Canon EOS R Hands-on Review

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Player Three has entered the game. Yes folks, here it is, as Japanese camera giant Canon follows Nikon into the modern full-frame mirrorless fray, debuting the all-new Canon EOS R camera and RF lens mount. Also new are four RF lenses – two zooms and two primes – to kick off the new Canon R system.

(A quick side note: Yes, the Leica SL and M series are full-frame mirrorless cameras, but they are basically in a class all their own, especially when it comes down to pricing. And so we’re not grouping them into this “mainstream” full-frame mirrorless arena dominated now by Sony, Nikon and Canon.)

Main Specs & Features

  • New RF lens mount
  • 30.3 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with 5,655 selectable AF points
  • ISO range: 100 – 40,000 expandable to 50 – 102,400
  • Up to 8fps continuous shooting rate; 5fps with Servo AF
  • 4K UHD video at up to 30fps at 480Mbps
  • HD video: 1080p60 & 720p120
  • OLED EVF with 0.76x magnification
  • Single SD card slot with UHS-II compatibility
  • Weight: 660g (1.5 lbs.) with battery and memory card
  • Uses LP-E6N battery pack (same as 5D Mark IV)
  • CIPA-rated for 350 shots with EVF or 370 with LCD, higher in power saving modes
  • Optional BG-E22 battery grip
  • Mount adapters for EF and EF-S lenses (excluding EF-M)
  • USB 3.1 with in-camera charging support

Canon EOS R Review -- Product Image


The Canon EOS R features a new lens mount dubbed RF mount, which features a 54mm inner diameter and a flange-back distance of 20mm. That’s the same throat diameter as EF mount, but it’s some 24mm shorter in flange depth which should allow for better illumination in the corners and lenses with fewer elements. The Canon RF mount also features a new high-speed 12-pin electrical interface that provides faster and more in-depth communication between the camera and lens over existing Canon mount systems. Unlike the Sony A7 II/III and Nikon Z-series, the Canon EOS R does not offer in-body sensor-shift image stabilization, however electronic IS is available for video which can be combined with a lens’ optical image stabilization.

Alongside the EOS R body, Canon has announced four new RF lenses, two of which are primes:

  • RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM
  • RF 50mm f/1.2L USM
  • RF 28-70mm f/2L USM
  • RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

All four of these lenses have customizable control rings that let you assign features and quickly change settings without having to use the dials on the camera body. To make full use of your existing EF, EF-S, TS-E and MP-E lenses, Canon has developed an EF-EOS R mount adapter; three of them, in fact. There’s a basic one, plus variants that have a control ring or support a drop-in filter between the body and lens.

Canon EOS R Review -- Product Image


Much like the Sony Alpha and Nikon Z-series mirrorless cameras, the Canon R sports a streamlined, angular and an all-around significantly smaller body design than a traditional full-frame DSLR. Compared to a typical EOS DSLR, such as the 5D Mark IV, the EOS R is much more compact and lightweight, yet still provides a nice, large handgrip for a comfortable and secure hold. As expected, in pretty much all aspects, the Canon R is smaller and lighter than a full-frame EOS DSLR, even the 6D Mark II — Canon’s most compact and lightest full-frame DSLR model yet. The EOS R weights 660g (1.5 lbs) whereas the 6D Mark II tips the scales at 765g (1.7 lbs.), yet it still features magnesium alloy construction and weather resistance.

Design-wise, the Canon EOS R takes a more angular and “smooth” approach compared to the Sony A7 III or Nikon Z6, or even the Canon EOS M5, for example, when it comes to external buttons and dials. Looking at the front of the camera, there’s very little in the way of protruding buttons and dials; everything’s nicely recessed into the camera body itself, which creates a sleek, minimal appearance. From the top and back, however, the story is entirely different; there is, in fact, quite an array of physical controls, including dual command dials, a rear multi-directional control, AF-On button and a dedicated video record button.

Canon EOS R Review -- Product Image

There are a few unorthodox-looking controls on the EOS R. For starters, there isn’t a standard PASM mode dial. Instead, the “MODE” selection is assigned to a button located inside the top/rear thumb control dial, and there’s a separate lock button. With this, you simply press the mode button once and then rotate the dial to change shooting modes. Press it again, and the dial’s function returns to a second control dial. Although a bit different than your standard “PASM” dial, it allows Canon to keep the controls smaller while still providing a locking mode dial that isn’t prone to accidental changes if you bump the camera.

Speaking of the mode dial, there’s a new “Fv” (Flexible-priority) shooting mode. It basically lets you switch rapidly between Tv, Av, exposure compensation and ISO using the top/rear dial, then make adjustments within each via the front/top dial. (Thing is, though, it seems like if you adjust Tv and Av separately, you’re basically in M mode; it doesn’t auto-switch the discarded parameter back to auto when you leave it.)

Also, on the rear of the camera, there’s a new touch bar-style “M-Fn Bar” control to the right of the EVF. You can swipe left or right to control or adjust various settings and simply tap to select/confirm. This button is customizable, too, allowing for quick control of a number of settings, such as ISO speed, white balance, movie shooting, AF and more.

Much like many of Canon’s EOS DSLRs — and a differentiating point compared to Sony’s Alpha mirrorless cameras — the EOS R sports a top-deck status display that shows shooting modes and exposure information. Unlike the current Sony Alpha and Nikon Z-series mirrorless cameras, the Canon R also offers a flip-out, fully articulating rear LCD screen instead of an up/down tilting display. The EOS R uses a 3.15-inch touchscreen TFT LCD that offers approximately 2.1-million dots of resolution and provides 100% field of view coverage.

The electronic viewfinder, meanwhile, has an 0.5-inch OLED display with 3.69 million dots. The EVF features 100% field of view coverage, 0.76x magnification, an eye point of approximately 23mm and an eye sensor.

Canon EOS R Review -- Product Image

Sensor and Image Quality

The new Canon R centers around a 30.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, which puts it on-par resolution-wise with the 5D Mark IV and above the 26MP 6D Mark II. When it comes to mirrorless competitors, namely the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z6, these two cameras sport 24MP sensors, so the EOS R bests both of these at least when it comes to pure megapixel count. Of course, as many are aware, pixel-power isn’t the end-all and be-all of image quality, so the real test will come when we’re able to compare output from all these cameras side by side in our test lab.

The image processor used inside the EOS R is the DIGIC 8, a first for a full-frame camera, though it has been used on the EOS M50 crop-sensor mirrorless camera. (The latest-generation DIGIC processor used for a full-frame EOS DSLR camera is the DIGIC 7, which powers the Canon EOS 6D Mark II as well as a whole slew of current APS-C cameras, from the M100 to the 77D.)

Regarding ISO performance, the EOS R has a native range of 100-40,000, which is similar to that of the 6D Mark II. The ISO range can be expanded down to ISO 50 or up two levels to 51,200 and 102,400.

In addition to standard RAW file capture, the EOS R offers Dual Pixel RAW functionality, a feature that debuted in the 5D Mark IV. With Dual Pixel RAW, you have the ability to make subtle micro-adjustments post-capture to focus, bokeh and ghosting properties. (To read more about what Dual Pixel RAW is and what you can do with it, check out our in-depth Dual Pixel RAW Insights page of our 5D Mark IV review!)

Canon EOS R Review -- Product Image

Autofocus and Performance

Similar to the recent Nikon Z-series introduction, the Canon R’s autofocus system is going to be a critical feature if it has any hope to compete against the mirrorless juggernaut that is the Sony Alpha series, especially the A7 III and A7R III — both of which have fantastic, high-performance autofocus systems. Given Canon’s legacy with their DSLR cameras and vast EF lens lineup, the EOS R’s ability to perform with adapted EF lenses is going to be a key aspect to this new camera system for advanced photographers, and real world shooting situations will soon begin to answer the question of how good AF will be from this new line.

As for the EOS R camera itself and its native RF lenses, Canon’s already proven itself quite capable of top-notch mirrorless AF performance with its Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology, so we expect great AF performance from the Canon R, for both stills and video. The EOS R’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system features a maximum of 5,655 manually selectable AF points and its focus area covers about 88% of the frame horizontally and 100% vertically when using RF lenses and select EF lenses. AF working range is said to be -6 to 18 EV at ISO 100, but that’s with an f/1.2 lens.

Shutter speeds range from 1/8000 to 30 seconds, plus bulb, and three shutter type options are available: Electronic first curtain with mechanical second curtain, fully electronic and fully mechanical. X-sync speed is 1/200 sec.

When it comes to continuous burst shooting, the Canon EOS R is relatively quick, but not class-leading by any means, with only 5 frames per second continuous shooting with Servo AF (continuous AF). You can ramp-up the burst rate to 8fps if you don’t need continuous autofocus. By comparison, the Nikon Z6 offers up to 12fps with full continuous AF functionality. However, the Z6 drops down to a similar 5.5fps rate if you want continuous AF and auto-exposure functionality. Further, the Sony A7 III offers an 10fps rate with full-time AE/AF.

When it comes to buffer capacity, the EOS R offer fairly respectable performance based on initial specs, besting the 6D Mark II’s specs for example. With RAW shooting at the highest burst speed, the EOS R has a claimed buffer depth of 47 frames with a fast UHS-II card, while C-RAW (Canon’s lossy compressed raw format) increases that to 78 frames. For JPEG, RAW+JPEG and C-RAW+JPEG shooting, the maximum buffer depths are 100, 39 and 56 frames respectively. As mentioned, the Canon R offers a Dual Pixel RAW mode (in both RAW and C-RAW) with an unlimited (card capacity) buffer depth, but that’s likely because the camera slows down when shooting Dual Pixel RAW, similar to the 5D Mark IV. We don’t yet know the burst rate when shooting Dual Pixel RAW.

Canon EOS R Review -- Product Image


For video shooters, the Canon EOS R offers a host of advanced features, including 4K UHD capture, but it doesn’t go all-out with professional-level specs. Like the 5D Mark IV, the EOS R offers 4K UHD video recording but only up to 30fps — no 4Kp60 unfortunately. 4K bitrate is rather decent, though, at 480Mbps. However, the EOS R does offer C-Log recording internally and externally to an HDMI recorder. Clean HDMI output is 10-bit 4:2:2 and uses the BT.2020 color matrix rather than BT.709.

Full HD recording is also, of course, supported and offered in frame rates up to 60p (59.94). For higher-speed shooting at up to 120fps (119.9fps) you’ll have to drop down to 720p HD resolution. For all video resolutions and frame rates except 720p30, the EOS R offers a choice of compressions schemes: higher-quality ALL-I or space-saving IPB compression. Internal video recording format is limited to MP4 H.264, while audio is recorded in Linear PCM for ALL-I or AAC for IPB. The maximum sustained video recording time is limited to 29:59, after which point video recording will stop and must be restarted manually. There is an approximately 1.7x crop factor when shooting 4K video.

Canon EOS R Review -- Product Image

Connectivity, Storage and Power

When it comes to wireless functionality, the EOS R provides the standard array of modern features, including both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, though no NFC nor built-in GPS. Using a connected smartphone, you can transfer images as well as remotely control the camera using the Camera Connect app. Images can also be transferred wirelessly to a computer using the EOS Utility application.

Wired connections include a USB-C SuperSpeed USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, a Mini HDMI Type-C port and a remote release jack. The camera also provides 3.5mm stereo microphone and headphone jacks. Images and videos are stored on SD cards in a single slot, with support for SDHC, SDXC and UHS-II types.

The EOS R derives its power from an LP-E6N battery pack (LP-E6 battery packs are also supported, but in-camera charging via USB is not supported with the older battery). CIPA battery life is rated at 350 shots per charge with the EVF and 370 shots with the LCD, though a power saving mode can boost those figures to 430 and 450 shots respectively. There is also an Eco mode which further boosts battery life to between 540 and 560 shots per charge when using the LCD.

An optional BG-E22 battery grip doubles battery life with two LP-E6N battery packs installed. And with an AC adapter and DC coupler the EOS R can be continuously powered.

Canon EOS R Review -- Product Image

Pricing and Availability

The Canon EOS R is scheduled to be available in October 2018 for an estimated retail price of US$2,299 for the body only. It will also be sold as a body-and-lens kit with the new RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens for US$3,399.

The Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM will be available in October 2018 for an estimated retail price of US$2,299. The RF 28-70mm f/2 L USM, RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM and RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM lenses will all be available for purchase in December 2018 for an estimated retail price of US$2,999, US$1,099 and US$499.99 respectively.

The Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R will be available for purchase in October 2018 for an estimated retail price of US$99.99 and US$199.99 respectively. The EF-EOS R Drop-in Filter Mount Adapter will be available for purchase in February 2019 for an estimated retail price of US$399.99 with a variable ND filter, or US$299.99 with a circular polarizing filter.

Also announced is the new Canon Speedlite EL-100 flash unit which features a GN of 85 ft./26m at ISO 100, tilt/swivel, 24mm coverage and an optical wireless flash function (sender and receiver). The EL-100 will be available for purchase in October 2018 for an estimated retail price of US$199.99.




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