2018-09-10

Canon EOS R - first look, photos and review


Canon fans rejoice - the Canon EOS R is here - the wait for a full-frame mirrorless Canon camera is over, and boy are we excited! Canon’s launch event was truly spectacular – a futuristic carnival of photographic opportunities set in Shoreditch Electric Light Station.

We had been waiting eagerly to get our hands on the EOS R and the RF lenses (24-105mm f/4 ‘kit’ lens and the 50mm f/1.2 prime lens). Here’s our first look and feel of the EOS R, plus pictures and video taken as we put the R system through its paces.

View EOS R and RF lens product details and prices.





Two's company, three's a crowd

So, it’s no secret that with Sony long-established in the full-frame mirrorless camera market, and with Nikon recently announcing the Z6 & Z7, there was great anticipation to see what Canon would do next.

They certainly didn’t hang around – The EOS R announcement was not simply confirmation of a new camera, but a whole new system. Using the new RF mount, Canon are looking to the future with their range of RF lenses. Considering the EF mount has been going since 1987, and there have been 130million EF lenses produced since then, it’s a bold move.

Classic Canon colour capture

High Expectations for the Canon EOS R

During the introductory talks, we were shown an image of miner, lit solely by his head-torch. Full resolution, detail and lovely Canon colour rendition set the tone for what we expected to test – low-light ability.

We were told there were a whopping 5,655 autofocus positions, and that it featured the fastest AF system… ever! So, how did it fare?

The 50mm f/1.2 made pin-sharp portraits a pleasure to create

EOS R – handling and performance

The testing environment from Canon was great – with interesting subjects and a mixture of lighting. Despite this being the first time handling it, as a regular Canon user (EOS 70D, 5DMK III, 6DMKII etc) it felt truly instinctive, especially regarding button layout and menu functionality. This is Canon’s most customisable camera yet, and we love that the RF lenses have their own custom function ring too.

Rather than focus on an in-depth technical review of every new feature, I approached this launch as I would if shooting any normal event or gig – focusing on getting photographs from the environment that I would be happy to post for public consumption. A great 'real life' way to test a camera.

This image was shot at ground level, utilising the EOS R's vari-angle screen

I was delighted to see was a screen that folds-out in the same way as the EOS  6D MK II. As you can see from the video, I was using it constantly, and I simply think that Canon have the best LCD on the market. It’s perfect for vlogging as it folds out by 360°, it lets you shoot from above and below, and even around corners. Once you’re done, it folds away to protect from scratches. Love it!

It also has genuine silent shooting – equally appealing to wedding, street and event photographers.

Canon EOS R, a low-light machine. 

So, with the photograph of the miner in mind, we decided to try shooting in AV, wide open (f4 or f1.2) and to see what the camera would push the ISO to in the rather challenging lighting. We were constantly impressed, even when using it alongside the EOS 1DX MKII, which is no slouch.

The image below was shot at ISO 12800, and is from the JPEG file, without any treatment for noise. We love how it still snapped into focus despite the subject moving, and what little noise there is adds to the charm of the picture.

This image is shot at 12800 ISO and straight from the JPEG
The dynamic range, on first impression, is stunning thanks to the 30.3 Megapixel Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor. All the images captured had great detail in the shadows. Normally when I edit my photos, adjusting Curves and Levels in Photoshop is the main adjustment I make, to get the right balance between punch and detail in the shadows. It was noticeable with the EOS R that when editing these pictures, I barely adjusted anything.



Focus on… The world’s fastest autofocus

Autofocus in 0.05seconds, including at -6EV. Impressive stats, but the EOS R lived up to the hype  with the most impressive low-light performance I’ve come across. I’ve been shooting concerts for over 10 years, so am well and truly versed in the struggle of waiting while AF hunts. And hunts. And hunts…

It's responsive - this shot was a 'turn and shoot' snap grabbed as the parade entered the room - she is perfectly sharp and exposed!
One handy feature was the ‘touch and drag’ function, allowing you to select your focus point from one of 5,655 positions on the screen, even while using the EVF. I wouldn't say I was able to crack it entirely in my couple of hours with the EOS R, but I could see this being used frequently given time to get used to it.

The bokeh is beautiful - that 'white blur' on the right is in fact another 'missing person' poster!

The Dual AF system that Canon use blends both phase detect and contrast, and the number of positions available cover 100% of your field of vision vertically, 88% horizontally. And of course, you can select your focus area by groups or point.

To top it off, we were stunned that we could use the 50mm RF lens at f/1.2 with full autofocus, in low-light. All the images looked bright on the screen, making it easy to manually adjust settings. In my experience, using AF at anything below f/1.4 normally involves switching to manual focus due to  the small focal plane.

Canon RF lenses

Canon are launching with 4 lenses – the 24-105mm f/4 and 50mm f/1.2 are available at launch (9th October), with the 28-70mm f/2 and the 35mm f/1.8 expected to be available in the future. There is no roadmap published as yet, however Canon confirmed there were plenty in the pipeline.

The new RF Mount was introduced to allow Canon to develop their lenses to be as fast as possible, with a wider diameter and flange distance reduced to 20mm. As a result, the lenses we used were both incredibly sharp and responsive. With the control ring allowing you to control either aperture, exposure compensation or ISO, you can customise them to taste.

The face / eye recognition mode is a great feature to use when shooting wide open

The 50mm f/1.2 is a master of low light, and the 28-70 f/2 sounds great (although we did not test it), but in fairness we should point out that they are not the smallest.

Canon EOS R video capability

And of course, we cannot neglect the video capability. Our video man usually shoots our review videos using Canon’s flagship 1DX Mark II – compare the footage in the video below and see if you can spot the difference? Clue - the parts shot on the EOS R are labelled accordingly!

With 4K at 30fps, the EOS R will appeal to videographers as well. The Dual Pixel AF is available at 4K, although we should point out there is a 1.7x crop factor. The ability to shoot in C-log will go down well, and the system is set up to allow better output when using an external monitor.

So... first impressions of the EOS R?


To conclude, we should say that yes, the EOS R is lovely, and we were genuinely blown away by overall performance in low-light, and the autofocus.

But what really excited us was the quality of the RF lenses, and the realisation that this is just the beginning of the R system. And what a start it is!

Watch the video review of the EOS R


All images by Ashley Laurence


View EOS R and RF lens product details, prices and kits
Read more reviews