Released in July 2020, the hype generated surrounding the Canon EOS R5 revolved around its ability to shoot 8K footage internally, rocking 45 Megapixels with face and animal eye AF (autofocus), in-body image stabiliser, and even dual card slots.
Most of these features were already introduced into the market before the device was launched, but the fact that they finally made their way into a Canon ecosystem was a big thing. Granted, the previously launched Canon EOS R also contains most of it, but the Canon EOS R5 has brought these features onto another level.
As a person who is a Canon DSLR shooter, the Canon EOS R5 interests me. There is little doubt that mirrorless is the way forward in the industry. With Canon’s announcement of the EOS C70, their first cinema camera with mirrorless RF lens mount, it is a not-so-subtle sign to consumers and investors that Canon is determined to beef up its entire mirrorless systems ecosystem; both cinema and photography.
Before getting my hands on the Canon EOS R5, I was unsure if I was ready to make the jump to mirrorless. But now, I am excited to see if the R5 can answer that question as someone who has primarily been shooting with DSLRs.
Out of the box, it looks like a smaller version of the 5DMKIV (my current primary camera), which is not a bad problem! While gripping the camera without a lens, it felt really sturdy and well built. The leather grip, the black metal that Canon uses gives the R5 the classic Canon DSLR/Mirrorless look that I can truly appreciate as a design geek.
Along with the aesthetic drive, the metal casing that Canon employs allows the camera to continue feeling solid and rugged. The button layout on the back of the camera also breathes familiarity to Canon users; even the joystick is back!
The big difference between the Canon EOS R5 and 5DMKIV (other than weight) would be the shift of button positions from left to right, though again, it isn’t such a bad thing because your right thumb can now do most of the operations. At the same time, the left-hand focuses on operating the lens.
Personally, my previous concern with the mirrorless system was with the overall balance of the setup. Often, mirrorless cameras will feel front-heavy, with the lens usually having most of the weight as the camera body itself is lightweight. It often makes shooting with mirrorless cameras feel off because most of the weight is on my left hand compared to DSLRs, where the weight mainly distributes evenly.
However, when I attached the 24-105mm F4 kit lens onto it, I was surprised at how balanced it felt. Attaching a Sigma 35mm Art lens with the EF-EOS R adapter also did not throw off the camera’s balance at all, similar to how it felt with my 5DMKIV, but lighter. Impressions-wise, this was a good sign because it instils confidence in users.
I also love that the Canon EOS R5 can use an LP-E6N battery, which is the same standard as the 5DMKIV. While the camera comes with Canon’s newly launched battery, LP-E6NH (reported to have 14% more power than its older counterpart), shooters switching from DSLRs will be happy to know that they can still use their old batteries with this new system. It saves money, and this, of course, means more money for lenses.
The shutter sound and feedback is something that I can also appreciate. Another pet-peeve of mine with mirrorless systems is that the shutter sounds are mostly artificially produced unless they have a mechanical curtain; it feels and sounds fake. The EOS RP itself also had a running joke on how it sounded like a toy camera going off.
But using the Canon EOS R5 does deliver great feedback when the shutter gets pressed, also sounding natural and amazing. With that said, it still pales in comparison to the feeling you get when you squeeze the shutter of a DSLR. But this is an improvement nonetheless.
The user experience that the Canon EOS R5 brings is nothing short of amazing. The Vari-angle, full touch screen LCD is like a breath of fresh air for a full-frame DSLR user, especially as a person who has quietly pondered the niceties of having a Vari-angle screen while shooting photos.
With it, shooting from low and high angles has never been easier, and this was especially useful for me as I love shooting at lower angles; gone are the days where I had to go prone to get my shots. Shooting concerts would also be more comfortable, especially as you have to lift the camera way above your shoulders to get a decent shot.
The EVF is super clear, bright, and accurate. It is something that I have learned to appreciate, given that when using older mirrorless cameras, the EVF on them was a bit laggy due to lower refresh rates and also lacked clarity. It made the feeling of shooting with a mirrorless fake and “artificial”.
But the R5’s EVF is spot on. Shooting with it felt natural, all thanks to its 120hz refresh rate. One thing to note is that looking at your shots in the EVF would generally make them look much better compared to screens like laptops or mobile phones due to viewing the image in a blacked-out environment, much like watching a video in a dark room.
Though, I do miss having the buttons at the top that are present on my 5D MKIV. These consisted of four buttons that allowed you to control the drive mode, ISO, and focusing mode, among others. It took some time to figure out that the multi-control wheel at the top of the R5 was essentially doing the same thing — the only difference being that the user would need to select the parameter to adjust before turning the wheel.
I speculate that the removal of the buttons was to accommodate the smaller body of the R5. But I still prefer having buttons because it brings tactile feedback when switching settings. With the ever-changing shoot environment, like at an event, a photographer might need to switch settings while looking into the viewfinder to get your shot, so that feedback would be significant.
Let’s move on to what matters most, photography performance. For context, weddings, portraits, corporate, products, and concerts are shoots I cover. I had the opportunity to take the R5 for a spin in portraits, street, and some landscape long exposure photography.
Colours that came out of the Canon EOS R5 do not disappoint, as expected from Canon. Many people ask why I stay using Canon devices for my shoots, and my answer is always that colours generated from them help to do the work for me. It is especially since I take many shots of people. The skin tone that Canon produces is suitably accurate; I am happy to see that it delivers skin tones that symbolise the Canon experience.
The only downside I noticed about the camera was that it handles the colours by packing in a lot more dynamic range and information within its massive 45MP full-frame sensor, making the editing sliders on Adobe Lightroom much more ‘sensitive’. It will take additional time to get used to editing the photos that come out from it.
The Canon EOS R5 uses CR3 formatting for its photos, and one small but fantastic thing about the new Canon raw format handles information really well. A shoot ending with 1400 photos on the camera only consumed 67GB of storage on my card — conversely, 630 images on the CR2 format occupies the same amount of storage.
It was a pleasant surprise to see that this was the new raw format’s feature rather than a result of losing footage. With better handling, now 64GB cards can go a long way, useful for all event photographers as we constantly pack shots into our memory cards.
The in-body stabilisation is also truly something. Coupled with suitable RF lenses, you can get up to 8 stops of stabilisation, which means that shooting in lower light with slower shutter speeds can now be possible.
More than anything, it also proves that high ISO performance is not necessary for low-light photography; if your camera allows for lower shutter speeds, shooting at lower ISO at night can also deliver shots of decent quality. Nevertheless, this only applies to stationary objects as your lower shutter speed will still cause your stills to blur if your subject moves.
While we are still on the subject of ISO performance, the Canon EOS R5 does decently well. The amount of grain coming from the high ISO photos are acceptable, and the gain does not look ‘ugly’; without weird colouration.
I would love to bring your attention to the Eye AF of the R5. It is something that completely blew my mind. I have never played much with Eye AF in the past, but when I started shooting portraits with the R5, my mind melted.
The AF was always on the model, not losing focus even as she spins and moves around (a common occurrence during my shoots). The result was so reliable that I left it shooting on Eye AF mode instead of focusing on framing the shot, trusting all the AF work to the camera.
For context, with the 5DMKIV, I usually use point AF and the back-focusing button, proceeding to point the focus point on the model’s eye, press focus and hold, reframe and shoot. The process is massively made easier with the Canon EOS R5 —I simply frame the shot and shoot.
To cap it off, I do have to say although the shots were with a Sigma 35mm 1.4f Art lens, the Canon adapter was still communicating the R5 well with the lens.
My initial reluctance on changing to a mirrorless camera was the communication between adapters and lenses. The top of my worries was the lag in autofocus when using third party lenses and Canon’s own RF adapters, given that my favourite lenses come from Sigma. But my fears were alleviated when I saw no noticeable lag in focusing, even with Eye-AF tracking. That’s right; the AF was still reliable with an EF-EOS R adapter and a third party lens.
Moving on to videography, I employed a videographer’s help, shooting on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and the Canon EOS RP. We decided to use the DANAMIC studio and shoot some B-roll.
While it is true that the R5 can go up to 8K footage, we wanted to test the camera in “daily-use” conditions. Many people will be shooting in 4K instead of 8K, even in the foreseeable future, hence our decision to shoot in 4K 100 FPS (we edit in PAL here in Singapore).
On the filming experience, the Vari-angle touch screen helps the entire filming experience become much more enjoyable, enabling better handling for more stable shots. Much like with photography, it also helps with filming at high or low angles as well. Additional praise should also be given to placing the recording near the shutter button for convenience.
A significant aspect of the Canon EOS R5’s performance would be its reliable Dual Pixel Auto Focus (DPAF). All the shots seen in the video above are with DPAF, and the tracking on the DPAF is something else. My videographer pulled, swung, and orbited around with the Canon EOS R5, and it refused to lose focus on the subject. It’s a great feature to have when you need to track a subject while orbiting or sliding away from it.
The contrast with the DPAF performance on the Canon EOS R5 compared with other cameras within Canon’s line-up presents a stark difference. My videographer rocks the Canon EOS RP as a 2nd Camera, and he was relieved that he could start tracking objects with the R5 while shooting 4K because RP does not have DPAF in 4K. Hence if you do use AF during your video shoots, you can rely on the R5.
However, we have to talk about heating issues. Even though we did not shoot 8K, we did get an overheat warning just after one hour of one-off b-roll. The camera, fortunately, did not shut down midway but considering that we filmed in a studio with air conditioning, I have little doubt that the outdoor Singapore weather would decimate the camera when shooting 4K 100FPS; it is an issue to consider. At least it was not uncomfortable to hold despite being warm.
The Canon EOS R5 does feel like Canon’s first proper entry into the mirrorless market. Overall, it will be a definite upgrade for anyone coming from the Canon DSLR system.
The big pros are that the adapter works perfectly fine with both native Canon and 3rd party lenses, including batteries you already own. Handling and photo performance of the R5 does not detract from the feeling of using a DSLR, all while delivering a lighter weight. The jump towards the EOS R system with the R5 is not a huge ask.
However, the drawbacks of the Canon EOS R5 are mainly related to its videography. Its capabilities are impressive, but if the intention is to use it as a workhorse for high-level professional productions, cinema cameras like the new Canon EOS C70 might be the better, albeit more pricey, choice. On the flip side, if the camera is intended for more casual videography work like vlogging, it should more than suffice.
The Canon EOS R5 would be a reasonable jump to mirrorless for professionals with the cash to do so. Although there are chances of having overheating problems with 8K and 4K 120FPS filming, other features like its eye-tracking, 5-axis in-body stability, ability to hold 1 CFexpress, and 1 SD UHS-II card are excellent for professional photography work. Besides the concern of price, I do not see a reason for professionals to drop it for their setup.
Hobbyist and casual shooters would find it much too expensive, however. An alternative would be EOS R6, the more affordable brother of the Canon EOS R5. You would be losing out on additional megapixels and 8K shooting, but for casual shooters, the price and specs sit just right.
Canon EOS R5$6,199
- Excellent handling and user experience
- Familiar Canon UIUX for existing Canon users
- Classic Canon colour science - reliable jump from DSLR to Mirrorless
- Superb eye-AF and tracking
- Great for vlogging, thanks to the vari-angle screen
- Potential heat management issues
- Price is relatively high for a hobbyist or prosumer as well as professionals