Canon EOS RP Long-Term Review | Almost The Perfect Vlogging & Travel Camera, But Not Quite
We first tested and reviewed the Canon EOS RP right when it was announced, and our impression of the camera was certainly one of excitement mixed with reservations. It was a full-frame mirrorless camera that cost just $1200, weighing in at only a pound. (That’s just 0.45kg!)
Now, the RP is about 1.5 years old, and the price has dropped to $999, or $899 whenever it’s on sale. But, who is it for? Is it too entry-level for serious photographers? Is it too expensive for beginners who want the best value, features, and performance? When the dust settled around the EOS RP’s spec sheet, We were left wondering…
One thing is for sure: If you want an affordable, lightweight full-frame camera, the Canon EOS RP is of course the lightest, smallest, and most affordable current-generation full-frame camera. (Yes, we will discuss the oddball Sigma FP later…)
The next-closest cameras in this current generation MSRP for $2000. Even when deeply discounted (such as right now), the Nikon Z6 is about $1600 and the Sony A7 III is still about $1800. By comparison, the EOS RP’s “best deal” price is about $900. That’s still half the price of a Sony A7 mk3!
Now, in mid-2020, we have spent more than a year with the EOS RP. We’ve taken it on small photo shoots, we’ve taken it on grand adventures, and we’ve compared it against virtually every other similarly priced (and high-dollar) mirrorless camera that has come out in the last two-plus years.
So, how does it stack up?
In short, this is one of our favorite cameras, despite some drawbacks. It’s just so convenient, with its tiny size, ultralight weight, and the familiar Canon interface plus the relatively familiar (though admittedly changed) Canon ergonomics.
At first glance, the images are truly beautiful, with decent dynamic range and solid high ISO image quality. Having 4K video is nice too, of course. However, upon closer inspection, the raw image data doesn’t stack up to the competition, and the finer details (literally, and figuratively) of the 4K video leave something to be desired.
In short, if image quality for either stills or video is your biggest priority, then you’ll want to pass on the EOS RP and get something else current-gen. (Note, however, that I keep saying “current generation” because I would not choose an original Sony A7, or an A7 II, due to the fact that both cameras are rather poorly made, and have far worse drawbacks in terms of features and performance than the EOS RP.
With that said, let’s try to answer the question, WHY do I still like the EOS RP so much?
What Is The Best Vlogging Camera?
For vlogging, there are a few priorities that make a camera great for vlogging. First and foremost, I need a camera with a fully articulated LCD, preferably a side-swivel design. (Both my shotgun mic and my headphones have 90-degree angled jacks, so they don’t really obscure the LCD display at all!)
Also, I’m not a wimp, (I hate the gym, but I do a few push-ups and pull-ups every day,) however, with an old shoulder injury I simply can’t hold my arms outstretched holding heavy equipment for more than a few minutes. So, I need a camera that is as lightweight as possible.
The Canon EOS RP delivers both of these things, in fact, not only is it the lightest full-frame camera, but it’s also the ONLY full-frame camera in existence with a side-swivel LCD screen; even the video-centric Panasonic S-series cameras have vertically articulating LCDs.
If anything holds the EOS RP back from being the absolute best full-frame vlogging camera, it is, of course, the lack of IBIS. Some people might argue that the cropped 4K video is also a huge problem, but I think that vlogging in 4K is still a bit overkill; I’m happy to stick with good ‘ol HD and 30/60p, though I do prefer to shoot more serious nature scenes in the best-possible 4K video.
But, back to the lack of IBIS. Honestly? All Canon needs to do is, release a (stabilized) lightweight RF 20mm f/1.8 IS or 24mm f/1.8 IS, and I’d be sold on the EOS RP as a truly great choice for vlogging.
Either way, here’s the bottom line: If famous Youtubers can become millionaires using “just” the Canon 80D, then the EOS RP is more than good enough for the aspiring vlogger.
What About The Sigma FP?
Hopefully, you don’t scroll past this on your way to leave an angry comment about how the Canon EOS RP is, in fact, NOT the lightest and smallest full-frame camera out there now that the Sigma FP is out… I hear you! We know the FP exists. Our review of it is coming soon!
We consider the Sigma FP to be a high-end video camera. It can shoot stills, but it’s definitely not optimized for general photography, or even for “casual” video work like vlogging. It’s made for cinematography.
So, despite the Sigma being the new full-frame portability champion, any vlogger and/or photographer would be smart to choose a camera that has a fully-articulating LCD, and a headphone jack too. You should probably only be considering the Sigma FP, with its ~$1800 price tag, if you’re really, really serious about high-end video.
Is The EOS RP A Good Travel Camera?
Travel photographers, whether they shoot landscapes, cityscapes, or candid moments and portraits, will likely love the EOS RP for the same, simple reasons: it’s the lightest, smallest full-frame camera around. When the 1-lb body is paired with, say, the Canon RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM superzoom for casual photography, and maybe the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro for candid portraits and close-up work, any travel photographer would have a great time with the RP.
For those who travel specifically so that they can shoot more serious landscapes or cityscapes, of course, the less competitive dynamic range could become an issue when compared to a Sony or a Nikon. This is a valid concern, but it takes quite a bit of pixel-peeping in really difficult lighting conditions in order to really see a difference. In other words, you might have to bracket a really contrasty sunset HDR every now and then, so, just ask yourself, is that trade-off worth the portability factor?
Of course, if you’re shopping for L lenses, then the RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS is not particularly portable compared to other wide-angle zooms, nor is the RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS. Combining either of these lenses with the EOS RP, in total, isn’t necessarily a significantly more portable kit compared to other choices, and in terms of versatility, other options do have more to offer.
Oppositely, the RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS is a very different, unique new optical design, and when paired with the EOS RP it is a delight to shoot with compared to any other body and 70-200 2.8 combo!
What Is The Best Nightscape, Milky Way, or Timelapse Camera?
We’ve talked about vlogging, and we’ve talked about general travel photography, which are likely the two most popular things that you might consider using the Canon EOS RP for. Personally, though, I’m also looking for the ultimate camera for wilderness adventure photography, and nightscape & timelapse photography.
In this regard, the EOS RP is a delight to hike up a mountain or through the desert with. You can use the built-in timelapse and long exposure features for really cool results, although unfortunately, you can’t power the camera directly from USB power, you’ll have to use a dummy battery.
By the way, for timelapse and nightscape photography, (two things which often go hand-in-hand, really) we could definitely mention the Sigma FP again, since timelapse photography is something the FP is a perfect candidate for. The ability to shoot raw ~6K (24 MP) still timelapse frames and also RAW 4K video frames in the same DNG format is a beautiful thing! However, the Sigma FP costs twice as much as the Canon EOS RP, so again, it’s really aimed at more professional users.
Why You Should (Or Should Not) Consider The Canon EOS RP
So, we’ve talked about the different types of photography you might want to use an RP for. But, why should you actually choose it, instead of an alternative that is just as good, or better, for those same photographic subjects?
There are a number of factors, many of which we’ve already touched on, such as portability, the fully-articulated LCD, and the Canon RF lens selection. We’ll break down the advantages, disadvantages, and how they compare to the alternatives.
Portability & Affordability
The bottom line is, no other full-frame camera costs just $900. If that’s your budget, then this is the camera for you. The only other relatively modern full-frame mirrorless camera that comes close to this price point is the Sony A7 II, which is now very outdated. And really, all it has to offer is the attractive price tag; everything else is really unattractive compared to the Sony A7 III, which still comes in at $1800-2000.
With that said, what if you have more to spend, but portability is still a huge priority? Honestly, the Sony A7 III, like the Canon EOS R, still don’t weight too much, and are also perfect for all kind of photography. The Sony A7III in particular, of course, has “everything”, such as dual SD card slots, full-width 4K video, IBIS, and class-leading image quality. If you have ~$2K to spend, just about the only thing you’ll miss in most cases might be the fully-articulating LCD screen.
Or, if you’re purely a video/timelapse shooter, and have plenty of money to spend but still want a truly portable setup, of course we go back to the Sigma FP being one of the most exotic full-frame video options around, in the official smallest full-frame package around.
It Makes The Best 2nd Or 3rd Camera
One thing that I forgot to mention about timelapse and video shooters, is, you can never have too many cameras. What if you’re not just shopping for one full-frame body, but two or three? Personally, as someone who does a lot of hiking and traveling, In many situations, I would much rather have a pair of EOS RP’s, instead of one other camera. Especially if the timelapse or nightscape photography conditions are ideal; having more than one camera at a time is a huge creative advantage. (Many long exposures and timelapses can take 1-4 hours to capture!)
Heck, if we’re spending lots of money and we want to own two or three cameras, I could easily see a Canon EOS RP (or two) pair perfectly with the Canon EOS R5 as a primary camera. (Say, you’re a landscape, wildlife, or nightscape/timelapse photographer, and you also create vlogs of your adventures.)
How Good Is The Canon EOS RP Dynamic Range?
We’ve talked about how the EOS RP’s dynamic range and overall image quality falls behind the Nikon Z6 and the Sony A7 III, but really, is it that far behind? If you’re shooting casual candids, and/or vlogging your travels, you’ll never notice any shortcomings. It’s only going to be when you push the envelope of photography conditions to the very extremes, that you see significantly greater shadow noise and lost dynamic range. Even most landscape photography conditions will fit within the DR of the RP no problem.
In my opinion, only the most hardcore landscape or timelapse photographers might need to worry about the EOS RP’s dynamic range.
Canon EOS RP High ISO Performance
At high ISOs, the EOS RP delivers respectable image quality up to ISO 6400, or even ISO 12800 if your scene doesn’t have too much dynamic range. However, this is where the likes of the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z6 will pull ahead in the most noticeable way; if you botch an exposure on either of those cameras you can still easily recover quite a bit of the shadows in an ISO 6400 image; on the EOS RP, if your shadows fall too far to the left at that ISO, you’d better leave them there…
Canon EOS RP Colors
Any Canon user will mention beautiful colors as one of the reasons they shoot with Canon cameras and lenses. Indeed, the EOS RP delivers beautiful results all day long in this regard, and even at extremely high ISOs, Canon’s “color science” is very pleasing.
Personally, though, I find raw conversion to be a far greater factor in terms of color response, so I usually don’t consider it when evaluating different cameras, though I must admit Canon raw files often seem to look beautiful without much editing.
To me, the biggest thing that Canon has to offer is not just its color science, but its incredible lenses which deliver beautiful vibrant colors and contrast, plus impressive sharpness and other image quality advantages. Bottom line- if you can afford it, the “L” in L glass probably stands for “Luxury”.
Canon EOS RP Video Image Quality
The real Achilles heel of the EOS RP, to most photographers, will likely not be its dynamic range or its high ISO noise, but its 4K video specs. Not only is it cropped to about APS-C format, it’s also just not as good as the competition at resolving fine detail. When comparing, say, an A7 III 4K video frame against one from an EOS RP, you might think the RP’s video is actually upscaled from 1080p. The difference in fine detail is that noticeable.
Hopefully, Canon works on improving their video image quality. With the coming EOS R5 generation of cameras, I’d love to see an EOS RP mk2. It doesn’t need RAW video or 8K video, but full-widh 4K video would be great, and great per-pixel acuity would be a must, too.
The Lack Of IBIS, & No Dual Card Slots?
Next, let’s talk about two more controversial omissions on the EOS RP: it doesn’t have in-body stabilization, and it doesn’t have dual card slots.
Honestly? I’m expecting virtually every lens from Canon (except maybe some of their ultra-fast L-glass) to have optical stabilization, so I’m not sure if a lack of IBIS would be a deal-breaker for me. There’s already the RF 24-240mm f/
The same thing goes for the lack of dual SD card slots. Personally, as a wedding photographer, I always shoot with cameras that have dual card slots, and I wouldn’t dream of showing up to a wedding without an instant, on-site backup system. However, for things like travel, vlogging, and most casual types of photography, I honestly never use my cameras’ dual card slots for backup! I actually switch my card recording setup to “overflow”. (Especially if I’m about to shoot 10,000 raw timelapse images in a single weekend!)
Simply put, I’m fine with a single SD card slot, because I know the benefit of this is the sub-1-lb body weight.
Canon EOS RP Review | Battery Life & USB Power
If I had to pick one more thing to urge Canon to improve on with their future mirrorless cameras, it would be USB power. I’ve been spoiled by Sony’s dual USB port setup on all their latest cameras!
So, Canon, I hope you’re listening, (actually, I’m certain that you’ve already heard this message loud and clear from many other photographers) …we want direct USB power and fast in-camera battery charging!
Speaking of the battery, I did find the EOS RP’s battery life to be impressively…decent, considering how tiny the battery is. I can record quick vlog clips for an entire day’s worth of activity, (in 1080p and without a stabilized lens, that is) …and still have enough power left over to snap a few sunset photos at the end of the day.
With that in mind, I would rather see Canon stick with the current “tiny” battery and just add direct USB power, instead of bumping up to the larger battery, in a future entry-level camera.
Canon EOS RP Review | Conclusion
Hopefully, the images in this review spoke for themselves in terms of proving that the Canon EOS RP is a formidable camera in the realms of travel photography, vlogging, and wilderness adventure, nightscape, and timelapse photography.
The RP is a seemingly very modest (or even underwhelming) camera on paper, however, our real-world experience has highlighted its convenience and capability. It has been a delight to use, and for the price, we highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to get their first (or second, or third) full-frame camera.
Having said that, please leave a comment below if you have anything to say about your own photography style, and how it might incline you to consider the EOS RP, or rule it out. Thanks for reading!