Canon EOS RP Field Test

The compact, well-priced EOS RP is a great entry-level full frame camera

by Jaron Schneider | Posted 04/25/2019

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 24mm, f/4, 1/100s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

When looking at the Canon EOS RP, it's important to first frame your reference of judgment around what this camera is, and perhaps more importantly, who it was designed for. Upon its release, there was a flurry of YouTube videos and written editorials lambasting Canon for its choices in a mirrorless camera, and how it was a bad launch of a bad camera for uninformed buyers.

A cheap shot. A choice for easy sales over innovation. A lame duck.

But while there are some issues with the camera that of course should be noted, these over-the-top claims of the RP's ineptitude are largely overstated. They are based on expectations set far too high and on rumored specifications and wanton hopes (on that note, I've already gone on the record citing the poison that are rumor sites, so I won't go into that here).

When you look at the RP for what it is, what it is designed to do, and who it is designed for, it's hard to be upset with it. It produces high-quality images, has a pretty reliable autofocus system, makes good looking video for those just interested in having it as a feature, and is, of course, a full frame camera.

That last bit, full frame, is especially important. For just about every entry-level photographer who has some knowledge about cameras, their wish list of features these days will pretty much always include "full frame." It's the one feature of cameras that gets the most attention nowadays, I might argue even more so than megapixels. The idea is, if it's full frame, it's better.

And while that statement is unequivocally false, it's a strong belief that exists. And as false as that statement is, having full frame does indeed have advantages.

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 92mm, f/4, 1/2000s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

Canon has a pretty straightforward plan when it came to mirrorless, and I'm not just saying that with reference to the R and RP. Even before those two cameras, Canon's choices with mirrorless ring with the same two goals in mind: 1) Let's accentuate the kits of our DSLR shooters, not replace their equipment. 2) Let's focus on the low end before we fill out the high end.

Goal number one and goal number two are intrinsically linked. In order to accentuate a full frame, high-end DSLR, you don't want to replace it, but fill in some gaps. That strategy allows Canon to build equipment that has a few features that their DSLRs may not have, while also allowing them to cut corners in other places that the DSLRs already fulfill. Simultaneously, while providing equipment for current owners designed to fill gaps, these cameras that are obviously overall lower end have a lower price point, lower skill gap, and therefore appeal to new or newer shooters. So instead of coming out of the gate with a strong, expensive, high-end camera with a limited customer base, they instead release cameras that are more aimed at pleasing the masses.

This, of course, gives the high-end shooter a lot to complain about, but the average consumer photographer won't see a problem. What they will see is "Canon" on the front of the camera, and we cannot undervalue how important that is. Canon has a huge amount of power just in their name alone given their success over the last nearly two decades. Never underestimate how strong their brand recognition still is thanks to that.

So with a full understanding of where Canon stands and why they make the decisions they do, the RP starts to make a lot of sense. It's the most affordable full-frame mirrorless camera released so far, and it has the word "Canon" emblazoned on the front. For many, many consumers that's going to be more than enough to get their attention. And for that kind of a consumer, the RP does a lot right.

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 24mm, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

Build Quality and Design

The second time I took the RP out to test, I went to a large garden with my parents and their friend. When I met up with my dad, who has been a hobbyist photographer for over 50 years, he immediately commented on the RP which was strapped across my body.

"Oh wow, is that a new camera? I love the size!" He said. And to that note, I agree with my dad. The size of the RP is really nice. Is it unique in that regard? Of course not, Sony has been making small full frame cameras for years.

But those cameras don't have the word Canon on them, and that's one of the features my dad gravitated towards as he has been shooting Canon since the 90s.

With the EOS RP, Canon did an excellent job of making the camera look and feel familiar, a fact that absolutely cannot be overstated. Though much smaller than Canon's full-frame DSLRs, the grip feels robust enough for even somewhat large hands. The rest of the body design feels far more compact than other full frame cameras, but nothing feels particularly cramped. There aren't too many buttons, but just enough. Even the finish of the plastic feels right, as it's the quintessential matte black plastic that just feels like a Canon. If you put the RP in a Canon shooter's hand while they are blindfolded, they would instantly tell you it feels like a Canon.

Remember, this has power.

The top of the RP is very minimalist, with only a power switch, main control dial, record button, M-Fn button and two control dials used for shutter and aperture. There is no topside LCD, but it doesn't feel like that was a huge sacrifice since the rear articulating LCD can offer so many different view options. Though I personally am not a fan of how Canon changed the power switch design and stills/video toggle switch from their DSLRs, I have gotten used to it since the EOS R and it did not bother me as much on the RP. Change takes time, and I'm adjusting.

Speaking directly to the topside main command dial, I am very happy that Canon ditched the unintuitive "Mode" button on the EOS R and opted for the tried-and-true PASM mode dial of their DSLRs on the RP. Changing settings on the EOS R was completely redesigned for some reason, and it was not fun to have to relearn how to use my camera. The RP feels like a much better transition camera from DSLR to mirrorless because it doesn't force me to relearn old habits.

I am happy to report that the maligned Touch Bar control on the EOS R did not find its way to the RP. The RP is a better camera for not having that additional piece of technology.

Overall, it's as if Canon immediately learned from their mistakes on the EOS R design and addressed them with the RP. I say "as if" there since it's pretty likely the RP was already designed when the R came out, but I like to pretend that media and consumer feedback helps frame new products this quickly. I'll continue to lie to myself.

Except for the Touch Bar, the rear of the RP looks strikingly similar to the EOS R, with no rear command dial around the menu selector and an identical layout in every way.

The left side of the camera is also almost identical, with basically the same layout of the many ports including a mic and headphone jack, mini HDMI, USB-C port and intervalometer/remote port. The only change is the size of the rubber flap covering the USB/HDMI area, and the orientation of those two ports (the RP flips the design of the R for some reason, with the USB port below the HDMI port).

The RP is similar enough to the R and Canon DSLRs of the past that it's immediately familiar and easy to use for a Canon shooter, but different enough that you can immediately see and feel a difference between the RP and the R, which I argue is a very good thing (unlike with the Lumix S1 and S1R or the Nikon Z6 or Z7 which in both cases feel identical and are hard to even visually discern from one another).

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 80mm, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

The Menu of the RP is, while absolutely not revolutionary in any way, easy to navigate and operate. Canon has for years managed to distill their menu system in such a way that it's not very hard to find the specific items you're looking for. Items that are related to each other are located in near proximity, and the layout of the menu itself has changed little over the many years. Take notes Sony and Nikon, please.

Two obvious changes to the RP over the R involve the battery and the location of the SD port, and the expectation of what happens when you change lenses.

Rather than a dedicated SD slot door on the right side of the camera like the EOS R and a number of Canon DSLRs, the RP goes with the old point-and-shoot design of housing the card slot under the same door as the battery. This isn't my favorite place for memory card location as you cannot operate the camera and also swap the card. Because the door opens, the camera will turn off during the card swapping phase. Additionally, some tripod mounts will block the battery door from being able to open, which means sometimes you will have to fully remove the camera from a tripod just to change the memory card, which is an obvious annoyance. Not a huge deal, but I do prefer a dedicated memory card door.

On this same note, the battery for the RP is the LP-E17, a much smaller battery than the pretty ubiquitous LP-E6 (or in the case of the R, the better, newer LP-E6N). This battery has a considerably lower capacity than the LP-E6N but takes pretty much the same amount of time to charge from empty. When shooting stills, you can probably get about a half day of continuous shooting, and in video much, much less. It's absolutely not ideal, and since the RP only ships with one battery, you are going to have to spend the additional $50 to pick up at least one more if you want to have a good full day experience with the RP.

When speaking about battery life, you also have to consider the RP's auto shut off settings. By default, the RP will sleep after one minute, but you can set it as low as 15 seconds. If you're worried about battery life, I recommend setting it to that 15 seconds.

But on that note, the RP doesn't actually just "sleep" here, it actually fully turns itself off. You even get the "sensor cleaning" vibrations and visual indication on the rear LCD. I am going to reference this later, as a glitch occurs because of this function and I have successfully reproduced it repeatedly — more on that in the next section.

Overall, the design both externally and internally of the RP feels pretty clean and well thought out, perhaps more so than even the EOS R. If there are any problems to be had with the RP, they happen in its functionality.

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 56mm, f/4, 1/320s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

Using the EOS RP

I think it's pretty much universally agreed upon that the Canon EOS RP feels underpowered for a full frame camera, and it is... if you're looking at it from the reference point of other full frame cameras. As an entry-level mirrorless camera that also happens to be full frame, well it's pretty much what I expected.

Here is a quick overview of what the RP does right:

  • 26.2-megapixel full frame sensor
  • Solid 2.36M-dot EVF
  • Shoots 4K, albeit limited in scope but also...
  • Shoots in Full HD
  • Shoots 5 FPS stills
  • Has pretty fast and reliable Eye-AF/tracking AF
  • Has pretty good image quality overall

If you're the RP's target market, these are the only features you really care about with a camera. But there are a few more that buyers may not even realize they want:

  • Has a feature that allows you to drag your thumb across the back of the LCD to change focus point while looking through the EVF
  • Has the new Canon Fv shooting mode
  • Has fully enabled, well-designed touch screen access to an assortment of features

I will say that by default, the RP does have some odd choices programmed into it. For example, that absolutely excellent touch-and-drag AF point adjustment feature isn't on by default. Additionally, the rear directional button around the Q/Set button doesn't act like it does on every other Canon camera I've ever used, which is to immediately change my focus point. However, on the RP, by default, it's only used for adjusting settings in Fv Mode, even if you're not currently in Fv Mode. The directional buttons simply do nothing while in other shooting modes. This means that if you're using the camera right out of the box, your default AF setting is going to be single point mode, and then you're either forced to pull the camera away from your eye and use the touchscreen to move the AF point, or press the "AF Point" button next to the thumb grip and then use the directional buttons. This strikes me as extremely weird, it's certainly not intuitive for a seasoned Canon shooter, and even if this was my first Canon camera ever it still isn't how I would expect the camera to function.

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 105mm, f/4, 1/640s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

Luckily, these strange choices can be overridden in the settings, and it's not hard to find those settings either (as previously mentioned, the menu is pretty easy to get the swing of).

The EOS RP feels pretty good to use. The camera is very responsive, turns on and off about as quickly as you can possibly expect, and captures photos in a nice, intuitive way.

I only ran into one "major" problem with the RP, and it's a weird one. I mentioned earlier that the RP doesn't actually "sleep" so much as it turns itself off completely. Well, under this specific circumstance, you may have a problem:

  1. Allow the camera to put itself to sleep/power off without toggling the on/off switch
  2. Wait 15-30 seconds while the camera is off
  3. Press the shutter button to wake the RP

Instead of turning back on as expected, the RP will indeed awaken but you will have no autofocus points at all and the camera won't focus and you will not be able to capture a photo. The only way to wake it out of this weird state is to toggle a switch; I've gotten it to wake by changing the shooting mode or toggling the AF/MF switch on the lens, but there are probably other ways to do this as well.

This glitch doesn't always happen (in fact, it's more likely that it does not happen as I've personally only experienced it four times while shooting, and a fifth time when specifically trying to recreate the bug), but when it does it always feels like the most inopportune time. Consider being on a nature hike and seeing a bird you want to photograph. This actually happened to me, and I missed the shot of course. This could also pose a problem if you're trying to take photos of your kid's soccer game.

Frustrating, though somewhat predictable, the best way to avoid this glitch is to just always use the physical power switch until Canon patches it.

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 105mm, f/4, 1/1600s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

Other than that though, I have to say that the Canon EOS RP is just about exactly what I was expecting. It feels like a Canon, works pretty darn well in just about every shooting capacity I tried that a novice to intermediate shooter would do, and didn't really cause me any other issues. Image quality is also pretty great, with solid dynamic range (not market leading, but by no means a slouch either) up to ISO 1600.

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 24mm, f/4, 1/320s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

That ISO performance is the only weak spot in the camera's overall capability for its audience, as even for a full frame sensor, it lags behind other cameras. Though quality is, as expected, pretty clean from ISO 100 to 3200, ISO 6400 has what I perceive to be pretty obvious noise. From that point and higher, the RP just doesn't look great. ISO 6400 used to be the standard for "good" ISO performance, but technology has advanced considerably and I generally expect pretty clean images at least to that point now, especially when we're talking full frame sensors that lack in-body image stabilization (if I can't drag the shutter with IBIS's help, I definitely expect the sensor's ISO to aid me in low light).

So while we can cut the RP a lot of slack for being made for a more entry-level audience, the fact still remains that it is a full frame sensor, and I expect high performance from a full frame sensor regardless of its target audience. Here, the RP just doesn't quite cut it.

Here is a sample of images taken at different ISOs to illustrate how the RP performs:


ISO 100
ISO 1600
ISO 6400
ISO 51200

On this note, the dynamic range of the RP isn't the best, with a lot of color noise hiding in the shadows. Though yes, we can pull detail what may appear like fully black areas of an image, it's not usable detail.

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 105mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 100, -3EV
Original image straight out of camera.

Shadows pulled, highlights brought down.

The last thing I want to mention is the lack of in-body image stabilization on the RP. Well, it's not just the RP, but all of Canon's cameras. None of them have it, and it's becoming noticeable to me. Because most other ILC cameras on the market feature IBIS, including all other latest-generation full-frame mirrorless cameras currently available, not having body-based stabilization after getting used to it being there is a really large mental hurdle for me to overcome.

I understand that IBIS is not necessary to capture great images, and with the advancements in ISO, we can certainly bump ISO up to compensate for low light rather than getting much faster lenses or using slower shutter speeds. But there are cases where I really wish IBIS existed. Take for example a food festival I went to with EOS RP in hand. With the limited lens selection currently available for the RP (more on that later), the best option available to me was the 24-105 F/4 RF lens, which has lens stabilization in it. I went from walking around outside in the sun (where my ISO was set to 100) to going inside what my eyes perceived to be a well-lit tent. Because I was focused on being at the festival and not wholly thinking about capturing amazing photos, I didn't remember to change my ISO to AUTO, which would normally be my move here. I was taking photos all afternoon at ISO 100, and because I wasn't focused on shooting as much, I didn't notice a problem until I was about ready to leave. Unfortunately, my shutter speed was just a bit too slow in Aperture Priority (even at f/4) to get crisp shots. Therefore, every photo I had taken to that point was blurry. I didn't even think about it because I was so used to getting crisp shots even as low as 1/15 second on my other cameras with IBIS, and was crestfallen when I realized my error.

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 105mm, f/4, 1/160s, ISO 2000
One of the images I reshot after I realized my previous errors.
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

And yes, this was definitely my error. I messed up, but I feel like I still have room to cast some blame on the camera. It's 2019. All your competitors have built some kind of on-sensor stabilization. Optical stabilization just doesn't cut it anymore, Canon, and leaving it off your cameras despite seeing competitors and hearing the words of your users is becoming an un-ignorable "con" when evaluating your equipment.

Video Performance

I'm only going to briefly talk about video here because our video reviews are standalone, but I do want to address this because video is the one area where most of the complaints online have surrounded.

Right off the bat, let's address the elephant in the room: the EOS RP can only capture 4K at 23.98p, and only offer Full HD capture at 29.97p and 29.97 (Light) and 59.94p.

Yeah, that's super weird. If you want to shoot at 24p, you have to capture in 4K. But if you want to shoot in 30p, you have to shoot in Full HD.

Canon EOS RP 4Kp24 Sample Video #1
Download Original (185.6 MB MP4)

Canon EOS RP 1080p30 Sample Video #1
Download Original (64.2 MB MP4)

There are no further slow motion options available. In fact, there are no other movie settings at Full HD quality and above except those three (there are is also 720p capture at 29.97p and 59.94p, but 720p is ludicrously low quality by 2019 standards and you don't even gain additional framerates for choosing to go that low).

It's hard to defend these choices. Even for an entry-level camera, these are woefully incomplete video capture options, and the criticism Canon has faced due to these settings is warranted. There were creators looking to use the EOS RP as a video camera, and this just doesn't have the capability necessary for that job. The message Canon is sending here is... buy an EOS R.

And that's somewhat fair. If you want more robust video features like a wider array of capture settings, internal and external C-Log capture, and even external 4:2:2 10-bit, get the EOS R. It's a more complete camera that honestly gets a lot right. It's just disappointing that there isn't a strong video contender from Canon that is also lower priced. And it's weird, since you see many video capabilities coming out of someone like Sony with their A6400, but that camera isn't full frame. If Canon offered the strong EOS R video features on the RP, the RP would eat the A6400's lunch. I guess Canon doesn't think that way, because as it stands the RP just doesn't compete well against something like the Sony A6400 because of these really limited video features, despite the fact the RP uses a larger sensor.

Canon EOS RP 4Kp24 Sample Video #2
Download Original (200.4 MB MP4)

Canon EOS RP 1080p30 Sample Video #2
Download Original (56.3 MB MP4)

As far as quality goes, the 4K video is pretty sharp and high quality, visually speaking. However, the Full HD video in comparison is far less sharp and a bit "muddier" overall. This is normally not as big of a deal as it is with the RP though since usually, shooters have their choice of more framerate options between both 4K and Full HD. Unfortunately, in this case, the RP limits your choice so much that the fact the Full HD is noticeably worse is especially bad given you cannot choose to shoot in 30p in 4K, should that be your preference.

There is also some pretty atrocious rolling shutter that's immediately obvious in 4K, though it's less of an egregious situation when shooting in Full HD. I generally don't care that much about rolling shutter, but even slow panning motion showed it when in 4K and that's not good.

One other note on video: there is a significant 1.6x crop factor when shooting 4K video on the EOS RP, which is becoming a tradition with Canon hybrid cameras. There is no crop when shooting in Full HD, but as discussed your capture options are rather limited there as well.

The crop in 4K is quite severe, as you can see here:

Canon EOS RP still frame from 4K footage.

Canon EOS RP still frame from Full HD footage.

The whole package

There is one final note I would like to make about the EOS RP, and it doesn't have to do with the RP by itself specifically. Instead, it's the market the RP finds itself in. I am not referring to the landscape of digital hybrid cameras, but instead the wholly-controlled Canon situation. Canon launched the RP into an environment where it has released four lenses at the launch of the RF mount and announced one more after. The 28-70mm f/2, the 24-105mm f/4, the 50mm f/1.2 and the 35mm f/1.8. The cheapest of those lenses is the last one, coming in at $500. The rest? They're very expensive and are all higher-end L-series lenses. The RF 24-105 is $1100 and the other two are hugely expensive, pro-tier optics.

Canon has no pro-level RF body.

I understand that Canon wanted to put emphasis on its lens-making prowess, and that's why three of the four lenses that kicked off the RF line were their L-series, pro-level glass. But the two bodies they released, and especially the RP, are not bodies that will attract customers who are going to spend that kind of cheddar. The only two native RF-mount Canon options are a $500 35mm, and an $1100 24-105mm. So even though the RP is the cheapest full-frame mirrorless on the market, it is not supported by enough optics that keep it there.

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 105mm, f/4, 1/500s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

That's my strongest beef with the RP. If you're going to make a solid, quality, low-end mirrorless camera, don't throw it into a market where you as the maker have put more time into the highest-end optics you could make. It makes the RP feel unsupported.

I understand Canon will be releasing more lenses as time goes on, but that's not the point. The point is a camera that came onto the market a couple of months ago and the environment that camera was, and still is, it just isn't a good one for a product aimed at the lower end.

RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 105mm, f/4, 1/1000s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

What I liked:

  • Great overall image quality
  • 26.2-megapixel full frame sensor
  • Flip-out vari-angle articulating touch screen is easy to operate and feels good to use
  • The RP features a return of the original design of Canon top command dials, and doesn't have the touch bar that the EOS R has
  • Allows you to drag your thumb around the rear LCD while using the EVF to change focus points intuitively
  • Pretty fast processor is able to handle the workload of much more data thanks to a full frame sensor
  • Has reliable tracking, including Eye-AF
  • The cheapest full-frame mirrorless camera on the market

What could use improvement:

  • ISO performance lags behind other full frame cameras from competitors
  • Lacks image stabilization on the sensor, which is a huge weak point of Canon's entire mirrorless system to date
  • Yet again, Full HD video quality is a noticeable downgrade compared to 4K
  • Video features are seriously sub-par
  • Underwhelming battery life due to the smaller LP-E17 battery pack
  • Lacks strong lens support for the consumer market the RP was designed for
  • Unlike the EOS R, the RP doesn't cover the sensor with the shutter when removing lenses (like most mirrorless cameras)
RF 24-105mm f/4L IS: 97mm, f/4, 1/3200s, ISO 100
(Note: This image has been edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Please click for the original.)

Looking at the RP, I understand it is not the camera certain Canon users wanted. It's very clearly aimed at the low-end of the interchangeable lens market, and that is Canon's strategy. But just because you disagree with their strategy doesn't mean it's a bad camera. For who it is designed for, it's actually pretty great. It's a good still image-focused camera that is very responsive, is easy to operate, and has just enough customization to it to satisfy even intermediate level shooters. It's not going to win any technical achievement awards, but it is going to move units to an industry more and more dominated by general consumers than professional photographers. For a big business like Canon, their decision making makes sense from that perspective.

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