This real world Canon EOS R review was originally shared to my Patreon, but in light of the new Canon cameras being released, I wanted to update it with a few notes
Since the new EOS R6 and R5 are both coming out and the Canon EOS R might be on your wish list if they don’t pan out, I really wanted to get down some thoughts on this camera because it’s been my workhorse since it came out in October 2018.
Before we begin, a note: I’m not a tech nerd and I don’t buy gear all the time. I’m not often an early tech adopter. I often don’t update my computer/software until it causes issues and I only upgrade phones when I get a hand-me-down from Sam.
Because of this, I don’t love reading first impression reviews when things first come out because they’re usually impractical and generally not helpful for real life purposes.
BUT I bought the Canon EOS R as soon as it came out (after trying Sam’s at two elopements and two sessions because, well, he pre-ordered it) and I don’t regret it.
Since this is a real world Canon EOS R review (from December 2018) I wanted to make sure my camera was well worn and when I wrote this review I was 3 weddings, 7 family sessions, 3 elopements, and 29,194 photos into this camera so I’m feeling confident that this is not a “first impressions” post anymore.
(AND since this is being updated and shared publicly in July of 2020, I can say that it’s been my main camera EVER SINCE I bought it. I’m excited for the upgrades, but this camera has been my baby. You can see more recent work on my instagram)
And, much like my review for the 5D Mark IV Real World Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV for Wedding Photographers, this review will be comparing my previous camera to the EOS R. In this case, the Mark IV vs the EOS R.
So I’m going to go ahead and say it… I do love the EOS R. We’re actually getting married in the spring and you’re all invited. (Just kidding. It’s family only.)
BUT I ONLY GOT IT BECAUSE I actually already had a list of things I had issues with and wanted Canon to work on and they totally stepped up to the plate!
So! The things I didn’t love about the 5D mark IV that were remedied by the R are as follows:
- DSLRs are too big for my creepy doll hands
- I wanted even better servo tracking
- Eye detection
- EVF (Electronic view finder).
- More AF point coverage
- Mothercussing flip screen for video
- Focus peaking (though it’s limited somewhat unless you are using RF mount lenses)
I’m really excited to see some of the upgraded features coming to the R5 and R6, but I expect these features to be the reason I stay with the EOS R family and not go back to the Mark Whatever lifestyle.
It’s not my first mirrorless rodeo
I’ve previously owned used at weddings the Fuji X-T1, Fuji XPro2, and an all manual Leica rangefinder camera with an attachment that gives me EFV.
The colors were always weird with Fuji (plus the mirrorless cameras I had were cropped sensor), Sony has weird colors when I’ve just played with it, and though the Leica is beautiful, but it’s all manual, so none of them made it past even a few weddings.
I wanted to bring this up because I think some people just get excited about their first mirrorless camera because they’re so different from DSLRs.
It’s like the first time you date a guy in a band and you’re all like “oh my god, he’s like an artist so he’s sensitive and not like other guys.” Which may be true for all band guys, but some band dudes are turd-peopleand some are good folks.
Basically, when it’s a new thing, sometimes it’s hard to know at first whether it’s a good version of the thing or just new to you.
I wanted to address this early:
Here are some things I don’t care about/won’t be discussing:
- The single card slot (This was the norm just a few years ago! Get a harddrive to download your photos at your shoots to alleviate your woes or wait for the professional release in 2019, but I feel OK about it) (BUT SINCE I’M updating this review — BOTH the EOS R5 and EOS R6 have dual card slots – one has two SDs, one has CF/SD. I don’t have a preference on the cards I use, TBH!)
- Most things dealing with video, 4K, blah blah blah. (This has also been upgraded with the R5 and R6, and even though I make YouTube videos, I still do not care)
- Dual Pixel Focus (it’s dumb. It seems like a good idea and it isn’t). I stand by this in 2020.
- Auto settings (I shoot in manual all the time, forever)
- The silent shutter (I think it’s unnerving as a subject so no)
- WiFi transfer (it’s cool and it works awesome if you want to do it, but that’s not for today).
- Price (OK fine! It’s cheaper. I covered it.) (Honestly, I’m looking at the EOS R6 instead of the R5 as a back up body for my EOS R!)
- RF lenses (I’m not out to buy a new kit, so I just own the adapters) (2020 update – nope, I still do not own any RF lenses. The autofocus is great with the adapters and the EOS R)
It’s lighter and I’m happy that my baby bird wrists have a camera that’s an appropriate weight for carrying all day now.
And yessssss, you do need an adapter to use your Canon lenses, but they will all work!
The RF lenses are Canon’s new passion project (so don’t expect too much innovation in the EF lenses anymore). But for now, I’m not trying to buy a whole new kit. I’m happy using the adapter.
The Canon and Sigma lenses I already own work even better with this camera and you can even get an adapter with a dial that you can program to do different things (like control ISO, aperture, shutter speed, etc). Mine does ISO stuff.
Also, it eats batteries IMO (I go through about 3 fully charged batteries a wedding), but it has has all the perks I mentioned in the Mark IV review on my site, and I’ll go into the differences below. So here we go!
Let’s talk about ISO, baby
Because I like to start my reviews strong and everyone loves a really dry, banal conversation about ISO (which literally stands for “international standards organization” so it’s even sexier than you thought).
But honestly, stay with me for just for a minute because the updates for the EOS R were good.
I’m not a stickler for super clean images. I’d rather deliver a grainy photo over a missed moment any day. But this camera has got a few things going for it and ISO improvement is one of them. Here are some samples because it’s easier to show than talk about.
The default screen brightness, as is, can be difficult to see on a sunny day (like a laptop screen on a sunny day. Basically unusable) but to remedy this, the Canon gave us the option on the EOS R to customize a “maximize screen brightness”button which quickly toggles my screen for easy viewing when it’s bright out. (actually, you can customize a ton of the buttons, but you could on the IV, too)
The darker, default brightness is definitely my preferred viewing for eye fatigue (so I’m not staring at a bright-ass screen during all other parts of the day).
But because I typically left my Mark IV on full brightness for the sun-shine-makes-it-hard-to-see-LCD-screens reason, this means I now have a tendency to slightly overexpose with the R.
Which is awesome because high ISO works way better at retaining highlights than shadows. All good things.
In fact, my tendency to slightly overexpose is so ingrained in how I shoot on the EOS R, it meant that in my real world shooting at high ISOs, I was only able to find one example where I underexposed at high ISOs.
And I wanted to show you how ugly the pushed files of this 25,600 image looks (it’s a very odd, circiular pattern, but it honestly mostly goes away with noise reduction)
OMG EVF FTW
I have a deep love for EVF (electronic view finders) because it makes me feel like I have bionic eyes (my vision just isn’t great, you guys).
I even have an adapter for the Leica I use when I vacation that has EVF, so *this was one of the main reasons I wanted to go mirrorless.*
Reason #1. You can STARE AT THE SUN WITH IT!
Because… it’s just a screen and not the actual sun?
Although the R tells you every time you turn it off not to leave your camera in direct sunlight. I’m risking it all because lens flare is god. And look – you can shoot backlit, see beautiful lens flare, and not go blind (I’m no doctor, but I, personally, believe not going blind because you’ve been staring at the sun is better for you)
Reason #2. One of the biggest benefits I had with EVF was shooting in a dark space where people were wandering in and out of spotlights and being able to see the exposure in real time without having to use live view. At cocktail hours, in bars, or anytime where the exposure is changing quickly, it’s nice to be able to use the EVF and look like I know how cameras work, instead of chimping or using the LCD screen.
Just knowing that I was getting the image properly exposed without paying attention to spot metering made all the difference.
Use the light meter, you say? Are also trying to spread the gospel about blood letting and leeches as the latest medical advancements? Getouttahere <3
Considering I’ve sung it’s praises so much in the past, I legitimately don’t want to trash the Mark IV’s autofocus, because compared to previous iterations of Canon bodies, the Mark IV is definitely better. But it was just… still was not as fast/accurate as Nikon cameras I’ve owned.
OK, so I said it. The AF in the Mark IV is still great.
Now, 85L is usable for me for things like dancing and walking, which is a new, pleasant experience because I’ve always found it’s constant searching a real issue for me (just buy a self-help book, drink some wine, and quit social networking like the rest of us, GOD!)
And AI-Servo motion tracking is more consistent now!
With the EOS R, we now have almost full screen AF point coverage for motion tracking in EFV and in live view!
For those of you not acquainted with the Mark IV, we were only able to use motion tracking all the way to the edges when you were in live view. Tracking in the viewfinder was limited to about a 1/3rd of the screen – mostly in the very middle, which limited composing.
And honestly, I felt like tracking always worked a little better in live view anyway, but I just can’t shoot in live view constantly.
The EOS R, though, has been super reliable and I feel like my compositions are better because I can easily use my left thumb to move my focus point around on the LCD screen.
(even when I’m looking through the view finder – I’ve designated the left side of my LCD screen as my AF point map!)
I’ll admit, there was kind of a learning curve for me when it came to focus and recomposing with tracking I feel like I have to do a slightly slower swooping motion, than the quick jerk I wanted to do. This isn’t a good description. Basically, I complained about the motion tracking at first and it was user error and it works great.
Also, just a quick note, the AF works so much better in dark areas, guys!
Eye and face detection!
I’ll make this quick, but we also only had face detection in live view on the Mark IV. The EOS R has really reliable eye detection for portraits and I use face detection for portraits, toasts, ceremonies where I’m not shooting down the aisle (because it really wants you to photograph the officiant), but this only works in AI-Focus modeso it’s not great for processional and recessional photos.
Basically, for the most part, I’m always in SERVO mode and using motion tracking.
Overall, I feel like my hit-rate in well-lit areas is the same, but my compositions are better because I can recompose faster. So I’m getting the shots I want and they aren’t center composed out of necessity.
I quite literally never use manual focus, except for ring shots and when I’m using the 45mm tilt/shift and for the tilt shift alone, the R has made me so dang happy.
Admittedly, my compositions are, again, so much better because I no longer using live view to zoom in, focus, zoom out, and try to keep my subjects in that general area (which is how I had to use T/S lenses before because my vision isn’t great).
*Not having to work around your or your camera’s limitations is so freeing.*
Things that also aren’t great:
If you are coming from the Mark IV, godspeed to you.
The functions and layout of the buttons are slightly different. Or, they’re in the same place, but can’t be made to do the same things.
My own memory sensory for the Mark IV/Mark III (they’re super similar) body layout is strong so the R makes me feel confused a lot when changing things quickly is needed.
The R body reminds me so much of the Mark IV, but it’s slightly different and since I’m still shooting with both the IV and the R, it’s a mind eff.
Going back and forth between the Mark IV and the R means I hit the left side of my screen a lot thinking I’m going to hit those buttons on the left side of the IV that are totally missing on the R.
It made me feel dumb because I’ve shot with separate camera bodies multiple times in my career without issue!
I‘ve shot Canon+Nikon, Canon+Leica, Canon+Fuji, and experience has taught me that with a TOTALLY NEW/DIFFERENT brand camera, you’re actively aware that you either… don’t know where things are so you look for them or you just have new mental maps of where all the things are on different bodies because they feel different and look different through the lens.
But with the Canon R, the look and layout are so similar to the IV, I keep hitting certain areas on my camera and they don’t do the same thing as the Mark IV and I just get confused and it slows me down. A lot.
I feel like using a different brand of camera vs a slightly different Canon camera is the equivalence of walking through someone else’s home in the dark vs walking into your own home in the dark —- but someone has moved the furniture.
I ended up banging my legs a lot because things aren’t where I expect them to be, basically. Also, what was I doing in my friends home when it’s dark? Why did I think that was going to be relatable? Please don’t call the cops over my metaphor.
I fully expect this feeling to go away once I have two EOS R bodies in my hands. BUT! I’ve heard Canon will be releasing two new EOS R series bodies in 2019, so I’m going to wait and see what they do because the rumors seem promising (not like the rumor that I have a tail. I don’t, btw. I know that’s exactly what you would expect someone with a tail to say, but I wanted to take this opportunity to clear the air).
In the meantime, I’m going to continue to accidentally turn my screen off when I shoot portrait orientation because my hand covers the EVF sensor and accidentally change my ISO because I’m constantly knocking the adapter ring.
Oh, also, here’s a bummer: the screen flips up and down up, but only when it’s flipped out to the side!
This is silly and needs to be mentioned because I liked the idea of a flip up/down screen a lot, but I’m like 90% sure I’ll snap it off if I shoot with it out. It is, however, amazing for shooting video!
The EOS R doesn’t play nicely with Canon flash focusing beams!
BUT THIS MIGHT BE A GOOD THING! I think the honest to goodness goal should be to have a camera that doesn’t require an external focus beam so I can buy one of these little baby flashes because the weight is ALL THROWN OFF with my giant SB-600 atop my little baby mirrorless.
And I will say that the improved low light focusing has been a god send to correct this lack-of-feature AND it means I can shoot dances in AI-SERVO instead of AI-FOCUS (AI-FOCUS is the only way to make the focus assist beam work on the Mark IV, ya know).
There’s also an assist beam built into the camera but I’ve never been in a shooting situation where it’s came on. It has to be SUPER DARK for it to activate.
I didn’t want to end with my criticisms of the camera, but I feel like I said a lot of good things already and even the bad things weren’t all that bad.
Truthfully, this camera has me wagging my totally non-existent tail that isn’t real (stop asking) and it’s alleviated some of my wrist strain, too.
Do you have any questions about the EOS R? Let me know and I hope you’re having a great week so far!