With the introduction of the EOS R full frame mirrorless camera Canon have entered the race to compete with Sony and Nikon (who have announced 2 new full frame mirrorless models at the exact same time!)
The next couple of years (or should that be months?) are going to be interesting as we see where digital photography takes us.
But back to the Canon EOS R …
Let’s start with a video review and then the key specifications before we get into a bit more detail.
Maximum Frame Rate:
Full Frame – 36 x 24mm
100 – 40,000 (expandable to 50 – 102,400)
5,655 AF points
660 g (48oz) with battery inserted
5.3 x 3.9 x 3.3″ (136 x 98 x 68 mm)
30 secs – 1/8000th
LP-E6N Lithium Ion Type
RAW, JPEG fine and normal
Auto and Manual
1 x SD slot (SD, SDHC and SDXC )
Body only $2,299.00 (as at December 2018)
What's New From Canon's First Full Frame Mirrorless?
There are quite a few new features that are unique to the EOS R.
The RF Lens Mount
The most obvious, and talked about, new feature is the RF lens mount.
The RF mount is the same diameter as the EF series but is considerably shorter – 20mm compared to the previous 44mm.
Canon says the wider but shorter mount this will allow them to design smaller and better lenses than their existing EF mount series. It makes sense, from a layman’s point of view, that the design could improve wide-angle and wide aperture capabilities.
The transfer of information between the camera body and the lens has also been enhanced with a new 12 pin connection.
As yet there is no provision for mounting EF-M lenses on RF mounts – will this be something they offer in the future?
So does the new mount mean there will be a need to invest in new (more expensive) glass?
If so it may deter existing Canon users from switching to the mirrorless system.
With the RF mount comes RF lenses.
The initial crop of lenses are:
- 28-70mm F2 L USM
- 24-105mm F4 L IS USM
- 50mm F1.2 L USM
- 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM
Its an impressive launch range and according to all reports they perform very well – as have all Canon L series lenses over the years.
Canon’s criteria in developing these and future RF lenses is around enhanced optical performance, enhanced operational specifications and compact size.
While the current range is limited it shouldn’t be too long before we begin to see a wide range of new lenses designed for specific users – such as landscape, portrait, sports etc.
The older EF system had some inherent problems plus simply being a bit outdated and therefore limiting the speed with which information is transferred between the lens and the camera.
An improvement to this has been made with the new 12 point connection which, coupled with the DIGIC 8 processor, provides:
- Faster transfer of information between the lens and the camera
- Faster and better image stabilisation processing
- Improved vibration control – built into the body
- The overall effect of the greater speed aids the DLO (Digital Lens Optimiser) in reducing lens diffraction aberration – this saves time in post-processing
The new DIGIC 8 processor, coupled with the Dual Pixel CMOS (familiar to Canon 5D Mk iv users) provide for fast and sharp auto focusing and tracking.
C-RAW Image Quality
C-RAW first appeared in the smaller M50 Canon Mirrorless camera and effectively reduced RAW file sizes by 40%.
Considering that the image quality degradation is barely noticeable, unless you are doing absolutely critical work, this is a huge saving in file space.
M-Fn Control Bar
This is a totally new external (and 100% customisable) control bar situated between the main control wheel and the viewfinder allowing for easy access with the right thumb.
More detailed information in the section below.
4K Video – with limitations
As with other releases the EOS R comes with a 4K albeit a relatively disappointing one with a maximum 30fps.
On the plus side it does offer dual pixel auto focus during recording.
Overall though the video is reported to be nothing special.
Body, Menus and Controls
Overall the feel, the weight and fit of the EOS R are very impressive, pleasing and comfortable.
It’s a solid feeling camera that is weighty enough to feel like you have something substantial in your hand and not a plastic and cheaply made toy.
The controls and ergonomics of the camera are a bit different to the usual Canon layout.
The biggest change is the M-Fn bar mentioned earlier. It has a left and right slider arrows and a touch/tap facility which acts as a toggle between options.
The default setting has the bar in a safety lock position. Pressing down on it for two seconds unlocks it. If you want permanent access to the bar you can override the default lock setting.
The bar is completely customisable and can be used for a number of settings and adjustments as follows.
- ISO – Engage auto ISO and jump to specified ISO values
- White Balance – Jump to auto and specified WB Settings as well as select between ambient and white AWB modes
- Auto-focus options – Options of focus guide, pupil detection, frame size and touch and dragging focus-points
- Focus/Display Info Toggling – magnify/minimise, electronic level, histogram, MF peaking and focus guide
- ISO – Increase/decrease
- Aut0-Focus – Scroll through the various modes
- White Balance – Set Kelvin temperature and scroll through pre-set White Balance modes
- Info Display – zoom in or out
- Video Recording – Increase/decrease microphone level, headphone level and aperture settings.
The rest of the controls are similar to the usual Canon layout and will be familiar to Canon fans.
If using the back screen to focus using “touch and drag” (see below) it is a bit of a juggling act because this is easier done with the left thumb. But to use the left thumb you need to tighten your right hand grip (so that you can control the camera and not drop it) which in turn makes it impossible to change any other settings until you transfer the weight back to the left hand.
All seems a bit messy but I guess the double operation will become easier with use.
Selecting the AF Focusing points can be done by a few different methods.
The default is to press the AF ON button located just below the back dial and then use the front dial to move the points from left to right and the back dial to move them up and down.
Using the menus there are a couple of ways to customise selecting the AF points and both make for quicker selection:
- Using the “Customise Buttons” option select Tab 5 of the Customs FN menu and set the four way controller to “Direct AF Point Selection”. Now you can use the rear dial so move your points or selected area around.
- A even quicker option involves using the screen and the left thumb as described earlier. To set it up select Tab 1 of the AF Menu and engage “Touch and Drag”. Now you can either touch or drag the focus points as required. All while keeping your eye to the viewfinder
One great thing is that the battery is the same LP-E6N battery used in other high end Canon cameras. The LP-E6N is rechargeable while in the camera.
The older non “N” batteries can also be used but they cannot be recharged in camera and will have a shorter life.
For the rest the menus, controls and customisation will mostly be familiar to Canon shooters. There are of course additional customisation options and functions with most buttons can have in excess of 35 functions assigned to them!
The dial function options add even more customisation options and can be assigned to virtually all the camera’s buttons. The back dial scrolls through the assigned functions/buttons while the front one scrolls through the available values of each option.
From a customisation point of view everyone’s needs should be well and truly catered for.
The EOS R Versus the Competitors
At the end of 2018 there has been a flurry (or that’s how it seems to me) of new full-frame mirrorless camera releases.
The EOS R from Canon and Nikon’s Z6 and Z7.
The following chart compares these cameras as well as the ever popular and similarly priced Sony A7iii and the Pentax K-1.
I think it is fantastic that we have so much to choose from – thanks Sony for getting the ball rolling and setting a cracking pace.
Canon EOS R
100 – 40,000
100 – 51,200
64 – 25,600
100 – 204,800
30 – 1/8000th
30 – 1/8000th
30 – 1/8000th
30 – 1/8000th
30 – 1/8000th
Yes (no NFC)
Yes (no NFC)
1 x SD
1 x XQD
1 x XQD
Dual (2) SD
2 x SD
5.3 x 3.9 x 3.3 in (136 x 98 x 68 mm)
5.3 x 4.0 x 2.7 in.
(134 x 101 x 68 mm)
5.3 x 4.0 x 2.7 in
134 x 101 x 68mm
5.0 x 3.8 x 2.9″
126.9 x 95.6 x 73.77 mm
5.39 x 4.33 x 3.39 “
137 x 110 x 86 mm
Price as at Jan 2019
As always tables like these don’t give the entire picture and things like lenses, mount adapters and other accessories etc. have to be taken into account – especially if you are considering changing your entire system.
Hopefully though the table should be a useful guide.
I find it interesting that certain brands are lacking in one area while being top of another category – I guess they can only fit so much into a body for a certain price point.
The EOS R is Canon’s first full frame camera in decades and as such is welcome.
What is particularly important is that it takes great images – after all that is what a camera is about.
The good image quality is in part thanks to the fact that it uses a sensor that is very similar to that used by the Canon 5D Mk iv.
It has similar weather sealing to the 6d Mk ii – reportedly among the best in the industry but I would still be very careful with any camera in inclement weather – but that’s just me.
It does not have the super fast speed and outstanding features of the “league of its own” Canon 1DX ii – but then it doesn’t pretend to compete with it’s much bigger brother.
The EOS R will take some getting used to (especially the new M-Fn bar) but that is true of most new models. The more you use it the faster you will become familiar with the buttons and options.
It is a relatively inexpensive intro to full-frame mirrorless (maybe to replace and oudate the 6D Mk ii?) and I think, importantly, Canon’s introduction to their new RF mount series of lenses.
- Relatively small for full-frame
- Great customisation options
- Smaller lenses
- Faster communication
- Touch and drag or tap focusing
- Solidly built
- Not up to the specs of its main competitors
- Pricey (in comparison)
- Inferior dynamic range and noise performance
- No built-in intervalometer
- Not a great video
- No in-body image stabilisation
- M-Fn bar easy to bump accidentally
- Low battery life
Absolutely Final Word
I think it is great that Canon has produced a full-frame camera but unfortunately for them it seems to have produced one that is inferior to its main competitors.
The timing of the launch was also unfortunate as it has highlighted these shortfalls in many ways.
I also suspect that there will be teething and software problems with the EOS R in the months ahead – I certainly hope I am wrong.
I hope this review of the Canon EOS R has been useful and I’d love to know your thoughts.
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment below – I’d love to hear from you.
Learn more about the Canon EOS R.