Hands-On Review: Canon’s Mirrorless EOS R

March 11, 2019

By Theano Nikitas

Photographers looking to switch to—or complement their current kit with—a full-frame mirrorless camera now have a number of choices, and the market is certain to expand from here. Canon launched its 30-megapixel EOS R full-frame mirrorless camera this past September, shortly after Nikon announced its Z 6 and Z 7 models.

Priced at $2,299 (body only) or $3,399 for a kit with the new RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens, the R is joined by three additional native lenses: the RF 28-70mm f/2 L USM ($2,999), the RF 50mm f/1.2 L ($2,299) and the RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM ($500).

More importantly, a trio of mount adapters ensures compatibility with EF and EF-S lenses, although there’s no option for EF-M lenses. For $100, you’ll get a basic adapter; for $200, the adapter includes the control ring found on RF lenses (more about that later) and the third adapter, which starts at $300, enables drop in filters such as circular polarizing and variable ND filters—all great options to have in a lens adapter, especially the adapter with the control ring.

We were impressed with how the R handled fine details and color reproduction. Photo © Theano Nikitas

Image Quality

For the most part, the Canon EOS R’s image quality is very similar to the 5D Mark IV. Colors are rendered accurately and look pleasing to the eye. The EOS R’s output is, at default settings, somewhat sharper than the 5D IV’s—even though both cameras utilize an anti-aliasing filter. At 100-40,000 (extendable to 102,400) its native ISO range is a bit limited but noise is fairly well controlled up to about ISO 3200.

Not surprisingly, the EOS R is capable of shooting 4K. Unfortunately, it utilizes a rather severe 1.8x crop, limiting wide angle shooting. And you’ll find a bit of rolling shutter as well. Although not as sharp as still images, color rendition continued to be one of the camera’s strong points in video as well as in still images, and Dual Pixel AF is always a welcome feature. The built-in Canon log gamma does a good job of providing extended dynamic range.


Measuring 5.35 x 3.87 x 3.32 inches, the 1.46-pound EOS R body (including battery and SD card) is nicely compact. A deep grip is comfortable and provides a steady handhold. Add one of the RF lenses, though, and the weight increases by quite a bit. The RF 50mm lens, for example, weighs a little more than 2 pounds while the RF 28-70mm lens weighs more than 3 pounds.

Canon users will be comfortable with the EOS R’s menu system and appreciate the 3.15-inch, fully articulated touchscreen monitor. Touch capabilities are extensive and the screen is very responsive.

External controls have been streamlined and some options have been replaced with a customizable control ring for adjusting a variety of settings such as shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation, which I found convenient and easy to use. At the same time, a new multi-function bar to the right of the viewfinder provides access to settings such as white balance, ISO, AF and checking focus. It’s an interesting idea but seems prone to accidental setting changes unless it’s “locked,” and then it takes extra time to unlock the bar. I had a difficult time getting used to it. And, like Nikon’s new mirrorless cameras, there’s only a single SD card slot on the EOS R.

Excellent dynamic range and a high-res sensor help the EOS R compete in a now-crowded field. Photo © Theano Nikitas

What We Liked

I’m a big fan of articulated touchscreens and Canon did a good job with the EOS R’s monitor; you can drag your finger to focus even while your eye is up to the viewfinder. AF is pretty fast and generally accurate and image quality is quite good (although not a huge improvement over the 5D IV).

Compatibility with EF and EF-S lenses is a plus, especially with a choice of three different adapters—including one with a control ring. I found the latter very useful when changing settings.

What We Didn’t Like

There is no in-body image stabilization with the EOS R and that is extremely disappointing, especially given that only one of the RF lenses (the RF 24-105mm) lens is stabilized.

I couldn’t get the hang of the multi-function bar to change settings as seamlessly as I wanted to and would rather have dedicated buttons. While you can change settings via the info screen, that takes a bit too long for my liking. The severe crop on 4K video and rolling shutter hurts the EOS R’s appeal for filmmakers. And without in-body image stabilization, it’s difficult to get smooth footage handheld.

The Bottom Line

As I said in my Nikon Z 6 review, if you happen to be brand agnostic or don’t mind investing in a second system, you have a number of choices—including the Canon EOS R, Nikon Z 6 and the Sony a7III (and a pair of models from Panasonic coming soon). But since the EOS R is compatible with both EF and EF-S lenses via those aforementioned adapters, it’s likely that Canon users looking for a full-frame mirrorless camera will go with the EOS R. If not now, then possibly in the future.

Canon is likely to make improvements in the next generation. The EOS R is a solid camera with good performance and despite some quirks, we think that it will appeal to a wide range of pro photographers, particularly in the portrait and wedding fields.

Related: Nikon Z 6 Review

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