Canon steps into the world of full-frame mirrorless with the new EOS R

Major new camera announcements seem relatively few and far between these days especially from the big manufacturers, so when our pals at Canon let us in on a little secret we jumped at the chance to start planning a small project. After signing our lives away and getting dribs and drabs of information we eventually got our mitts on the all-new Canon EOS R Mirrorless camera. 

With only a few days up our sleeve, we decided to focus mostly on the video functionality of the camera as well as how it performs for time-lapse which are two areas we spend most of our time working on. The goal was to spend a relatively unplanned day in the field with it, shooting whatever was in front of us and testing out some of the features in a real-world setting. 

Hot off the tail of Nikon's Z6 and Z7 release, this is not only Canon's first step into the world of full-frame mirrorless, but also a strong indication that this could well be the future for Canon as they have clearly made a significant investment. 

The Canon EOS R has everything you’d expect from a 30.3mp Canon stills camera, and it takes great strides forward bringing Canon into the modern era of high-quality mirrorless video, competing with offerings such as Sony's a7 line and Nikon's recent Z6 and Z7.

EOS R with the ND Filter EF Adapter and 16-35mm lens

Canon’s new ecosystem

The first thing to understand is this is a release of a completely new mirrorless system. The new RF Mount is much larger than Canon’s previous EF Mount. This enables a new optical design that allows for faster aperture lenses. By greatly reducing the flange distance it allows for a more compact design but also the potential to adapt almost any lens. 

Alongside the new body Canon has released a range of new lenses, each with a custom function ring to control aperture (or another function if preferred):  

  • 28-70mm f 2.0 
  • 50mm f1.2 
  • 24-105mm f4 
  • 35mm Macro f1.4 

28 - 70mm f2.0

 

50mm f1.2

 

24-105mm f4

Canon has also released 3 adapters to help you mount all your existing EF lenses to the Canon R.

Standard EF Adapter

The standard EF adapter simply adapts the camera to take EF lenses. Control of the lens using focus and aperture is all done through the camera. 

EF Adapter with custom function ring

This adapter has an additional custom function ring that you can assign any function to. The intention for it is to control aperture. This is particularly useful when using EF lenses on the EOS R because it does not have a dedicated aperture wheel on the camera. If using the new RF lenses the aperture ring is already integrated onto the lens itself. 

EF Adapter with ND Slot

The ND Slot EF Adapter is very interesting and will be particularly useful for us as video and time-lapse shooters. The ND slot has options for a variable ND filter or a polarizer. We tested the Variable ND Filter shooting a time-lapse and slowly turned the ND wheel while the sun went down in order to maintain a correct exposure. This is a lot easier than trying to adjust aperture, shutter speed or ISO between exposures on the camera itself. Using the variable ND for video is also a killer feature. It means you don’t need to swap variable ND filters between multiple EF lenses (or buy multiple ND’s for all lenses) as it all happens on the adapter itself. The ND Range is ND3–ND500 or the equivalent to 1.5–9 stops. This Is a massive range and will work great for video as it can go all the way down to 1.5 and equally good at 9 stops for shooting long exposures. The option to drop in a polarizer is also super handy. 

Inserting the ND Filter into the slot on the Adapter

Design

Design wise, Canon has taken a big leap and completely redesigned the look and feel of the camera. Smaller than the 6D Mark II, the EOR R feels very nice in the hand, with a decent hand grip. It’s slightly bigger than the Sony A7sII. We feel is an advantage for Canon as it’s a lot nicer in the hand and easier to shoot with.

Canon EOS R sits between the Sony A7SII and the Canon 6D Mark II for size

There are a number of new features:

  • Touch bar: The new touch bar has a swipe function for changing ISO or other functions. It takes a while to get used to and can be locked. This means that you need to hold down the left arrow for a few seconds to turn it on in case you’re worried it gets swiped while you’re shooting.
  • New mode dial: The mode dial moves away from the traditional Canon dial to switch between each mode. It gets replaced with a new dial with a button in the centre. When you twist the dial, the mode changes on the OLED screen and the LCD. This works pretty well, but changing the mode to "video" now takes a few extra steps. You need to press the mode button, hit info and then select your video shooting mode. Not ideal for run and gun shoots but not the end of the world either.

New OLED Screen on top mounted on Genie II Pan Tilt

  • No aperture dial: Canon has done away with their traditional aperture dial on the back which saves them a lot of space making for a smaller body. Instead, this can be managed from the custom function ring on the lenses or the EF Adapter. 
  • Battery: Thankfully they’ve included the LP-E6 battery which is the same as the rest of the Canon line from the 80D up (except 1DX).
  • SD Card Slot: Only 1 card slot probably won't sit that well for everyone. Having two slots is nice, especially for video and shooting time-lapse. To be honest, it’s not really a big deal from our point of view. Everything we shoot with here in terms of DSLR/mirrorless has only one card slot and you learn to manage it.
  • EVF, OLED, Flip-out screen: Having used the 6D II a lot, we’re loving that the EOS R also has the same flip-out tilt screen. This is super handy for shooting time-lapse when the camera is low to the ground and essential for video when you don’t have a monitor attached. They have also included a sleek looking OLED screen on top and an EVF.

Our thoughts on Canon EOS R for video

We spent most of our time getting to grips with how this camera might perform for us for video as a b-camera. We like the way the camera feels in the hand a lot better than the Sony A7SII which we are currently using. Plus the addition of the flip out screen and ND Adapters for EF lenses is a huge plus. 

As with the rest of the video world, we wish it could do 4K / 50. No one has brought this out to market on a full frame mirrorless camera yet. We will continue to wait patiently! 

Genie II 3-Axis Kit shooting an interview on Magic Carpet Pro with EOS R

 

The EOS R will shoot the following variable frame rates:

PAL:

4K 25fps
1080p 50fps
720p 100fps

NTSC:

4K 30fps
1080 60fps
720p 120fps

Due to the crop factor of 1.67 in 4K, we found it a little difficult to shoot on a gimbal with their current RF lens line up, so we’re hoping for a new wide lens in the future. However, wider EF lenses are still an option using the adapter. 

Internally, the Canon EOS R shoots 8 bit 4:2:0 and can output 10 bit 4:2:2 using an external recorder such as the Atomos Shogun or Odyssey recorders.  This is a huge plus for getting a better-quality image out of the camera. Without a doubt, we will use it a lot. It also shoots C-log, which gives you a nice flat picture for grading later and will cut nicely with Canons EOS Cinema range like the C200 / C300, etc. 

EOS R with 35mm 1.2 and DJI Ronin Gimbal

EOS R will be a beast for time-lapse. We’re quite excited about the compact form factor and new fast lenses. The adapter for EF lenses with a built-in ND will be a big advantage for ramping exposure and will make life a little easier to shoot long exposure time-lapse. One thing we did notice with the EOS R is that you need to make sure to turn image review off when shooting time-lapse. Otherwise, the camera cannot trigger the shutter while a photo is being displayed on the screen. The same happens with the Sony mirrorless range. We’re guessing this has something to do with the fact they are both mirrorless cameras. Turn image review off and it’s not an issue. 

EOS R with EF ND Filter adapter shooting 3-axis on Genie II

There is also an internal time-lapse feature. We did not test it extensively but it looks like it works the same as the 6D Mark II.

Summary

Overall we think this camera will likely be a super nice addition to our kit for shooting video and time-lapse. Shooting 10bit 4:2:2 to an external recorder will give us a clean C-log image which will be ideal for a second camera. It also uses an MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Codec, rather than MJPEG (like on the 5D Mark IV) which gives a better quality for video for the file size – In short, it’s a better codec for video. 

EOS R with 28mm-70mm f2 and Genie II Linear

We’re big fans of being able to use our EF lenses and especially using the adapter with the built-in ND. It will make life a lot easier for shooting time-lapse and filming in general. In addition, having a second camera like this, that is able to shoot super high-quality stills, is a big advantage for switching between photo and video. We find our Sony A7SII lacks a bit in this area. We’re not usually that comfortable throwing it on the Genie II for time-lapse or shooting stills on it in general. The EOS R will be good for both, so a more versatile camera for us. 

It’s early days and we’re looking forward to doing some more extensive testing in the coming months ahead. 

Our ideal film kit. Genie II Pan Tilt, Genie II Linear, Manfrotto 055, Magic Carpet Pro, EOS R kit!

Full disclaimer this is not a ‘Shooting Sample’ meaning that we are not in any position to comment about the quality of images or video until we get our hands on a production version.