Canon EOS R Review: One Year Later

When the Canon EOS R first came out, people didn't have anything positive to say about the camera. Personally, I think they were wrong and that the Canon EOS R is a fantastic camera for what it is. In this article, I will give you my opinion on the Canon EOS R after using it for more than a year.
Canon EOS R top down view

Introduction

When the Canon EOS R first got announced, everyone complained about the specifications of this camera. Despite this, I was very excited even though I was shooting with a Sony a7Rii at the time. I also owned the 16-35mm f4, 70-200mm f4, and the small and light 55mm f1.8 lenses from Sony.

One week after the EOS R was available in stores, I decided to trade in my Sony gear. I chose to buy an EF-mount 16-35mm f4 as well as the EF 50mm f1.4, seeing as Canon had not released the lenses I use in the RF-mount yet. One year later and I am still using those same lenses. Canon has since released pretty much all the lenses I regularly use, and they are on my shopping list for this year.

Why I Chose to Switch from Sony to Canon?

As a hybrid shooter, I was drawn to Sony based on their specifications for both photos and video. I also like the idea of how they separated their models. I thought I would buy an a7R model for my photography and occasional video shooting and then buy an a7S model as my primary video and low light camera. Another reason at the time of purchasing a Sony was the fact that I recognized mirrorless cameras is the future. And neither Canon nor Nikon had full-frame mirrorless cameras at the time.

Soon after buying my Sony a7Rii, I started realizing that even though they have amazing specifications on paper, they were not able to fully deliver on those specifications. A common opinion shared by many photographers and filmmakers at the time. Some of these issues I had were with the FE-mount system itself, leading me to change brands instead of holding out for newer versions of the camera.

The question was, who would I switch to. I considered the Nikon Z-mount as well as Fuji at the time, but ultimately it was Canon that lured me back with their RF-mount. One thing I believe anyone getting into photography or filmmaking should consider is the entire system they are buying. Instead of just looking at the current generation of cameras and lenses, look at past releases. Are there special lenses you need that only one manufacturer has. Look at what functionality is usually included or excluded by the manufacturer. All of these things should be considered when first buying into a new system.

The first camera I owned was a Canon EOS film camera. Next, I had some prosumer level EOS digital cameras. The thing I always liked about all the Canon cameras that I owned is that they work as advertised. Sony had so many quirks that I didn’t like, and those things actually kept me from using the camera. What I wanted was a camera or a system that would not get in my way of creating, and I have always felt comfortable with Canon cameras.

Canon EOS R Front Angle View

Canon EOS R Overview

At launch, the EOS R seemed like a mirrorless version of the 5D Mark IV. Granted, I have no hands-on time with the 5D Mark IV, but the specs seemed very similar to me. I know some things are not as good as the 5D, like the frames per second. Or missing, like only a single memory card slot. But I believe that the Canon EOS R is an excellent attempt from Canon for their first full-frame mirrorless camera. Clearly, I am not the only one who thinks so. You only have to look at YouTube to see how many people are using the EOS R as their primary or backup body. For me, the things missing or lacking compared to the 5D are noticeable, but they are things I can live with, or without, for the time being.

Here are some of the highlight specifications of the Canon EOS R:

  • 30 Megapixel Full-Frame Sensor
  • Dual Pixel Autofocus
  • Eye AF
  • 60 and 120 Frames Per Second
  • C-Log
  • Fully articulating screen

Although not strictly limited to this camera, the control ring on the lenses is also something that interests me. I can definitely see myself using this feature once I acquire some RF-mount lenses. The touch bar was something that I was intrigued by, but as discussed later in this article, I think Canon can put it to better use. The one thing that the touch bar showed me, though, is that Canon is trying to innovate, and I appreciate that.

Canon EOS R Front View Without Lens

The Things I Like about the Canon EOS R

One of the first things I noticed when I started using the Canon EOS R, was the improved ergonomics. It was one of my biggest complaints about the Sony system as a whole. The Canon not only felt better in my hands but also balanced better once you start putting heavy lenses on it. All the buttons you need are in the right place, you can reach them without losing grip on the camera. I wouldn’t be opposed to the next iteration being a little it bigger, though I would be happy if it was the same size.

Controls

Like I mentioned above, the controls are all in the right place where you would expect them. They are in easy reach when using the viewfinder, and most importantly, they don’t feel like they were crammed into a small space. Although you can customize a lot of the controls, there is almost no need to do so. Almost everything that you would want to change while shooting has already been assigned to a button that makes the most sense. The only thing that I changed is to use the AEL button for cycling through my focus areas.

Image quality

Coming from a 42-megapixel sensor, I was not sure if I would be happy with the 30-megapixel sensor of the Canon EOS R. 

I was, however, pleasantly surprised at the quality of the images produced by the sensor. Obviously, I could see the drop in resolution, but the actual quality of the files seemed a lot better to me. The images seemed cleaner. The colors where far superior in my eyes. The photos have more clarity. The color science of Sony was always a problem, I had to spend a lot of time correct colors before I could even start processing my images. With the Canon, I can begin processing straight away, the colors have this almost pastel look to them as opposed to being over-saturated on the Sony. 

Video quality

As a hybrid shooter, video specification and quality are essential to me. I have long since realized that having a high megapixel camera with fantastic video specs is just not going to be a reality any time soon. 

Although I feel the EOS R is a compromise on both fronts, I am still very pleased with what has been implemented in the camera. I have not been able to find fault with the quality of the video the camera is producing. Sure there are some specifications I would love to see added, but I can’t complain about what Canon has implemented.

I also love the fact that they implemented C-Log in the EOS R. I hope going forward, Canon includes it in all their cameras. Even if it is through an upgrade purchase, I have to make, like they did with the 5D Mark IV.

Dual Pixel Autofocus

When it comes to autofocus, dual pixel autofocus is by far the best autofocus that I have had in a camera. And after a firmware upgrade, the Eye AF has also been excellent. This camera does have an articulating screen, but the dual pixel autofocus is so good that you don’t need to use it to check your focus when filming yourself. With it being a mirrorless camera, you also get the dual pixel autofocus when shooting through the viewfinder for both stills and video.

Canon EOS R Rear View

Some Things I don’t Like About The Canon EOS R

No camera is perfect, and the Canon EOS R is no exception. The shortcomings of this camera have mostly got to do with specifications that have not been implemented. Those are not things that anyone should hold against the camera, especially knowing they are missing before purchasing the camera. There are a few things where the EOS R does drop the ball, though.

No Joystick

Instead of implementing a joystick that would allow you to move your focus points, Canon chose to use the touch screen as a means of moving your focus point around. Truth be told, the actual implementation of this is excellent. The problem comes in if you, like me, use your left eye to look through the viewfinder. When doing this, your nose is exactly where you need to place your thumb to move the focus point around. I often find my self switching eyes if I want to move the focus point. The only time I need to move focus points quickly, though, is when photographing my children.

Slow Motion Resolution

Another feature that I can’t complain about too much, but wish was better, is the fact that you only have 120fps at 720p. I love shooting slow motion, I love using 120fps for my slow motion, so I use it a lot. To be honest, the quality is rather good, and it upscales pretty well to 1080p, depending on your intended use. I know of some YouTubers that that even upscale it to 4K for YouTube, without anyone noticing. Like I said, I can’t really complain about it, but I hope future cameras will have 120fps at 1080p or even 4K.

Canon EOS R Rear Angled View

What I Don’t Care About

When watching or reading other reviews of this camera, there were always two things that kept on coming up. The first being only one SD Card Slot, and the other is the 4K Crop.

SD Card Slot

Now I fully appreciate that there are people out there that require dual card slots. And don’t get me wrong I would prefer to have dual card slots, I just don’t need them. Because I don’t need dual card slots, I won’t base any decision to buy a camera on the number of card slots it has.

4K Crop

Similar to the two card slots, I understand why people complain about this. Again I can work around it. Most of what I shoot currently I output in 1080p. For me, 4K is beneficial due to being able to recompose during editing. I only shoot in 4K when I think I will need to recompose, like when shooting myself or I am in a rush. I would like to start moving to a 4K workflow, so having 60fps and 120fps in 4K would be more of a benefit to me. If that means I need to have a crop to avoid overheating in the camera, then I can live with it. Obviously, I would prefer not having a crop, all I am saying is that I don’t think it is as big a deal as people make it out to be.

Touch Bar

The one that piqued my interest in this camera was the new touch bar. In reality, though, I have never turned it on. I believe the default setting for it is to change your ISO. This is, however, done very quickly using either the multi-function button behind the shutter or using the excellent touch screen. I was hoping to use it to quickly turn auto exposure bracketing on and off, but this is not a function you can assign to any button on the camera. Almost everything else you can use it for either already has a button or is easy enough to do on the screen. I do like that Canon tried to do something different, though, and I won’t be opposed to having it on another camera if they can find a good use for it.

Canon EOS R Top Down With Lens

Comparison to Other Systems

I don’t go around testing cameras, so it would not make sense for me to try and compare the Canon EOS R to other cameras I have not used. However, I do want to give my opinion regarding the different systems that are currently on the market. As I have already said, I believe you should invest in a camera system as a whole instead of buying based solely based on a single camera or lens.

I have also mentioned before that I believe mirrorless cameras are the future. If you are starting from scratch or looking to switch, then I would advise looking at mirrorless instead of DSLR.

Canon vs. Nikon

Nikon definitely makes some pretty impressive cameras. The Z-mount should probably get more praise than it has been given. The reason that I did not choose the Nikon Z-mount was the fact that Nikon does not have a good reputation when it comes to video. To there credit, the video specs for the current Z-mount cameras do seem to be pretty good. I just didn’t want to take the risk of whether or not they would commit to video. 

My biggest problem with the Z-mount, though, is that I feel it is very uninspiring. At launch, there where some basic lenses, apart from the 58mm f0.95 Noct lens, that no one can actually afford. The cameras left me with a similar feeling, more of the same. The Z7 and Z6 seemed little more than mirrorless versions of the D850 and D750.

Canon, on the other hand, tried some new things. Some worked, and some didn’t, but it felt like Canon was trying to innovate. Their lenses at launch was also a lot more compelling. Indicating not only that they were serious about the RF-mount but also what direction they were heading in. Add to that, that Canon has a long-standing history of cinema cameras and lenses, I was more confident they would commit to hybrid cameras compared to Nikon.

Canon vs. Fuji

Probably the only two things that counted against Fuji were the crop sensor and the fact that that they, like Nikon, have not shown a significant commitment to video. I love the way the Fuji controls are laid out. I hate having to go into menus to change settings, I prefer to use buttons and dials on the camera.

One thing that I love and count in Fuji’s favor is that they are continually improving their cameras through firmware updates. I believe that all manufacturers should be doing this instead of making us buy new cameras to get access to the latest functionality.

Fuji, of course, also has a medium format lineup, something that I would highly consider if I was only shooting stills.

Canon vs. Sony

As you can tell from this article, I am not a big fan of the Sony a7 series cameras anymore. Don’t get me wrong they are great cameras, and the FE-mount has some excellent lenses.

The problem I have is that I feel they overpromise and under deliver on all the specs that make them stand out. Their menus and controls are horrible to use. Not only are they unintuitive, but they are also clunky and bloated. To Sony’s credit, they have worked on the menus since the a7Rii, but from what I can see, people are still complaining about them. Simple things like video file sequence numbers that are reset when format your memory card should have been fixed years ago. What makes it worse is that the stills file sequences work as expected. 

Sony does have a cinema line of cameras, so video commitment always seemed positive. Their cinema line has some pretty impressive specifications. Still, I wonder if those cameras are plagued by the same issues as their stills counterparts.

All I can suggest is, rent a Sony camera before you start investing in the system and see if you can live with its shortcomings. I would also suggest you don’t buy into Sony with the hopes that they will fix problems in the future. Sony seems to make small fixes and then release those in a new body, albeit with more modern unproven tech, using us the consumers as guinea pigs.

This quote I read years ago sums up how I feel about Sony cameras.

Sony cameras feel like they are made by an electronics company as opposed to a photography company.

Canon EOS R Over The Shoulder

Conclusion

My overall view of both the Canon EOS R and the RF-mount, in general, is pretty positive. I believe that if Canon continues on the trend, they have set in the last year that they will secure their future in the mirrorless camera market. As a consumer, I am happy with the innovation that Canon is bringing to the consumer and hope to be using their cameras and lenses for the foreseeable future. 

As I have mentioned, this camera is not the best camera on the market. It is not without its flaws. It lacks in some areas. But it is still a great camera, it is a camera that inspires me to create. If my experience with cameras over the last five years has taught me anything, it is that specifications on paper mean nothing. The old saying -“The best camera is the camera you have with you”- definitely rings true. Having a camera that you are excited to use will give you better results than a camera that can do more but is always left at home.

The best camera is the camera you have with you.

Regardless of what brand camera you choose, I can genuinely say that we are living in an exciting time for camera technologies. The reality of it is that all the manufacturers are making excellent cameras. I have already mentioned this, but choose a camera or manufacturer based on the entire system. Don’t switch for the latest and greatest. Choose something that will inspire you to create astounding content.

Over To You

Let me know in the comment below what you guys think about the Canon EOS R and the RF-mount system?

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One Response

  1. I have absolutely loved using this camera. It is just so easy to use and doesn’t get in the way of creating.

    If the rumor mills are to believed, we will be getting several new RF-Mount cameras this coming year. And the specifications look amazing. It will seem that Canon is also spending a lot of time designing lenses for the system.

    I, for one, cant wait to see what they release in the coming years.

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