Canon EOS R Review

The EOS R is Canon's highly-anticipated first full frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC). Though it is first, it is far from Canon's first MILC (the EOS M series is a best-seller in some markets) and far from their first full frame interchangeable lens camera. Canon has been designing and producing cameras a very long time and its engineers spent years designing the EOS R. Though the EOS R is the first in a series of cameras, it is a highly refined model that lacks little and what it delivers for the price is quite remarkable.

Sony, in part via acquisition, has become the strong early competitor in the full frame MILC market and Canon has been chastised by some for being late to the game. However, Canon's executives emphasized that their goal was not to be first to market, but to deliver the best product. Did they accomplish that? Let's find out.

Canon EOS R Being Introduced

Canon U.S.A's president and C.O.O, Kazuto "Kevin" Ogawa, introduces the Canon EOS R.

Product names often convey the product's position in the manufacturer's lineup and a brief name discussion makes sense for a product review. "EOS" brings this camera into Canon's interchangeable lens product group and "R" gives the product a nice, short overall name. My understanding is that Canon, Inc. named the camera "R" and it was up to the individual regional Canon companies to come up with a meaning. Canon USA picked "Revolution". "R" does not stand for "Revolution" in all countries as the word has undesirable meaning in some locations. But, in the USA, that word can work, at least within the context of the Canon lineup.

Canon executives specifically indicated that the "R" will not be the only model in this line and my immediate question is "What will the names of those additional cameras be?" I'm concerned about a recurrence of the EOS M naming scenario mess we currently have.

A camera's name matters little during use, so ... I'll move on to the key features of the EOS R.

Summary of Canon EOS R Features

  • Brand new RF mount, compatible with EF/EF-S/TS-E/MP-E lenses with adapter
  • 30.3 megapixel, 6720 x 4480 px, 35mm Full Frame Canon CMOS sensor
  • New programmable Multi-Function Bar with touch interface
  • New Fv (Flexible Priority) mode
  • 1.27cm/0.5" OLED color EVF, 3.69 Million dots viewfinder
  • 4K 30P, Full HD 60P and Full HD 120P video with Movie Servo AF via a Dual Pixel CMOS sensor
  • Movie Digital IS with Combination IS (when used with compatible lenses) for smooth video
  • Canon Log available with up to 12 stops of dynamic range
  • 4K video delivery with output in 10-bit 4:2:2 over HDMI
  • 4K Frame Grab for 8.3 mp still JPEG images from 60 fps capture
  • DIGIC 8 Image Processor
  • 5,655 AF points with 88% horizontal and 100% vertical coverage supporting up to f/11 max apertures
  • World's most sensitive AF with sensitivity down to EV -6
  • World's fastest AF system, capable of achieving focus in 0.05 seconds
  • Touch and Drag AF with Eye Detection AF
  • Manual focus peaking display with customizable sensitivity and color
  • Max. 8 fps continuous shooting, 5 fps with AF Tracking
  • Silent shooting capable
  • Shutter durability rated up to 200,000 cycles
  • 384 zone metering system
  • ISO 100-40000 with expansion down to 50 and up to 102400
  • 3.15" (8.01cm) Clear View LCD II, approx. 2,100K dot Touch Screen Vari-Angle LCD
  • Flicker Mode adjusts shutter release timing to avoid flickering light issues
  • Distortion, Diffraction, Peripheral Illumination and Chromatic Aberration Correction along with Digital Lens Optimizer available for in-camera aberration correction
  • Single SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II compatible) memory card
  • Magnesium alloy body with weather sealing
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

This is a heavy list and the first bullet point should be emphasized as it is a big deal.

Our About Canon RF Lenses and the RF Mount page goes deep into the discussion about this mount, but the basics are that the RF lens mount retains the large 54mm inner diameter advantage of the EF mount (for reference, the Nikon Z mount has a similar 55mm diameter, the Nikon F-mount is only 44mm and the Sony E mount is 46.1mm), keeping the rigidity/durability/strength and ultra-wide aperture support the large diameter mount provides, while reducing the flange back distance (distance from the back of the lens' mount to the imaging sensor) from 44mm to 20mm. The new mount design supports new optical designs that are potentially smaller and often include large diameter rear-positioned elements that can feature reduced angle of light rays in the image circle periphery and bending light to a lesser degree can lead to improved image quality, especially with better-corrected aberrations. The larger rear-element design of RF lenses also lends to a comfortable shape and weight balance. Improved camera-lens communication also increases performance, including instant feedback for enhanced in-lens image stabilization.

World's fastest AF system? Hold on, there are footnotes. They read:

Based on results of AF speed tests in accordance with CIPA guidelines. Results may vary depending on shooting conditions and lens in use. Relies on internal measurement method.
- Brightness at time of distance measurement: EV12 (regular temperature, ISO 100)
- Shooting mode: M
- Lens in use: RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM, with focal distance of 24mm and live-view mode on (with manual shutter button operation)
- AF mode: Live single-point AF (central) and AF operation: One-shot AF
Among interchangeable lens digital mirrorless cameras incorporating 35mm full frame equivalent image sensors with phase-difference detection AF on the image plane and contrast detection AF, available in the market as of September 5th, 2018 (Based on Canon's Research).

Aside from DSLRs being excluded, I don't see any significant dings in this statement and the claim remains a strong one.

Sensor and Image Quality

I was very anxious to learn what Canon's first full frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera's pixel count would be and that answer is 30.3, just .1 megapixel less than the 5D Mark IV's 30.4 number. While these are slightly different numbers, the EOS R's imaging sensor is indeed based on the 5D IV's with the reduced count due to additionally purposed pixels.

Here is a table sharing, primarily, imaging sensor attributes.

ModelFOVCFSensorPixel SizePixels/MegapixelsViewfinderDLA*
Canon EOS M51.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 100%f/6.0
Canon EOS M61.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 opt100%f/6.0
Canon EOS M501.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.1 100%f/6.0
Canon EOS M1001.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2  f/5.9
Canon EOS Rebel SL2 / 200D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 .87x95%f/5.9
Canon EOS Rebel T7 / 2000D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.1 .80x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS 77D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 .82x95%f/5.9
Canon EOS 80D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 .95x100%f/5.9
Canon EOS R1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm5.36µm6720 x 448030.3 .71x100%f/8.6
Canon EOS 6D Mark II1.0x35.9 x 24.0mm6.54µm6240 x 416026.2 .71x98%f/9.2
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm5.36µm6720 x 448030.4 .71x100%f/8.6
Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm4.14µm8688 x 579250.6 .71x100%f/6.7
Nikon Z 71.0x35.9 x 23.9mm4.35µm8256 x 550445.7.80x100%f/7.0
Nikon Z 61.0x35.9 x 23.9mm4.35µm6000 x 400024.5.80x100%f/9.6
Sony a7 III1.0x35.6 x 23.8mm5.9µm6000 x 400024.2.78x100%f/9.6
Sony a7R III1.0x35.9 x 24.0mm4.5µm7952 x 530442.4.78x100%f/7.2
View the full Canon EOS R specifications to compare additional cameras.

While I personally would like to have seen the EOS 5Ds/5Ds R's 50 MP resolution matched, Canon has not yet produced a Dual Pixel AF version of an imaging sensor at that resolution and economics certainly made the 5D IV's sensor a great choice for this camera. The 30.3 MP resolution is quite high and currently only surpassed in Canon's lineup by the 5Ds bodies just mentioned, the highest resolution DSLR cameras available at review time. As usual, a wide variety of JPG resolution and/or quality options are available and JPG images can be generated at any size desired when converting from a RAW image. The EOS R natively supports 3:2 (default), 4:3, 16:9 and 1:1 (square) aspect ratios.

You likely noticed the "DLA" column in the above chart. As resolution increases, diffraction visibly affects image quality at wider apertures. The science of diffraction is complex, but understanding the science is less important than knowing how diffraction can impact image quality. Everyone should be aware that, as the aperture opening decreases, images become less sharp beyond the approximate aperture we refer to as the Diffraction Limited Aperture ("DLA"). While you will often want to use apertures narrower than the DLA, the decision to do so must happen with the understanding that pixel sharpness becomes a compromise being made.

The EOS R's 5.36µm pixel pitch imaging sensor will begin to show diffraction effects at, roughly, f/8.6 (a noticeably narrower aperture than the 5Ds/5Ds R's f/6.7 DLA). The R's image quality does not suddenly disintegrate f/8.7, but as the aperture becomes narrower, the benefits of the resolution will not be as fully appreciated. It also must be remembered that any resolution-caused increase in image quality issues will be apparent only when viewing images large, such as at 100% on a monitor. Those flaws will be no more visible than those from a lower resolution camera when output size is matched and that is the ultimate importance. If the flaws can be minimized through good technique and great gear, the higher resolution image has big advantages.

The large full frame dimensions of this imaging sensor enable huge amounts of light to be captured, making such cameras especially great performers in low light. Also, I'm a huge fan of the strong background blur that can be created by full frame cameras.

Unsurprisingly, the Canon EOS R vs. 5D Mark IV comparison shows the two cameras about equal with an important note. That note is that the 5D Mark IV's image is slightly sharper. While it immediately looks like the 5D IV is delivering better image quality, that is not necessarily the case.

We have long been using a low Canon Digital Photo Professional sharpness setting of "1" (on a 1-10 scale) for lens testing as sharpening quickly masks differences between lenses. While it seems that increasing the sharpness of an image is a cheap fix to poor lens quality, that sharpening quickly becomes destructive to details, ruining the fine image quality you were seeking in the first place. Camera manufacturers know that you like sharp images and they crank up the default sharpness in attempt to make you happy. Nearly always, that setting is at a very destructive level. Fortunately, you can adjust the sharpness level to your taste.

There is a long pipeline between the imaging sensor and the final image file and not all cameras utilize identical hardware and software (most often, they do not). More specifically to the point, the amount of sharpening showing in a final JPG image processed using the same settings is not always the same. And, that is the case here. Adding some headspace at the bottom of the sharpening scale doesn't seem like a bad idea.

If you zoom in your browser (try CMD/CTRL +, CMD/CTRL 0 to reset) while looking at the 5D IV noise results (discussed below), you will see some slight over-sharpening halos, slightly brighter colors around the border of the darker ones. I gave strong consideration to using a sharpness setting of "2" as the default for the EOS R (Canon defaults the EOS R unsharp mask strength setting to "4" vs. "3" in other recent EOS models), but the halos began showing at "2". So, we are staying the course with the site-standard sharpness setting of "1". You of course can increase your sharpness setting as desired. An EOS R setting of about "2" is approximately equivalent to the 5D IV at "1". Download the crops shared on this site and apply your preferred sharpening routine.

The marketing department is always quick to state a camera's ISO range, but ... the usable settings within that range are what really matter. The marketing department gets to tout the EOS R's ISO 100-40000 range which is adjustable in 1/3 stop increments with full stop increment expansion settings up to 102400 and down to 50. I immediately dismiss the highest stops as having a too-low SNR (Signal-to-Noise ratio) and didn't test the R's super-noisy extended ISO settings (and the 40000 results are not showing due to a programming bug I need to fix). That brings us down into the mostly-usable realm.

The Kodak color block test chart is a rather boring subject that I photograph for hours during each camera test. Sensor technology improvements (including onboard circuitry) implemented by sensors seldom show up on a specification chart, but they do show up in pictures of a color block chart.

Canon EOS R ISO Noise

Important to understand is that the site's "Standard" color block noise test results include no noise reduction – a key factor that may cause the results to appear dissimilar to those seen elsewhere. Since noise reduction can be applied to any images during post processing, what matters most to me, what differentiates cameras, is how clean the base/RAW images are. While noise reduction can improve an image, noise reduction can be (and usually is) destructive to fine detail. My strategy is to apply light noise reduction only when needed and I do this only during post processing of RAW images.

When using the comparison feature of the site's camera noise tool, let your eyes tell you the results. The even colors found in these test charts make noise very apparent relative to most real life subjects as detail in a scene will far better hide noise. If you can't readily pick out the difference in any color block comparison, it is unlikely that you will be able to recognize the difference in real world results.

The base ISO setting (ISO 100 with the current EOS models) is always my preferred setting for very clean, low noise results. Not all situations accommodate ISO 100; noise increases as ISO settings go up and the R delivers great image quality at significantly higher settings.

At ISO 800, noise is becoming just perceptible in smooth colored areas of the frame. By ISO 3200, you are going to notice some noise, though ISO 3200 images remain very usable to me. Noise levels at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800 are becoming more annoying, but ... these images are still decent with some noise reduction added, especially when viewed at less than 100% resolution. ISO 25600 images are starting to appear ugly, with significant noise reduction and reduced final output size being keys to this setting's usability. Results from settings over ISO 25600 have low usability, aside from the marketing/bragging rights aspect. Just because the feature is present doesn't mean that you should use it.

A large number of EOS R noise test results captured using other settings are available. The additional results were either captured in JPG or RAW format and use Canon's default USM (Unsharp Mask) strength setting of "4" (too high) or a lower "1" setting. Examples of a range of NR (Noise Reduction) settings are added into the mix for hours of fun to be had.

Regarding high ISO noise, you can have smooth or you can have detailed. Pick one. While not as black and white as that scenario implies, the amount of noise reduction applied to an image requires consideration of the overall concept. The amount of noise reduction ideally applied to an image is not necessarily directly dependent on the ISO setting alone. You may find that some subjects take noise reduction better than others. As a generalization, I prefer a low amount of noise reduction when higher ISO settings are used.

All of Canon's EOS cameras provide a wide range of noise reduction, sharpness and other image quality setting adjustments, enabling you to dial the results into perfection. That these settings can be adjusted in-camera is particularly important for those requiring compressed JPG format images right out of the camera (without using the camera's own RAW image conversion capabilities).

Multi-shot Noise Reduction (MSNR) is one of the additional in-camera options available in many of the latest EOS models including the R. MSNR merges information from multiple (four) exposures taken in a full frame rate burst into a reduced noise image. The concept makes a lot of sense. MSNR generally provides a remarkable one or two stops of noise reduction, but ... I still have not found a compelling use for this feature.

The downsides to Multi-Shot Noise Reduction include: MSNR is currently available only with JPG output (I would like to see this feature added to Canon's Digital Photo Pro software for RAW capture processing – perhaps as another HDR preset). Multi-Shot Noise Reduction is not so useful with moving subjects (or with a moving camera). Long exposure NR, Dust Delete Data, Multiple Exposure and HDR Mode must be set to off to enable MSNR. The R reverts back to Standard NR in Auto/Basic zone modes, during video recording, in Bulb mode and when the camera is powered off. Flash is not supported in MSNR mode. After the 4 shot burst is captured, the camera remains "busy" for a noticeable period of time while processing the merged image. So, while this feature is a nice idea, its limitations make it less useful in real-world applications. I am far more likely to use a low ISO setting with a longer exposure when shooting stationary subjects from a tripod.

MSNR might be a good option when handholding the camera in very low light levels is the only option.

Also provided in the noise tool are many "Exposed * EV" result sets. These images were intentionally over or underexposed at capture and adjusted to the standard brightness during post processing. These results would be similar to getting the exposure wrong during capture, increasing brightness of shadow detail or recovering highlight details.

In general, underexposing an image results in increased noise in the adjusted image and shadow details may be lost. The risk of overexposing an image is that highlight detail can be lost. While there is benefit to being able to pull out highlight and shadow details even in a properly exposed image, if I miss an exposure by 2 stops or more, I feel like I have failed my job as a photographer.

The R results show that underexposing by 3 stops at ISO 100 means only modest additional noise will be present even without noise reduction being applied. The noise difference grows rapidly as the ISO setting increases. However, noise levels of an ISO 800 image brightened 3 stops appears similar to that of an ISO 6400 image, the settings that perhaps should have been used in the first place. So, there is little penalty paid for underexposing here.

Overexposing an image has a very positive effect on noise levels until highlights become clipped and then overall image quality suffers. Exposing to the right, overexposing so that the histogram chart moves to the right of the ideal final histogram, is beneficial, producing lower noise levels, as long as the highlight detail is not lost. I shoot with the low-contrast Neutral Picture Style selected in camera to gain an on-camera histogram that best shows me the exposure latitude afforded me by particular scenes. Especially when shooting still subjects, I often set the exposure to push the graph toward the right side of the histogram, but not stacked against the right side (unless I determine that is needed for a particular scene). Exposures are corrected in post processing and, with the high SNR, images are optimized for overall quality. If there is movement in the frame, a faster shutter speed may be a better choice than modest overexposure and if shooting JPGs in-camera, the proper final exposure should be used.

More dynamic range is always better and Sony MILCs currently have a strong reputation in this regard. Looking at a Canon EOS R vs. Sony a7R III 3-stop overexposed-corrected comparison, we see the two cameras hanging close in this test. The Sony appears to have an edge, but the Canon has a better yellow block. The Canon EOS R vs. Sony a7 III comparison is similar. When looking at these comparisons, remember that the Sony results are more-strongly sharpened.

One of the strong advantages of a Canon EOS camera is the color they produce. Getting proper color balance is one of my personal-biggest post processing challenges and Canon EOS R colors make good in this regard. Canon has great color science and this is especially apparent in portraits.

As first seen in the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, the EOS R includes Dual Pixel RAW technology. The Canon Dual Pixel RAW page covers this in more depth. With each half of a pixel capturing data, it still seems that this technology holds incredible potential for increased dynamic range.

I shoot in RAW format nearly 100% of the time, but for those that do not, having lens corrections available in-camera is a very positive benefit. Lens corrections available in the EOS R during image capture are peripheral illumination, chromatic aberration, distortion and diffraction along with a DLO (Digital Lens Optimizer) feature. The latter was only available in DPP (or in-camera during RAW processing) prior to the EOS 5D Mark IV camera model introduction. Note that DLO enabled will slow down processing.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with the EOS R image quality.

File Size and Media

The following table shows comparative RAW file sizes for a photo of a standard in-studio setup with a moderately-high amount of detail taken with the referenced camera.

Model / File Size in MB @ ISO:(MP)100200400800160032006400128002560051200102400204800409600
Canon EOS M5(24.2)33.834.735.737.139.041.344.746.552.8    
Canon EOS M6(24.2)34.134.835.937.639.642.045.146.953.0    
Canon EOS M50(24.1)30.431.332.433.735.337.038.940.643.245.9   
Canon EOS M100(24.2)34.034.835.737.238.940.743.545.550.9    
Canon EOS Rebel SL2(24.2)30.631.332.233.433.435.037.039.542.447.050.9  
Canon EOS Rebel T7i(24.0)30.631.232.133.334.937.039.642.447.051.1   
Canon EOS Rebel T7(24.0)30.631.232.133.334.937.039.642.447.051.1   
Canon EOS 80D(24.2)31.231.932.734.035.937.940.643.747.5    
Canon EOS R(30.4)35.836.637.638.740.041.843.345.748.049.6***  
Canon EOS R C_RAW(30.4)23.123.524.525.226.528.029.431.633.835.3***  
Canon EOS 6D Mark II(26.2)33.834.134.635.436.538.140.242.946.450.254.9  
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV(30.4)38.839.139.640.441.643.545.548.051.455.159.8  
Sony a7R III(42.4)81.981.981.981.981.981.981.981.982.082.082.0  
Sony a7 III(24.2)47.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.147.247.247.2 
Canon RAW file sizes increase with: 1. Resolution 2. Bit Depth (14-bit is better/larger) 3. Detail (noise adds detail, so high ISO file sizes increase). Memory and disk are cheap - buy more.
* Test result at ISO 40000
** Untested

High resolution images create large files, especially when captured in (strongly recommended) RAW format (vs. JPG). For an ISO 100 EOS R RAW image, you can estimate roughly 1.2MB in file size per megapixel of resolution for a file size of just under 39 MB.

Introduced with the Canon EOS M50 was the .CR3 RAW format and the EOS R gets this feature. This RAW file format enables new features including C-RAW, compressed RAW with lossy compression vs. the normally compressed RAW with non-lossy compression. Instead of the not-full-featured small and medium RAW formats Canon formerly offered, C-RAW provides full RAW file support along with an estimated 40% file size reduction (about 37% in the above example) over Canon's already efficient RAW file format size. The math adds up quickly, significantly impacting both memory card and hard disk storage capacity requirements. With the M50 review, what started as a quick evaluation of this new feature turned into a sizeable project. Check out the article: Should I Use Canon's C-RAW Image File Format? for more information.

The Canon EOS R writes image files to an SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card and includes support for the fast UHS-II standard. The EOS R formats a fast 64GB SDXC card nearly instantly, an impressive and useful feature. With card formats faster than SD available, opting for SD was an interesting decision, but one I am happy with. SD memory cards are very small, are relatively inexpensive, are very popular and are compatible with a large number of cameras and card readers, including my laptop's built-in reader. Buy high capacity cards and many of them. Rotate cards, avoiding re-use until the image files they contain are adequately backup up.

More controversial was Canon's decision to provide a single card slot vs. two with redundancy being the most import feature for a dual card design. While I personally seldom use two cards simultaneously, the EOS R is simply not the right camera for those who absolutely require the dual card slot feature.

Frame Rate, Buffer Depth, Shutter Sound

Frame rates and buffer capacity capabilities seem to get more confusing with each camera released.

With a fully-charged battery, in One-Shot AF mode, with a 1/1000 or faster shutter speed, with a wide open aperture selected, with adequate light levels, at room temperature (73°F/23°C) and with flicker reduction, Dual Pixel RAW shooting and Digital Lens Optimizer disabled, the EOS R can reach an 8 fps frame rate. In addition, when using the EF 300mm f/4L IS USM Lens, EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens, EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens or EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens, the Image Stabilizer must be switched off and flash use may affect shooting speed. Right, that is a large list of conditions. But, perhaps the most critical condition for shooting action, what a fast frame rate is most-typically needed for, is the One-Shot AF mode requirement. Switch to AI Servo subject tracking AF mode and the max frame rate becomes 5 fps (with shooting speed priority, Silent LV shooting Mode 1 and LV silent shooting: Enable Selected). In a cold environment with a cold battery or with a low battery charge level, the max frame rate drops to approximately 6.0 fps. Enable Dual Pixel RAW and the max rate drops to approximately 2.2 fps.

Confused? Likely. What you need to know is: If you are shooting a subject that is going to remain in focus at the current focus distance setting, this camera is able to deliver a fast frame rate. If the subject must be focus-tracked, the EOS R's frame rate has a medium speed.

Here is a chart.

ModelFPSMax JPGMax RAWShutter LagVF Blackout
Canon EOS M57/92617 n/a
Canon EOS M67/92617 n/a
Canon EOS M507.4/1033/4710 n/a
Canon EOS M1004/6.189/100021 n/a
Canon EOS Rebel SL2 / 200D5.0Full6  
Canon EOS Rebel T7i / 800D6.0190/Full21/2770ms 
Canon EOS Rebel T7 / 2000D3.011106120ms170ms
Canon EOS 80D7.077/11020/2560msn/a
Canon EOS R2.2-810034/4750msn/a
Canon EOS 6D Mark II6.520018/2160ms 
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV7.0Full1758ms86ms
Nikon Z 76.5-92518/23n/an/a
Nikon Z 69/12n/an/an/an/a
Sony a7R III10.0762820msn/a
View the full Canon EOS R specifications to compare additional cameras.

The EOS R's buffer depth, especially with a fast memory card, is good, providing a solid number of seconds of capture. In the burst audio shared below, you will hear the EOS R, using optimal settings and a fast Delkin Devices Prime UHS-II SDXC Memory Card, take in about 87 RAW images before a pausing briefly and starting into another (shorter) full speed burst.

Here is a visual frame rate example.

Canon EOS R ZZZZ fps Frame Rate Example

The EOS R features a 30-1/8000 second shutter speed range with settings available in 1/2 or 1/3 stop increments (plus Bulb).

A short shutter lag is a very important camera attribute and this one's 50ms lag is quite short. Disable silent live view shooting Mode 1's electronic first curtain and the lag increases noticeably to 120ms.

Historically, photography has had an audible aspect, more specifically, the mirror locking up and the shutter opening and closing create sound. Without a mirror assembly, the shutter (and perhaps the lens aperture) is the only remaining source of sound when photographing with mirrorless cameras. And, using a completely electronic shutter is another option. The EOS R has that feature, aptly named silent shutter, allowing it to capture images in complete silence.

The ability to shoot in complete silence is a huge value for quiet events such as weddings and when skittish wildlife are the subjects. Additional benefits include reduced shutter wear and vibration.

Why bother including a mechanical shutter? Because the electronic shutter has some downsides.

With no sound or other haptic feedback, knowing precisely when the image is being captured can be problematic and adding a "beep" is counter to the goal of the silent shutter. Canon handles this issue nicely with a white frame appearing in the viewfinder the instant the image is being captured. I was surprised by how effectively this solution works.

Another downside is that (minimally) long exposure noise reduction, multiple exposure, HDR mode, anti-flicker shooting and flash are not compatible with the EOS R's silent shutter. Initially, high speed drive mode is not supported, but Canon has indicated that a planned firmware update will resolve that shortcoming.

Other downsides of an electronic shutter are primarily related to the current-technology line-by-line reading of the imaging sensor data. Fast side-to-side subject or camera movement will result in an angular-shifted image with vertically straight lines becoming noticeably slanted (with the camera in horizontal orientation). It is not hard to create an example showing this effect. In the example below, the center window lines should be close to vertical.

Canon EOS R Silent Shutter Angular Shift

The horizontal lines, running in the direction I was panning the camera, remain horizontal, but the vertical lines are angled, revealing the line-by-line reading of the sensor.

Understand that the traditional second curtain of a mechanical shutter chasing the first curtain can produce the same effect. However, the difference between mechanical shutter (with electronic first curtain shutter) and electronic shutter performance in this regard has historically been quite big and that is again what I see with the EOS R.

I did not encounter the issue with the R, but certain light pulsing can influence image results, potentially showing banding.

As discussed, with silent shutter enabled, this camera does not make any sound while capturing images. Complete silence is a hard sound to share on a website, so I'll trust that you can understand this camera's ability to be stealthy in that respect. Disable silent shutter with the camera in the default electronic first curtain shutter mode and I can create the shutter sound audio clips. With no mirror locking up, this camera is still a quiet one.

Canon EOS R One Shot Mode
Canon EOS R Burst Mode

Camera sounds are recorded using a Tascam DR-07mkII Portable Digital Audio Recorder with record levels set to 50% at -12db gain and positioned 1" behind the rear LCD.

Autofocus

Imaging sensors seem to get all of the love, but they are only one piece in the image quality puzzle. Image quality matters and it is easy to show/see differences on a website in this regard, but a camera's autofocus system is an incredibly important factor in maximizing image quality. A misfocused image will likely be deleted immediately and any focus lock lag can mean a moment missed. The EOS R's Dual Pixel CMOS AF, with an insane up-to 5,655 manually selectable AF points, is one of its most impressive features.

At the beginning of this review, I remarked at two of the highlighted feature bullets:

  • World's most sensitive AF with sensitivity down to EV -6
  • World's fastest AF system, capable of achieving focus in 0.05 seconds

How dark is -6 EV? Extremely dark. With the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens mounted and the central AF point selected and placed over a bit of contrast, this combo focuses in environments too dark for me to walk around obstacles in, even with the built-in AF assist light blocked. Also interesting is that this camera will focus on bright stars in a moderately-dark night sky. In addition, the LED AF assist light is quite bright and effective. Located on the right side of the camera (I note this because the Nikon Z 7 I'm currently evaluating has a left-side AF assist lamp that ... shines directly into my hand in normal shooting position), the LED extends AF capabilities into total darkness. A lens hood can partially block this light and sometimes hood removal may be optimal, depending on the focus point selected and the amount of reflected assist light.

Sensor-based AF speeds have improved dramatically in recent years. While the fastest AF statement excludes traditionally extremely-fast-focusing DSLRs, Canon has improved sensor-based AF speed to the point of practically matching traditional phase detection AF. When comparing the AF speed of a Canon EOS 5Ds R with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens to that of Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens, my perception was that the R with the RF lens focused slightly faster. But, the R's combination was far quieter. So, I tried the EF lens on both cameras. I struggled to perceive which was faster and also tried the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens with similar results. The bottom line is that the EOS R focuses very impressively fast.

For those choosing between Sony and Canon MILCs, note that the Canon does not defocus prior to focusing in One Shot AF mode. Especially because of this design difference, the Canon's One Shot AF lock time is dramatically faster than the Sony's. Worth noting is that focus performance is good even with a very-strongly defocused starting point.

With AF calculations being made directly on the imaging sensor, AF calibration becomes a greatly-reduced issue and EOS R AF accuracy is excellent, very reliably hitting focus shot after shot. Third party lenses often exhibit at least some AF inconsistency, but the EOS R's AF accuracy and consistency were also excellent with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens I spent some time testing with. This was a lens that produced inconsistent AF accuracy for me in the past. Following are 100% crops from 10 consecutive tripod-captured images with the Sigma at f/1.4 and defocused prior to each image.

Canon EOS R

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Right, I only needed to share one of these images. The results from the many other test scenarios, inclduing over 400 images captured using AF points ranging from center to corner (80% x 80% coverage for this lens on the adapter), all appeared similarly consistent.

Using the imaging sensor for AF also enables new features. Canon has had high-performing face-tracking AF available on other camera models, especially when using sensor-based AF, but the EOS R brings along a sub-option for Face Tracking AF: Eye AF. When enabled, Eye AF selects the closest eye (vs. face) and my experienced accuracy rate for the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens at f/1.2 and near minimum focus distance has been nearly perfect.

Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens Sample Picture

After completing this review, I circled back to the Eye AF feature. The indoor, ambient window light portrait session the image above was captured in netted 157 images. Of these images, 10 were 2/3 body portraits, 82 included head and shoulders (or were framed slightly wider) and 64 were headshots with a significant number of those being close to minimum focus distance. All images were captured at f/1.2 for the shallowest, most-AF-Challenging depth of field possible and eye detection AF was exclusively in use.
 
Of the 157 images, ten were focused on eyelashes (usually acceptable, mostly close to the iris), two were focused a similarly-short distance behind the iris and only two images misfocused beyond iris-to-eyelash distance. The other 143 were optimally focused on the iris.
 
That the camera was being handheld with me in a somewhat squatted position and the subject standing (sometimes leaning against a wall) meant that our movement could easily have caused any of the less-than-perfect results. I remain very pleased with the EOS R's portrait AF capabilities and the RF 50mm f/1.2L is a very impressive lens, perfect for portraits, a good reason alone to get the R.

As distance increases or, more correctly, as faces become smaller in the frame, the small eye-tracking indicator goes away, suggesting that it is no longer being used and, with depth of field increasing at wider focal lengths and longer focus distances, it becomes much less needed. I've heard some complaints regarding the R's eye AF performance, but especially with the two RF lenses I'm working with, it has worked very well.

AF tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking and AF point auto switching can be independently adjusted, enabling autofocus performance to be dialed in to your needs.

Canon EOS R Sports Sample Picture

To test AI Servo action-tracking AF performance, I photographed, among other things, a cross country meet using the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens via a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R. The results were excellent (when I could keep the subject properly framed – more about this in the viewfinder section later in the review). The sample image shared above was captured at 200mm f/2.8 and obviously at a close focus distance. The full-size image shows some motion blur (I needed a faster shutter speed at this distance), but AF stayed with the close action. A week later, I photographed a district final cross country using the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with similar results.

Canon EOS R AF Coverage

Another current benefit of using the imaging sensor for AF is that the still image AF area coverage encompasses most of the frame, approximately 88% x 100% (a smaller but still wide 80% x 80% coverage is available for some older EF lenses and Extender version I and II combinations). No longer is focus and recompose needed for far-from-center subjects and no longer is shooting at a wider focal length necessary to keep a focus point on a peripherally-framed subject while in AI Servo focus-tracking mode. Even the corner points focus very quickly. Additionally, the 5,655 AF point count aids in having the perfect focus point location selected at any time.

With so many focus points available and active, moving between individual focus points can become a challenge (lots of button pressing or holding). Some early EOS R complaints included the absence of a joystick, typically useful for easily moving the AF point. While some will probably miss this feature, I find another great EOS R feature to be even more adept at his task. That is the tap, touch and drag AF touchscreen interface.

Canon EOS R Touch and Drag AF

To select an AF point or AF area position, simply tap the touch screen or touch and drag the AF point/area as desired. While the touch and drag interface required some practice (for me at least) when I first used it (on the Canon EOS M5), this interface quickly surpassed my joystick-based AF point selection speed and it is especially well-suited for rapidly changing sides of the frame such as needed when an animal turns its head the other direction. With a single touch and drag or two, an effort similar to a couple of joystick presses, I can move the AF point from one side to the other (and these sides are far apart). With such a huge number of points to choose from, tap and touch and drag AF point selection allows very precise AF point/area positioning. I typically drag the AF point selection while composing an image, holding the point on my subject as I adjust framing.

For a more-conventional experience, the cross keys can be configured to select the AF point/area, but note that it takes a lot (up to nearly 90 for side-to-side) of button presses or a button hold (up to about 5 seconds for side-to-side) to move between all of the available AF points. Pressing the delete button while in shooting mode will center the AF point, a feature I commonly press the joystick for.

In addition to a single AF point (normal or small size), the EOS R can be configured for Expand AF Area (selected + 4 assisting points), Expand AF Area Around (selected + 8 assisting points), Zone AF, Large Zone AF (vertical or horizontal) and the conventional Face+Tracking AF (eye-tracking optional).

Canon EOS R f/11 AF Support

Conventional DSLR phase-detection requires lens and lens combinations with maximum aperture openings of at least f/8 (and often f/5.6) for AF functionality that often becomes limited to the central AF point(s). Current-technology sensor-based AF, including that in the EOS R, is f/11 compatible throughout the entire AF area. Now you can autofocus with a Canon EF 2x III Extender behind your Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. With decent contrast to focus on and the subject not too out of focus when AF is initialized, the f/11 combination of the 100-400 L II and 2x III focuses with good/usable speed, even using a corner AF point. If the subject is extremely blurred when AF is initiated, AF is slow to sort out the large focus distance differential.

Canon EOS R Focus Peaking

The focus peaking manual focusing aid is available (but not during zoomed-in view) and various peaking colors can be selected. The Dual Pixel Focus Guide illustrated below can also assist in obtaining ideal manual focus (again, the guide not available during zoomed-in viewing).

Canon EOS R Dual Pixel Focus Guide

With RF-mount lenses utilizing electronic focus only, a variable adjustment rate manual focus ring can be implemented. Turn the focus ring quickly and focus distances change very fast. Turn the ring slowly and very precise focusing becomes available. Implemented properly, the variable rate manual focusing can be nice to use, but most often I find the difference in rotation rates to be too similar and the variable speed becomes a frustration, making rocking the ring into precise focus a challenge. With the EOS R, a menu option permits the variable rate feature to be disabled, linking the focus ring sensitivity directly to the degree of rotation.

Video

The EOS R is Canon's fourth full frame camera to feature a Dual Pixel CMOS sensor and the brand's third to feature 4K recording while utilizing DPAF's excellent subject tracking capabilities. Higher resolution video recording (like 4K) makes accurate, smooth focusing more important than ever and focusing during video recording is always a primary challenge. Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS sensor alleviates the issues associated with manual focus tracking. Like the EOS 5D Mark IV, the EOS R's Movie Servo AF can be customized (sensitivity and speed) to suit one's needs.

The value of being able to record 4K video cannot be understated, even if your typical output is only Full HD 1080p. The additional resolution captured in 4K recording is substantial. The illustration below demonstrates the difference between Full HD and 4K resolutions.

4K vs FHD Resolution Comparison

If outputting to 1080p, you can easily downsample the 4K video (with very slight cropping on the right and left sides), crop the frame to provide a tighter angle of view or even pan your FHD video within the confines of the 4K captured frame. You can also mimic zooming in and out of a scene to add even more production value to your 1080p movies.

Of course, creating 4K content is the primary benefit of purchasing a 4K-capable camera. 4K video offers more than 4x the resolution of Full HD, allowing for beautifully sharp and detail rich movies that will remain impressive on resolution-hungry devices. Note that the EOS R's 4K recording is cropped (1.75x) vs. down-sampled. That means that a 16mm lens, for example, mounted to an EOS R in 4K video mode will produce a field of view equivalent to a 28mm lens used for full frame stills. With the angle of view crop factor slightly tighter than the APS-C imaging sensor format, some EF-S lenses become quite interesting for use as 4k lenses (more about EF-S lens compatibility coming).

The EOS R offers video recording in .MP4 format using the MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 codec with audio being recorded in AAC (.MP4, stereo) via its front dual microphones or the 3.5mm stereo input jack (the .MOV format is only available in high frame rate recording). Audio can be monitored via a 3.5mm stereo mini jack with a -14dBV max output level.

Available frame rates and compression include:

MOV: (only used for high frame rate recording)
1280 x 720 (HD): 119.9 / 100 fps
ALL-I compression only

MP4:
3840 x 2160 (4K): 29.97 / 24 / 23.98 fps ALL-I or IPB
1920 x 1080 (Full HD): 59.94 / 24 / 23.98 fps ALL-I or IPB / 29.97 fps ALL-I, IPB or IPB (Light)
1280 x 720 (HD): 119.9 fps ALL-I / 59.94 fps ALL-I or IPB / 29.97 fps IPB

Notes: Full HD 59.94 fps is not available with EF-S cropped shooting and 4k ALL-I recording requires a V60 (minimum 60 MB/s write speed) or faster (such as a "V90") memory card. The previously-mentioned Delkin UHS-II SDXC Memory Card has been working great for me. When recording HD 720p video at 119.9 fps, autofocusing is not available.

Internal recordings are 4:2:0 8-bit in REC709 color space and Canon Log (8-bit), previously only available on the 5D Mark IV, is included. Use of the Canon Log movie gamma setting enables up to 12-stops of dynamic range to be captured (at ISO 400), reducing blown highlights and blocked shadows.

The inclusion of Canon Log makes incorporating EOS R footage with other cameras significantly easier, making this camera an attractive option for professional filmmakers.

The EOS R's HDMI port can output clean 4K video directly to an external drive. The camera can also output 10-bit video in REC202 / ITU-R BT.2020 color when the Canon Log setting is chosen for richer detail and smoother colors.

Video Av can be adjusted in 1/8-stop increments, allowing for minute control over video exposure.

In HDR Movie Mode, the camera will attempt to reduce highlight clipping with the result of increasing dynamic range when filming in high-contrast environments. As with the 5D Mark IV and EOS-1D X Mark II, the EOS R features 4K Frame Grab where an 8.3 mp image can be saved from an individual frame of 4K recorded video. If you find the camera's continuous shooting spec to be insufficient for a specific task, switch to 4K video mode and capture 30 frames per second to catch the micro-moments you've been missing.

Movie recording modes are fully automatic or manual. Auto ISO with exposure compensation is available in manual mode for a balance of manual and automatic control. The EOS R also supports Time-Lapse Movie creation in movie mode. Strangely missing, however, is a built-in intervalometer feature allowing for the individual exposures of a time-lapse to be recorded and compiled later. For that functionality, a remote timer/intervalometer accessory is required.

The EOS R’s Vari-Angle LCD is a feature that videographers will greatly appreciate, making filming from low or high angles – or for filming oneself for video log purposes – a breeze. Being able to record video with one's eye at the EVF is also great.

Also designed to aid video quality is Canon's in-body 5-axis image stabilization system, combining in-lens optical stabilization with in-camera digital image stabilization. This system can be set to one of three settings (Enabled, Enhanced and Disabled) and can provide stabilization for non-stabilized lenses or increase the stabilization capabilities of lenses featuring traditional IS systems.

In my limited tests, the digital IS feature left me unimpressed. The in-lens IS alone is great and sufficient for my needs.

The recorded rolling shutter/jello effect is moderate when panning at medium and fast speeds (and especially so in the EVF), during EOS R 4K and Full HD 29.97 fps video capture, but more-stationary shooting delivers superb results. This effect is quite mild when recording in Full HD 59.94 fps (including in the EVF). When recording at 60p, some moiré pattern is seen in some scenes.

That the Canon EOS R is compatible with RF and EF/EF-S/TS-E/MP-E lenses (via an adapter) makes it an extremely versatile full frame video camera. When EF-S lenses are used, the camera switches to cropped movie shooting, essentially using only the center part of the sensor for recording. When using lenses designed for full frame sensors and not recording in 4K, you can enable Movie Cropping in the menu system to provide a tighter framing of your subject.

Need a specific lens for a unique look? There's almost certainly one available that can be mounted to this camera to suit your needs.

One comment I received was that EOS R videos appeared soft. Remember that sharpness (and many other image-quality-related parameters) can be adjusted as desired in-camera and the sharpness range goes from rather soft to very sharp.

Creating compelling 4K content is easier than ever, but the full potential is of course up to your skills and creativity. Realizing the full benefit of the 4k output requires a display/TV and/or computer with the required resolution and power to display it. Overall, the EOS R's video-specific features, bolstered by its full frame sensor, Dual Pixel CMOS-driven Movie Servo AF and 4K recording, along with its small size and weight, will make it a very compelling primary camera option for many videographers.

Exposure/Metering System

I didn't perceive Canon's marketing materials as highly promoting the EOS R's 384-zone metering system, but this is a great-performing feature.

First, the EOS R's metering range specification is EV -3 – 20 (at 73°F/23°C, ISO 100), far-surpassing any EOS camera before it (EV 0-20). Only recent mirrorless cameras (such as the Nikon Z 7 and Sony a7R III) are able to match this spec. This camera can evaluate exposures from the night sky in my medium-dark location (a big advantage for timelapse photography).

EOS R metering modes include Evaluative (linked to all AF points), Center weighted average metering, Partial metering (approx. 6.1% of viewfinder at center) and Spot metering (approx. 2.7% viewfinder at center, AF point-linked spot metering is not available)

I am increasingly impressed by EOS cameras' metering capabilities and this one is as good as any I've used. While manual exposures are a favorite of professionals and serious amateurs, when lighting is changing rapidly, the EOS R has your back. Storms and clouds seem to be following me lately and they bring constantly-changing light levels with them. I've relied on the EOS R's meter a lot during this time and it has been working very well.

Related to metering and an EOS R first is Anti-flicker mode, a feature not seen before in a Canon EOS mirrorless camera. This mode is a game-changer when photographing under flickering lights, especially when photographing fast action.

Viewfinder and LCD

It is a mirrorless camera and therefore it lacks a TTL (Through the Lens) optical viewfinder. Our Comparing Electronic Viewfinders to Optical Viewfinders page discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each design, but the EOS R has two very high-performing LCDs.

The EOS R's built-in EVF, featuring a 0.5-type OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) with approximately 3.69 million dots and 100% view, is very-impressively bright with high contrast and great color. Video feed lag been a non-issue for me.

"The EOS R's EVF has a bright, 23mm-high eyepoint design that creates a generous 30mm space between your nose and the rear of the viewfinder. This makes it easy to compose and view images in the viewfinder with or without glasses. A dioptric adjustment of -4 - +2 means it's simple to change as needed to suit various users." [Canon]

When looked into simultaneously, the EOS R viewfinder appears modestly larger than that of the EOS 5Ds R.

Canon EOS R EVF Display Rotation

An EVF makes a configurably-vast amount of information available for display and also makes that information rotatable for when shooting vertically. Viewing images, especially zoomed in for sharpness verification, especially in bright daylight and especially for eyes that otherwise require corrective optics (if you don't need glasses now, you will at some point), is easy with a quality EVF.

A common EVF issue is a short pause in the video feed when an image is captured. The R has a slight amount of that pause, just enough to make fast-moving side-to-side subject tracking a bit challenging. Fast action sports photography is not this camera's forte.

A task I typically find challenging with an EVF, a task that is quality-differentiating, is discerning the proper adjustment of a circular polarizer filter. The EOS R's EVF is the best (or at least comparable to the best) I've used for this task.

A feature I heavily rely on is an electronic level and all full-functioned current-design cameras have these. The R's level is graphically large, taking up more space than I would prefer, and rather picky/precise about presenting the green level-indicating line, which is not a bad feature.

I've a big fan of optical viewfinders, but ... with the EOS R viewfinder, I'm seeing the future and am liking what I see. I'm good with having this EVF on my daily-use cameras.

The EOS R's other fully-featured LCD is the rear 3.15" (8.01cm) Clear View LCD II, approx. 2,100K dot Vari-angle Touchscreen LCD. The Vari-angle feature of this LCD permit rotation of nearly 180° horizontally and 270° vertically, making hard-to-get shots and unique perspectives (including selfies) easy to capture. The feature has especially great appeal to vlogging. The image quality of this LCD is excellent and it easily wipes clean.

Note that the brightness of the EVF and LCD can even be separately adjusted, primarily notable as it a first for an EOS camera. The touch screen makes changing camera settings easy, including via the excellent menu structure and via the handy "Q" button (showing the Quick Control screen).

Tour of the Canon EOS R

Reviewing a brand new EOS series camera model is always great fun. New models typically incorporate the latest in technology, concept and design and the EOS R has all of that goodness. I very much looked forward to acclimating to this model and fortunately the acclimation period was rather short as I had lots of immediate opportunity to put this camera into use. While the EOS R is extremely configurable, my initial configuration didn't take long and I quickly felt very comfortable behind it.

Back of the Camera

Want a full-featured, full frame EOS camera that is the size of an EOS Rebel? The R is it.

Camera Back View Comparison

R    M5 | M6 | M50 | M100 | T7 | SL2 | T7i | 80D | 6D II | 5D IV    Sony a7R III | a7 III

To compare the R with many more Canon EOS camera models, use the site's camera body back view comparison tool.

The current Canon DSLR standard location for the menu button is on the top-left of the camera's back. That location works especially well for the purpose and the R adopts it. Canon's rear of the camera standards become less clear from there.

The top-right three buttons, AF-ON, Exposure lock and AF point selection, are reasonably standard with the R's second two buttons taking a more-vertical orientation to each other than on some larger camera models. The Info button and Playback buttons take their location cues from the EOS M5/M6 and a dedicated Trash button conveniently lands next to the Playback button.

The Set button, located in the center of the 4-way cross keys controller, acts as the "Q" Quick control button. While there is some re-acclimation required the learn this setup, it works well overall.

Notably missing on the back are the joystick and the video start/stop button. We already discussed the joystick (as in some find it a "joy" to have) absence in the AF section and the video start/stop button has a new home that we'll discuss very soon.

Taking up residence in the popular video start/stop button's home is a totally new control, the Multi-function Bar. "The EOS R camera's newly designed multi-function bar provides a high level of functionality and customization options for fast, intuitive shooting. Positioned to sit right under the thumb, the multi-function bar recognizes three touch actions: swipe, left tap and right tap. This allows the user to change settings including AF mode, ISO sensitivity, white balance and movie modes; check manual focus and more. The bar can also be used to quickly browse finished photos or set shortcuts during playback." [Canon] Additional Multi-function bar functionality is expected via a firmware update.

New controls usually require some acclimation. While I have my Multi-function bar set up for ISO control, I'm not finding this control to be my preference for this function. I have the safety lock enabled (pressing the left side of the bar for about a second is required to unlock the controller), avoiding inadvertent changes, and I have not found unlocking the control to be more intuitive or faster than using the top M-Fn button and top dial. While I am not finding myself using the bar much, I'm also not finding myself needing more buttons/controls than are otherwise available. We all have different needs and the Multi-function bar might be precisely what you need. Otherwise, it is not in the way. Note that lined gloves can operate the Multi-function bar and the rear LCD, though thicker gloves challenge the precision of the touch.

Top of the Camera

Though it has a design cue or two from the EOS M5, the top of the EOS R is completely new.

Camera Top View Comparison

R    M5 | M6 | M50 | M100 | T7 | SL2 | T7i | 6D II | 5D IV    Sony a7R III | a7 III |

The camera body top view comparison tool allows comparison of many additional Camera models.

Starting at the far left and far right are nicely-integrated neck strap holders. My neck strap is reportedly still floating on a ship that rerouted to avoid Hurricane Lane, but the strap holders appear to be a nice design feature.

Next on the left side is the power dial. A power "dial"? Yes, that's right. I was initially skeptical, but this dial is very nice to use. It rotates in the conventional power switch directions and it works very well. The location of this dial does not facilitate powering on or off the camera without involving the second hand while holding it, but it is not in the way during use.

Continuing to move to the right, we find the viewfinder bulge with plenty of nose relief being provided on the back and a standard flash hot shoe on top. Also, the RF lens mount shows itself prominently on the front.

Next to the right is another LCD panel. Having camera settings instantly viewable from the top is a great feature for this type of camera (current Sony alpha cameras do not have this feature, current Nikon Z models do).

Toward the top of the right side is the shutter release and top dial, features very similar in function and orientation as Canon's other EOS DSLRs. Between them is the M-Fn button. Pressing M-Fn enables the last-used function, ISO by default, to be changed using the Main (top-front) dial. You likely noticed that this camera does not have an ISO button, but by default, the M-Fn button easily handles this common task. Additionally, the touchscreen interface makes ISO easy to change, configuring the slider to set ISO works and configuring the lens control ring for ISO functionality is yet another option.

After pressing M-Fn, the Quick control dial can be turned to enable other setting changes (ISO, drive mode, AF mode, white balance and exposure compensation) via the Main dial.

The red Movie shooting button provides instant access to video recording.

The button with the light bulb beside it looks familiar, right? In this implementation case, a short press of the button toggles the top LCD information display and a longer press reverses the display from white on black to black on white, making it backlit and readable in the dark. The Lock button prevents settings changes as configured in the Tools menu, tab 6, Multi function lock option.

Where is the Mode dial? Gone from the top of the EOS R is the previously-ever-present dedicated mode dial. However, pressing the mode button, a step similar to pressing the lock button in the center of many EOS mode dial implementations, enables the quick control dial's secondary function, making it become the mode dial. Thus, the same dial performs multiple functions and the mode functionality is effectively very similar to other EOS cameras.

The EOS R, as usual, has a fully automatic point-and-shoot mode. Scene Intelligent Auto mode (the green square A+ mode) combines point and shoot simplicity with powerful artificial intelligence to deliver excellent results. "... Scene Intelligent Auto mode analyzes the image, accounting for faces, colors, brightness, moving objects, contrast, even whether the camera is handheld or on a tripod, and then chooses the exposure and enhancements that bring out the best in any scene or situation." [Canon]

Canon EOS R FV Mode

New with the EOS R is Fv, Flexible-priority AE mode. "With Fv mode, shutter speed, aperture setting and ISO sensitivity are set automatically by default, and change according to the setting changes the photographer makes. This gives the user the freedom to specify or change aperture, shutter speed or ISO sensitivity, without having to change modes, providing confidence that the camera will select the correct corresponding settings." [Canon] Fv (Flexible Priority) mode acts like P mode when first activated, but the not-specified settings remain automatic as specific ones are adjusted. While the new mode was highly-touted at the announcement, I don't get it.

Photographers who don't understand aperture, shutter speed or ISO sensitivity will continue to use fully-automatic or P modes. Those who want to specify a single parameter can use Av or Tv modes with auto ISO and those who want to specify two parameters can use the same modes with a specified ISO setting. P mode lets me specify the ISO setting with the aperture and shutter speed being auto-selected.

A friend pointed out that Fv mode is an ideal choice for programming into the custom modes. Once set, a custom mode's mode (P, Av, TV, M) cannot be changed without reseting the custom mode using the menu. With Fv, one can make the programmed custom mode act as one of the other modes on the fly. Great idea.

Canon's always available P, Av, Tv, M and Bulb modes are included along with three very useful custom modes. Missing are the beginner creative modes such as Sports, Portraits, Landscape, Food, etc. Pressing the Info button while viewing still shooting modes switches to a range of video mode options.

The camera's mode (and locked status) remains displayed on the LCD even when the camera is powered off.

Side of the Camera

The right side of the camera provides memory card access and the left has the accessory ports. Provided are SuperSpeed USB 3.0, HDMI mini out (Type C, HDMI-CEC compatible), External Microphone In / Line In (Stereo mini jack), Headphone socket (Stereo mini jack) and an E3 (not N3) remote release port.

Camera Side View Comparison

R    M5 | M100 | T6 | SL2 | T7i | 70D | 6D II | 5Ds/5Ds R    Sony a7R III | a7 III

Click on the above links to select the camera to be shown.

Size of the Camera, Ergonomics

A hallmark of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras is small size. This feature alone is a reason to opt for such a camera.

When looking for opportunity to save space in camera design, the grip, typically dimensionally protruding more than any other physical feature, is the easy target. However, if one spends much time with a camera in hand, grip ergonomics are critically important and a too-small grip becomes, quite literally, a pain. While I love the compact size of Sony's current alpha MILCs, I've complained regularly about the grip being too small, causing my knuckles to press into the sides of all except the slimmest Sony FE lenses.

While designing the EOS R, Canon engineers performed extensive hand size research. The result, the grip on the EOS R, is an excellent solution. Going from an 80D, a 5-series body or similar to an EOS R seems natural, including the thumb swell on the back of the camera (note that the absence of the joystick increases the grip comfort in the given amount of space). Especially with the thin dimensions of the R body, the grip provides plenty of depth for fingertips.

ModelBody DimensionsCIPA Weight
Canon EOS M54.6 x 3.5 x 2.4"(115.6 x 89.2 x 60.6mm)15.1 oz (427g)
Canon EOS M64.4 x 2.7 x 1.8"(112.0 x 68.0 x 44.5mm)13.8 oz (390g)
Canon EOS M34.4 x 2.7 x 1.8"(110.9 x 68.0 x 44.4mm)12.9 oz (366g)
Canon EOS M504.6 x 3.5 x 2.3"(116.3 x 88.1 x 58.7mm)13.7 oz (387g)
Canon EOS M1004.3 x 2.6 x 1.4"(108.2 x 67.1 x 35.1mm)11.3 oz (320g)
Canon EOS Rebel SL2 / 200D4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7"(122.4 x 92.6 x 69.8mm)16.0 oz (453g)
Canon EOS Rebel T7i / 800D5.2 x 3.9 x 3.0"(131.0 × 99.9 × 76.2mm)18.8 oz (532g)
Canon EOS Rebel T7 / 2000D5.1 x 4.0 x 3.1"(129.0 x 101.3 x 77.6mm)16.8 oz (475g)
Canon EOS 80D5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1"(139.0 x 105.2 x 78.5mm)25.8 oz (730g)
Canon EOS R5.4 x 3.9 x 3.3"(135.8 x 98.3 x 84.4mm)23.4 oz (660g)
Canon EOS 6D Mark II5.7 x 4.4 x 2.9"(144.0 x 110.5 x 74.8mm)27.0 oz (765g)
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV5.9 x 4.6 x 3.0"(150.7 x 116.4 X 75.9mm)31.4 oz (890g)
Nikon Z 75.3 x 4.0 x 2.7"(134.0 x 100.5 x 67.5mm)20.7 oz (585g)
Nikon Z 65.3 x 4.0 x 2.7"(134.0 x 100.5 x 67.5mm)20.7 oz (585g)
Sony a7R III5.0 x 3.88 x 3.0" (126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm)23.2 oz (657g)
Sony a7 III5.0 x 3.8 x 3.0" (126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm)23.0 oz (650g)
View the full Canon EOS R specifications to compare additional cameras.

If dimensions are everything to you, the Sony MILC cameras or one of the EOS M series options might have a stronger appeal, but if you are going to be using the camera in hand a lot, the EOS R's grip is excellent. The Nikon Z 6/7 grip is also good, but I do not find it as good as the EOS R grip.

Make the camera smaller and the weight is typically reduced. While MILC weight reduction typically does not seem to be as great as the size reduction, the weight of the R is noticeably lower and a differentiator. If you are carrying a camera a lot, lighter camera weight can help keep your energy levels up and creativity stays elevated with energy levels.

Consistent with Canon EOS designs are the rounded edges of this camera, making it very comfortable to handle and providing a modern, sleek appearance.

Build Quality and Durability

All of Canon's EOS models are well-built, but the mid and upper grade models are especially so. The EOS R has a magnesium alloy chassis, providing a rigid and protective yet lightweight structure for the camera. All dials and buttons have a quality feel with good haptic feedback.

Canon EOS R Magnesium Alloy Chassis

The R's electronically controlled focal-plane shutter is rated to approximately 200,000 cycles, a number well into the professional range and one exceeding many of its siblings.

ModelShutter Durability Rating
Canon EOS R200,000
Canon EOS 80D100,000
Canon EOS 7D Mark II200,000
Canon EOS 6D Mark II100,000
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV150,000
Sony a7R III500,000
View the full Canon EOS R specifications to compare additional cameras.

"The EOS R camera is designed for use in a variety of weather conditions. Sealing materials are used in critical areas like the buttons, terminal covers, the battery compartment and the card slot cover. Precise design and construction help to minimize accidental penetration of dust and moisture in the rest of the camera body." [Canon] Canon EOS cameras have a wide range of weather sealing levels and the above could describe a significant number of them. Discerning the individual model's level of sealing can be more challenging and that a Canon rep indicated that the R's weather sealing is comparable to the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV gives us a positive reference. Roger's teardown gave me less assurance.

Canon EOS R Weather Sealing

I have used the EOS R in salt water spray, including on a sail boat, in the rain and in snow storms thus far with no ill effects. I recommend using a rain cover (for all cameras) when dust and moisture are expected, but when unplanned wetness happens, weather sealing can be a save-the-day/trip feature.

Canon EOS R Shutter Curtain Closed

With an MILC camera's shutter always open for use of the EVF (and no mirror in the optical path), there is concern about direct sun light causing damage to the imaging sensor. Canon helps to address this issue by closing the shutter (also helps to keep the sensor clean) and stopping down the lens aperture very tightly when the camera is powered off. Note that Canon strongly-recommended turning off the camera during lens changes, but there did not seem to be a risk of damage from only doing this – the risks seemed related to the imaging sensor being exposed. I don't always remember to turn off my cameras during lens changes and have indeed forgotten to do so while using the EOS R with no ill consequences suffered to date. Still, that recommendation is a good one to follow.

Worth mentioning is that the EOS R's tripod mounting plate threads have good depth, accepting standard plates such as the Wimberley P5. I seldom mention this in Canon camera reviews, but I am more-frequently encountering shallow thread depths that require accessories with a shorter screw length and, as Roger points out, risk the top of the thread cup being broken out.

Additional Features

The Canon EOS R features built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, providing easy transfer of images and movies to compatible mobile devices (and then to social media) using Canon's free Camera Connect app (iOS | Android). With lots of potential awaiting development, this app provides some remote control of the camera's settings and shutter when shooting still images. Wireless remote printing to a compatible printer is also supported via Wi-Fi.

Note that the EOS R does not have a built-in flash. However, with a standard hot shoe available and an external flash control menu, the EOS R is fully compatible with Canon's extensive range of flashes.

The EOS integrated cleaning system has performed very well with sensor dust being a non-issue in the time I've had with the EOS R.

Battery

I love that the Canon EOS R uses the same LP-E6N Li-ion Battery utilized by a large number of recent and current Canon EOS Cameras, including the 5D Mark IV, 5Ds R, 5Ds, 6D Mark II, 7D Mark II and 80D. This has been a great battery in performance, reliability and size (several fit comfortably in my pocket). Note that the older LP-E6 (no "N") is also supported by the EOS R (the "N" model has increased capacity, 1865 mAh vs. 1800 mAh).

That I have accumulated a large supply of these batteries is especially useful. I love the simplicity of being able to share the LP-E6N batteries and chargers across my kit and also appreciate that I can take a single, small, direct-plug charger when traveling, even when I have multiple camera models along. That I am accumulating a large number of these chargers is also convenient for those times I need to quickly charge a large number of batteries (my family loves when I plug 6 of these into the kitchen receptacles).

New for Canon with the EOS R is USB charging. Rudy Winston, Canon USA states: "The engineers have specifically stated that they don't recommend USB charging of the EOS R via 3rd-party USB devices, primarily because there can be voltage differences, even for units 'officially' meeting USB protocols. Canon does make an optional accessory USB charging device called the Canon USB Power Adapter PD-E1."

Battery life is a very relevant camera spec, mirrorless cameras typically have disappointingly-low battery life ratings and this one gets the same: approx. 370 shots (at 23°C). However, CIPA battery life ratings and real-world experience can differ significantly and that is especially true with my EOS R experience to date.

My first fully-charged LP-E6N battery provided 1510 images with 3% battery charge remaining. That is a very impressive number for any camera, though many short high-speed frame rate bursts surely aided that experience. Still impressive was the second full charge delivering over 1100 images with 9% remaining for an expected life of well over 1300 images. Again, some short bursts were captured, but many slow and carefully-aligned landscape images were also captured. The third charge yielded 560 images at 17% battery life remaining for an expected life of approximately 670 images. This set of images was captured in higher battery drain situations that including waiting for the perfect moments to occur at a low light event. One more measured full charge in heavy battery drain situations yielded 417 images with 25% remaining for an expected life of about 550 images.

I'm pleased with these results – I can easily live with these numbers. Note that scenarios generating a high number of images tend to incorporate high frame rate shooting which results in a correspondingly higher number of images per fully charged battery with the R's battery capacity matching the increased demand. Also note that when the camera is set to manual display mode with the EVF selected, the EVF goes blank when the exposure timer expires if the EVF sensor does not sense an eye by it, yielding another opportunity for increasing battery life.

The EOS R provides a 6-level battery indicator on the top LCD and a specific percent remaining value in the Battery Information menu. This menu also provides a shutter count and a recharge performance rating for the installed battery.

Canon Battery Grip BG-E22

Dedicated Accessories

Perhaps the most significant dedicated EOS R accessory is the Canon Battery Grip BG-E22. The BG-E22 provides an increased grip size for horizontal orientation shooting, adds a significant (slightly fatter) vertical grip that makes vertical orientation shooting much more comfortable and allows two batteries to be used simultaneously, doubling the potential number of shots (alternatively allowing AA batteries to be used). Uniquely included on this battery grip is a PC terminal. The BG-E22 features similar build quality, including weather sealing, as the EOS R.

I spent some time with a gripped EOS R and really like this accessory. It is solid and well-designed. However, the price tag seems excessive to me and I'm sure that price is going to limit sales of this otherwise useful accessory. Update: I've been informed that the Canon USB Power Adapter PD-E1, an expensive accessory, is included in the box with the BG-E22. This addition definitely helps to justify the high price. According to the manual, the PD-E1 plugs directly into the BG-E22 and sequentially charges a pair of LP-E6N batteries in a powered-off EOS R.

Canon EOS R Compatible Lenses

Lenses and Accessories

I say it in each Canon EOS camera review, but the statement remains timeless. When you buy a Canon EOS camera, you are buying into an incredible family of lenses, flashes and other accessories. The camera body (or multiple bodies as is more frequently the case today) is the base your system is built on and a lens is the next-most essential piece of kit.

The Canon EOS R is compatible with the announced-at-the-same-time Canon RF Lenses. "The foundation of this system is an entirely new lens mount, designed for optical excellence today and incredible optical potential for the future." [Canon] The initial offering of RF lenses is quite impressive and many of them can be reason alone to select a Canon EOS R series camera as the basis for a top-quality camera kit. The Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens is one such lens. I spent an evening photographing a very-low-light event with a preproduction model of this lens and, though not small or light, it was an impressive performer. It is an ideal wedding and event lens.

Canon EOS R and Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens Sample Picture

The setting used for the above RF 28-70mm f/2L handheld sample image capture were 70mm, f/2, 1/100 and ISO 2500.

Via one of the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS Rs, ranging from relatively low to rather high-priced, Canon EF, TS-E and MP-E lenses become compatible and basically perform as-native (with potential added benefits depending on the adapter model selected). In a first for Canon full frame cameras, EF-S lenses are also supported, via the adapter, making the transition from APS-C to full frame easier. The EOS R will automatically use its crop mode when EF-S lenses are in use for a quality experience. Canon's EF-M lenses are not compatible with the RF mount, even with the adapter, and because of their shorter flange back distance, it is unlikely that we will see a Canon option to support this combination.

Which lens should I get for the Canon EOS R? The Canon EOS R is available as a body-only or in a kit with the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens, Canon's best-performing 24-105mm lens to date and the perfect general purpose lens choice for the EOS R. This lens is a good value with a long focal length range and excellent support for video recording.

DSLR camera image quality is only as good as the weakest link in the imaging system and the weakest link is often the lens. The quality of the lens makes a big difference in the image quality realized by any camera. Review the Canon general purpose lens recommendations page to find the most up-to-date list of best lens options. Then add, minimally, a telephoto zoom lens and a wide angle zoom lens to your kit.

Utilizing this camera's new Bluetooth capability is the Canon BR-E1 Bluetooth Remote. Want to be part of your own family picture? Or just don't want to deal with a remote release cord when using a tripod? This is an accessory you may want. In addition to being able to provide non-line-of-sight remote release functionality, this little device is also able to independently control AF and focal length zooming on compatible cameras and lenses (limited at this time).

The Canon EOS R does not support use of the small, inexpensive Canon infrared wireless remotes including the Canon RC-6 Wireless Remote. The R is also not natively compatible with Canon's N3 wired remotes, but is compatible with Canon's E3 wired remote releases and, with an adapter, the Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 and other N3-type remotes.

Browse the reviews section of the site to find many more compatible accessories including flash systems, tripods & heads, cases and much more.

Price

For most of us, price is a real factor affecting our camera purchase decisions. With a superior feature set and a price not much higher than the Canon EOS 6D Mark II at announcement time, the EOS R appears to be a bargain. With a feature set approaching (and exceeding in some regards) and a price significantly lower than the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, the EOS R, again, appears to be a bargain.

Canon EOS R Waterfall Sample Picture

Wrap Up

Keeping a review of the incredibly-feature-laden Canon EOS R concise but complete is a difficult balance to find and this review is not a complete description of every Canon EOS R feature available. Canon has published a huge owner's manual (a link to the manual is provided with this review) that highlights all of the features found on this camera and explains their use. Read the manual, go use your camera, repeat.

Owning a Canon product gives you access to Canon support and the support I have been provided by Canon's USA division is excellent (sorry, I have no experience with the other Canon divisions). When I call for support, I get an intelligent person who sincerely wants to help me with whatever my question or problem is (let's just say I challenge them sometimes). Canon repair service, though I seldom need it, is fast and reliable. Those residing in the USA with a Canon EOS R in their kit along with a nice lens or two will qualify Canon CPS membership and the additional support benefits this membership provides.

Circumstances led to me spending a great deal of time in the field with the Canon EOS R prior to completing this review. There has been plenty of time for annoyances to show up and, fortunately, no significant ones have done so.

I'll share a short story. During a Colorado fall foliage photo trip, well over an hour drive after checking out of our second hotel room, my daughter (16) asked if I had her EOS M3 camera battery. Ummm ... no. It was quickly determined that the battery charger, with the battery in it of course, was still plugged into a receptacle at the hotel. At that point, the EOS R became "our" camera. After very successfully using the camera for a few days, including on a 7-mile (11km) high-altitude hike with 1,600' (490m) of elevation gain, she excitedly exclaimed that she thought a "big" camera would be harder to carry and use. Her 1,000+ images told a different story; they looked great.

The EOS R files are not working in the shutter count utilities I've tried, but I estimate that this camera has captured over 5,000 images to date.

The Canon EOS R used for this review was on loan from Canon USA.

Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens Maroon Bells Sample Picture

Alternatives to the Canon EOS R

Is the Canon EOS R the right camera for you? As it has a great deal of general purpose utility and a relatively low price, the EOS R is going to appeal to a very large number of photographers. For someone considering the EOS Canon EOS R purchase, two other current EOS models that should be considered include the just-mentioned Canon EOS 6D Mark II and Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Our Should I Get the Canon EOS R or the Canon EOS 6D Mark II? and Should I Get the Canon EOS R or the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV? articles address these comparisons.

Also check out the Canon EOS Canon EOS R vs. Canon EOS 6D Mark II specification comparison and the Canon EOS Canon EOS R vs. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV specification comparison.

Watch for more camera comparison links to be added to the bottom of this review. Also, use the site's camera specifications comparisons and other tools to evaluate additional options.

Canon EOS R Sunset Sample Picture

Summary

In the Canon EOS R, we are looking at the future and I like what I see. In addition to being packed full of the latest technology and features, the EOS R comes with a new lens mount, the first new Canon full frame lens mount in over 30 years. The new lens mount is optimized for the next generation of lenses while EF mount adapters provide easy integration into existing kits.

Two significant differences between DSLRs and MILCs are the viewfinder and the conventional AF system. The EOS R's EVF, fast, bright and with great color, leaves me mostly ready to give up my OVFs for the EVF advantages (except for tracking fast action). The EOS R's AF system, very fast and extremely accurate, leaves me wanting nothing. I appreciate the smaller size and lighter weight of the R (great for travel) while the grip and controls are comfortable and very adequate for the longest photo sessions.

As I said in the beginning of this review, Canon is new to the full frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera market, but not new to mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. The EOS M series has been maturing for many years now and is a top-seller in some markets. "With a compact, lightweight and comfortable design, the EOS R camera reflects Canon's decades of experience designing and manufacturing cameras." [Canon] Canon marketing will of course say very positive words about their products, but ... that sentence is accurate.

Canon aimed this first R model at a very broad market, leaving out a rather small number of advanced features such as a very high drive speed when focus-tracking, in-body image stabilization, dual memory card slots and ultra-high resolution, but keeping the price at a very attractive level. The easy-to-use EOS R will very strongly appeal to both amateurs and seasoned professionals.

Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

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My Recommended Canon EOS R Retailers

Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my own purchases. Get your Canon EOS R now from:

B&H Photo
Adorama
Amazon.com
Beach Camera or BuyDig.com
the Canon Store (new)
eBay (Choose trustworthy sellers only)
(Using the links on this site to make any purchase provides support for this site)
Rent the Canon EOS R
Do you need/want the Canon EOS R for only a short period of time? Or, would you feel more comfortable buying after having a hands-on trial period? Consider renting. Renting is fast and easy. The rental companies I recommend below are excellent to work with. Schedule your rental now:
LensRentals.com
LensProToGo
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