The Canon EOS R is the DSRL giant’s first full frame mirrorless camera. It packs all the punch from its DSLR predecessors with a more affordable price tag. For $2,300, the EOS R gives you 10-bit 4:2:2 4K output, a fully articulating monitor and the heft you’re used to from Canon’s DSLRs. Internally, it captures 4K video and 30.3 megapixel stills and features Canon’s industry-leading dual pixel CMOS autofocus. Paired with the camera are three innovative lens mount adapters for using EF lenses with the EOS R’s brand new RF mount.

The EOS R is just one of the latest cameras to be announced in the current mirrorless war between Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm and Panasonic. With that much competition, Canon needed to bring their A-game. In some ways they did, and in other ways, they came up short.

Top view of the EOS R
The Canon EOS R offers a deep grip for easier handling.

What’s Great

More than any other mirrorless camera on the market, the EOS R has ergonomics down. The grip is deep, and the overall build quality is solid. The flip out, fully articulating touch screen is wonderful. There’s also a new customizable ring on every lens with the new RF mount. The new ring allows you to control the aperture with or without clicks, or you can assign it to ISO or even exposure compensation.

The EOS R’s dual pixel CMOS autofocus uses 5,655 AF points that cover 90 percent of the field of view. All other competitors count their AF points in hundreds, not thousands. Combine the AF with the touchscreen, and you have fast and accurate touch focus.

Close up of the rear display on the EOS R
Shot assist tools are included

Canon also added in a new control: the M-Fn Bar. It’s right where your right thumb rests when holding the camera, so it has a very important location. It can control a slew of functions, like audio recording level, headphone level and aperture setting. Additionally, it can call up functions like focus guides and histogram. It can also pause movie servo AF and the electronic level.

Most will use the M-Fn Bar for ISO speed, white balance or AF type. Instead of the ring or a dial to control ISO, the M-Fn Bar is a touch-sensitive pad. On top of function control, the M-Fn Bar gives you the ability to limit the range of that control. If you are shooting in an area where you’re changing the ISO between 400 and 1600, you can limit the M-Fn Bar to offer only that range. This is going to be very helpful for those going in and out of different lighting and color temperatures situations.

EOS R without a lens, showing the sensor cover
A cover protects the EOS R’s sensor during lens swaps.

Finally, the EOS R implemented a sensor cover for when removing and replacing a lens. It’s a small thing, but if you have ever needed to clean your sensor, you understand that it’s not always in the most ideal place, and is a very sensitive area.

What Sucks

It’s not all peaches. Want to shoot 4K video? You’re going to have to learn to deal with a 1.7x crop factor. If you have the right lenses, you can overcome the crop factor. However, if your intention is to shoot 4K video using a full frame sensor, the EOS R isn’t going to work out for you.

Another concern you’ll need to consider is that the EOS R doesn’t have in-body image stabilization. IBIS is a feature offered by most competitive cameras. This, like the crop factor, can be overcome with the right lens choice. If the lens has optical image stabilization, you will have at least some stabilization. However, it’s not likely that by lens alone you will get the stabilization that IBIS offers.

The last issue is either a big deal to you, or not a problem at all. Not everyone needs a dual card slot, but if you do, the EOS R is lacking — it has only a single card slot. With larger media becoming more affordable than ever, getting one larger card isn’t a big issue — just make sure its dependable.

The SD card slot on the EOS R
There’s only on SD card slot.

Photo features

The 30.3 MP sensor is a little more than 5 MP larger than both the Sony a7 III and Nikon Z6. For those who need fast shooting, it can capture RAW + JPG bursts up to 8 frames per second for up to 44 continuous frames using single AF. In all other AF modes, you can expect up to 5 fps. If you don’t need fast capture, the AF in the EOS is strong. Shooting stills, the focus is quick and accurate. Canon’s CMOS Dual pixel AF is the best on the market, and although the AF in the EOS R is not as good as that in Canon’s flagship camera, the 1DX MK II, it’s still impressive. Overall, the EOS R is a solid stills camera.

Close up showing inputs and lens mount on the EOS R
The EOS RF uses a brand new lens mount.

Video Features

For us video people, the EOS R comes with some solid features and some concerns. The sensor is the same one in the EOS 5D Mark IV. That’s great because the 5D Mark IV is $3,500 and the EOS R is $2,300. Add in that the EOS R comes with some dumbed down video specs from the 5D Mark IV, and you might be reconsidering that crop factor.

The EOS R captures in 4:2:0 color versus 4:2:2 on the 5D Mark IV. And although you can shoot UHD 4K at a bit rate of 400 megabits per second, the bit rate is high mostly because the codec is inefficient. But there is a silver lining. While testing, we used the new Atomos Ninja V and we were able to capture 10-bit 4:2:2 via the HDMI in ProRes HQ. Of course, this comes at an added cost for the external recorder.

Regardless, the image out of the camera looks great. The EOS R uses Canon’s signature color science and can shoot in C-Log. Log capture is possible both internally to the SD card and when outputting via HDMI. Additionally, when shooting in log, you can use Canon’s view assistant to monitor without the flat log look. This will help with making the best exposure choice.

EOS R with rear display folded out
Rear display can be used for selfies and vlogs

A fully articulating screen makes the EOS R a great option for vloggers — as long as you have a wide lens to compensate for the crop factor. The design is also welcome in situations where sun, glare or angle of view mean a tilting monitor just won’t do. The touch function works well and gives expanded functionality to a camera with fewer buttons and no joystick. We were missing a dedicated ISO button but were able to assign it to another button.

The EOS R can capture up to 120 fps but not in full HD; it’s in 720. 720 is easy to upscale to HD, however pushing it to 4K simply doesn’t look good. The most obvious loss is in sharpness as the resolution is much lower.

Native Lenses

With Canon’s jump into full frame mirrorless, they also introduced a new lens mount. The RF mount has a flange distance of 20mm. This, along with its 54mm mount diameter, allows for EF lenses to be adapted and for more exotic lens designs. Canon was able to capitalize on new flange distance with two fast new lenses: the RF 28–70mm F2 L USM and the RF 50mm F1.2 L USM. 

We were able to use all four of the new RF lenses, while also testing all of the new RF to EF adapters. The RF 24–105mm F4 L IS USM is the kit lens for the EOS R. Canon didn’t mess around with their build quality and feel. All of the RF L series lenses have the same feel as their EF counterparts. The 24-105mm is a great walking around lens most of the time, but because of the crop in 4K, it has an effective focal length of 41- 178mm. Tight spaces and wide shots are not going to happen.

RF 50mm F1.2 L USM lens
The new R-mount 50mm lives up to the legacy of its EF-mount counterpart.

Currently, if you require a wide lens, an adapted EF lens will have to do. At a cost of only $1,100, the 24-105mm is likely to be the go-to lens for those on a budget. Speaking of budget, If a prime is more your style, the RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM is a solid lens, though doesn’t have the same L-Series feel. For just $500, it’s a photojournalist’s friend and will work great for telling a story with the human eye’s perspective.

Our favorite lens of the bunch is the RF 50mm F1.2 L USM. If you know the EF version of this lens, you know it’s a great looking lens with the super fast f/1.2 aperture. Outside of Canon, no other brand offers a f/1.2 50mm lens. The RF version is a quite a bit different than the EF. It’s double the length, but it has a good feel and equally good image quality. A really fun thing about the RF 50mm is that there is glass all the way to the lens mount. It has a minimum focal distance of just 1.31 feet and has wonderful circular bokeh from its 10-bladed iris. Its price tag is, however, the same as the camera at $2,300.

The last lens is the RF 28–70mm F2 L USM for $3,000. To get f/2 with a zoom requires the lens to be large and heavy with glass elements. The image looks great, but with a price tag that large, you will need to decide whether that wide-open aperture is worth the extra dough.

Adapters

Canon has also made it very easy for those who want to use the new mirrorless body but are heavily invested in their EF lenses. Canon gives you the choice of three different adapters: a simple RF to EF, one with the customizable ring like with the new lenses and one with a drop-in filter. You can get the drop-in filter adapter with either a circular polarizing filter or a neutral density (ND) filter. As a video shooter, having an ND that will work on every lens you have is huge! The adapters range in price from $100 for the simple option or $400 for the ND adapter.

New Canon R mount lens adapters

Lens adapter with ND filter built in
One of the new lens adapters includes a built-in ND filter.

The lens adapters are the smartest and most innovative pieces of the new RF mount roll-out. Not only does the added control ring add a function to any lens, but having an ND that  doesn’t depend on filter threads is a great innovation. We hope this will cause all other adapter manufactures to start thinking about how they can add to or improve their adapters. Overall, we feel it will make the adapter market much more competitive.

Tests

As we do with all cameras, we tested the moire, low light performance, and rolling shutter. First up is moire. Testing with a DSC SineZone chart, we didn’t notice any issues with moire, whether we sat still, paned or tilted.

To test the low light capabilities, we started at ISO 100 and increased the shutter speed and ISO together to retain correct exposure. This allows us to see at what ISO noise is introduced into the picture and up to what ISO can you shoot while still keeping a professional quality image. Then, we went a step further and did the test againto see if the internal noise reduction was valuable to use or if post-production noise reduction is a better choice.

With the NR turned off, we saw that noise started to be noticeable at ISO 1600. With ease, the camera can be pushed to ISO 3200 while still retaining a professional outcome. In a bind, ISO 6400 could be used, but the noise will be noticeable and could be distracting to the viewer. With NR on high internally, we found that sharpness was not affected enough to deter us from using it and the shot at ISO 6400 showed less noise.

On the other hand, the rolling shutter effect is extremely apparent on this camera. If what you shoot requires quick pans of the camera, expect vertical lines to be very bendy. Sony had this same issue with the first versions of the a7S and a7R but have been able to correct it in the two versions since. We hope that Canon does the same in future RF mount cameras. Canon, if you are reading this, please fix it.

gif showing severity of the the rolling shutter effect

Marketplace

There are three full frame 4K mirrorless cameras under $2,300: the Sony a7 III, the Nikon Z6 and the Canon EOS R. The EOS R is the most expensive of the three. Both Sony and Nikon offer their cameras at just $2,000. What you choose between these three will greatly depend on what features you require for your work.

On paper, the Sony a7 III is the best and most matured camera. It doesn’t offer 10-bit output, but it has two card slots, S-Log, and 40 native lenses to choose from. That doesn’t mean that the a7 III is the best camera for you, but as a whole, you have to sacrifice less for a ready-to-go camera. If you are looking for a camera with strong still features and good video features, the EOS R should be high on your list. The Z6 might be your preference if you want all of the buttons you’re accustomed to, but the Z6, like the EOS R, might still need a few more iterations before it’s as well-rounded as the Sony offering.

Final Thoughts and Recommendation

We really liked the Canon EOS R. In many ways, Canon offered innovative and new features that were not yet in the full frame mirrorless market. The M-Fn bar is an indicator that Canon is willing to step out of conventional thinking. Add in the cool ND filter adapter and you have a camera that could win big. However, things like the crop factor, significant rolling shutter, no IBIS and a single card slot could make it a non-starter for some users. It comes down to how the final video looks and the camera’s usability. In both image quality and enjoyment to use, the EOS R is the best out there.

SUMMARY

COMPANY NAME: Canon

WEBSITE: USA.Canon.com

STRENGTHS:

  • Fully Articulating Monitor
  • 10-Bit output via the HDMI

WEAKNESSES:

  • 1.7x crop factor when shooting 4K
  • Poor rolling shutter performance

RECOMMENDED USES:

  • Narrative Filmmaking
  • Documentary Filmmaking and Journalism
  • Online Video Production

TECH SPECS:

  • Lens Mount: Canon RF
  • Camera Format: Full-Frame
  • Pixels
    • Actual: 31.7 Megapixel
    • Effective: 30.3 Megapixel
  • Max Resolution: 6720 x 4480
  • Aspect Ratio: 1:1, 3:2, 4:3, 16:9
  • Sensor Type / Size: CMOS, 36 x 24 mm
  • File Formats
    • Still Images: JPEG, RAW
    • Movies: MP4,
  • Audio: AAC, Linear PCM (Stereo)
  • Still Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Memory Card Type: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Image Stabilization: Digital
  • Video Format:
    • 3840 x 2160p at 23.98/24/29.97 fps
    • 1920 x 1080p at 23.98/24/29.97/59.94 fps
    • 1280 x 720p at 29.97/59.94/120 fps
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Video Clip Length: Up to 29 Min 59 Sec
  • Audio Recording:
    • Built-In Mic: With Video (Stereo)
    • Optional External Mic: With Video (Stereo)
  • Focus Mode: Continuous-Servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M), Single-servo AF (S)
  • Autofocus Points: Hybrid – 5655
  • Viewfinder Type: Electronic
  • Viewfinder Size: 0.5″
  • Viewfinder Pixel Count: 3,690,000
  • Display Screen: 3.15″ Rear Touchscreen Swivel LCD (2,100,000)
  • Compensation: -3 EV to +3 EV (in 1/3 or 1/2 EV Steps)
  • Buffer/Continuous Shooting
    • Up to 8 fps at 30.3 MP for up to 47 Frames in Raw Format
    • Up to 8 fps at 30.3 MP for up to 100 Frames in JPEG Format
    • Up to 3 fps at 30.3 MP for up to 47 Frames in Raw Format
    • Up to 3 fps at 30.3 MP for up to 100 Frames in JPEG Format
    • Up to 2.2 fps at 30.3 MP for up to 47 Frames in Raw Format
    • Up to 2.2 fps at 30.3 MP for up to 100 Frames in JPEG Format
  • Built-in Flash: No
  • Connectivity: 1/8″ Microphone, HDMI C (Mini), USB Type-C
  • Wi-Fi Capable: Yes
  • Battery: LP-E6N Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, 7.2 VDC, 1865 mAh
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 5.3 x 3.9 x 3.3″ / 135.8 x 98.3 x 84.4 mm
  • Weight: 1.45 lb / 660 g with battery and memory card

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