Canon EOS R5 Review

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”Canon’s newest mirrorless camera sets industry standards.”

Introduction

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Released in 2020 alongside the lower-end EOS R6, Canon’s EOS R5 is the flagship of the RF lineup. And a camera that sits in the 5-series as the mirrorless counterpart to the 5D Mark IV. For years now, Canon’s rested on their laurels and has continually played it safe with each release. But, not with this release. Canon’s coming out of the gates swinging this year, with the debut of several previously unseen features. Most notably, 8K RAW videos, 4K 120 fps recording, and a host of new additions to the RF lineup. At first glance, these specifications appear to catapult the camera into an entirely new class. And it appears to be a significant milestone, easily matching the release of their original 5D and 6D series.

But, Canon’s known for overpromising and under delivering. So will these fairytale fantasies turn into real-world realities? Canon aims this high-end mirrorless camera at working pros and enthusiasts looking for best-in-class quality. But, pros aren’t the easiest customers to please. They also aim this camera as a competitor to Sony’s A7R IV and Panasonic’s S1R. If any camera is positioned to dethrone Sony and Panasonic in their ongoing dominance in the mirrorless video market, this is it. In today’s post, we address its strengths, weaknesses, and answer whether this is worthwhile consideration in your search.

What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Canon EOS R5? 

Pros:

Image Quality

The camera features a brand new re-designed sensor. In this case, it obtains a 45MP CMOS sensor with an Anti-Aliasing filter. It also includes the latest DIGIC X processor, a feature carried over from the 1DX Mark III. This new combination provides image quality and resolving power that fully competes with rivals in this segment. Image quality is on an extraordinarily high level. The camera’s 14-bit RAW (CR3) file produces enormous detail that, technically, out resolves the 5DS-R despite the 5MP difference in resolution. And it comfortably out-resolves any other Canon camera released to date. Sharpness aside, images also have superb dynamic range, with plenty of latitude for post-processing adjustments. And its images provide Canon’s renowned color science for pleasing natural colors with little noise or artifacts. Overall, given their detail, this camera’s images are ideal for large format printing, cropping, or photographers wanting maximum detail. In quality, this camera easily rivals Sony’s A7R IV.

The camera also offers several smaller compressed JPEG and the Compressed RAW (C-RAW) formats to reduce working file sizes.

New for this release, however, is the HEIF JPEG format. Compared to the standard JPEG format, HEIF delivers 10-bit compression, which provides better dynamic range, color reproduction, and bit depth. JPEG alone only offers 8-bit, which doesn’t have as wide of a tonal range. Shooting in this format effectively delivers more information from the file and saves time post-processing RAW images. They’re also an excellent way to preserve data in seemingly clipped highlights or dark shadows.

Note: this HEIF is still in its infancy, however, so compatibility on desktop software is somewhat limited.

The re-designed sensor also provides faster scan rates. And it currently sits as the highest seen in any high-res full-frame camera so far. This gives the camera a distinct advantage over rivals when using the fully electronic shutter, which is mostly free from rolling shutter. A better scan rate also helps during continuous shooting while tracking action to reduce artifacts, distortion, or skewing.

The camera offers continuous shooting speeds of 12 fps with the mechanical shutter or 20 fps with the electronic shutter. And both of these sequential high shooting modes maintain continuous AF and tracking. The camera also has an enormous buffer depth, easily providing 180 RAW and 350 JPEG images when using the CFexpress card. These combine to make it ideal for sports, wildlife, and action photography. And outside of the 1DX series, it’s the most capable platform yet.

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Video Quality

New for this camera is the debut of 8K DCI video in a mirrorless camera. In this case, the camera shoots 8K DCI 30 fps. DCI is the slightly wider 17:9 aspect ratio used in cinematography. The camera also shoots standard 16:9 8K UHD up 30 fps. It’s also the first mirrorless camera to feature 4K DCI up to 120 fps. And lastly, as standard, it shoots 1080p full HD video up to 60 fps. These resolutions shoot to the MP4 container using All-I or IPB compression, all in full-frame readouts without any crops.

Note: IPB compression produces smaller file sizes, though it’s tougher on computers during post-processing. All-I is easier to edit, as they’re free of motion compression. But, they do use more file space. A lot more. On average, they’re 3-4 times larger.

But it doesn’t stop there. No, Canon’s also equipped this camera with C-Log, which shoots 10-bit 4:2:2 internally with H.265 compression. And they’ve even equipped the camera with 8K RAW recording, which supplies 12-bit color. Plus, shooting in C-Log also increases the camera’s dynamic range to 12-stops.

The culmination of this hefty setup is industry-leading video in current mirrorless cameras. The video quality provides unrivaled detail. It’s incredibly sharp, with excellent dynamic range. And having 8K resolution delivers a distinct advantage over rivals for post-processing reframing. As of writing, this is the current benchmark for image quality on a mirrorless camera.

New for this release is the 4K HQ Mode, which oversamples the camera’s 8K resolution and packs it into a 4K 30 fps video. This mode delivers an enormous amount of detail. But, it also simultaneously reduces the file sites, aliasing, and signal to noise ratio. Overall, it’s an excellent addition that greatly increases image quality.

The camera also obtains the HDR PQ Mode, which supplies a 4:2:2 10-bit signal during normal recording or 12-bit during RAW. And this mode produces real HDR footage.

You can also capture stills during video recording. In this case, the camera renders 33MP JPEGs from 8K 30 fps videos.

It has zebras for highlight clipping indication, a first for a Canon mirrorless camera.

The camera outputs a 4:2:2 10-bit C-log or HDR PQ signal for use with external monitors or recorders. And a bonus, it also disables the 30-minute recording limit. It also outputs a clean HDMI feed for live streaming.

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Low Light Performance

Low light performance is excellent. It features a native ISO range from ISO 100-51,200, further expandable to a high setting equivalent of 102,400. And users can expect usable images up to ISO 12,800 with minimal post-processing.

Focusing Performance

Autofocusing performance is excellent and is now the current leader of the class. It marks the first Canon camera to obtain Dual Pixel CMOS AF II with deep learning technology, a system taken from flagship 1DX Mark III. This system offers 100% coverage over the image area. Plus, it has 5,940 selectable AF points, along with Face, Eye, and Head-detect AF. Head-detect, in particular, is new to Canon’s mirrorless lineup. Previously, it was a feature reserved for their flagship 1DX Mark III. Combined, this system obtains focus in as little as 0.05 seconds and works down to -6 EV, which currently makes it the fastest to date. The updates to Face and Eye-detection also now match Sony in accuracy and consistency. And the camera recognizes faces even when they’re small in the frame, turned in profile, or wearing accessories. Compared to the EOS R, it delivers enormous updates in speed and responsiveness in this regard.

The camera also obtains Animal Eye-Detect, which confidently tracks the animal’s eyes and switches to Whole Body tracking as they move. It’s extraordinarily fast, competent, and confident regardless if using native RF or adapted EF lenses. Focusing overall is virtually instantaneous. And in general, the autofocus is the best of any Canon camera to date, outside of the 1DX Mark III.

Like the 5D Mark IV, you can also fully customize the AF system to your liking via the menus. And the camera obtains EOS ITR, perfect for changing the focusing transitioning speed and subject tracking response for the best results.

Dual Pixel AF also works in all recording modes, including 8K RAW and 4K 120 fps, where both Face and Eye-detect AF are available.

The camera also obtains both focus peaking, focus magnification, and Canon’s Focus Guide for those who prefer manually focusing.

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Display & Viewfinder

It features a 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen TFT LCD with a resolution of 2.1M dots and Canon’s Clear View II coating. This addition officially makes it the first 5-series camera to obtain a side-hinged screen. As always, a fully articulating screen is the ideal choice for the versatility it offers when framing. It’s excellent when composing both high or low angle shots or for front-facing selfies or vlogging. The display itself is also sharp with accurate colors and enough brightness for viewing outdoors. And since it’s also a touchscreen, it supports helpful touch gestures, including touch AF and full menu navigation. On the subject of touch AF, the camera’s touch tracking is excellent and well implemented. And it offers tap to track too, which makes complex rack focusing easy and smooth.

It also features a 5.76M dot OLED electronic viewfinder with a 0.76x magnification, matching the current standards in the class. But new for this release is variable refresh rates, now including both 60 and 120 Hz. Changing the display to 120 Hz improves the refresh rate to smooth movement, making it ideal for tracking sports or wildlife. But, you can disable this mode if needed to save battery life. Compared to the EOS R’s 3.69M dot viewfinder with a fixed 60 Hz refresh rate, the changes here are quite substantial. And the camera’s viewing experience is excellent and entirely lag-free. The display’s extraordinarily sharp, particularly when reviewing images in playback, and large with accurate color rendering. To date, it’s the highest resolution and best-implemented viewfinder Canon’s produced. And it shows.

The camera also obtains the top-deck status LCD from the EOS R. This display shows the current shooting mode and a myriad of other helpful shooting information at a glance.

User Interface

It uses standard Canon user interface and menus, which remain well-organized and color-coded for ease of use. The interface is easy to navigate and very intuitive, especially given the number of settings available. Both newcomers and existing Canon users will find them intuitive and quickly mastered. The interface is also fully touch-enabled, and it’s optimized well for this style of input. Canon’s renowned for excellent user-interfaces, and this camera follows suit.

It obtains the Quick Menu, accessed by the Q button, which recalls a menu of helpful shooting settings.

It obtains the customizable My Menu, where up to six top-tier items and five tabs can be registered.

The camera provides a total of twelve customizable physical buttons. And, overall, it delivers extraordinary customization over the layout. And you can even customize the layout independently for stills and movies as well.

It has three custom shooting modes, C1-C3.

It obtains the MODE button from the EOS R, installed on the back dial. It gives you quick and immediate access to the shooting modes without crowding the camera’s top deck.

It now features the customizable Depth-of-Field Preview button.

Physical Layout & Ergonomics

Physically, the camera follows a similar design and build as the EOS R. Besides a few changes. Otherwise, the bodies are largely identical. At 650g body alone, it’s also similar in weight as the EOS R. But, it ups the level of durability. It does this through an updated magnesium alloy construction and similar frame as the 1DX Mark III, which provides similar weather sealing as the 5D Mark IV. Compared to the EOS R, the camera’s noticeable more rugged and durable.

It also offers similar handling and ergonomics as the 5D Mark IV. Canon’s equipped the camera with classic DSLR styling, with a large and comfortable grip. And this grip balances well and provides good support with larger lenses. They also styled the button layout accordingly. And new for this release are three control dials. These replace the touch bar and d-pad from the EOS R. Instead, Canon’s added a new AF joystick and AF-ON button, for quick AF point selection and focusing. These are significant changes, particularly so for existing Canon DSLR shooters. Canon users will find the ergonomics and layout on the camera immediately familiar and superior to EOS R.

The camera has a dedicated video record button, conveniently located by the shutter release for quick and immediate access.

As mentioned previously, it has a new AF joystick for AF point selection or menu navigation. And a dedicated AF-ON button for back-button focusing, the same setup as 5D Mark IV.

It has dual adjustment dials to control shutter and aperture. And a rear scroll wheel, a feature taken from the 5D Mark IV. Combined, these deliver full manual control over exposure without changing your grip.

It now has a dedicated Rate button, which recalls the camera’s rating settings.

Niche Features/Extras

New for this release is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). And to our surprise, it currently takes the helm as the best full-frame stabilization system on the market to date, easily matching Olympus. Previously, the golden standard for a stabilization system was 6.0 stop (EV) of reduction. However, Canon rates this system at 8.0 EV, with compatible RF lenses. And this makes it the current leader of the class. Even when used with non-stabilized or older EF lenses, the camera confidently delivers 6.0-7.0 stops of stabilization, which still outpaces rivals. Granted, the rated stabilization varies based on the lens used. Only some pairings will get over 6.0 EV. Nevertheless, it’s brilliant to see Canon finally add IBIS to an EOS camera. It’s a big change, particularly over the EOS R, which lacks the feature. And users can confidently rely on this system to effectively shoot 2-second exposures handheld.

The camera also obtains Digital Image Stabilization (IS), which crops into the frame but adds electronic stabilization for all formats outside of 8K RAW. Helpful if you need the extra stability.

It has built-in HDR.

It has Multiple exposures, which takes up to nine exposures.

It has built-in Focus Bracketing with up to 999 frames, though it doesn’t render the result in-camera. For this, you’ll have to use post-processing software.

It now has a built-in intervalometer for time-lapses. And it also obtains the Timelapse Movies mode, which generates timelapse videos in-camera in either 8K, 4K, and 1080p resolutions.

The camera offers a 1.6x APS-C crop mode, which reduces resolution to 17MP, but it’s helpful if using EF-S lenses.

The camera offers extensive in-camera RAW and JPEG processing functionality. And new for this release is the Portrait Re-Lighting effect, which allows you to adjust the light on a face after-the-fact. It does this by using the data gathered from DPAF to simulate directional light. It’s a very niche and rare feature, but it’s helpful if you like editing in-camera. The camera also offers the Background Clarity mode, which allows you to change the background’s clarity. It works identically to a bokeh defocusing control.

It obtains the Voice Memo function from the 1DX cameras, a rare feature to find outside of that series.

The camera has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. And you can embed GPS coordinates via the Canon smartphone app, wirelessly transfer images, and remotely control the camera. New for this release is a 5 GHz band. This band offers faster Wi-Fi connectivity and file transfers.

It has a microphone input.

It has a headphone output.

It has a flash sync port for direct connections to compatible flash units.

It features a USB-C port, now supporting USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds, charging via USB and continuous power.

The camera now offers dual card slots. In this case, CFexpress, useful for high data rate recordings, such as 4K 120 fps or 8K videos. And it has a standard UHS-II SD card slot, which is best for 4K UHD and 1080p FHD videos. Thankfully, you can also film redundantly on both cards.

Like the EOS R, the shutter closes automatically when the camera turns off to protect it from dust and debris.

Cons:

Video Capabilities

The camera overheats when recording in any mode outside of standard 4K and 1080p full HD. While it provides a reasonable amount of recording time before overheating. The ultimate downside is the cooldown time, which often exceeds the recording time. Expect a minimum of 20 minutes or more before reusing the camera. And for this reason, it’s not ideal for workflow if you shoot extended clips. Currently, the only real workaround is to switch to standard 4K when not in use, then switch to the desired configuration to film. But, in practice, this is tedious unless you set up a custom shooting preset. Overall, proper timing is critical when shooting 4K 120 fps or 8K video. But if you’re careful, you can generally avoid overheating in either 8K or 4K 120 fps.

More frustratingly, recording in standard 4K uses line skipping, which noticeably reduces detail compared to the HQ mode. And the image quality is substantially worse in this mode, with more noise and less detail. And Canon’s also maintained the standard 29 minute and 59-second video recording limit. Strange, as most cameras in today’s market are offering unlimited 4K UHD and 1080p video. Sadly, that’s not the case here.

Another serious consideration is the data rates when shooting with this camera, which is honestly ridiculous. Let’s tackle some of these. DCI 4K 60 fps records at a whopping 1000 MBps, matching Canon’s Cinema line of high-end video cameras. And just this one frame rate fills a 64 GB CFexpress card after 8 minutes of filming. If you move from DCI 4K to DCI 8K, the data rate nearly doubles to 2600 Mbps, outmatching all of Canon’s current cinema line. This frame rate fills that same 64 GB card in 3 minutes when using the RAW format. Sadly, using ALL-I in 8K is only marginally better at 1300 Mbps and still fills the card after 6 minutes. Plus, editing this footage is also tough on even the highest-end Macbooks since transcoding files from H.265 is difficult. It’s a relatively new format to the market, and most editing software can’t fully support the format.

The verdict here is this: if you want to film with this camera seriously, you’ll need a very high-end video editing rig. You’ll also need to invest in a 265 GB CFexpress card at the bare minimum, which is outlandishly expensive. And to top it off, you’ll also have to update the Thunderbolt or USB 3.1 Gen 2 SSD drives, further increasing the cost. Overall, if you want this level of footage and detail, consider Canon’s Cinema line instead and save the money.

Battery Life

It uses the newly developed LP-E6NH battery, which provides a 14% improvement in battery life over the standard model. While, technically, it offers longer-lasting performance, battery life remains below average. When you use the EVF at 120 Hz, Canon rates the camera at only 220 shots or 320 shots at 60 Hz, both below the industry standard. With that, you’ll need extra batteries with this camera for extended shoots.

Note: you can also use the older LP-E6 or LP-E6N batteries, which helps if you already have them on hand.

Lacking Features

The camera uses Micro HDMI ports, instead of the EOS R’s Mini port. When using large rigs and setups, Mini ports aren’t ideal as they’re usually flimsy.

Is this a good beginner camera?

No.

This is not a good beginner’s camera, and it’s current price also doesn’t make sense for a beginner. This is Canon’s premium flagship mirrorless camera and the most expensive camera of the line. For budding filmmakers or those starting, this is not a recommended purchase. Consider Canon’s EOS R6, R or RP cameras instead.

What are the best lenses & bundles for the Canon EOS R5?

General Photography: 

RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM
RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Macro Photography:

RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM
RF85mm F2 Macro IS

Landscape & Astrophotography Photography:

RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM

Portrait Photography:

RF 50mm F1.2 L USM
RF 85mm F1.2 L
RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM

Sports & Wildlife Photography:

RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM

Product & Still Life Photography:

RF85mm F2 Macro IS  

Extra Batteries:

Canon LP-E6NH

SD Cards:

Sandisk Extreme Pro 64 GB  
Lexar Professional 2000X 128GB

CFexpress Cards:

ProGrade Digital 256GB CFexpress Card

Tripods & Gimbals:

Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod
Zhiyun Weebill S Compact Gimbal Stabilizer

Microphones & External Recorders:

Rode VideoMicPro

Battery Grip:

Canon BG-R10 Grip

Lens Adapters:

Canon Mount Adapter EF – RF
Canon Drop-in Filter Mount Adapter EF-RF

Is this a good camera for you?

For photographers, this is Canon’s best photography-centric camera to date, even better than the 5DS-R. As a photographer’s tool, this camera does it all. The only missing feature is a Pixel Shift or High-Resolution Shot mode, to further increase detail. Otherwise, this is the best Canon offers, and easily matches Sony’s A7R IV and Panasonic’s S1R.

For sports, action, and wildlife photographers, this is Canon’s best mirrorless camera for these applications. And, in general, it’s the best camera outside of the flagship 1DX Mark III. With continuous shooting speeds of 12 fps or 20 fps with the electronic shutter, virtually perfect AF and tracking, and 100+ shot buffer, it’s easily a go-to option. Sure, some photographers may still prefer the 1DX Mark III for its more rugged build, optical viewfinder, and the larger battery. But, for everyone else, this is Canon’s best sports and wildlife camera ever released.

Current EOS R and RP owners should consider an upgrade. The improvements in AF speed and resolution are worthwhile if it meets your budget.

For a hybrid shooter, this is currently Canon’s best hybrid camera. With the added IBIS, superior AF, and impressive video specs, it’s an ideal choice in their current lineup.

For current Canon Cinema owners (C100, 200, 300 or 500), this is an excellent b or c-camera. With 10-bit 4:2:2 C-log and 4K HQ, the footage it delivers will easily match into an existing setup.

In the end, Canon’s R5 is hyped as the ultimate 8K production camera. And, in some specific situations, it surely matches the hype yes. Particularly, if you’re filming locked off shots or short clips. With this release, Canon re-entered the mirrorless world with the best footage possible in any mirrorless camera. And they’ve surprisingly released a compact camera that rivals their flagship cinema line, which is a first. But, with overheating, it’s a tough sell in a real-world production environment. And coupled with its strenuous data rates and limited recording time, it’s inadequate in a practical sense. So it’s not perfect.

But, as a photographer’s camera, it excels in every area and is easy to love. And it’s hands down their best camera for stills to date. It’s interesting to see this release be so divided. But, even so, this camera is extraordinarily capable. Canon may have fallen behind in features and performance compared to rivals in recent years. But, this camera has changed their fate and is a true successor to the acclaimed 5D series. It delivers exceptional ergonomics, design, with class-leading autofocusing, stabilization, and video capabilities. And it provides immense value, and it’s impressive to see Canon produce such a release. Over the last three years, they’ve been rather timid and lacked innovation. But, secretly, they were developing this new series and their innovation shows. The EOS R5 is everything users have requested. And those requests have culminated into their best camera to date.

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Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
4.4

Summary

As a packaged, Canon’s EOS R5 delivers substantial upgrades to the RF lineup. It provides 8K RAW video and 4K 120 fps, firsts for any mirrorless camera. And it even packs an updated sensor, processor, 20 fps burst, IBIS, and improved ergonomics. Merely looking at the changelog raises an eyebrow. This is the camera users have long-awaited, and their best camera ever released.