The EOS R was Canon’s first attempt at a professional full-frame mirrorless camera, and despite some quirks, I argue it's one of the best values if you’re looking for a stills camera today.
Yes, Canon’s 40-megapixel, 8K shooting EOS R5 and the speedy EOS R6 fix many of the Canon’s mirrorless growing pains. The EOS R is not perfect by any means, but neither the R5 nor the R6 come cheap, ranging in price from $2,500 to $3,900, and that’s just for the body.
By comparison, EOS R is essentially a stripped-down EOS 5D Mark IV — it has the same sensor — and can be had for right around $1,800 or less if you’re willing to wait for a deal. I got my EOS R with the RF 24-105 F4L at the end of 2019 for $2,400.
That’s still a lot of camera for the money, especially if you’ve already got a lot of Canon glass filling your pack.
Not sure if the EOS R is right for you? Here are my top five things I love and hate about the EOS R.
What I love:
1. Canon colors
With the EOS R, you know exactly what you’re going to get when it comes to color reproduction. As I was saying earlier, it’s essentially a mirrorless 5D Mark IV with a faster sensor.
If you liked Canon’s latest 5D, you’re probably going to like the photos coming out of the R.
On the other hand, if you’re not a big fan of Canon’s color science, it’s more of the same here.
I usually get the best results when shooting in the standard picture profile with the white balance set to daylight. And of course, I’m shooting in raw.
2. The body
If there is one thing that Canon knows how to do, it's build comfortable cameras. Coming from the Sony A7 II, the Canon was an absolute dream to hold. It features a large contoured grip that, with a few exceptions that I’ll get to shortly, places your fingers right where you want them.
The top-mounted LCD makes changing your settings quick and painless, while the EVF is set far enough back that I’m not constantly moving the autofocus point with my nose — I’m left-eye dominant.
It’s also weather sealed, which means you don’t have to baby it when mother nature turns inclement, unlike my last Sony. Just make sure you pair it with a weather-sealed lens or you’re going to have a bad time.
3. Canon protects your sensor
Getting dust on your sensor is inevitable. Every time you change your lens, there’s an opportunity for dust or grime to find its way inside the camera and eventually settle on the sensor. That is unless you’re using the EOS R.
Just like on Canon’s DSLRs, when the camera is off, the shutter closes to protect the sensor from dust. It’s a really smart design choice that I wish more manufacturers would embrace.
And as long as you don’t go poking your fingers at the shutter, I don’t see any downsides.
4. Dual-pixel autofocus
It’s got Canon’s dual-pixel autofocus. When it comes to fast and reliable autofocus, the EOS R delivers every time. If you’re still shooting with a DSLR, trust me, the EOS R is better in every conceivable way.
It’s so good that I usually leave the camera in tracking autofocus mode with the focus point set to the center. That way all I have to do is lock focus, recompose and the camera does the rest.
Turn on eye autofocus and it locks on and tracks the eye relentlessly. Sadly, it doesn’t work with animals. For that, you’ll need to upgrade to the R6.
And one of the coolest features is Canon’s focus aid, which uses the autofocus sensors to tell you exactly which way to pull focus when using a manual focus lens. I absolutely love this feature when shooting macro shots.
If you’d asked me a year ago what I thought of Canon’s RF lenses, I would have said they're amazingly sharp and amazingly expensive. That’s because, at the time, all Canon really had were a handful of slow zooms intended for the much lower-end EOS RP and its top-of-the-line L-series glass.
Fast forward to today, and Canon’s RF line has evolved a great deal to include a respectable swatch of fast, affordable primes and speedy, compact zooms. The RF 70-200 F4L is positively tiny.
With that said, I’ve been happy to adapt my EF mount lenses since Canon’s $100 EF to RF adapter works flawlessly. I’ve had absolutely no problem using the adapter, even with older lenses like the EF 50mm F1.4 USM, which was first released in 1993.
If you have a ton of EF lenses and were worried about performance on the new body, don’t be. In fact, your EF mount lenses will probably focus faster and more reliably thanks to the improved autofocus technology.
What I hate:
1. The multifunction bar is a miss
Now for the bad stuff. I really tried to like the multifunction bar, but I don’t. I’m sure some Canon engineers worked really hard to make it work, and it does work, but it’s slow and clunky, and I hate using it.
I have mine set to change my focus pattern, which is useful, but I’d have much rather had a better positioned focus-on button or hell, an autofocus joystick.
The good news is this is exactly what Canon did with the R5 and R6. Rest in pieces multifunction bar. You won’t be missed.
2. There aren’t enough controls
For a professional camera, there aren’t enough control surfaces on the EOS R, and, as previously mentioned, that abomination of a multifunction bar isn’t helping.
In particular, I don’t care for the awkward positioning of the AF-on button or the vertically stacked AE lock and focus selection buttons on the right.
A smaller complaint is Canon’s decision to move the aperture dial to the top of the camera, similar to Sony and Nikon. I could forgive this if the new control ring on Canon’s RF-mount lenses and adapters had more resistance. After about a week, I turned off the control wheel because it was too easy to nudge the lens.
Clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks the R is a bit lacking in the buttons and dials department since Canon has remedied these issues with the EOS R5 and R6. But if you don’t mind diving into the menus every now and then, it’s completely livable.
3. Why did Canon think one SD-Card was okay?
Let me say this again, a single memory slot is unacceptable on a professional camera. There should be two memory slots with the option of writing duplicates to a second card.
I know that every now and then professionals get surveyed and some huge number are using the extra slot for additional storage, and that’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do if losing photos or footage isn’t the end of the world. It’s the option to shoot redundant images to both cards that’s important.
And so for the EOS R to have a single UHS-II SD-card slot is disappointing. I’ve had SD cards fail on me in the past, and I’m always worried it will happen again.
If redundancy is key for your workflow, consider waiting and picking up the R6 or the R5 instead.
4. EVF blackout
One of my biggest gripes with the EOS R has been the EVF blackout when shooting in the high-speed drive mode.
What do I mean by blackout? When you’re shooting a burst, the shutter blocks the sensor readout, causing the EVF to blackout momentarily. The problem is Canon has decided to obscure this by rendering the previously captured image over the blackout, making tracking a moving subject incredibly difficult.
A sports camera the EOS R is not, and it's disappointing that Canon hasn’t been able to do more to resolve this via a firmware update.
5. Slow burst rate
On a similar note, the EOS R’s burst rate is rather anemic. Eight frames per second is fine, but the camera can only achieve this while using one of the standard autofocus modes.
As soon as you turn on tracking autofocus, the camera’s top speed drops precipitously to just 5 FPS. That combined with the aforementioned EVF blackout and shooting fast-moving subjects like animals or children becomes a chore.
Keeping the shutter high and using touch-to-drag autofocus can mitigate these issues, but if sports photography is your thing and price is an issue, you might consider a used 1DX Mark II or an R6 instead.
Is the EOS R right for you?
The Canon EOS R is still a fantastic camera for the money. While it's not perfect by any means, if you can get it on sale with a good lens, you won’t be disappointed by the results.
I think a lot of people got hung up on the video capabilities and limitations like the heavy 4K crop and missed the fact this really is a smaller, cheaper and future-proofed 5D Mark IV.
If you’re looking for an affordable way to get into Canon’s mirrorless family, this is currently your best bet. The RP is cheaper, but it’s a far worse camera in every respect.
So, if you’ve been considering an EOS R and can live with the limited control surfaces, lack of a second SD-card slot, slow burst rate, and EVF blackout, I'm confident you'll come away happy.
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What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below:
- What are your thoughts on the EOS R?
- What are some things you love and hate about the camera?
- What kind of lenses would you like to see Canon launch next? I'm waiting for a budget-friendly RF 50mm F1.4 to replace my old EF model.
- Would you like to see more posts like this one?