While Canon has already dipped its toe into the mirrorless waters with its modest range of APS-C sensor-based EOS M cameras, including the EOS M6 and EOS M5, the EOS R is the debut model in a new line of mirrorless cameras, based on a fresh lens mount that’ll be known as the RF mount.
A lot of Canon users have been waiting a long time for the EOS R, so the query is whether it can deliver on its promise, and justify its price tag, in the face of some tough competition.
Check Out: Best Lenses for Canon R
Canon EOS R review: features
The EOS R uses a full-body 30.3MP sensor without an optical low-pass filter. If that sounds familiar it’s because Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR shares the same pixel count, although Canon stresses this isn’t the same sensor. We suspect it’s very closely related to the chip used in the EOS 5D Tag IV though, which is definitely no bad thing as it’s one of Canon’s best performing sensors.
There’s also a new DIGIC 8 processing engine and a healthy native ISO selection of 100-40,000, which can be expanded to settings equivalent to ISO50 and 102,400 – matching the EOS 5D Mark IV precisely.
Like Nikon using its new Z range of best mirrorless cameras, Canon has opted for a new lens mount for its R range (we’re assuming you will see more) of mirrorless cameras. The new RF attach shares the same throat diameter of 54mm as Canon’s EF lens mount, but includes a substantially shorter flange distance (the distance from the rear of the zoom lens to the sensor). This has dropped from 44mm to 20mm, though it’s a little longer than Nikon’s Z mount flange range of 16mm.
Four brand-new RF lenses are being launched alongside the EOS R: the RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, RF 28-70mm f/2L USM, RF 50mm f/1.2L USM and RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM Macro.
Canon EOS R review: build and handling
The styling of the EOS R is somewhere between an EOS DSLR and Samsung’s underrated NX1 mirrorless camera.
The body of the EOS R has a pleasing matte finish, with a magnesium alloy body and magnesium shell. Combine this durable building with a DSLR-sized handgrip and it certainly feels very well made. A side-by-side assessment with the similarly sized EOS 5D Mark IV, though, demonstrates, while thinner, the EOS R isn’t hugely smaller, and feels very similar in the hand to something like an EOS 6D Mark II.
This might be good news for many Canon users, who will no doubt welcome the EOS R’s familiarity, as it means they get the same great handling they already enjoy, and also better support for longer and/or heavier lenses. That said, if you’re after a mirrorless camera because of its smaller sized size over a DSLR, you may not find as great a difference as you might imagine.
Canon has tried to keep up a similar button layout and user interface to its existing selection of DSLRs, so it should be familiar to those already at home with the EOS ecosystem. There are a few little differences though, some good and some bad.
One feature we particularly like may be the new top-plate LCD display, not simply because it presents key info at a glance, but since it shows more information than expected, and has a little more thought behind its implementation.
For example, pressing the lamp switch illuminates the screen, but you need to hold it down for just a little longer than typical. The reason? Pressing it quickly brings up a screen which provides secondary shooting options (the primary ones demonstrated at default becoming aperture, shutter swiftness and so on). It’s a clever utilization of existing and familiar settings, actually if the lamp switch is a little small, and not prominent plenty of for the most comfortable operation.
Canon EOS R review: autofocus
Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system provides impressed when we’ve used it on recent EOS DSLRs (as well while on Canon’s EOS M mirrorless range) for Live Look at focusing, and the enhanced version of this system found on the EOS R is one of the camera’s main highlights.
This sees a phase-detect AF system with a staggering 5,655 points (that’s not a typo, there are 5,655 selectable positions), with 88% vertical and 100% horizontal coverage, and a working range that goes as low as -6EV (with an f/1.2 lens).
Paired with the new RF 24-105mm f/4L Is certainly USM lens, the EOS R powered through its focusing array at speed, making focusing between different distances straightforward and fast.
Canon EOS R review: performance
The EOS R is capable of shooting at 8fps – that’s faster than Canon’s own EOS 5D Mark IV (7fps), but behind both Sony’s Alpha A7 III (10fps) and Nikon’s Z6 (11fps). This drops down to 5fps with focus tracking, or a pedestrian 3fps if you want to use the EOS R’s ‘tracking priority’ mode.
The buffer on the EOS R is pretty decent though, recording 47 raw files or 100 JPEGs before needing time to pause to process the data.
Canon, though, has its touchscreen features nicely sorted. Unlike Sony’s limited touchscreen implementation on its mirrorless cameras, the EOS R’s program lets you control a breadth of features. This not only covers shooting (including using the trunk screen to touch and drag the AF point) and reviewing photos, but also navigating the EOS R’s menu system and Quick menu. The touchscreen itself is fine and responsive under the finger.
The viewfinder in the EOS R doesn’t disappoint either, and although the viewfinders within the Nikon Z6 and Nikon Z7 offer a touch greater magnification, you probably wouldn’t notice much difference between them unless you were comparing them side by side. It’s large and detailed, and works perfectly in low light.
The responsiveness of the touchscreen is carried through to much of the camera’s operation. Menus and captured images can be scrolled though without delay, while zooming in and around images is equally fast and fluid. There appears to be very little delay with the camera registering changes as you make them too.
Instead of the rear scroll-wheel that’s found on high-end EOS DSLRs, the EOS R features a smaller control dial that wraps around the mode button on the top plate of the camera. This mode button can be a curious affair – it feels like something that would be more at home on a PowerShot compact camera, and you can only see what the current shooting mode is on one of the displays, rather than on a physical control.
Canon EOS R review: image quality
With the Canon EOS R having an identical sensor to the EOS 5D Mark IV, it’s no surprise to see the EOS R deliver comparable image quality. That’s very good news, as while it maybe doesn’t quite hit the heights when it comes to resolution and dynamic range as the pricier 42MP and 45MP sensor rivals from Sony and Nikon, it’s certainly the pick and choose of Canon’s sensor arsenal at the moment.
How does that translate to the real world then? Well, you should have no issues with producing a highly detailed Super A3 print, while A2 printing shouldn’t be discounted given the appropriate post-production techniques.
Turning to sensitivity performance, and the EOS R regulates image noise well. Results up to ISO800 show no signals of noise, with just a hint of luminance (grain-like) noise appearing at ISO2000. Push the sensitivity up to ISO10,000 and chroma (color) sound becomes noticeable, along with more pronounced luminance noise.