Moving to Mirrorless - My Findings

Last year while covering Silverstone Classic my beloved Canon 5D Mk III succumbed to the pouring rain.

Fortunately it was covered under my insurance and I used it as an opportunity to upgrade seeing as I had owned my 5D for about4  years by then.

I had been debating going down the mirrorless route for some time but Canon didn't really have one to match my 5D Mk III until about a year or so ago when the EOS R came out.

I had been holding out for the rumoured next iteration mirrorless camera (now no longer a rumour) but I had a few events and shoots coming up so needed a camera.

Because I wanted to wait for the next mirrorless it was a toss up between getting a 5D Mk IV or the EOS R and then upgrade when the next version came out.

I didn't want to move to another brand such as the Sony A7 because I had a lot of equipment that is Canon specific and I didn't have the time or money to start fresh.

I read just about every comparison review between the 5D Mk IV and the EOS R and although they were very close the 5D Mk IV came out fractionally ahead in most reviews.

Some reasons I will explain later but I also think it was because it was a tried and tested formula that owners of previous 5Ds were comfortable with.

Ultimately though I thought as the reviews were so close I would give the EOS R a go.


After owning the EOS R for a few months now I will let you know some of the pros and cons and my opinion in general.

Build

At first glance the Canon EOS R is visually similar to the 5D Mk III and IV and when I first got it out of the box it didn't seem much smaller but it is noticeable once you put it side by side to a 5D, most noticeably is its depth due to not needing to house a mirror mechanism.

I always add a battery grip to my DSLRs as a personal preference so that does add to the size.

I do think, a lot of people, myself included, were expecting mirrorless cameras to be vastly smaller but this is not the case and I don't mind that because I like to have a DSLR that feels like a DSLR if that makes sense.

Other brands are considerably smaller because they have smaller lenses or in the case of consumer cameras, permanently fixed lenses.

Canon have decided, rightly so in my opinion, to support all existing lenses with the aid of an adapter and their new RF lenses natively which means we don't have to go out and buy new versions of their favourite, and expensive lenses.

Below is a side by side comparison of a 5D Mk IV next to the EOS R, the size is pretty obvious here. Note the EOS R in the image has the 24-105 RF Lens attached if it had an EF Lens it would need the lens adapter which would increase the lens length, this is discussed later.


5D Mk IV vs EOS R Size Comparision

Controls

Anybody who has owned a 5D previously will be able to find their way around the EOS R pretty easily but there are some exceptions and these have had mixed responses from Canon users:

M-Fn Touch Bar

Next to the viewfinder is a touch sensitive bar that can be programmed to do any number of options for example, moving the focus points, moving between images when reviewing, adjusting ISO etc. It is used by either swiping or pressing either end of the bar, it can also be pressed in the center as an additional button.

It can also be programmed separately depending on whether you are in still or movie mode so, for example, you could set it to change ISO when in still mode or adjust recording volume when in movie mode.

Mode Button 

On top of the EOS R instead of the dial to set different shooting modes (AV, TV, M etc) there is a mode button on the right which you depress and then rotate to select your mode. This is indicated in the LCD next to it, as well as showing the mode the LCD can show other shooting information with a tap of the flashlight button or hold the flashlight button to light the LCD

Lack of Wheel/Joystick

This is one of the few downsides I have found with the EOS R.

Instead of a Joystick and Wheel there is a rocker style button with the normal Q/Set button in the middle. It does the job for moving focus points, moving through images etc but I personally don't think it is as good as a wheel, when taking hundreds of images at a motorsport event the wheel was very useful to quickly cycle through images and the press, press, press or press and hold method of the rocker style is nowhere near as quick/reliable.

This can be done using the M-Fn touch bar but this isn't as intuitive and is too easy to miss an image when swiping through.

Touch Screen

This is the first full frame Canon DSLR to get a rotatable touch screen and I am very impressed with this. It can be flipped all of the way round so that the screen is inverted and protected but can also be flipped round fully to look more like 5D displays or flipped to face forward if required for vlogging etc.

The display is a very good resolution and can show just about everything you would need to see.

Being a touch screen means you can easily access any menu settings very quickly and it can also be set to allow you to drag the focus points around the screen or tap anywhere to set the focus point. It can also be set to fire the shutter by tapping the screen


EOS R Controls

EOS R Flip SCreen

Electronic ViewFinder (EVF)

Being mirrorless the EOS R needs to have a different way to show you what you are seeing through the lens.

This is done using an Electronic ViewFinder which is a tiny screen where the optical viewfinder would normally be.

Being so small I was worried that it would not have a high enough resolution to see what you would normally see with an optical viewfinder but I Was pleasantly surprised.

The display is very clear but because it is a screen rather than optical you does see a slight bit of lag when panning the camera around.

This is another downside I found but I am getting used to it. When shooting motorsport and getting fast panning shots the image will freeze for a fraction of a second as it is recorded and this can be very off-putting but I have learned to ignore it as it is actually the same as the mirror flipping up and your view going black for a fraction of a second when using an optical viewfinder but because the image is frozen it would interrupt my panning more so. Now that I have learned to ignore it and keep panning I am happy with it.

A big advantage of an Electronic ViewFinder is you will see the image exactly how the camera sees it which you don't get in 'optical' DSLRs.

What this means is, if you close the aperture, the image through the viewfinder will darken ( I appreciate this can be replicated with the DOF button on DSLRS) but also you will see the depth of field view and you can also set it to show clipped highlights/shadows.

One thing to bear in mind is if you shoot in the studio or anywhere else where you use strobes the electronic viewfinder will not be able to replicate this and you will just see the view as it is before the strobes trigger. You can bypass this by disabling Expo Simulation in the menu


Using EF Lenses on the EOS R

If, like me, you have moved from a previous Canon camera you will ahve a selection of EF Lenses you will want to use with your new EOS R.

Fortunately the EOS R comes with a mount adapter allowing you to use any EF lenses although this does add a little bit of extra physical length to your lenses it works with no other noticeable differences and, from what I can tell, does not affect focus distances at all.

I did invest in the control ring mount adapter which gives you extra functionality that would normally only be available in the new RF lenses in the form of an extra beveled ring that works very much like the focus or zoom rings but it can be programmed to allow you to adjust aperture, shutter speed or ISO by turning this ring.

I am still getting used to this and I keep forgetting to make use of it especially as on RF lenses it is towards the end of the lens but obviously on the adapter it is at the front of the lens but over time I think it will be very useful

Control Ring Adapter

A few things I love and summary

I am very pleased with my EOS R and although there is a bit of a learning curve to it and I have to learn some new habits I am glad I have bought this over the 5D Mk IV and now I am the proud owner of the RF 24-70 I find the images are amazing.

I didn't want this blog to be a detailed review of technical specifications but just my general findings but I do want to cover some features that I am really impressed with on this camera (and one little annoyance!)

Eye Detection AF

Initially this was very good for headshot photos especially in the studio as it meant you didn't have to move your single focus point to focus on the eye or focus then recompose (sometimes losing a bit of sharpness). This was great and then Canon released a firmware update that made it even better! With the firmware update the eye detection was improved considerable and was able to focus on the eyes even in continuous focus mode. This makes a big difference especially when using the EOS R for videos

Focussing

The EOS R has 5655 focus points! Yes 5655 covering 88% of the frame horizontally and 100% vertically, these are also dual pixel focus points which helps improve focus accuracy (there is much more to it than that but too much to go into here, maybe another blog)

Even though I only use single focus point or expanded focus point this does improve the focus sped and is very useful when videoing moving subjects and with the touch screen it is very easy to select exactly which focus point you want to use

Single SD Card Slot

Why Canon, why??! Lets just leave it at that

RF Lenses

As mentioned previously I recently bought the Canon RF 24-70 f1.8 L RF lens and all I can say is WOW.

On my 5D Mk III my EF 24-70 L lens was almost permanently attached as I found it a very useful 'walk round' lens. I have had it for years and it was the MkI version but I had heard the MkII EF lens was considerably better than the Mk I so when I had the money I though surely the RF lens will at least be as good as the Mk II EF lens.

It is and then some. It is amazingly sharp and fast to focus and with the added benefit of image stabilisation I absolutely love this lens and highly recommend it.


Whats next?

As much as I love the EOS R it wasn't long after that the EOS R5 was announced and I am watching this with a lot of interest and if the price isn't too steep I will consider upgrading.

Main advantages are inbuilt image stabilisation, Dual SD/CF card slots (I should thinks so too Canon), faster FPS and improvements to the EVF system so basically it fixes the niggly issues I did have.

Time to start doing more lottery numbers!



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