Canon R8 Review

Camera Reviews / Canon Cameras / Canon EOS i Hands-On Preview
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon EOS R8
Resolution: 24.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(36.0mm x 24.0mm)
Kit Lens: 4.38x zoom
(24-50mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 102,400
Extended ISO: 50 - 204,800
Shutter: 1/16000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 4.5 (kit lens)
Dimensions: 5.2 x 3.4 x 2.8 in.
(133 x 85 x 70 mm)
Weight: 16.3 oz (461 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $1,500
Availability: TBD
Manufacturer: Canon

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Canon EOS R8 Hands-on Preview

Canon's newest full-frame camera is an excellent bang for your buck

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 02/07/2023

Last week, we headed down to charming Charleston, South Carolina, for a hands-on experience with Canon's latest cameras and lenses ahead of the official announcement. Joined by our peers in the press, we tested out the new APS-C Canon EOS R50, which my colleague William Brawley is writing about, and the full-frame Canon EOS R8.

While we rarely report on rumors here at Imaging Resource, we do keep an eye on them, and we had seen many rumors about the R8 – none of which correctly identified the camera's full-frame image sensor. The name itself can be a bit misleading, with the R8 nestling between a pair of APS-C mirrorless cameras, the R7 and R10. However, where the "R8" model name isn't misleading at all is concerning the camera's target audience. With Canon and its single digital models, like the R3, R5 and R6, the general pattern is that the higher the number, the lower the price. Coming in at just $1,499 body only ($1,699 in a kit with the new RF 24-50mm zoom lens), the Canon R8 is one of Canon's most affordable full-frame cameras, costing more than only the EOS RP, which is getting a bit long in the tooth.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 24mm, F10, 1/60s, ISO 125.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

For what it's worth, the EOS R8 seems like an EOS R replacement in Canon's lineup. However, the EOS R remains available for purchase and, in typical Canon fashion, has yet to be officially discontinued. While $1,000 less expensive than the new Canon R6 Mark II, the R8 shares many features with the R6 II – including the same 24.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor and excellent autofocus system. The R8 includes some compromises, as we'll discuss, but it includes an impressive array of features and performance considering its price point. Without further ado, let's take a close look at the R8.

Canon EOS R8 Key Features and Specifications

  • Full-frame interchangeable lens camera
  • Canon EOS RF mount
  • 24.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS image sensor (not backside-illuminated or stacked)
  • ISO range: 100-102,400 (50-204,800 expanded)
  • DIGIC X processor
  • Continuous shooting at up to 40 frames per second with electronic shutter
  • Doesn't include a typical mechanical shutter, only electronic first curtain and electronic
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with approximately 100% AF area coverage
  • Includes Face Detect and Tracking AF
  • AI-powered subject detection AF like the R6 Mark II
  • No in-body image stabilization
  • 4K/60p video oversampled from 6K
  • 10-bit Canon Log 3 and HDR PQ
  • High Frame Rate video at Full HD up to 180p
  • Body only $1,499
Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 240mm, F6.3, 1/320s, ISO 8000.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

Canon EOS R8 design and handling

The Canon EOS R8 is a pretty compact full-frame camera. With that small size comes some compromises in terms of control. Before diving into that, let's break down the dimensions. The R8's dimensions (W x H x D) are 132.5 x 86.1 x 70.0mm (5.22 x 3.39 x 2.76 in.). The camera weighs 461g (1.01 lbs) with a Canon LP-E17 battery and an SD card (the camera has just a single UHS-II SD card slot).

Let's compare that to the EOS RP. The R8 is 1mm (0.04 in.) taller and about 20g lighter. What about the R6 Mark II? The R6 Mark II is 138.4 x 98.4 x 88.4mm (5.45 x 3.87 x 3.48 in.), and it weighs 670g, so the R8 is quite a bit smaller in overall volume and significantly lighter than the R6 II. Heck, the full-frame R8 is smaller and lighter than the APS-C EOS R7, although not by as wide a margin as compared to the R6 II.

The R8 is an impressively compact, lightweight camera. It's very well-suited to travel photography because of its small stature. Even still, the camera's grip is reasonably large and comfortable, resulting in a good user experience even when using a longer lens, like the RF 100-400mm telephoto zoom.

The R8 includes a decent electronic viewfinder. It is a 0.39-inch OLED with 2.36M dots and 0.7x magnification. The EVF is reasonably sharp, although its low magnification makes it seem small. The EVF is lower res and has lower magnification than the R6 Mark II's EVF, and the difference is noticeable in use. The R8 sports the same rear display as the R6 II – a 3-inch tilt/swivel touchscreen with 1.62M dots.

When looking at the top of the R8, it's straightforward. There's a switch to the left of the viewfinder to switch between photo and video modes. To the right, there's a mode dial, movie record button, a power switch, a pair of control dials, an M-Fn button, and shutter release. It looks a lot like the R6 Mark II from the top.

Moving to the rear, there are some big differences. The R8 lacks an autofocus joystick and doesn't have the same rotating control dial around the SET button as the R6 Mark II. The R6 II is set up for enthusiasts and professional use, whereas the R8 is aimed more at first-time camera owners or beginners. The lack of an autofocus joystick is very difficult to overcome for someone like me, who is used to nearly every camera having an AF joystick. You can set the directional buttons to have direct access over the AF area using custom control settings, but that's not how the camera operates by default.

In use, there's much to like about the R8. The highlights are the camera's compact size and lightweight design. The camera's controls are capable in most situations, although the lack of an AF joystick might limit the R8's appeal to enthusiast-level and above photographers. However, you can't have everything, especially not for $1,500.

The same impressive 24.2-megapixel sensor as the R6 Mark II

The heart of the Canon R8 is the same 24.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS image sensor introduced in the R6 Mark II late last year. The sensor was newly developed for that camera and now has made its way into a much less expensive and smaller full-frame body. No, the sensor isn't as high-resolution as the 30MP EOS R that kicked off Canon's full-frame mirrorless system in 2018, nor is the 24.2-megapixel sensor backside-illuminated or stacked. It's a pretty straightforward, basic sensor. However, don't mistake basic for bad. It's an excellent image sensor that produces impressive image quality across various situations. For 24.2 megapixels, it also produces impressively sharp, detailed images.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 40mm, F6.3, 1/160s, ISO 100.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

During our time in Charleston, the R8 had plenty of opportunity to strut its stuff at high ISO. During the first hands-on day at the Magnolia Plantation, I routinely hit ISO 6400 and above, even hitting ISO 25,600 a few times. Even at ISO 25,600, which is a pretty high ISO, even for a full-frame camera, the R8 did extremely well – at least with its JPEG images at default noise reduction. Since the camera isn't out yet, there's no raw processing support outside of a beta version of Canon's in-house image editing software, so I stuck to JPEG images. However, I captured raw images the entire time, and you can download them in the Gallery. You won't be able to process them yet, but support should arrive shortly.

Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM lens at 400mm, F8, 1/400s, ISO 25600.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.
Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 240mm, F6.3, 1/80s, ISO 25600.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

At high ISO, colors remained accurate, along with good tonal range. There's also quite a bit of detail in high ISO files and little noise. The default noise reduction processing is heavy-handed for my taste, but it's not bad. If you want to get a good sense of the R8's image quality performance, you can check out our R6 Mark II sample images from the lab.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 34mm, F5.6, 1/80s, ISO 400.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

At low ISO, the R8 is even more impressive. The camera delivers sharp, detailed images with excellent color accuracy and performance. While automatic white balance struggled slightly in very dim, challenging conditions, the camera produced pleasing JPEG images without fuss. I'm looking forward to processing the raw images later because there's a lot of potential for even better performance, especially concerning dynamic range. That said, the story so far is a good one.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 240mm, F7.1, 1/250s, ISO 500.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

Autofocus: Impressive all-around performance

The Canon R8 may make a few compromises regarding body design and high-speed shooting (more on that shortly), but it makes no sacrifice in the autofocus department. Between the image pipeline and autofocus, there's not much to differentiate the R8 and the R6 Mark II – and for many photographers, image quality and autofocus are the most important characteristics.

The impressive image sensor is paired with Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, a tried-and-true autofocus system that, simply put, consistently works well. The autofocus area covers the entire sensor, although you can't manually select autofocus points across the whole image area. Instead, you can select from points covering about 90% of the horizontal and 100% of the vertical areas, which is still very impressive. The autofocus system is rated to work down to -6.5 EV, which is also excellent.

Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM lens at 400mm, F8, 1/400s, ISO 640.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

The user can select from a wide range of autofocus area modes, including spot AF, 1-point AF, expanded AF, flexible zone AF, and whole area AF. There's customizability with expanded and flexible zone options. Again, this is a good time to lament the lack of a dedicated autofocus control joystick. I don't want to keep beating that drum. Still, it is a significant usability difference that separates the R8 and the more expensive R6 II, and it's clear that the latter camera delivers a better user experience in that regard.

As for how the autofocus system operates, it's practically indistinguishable from the R6 Mark II, which is fantastic news. The camera's AF performance is swift and reliable. A star of the show is the AI-powered subject detection autofocus modes. The camera can automatically detect subjects like people, animals and vehicles. Like the R6 II, you don't need to specify a target subject but can instead utilize an "Auto" mode. If you want to only focus on people, that's an option, of course, but it's great to have the camera adapt on the fly as subjects change.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 240mm, F9, 1/320s, ISO 12800.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

Overall, the R8's autofocus system and overall performance are highly impressive. Canon has managed to take what we loved about the R6 II's AF and put it into a smaller, lighter, more affordable camera.

Video specs: 4K/60p

The R8 includes some pretty impressive video features. The camera records 4K UHD video at up to 60p frame rates using the full width of the image sensor. The 4K output is oversampled from 6K video, resulting in what should be highly-detailed and sharp 4K video. We'll be testing the video features during our full hands-on review once we get hands-on with the camera again, but let's briefly look at the R8's promised features and performance.

Beyond 4K/60p video using the full width of the image sensor, the camera also records Full HD video at up to 120p with audio and 180p without audio using the camera's High Frame Rate mode. The R8 can capture 10-bit Canon Log 3 video and includes an HDR PQ mode. It has a mic input, although it lacks a headphone jack. The camera's impressive autofocus features also apply to video. The R8 can also live stream via USB.

The all-too-common and quite annoying 29'59" recording limit per clip is gone. You can record two hours per video file, which should work for just about every scenario. As for thermals, the R8 should record 4K/60p video for about 30 minutes at room temperature before the camera has overheating concerns. With 4K/30p video, there are no such restrictions.

Image stabilization is limited to optical image stabilization with IS-equipped lenses or Canon's Movie Digital IS, which incorporates a crop factor to stabilize footage.

The R8 has a single UHS-II SD card slot. It's worth noting that some video modes, namely 4K/60p video, requires UHS Speed Class 3 or higher SD cards. In some cases, Video Speed Class V60 may be required.

We're looking forward to testing video performance further later, but suffice it to say the R8 should be good for light and medium video users. It only has some of the bells and whistles for high-end video applications, but it should work well for entry-level content creation.

Performance: Fast, but not ideal for action photography

The R8 lacks a mechanical shutter, which is interesting. Well, "lacks" isn't quite the right word. The R8 has an electronic first curtain shutter, which means that the second curtain is still mechanical, but it doesn't have a fully mechanical shutter option. The R8 includes an electronic shutter mode, which is not only silent but offers pretty good performance, as we saw with the R6 Mark II. Rolling shutter still exists, but it's impressively minimized.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 168mm, F6.3, 1/250s, ISO 2000.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

The R8's shooting speeds depend greatly upon your shutter selection. When using the electronic first curtain shutter, the default option, the R8 tops out at 6 frames per second with one-shot or Servo AF. When using the electronic shutter, the speed increases to 40 frames per second. There's also a RAW Burst Mode, which includes a half-second of pre-shooting to help you capture fast action before you can even press the shutter. This mode requires the electronic shutter and tops out at 30 fps.

The R8 is plenty fast for action when using the electronic shutter, including pretty good Servo AF. However, as a purpose-built sports camera, it comes up a bit short due to a somewhat shallow buffer depth. When shooting raw or raw+JPEG, the buffer depth is just over 50 frames. You can roughly double the buffer by shooting C-RAW or get up to 120 frames by shooting only JPEG. That performance isn't bad, per se, but you work through the buffer really fast at 40 fps. Compare that to the R6 Mark II, which has the same imaging pipeline, and you'll see that the R8 lags. The R6 Mark II, when using C-RAW, can shoot more than a thousand C-RAW files or nearly 400 RAW files before the buffer fills.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 240mm, F6.3, 1/320s, ISO 2500.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

Another difference between the R8 and the R6 II comes down to in-body image stabilization. The R6 Mark II has it, and the R8 doesn't. In bright light, that's not a big deal for stills photography. However, in dim light, IBIS can help capture sharper shots with lower ISO settings.

Overall, the R8's performance is impressive, especially considering its price point. We've come a long way since the original EOS R and its poor Servo AF and lackluster shooting speeds. The R8 can't quite match the R6 II regarding best-possible performance, but the R8 is no slouch.

In the field: The EOS R8 is a great travel camera

Canon spent quite a bit of time talking to us about the appeal of the EOS R8 as a travel camera, and we agree, it's a great choice for travel photography. There's a lot going on for the R8 in this regard.

Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM lens at 100mm, F5.6, 1/100s, ISO 1000.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

For starters, the camera is relatively small and lightweight, especially for a full-frame camera. We've already mentioned the camera's weight (461g / 1.01 lbs with battery and memory card), but what about a typical kit? If you get the R8 with its new kit lens option, the RF 24-50mm F4.5-6.3, the total weight is just 731g (1.6 lbs), which is just 60g heavier than the R6 Mark II body only. If you use the R8 with Canon's RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens, which is $900, the total weight is 1,211g (2.67 lbs). That's not exactly lightweight, but it's alright considering you're working with a full-frame camera and an excellent 24-240mm zoom range. I loved that combination and used it extensively. You can do almost everything with the R8 and that lens, save for long-distance wildlife and sports. You can even capture portraits or shoot in low light, albeit not as effectively as you can with a fast prime.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 76mm, F10, 1/100s, ISO 320.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

If you're on an exciting vacation, you want to come home with good pictures. The R8 handles that extremely well thanks to its high-quality 24.2-megapixel full-frame image sensor. You also need to return with sharp shots, which are made straightforward thanks to the sophisticated and reliable autofocus system. The R8's lack of in-body image stabilization is somewhat disappointing, but you can use an IS-equipped lens to help make up for the omission. If the R8 had IBIS, it'd cost more and be larger and heavier, so that's the tradeoff.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 62mm, F7.1, 1/60s, ISO 6400.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

A great travel camera must also be versatile, an area where the R6 Mark II and R8 alike excel. The R8 is a bit less capable than its more expensive, larger sibling when it comes to high-speed and low-light shooting (concerning IBIS, not the image quality), but the R8 remains a very capable camera for many types of situations. It can produce high-quality results in most scenarios, albeit with less polish in the usability department. The R8 has impressive video chops, with 4K/60p video using 6K oversampled footage. We'll dive into the video more in our hands-on review down the road, but if you want a suitable camera for both photo and video, the R8 is a good option.

While I wish the EVF was larger and the controls a bit more refined, the R8 is a pleasant camera to use. Canon's menu system is good, able to be understood by beginners and experienced photographers alike. The camera packs just about every feature you could ask for at the $1,500 price point and delivers image quality and autofocus performance far exceeding its relatively affordable asking price.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 240mm, F6.3, 1/320s, ISO 1600.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

Summary: The Canon EOS R8 offers impressive value and good all-around performance

Whether shooting in dreary, dark overcast conditions surrounded by old, ivy-laden trees or walking around picturesque and historic Charleston, the Canon EOS R8 was a joy to use. The lightweight body and intuitive menus made it easy to pick up and shoot, no matter the subject. Better still, the 24.2-megapixel image sensor delivers impressive image quality and the autofocus system is intelligent and reliable.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 28mm, F10, 1/60s, ISO 2000.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the raw file.

The R8 may not have all the same features as the R6 Mark II, but it nonetheless feels like an R6 II-lite. And coming in at $1,499 body only, it's hard to complain too much about the missing features. For someone's first full-frame mirrorless camera, especially someone looking for something for travel photography or all-around content creation, the R8 seems like a promising option. Stay tuned to Imaging Resource for our full hands-on review as soon as we receive our review unit. Until then, check out our Canon R8 Gallery. If you'd like to learn about Canon's latest APS-C camera, the R50, head to our Canon EOS R50 Hands-on Preview.


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