As an avid reader of this publication, you have undoubtedly heard all the buzz around the Canon R5, objectively the most anticipated and most sought after camera of the year, by far.

They are selling faster than toilet paper in March of 2020. Sorry, too soon?

Like TP early in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the R5 is sold out everywhere and on backorder. Some are even desperate enough to buy the R5 on eBay for almost twice the MSRP.

It’s hard to parse the insatiable demand from the attention nabbing headlines: “Canon mirrorless camera that shoots 8K RAW and 4K up to 120 FPS for less than four grand”. RAW video is all the rage and for good reason but, at 8K? Surely you can’t be serious?

The Canon R5 has a lot to celebrate with an image that truly is fantastic. There is a good reason for both photographers and filmmakers to be paying well over market value for this camera.

Its image quality and features blew our minds, which easily justifies the price point.

However, our relationship with this camera was not love at first sight. Like any romantic comedy, we were off to a very rocky start.

First date with the R5

Initially, we, too, were seduced by the specs of this fair maiden, completely smitten by the buckets of pixels and RAW video.

The very first thing we did once getting our hands on the camera was to drive out to beautiful Bodega Bay California, spending the two-hour drive fantasizing about the amazing images we were going to capture in glorious 8K RAW. Bodega Bay is on the northern California coast and is always about 55 degrees. If you’ve heard anything about the R5, then you will know why the outside temperature is an important detail in this story.

We hiked down to the beach, where waves were crashing against giant rocks as the heavy fog rolled over the hills. There wasn’t a bad shot in any direction. We shot in 8K RAW intermittently for about 45 minutes, recording clips between ten and thirty seconds long, turning the camera off frequently as we hiked and climbed around.

Sadly, the camera started overheating. It was 55 degrees out with a gentle breeze. No camera under any circumstances should overheat at 55 degrees. It is unacceptable. To our great dismay, the Canon R5 cannot be used in a professional setting with 8K RAW.

Who needs 8K though, right? It’s not even surprising a camera that small is overheating while processing that much information. Besides, what are we going to do with 8K footage, anyways?

No big deal. We figured we could bump the resolution down from 8K and shoot 4K RAW, that will solve the overheating issue, right?

Well, actually…

We realized the only way to shoot RAW video is at 8K. Not only can you not utilize the 8K in a professional situation you can’t use the RAW video either.

A second chance at love

Despite the disappointment and utter disaster that came from shooting in 8K, we remembered one of the other appeals of the R5. It wasn’t the 8K and it wasn’t even so much the RAW video. It was that 4K 10 bit 4:2:2 CLog and HDR-PQ footage over-sampled from an 8K sensor.

This capability quickly overturned our initial disappointment. This camera is extremely powerful, with one of the best images we have seen on any camera even remotely close to this price point. HDR-PQ is especially amazing, the focus tracking is unreal and the high speed looks incredible.

Let’s look at the specs

As you know, the spec sheet on the Canon R5 reads like a Christmas wish list from a low budget filmmaker.

It sports a full-frame, forty-five megapixel mirrorless CMOS sensor backed by the newly improved DIGIC X image processor and Dual Pixel AF that is no joke. It is the best autofocus we have ever used, but more on that later.

While we’ll list all the specs at the end of this article, allow us to do a SportsCenter highlight reel of what this little beast can do.


Full frame 8K 45 MP sensor on the EOS R5.

The R5 records video up to DCI 8K (8192 x 5464) at 12-bit RAW (2600 Mb/s) in 23.97, 24P, 25P and 29.97 frames per second. For better or worse, that data rate is Alexa LF territory. If it’s too much information for you, or you want to shoot without rapidly overheating, you have the option to record in the paltry h.265 10-bit 4:2:2 in either DCI or UHD 8K (up to 1300 Mb/s) and also at 23.97, 24P, 25P and 29.97 frames per second.

If you are especially short on space, you can always record at h.264 8-bit 4:2:0, but that would be like buying a Mclaren and never taking it out of the slow lane. Don’t be that person.

In 4K both DCI and UHD, you have even more frame rate options, including 10-bit 4:2:2 up to 119.88. All this can be done in either Canon Log or HDR-PQ. Both are awesome, but the HDR-PQ is really something special. The 4K image is from an oversampled 8K sensor, which means no pixel binning or line skipping. The 4K video will be sharper, clear and a true 4k resolution.

When it comes to compression, you have three options; RAW,—which is only available in 8K—ALL-I and IPB. In my experience, the Canon Log and HDR-PQ in ALL-I were fantastic. The meager loss of information from the RAW is quickly made up for with an easier workflow.

Build and ergonomics

Canon was smart and continued to build off their tried and true camera body. If you have ever used a Canon camera, this will feel very familiar.

The R5 is unsurprisingly almost identical to the Canon R, just slightly bulkier with modest changes in button placement. The Canon R5 is the best feeling camera we have had in our hands and again, that is because Canon just continues to improve on what works.

All surfaces and corners are rounded and the buttons fall exactly where your fingers would expect them to. This sounds simple and silly, but not all cameras are built like that.

The R5 is a real joy, and at just under two pounds without a lens, it’s hefty but not heavy.

The Canon R5 sports an RF mount to utilize the new RF lenses. The new RF lenses are the next evolution in Canon optics. When testing this camera, we had a Canon RF 50mm f1.2, a Canon RF 24-105 f4 and an EOS EF to R mount adapter with the drop-in filter. We were often switching between the new RF lenses and L series lenses. Even in the viewfinder, there was an obvious difference in color rendition and quality.

These new RF lenses are fantastic. The EF to RF adapter was awesome as well, as it has the built-in variable ND filter so we were easily able to shoot f1.2 in bright sunlight without abusing the shutter speed.


Media card slots on the EOS R5.

While the viewfinder and touch screen are not the highest resolutions available in mirrorless cameras, they still look good. The 3.2” touch screen features 2.1 million dots and is plenty bright. The touch screen was responsive and easy to use.

The viewfinder pops out, tilts and spins around to face the front, making this a great vlogging camera. Canon claims that it is both smudge and glare-resistant. We did a lot of shooting in the bright California heat with the sun glaring onto the screen and we rarely had to use the viewfinder. Speaking of which, the OLED viewfinder is 5.76 million dots and is a real pleasure to use.

For media, you have both a CFast Express slot and a UHS-II card slot. Keep in mind that when recording in many formats, a higher speed CFast Express card will be necessary. We’re talking data rates of up to 2600mb/s. We highly recommend purchasing a 512GB CFast card so you can utilize the higher quality video and higher frame rates, but also because YOU WILL need that storage. We got about twenty minutes of 8K RAW on our SanDisk Extreme Pro 512 GB CFast Express card.

Fully articulating screen of the EOS R5.

We highly suggest purchasing a CFast reader with this camera. While you can plug the R5 directly into your computer with a USB-C cable and transfer files that way, the full 512GB card wasn’t done transferring when the camera’s batteries died and we needed to utilize the extended battery grip with two fresh batteries to get the job done.

The Canon R5 takes standard Canon LP batteries. They are relatively cheap and you can get them anywhere. Now, Canon has a new version of this battery called the LP-E6NH that has a chip, which uses intelligence to distribute power more efficiently.

When it comes to inputs, the R5 has a USB-C port, a mini-microphone input, a headphone jack and a HDMI D (Micro) port, plus the hot shoe. That is not the only way to connect to the camera; the R5 also has Wifi and Bluetooth which we were easily able to use to transfer photos to my smartphone.


EOS R5 with battery grip and new LP-E6NH batteries.

The R5 has the standard Canon menu, just simplified a little. It is very easy to use and figure out even if you’ve never used a Canon camera before. We were able to access any setting we needed very quickly and intuitively.

It’s great for photography, too

It’s not an understatement to say this is one of if not the best mirrorless cameras on the photography market. The 45 megapixel images are breathtaking and large enough for almost any endeavor. You can shoot twenty frames a second at that forty-five megapixels, a feature that is sure to grab the attention of all you sports photogs.

While we’re on the topic of sports, the autofocus is second to none, but we will talk about that later. While the R5 is a cinema camera, Canon did not compromise photography one bit. One awesome feature is the ability to make voice notes on photos you have taken. There is a small button on the top back of the body. Just press and it will record the voice memo with the same name as your previous photo. This is a useful feature for anyone shooting news and it’s easy to use.

It has remarkable focus

The Canon R5 has excellent focus. When shooting in a professional situation, autofocus can look amature—not so with the Canon R5. First off, like many other cameras, you can tap the LCD viewfinder for what you want focused and that spot will lock on and track smoothly.

The R5, like many other cameras, has facial recognition. Many cameras boast this, but the R5 is a step above the rest in this area. It will lock on either the subject’s eyes or their face and follow. Other cameras, such as the Panasonic Lumix S1H, have this feature but it slip especially with fast movement.This doesn’t happen with the R5.

It doesn’t stop there, though. There is an animal setting so you can track dogs, cats and birds—not just their eyes either.

We decided to really put this feature to test. Using the Canon RF 50mm, we set the aperture to f1.2 and tracked some German shepherds running around a backyard, and it worked almost perfect. In one stunning example, one dog was on one side of the yard, about twenty-five feet away from the camera. It focused on him perfectly, and when he took off at near full speed towards the camera, the autofocus kept up. We couldn’t believe it. The tracking is smooth and natural. 

But what about the video?

The images out of the Canon R5 are spectacular. Due to the overheating problems, we did most of our shooting in 4K either Canon-log or HDR-PQ.

One of the reasons the footage looks so good is that it is oversampling from an 8K sensor to get a truer 4K image. The colors in both Log and HDR were incredible and easy to grade. It renders skin tones naturally. The blacks are black and noise free.

Color is really where the R5 shines. We did some color tests using Digital Sputnik Voyagers, with the color saturated at full in several hues and the R5 rendered them beautifully and vividly. With the R5, you can push the colors and brightness to the extreme without the image falling apart.

What about high speed? The R5 can shoot 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 up to 120 frames per second and it looks great. The images are still clear and sharp. We had a lot of fun shooting waves crashing against rocks in 120fps and the final product was spectacular.

How about low light? What can you push the ISO to before the image becomes unusable? In our experience, the image starts to become too grainy after 6400 ISO, in ALL-I CLog and HDR-PQ and about 3200 in RAW. Yes, the RAW images are way noisier and crunchy looking than the All-I. That’s Canon RAW though.

Image stabilization

In what is the first for a Canon EOS camera, the R5 has a built-in 5-axis sensor stabilization system that in our experience works really well. In many ways, the superb image stabilization almost negates the need for a gimbal in many scenarios. The movement is smooth, and only occasionally did we notice any warping due to the stabilization.

The R5 is good, but not perfect

The first thing we tested was that infamous 8K RAW, which started overheating about fourteen minutes into recording. Regrettably, it’s clear the 8K functionality on the R5 cannot be used in a professional setting. 

So what about 4K 10 bit, 4:2:2 ALL-I? How long until that will start overheating? We put this to the test as well. After over 90 minutes of recording, the camera was still cool to the touch and had not overheated. Now, that doesn’t mean that shooting in different conditions wouldn’t yield different results. However ninety minutes of straight recording in camera at 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 is great. We used the camera a lot in the field shooting 4K ALL-I and also never experienced any overheating issues. 

Our next issue with the R5 is RAW. Now, RAW isn’t for every situation and more often than not it’s difficult, but it’s really great to have that option. Unfortunately for us, the Canon R5 can only record RAW in 8K and 8K isn’t much of an option unless you only need a few minutes of video. 

File sizes and compression are a major inconvenience with this camera. The ALL-I compression on the R5 produces very large file sizes, and since it records to h.265 mp4s, the files aren’t compatible with all software. For instance, we had to convert to ProRes to get them into Resolve for color.

Who is the R5 for?

The Canon R5 is and should be marketed as a quality 4K cinema camera. The images are fantastic. It is certainly punching above its weight when it comes to image quality, particularly in the way it handles super-saturated colors.

It’s also a great option for a vlogger with the perfect focus tracking, image stabilization and front-facing monitor.

8K RAW is good for one small niche of the industry and that’s visual effects. The R5 is a great choice for shooting visual effects plates, it is small, inconspicuous and at 8K you have a lot of information for set extensions and background.

We do caution independent filmmakers and music video producers to keep in mind that despite the great image quality, you need some muscle to be able to edit the footage, along with some serious storage capabilities. We were testing on a 512GB CFast card and filled it up very quickly and had to dump often. Should you be fortunate to get this camera, the image quality and color rendition make up for the many frustrations and shortcomings.

Strengths
• 8K RAW
• 10-bit oversampled 4K
• Amazing AutoFocus
Weaknesses
• Overheating in 8K
• RAW available only in 8K
Summary
For the professional image-maker who needs resolution, speed and video capabilities, there is the Canon EOS R5.
Recommended Users
• Filmmakers (with caution)
• Corporate and event videography
• Marketing video production
• Online video production
• Casual video production

PRICE: $3,900

TECH SPECS:

  • Lens Mount: Canon RF
  • Camera Format: Full-Frame
  • Pixels Actual: 47.1 Megapixel
  • Effective: 45.0 Megapixel
  • Maximum Resolution: 8192 x 5464
  • Aspect Ratio: 1:1, 3:2, 4:3, 16:9
  • Sensor Type: CMOS
  • Sensor Size: 36 x 24 mm
  • Image File Format: JPEG, RAW
  • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Image Stabilization: Sensor-Shift, 5-Axis
  • ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 51200 (Extended: 100 to 102400)
  • Recording Modes:
    • RAW 12-Bit
      • DCI 8K (8192 x 4320) at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p [2600 Mb/s]
    • H.265 4:2:2 10-Bit
      • DCI 8K (8192 x 4320) at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p [680 to 1300 Mb/s]
      • UHD 8K (7680 x 4320) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p [680 to 1300 Mb/s]
      • DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p/59.94p/100p/119.88p [170 to 1880 Mb/s]
      • UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p [170 to 1880 Mb/s]
      • Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p [28 to 230 Mb/s]
    • H.264 4:2:0 8-Bit
      • DCI 8K (8192 x 4320) at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p [470 to 1300 Mb/s]
      • UHD 8K (7680 x 4320) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p [470 to 1300 Mb/s]
      • DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p [120 to 1880 Mb/s]
      • UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p [120 to 1880 Mb/s]
      • Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p [12 to 180 Mb/s]
    • External Recording Modes
      • 4:2:2 10-Bit
        • DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) up to 59.94p
        • UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) up to 59.94p
  • Recording Limit: Up to 29 Minutes, 59 Seconds
  • Autofocus Points: Phase Detection: 1053
  • Viewfinder Type: Electronic (OLED)
  • Viewfinder Size: 0.5″
  • Viewfinder Resolution: 5,760,000 Dot
  • Viewfinder Eye Point: 23 mm
  • Viewfinder Coverage: 100%
  • Monitor Size: 3.2″
  • Monitor Resolution: 2,100,000 Dot
  • Monitor Type: Free-Angle Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • Memory Card Slot
    • Slot 1: CFexpress Type B
    • Slot 2: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)
  • Connectivity: USB Type-C (USB 3.1), HDMI D (Micro), 3.5mm Headphone, 3.5mm Microphone
  • Wireless: Yes, Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Operating Temperature: 32 to 104°F / 0 to 40°C
  • Operating Humidity: 0 to 85%
  • Battery: 1 x LP-E6NH Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 5.43 x 3.84 x 3.46″ / 138 x 97.5 x 88 mm
  • Weight: 1.62 lb / 738 g (Body with Battery and Memory)

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Jason Miller
Jason Miller is an Emmy® award-winning director, cinematographer and visual effects supervisor whose work can be seen in theatres, digital streaming services and broadcast television.