The big turning point for full-frame mirrorless digital cameras came in 2018. Sony had a monopoly until then, but by mid-2019 Canon, Nikon and Panasonic also had full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market. As the company’s first full-frame offer, the Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera has some shortcomings, but is solid and with impressive capabilities.
It is a bold redesign and step up from their EOS-M series of APS-C cameras. In the time since its initial release, updates and a better line up of lenses have improved the EOS R considerably. As well as buying the body alone, you can select from kits with the RF24-105mm lens, or the RF 24-240mm lens. In the box you will also get a LP-E6N Battery and charger, plus neck strap, cover and interface cable.
Mirrorless digital cameras are the way of the future and set to replace dSLRs. They are typically lighter, quieter and more compact, the mechanics are simpler than a dSLR, and Live View always shows you exactly what you are capturing. It is only because sensors could not output their data fast enough that the film-era SLR system was needed until now.
The Canon EOS R at a glance
- Excellent dual pixel autofocus system with 5,655 AF points
- New lens control ring and control customization is great
- 4K video capabilities
- Front facing screen, which make it attractive for vloggers
- New RF mount – with adapter use all EF lenses with no loss of functionality
- 4K video is cropped by 1.7x which changes the focal length of lenses
- No in-body image stabilization (IBIS) for still images, only lens based IS
- Multi-function bar
- Only a single SD card slot
In many ways the EOS R is basically a mirrorless version of Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV, and it processes images in almost the same way. The EOS R’s 30MP full frame CMOS sensor is 24 x 36mm, with 6,720 × 4,480 pixels. It uses the updated DIGIC 8 processor. Those who love Canon’s color science, will be happy and it is great for portrait work.
The body has a solid feel. It is mixed metal and plastic with an alloy internal frame, and Canon claims it is dust & water-resistant. It is sturdier than the EOS-M series.
Autofocus is consistently accurate, and the menu and button control customizations are excellent.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) and LCD screen are both high quality and AF point selection can be moved easily with the touch screen.
However, the Canon EOS R is hampered by some odd choices in functionality. The lack of in-body image stabilization is a glaring omission. The argument is that relies lens based image stabilization is preferable. Although the new RF lenses have IS, that doesn’t help when using other lens.
It is also unclear the new multi-function bar actually adds much, and the cropped 4K video will be a disappointment to many. The single card slot is also not ideal, but it takes standard SD, SDHC or SDXC cards.
What Canon has done well is establish the new RF mount and the basis of their mirrorless system. They are working fast to fill out a decent line up of lenses. And, it integrates very well into the existing Canon ecosystem.
Who is the EOS R for?
For anyone who already owns Canon glass and wants to move towards a mirrorless system, the Canon EOS R Mirrorless Digital Camera is a solid all round full-frame mirrorless camera. It offers all the advantages of the mirrorless system—it is lighter and quieter and more direct in its mechanics than dSLRs, great AF and the lenses are exceptional.
The image quality on the EOS R is pro-level, however the details of settings and options make it more suited to enthusiasts or prosumers. Keen early adopters have probably already jumped in, but more cautious professionals are wise to be waiting for the next iterations.
For those on a tighter budget, look at the smaller EOS RP. It is still a full frame mirrorless, but a little smaller and with slightly cut back specifications for the sensor, screen and EVF. The EOS Ra offers greater magnification in Live View, and is optimized for astro photography.
Canon have already announced the successors—the EOS R5 and smaller R6, are expected sometime later in 2020. If you are a pro, it might be good to wait for the new model, though don’t expect it to come without a hefty price tag. Or, consider the great deals emerging for the EOS R now.
Now, let’s get into the details.
Key Features and Benefits of the Canon EOS R Mirrorless Digital Camera
The EOS R uses Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus. Thanks to the more direct mirrorless system, the AF sensors are part of the image sensor itself. There are no additional mirrors for the AF system, and no calculations and adjustments are required.
The AF system on the EOS R is fast and accurate and has a huge range of options. It is going to hit the mark more often than a dSLR. The area covered is 88% horizontal and 100% vertical of the frame, and it boasts over 5000 AF sensors. Face and eye tracking are available, though not in all modes.
Amazingly, working in almost complete darkness is possible. The EOS R sensor is rated at LV-6 and it is equipped with an amber AF assist beam.
Ergonomics & Controls
The EOS R feels comfortable in hand, but there are some odd choices about button and control placement. For 5D users the lack of thumb scroll wheel, and the change of position for the playback and other buttons will feel odd. Though the buttons are easy to identify by feel alone with the curved body shapes.
The stand out feature is the new multi-function touch bar (M-Fn) which is located to the right of the eye piece. There is no tactile feedback, and for those with bigger hands it can be too easy to hit accidentally. ISO, white balance and manual audio levels control during video recording are some options it can be assigned. It can be turned off, or locked so it requires a long touch to activate.
The EOS R features the familiar and excellent Canon menu system. It is color coded and intuitive to navigate. Most buttons can be readily customized, and pretty much set to do whatever you prefer. If you have become partial to back-button focussing, it uses the AF-on by default and is easy to set up.
There is also a great new control ring on the lenses or mount adapters which can be set to adjust whatever you desire. Other than the default aperture value, it can be set to ISO, or even to zoom the active AF area on the viewfinder.
Rear LCD and Touch Screen
The LCD screen is on a fully articulated flip out system. That means by rotating the screen 180º you have a front facing screen. It is a first on a mirrorless camera, and makes the EOS R an attractive choice for vlogging.
The LCD screen naturally functions to display the menu system and for playback. On a zoomed in image, you can swipe on the screen to move your view around. However, there is no inertia, so you have swipe a few times to get all the way across.
The touch screen can be used to move the AF point to where you need. This is intuitive and faster than the dials or the 4-way direction button. It can also be used to create smooth focus pulls when capturing video.
Unfortunately, there is no auto brightness for the rear screen. Setting it to maximum will be readable even in direct sun. Interestingly, when shooting in low light, the screen and viewfinder tends to show you more than you can see on a dSLR screen, or even with your naked eye.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF)
Live View capabilities reduce the chances of completely ruining an image by getting the exposure way off mark. Less time is spent reframing after metering or focussing and there is no cropping later to achieve the image framing you really wanted.
The electronic viewfinder shows a live feed from the sensor. The screen is a good resolution and refreshes fast at 60fps, or 30fps in power save mode. Everything you could want to control can be done in the EOS R electronic viewfinder (EVF). No need to use the LCD.
Only one can be active at a time—the screen or the EVF. The viewfinder becomes active automatically you place your eye up to it. Or, you can swap between the two manually.
You can show as much as you need and want in the electronic viewfinder. The ability to see live histograms is very helpful. It will also play back, display menus, and you can zoom in on AF points. When using RF lenses, focus distance and depth of field scale can be shown. And, the data display will automatically rotate with the camera.
Depth of field preview on the EOS R will not darken the image in the viewfinder, so it is easier to use. There is no dedicated button though, so you will need to assign one. It will also accurately preview super fast lenses—wider than f2.5—that dSLRs never could.
Whilst the EOS R is capable of shooting HD and 4K video, it is not really up to standard, and the capabilities are compromised. Swapping between stills and video is less straight forward than it should be, and requires going through a few selections. Maximum take length is: 29:59 min, and video ISO is 100-12,800 for 4K.
The main concern is the 1.7x crop factor. 4K video (3,840 x 2,160) uses a cropped direct-sample from the middle of the sensor. That means your lens aren’t going to be quite as wide. In contrast, full HD video is a downsampled full-width 16:9 crop from the sensor.
The frame rates are also compromised. You can only shoot up to 30fps for 4K (UHD), and 60fps for Full HD video (1,920 x 1,080). To shoot 120fps, it will need to be 1,280 x 720. If you attach a EF-S lens, then for Full HD only, the maximum will be 30fps.
Thankfully, Canon Log comes as standard and it is possible to export 10-bit 4K via HDMI. This allows professional level post production and color grading possibilities, but auto settings are restricted. Options for compression using all-I or IPB are available for most sizes and frame rates.
Video capture does benefit from electronic stabilization, which is rated at five stops improvement. But, no still images can be taken whilst recording. For audio during video recording, use the built-in mic or the mic jack with plug in power. There is also a headphone jack for playback.
The new RF mount system and lens support
A camera body is nothing on its own. You need to have decent lenses available or the system will fall down. The new RF mount has a 54mm inner diameter and 20mm flange focal distance. It also comes with a 12-pin connection, for better power and information transfer between the body and lenses. The shorter distance from flange to sensors opens the possibility for some great lenses to be designed.
Canon is showing strong commitment to the RF mount and has already released a number of top lenses to fit the EOS R. All feature IS and the lineup continues to grow. What is even better is that they are generally sharper and have less distortion than equivalent EF lenses.
For those who already own Canon lenses, EF adapters and also teleconverters all function great on the EOS R body. You can use any EF or EF-S lens on the body with a simple control ring mount converter. All the optical performance and features on your lenses—depth of field, bokeh, autofocus, image stabilization —function as you are used to. The Digital Lens Optimizer (DLO) brightens up older lenses and reduces distortions, fall off and color fringing.
Additional features to note
Additional features include Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB 3.1, type C connector. It omits GPS, but this can be added via an app. A flash can be used via the standard hotshoe on top. However, there is no built-in flash.
The batteries and chargers are the same as used on the Canon 5D and 7D. Depending on how much you adjust things in the menus and play back, and what you are shooting, you should get 1000 or more shots per charge. There is an ECO mode that extends battery life. You can also get a battery grip.
How does the EOS R stack up against the competition?
Let’s now take a look at how the EOS R compares to Sony, Nikon and Panasonic models all around the $2000 mark for the body.
The two things that all these alternatives offer which are missing from the Canon EOS R are: in-body image stabilization, and AF Joystick control. Canon offers the highest megapixels resolution with 30MP, whilst the others are 24MP. Though this does not necessarily lead to a straight-up advantage on the same size sensor.
The EOS R stands out with its fully articulated screen, and its performance is superior in low light, for both AF and noise.
Quick Comparison Guide
|Canon EOS R||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6||Panasonic S1|
|Sensor – pixels||30MP||24MP||24MP||24MP|
|AF system||Dual pixel AF with 5655 AF points||693 point phase detection AF / 425 point contrast detection AF||273 point phase detection AF||‘Depth from Defocus’|
contrast detection AF
|Top settings display||yes – dot-matrix||no||yes||yes|
|Viewfinder (EVF) resolution||3.68M dots||2.36M dots||3.68M dots||5.76M dots|
|Rear Screen||articulated touch screen|
|tilting touch screen|
|two-way tilting touchscreen|
|Image Stabilization||lens only||5-axis IBIS||5-axis IBIS||5-axis IBIS|
& sync with lens IS
|Maximum Frame Rate||8 fps – locked focus|
5 fps – tracking focus
|10 fps||12 fps|
for 12-bit Raw
|9 fps – locked focus|
6 fps – tracking focus
|High Res Mode||no||no||no||yes – 96mp|
uses multiple captures
|Back lit buttons||no||no||no||yes|
|Video Capture||upto 4K 30fps|
– 1.7x crop
|4K 24fps –|
– full sensor
– 1.2x Crop
Paid Upgrade: Raw HDMI to Atomos Ninja
4K 60fps – 1.5x crop
10-bit 30fps (internal)
10-bit 60fps (HDMI)
8-bit – internal
10-bit – HDMI
|S-Log2 & 3, HLG|
10-bit – HDMI
|370 (LCD)/ 350 screen||710 / 610||380 / 310||400 / 380|
with SD card
|Lens mount||Canon RF||Sony E-mount||Nikon Z||L-Mount|
Lumix and Leica
|Dimensions (approx.)|| 5.35 x 3.87 x 3.32 in|
136 x 98 x 84 mm
|5.0 x 3.8 x 2.9 in.|
127 x 96 x 74 mm
|5.28 x 3.98 x 2.68″|
134 x 101 x 68 mm
|5.9 x 4.3 x 3.8 in.|
149 x 110 x 97 mm
with battery, card and body cap
|660g||650 g||675 g||1017 g with SD card|
Canon EOS R vs Sony a7III
Both have excellent AF systems, but the Sony a7 III uses a combination Phase Detection and Contrast Detection system and has fewer AF points. The A7III can shoot silently at 10fps, and do it whilst tracking exposure and AF.
Ergonomically, the curved design of the EOS R is more comfortable than the Sony. The shutter on the EOS R is also closed when off, which minimizes dirt getting on the sensor.
The Sony captures 4K video at full sensor, width, so there is no annoying crop factor to worry about. For photographers shooting events or travel photography, Sony’s long battery life also stands out as an advantage.
Sony’s a7 III iteration of their mirrorless camera delivers a better picture, longer battery life, and clearer image than previous versions. While it’s on the pricier end of the spectrum, there are plenty of reasons to commit.
- 24.2 megapixels, 35-mm full-frame CMOS sensor with back-illuminated design
- Sensitivity range up to ISO 51200
- Capable of high-speed, continuous shots up to 10fps
- 4DFocus with 693 detection autofocus (AF) points covering up to 93% of the image area.
- Bluetooth capability allows you to connect to smartphones.
- Battery: Rechargeable, lasts around 200 minutes and takes more than 600 shots
- Accessories included: shoulder strap, AC adapter, body cap, accessory shoe cap, eyepiece cap, micro USB cable
One of the key technical features that sets this camera apart is the autofocus. It’s a versatile option with the ability to shoot subjects in motion and an effective eye autofocus feature that works even when a face is partially hidden.
Looking beyond the impressive technical specifications, Sony added some additional perks to improve your experience. Sony’s proprietary SteadyShot feature counteracts any camera shake using a gimbal mechanism and algorithm to deliver stable images.
If you are not committed to the Canon system, then do check out everything the Sony A7 III has to offer.
Canon EOS R vs Nikon Z6
Like the EOS R, the Z6 has only a single card slot, but it takes the new XQD cards rather than SD cards. The AF system and tracking is great and the ergonomics for controlling exposure whilst shooting are easy.
For more serious filmmakers, the Nikon Z6 offers a paid firmware upgrade to allow streaming raw video output via HDMI. Used with a Atomos Ninja V recording monitor it will record and encode in in ProRes Raw Format. You can also have different settings for stills and video, which is helpful when doing hybrid video–photo shoots.
The Nikon Z6 is a solid, easy to use camera that takes excellent pictures and even better videos.
- 24.5 megapixels, 35-mm full-frame CMOS sensor with back-illuminated design
- Sensitivity range up to ISO 100-51200
- Capable of high-speed, continuous shots and movies
- Optimized 493 on-sensor autofocus (AF) covers up to 90% of the image area.
- Bluetooth low-energy connectivity with the Nikon SnapBridge app, and built-in WiFi
- Battery: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery, lasts up to 85 minutes or around 310 shots
- Accessories included: 50mm f/1.8 s lens, FTZ mount adapter, Sony XQD G Series 120GB memory card, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, battery charger, 62mm circular polarizing filter, hard case.
While the Nikon Z6 may be better for videos, it delivers clear, crisp shots in nearly any settings. Some people may feel that it takes longer to learn how to use the more technical features, but most aspects are automatic or intuitive.
Take a closer look at the Nikon Z6 for solid all round stills and video shooting competence, plus good ergonomics.
EOS R Versus Panasonic Lumix S1
The Panasonic is the most expensive of the four options at around $2500. It is also the heaviest. However, it does have back-lit buttons, the highest-resolution electronic viewfinder of the bunch, and two memory card slots—one SD and one for XQD cards.
The S1 leads in image quality for stills and has some additional video capabilities which make it a top choice for landscape shooters, and filmmakers. There is a high resolution mode that will produce 96mp stills. It also offers 4K video recording at 60 fps, albeit with 1.5x crop. Plus, there’s an option for a paid upgrade to full V-Log recording which can increase the dynamic range by up to two stops. It will also allow 10-bit internal recording.
Be sure to read more about the Panasonic Lumix S1 if high end video capture is significant for you.
Canon EOS R vs Canon EOS RP
Mirrorless cameras cost more, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find an affordable option. Canon’s EOS RP provides quality shots and helpful features at a reasonable price point. This compact mirrorless does not have as many bells and whistles as some competitors, but it’s not without perks.
- 26.2 megapixels, full-frame CMOS sensor
- Sensitivity range up to ISO 40000 depending on your selected settings
- Capable of high-speed, continuous shots up to 5 fps
- Five autofocus modes to choose from – Face+Tracking, Spot, 1-point, Expand AF area, and Zone AF.
- Bluetooth capability allows you to connect to smartphones if desired.
- Battery: Rechargeable, can charge while using the camera
- Accessories included: lens cap, strap, lens bag, battery charger.
Canon advertises this model for travelers and vloggers, which makes sense for two primary reasons. First, the Canon EOS RP is compact and lightweight, so it’s portable. Second, you can use it as a webcam.
It’s a bonus whenever you can use a device for more than one purpose. To adapt a Canon EOS RP into a webcam, you just need to download the software and connect your camera to your computer via HDMI cable. The software, EOS Webcam Utility Beta, is available on Mac and Windows.
Canon EOS R vs 5D Mark IV
If you’re looking for more power and additional features, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a good bet. It takes clear, colorful shots and high-quality videos, so it can handle everything from photoshoots to commercial needs.
- 30.4 megapixels, 35-mm full-frame CMOS sensor
- ISO range of 100 to 32000, expandable to 50 to 102400
- Capable of high-speed, continuous shots (up to 7.0 fps) and movies
- Optimized 61-point high-density reticular autofocus points to improve tracking
- Bluetooth, built-in WiFi, and GPS (so you can track your location on the images)
- Battery: multiple options, including additional battery packs to extend the life
- Accessories included: Canon BG-E20 battery grip
There’s not a lot to complain about with this camera, other than the hefty price tag in comparison to competitors. Lock onto subjects fast, snap multiple shots quickly, and trust that you have plenty of storage options, so you don’t miss anything.
One of the big selling points for the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is the addition of Dual Pixel RAW. You can fine-tune certain images, like focus micro adjustment, after the picture is taken.
Canon EOS R vs 6D Mark II
When you want the most bang for your buck, it’s hard to pass up on a bundle like this. The compact camera is portable and capable of direct printing via WiFi to Pict-Bridge compatible printers.
- 26.2 megapixels, 35-mm full-frame CMOS for high-resolution images
- Sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 40000
- Capable of high-speed, continuous shots up to 6.5 fps
- Up to 45 points of autofocus, choose from single-point, zone, large zone, or automatic selection.
- Built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS capability (to note your location on an image)
- Battery: battery pack and battery grip options for capability up to 2400 shots
- Accessories included: cleaning accessories, 64GB storage space, Sling Backpack for DSLR accessories with tripod attachment, 2-in-1 professional tripod and monopod stand that expands from 16” to 60”
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II performs well in low light and can auto adapt to limit the effects of glare or bursts of light. It’s compact and lightweight, so it’s perfect for travel and outdoor shoots.
This camera is an excellent option for beginners because it’s easy to navigate the menus, and the autofocus features make professional-looking shots possible. Since it comes with so many accessories, you don’t have track down compatible parts, like the tripod/monopod attachment.
If you are already embedded in the Canon system, the EOS R is a solid choice for a mirrorless digital camera, with clear benefits over dSLRs. However, looking between the various mirrorless options available it is harder to see Canon as a clear winner at the moment. Rather than specifications, it comes down to ergonomics and the fine details of their menus systems, AF and shooting options.
If video is important for you, that might push you to look to the Panasonic or the Nikon and their upgrade features. With the mirrorless new systems, now is also an ideal time to consider if a change of allegiance is the right move for your kind of shooting.