The Canon EOS R was launched about two years ago (September 2018). I have been using a Canon EOS R now most of that time. I have taken thousands of photographs in all conditions and of all genre: street to portrait, landscape to travel. So, I thought it was about time that I summarised my experience with an EOS R long term review.
I am not going into specs or lab tests, this is just an honest user review, warts and all. Except that there are not many warts. I have concentrated on stills photography, not video. I use my phone for video, and it works just fine. The top line is I have come to love this camera, so much so that when the R5 and R6 came out, I did not even consider changing. Why?
Hype vs Long Term Reviews
When the camera first came out there was so much negativity around it not having two card slots etc, that it eclipsed just how good a camera this was. Since then long term reviews have been much more positive and balanced.
EOS R Build Quality
The Canon EOS R was the first full frame mirrorless camera that Canon produced. There was a lot riding on its success. Canon had invested heavily to move into this growing market. So, nothing was left to chance and in my view, the EOS R was over engineered to ensure its success. This means you get a lot of camera for your money.
The camera has a solid weather sealed magnesium alloy body. The closures are well fitting. The grip is comfortable, and the camera is well balanced. You could walk for hours with this camera in your hand. I have done so.
The EOS R Sensor
The EOS R may not have the biggest sensor, best low light performance or dynamic range, but it is just right in all these areas to provide a competent all round capability. After all the EOS R has the same sensor as the Canon EOS 5 MKIV which is so highly regarded, it is placed on a pedestal or at least a very tall tripod. The files are not too big or too small, plus there is the advantage of the vivid Canon colours, regarded as the best in the business.
This was a tricky lighting situation in Venice, but the sensor has the dynamic range to cope.
Canon EOS R Handling
What is the touch bar all about. I have never got mine to work. I think this is a feature that Canon will soon forget. The buttons on the EOS R are however fully customisable, so there is plenty of real estate to play with.
Some people will want to stick with an optical viewfinder, which is one reason why the Canon EOS 5 MKIV is still popular. I tend to forget that the EVF on the EOS R is an electronic viewfinder.
I love the fully articulating flippy touch screen which is great for street photography.
Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R
Older EF lenses can be converted to the R system using the EF-EOS R adapter. In my experience connecting to Canon EF lenses is seamless.
The control ring on all R lenses can be set to change the camera functions. I have mine set to exposure compensation so that through the EVF, I can judge the amount of light to suit the image. This bypasses the technology and returns some manual control and creativity to image making.
Canon EOS RF Lenses
Spoiler Alert: We are going to talk about flange distances
The RF mount flange focal distance is just 20mm from the image sensor. This has given Canon lens designers a lot more flexibility.
According to Canon:
The rear element of RF lenses can be larger in diameter, improving image quality at the corners and outer edges of the frame. Larger rear elements mean front elements can be smaller, meaning less strong refracting and bending of light rays within the lens, enhancing optical performance.
We know how good Canon L lenses are, but they are expensive. Consider then the more affordable RF lenses, which because they are freer of the design constraints are excellent.
However, do not take my word for it, look at this review of the Canon RF 85mm f2 Macro (£649) vs RF 1.2 (£2799) vs EF 1.8. The top line is that the cheaper lens beats the other two, and the RF wins over the EF lens hands down.
To sum up the R system give you access to some fantastic quality but affordable lenses.
Canon EOS R vs R5 vs R6
There is a summary of the specs of each camera here, but I have not seen the need to change to this second generation of the R series.
This is my thinking.
Yes, I would like in body stabilisation (IBIS), it should totally eliminate the need for a tripod. However, my lenses all have stabilisation, and the R is capable of shooting at incredible ISO’s with low noise, so do I really need it now.
The EOS R5 with a 45MP sensor size is too big. I don’t think I need it even though I crop a lot. I worry that the big file sizes could slow my workflow down to a crawl.
The EOS R6 21MP sensor is just a bit light. It works well in the Canon EOS 1DX Mk III, because sports and news photographers prefer smaller file sizes that can be streamed back from remote places on earth quickly.
The EOS R fits that Goldilocks category with a 30.3 CMOS sensor.
I have mentioned that the EOS R IMHO is over engineered for the price. I think Canon produced it as a loss leader to persuade Canon users to switch. As a result, the EOS R5 (£4199) and EOS R6 (£2499) which followed the EOS R are more realistically priced. This makes the EOS R real value for money at £1879.
EOS R Long Term Review Summary
The Canon EOS R is two years old now, and technology moves on, but it is an extraordinarily robust camera, that can cover most bases well. What matters to me is a camera that feels good, and that you can forget about, because you know it just works.
This is a camera that puts you in charge because you are confident that the images will look good