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Gear Reviews

Living with the Canon EOS R: A 6-Month Hands-On Review

By Pye Jirsa on June 27th 2019

I’ve had six months with this Canon’s flagship mirrorless camera, the EOS R. From weddings, to travel, to personal family shoots – I’ve put this camera through its paces to see how to ranks next to Canon’s more durable 1D and 5D series cameras to decide whether or not it’s time for me to make the mirrorless jump. If you’re comparing specs alone, you’ve probably already moved on by now, because on paper, it’s not necessarily that impressive. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a great camera in its own right. Overall, my experience with this camera has been fantastic so I want to talk about it in this video review:

A short disclaimer: Before we dive into my hands-on experience, this review will not be heavily spec-filled because you can quickly Google that and figure it out. When it comes to any other thing, like buying a car or a house, you aren’t just looking at what’s under the hood and or at the floor plan and bedroom space – you want to know what it’s like to drive that car or live in that home. I’ve owned with this camera now for several months and this will be my experience with it.

Pros

1. What I Love About the Canon EOS-R (It Has Nothing To Do With the Actual Camera…)

I keep getting a lot of people asking if they should jump ship to this mirrorless camera, and to that I say: I’m using the EOS R primarily for the new RF lenses, but specifically the “Bulbous Beast,” otherwise known as the Canon RF 28-70 f/2. You may have watched me confess my love to this lens a couple of weeks ago because it has become my all-time favorite lens ever created. This three-pound monstrosity is absolutely amazing and it’s kind of a game changer when it comes to zoom lenses. Now, granted, Sigma has the 24-35mm f/2, but I love this Canon variant paired with the EOS R, especially since we have more of a range in focal length while still maintaining a shallow depth of field. I also am a fan of the control rings on the RF lenses, but we will talk about that in a bit.

2. Size Truly Does Matter

The next thing that I appreciate about the EOS R is the size, but I’m gonna be honest, Canon puts a lot of emphasis on this smaller and body but there’s really only one native RF lens that takes advantage of the size and that’s the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8. When traveling, I love taking the EOS R and the 35 to achieve a small but very powerful on-the-go camera setup. Here’s the caveat though – the rest of the RF lens lineup is ANYTHING but portable. When you pair it with one of them you’re losing all of those size and weight savings that you’d get in the body. It feels like just any other DSLR at that point. If you’re pairing it with these kinds of lenses and expecting it to be small & light, it’s just not gonna be that.

3. Canon Color Science

Image taken during Lighting 3 Course – purchase it here!

Now, we’ve been touting this for years and it’s the primary reason we’ve stuck with Canon. It’s not that other manufacturers haven’t put out products that produce good colors or that their file quality isn’t good, but more so that based on the look we want to achieve, Canon hits it out of the park. It gets us closer in-camera to that final outputted product when it comes to our specific style.

4. Ergonomically Perfect

Let’s start with the menu design is very simple and easy to use even if you haven’t shot Canon products before you will find that it’s easy to navigate
through the menu system, find what you need, set up your custom menus all without having to open up the manual and just with some basic previous camera experience. In addition, the button layouts and functionality is wonderful including the new control ring on RF lenses. Now, this is a throwback to previous generations, like many generations ago, when we had aperture controls on the lens. I love that they brought this back because it
makes for a very quick and handy kind of adjustment when you’re on-the-go shooting. You can also easily adjust your shutter speed and ISO with the custom dials making it so simple to quickly modify settings. You can tell that there’s a lot of science that’s gone into the usability of the camera and it’s something that you’re gonna appreciate when shooting on-the-go.

A quick note about the adapter I have an adapter right here and what I would say is there are different versions of this adapter but you can use this to adapt any of your EF glass onto Canon RF mount cameras, but the caveat here is making sure that you get the adapter that has the built-in control ring and ND filter as well. Long gone are the days when we used to have to carry a pack of NDs with us, screw them on, then screw them off. The control ring gives you that extra dial which you are going to want to have. While I was using the adapter that doesn’t have the control ring, I found that it wasn’t as easy to adjust my shutter speed after an ISO because I only really had two dials to do it with so having the control ring makes a big difference in terms of your experience using EF glass on RF mounts.

5. Canon Log Straight out of Camera

Let’s talk about video functionality for just a moment. I shoot primarily stills with this camera, but in terms of video, we can now shoot Canon Log straight out of camera which is kind of a nicety if you are a cinematographer and you have other Canon cameras like the Canon C200 that you use as your  A Cam, then it’s nice to have C Log in this for your video so that you can use this as a B or a C Cam. This is great for when you bring all the footage together in post and syncing it up, color grading and matching up the colors between cameras.

Cons

1. Frame Rate

One of the first things that I noticed from the still side was the frame rate. It’s difficult to shoot sports and fast action with this camera because the frame rate just isn’t quite high enough. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do it it’s just that it’s not going to give us that whole sequence of images that we can pick out just isn’t quite high enough.

2. Autofocus Controls

The autofocus system itself is actually quite good, but we’ve got some pretty tough mirrorless contenders on the market that blow this thing out of the water, especially with the latest in eye-tracking AF from Sony. It is a definite improvement from the Canon 5D Mark IV and has fantastic speed and abilities, but the on-screen joystick doesn’t come close to the comfortability and ease of use of the physical joystick on the 5D Mark IV. Maybe people with smaller noses have had better luck…. but it was a terrible experience for me which I discuss in depth in the video review.

3. Cinema Drawbacks

The biggest drawback that everyone is going to talk about, and everybody already has talked about, is the 4K crop in this camera.  a lot of you think that Canon is holding this back because they don’t want to diminish their Cinema EOS line and they want to preserve those cameras without cannibalizing other cameras. What I was told specifically by Canon Reps is that the this is actually a technical issue with the EOS R and they don’t yet have the ability to use the entire sensor at a proper framerate doing 4K without overheating. There is far more to making a good cinema file than just the resolution. The overall color, the bit depth, the overall dynamic range – all of it plays a component in the final footage. Either way, this is a drawback for cinema shooters and it needs to be noted
because that’s what makes this camera very much more a still camera that also happens to shoot video, versus a camera that does both equally well. Another issue I had with the cinema side – where is the 1080p at 120 fps? This was definitely a missing characteristic especially because I wanted that silky-smooth slow motion. I felt like this could have, and should have, been done in this camera.

Conclusion

With all that said what’s the bottom line well if you are a current 5D Mark 4 user and you’re looking for that professional mirrorless upgrade then WAIT! There’s not a significant reason beyond the RF lenses to switch over to the EOS R quite yet and Canon has promised that we’re gonna be getting a
professional mirrorless to complete the lineup with the EOS R and EOS RP. If we are comparing camera bodies, I’ll take my Mark IV over the EOS R, any day. Those of you that love Canon lenses and Canon color science and you don’t have a Canon full frame body to go along with it then the EOS R presents a great mid-point full-frame camera at a good value and price point right around $2,000 USD. The EOS R isn’t groundbreaking enough to jump ship so hold out a little longer for what Canon has coming up in their mirrorless lineup.

What are your thoughts on the EOS R? Have you considered purchasing it and switching from your current setup? Let us know in the comments below!

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About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ricardo Toloto

    First of all, thanks for sharing your thoughts about that camera.

    When I got one of those in my hands a really fell in love with the body’s design, it is beautiful, but usability is not quite good when you start to use it, and it lacks a lot of crucial features that other cameras already offer. I think you are going too far saying it is ergonomically perfect, what you want to say is it has a good grip I presume.

    About colors, also, I know it fits your needs, but that’s pretty relative and in my opinion for jpgs only, straight out the default picture profile you’ve chosen, canon can delivery a pastel look for portraits, which sometimes can be desirable.

    The lenses are the best advantages of that system, despite the fact not every one needs a 1.2 F lens which is very expensive and in my opinion it is heavy. Canon didn’t do a great job positioning their products I guess, cause every one I talk want to try Sony’s camera or even swapped quite years ago.

    Sony has been doing a great job, despite they’ve been on the mirroless market for more years, but Nikon seems to be doing a great job now, and there entry level lenses are amazing for a very affordable price.

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  2. mark arnold

    Interesting review there Mr. Pye.

    I have been shooting with the EOS R since this spring.

    Thoughts:

    The 28-70 is the reason i went with the R.  The camera really has taken several wedding + the firmware update to really come to life.

    I am glad i found the small spot size for the AF spot.

    Exposures have been really good, nailing focus… but still working on reception use.  I am good but still have a few mis-focuses i want to understand.

    The adapter is gold.

    Love the flip-out screen.

    I have the camera set up with very little lag in the EVF.

    I find selecting the high shutter speed takes away some of the sloppiness of the shutter button… at least for me.

    Love-Love the CRAW option.  great for reception.

    Really like working OCF in near dark with the EVF… I can see my clients.

    Camera feels great in hand… and I like bigger bodied cameras.

    Back screen as AF point selector is good.  I change the zoom button to center af spot.

    Cons:

    Wake up speed.  just need to know it feels like forever compared to a 5div.

    switching from af with eye detect to non eye detect…  maybe find a button to customize this.  Because how system acts when no face/eyes are available.  :)  I want to select my AF point.

    RF28-70L

    I have left my 50L (EF mount) in the bag.  and I love this lens.

    The images produced at 50-55mm are fabulous.  really the entire range.

    I image would do the same for 35 prime shooters.

    Fun to shoot at 70 f2…..

    I do wish 28mm could be 24mm.  but I will live with it.  :)

    Just my 2 cents.

    Mark

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  3. Dale DiMassi

    The cons seem to outweigh the pros here. No mention of the lack of IBIS.

    The lack of proper AF control, 4k crop, slow continuous stills shooting that comes with a total shutdown of AF tracking. That means either use AF at 3fps, or manual focus at 6fps. This is in line with the consumer T7i and 80D models. A poor showing for Canon and the sales show it.

    All they are offering is $2k-3k lenses with outdated tech and a 4 year old sensor…

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    • mark arnold

      firmware fixes eye detect with ai servo mode.  works like a champ.  

      The IBIS is a setback.  the lack of….

      AF:  

      Full screen for auto focus.

      EVF for exposure control.

      smaller spot size – still bigger than 5Div small spot.  then use eye detect.

      fast lens: low light sensitivity

      its just me, but this is better than the 6D.  other than active tracking.. matches or beats the 5Div.

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  4. Eric Mazzone

    I went with this a couple of months ago after returning from overseas to replace my aging 6D. And I LOVE it.

    With the recent firmware update the eye-AF is so much improved from where it was when I first got it. 

     By the numbers, it’s MUCH better than the 6D.  I’m hitting near 90% of acceptably sharp / in focus images where the 6D I was between 10-15%.  So I’m shooting far fewer images in each shoot, I can get what I need in one sequence instead of having to shoot each sequence two-three times.  The exposure is spot on.  It’s made things so easy, all I have to concentrate on is my lighting and composition. I forgot, for battery life, I’m seeing better results with this than the 6D ever did.  I typically get a full shoot with one battery on the EOS R, where I’d use 3 with the 6D for the same shoot.  And I’ve used those batteries in the EOS R as well with the same results.  

    And people need to quit whining about the lack of dual-card slots.  The vast majority of people I know who scream about that, don’t actually use it in the way they claim to do so, they do NOT use it for RAW on one and JPG on the other, they have the second one set up purely as overflow.  So it’s essentially a fluff feature and if you do NEED it, freaking use it properly.

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  5. Justin Roskowske

    If this had dual-card slots, I’d have sold my 5D Mark iii and 6D and purchased two of these with the control rings + ND filter adapter. The video stuff doesn’t bother me at all. If I ever needed amazing video, I could make a change in gear later. For now, I have no need for it. The dual-card slots being absent is the only reason I haven’t already gotten two of these.

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    • Pye Jirsa

      It is definitely a bummer not having the physical backup of two cards out of the camera body. But, that’s why I’m waiting for the pro-level mirrorless Canon should be putting out next. 

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    • David J. Crewe

      Maybe i’ve just been SUPER lucky with my memory cards, but i’ve never really had a moment yet where that 2nd slot was a life saver. I know it’ll happen one day…(it’s never an if, but always a “when”), but the single slot isn’t really a deal breaker for me…at least not yet anyway. 

      That being said, i know as soon as a dual card slotted mirrorless is out there i’ll def be snapping it up >.> for now though i’m pretty happy with my Z6 (single slot) and my only real complaint is the battery life…and that’s nothing new at all for mirrorless rigs. 

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    • Eric Mazzone

      David, I WISH the April fools thing Nikon had with the battery grip with an extra card slot was true, as that was about the coolest idea I’ve seen in a LONG time.

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    • Matthew Saville

      They make a lot of field-ready SD card backup devices, though. Depending on what you shoot, it could be really effortless to create a backup (or two) of your raw images in the field while you shoot.

      The RF system is really worth getting familiar with, for the amazing lenses, if you’re already a Canon shooter and love the quality that L glass has always offered. This new L glass is a whole new level of amazing, and it’s only going to get better, IMO. I’m particularly interested in their forthcoming 15-35 2.8 RF and 70-200 2.8 RF, both of which look like they’ll offer something that Sony hasn’t offered yet, and will be even better than what was ever possible on a DSLR… Oh, and don’t even get me started on the patent that surfaced for a 14-21mm f/1.4. That would just be absolutely bonkers for astro-landscape photography…

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    • Mark Laing

      Totally agreed.  I can’t imagine shooting a 12-hour wedding with one slot.  For weddings, I use two 5Ds and a 7D as a backup.  Raw in big CF card JPEGs as backup\emergency in the flimsy SD cards.  Backing up to an SD card reader in the middle of a frantic shoot is impractical I think, although for overnight weddings when I’m not near my machines, I DO backup to a WD portable drive.  IMHO.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Mark, we did that on-site backup for many years, back in the days of the original Canon 5D, 5D2, and Nikon D700. It works fine, and no wedding is so 100% crazy-fast-action that you can’t find a moment to back up your cards once or twice.

      Honestly, these days you’re more likely to have your camera stolen at some venues, and if a photographer is foolish enough to trust two all-day memory cards instead of swapping out one of their card slots throughout the day, they might still lose everything even if they have an instant backup.

      Personally, when it comes to dual card slots, I can’t imagine shooting anything less than raw to both cards. Just as an example of how different professionals have different standards of safety. Personally, I enjoy being able to download from just one SD card directly to a computer with an SD reader, so whether I’m shooting a camera that has dual SD slots, or one that has a CF/XQD slot as well, I’m still going to download from the SD card. SD is the cheapest way to get 64GB or 128GB cards for those extra-long 15+ hour days, and then in the other slot I swap out 16-32GB cards all day long, so that throughout the wedding day I actually have most of the wedding in m pocket, and not just in my camera’s two slots.

      Either way, I can totally understand how it’s hard to be willing to go back to a single slot and on-location backup, after having used dual card slots for so many years. But I do also certainly remember the years of single card slot DSLRs, so I’m not terrified of shooting to a single slot either…

      BTW, this is not an excuse for Canon or Nikon. They absolutely should have seen dual card slots coming to Sony, despite the fact that Sony made six A7-series bodies with a single, slow SD slot leading up to their latest generation. Any camera in the $2K range should have two slots, period. Just wanted to make that clear; I’m not making excuses for Canon, in fact I really am shocked that they thought they could get away with a single slot in a $2300 camera. But, for the amazing RF lenses, I’d do almost anything.

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