Canon EOS R

First off, a big thanks to the legends at Macarthur Camera House for supporting us and arranging a spot for us at Canon’s #rethinkmirrorless event on the NSW South Coast. Macarthur Camera House has shown us so much love ever since we first discussed the idea of putting this group together, and they share our vision of uniting Australia’s landscape, seascape, cityscape and aerial photography community. Their staff and very helpful and friendly, so do yourself a favor and head in there if you’re in the market for anything photography related.

The idea behind the event was to give us the opportunity to test the camera under a range of shooting conditions; with not only the new RF lenses, but a range of L Lenses from Canon’s EF full frame DSLR mount.

To be clear, Canon has said to everyone who attended to go all out with reviews, specs, opinions and posting images. Even though they put on an absolutely epic event, we intend to offer an objective run down of the camera.

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So first up, the feel of the camera. The grip on it is great. It’s nice and deep, meaning you can comfortably hold it in your hand for hours with no dramas. I shoot with a Nikon D800, and the grip on the EOS R is significantly better. Just by increasing the depth on the grip a few millimeters makes a huge difference to comfort levels. The build quality also feels top-notch. The rubbers offer good grip, the buttons have solid feedback, and the camera has a nice, weighty feel to it overall. As both Nikon and Canon have stated in the past, the move to mirrorless isn’t so much to allow for a more compact design, it’s to allow the sensor to sit that much closer to the lens mount, allowing scope for previously impossible lens designs.

When I was first handed the camera, I initially found the controls a bit confusing. I’ve shot with Canons before, and I used to own a 7D, however this was a bit different, and a number of Canon shooters felt the same way. The menu system and the quick menu system were all familiar, but making quick adjustments to shutter speed, ISO and aperture was different from what I remembered. I shoot almost exclusively in aperture-priority mode, so while its an automatic mode, I often move through aperture, ISO and exposure compensation while keeping the camera at eye level: this is what I was hoping for with the EOS R. One of the biggest pluses of an EVF (electronic view finder), is that you can accurately see what your exposure and depth of field will be before you shoot, whereas with an optical view finder on a DSLR you often need to check your image on the back screen after you’ve shot to make sure you’ve nailed it.

A good example of this is when we were shooting a couple against a white background. You’d usually find that with a neutral exposure compensation your camera would underexpose the couple as it would try to correctly expose the bright, white backdrop. Lifting the exposure compensation a stop or more would fix this. I never found this very easy to adjust. To keep the design as compact as possible, Canon have placed a touch bar just to the right of the EVF. You can customize this to whatever you want (white balance, ISO, aperture shutter speed ect), so I was using it for ISO adjustment. The problem I had was that I use my left eye through the viewfinder, which means that I need to try and squeeze my fingers up in between my right eye and the camera to reach it. It might not sound like a big deal, but in practice, and in a real world shooting scenario, you need to be able to move through these functions quickly, and this felt like a bit of a hindrance. The idea behind it is a solid one, but in the time I had the camera it always felt a little awkward to use.

Another new feature Canon has introduced with it’s new lenses is the control ring. This is a customizable, rotating ring sitting at the end of the lens. Like the touch bar, this can be set to adjust whatever you like. I initially thought this would be cumbersome to use, as you would have to run your hand from the zoom ring, to the focus ring, to the control ring, but in practice it worked okay. Again, I’m used to having all controls available at my right hand, eye looking through the viewfinder, and left hand on the zoom ring, but I think using this method is just something you’d get used to, if you chose to use it. At the end of the day, if you shoot like me, in AV mode, or even in full manual, you’ve still got the two customizable wheels and the control bar within reach of your right hand, so you don’t have to use it.

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The focus system was extremely quick. Once you had your focus point set (I’ll cover that in a minute) the lens would lock on lightning fast, even in low light. There were only a couple of instances in very, very low light where the lens would hunt back and forth for a few seconds trying to find a subject. One of the other big pluses of the EVF is having focus peaking available in the viewfinder. Focus peaking will show a colored outline (color can be changed) around whatever is sharp so you can easily see if you’re nailing your focus if shooting in manual focus mode. The camera offers a face detect AF mode which works perfectly well if the subject is looking at you, however if they turn away or even side on, it’ll usually miss it. I generally found it more accurate to manually select a focus point and aim that over the subject. This brings me to my biggest issue with the camera, which was the focus point selection system. There’s no thumbstick for focus point adjustment, so you need to use the touchscreen instead. Canon have implemented a system where you drag your finger or thumb around a nominated section of the screen to move the focus point. To be fair, it works fine when you’re shooting in landscape format, however when I flip the camera over to shoot in a portrait crop, my nose would be hitting the screen and kept moving the focus point. It may not sound like a big deal, and during the event it wasn’t a huge drama, but if I was shooting a wedding or an event this could be a real nightmare. You could very easily miss key moments and shots because the focus point just keeps moving. Yes, you can keep your face further away from the EVF, but then you won’t be able to see fine details quite as well behind the screen. I get that Canon wanted to keep the body as compact as possible, but having a thumbstick to me seems like a must.

Again, this was probably my main issue with the camera. Feel is great, build quality is very solid, focus speed is lightning fast. and the lens that i used almost exclusively, the kit 24-105 F4, was very sharp, even at F4. I was very surprised when I loaded the raw images into Lightroom. I could see on the back screen they were sharp, but I didn’t know they were this good. It’s a very solid lens.

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Dynamic range is also very good. I was able to pull a huge amount of detail out of shadows with hardly any noise. This is at ISO 100 however, and as with any camera, the higher you lift the ISO, the more the dynamic range starts to decrease. Speaking of ISO, all the way up to 6400 is very useable. Some noise will appear at 100% but if you’re just uploading your images to facebook or instagram, you’ll almost never see it. Above ISO 6400 you will, but it isn’t terrible.

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This was my experience with the camera, and I’ve written this I picked up the camera knowing full well that it was 30.3 megapixels, knowing that it didn’t have in body stabilization, full frame 4k video, or dual car slots, however I think for the price, it’s good value. It is higher specced overall than the 5D Mark IV, for around $1,200 less including the lens adapter. At the end of the day it really does depend on what you’re shooting. If you’re a professional shooter, you might hold off due to the dual card slots and focus system issues. If you’re a casual photographer who takes photos of their kids, sports or landscapes ect and you want extremely high quality images, then I think you’ll probably find it hard to go past something like this.