What is the Canon EOS R?
The Canon EOS R is the first full-frame mirrorless camera from the market-leading camera manufacturer. Canon has billed it as the guts of an EOS 5D Mark IV in a much smaller body, and it’s been much-anticipated by Canon users.
As well as this new camera system, the EOS R introduces a new Canon lens mount, the RF. And long with it are a handful of RF lenses to get the system started.
Somewhat unsurprising is that the EOS R’s autofocus system is Dual Pixel CMOS AF. That means there’s phase detection focusing. What’s more, the EOS R boasts 5,655 AF positions, as Canon is calling them. These are all selectable and cover 100% of the frame vertically and 88% horizontally.
What’s more, these 5,655 AF positions are all usable down to -6EV.
Eye AF is also present, but only in Single AF mode, not in continuous focusing mode.
The Canon EOS R is 4K (3840 x 2160) enabled at 29.97, 24, 23.98fps. Furthermore, Full HD (1920 x1080) video looks to be available at up to 59.94fps. You can also record high-speed footage at 120fps, but the resolution drops to 720p.
While the sensor is fixed in place, there’s 5-axis electronic stabilisation for video.
An HDMI connection is available for 10-bit 4:2:2 output with Canon Log to capture low contrast footage for grading. Canon claims there’s up to 12-stops of dynamic range at ISO 400.
As it’s sensitive down to -6EV the EOS R’s AF system should focus in near darkness. Canon also claims that the R has the World’s fastest AF system.
The sensitivity range is ISO 100-40,000 with expansion settings taking it to ISO 102,400.
Meanwhile, in One-shot AF mode, there’s a maximum continuous shooting rate of 8fps. This drops to 5fps with continuous focusing. In AF tracking priority mode this drops to just 3fps.
Nikon has had a lot of criticism for giving the Z 6 and Z 7 one memory card slot. Canon has done the same, giving the EOS R one SD UHS-II card slot.
On the back of the camera is an adjustment bar called the M-Fn tool that can be used to adjust a range of features by tapping or swiping. It’s customisable so it could, for example, be used to adjust sensitivity with taps and white balance with swipes.
In fact, much of the EOS R is customisable, and most dials can be set to certain functions.
Electronic Viewfinder and Screen
The EOS R has an OLED viewfinder with 3.69million dots, 23mm eye-relief, 0.71x magnification and 100% coverage.
Meanwhile, the vari-angle screen is shown as a 3.15-inch device with 2.10-million dots. That’s a new combination.
The EOS R uses Canon’s long-standing LP-E69 battery and provides the EOS R with up to 560 shots per charge.
Other things to note
There is no in-body image stabilisation in the Canon EOS R. This is down to Canon’s policy of offering stabilisation in its lenses.
Canon RF Mount
The Canon ESO R introduces a new full-frame mirrorless mount called RF. This is larger than the EF mount, which means that faster lenses will be possible. The flange distance has been reduced to 20mm while the mount diameter is 54mm.
Canon is introducing four lenses with the R:
- RF 28 – 70 mm F 2 L USM
- RF 50 mm F 1.2 L USM
- RF 35 mm F 1.8 Macro IS STM
- RF 24 – 105 mm F 4 L IS USM
RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM – Key Features
- A general purpose, practical, professional zoom lens.
- 5-stops of image stabilisation
- Nano USM focusing
- L-series image quality
RF 28-70mm f/2L USM – Key Features
- World’s first full-frame compatible standard zoom, offering constant f/2 aperture
- Canon’s USM technology
- Smart controls and intuitive ergonomics
- Canon L-Series pedigree
RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM – Key Features
- A compact wide-angle lens
- Large aperture
- Half life-size macro magnifications
- 5-stops of image stabilisation
Canon Mount Adapters
Canon has announced the following adapters:
- Canon mount adapter EF-EOS R
- Canon control mount ring adapter EF-EOS R
- Canon drop-in filter mount adapter EF-EOS R
The EF-EOS R adapter allows EF and EF-S mount lenses to be used on the Canon EOS R camera.
Meanwhile, the control ring adapter allows you to change key settings via the adapter ring.
Canon has kept the design of the EOS R similar to its existing cameras, but has also introduced some new controls. Let’s start with its construction, though.
The EOS R is made from a robust magnesium alloy that feels solid in your hand. It really feels like a quality product. The deep hand grip also fits nicely in your hand.
Many of the dials are also made of metal, giving a real premium feel to the design. I was impressed. The camera is also weather-sealed to the same degree as the Canon 6D Mark II.
All of the direct controls you want are (mostly) there. I say mostly because there is no AF joystick. And for a moment I was unsure how to select my AF points through the viewfinder.
How to select an AF point on the Canon EOS R
- To select your AF point on the Canon EOS R while using the viewfinder you need to enable Touch and Drag AF in the AF settings within the camera’s menu.
- When you enable this setting you can choose which side of the camera’s touchscreen you want to use, as well as set how accurate you want it to represent your touches.
Using Touch and Drag AF wasn’t as intuitive as using a joystick, but I did quickly get the hang of it.
Another interesting quirk of the Canon EOS R is that the long-standard PASM dial is replaced by a Mode button in the centre of a dial on the top plate. Press the Mode button, then turn the dial to cycle through the camera’s exposure modes.
Also new to the EOS R’s design is what Canon has introduced as the M-Fn bar. This is a touch-sensitive bar with arrows on the left and right. The M-Fn bar is customisable to a host of different functions.
When you swipe or tap it, you can then scroll through your different ISO settings, for example. It takes some getting used to, but I quite liked it once I realised what it was.
On the other hand… it sits in the same space where AF joysticks are usually positioned, and if I had to choose, I think I’d probably prefer the joystick.
The other design feature worth mentioning is the fully articulated touchscreen.
Everyone’s needs are different, but the fully articulated touchscreen on the Panasonic GH5 that I’ve been using this year has been invaluable for our review videos, among other things. So I was very pleased to see this on Canon EOS R.
It’s a solidly built screen and easy to pull out and twist around. Filming video at the camera’s launch, I never felt like I was going to break it.
I got to use the Canon EOS R for a couple hours at its launch, so I can’t comment too in depth on its performance. But I was very pleased in that limited experience.
The event was held in London and Canon recruited some actors to create a ‘portal’ to 400 years in the future. We were sent in with the cameras to locate a missing Canon photographer who had previously traveled through the portal. In short, we entered a faux city that was very dimly lit and wouldn’t look out of place on the Blade Runner set.
Shooting exclusively in low light, I have to say I was very impressed by the EOS R’s AF system. Not only is it fast, but it is very accurate as well. Even in very dark corners the faux city of ‘Utopia’, the EOS R was able to lock on to my target.
I found AF tracking in particular very impressive. The actors were often moving around and interacting with the press. I was choosing one actor to follow for a bit, then switch.
Setting the AF tracking, the Canon EOS R was able to follow my chosen actor through the crowds very accurately. This likely down to the camera’s 5,655 AF positions.
Also impressive to me was the camera’s image quality in low light. I was shooting images mostly at ISO 10,000 or higher and they were all so clean and precise when zooming in. I noticed some noise, but not too much, and details were preserved well. These were entirely usable images.
The Canon EOS R also has one of the best electronic viewfinders I think I’ve used. It’s very good. I’m keen to use it more to see how it compares with the Panasonic GH5, which is also very good.
Canon EOS R Sample Photos
The following are a selection of sample photos shot with the Canon EOS R.
Canon EOS R Sample Video
We’ve come to expect first-generation technology to be flawed, and some might point to the single SD card slot, ho-hum burst mode or lack of an AF joystick as examples, but if the Canon EOS R’s main job is producing quality images, then it appears very proficient at this.
Colours and tones were beautiful in the images from my limited time with the camera, and I was double-checking the ISO in the metadata to see if my noise-free images really were taken that high up the sensitivity scale.
It’s easy to point at the video specs and say we want 4K at 60, or demand a higher continuous shooting rate. But… this is first-generation technology. And – so far – it’s a superb all-rounder. My guess is that before long we’ll see a video-centric EOS R released, as well as a version built for speed.
In the meantime, I’m keen to carry on with our testing!