for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Somewhat high default contrast yet pretty good dynamic range in JPEGs. Excellent low-light AF performance.

+0.7 EV +1.0 EV +1.3 EV

The Canon R produces images with moderately high contrast. The mannequin's face was far too dim at the default exposure requiring quite a bit of positive exposure compensation. On the other hand, a few too many highlights were blown with +1.3 EV compensation, so we preferred the image with +1.0 EV overall, even though the face is still a touch dim. But despite the bright appearance, +1.0 EV resulted in only a few clipped highlights in the shirt and flowers, indicating good dynamic range inherited from its DSLR predecessor. Shadow detail is excellent as well, with relatively low noise levels. Bottom line: While the Canon EOS R's default evaluative metering and tone curve still results in a darker face than we'd like to see in this shot, its sensor and processing delivers pretty good dynamic range.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Highlight Tone Priority
The Canon EOS R's Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) option did an excellent job of preserving highlight detail, as shown below. (Mouse over the Off and On links to load the corresponding thumbnail, histogram and crops.)

Highlight Tone Priority (+1.3 EV)




Both shots above were captured at the same exposure with +1.3 EV exposure compensation to intentionally blow some highlights, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the second and third shots which necessitates increasing the ISO to 200; part of how HTP works. As you can see, the thumbnails and histograms above clearly show superior highlight preservation when HTP is enabled, with very little impact to the brightness of shadows and midtones. If you look closely at shadows in the full-res images, you'll notice an increase in noise is the price you pay when ISO is boosted from 100 to 200, though as mentioned previously, noise in the shadows is pretty low.

Automatic Lighting Optimization
Like previous Canon EOS models, the EOS R offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimization (ALO), plus Off. In fully automatic (Scene Intelligent Auto) ALO is automatically enabled and it's available in P, Tv and Av exposure modes. Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to load full resolution images.

Automatic Lighting Optimization (0 EV)

As you can see above, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and mid-tones in the histograms to the right, brightening them while leaving highlights pretty much as is, though even the High setting still produced an underexposed image with no exposure compensation. ISO is not boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been boosted significantly.

HDR Mode
The Canon EOS R's HDR feature takes three continuous shots at different exposures and merges them together to create an image with wider tonal range than would be possible with a single exposure. There are three strength settings available (+/-1EV, +/-2EV,+/-3EV), plus Auto, and there are also 5 effects possible (Natural, Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed). The source images captured are not saved, and RAW mode is not supported.

High Dynamic Range (0 EV)

Above are in-camera HDR Natural results of our "Sunlit" Portrait scene at default exposure (mouse over the links above to load the corresponding thumbnail). As you can see Auto produced very similar to +/-3 EV, and all settings produce a slightly cropped image which is resampled to full resolution, so details are a little softer than the non-HDR image, but quality is otherwise quite good with no noticeable haloing even at the highest setting. Be aware that ghosting can occur when elements in the scene move during the sequence capture, though. (Apologies for the dim images; we should have used some positive exposure compensation here.)

High Dynamic Range (0 EV)

Above are in-camera HDR results of our "Sunlit" Portrait scene comparing Natural to the various Art modes using default exposure (mouse over the links above to load the corresponding thumbnail). Again, apologies for the dim images; we should have used some positive exposure compensation here.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we compare the Canon EOS R's dynamic range to its more expensive DSLR sibling's, the 5D Mark IV, and to the Sony A7 Mark III's, which is a 24-megapixel full-frame mirrorless.

As you can see, the EOS R's dynamic range is practically identical to that of the 5D Mark IV, which isn't a surprise given they share very similar if not identical sensors.

The Sony A7 III offers significantly better dynamic range than the Canon R across the ISO range, though, with over a 1.1 EV advantage at base ISO (14.65 vs 13.51 EV), which then varies between a minimum of about 0.4 EV higher at low ISOs, gradually increasing to over a 1.1 EV advantage again at the highest common sensitivity.

Bottom line: Good dynamic range for a full-frame camera as we'd expect from the best performing Canon sensor to date, however rival full-frame models from Sony (and Nikon) offer significantly higher dynamic range. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Canon EOS R for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

AF low-light limit:
The Canon EOS R's autofocus system was able to focus on our legacy low-contrast AF target down to about -6.0 EV unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, which is excellent. With our newer high-contrast AF target, though, the EOS R was able to focus down to about -7.0 EV, which is outstanding.

The Canon EOS R has a built-in AF assist lamp, and so it can focus in complete darkness as long as the subject is within range and has sufficient contrast.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Mirrorless cameras like the Canon EOS R do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Very nice 30 x 40 inch prints all the way up to ISO 800; a pleasing 8 x 10 inch print at ISO 12,800; and usable 4 x 6 prints up to ISO 102,400.

ISO 50 through 800 prints look nearly identical, with crisp, fine detail and vibrant, pleasing colors, which all easily make for excellent prints up to our maximum test print size of 30 x 40 inches. With a 30MP full-frame sensor, the EOS R easily makes prints up to this large size; an extremely minimal amount of pixelation is visible at close inspection, but for a typical viewing distance, it's hardly an issue. Overall, in terms of a maximum print size at these lower ISOs, you're only limited to how much you want to push the camera's resolving power, otherwise print quality is excellent at 30 x 40 inches and smaller.

ISO 1600 prints begin to show some visible noise, and we see a slight softening of fine detail, although the image overall still displays very good fine detail. Here, we capped prints at a still-respectable 24 x 36 inches, which is still very large. Overall, noise is very minimal, and careful post-processing might get you cleaner images that are capable of even larger prints at this sensitivity.

ISO 3200 images begin to display stronger noise -- stronger than the noise we see at this ISO from the 5D Mark IV at default settings -- and as such, we're calling it at 16 x 20 inches for good prints here for the EOS R. Fine detail is similar to the 5D IV, however the EOS R displays somewhat stronger noise in the background and shadow areas, thus slightly limiting print size at this ISO. That being said, with careful post processing or for less critical applications, a 20 x 30-inch print could be acceptable.

ISO 6400 prints, interestingly, match up nicely against the 5D IV's performance at this ISO level, topping out at a nice 13 x 19 inches. Noise is, of course, stronger, but still very well controlled for the most part. Higher contrast details are still crisp, and colors are still rich and pleasing.

ISO 12,800 images show stronger noise, both in the shadow areas and on print detail throughout, reducing print size to 8 x 10 inches. 11 x 14-inch prints appear too noisy at this ISO for critical applications.

ISO 25,600 prints top-out at 5 x 7 inches. An 8 x 10 print at this ISO shows nice detail, even a hint more fine detail in some areas of our test scene compared to that from the 5D Mark IV. However, noise is simply too strong for our liking at this larger print size, so we're calling it at 5 x 7 inches for the EOS R.

ISO 40,000 images, the EOS R's maximum native ISO, are just hitting the cut-off mark for a good 5 x 7-inch print. Noise is definitely strong here at this sensitively and its taking a toll on fine detail.

ISO 51,200 prints are usable up to 4 x 6 inches, or perhaps 5 x 7 inches for less critical applications. Noise has become quite strong now, preventing acceptable prints at larger sizes.

ISO 102,400 images, much like the previous ISO, top-out at 4 x 6 inches. This ISO is barely usable for prints, especially for anything larger, but we don't see the splotchy chroma noise artifacts that are visible on the 5D Mark IV's max ISO prints. Therefore, we're considering ISO 102,400 usable for 4 x 6-inch prints from the EOS R, which is quite impressive.

Much like its DSLR sibling, the 5D Mark IV, the new Canon EOS R full-frame mirrorless camera has a solid showing here in our print quality analysis, particularly at lower ISOs. Up to ISO 800, the EOS R does remarkably well, with sharp, vibrantly-colored prints that work very nicely all the way up to 30 x 40 inches and beyond, depending on how far you want to push the resolving power of its 30-megapixel sensor. At ISO 1600 and beyond, we start to see noise becoming increasingly stronger, particularly with lower contrast area and shadow regions. Canon has tweaked the default JPEG processing of the EOS R compared to that of the 5D Mark IV, and while fine detail can look a bit better from the EOS R, it does show slightly stronger noise than the 5D Mark IV at the same ISOs. Still, for the Canon EOS R, ISO 1600 images can still be printed at impressively large sizes, at up 24 x 36 inches, and even if you crank the ISO up to 12,800, you're still capable of a pleasing 8 x 10 print. What's more, despite the slight difference in high ISO/noise performance between the EOS R and 5D Mark IV, the EOS R edges out the Mark IV just a bit, producing a usable 4 x 6 inch print at its maximum expanded ISO of 102,400, whereas the 5D Mark IV did not.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon EOS R Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon EOS R with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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