Review: Canon EOS R is a fantastic full-frame mirrorless camera that feels two years behin...

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AppleInsider has spent the last month testing out Canon's first full-frame mirrorless EOS R shooter to see how it stacks up in an ever-growing mirrorless market.

Canon EOS R
Canon EOS R


The EOS R has a lot of competition. Sony, the biggest player in the game, has been dominating for years. Recently Nikon and others are have thrown their own hats in the ring with the likes of the Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6 that AppleInsider has already reviewed.

Canon's shooter falls in the middle of the Z 7 and Z 6 between the A7 and A7R III in both price and megapixel count.

The EOS R sports a 30.3-megapixel resolution while the Z 6 shoots 24.5MP, the Z 7 does 45.7MP, the A7 does 24MP, and the A7R III shoots 42.4MP. With these specs, it could easily be a great compromise between the low end and high-end models filling the market.




Updated body, questionable choices

Canon designed everything from the ground up for the new mirrorless EOS R, but there are still many leftovers from previous models. If certain things irked you before, they still will now.

Canon EOS R display
Canon EOS R display


For example, the modular rear touch screen is fully articulated and can tilt out, up, down, to the side, and even face the camera for added protection. Protection is great, but the contortions you have to do sometimes to position the screen are not -- if you want to tilt the screen down you have to first tilt it out awkwardly on the side. Each design has pros and cons, but we generally prefer the tiltable display of the Sony A7R III or the Nikon Z-series.

Unlike others in this space, the plastic body of the EOS R feels cheap to the touch. There is a strong magnesium alloy body beneath the plastic, but the fit and finish doesn't give a great impression. It also doesn't feel as great in the hand as either of the other two big players, especially with no solid thumb grip.

Canon also places the power toggle to the left, which we still haven't adjusted to. It doesn't make sense for us to have to use both hands just to get the camera on, especially when that left hand needs to then readjust to bolster our stability on the underside of the camera.

When an opportunity presents itself for a great shot, we pull up the camera in our right hand, left has to go above to toggle on, then go back below to hold the camera. Stabilizing the camera is extra important with only the lens stabilization available.

Sony and Nikon integrate the power to the right side by the shutter button where your right hand is already located.

Canon EOS R top controls
Canon EOS R top controls


Across the top of the camera are several different control wheels that are made of metal, colored black, and textured with knurling. The metal controls do give it a more premium feel but on a couple of knobs, the knurling is actually too sharp and the tension too tight. When we go to move the wheel, notably in certain dry environments, it can scratch skin a bit. If done frequently, it can start to hurt. Making this worse, with a natural grip, some of the wheels are hard to reach.

There are a wide array of controls on the camera, but no joystick to be found, and the D-pad doesn't work the way you'd expect. This can make it difficult to perform certain functions, like moving the autofocus point. Instead, Canon expects you to use the touchpad.

There is still much to love here, however. The LED panel on top presents quite a bit of useful information while shooting. It highlights the mode as you cycle through them. This display also can be inverted from a black to white depending on your shooting environment.

Canon EOS R SD slot
Canon EOS R media slot


Canon followed Nikon's lead by only including one media card slot, which is a controversial omission. It supports SD/SDHC/SDXC media cards which are most common, but not the fastest out there, nor looking to the future. Others are prepping to adopt the CFExpress 2 cards which are far faster.

Connectivity

As far as wired connectivity goes, Canon too has adopted USB-C. That is located on the left side along with HDMI, a remote control connector port, a headphone port, and a microphone input. Like the Nikon, USB-C can charge the battery in the camera cutting down the need to always tote along a battery charger. It also means you can power it up on the go with any battery pack.

Our biggest qualm with this is that the USB-C port is on the top of the port stack, rather the bottom. We use the USB-C port far more often than the HDMI and would have preferred it to be towards the bottom for easier access, and access when on a tripod.

Canon EOS R iOS app
Canon EOS R iOS app


Wireless connectivity feels a bit dated. While the camera can transfer images via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, it is a bit slower transferring to our iPad Pro than we'd like, partially partially due to the antiquated standards used. Bluetooth on the camera is 4.1 while Wi-Fi is limited to 802.11n speeds.

This all would have been fine two years ago, but now we have competing models building in 802.11ac that transfer content far faster.

An updated lens system

With the EOS R, Canon took the opportunity -- as Nikon did with the Z-series -- to revamp its lens mount to have a wider 54mm opening with a shorter 20mm flange. This will allow much more light to hit the sensor and since the distance from the lens to the sensor is reduced, it should aid its focusing abilities.

Canon EOS R 24-105mm lens
Canon EOS R 24-105mm RF lens


Canon has started to release all-new RF lenses for the new lens mount, but they still maintain compatibility with legacy lenses by way of adapters. Unlike Nikon that has one adapter to fit all of their previous F-mount lenses, Canon has three. They come at different price ranges with added features like an additional control ring and the top end has an integrated ND filter.

When we tested the adapter system, we saw no loss in image quality on the legacy lenses, though focus was a tad slower than it otherwise would be.

Canon's new lenses are quite hefty pieces of glass. They are larger than older counterparts as is common with these full-frame mirrorless cameras. The Canon EOS R was already on the larger size and this just adds to it.

Canon EOS R lens control ring
Canon EOS R lens control ring


There is a lot going on with the new lenses, such as the new additional control ring. This ring can be mapped to different customizable functions such as ISO, exposure compensation, shutter speed, or aperture. As you make lens adjustments, such as the focal length, it is displayed in the EVF so you don't have to glance away to see it.

Unlike Nikon and Sony's mirrorless full-frame systems, Canon chose not to include in-body stabilization on the EOS R. Instead of a five-axis stabilizer in the camera, the lenses still house their own dual-axis stabilization that can be toggled on or off. It is what we've had for years but not really anything that builds or is as good as the competition. Excess shaking will certainly be noticeable.

Currently, there are four RF lenses available. The RF 35mm F1.8 Macro, RF 24-105mm F4, RF 50mm F1.2, and the RF 28-70mm F2 which run $499.99, $1,099.00, $2,299.00, and $2,999.00 respectively.

The "kit" lens, in this case, is that 24-105mm F4 lens. When compared to our recently reviewed Nikon Z6/Z7 cameras, this lens gives you a bit more zoom than Nikon's 24-70mm f4 kit lens. As the lens is fairly heavy, it would have a tendency to extend when facing down. Canon has a locking mechanism here that prevents that, but it means you have to unlock it each time you want to extend the lens.

Alternatively, Nikon has a lock position that only requires you to extend the lens yourself to unlock it. This is much more user-friendly.

Shooting with the EOS R

Getting over the ergonomic issues we had, shooting with the EOS R was fantastic. The autofocus system was fast and accurate, with it only having issues a few times during our shoots.

Video is underwhelming. It is capable of shooting full 4K at 30fps, but the crop factor was poor -- it isn't just the 1.5x crop we see with APS-C sensors, but 1.75x. Trying to shoot close up video with a 50mm lens is a terrible idea and you lose about half the range of the 24-105mm lens. If you want to shoot wide-angle 4K video it is near impossible.

Canon EOS R lens
Canon EOS R lens


Considering Canon's early lead in the video realm, this is disappointing.

The video footage itself looks otherwise fantastic with crisp detail and rich colors -- at least when you're shooting on a tripod. The lack of in-body stabilization rears its ugly head once again if you try to shoot handheld. Like any other camera, it becomes far too shaky and has a lot of rolling shutter effects when panning this way.

Our last video issue has to do with the face tracking. The tracking worked extremely well and was buttery smooth. Even when shooting with a wide aperture which gives a much smaller margin of error, Canon was able to keep up. Unfortunately, it audibly clicked when doing so, loudly enough to hear on the video itself. If you use this, using another audio source is absolutely a requirement.

None of that is a dealbreaker, though, if you have the right glass and shoot on a tripod. But, it is hard to completely overlook when both Sony and Nikon do this all so well with little-to-no crop and fantastic stabilization.

Canon EOS R
Canon EOS R


Turning to photos, we were much more impressed. It does lack some of the dynamic range we see with Nikon and Sony, but it was acceptable for everything but fringe scenarios.

The maximum image capture rate wasn't as high as we'd like -- especially when we started taking action shots. The EOS R maxes out at 8 shots per second where the Z 7 can take 9 full-resolution shots per second, the Z 6 can do 12, and the A7R III can do 10.

We shot a variety of different scenarios with the EOS R and we were most happy with both the autofocus and the color. The color was magnificent and popped while still staying true to life. The vividness was clear even without having to boost the saturation. A lot of images we took off our card were simply great, without needing any additional editing.

Shooting with an open aperture, bokeh was delicate and soft, and produced stunning portraits.

The kit lens was quite versatile with a wide range of wide and tele abilities that handled much of what we asked. This is good, as the other lenses in the current lineup get expensive fast. Many will likely stick with this 24-105mm until more are available. That said, the 50mm 1.2 is extremely tempting.

We took to the great outdoors for this smattering of sample images, shot during the icy Ohio winter.

Canon sample image
Canon EOS R sample image | ISO 5000 F/4.5


Canon sample image
Canon sample image | ISO 4000 F/4


Canon sample image
Canon sample image | ISO 100 F/5.6


We've included a couple more sample shots at the end of the review.

Take the plunge, or not

This is Canon's first foray into the full-frame mirrorless market -- and it shows. There is a lot of potential here, and the progress is evident. But Canon isn't there yet with the EOS R.




Too many compromises put this out of contention for a lot of folks out there. In-body stabilization, additional lens offerings, tight crop-factor on video, poor button layouts, slow fps, and a plastic design prevent us from widely recommending this camera.

Purely looking at the still photography, the EOS R still excels. You will get great photos from this camera and likely won't regret that aspect. However, if you are looking for the absolute best all-around full-frame mirrorless camera for the money, this isn't it.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Where to buy

Canon's EOS R digital camera body, lenses and accessories are available from popular retailers, such as B&H Photo, Adorama and Amazon.com.

In addition to free expedited shipping within the contiguous U.S., B&H Photo is throwing in a free Canon Mount Adapter valued at $99 with qualifying EOS R purchases. Adorama is also offering the free Canon Mount Adapter promotion, with no sales tax collected on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey.

Free expedited/next day delivery at B&H: No tax collected outside NY & NJ at Adorama: Canon EOS R at Amazon:

Additional sample shots

Canon sample image
Canon sample image | ISO 200 F/4.5


Canon sample image
Canon sample image | ISO 6400 F/4

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    "In-body stabilization, additional lens offerings, tight crop-factor on video, poor button layouts, slow fps, and a plastic design prevent us from widely recommending this camera." -- This sentence makes no sense. You want in-body stabilization, which the camera lacks. Additional lens offerings sounds good. What the hell? Please learn to write.
    d_2
  • Reply 2 of 16
    RIP my $20K in lenses.  But moving IS into the body, I would think, makes future lenses cheaper?
    edited February 20
  • Reply 3 of 16
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,469member
    RIP my $20K in lenses.  But moving IS into the body, I would think, makes future lenses cheaper?
    Supposedly, but the first few lenses for this new system are very expensive, so one has to ask why Canon bothered to create such a relatively inexpensive body.   The 35mm macro isn't too bad at $500, but the 50mm 1.2 is $2300, the 28-70 2.0 is going to be $3000 and the 24-105 4.0 is going to be $1100.  

    They're also releasing the following, but no prices yet:
    15-35mm RF L IS USM 2.8
    24-70mm RF L IS USM 2.8
    70-200mm RF L IS USM 2.8
    85mm RF L USM 1.2
    85mm RF L USM DS 1.2
    24-120 RF IS USM 4.0-6.3

    Only the last one will be inexpensive.  All the L lenses will be quite expensive.  And note that most are IS
    edited February 20
  • Reply 4 of 16
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,674member
    I'm following Canon's roadmap closely as I am ready to upgrade my trusty Canon 5DM3 dSLR.  Canon is doing the right thing with how they are introducing their products.  People buying the current R-bodies will most likely be current EF-owning dSLR owners that can just use their EF lenses with an adapter.  

    The only reason Canon is introducing such expensive (and stunning) glass is because the pro-body R camera is slated to be released this year and the first thing people will look for on that body are RF lenses.  People that complain about why anyone one buy this particular camera when the lenses are so expensive are just missing the point.

    I'm patiently waiting and quite excited to see what Canon comes out with for their pro R model.  If it's anything like the quality of their lenses, it's going to sell well.

    What's funny - and pathetic - are the haters and those of the Sony/Nikon club.  They make it sound like suddenly the cameras we've all been using all this time are suddenly unable to take any decent photos anymore.  Sure a Sony may be more "technical superior" to my Canon 5DM3, but I will guarantee that the end product - the photograph - will be undistinguishable to the end user.  When one is dealing with full-frame cameras, they are already at that high a level.  

    Btw AI - The R-mount is the same diameter as the "old" EF-mount.  54mm.  Your story implies that Canon made changes to physical mount, which is not accurate.

    bageljoeycamc
  • Reply 5 of 16
    Brett DBrett D Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I own it, I love it. Autofocus is incredible, facial recognition works far better than expected. ALL of my existing lenses work PERFECTLY with a $99 adapter... PLUS my APS-C lenses now work, too! I held onto my 7D because it was my only body that worked with my 10-22. Now, my EOS R can handle my 10-22! I'm also a little baffled about the 4K cropping complaints. The image receptor on the EOS R is 6720x4480; to shoot at 4K video, the camera needs to shoot at 3840x2160 to maintain 4K resolution without resizing/resampling the video. Of course there's going to be crop factor when shooting 4K video, it's utilizing far less sensor even at true 4K. But maybe I'm missing something obvious, I usually am. Between a $99 adapter to continually shoot with my Canon lens collection or a $500 adapter to switch to a Sony AIII, I'll take the $99 adapter and the EOS R, which has been a way better camera than I kept reading about, I do not regret the purchase one bit.
    applesnorangesd_2
  • Reply 6 of 16
    A lifetime ago I worked as a professional photographer- as in 35mm and Medium format film.

    Someone should tell the camera companies that less is more- get rid of the on camera processing and just leave it for the computer. Same for the display on the back of the body that belongs on a point and shoot, but not a serious camera- I’ll take a viewfinder every time.

    And there should never be a d-pad on a camera. I am not playing a video game.
  • Reply 7 of 16
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,674member
    davgreg said:
    A lifetime ago I worked as a professional photographer- as in 35mm and Medium format film.

    Someone should tell the camera companies that less is more- get rid of the on camera processing and just leave it for the computer. Same for the display on the back of the body that belongs on a point and shoot, but not a serious camera- I’ll take a viewfinder every time.

    And there should never be a d-pad on a camera. I am not playing a video game.
    I'm old-school too, however if one goes to mirrorless, it makes perfect sense to have an EVF.  Like it or not.  To see the photo exactly the way the camera sees it is valuable.  We're used to looking at the back of the camera when we take a photo with our dSLR, realizing the changes, and try again.  That does not need to happen anymore and I'm on that bandwagon.

    The major thing holding me back  - besides the pro R-body - is battery life.  My dSLR smokes any competition in terms of battery life and that is important to me.  I do a lot of underwater photography and knowing I can go an entire week without removing my camera from the sealed housing is priceless.
    edited February 20
  • Reply 8 of 16
    I'm a long-time Canon shooter and advanced amateur. The R and RP are superb bodies for the advanced amateur and for a pro who needs a 2nd (or 4th) camera body while maintaining Canon EF compatibility. If you are a Nikon or Sony FF mirrorless shooter, good for you; the Canon R/RP will not entice you. If you are a Fuji shooter, ditto. But if you are already a Canon shooter, the R/RP show you the future. The R has superb color rendition and fast autofocus. The EVF is sharp. It's sensor is between the 5D and 6D (the RP sensor is straight from the 6D) and it works well. The controls are very logical (for a Canon shooter), the menus well organized, and only that idiot touch bar gets in the way. You can read reviews; suffice to say that Canon users will use an R or RP and say "why yes, of course". The new RF lenses show exactly where Canon is going, all but one on the market today and one planned RF are "L" glass; that is, the best Canon can do. These are pro lenses, and what Canon is doing comes from the old photo adage, "you date your camera bodies but you marry your lenses". This is in contrast to Nikon where the ZF lenses (so far, they'll fix this eventually) are underwhelming. Canon is signaling that they're in the RF lens mount for the next three decades. The ability to mount EF lenses with a simple adapter makes clear that a Canon shooter can move up today to FF mirrorless and complete their transition at their own speed. One true weakness in the R/RP: video. If you absolutely need great 4K video, these aren't the cameras for you. Go Sony or Fuji. A true pro level R body (e.g., at or above the 5D, and perhaps at the 1DXm2 level) supposedly is coming by the end of this year, so a professional who shoots Canon and needs to make money is justified waiting. But the R and RP will meet the needs of many photographers. As long as you're in the Canon ecosystem. Sound familiar, Mac-users?
    hucom2000
  • Reply 9 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,352member
    Just my opinion of course but I tried it and sent it back.  My new Sony A7iii is in a different league (I didn't need the A7R for my work) the sensors are sci-fi. I used Nikon in the days of film SLRs I have used Canon since their first DSLRs and own many Canon L lenses.  I am slowly acquiring Sony G and GM lenses and using a Metabones V EF to E mount adapter in the meantime.  All my EF and EFS lenses work fine although no eye tracking just face tracking and some work better than others.  My trusty Canon 10-22mm EFS works very well and the Sony Alphas automatically convert from full frame to crop frame when they detects such lenses.  The only lens that is a pain is my Canon 100-400mm L as the AF is very iffy on the Alpha, I am definitely getting the Sony equivalent before my next trip.
    edited February 20
  • Reply 10 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,352member
    RIP my $20K in lenses.  But moving IS into the body, I would think, makes future lenses cheaper?
    The Sony A7 Alphas and Sony G and GM lenses have both IBS and in-lens IS, they work seamlessly together. So no, sadly no cheaper.
    edited February 20
  • Reply 11 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,352member
    davgreg said:
    A lifetime ago I worked as a professional photographer- as in 35mm and Medium format film.

    Someone should tell the camera companies that less is more- get rid of the on camera processing and just leave it for the computer. Same for the display on the back of the body that belongs on a point and shoot, but not a serious camera- I’ll take a viewfinder every time.

    And there should never be a d-pad on a camera. I am not playing a video game.
    High-end mirrorless full frame cameras I've used automatically switch to the EVF as your eye gets close to the viewfinder.  A good EVF is far superior to any TTL and the screen on the back is useful for reviewing and menu options although as I need glasses for near viewing I tend to do all menu work in the EVF.  I could live without the rear screen truth be told.
    edited February 20
  • Reply 12 of 16
    ivanhivanh Posts: 372member
    Canon EOS RP is there, what’s the point to publish the test of a replaced old model, EOS R?
  • Reply 13 of 16
    CuriousJoshCuriousJosh Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I'm a professional photographer using the EOS-R, and like virtually all the other commenters here who use the camera, I can attest to its vast improvements over the traditional mirrored dslrs.

    And complaining the power is on the left? Well of course. That's so all the dials can be on the right to control the camera one-handed if needed.

    And this review doesn't even touch the vast improvements in the focus system

    Apple insider is great with computer reviews. Maybe they just need better qualified photographers to test the cameras. 
  • Reply 14 of 16
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 253member, editor
    ivanh said:
    Canon EOS RP is there, what’s the point to publish the test of a replaced old model, EOS R?
    This isn’t a replaced old model. The EOS RP is a more entry level model that cost significantly less than the EOS R. Both will continue to be available such as the Z 6 and Z 7 or the A7 and A7R III. 
  • Reply 15 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,352member
    I'm a professional photographer using the EOS-R, and like virtually all the other commenters here who use the camera, I can attest to its vast improvements over the traditional mirrored dslrs.

    And complaining the power is on the left? Well of course. That's so all the dials can be on the right to control the camera one-handed if needed.

    And this review doesn't even touch the vast improvements in the focus system

    Apple insider is great with computer reviews. Maybe they just need better qualified photographers to test the cameras. 
    I am not sure who did the review but if it was Max Yuyev who often does AI 's Mac YT reviews, he also does excellent camera review, right up there with Tony and Chelsea ;)  I'd suspect it's dumbed down for the target audience here.

    edited February 21
  • Reply 16 of 16
    19831983 Posts: 1,184member
    A rating of 2 out of 5...harsh! But deserved. This was easily the most disappointing new camera release of 2018/19. And I’m a photo enthusiast and Canon user. I wish Canon would get their head out of their ass when it comes to their camera designs. Which have mostly disappointed for years now. They need to put as much ‘love’ into those as they do into their mostly excellent lenses. 
    edited February 22
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