Canon EOS R First Look

Key Features

  • Review Price: £2349
  • 30.3-megapixel full frame sensor
  • 3.69 million dot EVF
  • 3.15-inch 2.1 million dot articulated screen
  • ISO 100-25600
  • 8fps burst
  • Magnesium alloy shell
  • Weatherproof
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What is the Canon EOS R?

The full-frame mirrorless camera business just changed radically. Until now you had the choice of a few Sony models like the A7 III, perhaps a last-gen camera if you wanted to save some money.

There are now Nikon and Canon alternatives. We had a play with the Canon EOS R to see how it stacks up.

The EOS R with a mount adapter that lets you use Canon DSLR lenses costs £2349. If you want the 24-105mm f4 kit lens too, you’ll pay a somewhat heftier £3269.

Canon EOS R — Design and Handling

Most mirrorless cameras feel quite distinct from DSLRs. A Sony Alpha A7 III’s design is closer to that of Sony’s entry-level CSCs than its more traditional DSLRs.

The Canon EOS R feels like a DSLR. You get a full-frame sensor in a shell quite similar to that of an APS-C DSLR. And that’s pretty nice.

Its grip is chunky and ergonomic. As with most DSLRs, I did wish there was a few extra millimetres before it flattened out into the body, but the grip is large enough to make large lenses feel right.

As you’d hope for the price, the Canon EOS R shell is made of magnesium alloy. It’s weatherproof, with thick rubber bungs that block up the ports.

So far, so DSLR.

Canon EOS R — EVF, AF and Screen

The EVF is the obvious difference between this and an APS-C or full frame DSLR. It’s a 3.69-million dot viewfinder with 0.76x magnification.

It’s a reminder electronic viewfinders have radically improved over the last five years. It is excellent.

Big and bright, the clarity is superb, even if the 1280 x 960 pixel resolution it offers does not sound all that high. I was particularly impressed with its performance in very dark conditions.

The refresh rate drops a bit in gloomier situations, and some noise is introduced. But it’s able to make the scene preview much brighter than it appears to your own eyes.

It’s a brilliant compositional tool and is very quick to switch over when you put your face up to the viewfinder.

Good low-light EVF performance works perfectly with the new AF system. Canon says it can operate at up to -6EV, and sure enough it’s still reliable in very dark conditions. You won’t get anything like the claimed 0.05 second speed in darkness, but I was still fairly impressed by the low-light focusing.

It’s certainly miles better than the FujiFilm X-T10 I use day-to-day.

I’m less convinced by the need for the EOS R’s 5,655 focus points (or positions, as Canon likes to call them). When using the EVF you, as usual, use the D-pad to select your focus point. I used the single-point AF mode to see what the full experience was like, and it frankly takes too long to get from one end of the frame to another.

I ended up using one of the focus zone modes, which rather takes away the point of that ultra-high spec. Still, it is great that the AF covers pretty much the entire frame.

The screen can be used to select focus too. It’s a touch display, 3.15 inches across and has a resolution of 2.1 million dots.

Unlike the screens of the Nikon Z6 and Z7, it’s fully articulated. You can pull it out and turn it around so you can see the preview while in front of the Canon EOS R.

A standard tilting screen is less versatile, but is quicker if you’re a stills shooter who will only really need to shoot from above or below head height. It also depends a little on what you’re used to: I’m much more accustomed to tilt displays.

Canon EOS R — OIS and Sensor

One of the main initial concerns about the Canon EOS R is that it does not have in-body stabilisation. The Nikon Z6, Z7 and Sony Alpha A7 III all have five-axis stabilisation, which is naturally very handy for handheld shooting.

Canon’s lenses, the ones I’ve used with the EOS R, have their own stabilisation anyway. However, it’s still an issue when many of you may want to use the lens adapter and your older Canon lenses.

This is particularly pertinent when the initial lens line-up is full of pretty expensive, big and heavy models. I had a chance to use the 50mm, the 24-105mm and the upcoming 28-70mm, which is a beast both in terms of size/weight and image quality.

What we don’t have right now is a breezy lens you’ll want to take our for more casual shoots. Everything is pretty big and heavy.

Maybe we shouldn’t expect something as accessible as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8: affordable, small and optically solid. This isn’t an entry-level camera, and my preference for relatively small prime APS-C lenses is probably showing right now. But who doesn’t like a handy pancake lens, at least sometimes?

You’ll have to wait for our full review of the EOS R for the verdict on image quality, but early impressions are predictably great. The sensor is 30.3-megapixels in resolution.

While shots at the ISO 12800 setting that the camera’s Auto sensitivity used during the immersive theatre demo Canon took us to (don’t ask) predictably don’t look amazing, they are still usable for more casual purposes.

Here are a few additional demo shots we took:

Most videographers should be fairly pleased with the ability to shoot video at up to 4K resolution (30fps), and up to 10-bit 4:2:2 when outputting over HDMI.

Canon EOS R – First impressions

Canon has done a good job of making the EOS R feel like a companion to its existing full-frame DSLRs, rather than a strange experimental offshoot. Sure, the lens system is new, but that classic Canon character remains.

The smaller body size of the mirrorless format hasn’t been exploited yet, though. Big, bold “native” lenses may be able to produce great shots, but probably won’t make us want to take the EOS R out for more casual shoots too often. However, Canon will no doubt fill out its lens range out in 2019.

As for the experience the Canon EOS R delivers right now, we’ll bring you our full verdict very soon.

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