Canon EOS R5 overview: nothing holds again

“Canon has not held back from delivering the full-screen camera that fans craved.”

Excellent 45MP photos

Impressive 4K / 8K video modes

Responsive subject tracking AF

Good 5-axis image stabilization

Outstanding workmanship

The control layout could be improved

Can overheat in video mode

Banding at high ISO

It’s not often that we see a new camera that is as promising and exciting as the Canon EOS R5. After the relatively modest reception of the original EOS R, the R5 was Canon’s chance to prove that it can make a mirrorless full-frame camera that not only competes but also leads. The data sheet reads like a gourmet menu, a meal that is guaranteed to satisfy the appetite of anyone who can afford it – at $ 3,899 for the body or $ 4,999 with the RF 24-105mm 1: 4L lens (tested) a lot of people.

However, the exclusivity of the EOS R5 is not a problem. This is a high-end camera with a high price tag, and while it’s easy to argue that it only appeals to professional customers, I don’t think that’s the whole story. This is a branded camera; it is desirable. It may not care about the enthusiast or amateur in direct sales, but it still serves to answer the question that such customers often ask: “Who makes the best mirrorless camera?” For the first time, “Canon” is an acceptable answer.

Canon EOS R5 product photoDaven Mathies / Digital Trends

Even if the EOS R5 is outside your price range, its status as one of the most powerful and powerful mirrorless cameras can help you choose a Canon in the lower price range (possibly the EOS R6) instead of choosing a competitive brand. In this regard, it’s hard not to see the R5 as a total success.

But for the customers who will actually buy it, is the Canon EOS R5 worth the hype? Everyone in the field of photo technology – including myself – made fun of this camera long before we got our hands on it. Now that it’s in the wild, you may want to manage your expectations – if only slightly. It may not be exactly what we sold, but this is still an excellent camera.

First a still camera

Canon focused its early marketing on the EOS R5’s video chops and described the crazy 8K RAW and 4K / 120p features months before we knew much about still image features. This has changed people’s expectations of the R5, and I can’t help but think that this was the wrong way to overdo it.

Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Like the vast majority of mirrorless hybrid cameras, photography is the top priority for the R5. Yes, it happens to have an epic video mode associated with it, but I think photographers still find more to love than videographers. The R5 is probably the best still camera Canon ever made, mirrorless or DSLR.

The goal of the R5 was obviously to keep up with the Sony A7R IV, Nikon Z 7 and Panasonic Lumix S1R. These are all high-resolution mirrorless full-frame cameras, which have powerful video modes, but are clearly aimed at still photographers.

The R5 is probably the best still camera Canon ever made, mirrorless or DSLR.

If the R5 had originally been marketed as a still camera, the many complaints we now hear about overheating in video mode would not have been so loud in my opinion. Since Canon emphasized the video so strongly in advance, the reviewers feel a little underwhelmed that the reality does not live up to the promise.

Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

I’ll have my own experience testing video mode later, but now you only know that the R5 is a still camera at first and therefore has similar limitations to other hybrid cameras in terms of video. You can still use it for many video applications, but remember to consider it a replacement for your movie camera, and things get bad here.

Design and handling

The R5 will feel right at home for anyone who comes from a Canon DSLR. I found it a little more comfortable to hold than a 5D Mark IV – although it’s only a fraction of a pound lighter. It has a very familiar handle, the same placement of the trigger and most controls are exactly where you expect them to be.

Canon EOS R5 product photoDaven Mathies / Digital Trends

An important change is the changeover to a three-wheel setup, which enables direct control of ISO, shutter speed and aperture. This applies in addition to the multifunction lens ring for HF lenses.

There’s also an autofocus joystick, and although this is usually a must for me, I don’t like the R5. The surface is too sharp, which makes it uncomfortable, and there is no good tactile feedback. It is also less needed because the AF is good for subject tracking, and the R5’s touchpad AF on the LCD screen works better for single-point focusing anyway.

Canon EOS R5 product photoDaven Mathies / Digital Trends

What Canon DSLR shooters miss is the AF / Drive button. The auto focus and driving modes are accessed in two steps, and the quick menu must be called up. Fortunately, you can program one of these functions on the lens ring or other buttons, but you will sacrifice the standard functionality of a button. I set AF mode to the lens ring and drive mode to the depth of field preview button (because who uses that anyway?) And found this to be a pretty good setup. Still, the R5 is a camera case for $ 3,900, so it is a disappointment for Canon to forego direct access control.

Otherwise there is little to complain about in the design department. The body is weatherproof and solidly built, albeit heavy for a mirrorless camera at 1.62 pounds.

Canon EOS R5 product photoDaven Mathies / Digital Trends

The new electronic viewfinder (EVF) has 5.76 million pixels, just like the Panasonic S-series and the Sony A7R IV. It is a beautiful EVF, although the glass distorts the screen a little so that the edges curve outwards. It’s not a big problem, but I definitely found it a little distracting at times.

Finally, Canon also introduced a modern media format by offering both SD UHS-II and CFexpress Type B card slots, the latter of which is required for 8K video (and some 4K modes). For all Nikon shooters who are interested in the EOS R5, note that, unlike the Nikon Z series, the Canon does not support XQD cards in its CFexpress slot, so anyone with older XQD cards will need them before switching to the R5 must put down.

Photography experience

Except for the lens mount, the Canon EOS R5 is basically new compared to the original EOS R. It is also the first R-series camera that feels like it has been built from scratch with bespoke components, starting with a 45 megapixel frame sensor, which, unlike all previous R-series cameras, has not previously been used in a Canon DSLR has been. Even the battery has been updated to offer greater capacity in the same form factor as the long-time LP-E6 (though battery life isn’t a highlight with a CIPA rating of just 320 exposures).

Canon EOS R5 Lifestyle product photoDaven Mathies / Digital Trends

But what it sells is autofocus. The EOS R5 uses the Dual Pixel Autofocus II, Canon’s latest on-chip phase detection technology, with which 1,053 focus points are distributed across the entire frame. It includes updated face and eye tracking for humans and animals and, in my experience, works exceptionally well.

I could even say that Canon’s face tracking is even better than Sony’s – and it’s huge.

In practice, I was amazed at how quickly the R5 would find the motif in the frame and how strongly it stuck to it. When it came to taking pictures of people, this meant that I could only focus on framing without having to worry about choosing my focus point. After taking portraits with the Sony A7R IV recently, I can even say that Canon’s face tracking is even better than Sony’s – and it’s huge.

But what really impressed me was the animal AF. When shooting birds in flight, the focus box immediately jumped onto the bird’s head – not just the bird, but also its head. When photographing a dog, the AF continued to follow his body, even if his head and shoulders dipped under a tree trunk. A wild rabbit made me crawl a few feet while eating, and the R5 had no problem finding its eye.

Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

If I have something to complain about, eye detection is only activated when the subject is relatively large within the frame. Since face recognition is, of course, sufficient for distant people, this is probably not a big deal. The face recognition itself seems to work at a greater distance than the Canon EOS RP, but there is still room for improvement here. Fortunately, if the camera lost sight of a face and returned to standard AF, the camera would still usually find the correct subject, but this depends on the complexity of the scene and whether there are other objects near the camera, that could confuse it.

There is another problem with the AF. As far as I know, DPAF focus points are not crosswise, meaning they are only sensitive to lines in one direction. The R5 doesn’t seem to be sensitive to horizontal lines at all, and Flat-out refused to focus when I happened to point it at a slatted door. Confused, I tried again, but no matter how many times I pressed the shutter, the R5 didn’t focus. As soon as I rotated the camera in portrait mode – which means that the slats were now aligned vertically from the camera perspective – it was immediately focused. Other similar subjects – like closed blinds – delivered the same results.

The absence of cross-type AF points is self-evident in on-chip phase detection systems (with Olympus being a notable exception), but contrast detection usually takes control of other cameras when phase detection is not possible. When I did the same test with my personal Fujifilm X-T2, I found that it was concentrating, but only after a short hunt – in portrait mode, it concentrated without a hunt. This suggests that the phase detection of the X-T2, like the EOS R5, has difficulty recognizing horizontal lines, but can rely on slower contrast detection in such a situation, which the R5 apparently cannot.

I don’t know how big the problem could be in the real world – I had no problems outside of my office. My general experience with DPAF on the EOS R5 has been very positive. Still, it’s a little worrying that everything it took to completely cancel AF was a subject with no vertical lines. I have asked Canon for a comment and will update this rating when I hear something.

Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

The other brand new feature the R5 introduces is 5-axis image stabilization in the body (IBIS). Alongside the EOS R6, this is Canon’s first attempt to stabilize the sensor shift, a feature that was painfully lacking on the EOS R and RP. It works with both stabilized and non-stabilized lenses and, according to Canon, can offer up to 8 levels of blur reduction.

This is a difficult assertion that definitely needs to be tested because “stops” are a relative unit. In my tests, which were carried out with the stabilized RF 24-105 mm 1: 4 lens, I was able to record up to 1/8 second with a sharpness at the pixel level which corresponds approximately to that of 1/60 second. With a reduced resolution, however, I felt comfortable moving it to half a second. Different lenses, as well as their technique and stability, can lead to different results, but it’s hard for me to believe Canon’s claim of 8 stops.

The thing is, I don’t really care. Having only IBIS is the key here. Most photographers are not interested in holding a 2 second exposure, as Canon has shown. The key is to get sharp results at more convenient shutter speeds, and that’s exactly what the R5 does.

Video experience

The most obvious question about the Canon EOS R5’s video mode is simply: For whom? RAW 8K videos that consume 2,600 megabits per second (that’s 325 megabytes per second) are well above average customer requirements. Beyond the hype and endless play of one-upmanship, 8K is simply the result of the demand for a 45-megapixel sensor and RAW video.

Canon EOS R5 product photoDaven Mathies / Digital Trends

The sensor had to align the R5 with other high-resolution mirrorless cameras, but such a high number of pixels is a problem for videos. Normally, 4K videos only require about 8 MP, with 12 megapixels feeling like a solid sweet spot. Sony, Nikon and Panasonic have resolved this problem by making their lower resolution cameras the more video-focused models. However, Canon clearly wanted its flagship camera to be the flagship for both still and video.

Then there is the topic of RAW. RAW is by definition unprocessed – so the camera must either output every single pixel or do something like cropping or skipping lines, which deactivates pixels and drastically reduces the field of view or detail. The sensor of the R5 is intelligent 8,192 pixels wide, exactly the resolution for DCI 8K (a slightly wider aspect ratio than usual of 17: 9). With one-to-one pixel output, the R5 can take full advantage of its sensor range for RAW 8K video – however, RAW cannot be performed at other resolutions. This also means that in Ultra HD mode (16: 9) only a very small crop occurs. (For reference only, Blackmagic Design circumvented this limitation in its Ursa Mini Pro 12K cinema camera by using a novel sensor design that was specifically designed for RAW scaling, but other cameras don’t have this luxury.)

We have not yet answered the question of who needs this function. I wrote earlier that 8K cameras are pretty much unnecessary, and shooting the R5 didn’t change my mind. I don’t have a 4K display, let alone an 8K display. The ability to crop and reformulate is good, but I never needed the extreme range that 8K offers. Then it’s about saving and editing the gigantic files.

So it can be said with certainty that 8K, especially in RAW, is unlikely to be used by ordinary people. Professional filmmakers are the only ones who want it, and Canon even suggests using the R5 as a “B” camera alongside high-end cinema cameras.

But the R5 is not ready for this type of production. I can repeat the complaints of others on the internet when it comes to overheating. You can take advantage of all the great quality and features, but a camera that can be shut down even on set is simply not acceptable in a professional setting.

Canon EOS R5 product photoDaven Mathies / Digital Trends

I haven’t even tested the 8K modes because I’m still waiting for a CFexpress card, but overheating is already a problem in some 4K modes. When recording at 60 fps (the highest frame rate available with an SD card), the camera reached the soft limit of 29 minutes and 59 seconds. However, the heat warning indicator started to flash before the clip ended. It stayed on for almost 10 minutes after the recording stopped. Even if it was turned off, my next clip was limited to only 4 minutes before the camera shutdown due to overheating.

Canon has been open about this – at least since the official announcement. The camera itself also shows how many minutes you can record at the current heating level. This number increases slowly the longer you let the camera cool down.

The very good news, however, is that the camera doesn’t seem to be heat limited at 4K / 30 or 24 frames per second. Even if it prevented me from recording a new 4K / 60 clip, switching to 30 fps immediately removed the heat warning indicator and I was able to record a full 29:59 clip.

For those of us who record every project in 4K / 24p and only need higher frame rates for slow motion for a short time, the EOS R5 is fantastic. Finally, some of its competition – like the Nikon Z 7 – can’t shoot 4K / 60 at all, let alone 4K / 120 like the R5, and none of its competitors can shoot 8K.

However, this shouldn’t completely let Canon off the hook. When they announced an 8K RAW camera, we were all expecting a camera built for people who could use 8K RAW footage – namely, professional filmmakers. The EOS R5 falls short of these expectations, but I have a bigger problem with how the camera was originally marketed to raise these expectations than if the camera doesn’t meet them.

picture quality

Canon has made a higher resolution sensor in the past, the 50 megapixel chip of the EOS 5DS series. However, the 45 megapixel chip of the EOS R5 is a significant improvement, especially if you increase the ISO sensitivity. The ISO range is an impressive 100-51,200 and can be expanded by another 102,400. While these few top stops are of questionable usability, the noise performance is otherwise very good for the class.

ISO 12.800 “Banding” in a dark scene Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

But there was a problem: When photographing the night sky, I noticed visible streak artifacts at ISOs above 3,200, which became a big distraction around 12,800. I haven’t noticed any stripes in any other scene, even in my indoor ISO test shots. It only seems to be visible against a dark and uniform background.

As with the DPAF focus error, I don’t know how often this affects real-life images. The astrophotographers I know generally prefer larger apertures and slower shutter speeds to maximize ISO, but it’s something you should be aware of.

Otherwise, the R5 delivered nice results. The RAW files are very flexible, and I even moved an underexposed ISO 1600 picture by 3 steps without noticeably increasing the noise. It’s hard to say without comparing the cameras side by side, but this may be Canon’s best sensor yet. I think the RF 24-105mm 1: 4 lens held something back that just wasn’t sharp enough to resolve all those pixels, but I would love to see what it does with one of Canon’s excellent RF prime numbers can do .

I’ve never been a Canon fan, but the EOS R5 made me a believer.

The video quality is also very good. Again, I haven’t tested 8K nor the oversampled 4K high quality mode, but standard 10-bit 4K in Canon Log is stunning and has very good grades. I’m honestly not sure why I would ever need high quality mode. At 470 megabits per second (approx. 60 megabytes per second), all-intra-frame compression (ALL-I) contains a lot of data in order to achieve outstanding colors and details.

Canon EOS R5 protocol video frame not graded Canon EOS R5 Log Video Frame not graded Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Canon EOS R5 protocol video frame rated Canon EOS R5 Log Video Frame rated Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Canon EOS R5 protocol video frame not graded Canon EOS R5 Log Video Frame not graded Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

canon eos r5 evaluation example dm 28 Canon EOS R5 Log Video Frame rated Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Overall, the EOS R5 is by far the best hybrid camera from Canon in terms of image quality. There is currently nothing comparable to the combination of high-resolution still images and high-quality videos.

Our opinion

I have to admit, I’ve never been a Canon fan, but the EOS R5 made me a believer. Canon has implemented everything it learned from the original EOS R into the R5. The level of improvement is amazing, even if the highest quality video modes are of limited practicality.

The high ISO banding, strange AF behavior on horizontal lines and overheating problems can be for some problems, but these problems do not affect most users in most circumstances. The placement and design of some controls have taken me in the wrong direction (literally), but I’m sure I’ll adjust over time, and I definitely appreciate the three-dial’s ease of use Setups.

Entry costs are high, but for those who can afford it, the EOS R5 offers an incredibly rewarding photographic experience and firmly establishes Canon as the leader in mirrorless cameras. It may have taken a few years for the recipe to be correct, but Canon has served a dish worth waiting for.

Is there a better alternative?

If you look at other options, they only exist in the sense that there are much cheaper alternatives, like the Nikon Z 7 for just $ 2,850 at the time of writing. The R5 has better autofocus, higher quality video, a higher resolution EVF and two slots for memory cards. With a difference of over $ 1,000, however, anyone who is not yet firmly in Canon’s warehouse should consider the Z 7.

The Sony A7R IV is the other obvious comparison. At $ 3,200 at the time of writing, it doesn’t offer the savings of the Z 7, but its auto focus is closely linked to that of the R5 and it has an equally high-resolution EVF, two SD card slots, and is significantly better battery life when rated at 520 shots. However, the R5 has the edge in video and series recordings.

How long it will take?

This is a professional camera that meets the needs of professional photographers and should last for years. As a flagship model, I would not expect a full replacement for the R5 for at least 2 years, and its range of functions is the most future-proof of all cameras on the market.

Should you buy it

Yes, if you want the best technology currently shown in photography – and you don’t mind paying for it. This is the camera I always knew Canon could build.

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