For this week’s TGIF, we have the new(ish) Canon EOS R5. We had covered the original EOS R, and came away feeling a bit underwhelmed. So when the new “super-duper” R5 was released we got our hands on a loaner for a fortnight. As usual, we used the camera and several lenses for our watch photography and other general work around town. Here are my thoughts on the camera and lenses.
The Canon EOS R5 retails for S$6,199 inclusive of GST. The lenses we had on loan were the EF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro IS USM (S$1,469), RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM (S$3,559) and RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM (S$3,649).
Canon EOS R5
Canon released the the R5 and R6 in July 9 2020, hot after the heels of their other major announcement of the flagship 1Dx mk iii (retail S$9,768) in Jan 2020. The 1Dx series is Canon’s top of the line camera, and is a full frame DSLR capable of very high burst speeds. It uses a different lens mount from the mirrorless system, though the EF lenses it uses can be natively adapted to be used on the R bodies.
The R is Canon’s mirrorless range, and uses the RF lens family. The R5 has the most impressive specifications of any Canon camera to date – it is a full frame mirrorless digital camera with a 45 Mp sensor. A second camera – the R6 (we had a loaner for a month and a full review forthcoming soon) was also announced and released on the same day. This featured a somewhat stripped down version with a full frame sensor, but with only a 20.1 Mp sensor, in fact, the very same sensor as the top of the line 1DX mk iii released earlier.
Nomenclature sidebar: In the Canon nomenclature, the hierarchy is clear. Among the full frame sensor bodies, the 1 series is their top of the line professional series designed for rugged, all day everyday peak performance. These cameras are identified with the integrated vertical grip, and huge batteries. And also very fast autofocus and frame rates. The 5 series is their attempt at the lower end professional market/serious enthusiast market. The 5 series bodies typically have a more dense sensors. And the 6 series is the semi-professionals and serious amateurs. The D is the digital single lens reflex range with the mirror box and optical viewfinder and the R range is their mirrorless offering. Following this nomenclature, there is a good possibility that a range topping R1 will be released in the future, but for now the R5 is Canon’s top mirrorless camera.
The sensor and commentary on the specifications
Canon, unlike many other digital camera manufacturers make their own sensors. Most of the others buy their sensors from Sony, including Nikon, and of course Sony. Sony is also the sensor manufacturer for the medium format sensors we see in the Hasselblad X1D, X1D II, H6D 50, H6D 100, Fujifilm GFX 50R, GFX 50S, GFX 100, the Pentax 645, and even the Phase One IQ4 100 Achromatic, IQ4 150 and IQ4 Trichromatic. As far as we know, only Panasonic and Leica use a different sensor manufacturer, likely supplied by TowerJazz, a company with part ownership by Panasonic.
The sensor in the R5 is full frame, thus measures 24mm x 36mm and comes with 45Mp. The shutter automatically closes when the body is powered off or when the lens is dismounted to protect the sensor, and I found it to be useful in preventing dust settling on the sensor when changing lenses. Some users report that it makes the dust situation worse, as the closing and opening of the shutter kicks up dust which inadvertently settles on the sensor.
The leading headline at the launch of the R5 is the groundbreaking 8K raw video recording at up to 29.97fps, and 4K 10-bit video recording at up to 119.9fps.
However, shortly after the R5 announcement, reports started to surface from testers who had access to early cameras that there were issues of overheating, especially when recording 8k video. The camera shuts itself down to prevent failure from overheating after short periods of time, and will not allow videos longer than a few minutes. The interweb was ablaze with controversy theories that Canon intentionally cripple the camera by setting it to shut down early in order to protect the sales of their high end video cameras. This was supported by websites which opened the camera up to show the internals, and measured the temperatures of the various components. They found that even when the components were well below the critical temperatures, the camera initiated shutdown. However, Canon official explanation is that their engineers were erring on the side of caution and initiate the shutdown with headroom to spare. They released a firmware update on the 10th September, and the unit loaned to us had the original firmware and I updated it during its tenure with us to the latest. As I understand it from video shooters who have reported, this firmware update completely ameliorate the overheating issue.
For the purposes of still photography, the issue of overheating never arose, and the camera was always very well behaved.
As I did not use the R5 to shoot any video, I will not be commenting on its video performance, and will leave this issue as it is.
Handling and ergonomics
The handling of the R5 is similar to other Canon EOS bodies. Which is to say, its excellent. The grip is sufficiently large to provide a good purchase when holding the camera up. And design wise, it is very similar to the EOS R which we reviewed earlier. But the body is more substantial, and feels very solid and robust. The feel and handling is more akin to the 1Dx series than the original EOS R body. And a big improvement to the lack of feel I reported in the R review. The body and all R lenses are weather sealed, and good for almost any kind of weather.
I am happy to report that the quirks on the EOS R that I found in my review is now fixed. In that review, I noted that the ISO resets to 100 after each power down/up sequence. This is no longer the case with the R5, and later the R6. I experienced that ACR does not automatically apply optical corrections when opening a CR3 raw file on the EOS R, this is resolved now. I also reported that the raw EOS R files are not visible as thumbnails on Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). This is also resolved now. These are not Canon issues, but of Adobe, and are fixed in later releases.
I found the menu system to be logically laid out, as are the button layout. And I needed no time at all to familiarize myself with the camera. Once setup, a process which took about 15 minutes for me, it was ready to go. I found the camera to be super reliable, each and every time I took it out to shoot.
Autofocus performance is quite good. Especially coming from a medium format background, I found the speed and accuracy to be excellent. Compared to the Panasonic S1R and the Leica SL2, the Canon R5 is a bit faster. With the native RF lenses, the autofocus is near instantaneous. I did almost all my shooting in single point autofocus, moving it around with the joystick as I selected the point of focus, and using single shot mode. Though I did try the continuous autofocus mode, and though I must admit this is not my style of shooting, I found it to be adequate.
For watch macro photography, the single point, single autofocus works superbly well. A small anomaly I noticed is that the EVF would show an image which is not colour corrected for a brief moment, perhaps 0.5seconds, before showing a fully colour corrected image. Perhaps this is because I shoot in raw only, and the camera has to take a moment to convert it to the jpeg colour space to display. I did not shoot in raw + jpeg to see if the display was faster.
ISO performance is excellent. The camera is capable of ISO from the native of 100 to 51,200 ;and is expandable to 102,400. While I did not test the camera with torture low light testings, all the images came out to be nicely exposed, with little chroma or luma noise up to a very usable 3200, or when pushed for smaller prints and web work up to even 6400. Beyond that, the images show progressive destruction in detail and colour accuracy.
The lens ecosystem is enormous. Even for native RF lenses, the selection is very good. The lenses which were loaned to me were the EF 100L, the RF 15-35L wide angle zoom, and the venerable RF 50L. And through the use of the R adapter, all the lenses in the EF range, which is a huge universe, is available with full functionality – electronic control and data exchange, and autofocus all enabled.
I used the EF 100L exclusively for watch macros. I will be discussing image quality next week, but suffice it to say that it is excellent. The lens is very sharp, and has a very flat field of view, with minimal distortions.
The conclusions drawn on the EF100L and RF50L on my EOS R review remain unchanged, and both these as well as the 15-35L are superb lenses.
The EOS R5 is a superb camera. It works, and works excellent. The image quality and the resolution is sufficient to cover any assignment. Thus it is almost perfect as a professional camera, which gets out of the way and lets the photographer do his work. The camera never gets in the way, and always performs as it should. However, it does lack some of the X factor that is present in cameras like the Leica and Hasselblad, or even the presence of the GFX bodies. But this is hardly a consideration for the professional photographer. When he has a job, he grabs his EOS R5 and it does its job very well.
As I am testing out more and more of the latest crop of full frame mirrorless cameras, I am beginning to find smaller and smaller differences between these cameras. All the cameras I have reviewed from the Panasonic S1R, to the Leica SL2, Leica M10-R, are all superb, with little to choose between. All these cameras are excellent. And to complicate matters, I could throw in the Fujifilm GFX 50R and 50S medium format bodies, as they also fall into the same broad price range. The good thing is that you can not go wrong with any of these cameras. And the only advice I can give, having experienced all these camera systems is to try one out for yourself. The ergonomics, how it fits your hand. How do you like the menu system to be like, and the button layout. Think about the lenses you need for your style of photography. And pick the one most suited based on these criteria. Image quality, high ISO performance are all givens with these cameras. The Canon R5 and R6 have the best autofocus currently among mirrorless cameras. The GFX bodies, being medium format with a larger sensor are marginally slower than the S1R and SL2, which in turn are marginally slower than the R5/R6. The M10-R is manual focus only.
Next week, I will show some photographs to illustrate the image quality of the Canon EOS R5.