For Photographers: Canon EOS R review

I’ve been a Canon shooter all my life. I’m very comfortable with Canon ergonomics, menus, and functionality. I’ve loved their DSLRs since film days. Over the past few years, mirrorless cameras have become much more popular, with Sony leading the way in the full-frame mirrorless camera department. Despite all the people jumping ship from Canon and Nikon to Sony, I’ve been happy with the gear I use and the results it provides.

Within the last eight months, Canon came out with two mirrorless full-frame cameras. For a long time, I had no interest in either; I’ve been shooting with two perfectly good bodies (the 5d Mark IV and 1DX Mark II) for quite some time. Plus, Canon brought out a whole new lens mount with their mirrorless cameras. I do not want to or need to invest in new lenses. There is the ability to use an adapter, though, which does make both EF-S and EF lenses usable on Canon’s mirrorless bodies.

Much more recently, I started looking more closely at the mirrorless cameras, especially the EOS R, and tried to figure out if it made sense for me. I’ve long been wanting both of my camera bodies to be the 30 megapixels of my main 5D Mark IV. And while I like the 1DX Mark II for many reasons (it’s stupid high frame rate is great for surf shooting, it’s built like a tank, and it has amazing colors SOOC), I never really loved it. After a lot of research over several weeks (and when I was able to find a price well below $2000), I made the decision to purchase the Canon EOS R, hoping that it was a good decision, since it would mean that I’d be selling my 1DX Mark II. So, has it been a good experience? What’s the camera like? Find out below!

Canon EOS R

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The first thing I thought about the camera was how small it is! I don’t have huge hands, but I do love big, solid cameras. Of course the lack of a mirror box makes the camera narrower from front to back, but it’s quite petite overall. It doesn’t have the row of buttons to the left of the back LCD like my bodies almost always have, which makes it smaller. That said, the grip depth is actually good; it has a deeper front grip than my 5D IV. I also bought a battery grip to go with it (spoiler alert: this battery grip is NOT cheap, but it does come with a USB adapter that lets you charge the batteries without ever taking them out, which is nice)…the battery grip helps add a bit of size to the body. I also purchased a lens adapter to go with the camera, since I do not have any RF lenses and only plan on using my EF lenses for quite some time. I chose to go with the adapter with the control ring vs the one without; more on this in a bit.

OVERALL FUNCTIONALITY AND CONTROLS

While the menu system on this camera is familiar, the overall control and setup is a bit different than what I’m used to. The top LCD is very different, and the buttons and controls on the back are very different. There is no joystick, which was ALMOST a deal-breaker for me on even purchasing the camera, since joysticks are life. However, before purchasing, I found out that you can use your thumb to change focus points (while looking through the viewfinder) which I deemed close enough, and I’ve found that I actually love it. There is no wheel on the back (though there is a touchpad) and there are no buttons in a row near the top LCD. I’ve customized what buttons and dials there are to quickly and easily change my aperture, shutter speed (there is still a wheel by the shutter as usual!) and ISO. The reason I got the control ring adapter was to assign a function to this particular ring for simple changing.

Getting used to a camera with an electronic viewfinder was odd at first. I’ve used them, but older ones where the EVF isn’t amazing. The EVF on the EOS R is quite nice and is almost as good as an optical one. I’ll liken it to watching a really, really good TV. It’s very detailed, and the ability to see your exposure through the viewfinder in real time is both weird, at least to someone who used an optical viewfinder her whole life, and also very cool.

One of the best things about this camera is its focus accuracy. I have never had issues with focus on my other camera bodies. However, I have spent time micro adjusting lenses to each body. Also, I have multiple Sigma Art lenses, which are very good…but also notorious for focus inaccuracy. Because of how mirrorless cameras work, focus micro adjustment is not necessary, and I also hoped that my Sigma lenses would perform much more accurately on the EOS R. I’m happy to report that they do, and that focus overall is amazing. I’ve used it with all my lenses, shooting both personally and at client sessions, and it’s dead on. It’s quite impressive.

Images from the camera look just about identical to those from the 5D Mark IV; I have no complaints with those images so this is a positive. Note that EOS R raw files are .CR3. You will need to have updated versions of Adobe software to process them.

(POSSIBLE) NEGATIVES

The EOS R has only one card slot, which would make it a no go for wedding photography, and it was also almost a no go for me, since the slot is an SD slot. I much prefer CF cards as they’re faster, but have found that in use, the camera can write to the card quite quickly.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the frame rate on the camera, especially since I was giving up a body that shoots 14 frames a second for 8 frames a second (though it’s actually rare that 14 fps is needed, but it’s nice to have). In addition to losing those 6 frames per second, the EOS R’s frame rate goes down to only 5 fps when in servo, which is the only time I use continuous shooting. This really scared me, but again, in use, it has turned out to be fine. Coupled with the large buffer of the camera, you can get a good number of images in a burst.

The light weight of the camera is nice mac of the time, but even with the grip on, it’s so small that it can feel unbalanced with larger lenses. It looks like a toy with my 200 f2 attached, and it took some getting used to learning to handle it with larger lenses.

The biggest annoyance I have with this camera is the changing of focus points via LCD touch screen, which I mentioned earlier. You can program it to various areas of the screen; I chose bottom right as that is most ike the position of a joystick on my other bodies. It works great—until you turn the camera to portrait orientation. It would make sense for the focus to still be on the bottom right relative to how you turned the camera, but it’s not; it’s in the same place (so, in portrait orientation, I have to use the top right/top middle, which requires some thumb gymnastics.) I’m really hoping this is corrected in a firmware update down the line.

Overall, I’m quite happy with this camera. It’s become my main body for the last month, which surprises me. It’s easy to take on walks with the dog (one of my main models) or exploring trips. I’d definitely say it’s worth a look.

One of my two favorite models, photographed with the EOS R and Sigma 105 1.4 Art.

One of my two favorite models, photographed with the EOS R and Sigma 105 1.4 Art.