Canon debuted its first full-frame mirrorless camera, the EOS R, in September this year, and it was launched in India towards the end of the month. Canon's entry into the full-frame mirrorless space is testament to a growing demand for smaller and lighter full-frame cameras. Portability and versatility are the needs of the hour, and Canon doesn't want to miss out on this segment.
We had a chance to do some preliminary field testing with the EOS R back in September, and you can read our in-depth first impressions of the camera. We also got a chance to get some of our burning questions about the EOS R answered by Canon's own product team, so if you want to know why the company didn't use in-body stabilisation or why this model doesn't have two SD card slots, we urge you to give it a read.
Today, we'll be focusing more on the performance of the EOS R to see if it's worth the premium price that Canon is charging for it. This camera competes with the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z6 — both full-frame mirrorless cameras that cost a bit less but offer a few features that the EOS R misses out on. Let's get started.
The body of the Canon EOS R is built incredibly well and feels highly premium from the moment you first pick it up. The magnesium alloy chassis feels durable and it's weather-sealed to protect the insides from the elements. Canon has ensured that the DSLR feel is intact, which is why this camera has a sizeable hand-grip. The rest of the body has been shrunken down since there's no mirror mechanism.
One of the main features of this new model comes in the form of a new R-mount for RF lenses, and a shorter flange distance. According to Canon, the mount's larger 54mm diameter should allow for more flexibility in lens design, and the shorter flange distance (the distance between the rearmost lens element and the surface of the sensor) should result in better optical performance.
There are also more contact pins that connect the new lenses to the camera electronically, than with Canon's other mount standards. Canon says this will enable more data to be transferred more quickly. The EOS R also gets a sensor curtain, which covers the sensor when the camera is off. This is a thoughtful addition that prevents tiny dust particles from entering the sensor area when you need to change lenses outdoors.
There's plenty of rubber lining on the body where you'd typically hold the camera, which is good to see. The buttons are well spaced, and feedback is good. However, the functionality is a bit different from what we're used to seeing on a Canon DSLR. The biggest change is the absence of a mode dial. On this model, you switch modes using a ‘Mode' button and a horizontal dial, which takes a bit of getting used to. Hitting the ‘Info' button lets you switch between still and video shooting.
We found the ergonomics to be very good. The control changes mean that there's a small learning curve, but we got accustomed to it after a day or so. Canon has also added a touch-sensitive strip near the EVF, which it calls a multi-function bar. It can be programmed for different tasks such as adjusting the ISO, white balance, etc. You can even program single-tap actions for toggling things such as Eye-AF. We found this to be quite useful.
There's a good selection of ports including separate microphone and headphone sockets, a Mini-HDMI video output, and a USB Type-C port. The latter supports USB charging, but there's a catch. You'll need to use Canon's own PD-E1 USB wall charger, which kind of defeats the purpose of a universal port standard.
We tried charging the EOS R with a Qualcomm Quick Charge-compatible powerbank, but that didn't work. We have found anecdotal reports online of people who say they have managed to charge the EOS R using a Type-C power bank that supports the USB Power Delivery standard.
Over to the right, we have a single SD card slot with support for up to UHS-II speeds. The single slot didn't bother us too much, since we're not professional photographers, but you might find this disappointing, especially if your livelihood could depend on having backups.
The Canon EOS R looks great and feels like it's built to last. Even at 660g, we didn't find the body to be too heavy. Canon sent us the 24-105mm kit lens bundle for review. This lens is quite versatile and a lot of people are likely to get it with their new EOS R. It has an f/4 aperture throughout the zoom range, in-built stabilisation, and a switch to lock the zoom ring so that the barrel doesn't extend when you're carrying your camera around. All RF-mount lenses will have a control ring at the front, which can be programmed to change different parameters such as the aperture.
Canon has only introduced four RF lenses for the new mount on the EOS R so far. However, you can buy an adapter and use any of your existing EF lenses. The basic adapter costs around Rs. 7,995, but you can also get one with a control ring and another with a slot for filters, which will set you back by up to Rs. 31,995 (with an ND filter). In the EOS R's box, you get a shoulder strap, an external charger for the battery, instruction manuals, and a USB Type-C cable.
The Canon EOS R features a 30.3-megapixel sensor with the company's DIGIC 8 image processor. It also boasts of an impressive 5,655 selectable autofocus points that are laid out in an 87x65 grid, which covers nearly the entire width of the sensor. Canon claims the ability to focus in extremely low light, down to -6EV, though that's only possible with the new 50mm f/1.2 lens. The camera has a native ISO range of 100-40,000 in one-third-stop increments.
The shutter speed tops out at 1/8,000 of a second. Other than the standard shooting modes, there's a new Flexible Priority (Fv) shooting mode which is like Manual mode. Instead of having different dials and buttons for adjusting the shutter speed, aperture, exposure, and ISO, you can cycle through each parameter with the mode dial and change settings for each with the other dial. Burst shooting tops out at 8fps but this is without continuous autofocus. If you want that, it slows down to about 5fps. Adding face tracking slows it down further, to about 3fps.
The Canon EOS R has an OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) with a high resolution of 3.69 million dots. The quality of images it produces is very good, along with a solid 60fps framerate. There's a proximity sensor for switching between the EVF and LCD, and a soft rubber hood that we found very comfortable even after a couple of hours of shooting. The 3.15-inch LCD is quite bright and responsive to touch. The fact that it can flip 180 degrees backwards will certainly appeal to vloggers.
You can enable a Silent Shutter mode which switches to the electronic shutter, but this currently only works for single shots, not with bursts. Canon had said back in September that this will be fixed in the future through firmware, but that is yet to be done. The camera also has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to let you use the Camera Connect app to sync photos with a device of your choice. This works well, just as we've seen on previous Canon cameras including the EOS M50.
Coming to video, the EOS R can shoot at up to 1080p at 60fps, or 4K at 30fps, but it does the latter with a 1.7x crop. We highlighted this in our first impressions report, and it seems as though this is something you'll just have to make your peace with if you buy the EOS R. Our main issue with the cropping is that you'll have to reassess your framing and the distance between you and your subject every time you switch between video and still shooting.
Video isn't cropped at other resolutions, only at 4K. There's support for C-Log recording too, if you want a flat colour profile that you can grade later with professional software. The EOS R supports 10-bit 4:2:2 4K video capture to external recording devices through its HDMI port. Last but not least, it also supports face and object tracking in videos, which worked quite well in our experience.
Our ISO test tells us a lot about a camera's low-light capabilities. With the EOS R, noise was handled very well till about ISO 3,200, where we noticed slight graininess in the shadows. This mild noise continued till ISO 6,400 but the jump to ISO 12,800 resulted in noticeable noise and soft edges around the pencils. It still wasn't bad but it was evident.
Taking it a notch higher to ISO 25,600 introduced a lot more noise in the shadows, but the image was still not completely destroyed. At the maximum ISO level of 40,000, the details did get very mushy and the final result wasn't exactly usable. Overall, the EOS R performed decently in our ISO test, but other cameras including the Sony A7 III and even the Panasonic GH5S have delivered cleaner results at higher ISO levels.
The Canon EOS R has great handling and we're sure many will enjoy shooting with it. We liked it in the brief time we spent with it back in September, and now, after nearly a week of regular use, that feeling is even stronger. The camera feels extremely well made, and that gave us a lot of confidence when shooting at awkward angles or with one hand. It's a little front-heavy, and some of the new RF lenses will exacerbate that, but we got used to that.
In daylight, the camera captured very good detail and natural colours, without having any noticeable colour bias. Autofocus was speedy and almost always managed to get our subject in focus in the first attempt. Burst mode was satisfactory for most use cases as 8fps is decent, but if you need tracking autofocus too, the drop in capture rate might feel limiting. If you need quicker burst shooting with continuous autofocus, you might want to consider the Sony A7 III or even the Nikon Z6.
Macros were captured very well too, with good details and colours. The large number of autofocus points helped in getting pin-point focus accuracy, especially when we were shooting with a larger aperture. Eye autofocus can be toggled on or off. It works decently well provided your subject is within a range of 2m and their eyes are clearly visible. It can also only track any one eye at any given time.
We're happy to report that the Dual Pixel autofocus system continued to work very well in low light. Canon's 50mm f/1.2 lens and the EOS R make for a dream combo, and we were actually able to focus on objects that we couldn't even see clearly with our naked eyes, when we initially tested it back in September.
The lack of in-body stabilisation might be an issue with some RF lenses such as the 50 f/1.2 and 28-70mm f/2, which lack in-built stabilisation of their own, and even some of Canon's older EF lenses. You'll also have to clean up a bit of noise in post-production. That said, the fact that you can get sharp, in-focus shots without needing a flash is commendable.
We were happy with the EOS R's video output too. Despite the cropping at 4K, the quality of the video itself was very good. Colours were well represented and the autofocus was still a joy to use. The touch screen lets you shift focus quickly and easily, and the transition effect is smooth. Object tracking and face tracking also worked well and were quick at following a person or an object.
The battery in the EOS R is rated to deliver around 370 shots per charge, which is better than what the Nikon Z6 promises but still behind the Sony A7 III. With real-world usage, we were able to come close to the rated number, and at times, we even got close to 400 shots with the camera's power-saver mode enabled. However, shooting video does drain the battery quicker. We would have liked better, and considering the size of the camera body, Canon could have used a higher capacity battery.
The Canon EOS R is the company's first attempt at a full-frame mirrorless camera, and we think it has done a pretty good job. This camera feels solid and well-built; produces sharp and detailed images in good light, and has a nice customisable button layout that is easy to master. Other noteworthy features include the very good touchscreen, a crazy number of autofocus points, and advanced video features such as C-Log and 10-bit 4:2:2 capture over HDMI.
For the next model, we hope that Canon addresses some of the shortcomings of the EOS R and delivers a faster burst shooting with continuous autofocus, no cropping of 4K videos, and perhaps an extra SD card slot. We would also like to see slightly better high-ISO performance.
We now come to the price. The Canon EOS R costs Rs. 1,85,950 for the body alone, which is a little expensive considering that the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z6 start at lower prices and have features such as in-body image stabilisation. You'll also need to spend quite a bit more for an RF lens. It's only been a few months since Canon launched this model in India, so perhaps this will drop with time.
Overall, the EOS R is a good first attempt at a full-frame mirrorless camera, but considering the cut-throat competition that Canon faces, we were expecting something more aggressive from the biggest camera manufacturer in the world.
Canon EOS R (body only): Rs. 1,89,950
Canon EOS R with RF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens: Rs. 2,78,985
Ratings (out of 5)