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Canon EOS R review

The Canon EOS R is Canon's first mirrorless full-frame camera. The EOS R is also the first full-frame and 35-mm Canon camera with a new mount since the introduction of the EOS system with EF mount in 1987. The camera is part of a completely new system that also includes a number of special lenses. With the EOS R, Canon takes a giant step toward a mirrorless future.

The Canon EOS R is the first camera of a completely new generation of Canon cameras. The body is smaller and lighter than that of the SLR models, and it has a new mount that corresponds to the EF mount, with of course a short distance from the mount to the sensor. The rear dial is no longer on the back but more traditionally on the top cover. That has to do with the compact dimensions of the body and the lack of space for a thumb wheel. The Canon EOS R does have a rotatable and tiltable screen, and it beats the competition in this segment with that. You do not need that screen to check your settings, because the EOS R also has a screen on the top cover. A unique detail that we have not seen on cameras before is the Touch Bar next to the viewfinder. You can tap or swipe it, and it is programmable. That makes the camera very flexible. The AF system of the EOS R is also unique, with an incredible number of autofocus points and an unprecedented sensitivity. What the EOS R does not have, on the other hand, and competing systems do, is built-in image stabilization. The EOS R can be charged via the USB port, and that is nice for photographers who choose mirrorless because of their dimensions. Now you don't always have to take a charger with you. It is also striking that Canon - like Nikon - has not opted for a new type of memory card like CFast or XQD, but for the familiar SD cards. Naturally, a new system can of course not be used without new lenses. For now, at least four have been announced: the RF 50 mm f/1.2 L USM, the RF 28-70 mm f/2L USM, the RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS STM Macro (with stepper motor) and the RF 24-105 mm f/4L IS USM. The latter will probably also be supplied as a kit lens with the Canon EOS R.

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REVOLUTION: CANON EOS R

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Canon EOS R versus Eos 6d en 5d mark iv

Anyone who might have thought that Canon's first full-frame mirrorless system camera would be a high-end model that would leave the competition in the dust might be a bit disappointed. But that expectation was not warranted either. This is a first generation of a completely new system, and of course you do not release a model that immediately satisfies the most demanding photographers. That applied to the first generation of Sony's A7 cameras, and it's no different for Canon. According to Canon, market research also shows that photographers who are most likely to make the switch first are among the enthusiasts and not the professionals. And it would have been odd if Canon had immediately come up with a model that had immediately beaten the EOS 5D Mark IV or 5Ds - a couple of Canon's most important models. The EOS R is not a model with double card slots or particularly solid build like the 5D Mark IV. The EOS R should therefore be seen more as the mirrorless counterpart of the EOS 6D, with its single card slot and adequate but not extreme weather resistance. The much more extensive autofocus options and the 30-megapixel sensor ensure that the EOS R is a much more attractive camera than the EOS 6D Mark II.

EOSR FrontSlantLeft Body

Canon EOS R versus Nikon z6 AND Sony A7 III

The Canon EOS R can be seen as a direct competitor of the Nikon Z6 and the Sony A7 Mark III. The Canon is probably the best of the three ergonomically, although you will have to see whether you can get used to working with the touch bar. The viewfinder is beautiful and a fraction nicer and sharper than that of the Sony and almost as good as that of the Nikon. Where the Canon beats the competition is with the turning and tilting screen. None of the other full-frame mirrorless system cameras has that yet. The choice of RF lenses is still limited, but the ability to use all EF lenses with a perfectly working adapter without restrictions is also very good. As far as the sensor is concerned, the Canon seems to have an advantage over the competition. The Sony and the Nikon have "only" 24-megapixel sensors, but they are without an antialias filter, so the sharpness of the shots is comparable. The dynamic range of both competitors is somewhat higher than that of the Canon. The biggest competition that the EOS R has to fear is from the Sony, with its now wide range of EF lenses, built-in image stabilization, dual card slot and excellent video capabilities. As a third-generation model, the A7 III is still a step ahead of the EOS R, but the difference is not very big either. And if you already have a Canon, then the switch from a Canon SLR to the EOS R might be more obvious than a switch to a Sony A7 III.  

Canon EOS  R: BUILD QUALITY, DESIGN AND ERGONOMICS

The Canon EOS R is immediately comfortable in the hand. That is the first thing you notice when you pick up the camera. The EOS R is only a little bit bigger than a Sony A7 III, but the grip on the front is a bit fuller and also goes significantly further up. This allows you to put your entire hand around it. It also feels nice and solid. The EOS R is a camera that immediately gives you the feeling of having quality in your hands. The body is significantly thinner and smaller than that of Canon's SLR cameras, and that has affected the placement of the buttons on the camera. The large setting wheel on the back of the SLR models is gone, and the same goes for the row of buttons on top for, for example, the ISO value, the white balance and the shooting speed. These are matters that you will have to set up largely via the menu. This means that the operation feels a little less direct. Almost all the buttons on the EOS R are programmable, but once you use them, they lose the function they had from the factory. You then sometimes exchange one problem for another. On the back, there is a round disc, but it only has four positions that you can press. It is not rotatable. On the other hand, the EOS R has two unique control elements that are not on any of the SLR models. The first is the M-Fn (Multifunctional) Bar on the back. You can tap this left or right to call up two different functions, and you can swipe it to change values. For example, you can set the left point for "ISO 100" and set the right point for "Auto-ISO" and set the swipe to manually increase or decrease the ISO value. It is just one of the many possibilities that you can program. The great thing is that you only have to touch the M-Fn Bar very lightly, so you can use it to change values while filming. The disadvantage is that you can sometimes inadvertently change a value. You can set a safety for this. If you do that, you must first cover the M-Fn Bar with your finger for two seconds to unlock it. That makes using it a lot slower in practice. It is a fun novelty, but with an extra command dial and one or two extra buttons, we probably would have been happier. What is a very nice feature is the programmable ring on the front of the RF lenses. You can use this for the ISO value, the aperture, the shutter speed or the exposure compensation, for example. Such a ring should basically be on every lens. And if you buy the EF adapter with ring, then it is the case for all EF lenses. This is very well thought out. As far as we are concerned, the ring could optionally have been made clickless for exposure adjustments while filming. But you can use the M-Fn Bar for that on the EOS R. On the left is a single button with only one function: the on-off switch. It means that you always have to operate the EOS R with two hands if you want to turn the camera on and off regularly. 

EOS R Body
Canon EOS R

SCREEN AND VIEWFINDEr

The Canon EOS R has a beautiful viewfinder with high resolution. It is visibly more beautiful than that of the Sony A7 III, which also has more than 30% fewer pixels. It is almost identical to the viewfinder of the Nikon Z6, although the latter has slightly less distortion. You only see that when you look through the two cameras in quick succession. The screen of the EOS R turns and tilts. And with that, it is the only full-frame mirrorless camera that is suitable for selfies and vlogging. You can effortlessly turn the screen outside and forward. Why no other manufacturer has chosen this solution is a mystery to us. But if you want a full-frame mirrorless camera with which you can vlog, then the choice is simple. The screen is touch-sensitive, and that's nice. Not only because you can so easily make adjustments in the quick selection menu, but also because you can easily shift your autofocus point. The EOS R does not have a joystick for the autofocus. If you specifically want that, you can program the four-way controller on the back for shifting your focus point.

Menu AND special features 

The Canon EOS R has a number of special features that you can find on other mirrorless cameras but not previously on Canon DSLRs. You can, for example, charge the camera via USB-C, although the camera is quite exacting when it comes to the type of charger. Canon supplies its own charger that works, of course, but not every charger from other manufacturers is suitable for the EOS R. Another feature that some Canon users might have been waiting for is silent shooting. With the SLR models, that could of course be done in live view, but that is not why you buy a camera with a viewfinder. The EOS R also has wireless connection options so that you can also use the camera with the accompanying app from Canon on your smartphone. 

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IMAGE STABILIZATION

One thing that is clearly missing on the EOS R is built-in image stabilization. In video, you might use electronic image stabilization, but that results in an extra crop and a softening of the image. For photography, you are completely dependent on image stabilization in the lenses. We have now tested the Canon RF 24-105 mm f/4L IS USM and have seen that the stabilization of this lens is very effective. If it is in the lenses, that's not a problem, and with longer lenses, it can even be better than stabilization in the body. But the new RF 50 mm f/1.2L has no stabilization, nor does the RF 28-70 f/2L. Thanks to the high brightness, you can also work with fairly short shutter speeds in low light, but then you have to open the aperture completely. And if you need a little more depth of field, then your shutter speeds will slow down, and you'll get out-of-focus, blurred shots that could have been perfectly usable with image stabilization in the camera. Considering that both Sony and Nikon have opted for stabilization in the camera on their new mirrorless models, this is something that should not be missing in future Canon models.

IMAGE QUALITY

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Canon EOS R

The Canon EOS R has a 30-megapixel sensor with antialias filter. As far as we can tell, the sensor is almost the same as that of the EOS 5D Mark IV, and that is not a bad thing. The sensor of the 5D Mark IV is one of the best that Canon has at the moment. It offers a good dose of resolution and - even more important for some people - a good dynamic range. With the EOS R, you can get detailed pictures. The sharpness is good, especially with the new RF lenses, and the jpegs look nice. That anti-alias filter for the sensor has advantages and disadvantages. You will get moirĂ© less quickly, but you also lose some sharpness. That means that the results, in terms of resolution, are no higher than those of competitors with 24-megapixel sensors without such a filter. At the pixel level, it's just a bit softer. You can counteract that optically by boosting the sharpening, which is already substantial in Standard image style, but then you will sooner experience problems with excessively hard contrast edges along sharp transitions in your photo. 

DynamiC RANGE

One of the characteristics of the EOS R sensor is the good dynamic range, at least if we compare it with other Canon cameras. Shadows contain, after lightening the RAW files, a good dose of extra information, highlights can often be saved, and you will not soon be bothered by banding or color noise in dark areas. The EOS R performs better than the EOS 6D Mark II, which you can compare with the R. Compared to the latest Nikons and Sonys, both of which use sensors manufactured by Sony, the EOS R still lags slightly behind. If you do not use the cameras next to each other on a daily basis, you will not soon see the difference.

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NOISE

What applies to the dynamic range, in a sense also applies to the noise. The EOS R sensor performs well, and as a user, you have no reason to complain. Shots at high ISO values naturally pick up some noise, but that is only logical. Compared to the competition, the EOS R scores just about one stop less well when it comes to noise. 

COLOR REPRODUCTION

The color reproduction of the EOS R is familiar to anyone who has worked with a Canon before, with beautiful, full red and blue colors, soft yellow tones, deep shadows and a strong contrast in the standard image style. The skin tones are, as usual, neutral with Canon. Of course, you can adjust the color palette to your liking if you photograph in RAW.

Video

Mirrorless cameras are pre-eminently hybrid cameras. Thanks to the electronic viewfinder, you can use this kind of camera to photograph as easily as filming. In the EOS R, the latter can be in 4K/30p or in 24p in All-I or IPB. The camera has Canon Log and can transmit a 10-bit 4K signal over HDMI. The EOS R does Full HD up to 60p, and slow motion is possible in HD (1280x720 pixels) up to 120 frames per second. The quality in full HD (1920180 pixels) is excellent and comparable to that of the competition. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same of 4K filming. We see these sharper and more detailed with other brands. And the result becomes even softer when you use the electronic image stabilization of the EOS R. And that's a shame, because the videos otherwise look good. But if you want more image quality than full HD offers, then you're naturally fine with 4K. Something that you also have to take into account is that you have a hefty 1.7x crop factor in 4K. That means that all your lenses will clearly be less wide-angle. Canon itself thinks that crop factor is not a problem and compares it a bit with Super-35 film. And they are indeed somewhat similar. It also means that your EF-S lenses and Cine-primes for APS-C and Super-35 are perfectly usable on the EOS-R. But you do not get that typical full-frame look with little depth of field in 4K on the EOS R. Nature videographers will also be happy with that crop factor, because that gives you some extra range from your long telephoto lenses.

Canon EOS R in 4K with electronic image stabilization

Autofocus

Canon has been able to gain experience with Dual Pixel AF in the EOS-M cameras over a number of years, but the EOS R autofocus system is an unexpectedly big step forward. The number of AF points is no less than 5,655, and the camera must be able to focus to -6EV. Those are unprecedented numbers. Both with regard to the number of AF points and the sensitivity of the autofocus, Canon leaves all competitors in the dust. That does not mean that the system also works better than that of the competition. Anyone who only had experience with Canon's full-frame SLR models will enjoy the ability to focus even further to the edges of the image without having to use focus-and-recompose. The focus is incredibly precise and works very well in low light as well. With the EOS R, you no longer have to worry about front or back focus. Where Canon still has a bit of work to do is on the operation of the continuous autofocus. Whereas in previous models we found that Dual Pixel AF was one of the best systems for filming because it was able to follow moving people so well, we sometimes see some minor mistakes with the EOS R. Perhaps those enormous numbers of focus points cause the camera to do a bit too much calculation? 

A NEW MOUNT AND adapters

The big question that occupied many a Canon enthusiast lately was: If Canon releases a mirrorless system, which mount will they use? The Canon EF mount, the EF-M mount or something completely new? So it's the latter. The new RF mount is the same size as the EF mount, but the distance from the mount to the sensor is much smaller. With an adapter, EF and EF-S lenses can be used without problems on the EOS R; EF-M lenses for the mirrorless cameras with APS-C sensor cannot. What that means for the future of the M-system is still uncertain. Just like Nikon, Canon has therefore opted for a spacious mount that should make special lens designs with high quality possible. Two new lenses immediately demonstrate what can be done with this mount. The Canon RF 28-70 f/2L is particularly bright, and the same applies for the RF 50 mm f/1.2. 

Mount Adapter EF EOS R Side

Simultaneously with the arrival of the EOS R, Canon introduced three adapters. There is a simple adapter that allows the use of EF lenses on the EOS R. There is a second adapter with a slot for drop-in filters. A variable ND filter and a circular polarization filter are available for this. And there is a third adapter with the unique programmable ring that also sits on the RF lenses. But while that is all the way at the front on the RF lenses, it is of course between the camera and the lens on the adapter. For example, you can easily set it as an old-fashioned aperture ring.

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ConclusiON: Canon EOS R REVIEW

Compare the Canon EOS R with another camera:

Or see our list of all reviewed cameras, including test results for RAW and jpg files.

 

 

PROS

  • Good 30MP sensor
  • Good ergonomics
  • Beautiful viewfinder
  • Good (S)-AF to even -6 EV (with 50mm f/1.2)
  • EF lenses work just as well as on the SLR models
  • Turning and tilting screen
  • Good touchscreen
  • Real silent mode
  • Handy programmable ring on all lenses

CONS

  • No built-in image stabilization
  • Operation takes some getting used to
  • Dynamic range not as good as on the competition
  • Dual Pixel AF works less well in C-AF than we are used to
  • Substantial crop in 4K video
  • USB charging is not possible with all chargers

The Canon EOS R is a refreshing new Canon camera. We had not expected beforehand that Canon would apply so many innovations in a mirrorless model. This is certainly not a full-frame version of the mirrorless EOS M50. The EOS R is the result of thinking "out of the box" at Canon and giving the designers space. That has produced great additions, such as the programmable ring on the lenses. We are not entirely convinced of the usefulness of the M-Fn bar, but maybe Canon can refine it further in response to feedback. The result is that this is the first Canon in a long time where you as an experienced Canon user will need a manual again. The EOS R takes some getting used to. The menus are of course immediately familiar, and the camera also sits in the hand like a real Canon. But the buttons on the top cover that give direct access to most of the functions that you want to set quickly on the SLRs are now missing on the R. But do not be put off by that. Once you're used to the camera, it's a real Canon, with the familiar Canon colors and image quality and the ability to use all EF lenses with one of the adapters. And especially the latter makes the transition from a Canon SLR to the EOS R so easy. We have now tested two of the RF lenses, and we were quite impressed by the quality. If they're all like that, you will probably want to make the transition to RF lenses in time. But you don't have to. With the EOS-R, Canon has brought a great mirrorless model onto the market that makes the previously logical switch to Sony as a mirrorless camera a lot less logical. And for those for whom the EOS R does not yet offer enough in terms of pixels or professional capabilities, it is probably just a matter of a little patience. The EOS R is the first model of a new system that will grow rapidly. We're sure of that.

Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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