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Canon EOS R Initial Impressions

What’s up guys, Sagi here and welcome to another Tech Gear Talk. I just spent a couple of days shooting with the new Canon EOS R and today I’m going to give you my first impressions. We’ve been waiting for a few years now for Canon to come out with a full frame mirrorless camera, and I’m super excited to finally have it. If you’re following the mirrorless camera space then you know that Canon definitely has some serious competition. Canon hit a home run with their latest consumer mirrorless camera the M50. They usually takes their time and make sure they get things right and provide a complete and thoughtful product instead of rushing to be first to market. But was the wait worth it? And is this the Canon mirrorless camera we’ve been waiting for? This camera has a ton going for it and there were definitely a few areas where I was disappointed and frustrated and you’re going to hear about both.

Canon EOS R Camera (updated):

Body only: https://geni.us/tgtcanoneosr
Kit used (for review) in video: https://geni.us/zoEZGda

Before we get going I’ll start out with some overall key features.

Highlights

  • The Canon R has an impressive magnesium alloy, weather-sealed body with the all-new RF lens mount
  • It has a 30.3 MP, 7620 x 4480px Full Frame CMOS Sensor that uses the Dual Pixel autofocus with 5655 AF Points
  • The Canon R uses the DIGIC 8 image processor and the autofocus system is sensitive down to -6 EV which allows focus in incredibly dark conditions.
  • It has a 3.15” fully articulating LCD screen and can output 4K 30 10-bit 4:2:2 over HDMI
  • There is a fantastic high resolution OLED Electronic Viewfinder and a new programmable multi-function bar
  • It can shoot continuously at up to 8 fps and has and offers native ISO 40,000
  • Finally the EOS R has Wi-Fi and bluetooth so that you can easily move images and video to your mobile device and even control the camera remotely for both photography and video

Alright, enough with the specs. I’ll publish a more detailed review in a few weeks but I wanted to share my first impressions with you.

Aesthetics and Feel

This isn’t something I normally talk about when I’m reviewing a camera, but I can’t help myself. The moment I took this camera out of the box I was immediately smitten. And there isn’t really anything I can specifically point out. I had seen tons of pictures of it before I got it, but it looks so refined and has such a great feel. Of course there is no comparing it to something like the M50, or an SL2 but even next to a 5DMKIII, it just looks and feels nice! And I think that how a camera feels in my hands is super important. Independent of specs and performance, some cameras just feel better. In this case, I think it has to do with the fact that the R feels more like a DSLR than a mirrorless camera. And I wonder if this was intentional on Canon’s part. It would make sense to me that if Canon wanted to make the transition more seamless for DSLR users, they would choose this type of design. And this overall feel extends even to shooting. When you take a picture you almost feel like you’re using a DSLR.

Sensor Size And Processor

As I mentioned, the EOS R comes with a super impressive 30.3 MP Full Frame CMOS sensor. This is essentially the same sensor as the 5DMKIV that came out in 2016, but uses the new RF mount. Canon says that this new, shorter lens mount will allow them to design and build smaller and/or better lenses than the EF mount. And based on what the EF mount offers, that’s saying a lot. Essentially you’re getting the image and video quality of a 5D MarK IV at a around the same price as the 6D Mark II. This had me excited and I was looking forward to using a full frame sensor again, especially for that extra shallow depth of field.

First Use

So far this is all sounding really good so let’s move on to actually using the EOS R. I picked up the camera, I attached the lens – the new RF mount feels super solid. I’m in this room so the lights are on here but the other half is dark. I look through the viewfinder, and WHOA!! It was pretty insane. The image was large and bright and the camera had no problems focusing in the dark – I’m super impressed so far. The fully articulating touch screen, is one of my favorite features in Canon cameras – and this one is large, bright and responsive – still doing great. Took my first picture, looked at it, went to change my exposure and… wait what…? Like, what mode am I in? There’s no traditional mode dial. Of course I’m not going to look at the manual, that would be ridiculous, I took a deep breath, composed myself and started looking at the controls. There is a really nice LCD screen on top that shows you your mode and settings. I put the R in manual mode and move on. There is a shutterspeed control dial next to the shutter release button, like in many other Canon cameras and an aperture dial up at the top instead of the rotary one on the 5Ds. Not what I’m used to, but I quickly got the hang of it.

The M-Fn (Multi Function) button at the top let me quickly make changes to ISO, Drive Mode, AF method, white balance and exposure compensation so I’m pretty happy now with how quickly I can make adjustments. What I couldn’t get used to is this new M-Fn bar. Just no, no thank you. In theory it makes perfect sense. You can set it to control something, let’s say ISO, and then slide your thumb to the left or to the right to make adjustments. You can also set the left and right areas as buttons and then assign a specific function to each one. What could be easier than that? Ummm, anything. The biggest problem is inconsistency. We’re talking about something that’s designed to help you quickly make adjustments. But it’s way too easy to swipe your thumb past the option you want, and now you have to swipe back and I end up feeling like I’m a really bad AF system hunting for focus.

Next, it’s just too touchy and at a spot where you’re super likely to activate it by accident. You can delay the responsiveness in settings which will prevent this, but now you have to press it, wait a second for it to activate and then start making adjustments. So you just slowed me down again. I’ve used or played around with pretty much every DSLR and mirrorless camera Canon released in the last 10 years and I’ve never had such a frustrating user experience. One of the reasons why I recommend Canon to so many people is the outstanding ergonomics, and so far this multi function bar is a miss in my book. What I did was disable it all together for now. This camera offers so much flexibility in terms of how you set your controls, that I just don’t see why I need it. My goal is always to give you honest, real-life feedback, so I’ll turn it back on and try to use it more and see where that takes me. I’m keeping an open mind and hoping that within a few weeks I’ll take all of this back and tell you how much I love this new multi-function touch bar – but it’s not off to a good start.

Photos

Let’s move on to my initial impression of the EOS R in terms of image quality. You’ll be happy to know that this camera takes some really great photographs. We already discussed the sensor, and I’ve always been a fan of Canon’s color science. Overall, the jpeg performance is really strong, the colors are great and the images are very sharp with both the 24-105 RF lens and my EF mount lenses. I like having the fully articulating screen, especially when the camera is either on a tripod or on the ground. The autofocus has been fast, accurate and is outstanding in low light. There are a ton of AF point and the drag-to-focus feature worked really well for me. When it came to eye-detection it worked great for single-AF or when the subject when fairly static. It was a little spotty with a moving subject and even the face-detection slightly missed focus sometimes. I got the EF/EF-S to RF adapter so I was able to use all of my L-series USM lenses which was really nice. I’ll show you a lot more in the more detailed review but I was really happy with the image quality. The battery life was good enough for me. It’s rated for somewhere between 350 and 370 and I have a ton of LP-E6 batteries

An area where I was disappointed was burst, or continuous shooting. The EOS R shoots at 5 FPS when shooting with servo AF (or continuous AF). You can jump this up to 8fps if you don’t need continuous autofocus. So while the camera will be fine for sports photography, there are other options on the market that offer a much faster burst mode.

Another area of disappointment is the fact that there is no built in intervalometer so you would have to use an external one to do a timelapse with individual photos. There is a timelapse movie mode in both 4k and full HD that delivered really nice results. And I ended up using it instead of my intervalometer because it’s faster and didn’t require me to bring another tool with me.

Finally, there is only one SD card slot… This is most likely not going to be an issue, until it is. I’ve been shooting for a long time, and I’ve only had one card fail on me so I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this is a deal breaker for me. I’m just surprised that it’s not an option and I could see how this would be a turnoff for some professionals.

Overall, for photography the good:

  • The sensor works really well and offers plenty of resolution
  • I like the skintones and overall color
  • Autofocus in low-light is excellent
  • The articulating screen is great when you’re working at challenging angles
  • It’s nice to have a good level of weather sealing
  • Finally, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth make it easy to transfer images and share them

The Bad:

  • It’s on the larger and heavier side, so some people might look for something smaller
  • Pupil and face detection were not always accurate – but I need to do more testing here
  • Burst shooting is not as fast as some people would like
  • Finally, there is no built-in intervalometer but there is a 4K Timelapse movie mode

VIDEO

Ok, let’s move on to video. One of the things that I was looking forward to was shooting 4k/30p video, and not just that, but 4k video with Dual Pixel autofocus. This is a major advantage over something like the M50 where you could only shoot 4k/24p and then on top of that the autofocus system switched to contrast detection instead of dual pixel. There are lot of reasons to shoot 4K video, and lots of reasons not to, so you have to decide for yourself whether that’s something you want to do or not.

Ok, back to 4K video. Right off the bat, you get crushed with a 1.8X crop when shooting 4K on the EOS R, that’s a lot. We’re talking about a nifty 50mm lens becoming a 90mm. So that’s immediately going to be an issue on the wide end of the focal length spectrum, but will give you move telephoto at the other end. So my 70-200mm is now a 126-360mm if I’m shooting in 4k. But at least I could use my 10-18mm EF-S lens with the EF/EF-S to RF adapter and still get about 18 – 32mm focal range. The color and quality of the video is really nice and as usual, I love having the fully articulating screen when I’m in front of the camera or using the camera on a slider. The last 5D I used for video was the Mark III, I love having continuous autofocus with a full frame sensor – at least when shooting 1080p which is what I mostly do. The EOS R does not have in-body image stabilization and relies primarily on lens-based IS. It does offer 2 modes of digital image stabilization, which work better in 1080P than in 4K. I’ll get into this in more detail on my full review, but I wanted to share my initial findings at this time. As I mention in pretty much every video, if you actually want great results, you should never count on camera or lens IS and use a 3-axis gimbal. I look at in-body and lens-based IS as an added bonus and not as the primary tool I rely on for buttery smooth footage. My initial impression is that I like the footage I got from the Fuji X-T3 better than the EOS R and I’m looking forward to comparing it with the Sony A7 III. Once again, the battery life was pretty good for me, and as I mentioned before, I have so many of these batteries and I also use an AC Power adapter kit for continuous power when in the studio.

The last thing I want to mention, is something I of course knew before getting the EOS R, but seriously Canon, it’s almost 2019 and I can’t get 1080p/120 fps? With all the things I love about Canon, this is going to be the single reason why I end up using another brand for slow motion. The EOS R does give HD (720p) at 120fps but come on. I don’t even have time in this article to mention all the different cameras I could buy for $2,300 that offer 120fps at 1080p. I’m not sure if it’s processing power, and I know I could get a C200, but I want something smaller and more portable that can give me that functionality. On the EOS R, I can shoot at 1080p/60fps so I can at least get slow motion at 50% if I edit in 30 fps, but 120 would be so much nicer. Finally, if you’re looking to stream using the EOS R, you’ll be happy to know that it does offer a clean HDMI out so you should be good to go.

Overall, for video the good:

  • We have 4K/30fps internally at 8 bit 4:2:0 and externally at 10 bit 4:2:2
  • I like the overall color of the footage
  • The Dual Pixel autofocus worked well for me
  • The articulating screen is great when you’re in front of the camera or using it on a slider or on the ground
  • Battery life was pretty good and if you’ve been a Canon user, you probably have stacks of compatible batteries
  • There is a clean HDMI out if you want to use this camera for streaming.

The Bad:

  • There is a serious, 1.8X crop factor when shooting in 4K
  • No In Body Image Stabilization
  • Only one card slot could be a problem
  • There is no 1080p/120fps option for more versatile slow-motion

What’s my first impression of the Canon EOS R?

Alright, so what do I think about the EOS R after about a week of using it. Is it the perfect camera? No. But is it the horrible camera that so many people say it is, not at all. It’s a good that does a lot of things really well and of course has some shortcomings. I’m happy with the image quality for both photography and video and the color is that awesome Canon color I’m used to.

For photography, I enjoy using a full frame sensor for that extra shallow depth of field, and it’s great to be able to use all of my L-Series USM lenses with the adapter I got. The 24-105 RF lens is very sharp and the focus is fast and accurate even in very low light. I’m still getting used to the new controls, and I really don’t like the new touch multi-function bar but I’m still giving it all a fair chance and will give you my final thoughts in the detailed review.

For video, it’s nice to have 4K/30, although you pay the price with a 1.8x crop factor. It’s always great to have the dual pixel autofocus and the articulating screen is great when I’m in front of the camera or using a slider. Battery life was pretty good and I love having a clean HDMI out for both 10 bit 4:2:2 and for live streaming.

As I mentioned, there is no in-body image stabilization so this isn’t going to be a good camera for handheld video, there is only one SD card slot and there is no 1080p/120fps option.

I really hope my first impression of the Canon EOS R were helpful. If it was, please let me know by leaving a comment and if you haven’t yet, join our community by hitting the subscribe and notification buttons on my YouTube.

You can also find me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @techgeartalk.

You know what I always say, buy it nice or buy it twice!

Good luck and see you soon.

Canon EOS R Camera (updated):

Body only: https://geni.us/tgtcanoneosr
Kit used (for review) in video: https://geni.us/zoEZGda

Great Additional Canon EOS R Len Options:

Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens: https://geni.us/HuiTQDH
Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens: https://geni.us/HLxUB
Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens: https://geni.us/P4roud
Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM Lens: https://geni.us/aJhrbA

Microphones for Canon EOS R:

Rode VideoMicro Compact On-Camera Microphone: http://geni.us/tgtRodeVideoMicro 
Rode VideoMic Pro http://geni.us/tgtRodeVideoMicPro
Rode VideoMic GO http://geni.us/tgtRodeVideoMicGO
Rode VideoMic Pro Plus http://geni.us/tgtRodeVideoMicProPlus

My favorite 3-axis Gimbals for Canon EOS R:

Moza Air 2 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer: https://geni.us/moza-air-2 
DJI Ronin-S: https://geni.us/dji-ronin-s-essentials
Zhiyun-Tech Crane v2 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer: http://geni.us/tgtZhiyunCraneV2 

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