Canon EOS R5 Review

For stills photographers, there isn’t much wrong with the Canon EOS R5. It’s Canon’s best mirrorless camera so far and by some distance. The combination of a next-generation autofocus system, excellent image quality and fast 12fps/20fps continuous shooting means this is a camera that is just as comfortable (and capable) in professionally-lit studios as it is shooting breaking news stories at dusk.

The EOS R5’s autofocus deserves a special mention. Its eye-detection is incredibly accurate and sticky, while its subject-detection and tracking are similarly impressive. As we found on our wildlife shoot, the animal detection is simply mind-blowing and a huge selling point on its own, if you regularly indulge in that kind of photography.

Design and handling

Design-wise, we’re not looking at a game-changer with the Canon EOS R5. But given the usability of the Canon EOS R, which it’s heavily based on, that’s no bad thing.

In terms of width and height, the EOS R5 is all-but identical to that latter camera; three mysterious millimetres have been added to its depth, and 70g has been put into its weight.

Significantly, the EOS R’s touch bar – the touch-sensitive strip on the top-right of the camera – is gone, perhaps a testament to its lukewarm reception. In its place is a chunky, knurled joystick for navigating autofocus points and menus, along the lines of the control on Canon’s other high-end cameras.
Pick up the EOS R5 and the first thing you’ll notice is that it practically floats in the hand. Its 738g weight with a card and battery compares extremely favourably to the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV’s 890g, and even more favourably to the tank-like Canon EOS 1D X Mark III’s 1.4kg kerb weight.

The EOS R5 is still substantial-feeling, with a deep grip that makes it easy and comfortable to hold, but it’s also easy to tote around without it feeling burdensome. Weather resistance is said to be up to the standard of Canon’s 5D series, which professionals will tell you means the R5 should withstand troublesome weather better than some photographers. We’d be confident in most situations.

Canon’s adroit touch when it comes to building cameras that are quick and easy to use is much in evidence. Along with that four-way joystick, which makes diddling through menus or selecting autofocus factors a breeze, you also get a click-wheel on the back, plus a dial behind the shutter button and a ring around the mode dial.

Don’t forget that RF-mount lenses also have a control ring, so getting the EOS R5 set up just-so is easy. If you’re coming from another of Canon’s digital cameras, the learning curve is basically flat – the R5 is simple to adjust to. Newcomers will find the menus responsive, intuitive, and powerful, whether you’re a power user or launching into photography for the first time.

A square display on the top right-hand shoulder of the camera displays your current shooting information. This is a good way to keep the rear monitor turned off between shots, and the secondary display has a backlight that you can turn on and off manually. The touchscreen monitor is a good ‘un, too, measuring a generous 3.15inside and offering a 2.1MP resolution. It’s also vari-angle, which is handy for video.

But goodness gracious, the electronic viewfinder. The only thing that beats it for resolution right now is the Sony A7S Mark III’s 9.44-million pixel EVF. And while the R5 might only offer 5.76-million pixels, in use we could barely distinguish it from the true optical viewfinders found in traditional DSLRs.

Beautifully smooth and with an incredible amount of fine detail, it makes the normal bugbear of mirrorless cameras – being able to tell when an image with slim depth of field is actually focussed – a thing of past. It’s really easy to tell, sufficient reason for focus peaking available in manual focus mode, it conspires to make the R5 very easy to use.

Specs and features

On paper, the EOS R5 might be the best hybrid mirrorless camera on the market. It’s both high resolution and full-frame, producing 8,192 x 5,464 resolution files that weighed in, on average, at about 60MB each.

That means, at the R5’s fastest continuous motor mode, you’re shooting about 1.2GB per second. In other words, make sure you’ve budgeted for extra storage, both in your camera and at home.

Speaking of storage space, the R5 brings a pro-level solution to the table, offering both a standard SD card slot and the CFexpress slot. This allows you to either boost your camera’s available storage, shoot to two cards for real-time backup, or shoot raw files to one card and JPEGs to the other.

Memory cards take on more of a bearing if you plan to use the R5’s movie-shooting abilities. Its higher-end video modes, including 4K 10-bit HEVC (which is what you’ll shoot in Canon LOG or HDR PQ), 4K ALL-I 50/60fps, 4K 100/120fps or 8K ALL-I or natural, all require a CFexpress card. We shot exclusively with SanDisk’s 512GB Extreme PRO card, that is rated at 1,400MB/s write speed, and found that the buffer refilled at virtually the rate it was depleted, making in-the-field workflow completely hassle-free.

Powering everything is Canon’s DIGIC X processor. It’s the same chip as the one you’ll find in the powerhouse Canon 1D X Mark III and it kept everything ticking over as our EOS R5 voraciously gobbled up light and churned out data.

The sensor is a new model, and this is Canon’s first body to feature in-body image stabilization (IBIS). In combination with the high-speed information throughput of the RF mount, this can combine with the image stabilization in a lens to offer, in the right circumstances, up to eight stops of picture stabilization.

You get all the expected mod cons, and then some. Wi-fi is there, of course, but in exotic 5GHz as well as 2.4GHz. There’s an FTP client built-in, allowing press photographers to offload images to remote servers as they shoot.

Just about the only thing not present is really a proper Ethernet socket – the Sony A9 Mark II does have one of these and pro sports photographers might lament its absence here. If you want one, you’ll need to dig out your wallet for the Canon WTF-R10B -this upgrades the R5’s FTP customer to one that supports SFTP, while also adding two MIMO antennae for stronger connections and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Those are pretty niche features that will only be desirable for full-time agency photographers, though.

Of more interest to the rest of us is the EOS R5’s new battery – the LP-E6NH has about 14 per cent more capacity than the slightly older LC-E6N. Those who already own Canon kit should note that the older model of battery is still compatible with the R5. You can also use a Power Delivery supply to charge the R5 via its USB-C slot, saving you popping the electric battery out when it’s time to recharge.

Flick the mode selector to video and you’re greeted with yet more out-of-this-world performance. 4K, naturally, but around 120fps, and with the option of shooting raw.

Or, the headliner: 8K video. Again, the choice of shooting raw is there, at 30, 25, 24 or 23.98fps, and at a galactic bitrate of approximately 2,600Mbps. Opting to shoot H.265 files, at exactly the same settings, lowers the bitrate to about 1,300Mbps, while H.264 lowers it further to 300Mbps.

Of course, these headline figures are only part of the movie story, and Canon was forced to subsequently recalibrate expectations a little by publishing estimated recording times for each of the EOS R5’s modes. We’ve included that information in the table below.

Specifications

Sensor: 45MP full-frame CMOS 36 x 24mm
Image processor: Digic X
AF points: 5,940 Dual Pixel CMOS AF II
ISO range: 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-102,400)
Stabilization: 5-axis, up to 8 stops
Max image size: 8,192 x 5,464px
Metering zones: 384
Video: 8K DCI or UHD at 30p, 24p / 4K DCI or UHD at 120p, 100p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p / 1080p (FullHD) at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p
Viewfinder: 0.5-inch OLED EVF, 5,690k dots, 100% coverage, 0.76x magnification, 120fps refresh rate
Memory card: 1x CFexpress type B, 1x UHS-II SD/SDHC/SDXC
LCD: 3.15-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 2,100k dots.
Max burst: 12fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic shutter
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 5Ghz and 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen 2), micro HDMI (type D), microphone, headphone, N3 remote, flash sync, gigabit ethernet (via WFT-R10 grip)
Size: 135.8 x 97.5 x 88mm
Weight: 650g body only (738g with card and battery)

Performance

With the Digic X processor on board, it’s fair to expect good things of the R5’s performance – and so it proved in our tests.

With our SanDisk Extreme Pro card we found the buffer cleared almost as fast as we could shoot, writing multiple frames per second when we’d finished shooting a burst of raw files. The EOS R5 will shoot 12fps using the mechanical shutter, or up to 20 with the electronic shutter.

Purists who are concerned about the jello-effect of electronic shutters can put their minds at rest – we saw very little evidence of it. It was possible, on frames with tall elements in them, to detect a very small amount of distortion, but even with incredibly fast subjects, frames shot with the electronic shutter were just as usable as with the mechanical option. Another plus: the digital shutter is totally – literally – silent. Wedding photographers and wildlife photographers, rejoice.

Battery life gets a significant thumbs-up as well. It’s still well down on traditional DSLRs, of course, but we managed about four hours of extremely intensive shooting (approximately 2,000 natural frames, all chance utilizing the power-sucking electronic viewfinder) on a single charge.

On a fairly intensive shoot we’d anticipate going through perhaps two batteries in a day, maybe three at a push. Because the R5 is backwards-compatible with the LP-E6N battery – first seen on the 2009 EOS 7D – it’s feasible that many upgraders will already have a few spares.

Image quality

As you’d hope for the price, the R5 shoots excellent images. Up to about ISO 4000 you should have very few concerns, which is incredible. Push further and you’ll find fine-grained speckling in your pictures – we suspect editorial photographers won’t mind it much, but those with an eye on producing art prints might be a bit more cautious. For those dedicated to capturing once-in-a-lifetime moments, whatever the light, the R5 will shoot ISOs up to 102,400. We shot in anger around ISO 51,200 and while the results were undoubtedly grainy, there was no colour shift to contend with and there is plenty of detail.

Having a camera that produces outstanding, high-resolution images in perfect light but which is capable of shooting usable shutter speeds in the dark again marks the EOS R5 out as an exceptional photographic tool.

Check Out: Best Lenses for Canon EOS R5

Verdict

Canon’s best ever stills camera, the EOS R5 is an incredibly powerful tool for almost every kind of photography. While that versatility doesn’t quite extend to video, it is still a compelling hybrid option if you’re aware of its limitations. The only major barrier for most of us is that price tag.

 

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