*I’m going back to Canon…? My impression, and user review of the new EOS R.

I’ve just passed the 9th anniversary of this particular blog, and about the 12th overall of me rambling on about camera gear, software and photographic technique online, and as Ladies Love Cool James once eluded to, I have seemingly come full circle.  I’ve waded through and swam in many different pools.  Technology has made some pretty exciting leaps over this time.  After years with a few EOS bodies, I then got excited with the advent of mirrorless as an early adopter in Panasonic, then Olympus, Pentax, Sony, even GoPro while dabbling in various film formats with my 35mm and medium format cameras, and now for the first time in about 6 years, I’ve purchased a Canon branded product again.  At first, I feared I’d made a horrible mistake, but as I’ve now had this camera for the last few months, I’m starting to come around to what it does offer me, and I think I may finally get rid of my Sony full frame gear.

C’mon in for my thoughts, why and where I feel its worth while, and where I foresee Canon going with this format.

I don’t think I have many Canon toting readers.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but this site has largely built its own community from the micro 4/3 foundation with the additions being from more of the Sony variety I’d guess.  (For my m4/3 friends, I used my trusty GX8 to shoot all the camera/gear in studio shots).  Sure I’ve written non gear specific, instructional and tutorial posts and more software reviews than I care to remember, but if you count yourself a gear nut, and you’ve stuck around long enough here, I’d guess you’re probably not a Canon shooter.  Maybe I’m wrong. 

I’ve never aimed to piss anyone off, nor have I ever tried to placate fanboys.  I love photography, and now that I do quite a bit less of it professionally, I’m really more focused on being less frustrated with the tools I choose to shoot with.  Enter the new Canon EOS R, which did not do much to eliminate frustration at first, lemme tell ya.  Canon, in my opinion, has always ridden their marketing prowess to releasing solidly performing, but remarkably pedestrian (some may say “conservatively safe”) consumer cameras at each performance level, comparatively at a cost:benefit anyway.  Sony has been taking both Canon and Nikon’s lunches these last few years as they’ve been creating the best sensors on the market, barnone as well as offering a lot of features packed into compact full frame bodies. 

The problem I’ve had with Sony since adopting it as my full frame platform and torch receiver from my old 5D and 5DII, is that while great image creating devices, they are severely lacking at being a fully functioning photographer’s camera I feel, and usable tool for me as a photographer and what I’ve chosen to shoot.  The SEVERE lag in wake and review times on the a7 and a7r series cameras has me constantly cursing down into my hands as I watch moments slip away in front of me.  I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to have a camera instantly respond to tactile and operational input.  I’ve always seen my Sony cameras as the gorgeous woman with a lacking personality (or perhaps the hunky beefcake that only uses you to hold his camera so you can video him lifting weights in the gym, if that’s more your speed) whereby the output (looks) are great, the inner workings leave a whole lot to be desired, and try as we may, changing them is not possible.  We have gotten used to them and their beautiful outward appearance certainly, and to be fair, they’ve tried to change their ways, a little bit, kinda.  But, I’m now stuck asking myself, should I continue on being happy with the final output and appearance, but horribly frustrated with the process, or do I settle for the steady, somewhat unmotivated but more soul fulfilling partnership?  I’ve lost even myself with this analogy, and it’s probably harsh on Sony as they’ve successfully courted me into a couple body purchases, but hopefully you understand what I’m getting at here.

I’ll give a little IQ comparison in a bit whereby (spoiler) the two+ year old Sony a7RII does best the brand new EOS R, but as I’ve said before, IQ isn’t everything.  If it’s the most important thing, then I’d say most would probably be best served going off of sensor performance and calling it a day.  While Canon has continued to phone it in as far as sensor performance goes, they do make a nice, functionally enjoyable, logically engineered (mostly, more on this later) and consistently solid camera.  I have been looking at the layout, UI and ergonomics on the EOS R including the additions of the touch bar, dials and buttons and I’ve been shooting primarily with adapted EF lenses via the EOS R-EF simple adapter along with the new RF 24-105 f/4 L IS USM lens which I’ll go into a little bit as we go on, as well.


ERGONOMICS, PHYSICAL LAYOUT, FEATURES and USER INTERFACE

Getting used to a new camera is always a journey in familiarity and muscle memory.  The break in period for me, for every camera I’ve ever used traditionally takes a good few solid shoots or days traipsing around, fumbling through the re-learning process after being used to changing settings via second nature with a previous camera.  That said, the EOS R had some immediate pluses and minuses for me, along with a couple absolute head scratchers in my opinion.  I try to work through these and ignore my initial frustrations as there have been very few features or changes that I’ve ultimately found to be pure BS in camera design after I’ve had the time to really get used to them.  Funny how that works.

Having said that, and after a few months with the R, I must say one thing I find to be absolutely bizarre is the on/off switch.  I know, it seems pedantic to bitch about an on/off switch, and maybe I’ve been away from Canon for too long, but having to use a second hand to turn the camera on, while the switch takes up quite a bit of prime real estate to boot, seems a horrible design decision to me.  I so vastly prefer having the ability to toggle the camera on with my right hand (either thumb or shutter finger) as I hold the camera, pull it out of the bag, raise it to my eye, etc.  This is something that I am not, nor do I see myself becoming used to.  It feels unnatural and it makes it much harder to quickly ready the camera to shoot. 

“But, just leave the camera on!” I hear the imaginary commenter’s say. 

“Have you seen the way these mirrorless cameras suck the life from batteries?” I answer.

The ECO mode is nice in this regard as it quickly shuts the LCD down (within a couple seconds of inactivity) to conserve battery use, but I’m not entirely sure the constant wake/sleep/wake/sleep/wake/sleep is any better on the battery, and it’s certainly frustrating.  Good when casually shooting allowing minutes between shots, but if shooting regularly or rapidly, I found the ECO mode to be more annoying than helpful.  (*That said though, and for those keeping score and interested in the comparison with the alpha 7 series cams, the wake and response time on the EOS R is lightning fast, like totally different level, compared to what I’ve been used to with the Sony cameras, and one of the main reasons I’m thinking this will ultimately replace my Sony setup.)

Speaking of batteries, and to put into perspective the juice this camera pulls, the EOS R uses the same LP-E6(N) batteries as have been utilized in the 5D series cameras for years, which is absolutely awesome.  I already have a couple spares.  What it has shown me is that the difference in battery use and longevity is huge between the new mirrorless camera, and the dSLRs it aims to replace.  I could easily get 7-800, even with aged batteries, between charges under the right conditions with my 5DII.  The EOS R?  I’m averaging between 250-300 per charge.  Yes, there are things you can do to minimize power sucking, but it doesn’t change the fact that operationally, mirrorless cameras require way more battery power to run the LCD, EVF, etc.  Tradeoffs, as I have grown to vastly prefer the electronic vs the optical viewfinders.  I know, I know, the purist in you is scoffing at my stupidity, and to be honest, there is little more beautiful in optical science than looking through a gorgeous pentaprism and fast lens, but hear me out.  The ability to see exposure in real time, along with being able to literally see in the dark (well, better than an optical finder anyway) by way of these beautiful digital screens all while being able to customize and overlay a variety of useful information, or eliminate all that overlay, is well worth any downside, to me.  Tradeoff?  Batteries are going to be taxed, period.

One area I’ve been very happily surprised by in the EOS R, is in the tracking AF.  It really has been surprising to see this kind of auto focus performance in a newly released, sub $4000 Canon camera.  This was a major reason I never reinvested in Canon.  Not that I use much in the way of tracking/Servo AF, but that the 5D3 and 5D4 were very incremental upgrades to their previous iterations, and basically seemed to be a very similar camera with a functional AF system, for a substantial increase in initial price, it was the straw that broke my back at that time, and skewed me off into the land of Sony.  It appears that there is something to this Dual AF servo situation and a great example as to why mirrorless will continue to move these companies into the future.


Touch Screen

Yes please, a million times.  I’ve read about folks upset there is no joystick for AF point selection.  Totally unnecessary.  This is one of the things people moving from dSLRs are going to have to get over.  A touch screen is so much faster, especially when there aren’t really “AF Points” in the same way as we’re used to in a standard PDAF setup.  You can touch the screen ANYWHERE to set a variety of different sized and functioning AF points.  You can assign the area of the screen while the EVF is engaged to be able to assign and move the AF Points while shooting, which is a feature used on my Panasonic cameras for years, and one I LOVE!  The screen becomes a track pad to move your AF point if and when you need it with your eye in the finder.  Killer.  Canon has gone further and allowed you to effectively “turn off” half the screen to avoid errant nose presses, et al.  Cool. Seriously cool.

*The one issue as brought up in the comments, was selecting AF using gloves.  This time of year, that is a potential issue, surely and one I’d not come across with the gloves I use.  If the gloves are touch capacitive, then the touch screen will work as your phone would.  Otherwise, I’d suggest using one of the Zonal arrays, or in a pinch, use your nose if you have gloves that don’t allow you to pull a finger out.  I’m only kind of kidding.  To be fair, with larger gloves on, I’ve not had great luck using a joystick either though.  My solution is that I’ve bought gloves with retractable fingers as I’ve never liked operating a camera with gloves on, or at least entirely on.  With my thumb and index finger exposed, I can do everything I need while keeping my hands mostly warm.  The last couple months, I’ve been shooting in temps well below freezing and a couple days out in single digit temps (F).  It has been cold, and I’ve yet to find a situation where my convertible gloves have been too wimpy.  If that is too much environmental exposure though, then I guess you’re more accustomed to shooting with heavy gloves than I and maybe a joystick is the reason you buy one camera over another.  Definitely something to consider, but not a deal breaker for me.

On sensor dual AF, coupled with touch selection is better, faster and more functional than any version of Canons consumer/prosumer AF that I’ve ever used, period.  NEXT.

Touch Bar

At first, I was like, cool!  Then I was all like, WTF?  Now, I don’t even notice it.  The touch bar is an interesting feature in theory, but its implementation is sluggish and in my opinion, totally unnecessary.  Not to say it doesn’t/wont have use for many, but for me it’s strange at best.  To engage it, you get two options, one where it’s on and sensitive all the time.  (Say hello to unintentionally changed settings, all the time) or a 2-3 second hold to engage, then use.  I went back and forth between the two, and I certainly felt that due to my gargantuan hands, and repeated frustration, the touch lock was the way to go for me.  The responsiveness, in my experience so far, has been spotty.  Sometimes it loads up nearly instantly, other times, I have to raise and press my finger on it a couple times for it to realize ‘oh, you want to use this touch sensitive thing here?  Okay, so I’ve chosen to work around it most of the time.  I have ISO set to the touch bar, but I’ve since switched to using Auto ISO most of the time, and its customizable in camera parameters to great effect, so touch bar gets the cold shoulder in day to day shooting for me and only gets used in situations where I’m controlling the camera in full manual mode.

RF Lens based Control Ring

Meh.  Kinda useful, but more gimmicky to me than actually functional.  To be fair, often times I’ll find use in something I’ve poo pooed, later down the road.  It can be assigned to adjust  aperture, ISO, exposure compensation, or shutter speed with or without the need to depress the * button to engage.  I’ve mine set to aperture, but I’m so used to using the dual wheel setup to adjust aperture and shutter speed (or aperture and exposure comp in ‘Av’).  Much like focus by wire, this is aperture by wire, as the lens won’t actually stop down until you press the shutter button.  A nice feature to have, but one I foresee myself not using a ton when I’m so used to utilizing dual control wheels.  In short, a nice option that I’ve yet to truly find useful.

Menus, Buttons, Dials

Maybe it’s historical familiarity on my part, or perhaps its actually well planned and implemented interface, but I’ve not found menus and dedicated controls that are much better implemented, (certainly not consistently) than Canon.  It’s all there, and pretty intuitively laid out.  Having dipped my toes in the Olympus and Sony pools, the trusted, true layout and menu cache from Canon has been a breath of fresh air if I’m being honest.  Canon does a lot of things half assed in my opinion, but a good layout with the interaction between machine and photographer at its core has never been one of those things.

Size, Grip, Weight

Overall, there will probably be those who see the total size of the EOS R as too large, but honestly, I can’t imagine it much smaller and still being able to functionally handle large, full frame lenses.  It’s a cake and eat argument for me.  It’s lost a ton of bulk compared to my 5D cams, yet still has a functional, comfortable grip with enough real estate to hold without inadvertently changing settings, all while not feeling too small or imbalanced when slapping a 70-200mm f/2.8 or 135mm f/1.8 on there.  Anything much larger than lenses like this are going to be best served on a tripod anyway, regardless of the camera they’re attached to.  To me size wise, it’s just about right, all things considered.  I’ve read many ‘comparisons’ to the Nikon Z and Sony cameras where reviewers slag the Canon R off, being large by comparison, but honestly, it’s not much larger than the Z, and the size increase vs the Sony cams, to me, is a benefit.  You’re not using many full frame cameras as pocket shooters, so to me, to eliminate functionality for the sake of being small, is a bit misguided when considering that full frame lenses are still big and always will be big if we want fast, high quality optical options.  The EOS R is not the smallest Full Frame camera, no.  But it’s the smallest Full Frame Canon camera (well, until the RP*), and noticeably small compared to any previous FF DSLR.  I do think the functionality and implementation of things like the touch bar and on/off switch can stand to be better designed, placed and utilized, but overall, this camera is well thought out and is similar enough in UI, menus and the like, for me to not skip a beat after having not shot a Canon camera as my primary for a good 5+years.  (*The RP does eliminate the touch bar, which I applaud, but keeps the lame on/off knob placement…)

Where is the fricken IBIS, Canon?!?!?!

I would be remiss though, if I didn’t air my grievances about the largest, boneheaded omission in the lack of in body, sensor based image stabilization on Canon’s part.  To their credit, there have already been whispers about it being included in the soon to be announced RP (NOPE! Decided to skip it there too…smh), based on the immediate consumer push back, and if they don’t, I feel they’ll struggle to get their consumer dSLR shooters, nor any new converts buying into the R system.  EVERYONE is doing it, and doing it well.  Various mirrorless cameras have the ability to utilize lens based AND sensor based stabilization in concert.  Spare me the “lens based is better because it’s focal length specific” crap, Canon.  I’ve used many different systems, your lens based IS system included, and no, it’s not.  It’s good (especially for you, when you charge hundreds more for the lenses with IS), sure, but I get equal or better stabilization on 100% of my lenses on my Panasonic (Dual IS situationally, even) and Sony cams, and did with my now ancient Olympus OMD EM5 from like two kids ago.  Stop with the conservative, “let’s not cannibalize our cinema or pro line cameras by overpricing a stripped down middle of the road model because our shooters don’t know better and are stuck in our ecosystem” garbage.  You did it for near a decade with the AF on the 5D series claiming it to be a “studio/portrait” camera, and that was enough to see me search out greener pastures back in the day.  We’re not stupid, and we now have the ability to take all of your nice lenses, and slap them on almost any mirrorless camera we want, with full AF and IS functionality.  Trust me, I have and I won’t hesitate to do it again.   This is the second chance I’m giving you Canon as I’m sure many in a similar position also are.  Add all of these types of features as standard like everyone else.  Don’t mess it up. 

*We may very well see the EOS RP announced this week, with in body IS, so that will go some way in showing what the intention is, moving forward. – UPDATE – The RP was announced, and while it packs a lot of bang for the dimmunitive buck (seriously, $1300! awesome) it still lacks the IBIS that had been rumored.  Time will tell how long Canon can get away without a functioning IBIS system, but I do feel it is one thing that is really holding many shooters back from fully committing, considering what Sony and Nikon are offering.

You may see this ranting as me being fickle, but trust me, it’s just down to the fact that I don’t feel blindly loyal to any camera manufacturer.  They need to make it compelling enough for me to spend thousands of hard earned dollars, and I think you should feel this way too.  There is a lot to like about this EOS R, and I do, but that’s not to say I feel it’s the best camera available in many ways at this price point, just best for me, right now with my current setup.  You have a ton of Nikon F, or Canon EF lenses?  You can take those lenses, buy a reasonably priced smart adapter, and use them wherever you want if these big boys aren’t providing enough for the money they’re charging.  Stop the fanboy bs, and make these companies hurt if they continue to lowball us. 


IMAGE QUALITY

Ah, now is where I seemingly further convince you, dear reader, along with myself, that I’ve made a mistake in looking to replace my Sony a7rII with this new Canon offering.  As mentioned above, I do feel Sony makes the best performing sensors currently, and we’ll have a look as to how the now over 3 year old Sony a7rII is still ahead of the newest Canon body.  I also mentioned that IQ isn’t everything, but it is a substantial pill to swallow for me by giving it up.  

Let’s have a look at IQ, ISO performance and dynamic range below.  All shots were captured in their respective, proprietary RAW format (.ARW and .CR3), manually matched to exact exposure settings and set to in camera WB of incandescent.  Oddly, Canon records this as near 3200K where Sony is closer to 2800K, so to match, in post, I adjusted the Canon files to the same Kelvin temp setting.  Other than that, nothing was done.  You’re looking at untouched files at 100%.  Obviously, the higher resolution of the Sony crops deeper to show it at a 100% magnification.

The scene was lit with a single 60w bulb overhead through a diffused beauty dish.  To keep it equal, I adapted the same exact Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM Lens to both cameras, and manually focused on the large “A” in Ardbeg, center frame.  Settings for each crop shot are listed along the bottom of the frame to see, but I shot everything at f/5.6 and adjusted shutter speed and ISO for each shot.  Click any of the below crops to see full sized 100% crops with the Sony a7RII on the left, and the Canon EOS R on the right.

First, the full shot as framed and captured:

Sony a7RII (click to see full size):

Canon EOS R (click to see full size):

ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600


ISO 3200


ISO 6400


ISO 12800


ISO 25600


ISO 51200

Okay, so you can have a look for yourselves and decide where you’d stop finding use in high ISO output.  For me, this shows me a couple things.  Firstly, Canon is still very much behind Sony in their “mid level/prosumer” full frame offering.  Sony has the a9, Canon has the 1DXII and (I assume) is considering this new mirrorless offering, a 5D platform equivalent, mostly by the fact they’re using the 5D4’s sensor, and in ways this camera offers more, and less in ways, than the 5D4 does.  Sony, on paper, offers more bang for the buck when considering the a7III now which will compete directly against the EOS RP in the sub $2000 range, and while I’ve yet to see any real world use in the RP, I think it’s safe to say that Sony will also dominate that camera on paper, and in pure IQ.  In the files above, at the same exact exposure settings, through the same exact lens, Sony shades darker in overall exposure as evidenced by the more controlled highlights, and darker shadows, compared to the Canon.  This is a combination of internal processing and RAW conversion, which I do through Capture One Pro 12.

Next, looking at the above results, I will say, I’m happy with the EOS R’s ISO performance up through 6400.  It compares well, even favorably to the a7RII in noise and general detail at what I’d consider “reasonable” ISO settings (up through 3200, let’s say).  The Sony certainly shows its resolution dominance, and better contains highlight info, but that is to be expected for a BSI sensor with 12 million more pixels that has tested so well.  I rarely have found the need for that many pixels, but it is something that needs to be recognized and applauded. 

For reference, the initial RAW files from the test above, at base ISO weighed in at nearly 86MB for the Sony, and just about 26MB for the Canon…that’s a big difference, and while storage space is cheap, processing power isn’t, necessarily).  Take that however you’d like.

Sony shades cyan as the ISO creeps, while Canon shades to the magenta side of things.  Dynamically speaking, I do feel these two sensors are close.  The edge again, goes to Sony, and through experience with both RAW files, the Sony has a deeper ability to pull back highlights.  Shadow recovery is closer on the part of the Canon, but still, Sony’s sensor does a better job.

Portraiture?  

One major back slapping plaudit we hear from Canon shooters is the Canon color science in regard to skin tone compared to Nikon and Sony.  I will say, I’m impressed with Sony’s Auto White Balance for everyday shooting.  In mixed lighting, I’ve been very impressed to the point where I’ve just set it and forgotten it for most stuff.  I will say that I’ve never been thrilled with Sony’s skin tones straight out of camera, but when shooting RAW, is normally a pretty easy fix.  As a quick experiment, and to see just how smart these cameras are, I shot two head shots, both using the camera AWB setting, focusing under incandescent modeling lights, but using ~5200K strobes for the final shot.  This has stumped a few of my cameras over the years, namely my Panasonics, which again if I set the camera to capture at a particular WB setting, is remedied.  That said, I want to see if there is anything to the “Canon Color Science” coupled with the AWB.  Again, I adapted the same lens, this time an EF mount Sigma ART 135mm f/1.8, used the same settings and exact light output with one key light high cam left in a Rembrandt setup to give me good falloff, as well as a second fil behind me, cam right, so as to keep everything equal, outside the cameras themselves and their AWB.  Here are the two shots followed by 100% crops.

The first is SOOC from the Canon, the second is the Sony.  I will say, I vastly prefer the color from the Canon’s AWB in this setup.  Here are the 100% crops:

Canon:

Sony:

The warmer, more natural looking skin tone from the Canon does seem to go some way to backup the claims as the Sony, under identical conditions went way too pink/red for my liking, straight out of the camera in this AWB scenario.  That said, as long as you know what to do, you can get a RAW file to look how you want it to.  Not having to, or being close is certainly a good thing though, to save time in post.  If you’re primarily a studio or portraiture shooter, this may be worth researching more, but it’s one of the few areas in IQ that Canon does seem to have the edge over Sony, to be fair.

If pure image quality and resolution are the sole need, the Sony ticks the boxes, no doubt.  So, why even consider Canon?  Well, this direct comparison shows me that the EOS R does well against one of the best sensors on the market.  Not equal, mind you, but well enough to give me pause.  In Sony’s corner are equal or better signal to noise performance at a higher resolution comparatively, and the better dynamic range in RAW files.  The Canon does have more pleasing output, color wise for skin to me, looking more natural.  The real differences in these cameras for me, outside of the IQ is in physical interaction, speed and UI.  In those areas, the Canon mops the floor with the Sony for me.  That is why this is such a hard decision.  Do I go with better image quality, or better shooting experience and interactive speed?  That is a personal question, for sure and I’ve made the case for both of these cameras, to myself.  I’ve always said I’d struggle to feel comfortable professionally shooting anything where quick reaction would come into play, with my Sony cams.  If asleep, my a7II and a7RII can take upwards of 4-5 seconds before being capable of auto focusing after coming out of a sleep.  That is far too much for weddings, sport, etc, again for me.  I’ve missed many moments just in personal shooting scenarios because of this lag.  For the events I have shot since having the Sonys around, I only use them for staged shots, defaulting to my 5DII for quick reaction situations.  Yes, I used a 5DII when the ability to quickly react was necessary.  That should tell you how much I trusted my Sonys. 

In more controlled situations, I found the need to check critical focus by way of enlarging a playback image on the LCD to also take the same amount of time with both of the Sony cameras.  Not as crucial, but nearly as annoying.  Not only that, but enlarged, trying to cycle to the previous, or next image takes another 5 seconds, on top of the initial 5 seconds, and on and on…   That 5 seconds (as opposed to the near immediacy of the Canons) can really cramp the flow of a shoot as you stand there chimping and blankly staring at a screen, awaiting the enlargement to assure you have the shot nailed, while being watched.  It may not sound like much, but try to actually count to 5.  1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3… try it.  It’s kinda crazy, especially considering the Canon could have been back to shooting when you started counting, or through multiple enlargements potentially, and then back to shooting within the time it takes to check critical focus on one shot on the Sony.  This has been hugely frustrating for me, and the Canon has eliminated it completely.  That’s a big plus for the EOS R.

I’ve shot with the Sonys for years, and they didn’t remedy the issues that I found to be inexcusable when given multiple releases to do so.  Perhaps the a7III and a7RIII have gone some way to really remedy the slow reaction/wake/review, but from user reviews that I’ve read from trusted reviewers, it doesn’t seem to have been, which is a real shame as it is the one thing I feel Sony could have done by way of truly investing in proper processing power internally to handle these tasks, and they haven’t.  It was theoretically easier to understand at 42mp, but the same issue persists with 24mp image files in the a7 series, and that’s just not cool.  That is their trade off.  Canon’s is middle of the road sensors, Sony’s is a camera that is horribly slow to react, wake and browse, comparatively.  This is really how it boils down to the lowest common denominator for me when weighing pros and cons between both of these platforms.


ADAPTING LENSES vs RF 24-105 f/4 L IS USM

For me, this was always going to be my make or break.  I’ve invested quite a bit in EF lenses over the years, and even while shooting Sony cameras, I purchased various Sigma lenses in EF mount as I had been adapting them via the Metabones adapter to the alpha cams as well.  It gave me the ability to use them natively on my backup 5DII, or if I felt compelled to jump back to Canon, and kept things simple as far as adaptation went on the Sony cams.  This also spoke to my distrust in Sony after years shooting the a7II, and then the a7rII.  The a7II just up and died recently.  Died.  Dead.  It may be worth it to send it in and pay, probably in the $500 range to fix, but it may just stay dead.  For all the lackluster releases Canon has offered, I will say, my now ancient 5DII is still shooting flawlessly. That’s a big deal to me.  I don’t have an accurate count, but I’d say my 5DII has in the neighborhood of 50-60k shutter actuations, the a7II around 20k and the a7rII somehwere near 10-12k. 

Sony jumped into the game, guns blazing, offering wonderful standard features and killer sensors, but that ain’t shit if your cameras don’t last.  I’ve never had a camera go completely ass over elbows until the Sony a7II.  To be fair, I’ve had things go wrong over the years with many cameras (all within initial warranty period in the Oly EM5 and a faulty shutter on my first 5DII out of the box, so never costing me anything but time and frustration), but for the recent death of the a7II, along with it’s remarkably laggy interface (which wasn’t at all remedied in the a7rII) it never bode well for Sony, in my eyes, for my money.

Back to the lenses.  Canon has done it absolutely right with their immediate offering of adapters for their EF lenses.  They spent the time, did their homework, and the EF lenses work flawlessly on the EOS R camera.  It’s amazing really.  I had gotten great performance on the Sonys with the Metabones adapters after various firmware updates, but nothing as solidly as these native Canon to Canon adapters.  As one might hope, the AF performance on the new, dual AF equipped EOS R, is better than anything I’d owned in the Canon landscape over my years there.  Tracking via Servo AF is snappy and impressively accurate.  Again, I never ponied up for the 5D3 or 5D4 just to gain the AF system that should have been available in some iteration on the 5D2, but compared to that mark 2, and the Sony using adapted lenses, this is wonderful.

Following are shots with the listed EF mount lens and settings listed below each frame… (click any to see larger)

EF35mm f/1.4L – f/1.4 – ISO 2000 – 1/125th


EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS – f/2.8 – ISO 100 – 1/640th


EF35mm f/1.4 L – f/2.8 – ISO 4000 – 1/160th


EF35mm f/1.4 L – f/2.5 – ISO 500 – 1/125th


Sigma EF135mm f/1.8 – f/2 – ISO 400 – 1/2000th


EF35mm f/1.4 L – f/1.4 – ISO 3200 – 1/160th


EF100mm f/2.8 L IS – f/2.8 – ISO 100 – 1/800th


EF 35mm f/1.4 L – f/4 – ISO 100 – 1/160th


EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS – f/8 – ISO 100 – 1/125th


Sigma EF 135mm f/1.8 – f/1.8 – ISO 200 – 1/160th


EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS – f/2.8 – ISO 1600 – 1/15th


EF 100-400mm L IS – f/6.5 – ISO 2500 – 1/800th


Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM

Below are some more shots using the native mount, Canon L kit zoom.  I will say, it’s a very useful range with a pretty pedestrian maximum aperture, but to be fair, it keeps the lens relatively light and in good light, the lens performs wonderfully.  It’s weather sealed up to the normal “L” designation, and offers a really nice amount of image stabilization for handheld shots (IS test further down, below sample shots).  Click on any to see larger…

105mm – f/8 – ISO 400 – 1/160th


105mm – f/4 – ISO 100 – 1/800th


105mm – f/4 – ISO 100 – 1/800th


105mm – f/5.6 – ISO 100 – 1/800th


24mm – f/4 – ISO 100 – 1/1250th


105mm – f/4 – ISO 800 – 1/160th


76mm – f/4 – ISO 12800 – 1/80th


24mm – f/4 – ISO 100 – 1/640th


97mm – f/4 – ISO 100 – 1/500th


105mm – f/4 – ISO 100 – 1/1250th


24mm – f/11 – ISO 100 – 10 sec


24mm – f/4 – ISO 100 – 1/400th

The color and contrast on the native RF zoom lens has been impressive to my eye.  Wide open, I’m not as impressed as I hoped to have been with the corners, but unfortunately, I’m not surprised.  They’re not horrible, and they very well may be better than the sister lens on the 5D4, for instance, but just as the issues proved part and parcel for the cameras utilizing a mirror, so too does it seem to be an issue with those of the mirrorless variety when it comes to optical design and photosites out on the extreme fringes of this sensor.  With these new mirrorless mounts, I had thought that designing lenses specifically for them would enable an easier task to sharpen corners via the marriage between new mount, sensor and optical development.  This being a retooled 5D4 sensor from initial reports, may be why.  To be completely fair though, without stringent chart tests, much of the perceived issue can be chalked up to field curvature, and elements positioned in the corners/edges just being out of the plane of focus.  All said and done though, I’ve noticed a little more softness and CA in the corners wide open with this (and all) lens(es) on the R, akin to what I’ve seen in every full frame camera I’ve shot with to some extent.  Hopefully as we see new sensors designed specifically for this mirrorless platform, we’ll see better overall performance from lenses wide open, but for now, we’ll just have to settle for solid, non ground breaking Canon status quo.  If you’ve been happy with your 5D or 1D series performance, I doubt you’ll notice any major difference here.


RF 24-105mm HANDHELD IMAGE STABILIZATION

A quick handheld test has pretty much backed up what I was noticing by shooting in the wild.  I’m seeing a solid 4 stops without any noticeable softness, and even at 5 stops, under good conditions and with good handholding technique the below shot is very sharp to my eye.  Have a look for yourself.  Click to see full sized.

All in all, while perhaps not up to the best sensor based image stabilization, it’s useful and performs as advertised.  I still feel Canon crapped the bed not immediately offering sensor based IS in this camera.  It’s the new standard.  Keep up or continue to fall behind, I feel.


CONCLUSION

The EOS R has a lot going for it, and a few bizarre omissions/inclusions in my personal opinion.  How those sit with any given shooter will certainly come down to personal needs and expectations for the cost.

Short and sweet, the image quality is still behind the better performing, comparably priced full frame cameras right now.  That, in and of itself may be enough for many to steer clear and go elsewhere with their hard earned money.  The tradeoff for that IQ, in my experience, has been a much better and more solidly operating tool in most every regard.  Less the omission of in body stabilization, and some of the odd and arguably excusable/ignorable design choices, I find the EOS R to be provide a better shooting experience for me, compared to my Sony cameras.  Canon, for their faults, have always been great at building a camera that integrates well with the shooter, and photographic task at hand.

Time will tell where Canon goes with this new mount and format, but I feel, much as the FD era made way for the EF mount, so too will the EOS system evolve into this mirrorless category.  The real benefit for shooters of EF system setups is that you give up next to nothing when converting the lenses to this new body, and arguably, or rather situationally, gain a superior AF system all while losing bulk and weight.  This being the first offering in this new Canon full frame mirrorless world, bodes well for how easily it will translate for shooters of different needs, with future releases.  It’s a solid camera and while I don’t think they did enough to make the case for new adopters, as is the Canon way, they released something calculated that wouldn’t yet cannibalize their DSLR offerings while still offering something worth looking at for system shooters.  It seemed as if it would always be this way for Canon as they look to maintain confidence in their hugely invested EF mount while slowly showing that EF lens shooters will be able to confidently switch to the new RF mount with little fuss, when they’re ready.

What I feel will be the true test, will be after they announce and release the RP (coming this week) and whatever the “pro” spec hi-resolution camera will provide, seeing the second version of this camera in an EOS R mark 2, or whatever they will call it.  It will have given Canon shooters, and those existing elsewhere, ample time to look at what the system provides, and ease folks into migrating over to the mirrorless side of things, assuming they get that camera right, and by right, I mean a NEW sensor, IBIS and slight tweaks to operational UI while keeping everything else on offer.  That may actually prove a serious blow to the other major players where this is merely a light jab to conserve energy for the coming and continued fight.

At $2300 body only, or $3300 with the 24-105mm f/4 L lens, it’s a compelling offering, and one that provides an interesting argument against the other options currently available.

For now, it’s time for me to move the Sony a7RII and the couple FE mount lenses I have.  Lemme know if you’re interested.  They’re all in great condition, and I’ll get rid of them for a reasonable price.

For those interested, you can see the EOS R via my affiliate links at B&H HERE, and at ADORAMA HERE.  See all the camera straps I hand build at Nauti Straps HERE.

Thank you for the read.  Hopefully you found some use in my experience and rambling.  Find me via the socials and hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Instagram.  

To stay up on new articles, you can add your email address at the top of the page (via standard browser) or below if viewing on a mobile platform.

Happy Shooting,

Tyson

15 thoughts on “*I’m going back to Canon…? My impression, and user review of the new EOS R.

  1. Interesting read, Im surprised they omitted IBIS but will be interested to see whats happening with the newer interation. I agree with you in regards to the on/off swotch, this is something im trying to get used to on the 6D, which im really enjoying as a camer so far. Thanks for the write up!

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    • I think they Canon are very conservative and intentional. They tend to release newer features in their lower level/consumer cameras first, historically. Not always, but if the RP does in fact have a form of IBIS, it will continue that trend. They have a method to their cautious conservatism, and seem to make their money by focusing on entry level products, which isn’t surprising.

      A friend of mine also just picked up a 6D and he’s loving it. He lives just down the road so I have the ability to cam swap, potentially, to get some hands on with the 6D, which I’ve never even handled. 😀

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      • From what ive read, it isnt a great deal different from the 5D Mk2 but ive never used that. It may be worth having a play though as its such a good price secondhand it could be seen as a good entry into full frame…like I have done. Id love to read your thoughts on it and it honestly doesnt feel much bigger then the G9.

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  2. Is the touch screen a good replacement for a joystick if you use gloves with ice/snow on? I have an a7iii and a 70d, and I find the 70d easier to operate with gloves/mutton than the a7iii. Except for this I find the a7iii a much better winter camera, especially shooting hand held in poor light conditions. But I plan to buy a Lee filter set for my 70d, to use it in summertime, as I’m not so sure about Sony’s summer colors. I will then try to get the exposure as correct as possible in camera, ising graduated filters, because of the low dynamic range of Canon sensors in post.

    The skin tones though in jpeg from the 70d is amazing, so I use this camera shooting my family, as I just shoot daily family life in jpeg with no post processing.

    Anyway, this autumn and winter has been a pure joy with my a7iii, as I know I can shoot handheld in the poorest light conditions, in snowstorms and fog, and still the image quality is great!

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    • As long as they’re touch capacitive gloves, it will work. (or in a pinch, use your nose 😀 ) I’ve found that with heavy gloves on, I’ll use one of the Zonal AF arrays which work well, but even with a joystick (at least on my 5D2) heavy gloves are tricky for me to accurately navigate AF selection. That said, the AF selection and joystick on the 5D2 aren’t exactly cutting edge. I only have the a7II and a7RII, so I can’t test out Sony’s new joystick to provide accurate feedback, comparatively.

      Using the a7III, how do you find the lag in wake and response when reviewing/zooming? I’ve heard mixed reports. The v2’s of the Sony cams are horrible and much like the 5D3 and 5D4 being offered for a much higher price initially, with few changes from the previous model outside one or two things, as is the case with the sony v3s on paper, I’m hoping that they at least increased the internal processing power significantly to remedy this issue.

      Thanks for the read and comment!

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      • Yes, I too often take of my gloves with my a7iii, resulting in that i have to warm my fingers on my stomach. So the joystick is too small. I thing Nikon z6 and z7 are better. Maybe I’ll invest in tactile gloves for next winter?

        I didn’t think of any lag or lack of response, but maybe it’s just me being dull? Only one time the camera got stuck, but I think it was the memory card. I might go to EOS R by time, but I maybe just as well buy the next APS-C camera, if it has an upgrade in dynamic range etc. Probably 90d and 7d3 will merge in a new camera. I think this might be the last enthusiast APS-C from Canon?

        What I don’t like is the control ring in front. But on the new 70-200 it’s on the back of the lens, where it should be. Hopefully they’ve realized it was an error to put it on the front, and will by time move it back as standard.

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  3. Pingback: Why I Can Never Quit Full-Frame DSLRs – SySyPhoTo

  4. Hi Tyson, it is not necessary to press the * button to engage the controlring function: You simply have to change that in the settings to “always on”.

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    • Thanks Andreas. In the menus, there are two sets of settings for the same parameters, one with, one without. I was looking for a setting to disable the need to and didn’t notice that the second set was ‘without’ the need to use the * button. Thanks!

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  5. Hi, maybe I missed something, but wouldn’t a Nikon Z6 or Z7 provide you many of the pluses of the Sony (sensor tech, IBIS) and Canon (better ergo, response times, etc)? I didn’t see it stated that you had a big investment in Canon lenses, so it seems kinda odd to not consider the Nikons if you didn’t. Love your site!

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    • Hi Brian. As mentioned in the article, I’ve been invested in the Canon landscape, lens wise, for a long time. So much so that all my new 3rd party lens purchases, even when shooting Sony, were done in EF mount as I was utilizing the Metabones adapter on those to great effect. Nothing against Nikon, but it would be a huge endeavour to replace all my EF mount lenses with Nikon compatible equivalents.

      Thanks for the read!

      t

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  6. Great review, thanks for your time and careful work. Last thing first, unlike the FD to EOS jump (which left many pained T90 users) this update from EOS is well managed and allows users to migrate (FD didn’t).

    As you may (doubt it tho) recall I’m an old EOS shooter turned m43 (back with the G1) and so frequently find shots I took with my EOS (film or digital) and think fondly about those lenses. That I continue to use FD on my m43 and now an A7, this allows me to see how good those FD lenses are and alto to see how much better the native m43 lenses perform (sharpness and contrast as well as AF) on m43 (than the FD adapted). I keep my eye on your reviews of the A7ii stuff but I must confess that the adapted situation for EF lenses (despite advances) remains medium at best.

    So this review now has me thinking more seriously about what I’ll do and where I’ll go next, because as sweet a lens as the Panasonic 20f1.7 is, there just isn’t a native rival for it in Sony World (yes, the Batis 40, but at a cost, size and weight penalty), but this Canon makes the STM 40 and 50 as valid low price options.

    Glad you’re still bloggin on 😉

    Best Wishes

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