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Canon EOS R: First Impressions

Hunt’s Photo & Video let me borrow one of the new Canon EOS R mirrorless cameras while I’m in Florida leading my bird photography workshop, and so far I’ve been very impressed. I really haven’t missed my 5D Mark IV since I got the EOS R.

I had previously tried out a Sony mirrorless camera, but found I was limited in features and performance without completely switching to Sony lenses ($$$) as well.

Canon EOS R & 400mm f/5.6L USM
ISO 400 – f/8 – 1/800th (handheld)

I’m not going to share every little technical specification, since you can read up on those here. What matters most is how the camera performs, and how it makes you feel. A new camera can reinvigorate stale creativity, and a convenient camera is one you’ll take with you to more places.

In a general sense, the EOS R is a mirrorless version of the 5D Mark IV, in a smaller and lighter package. The newer (and even smaller) EOS RP is more similar to the 6D Mark II. The EOS R sensor is an updated version from the sensor in the 5D Mark IV, and I’ve found the image quality to be just as good. Autofocus uses the same Dual Pixel AF from Canon, but with many more focus points.

Image Quality

Canon EOS R & 400mm f/5.6L USM
ISO 200 – f/5.6 – 1/800th (handheld)

Dynamic range and noise levels are closely related, and both are excellent in this camera. Keep in mind most modern cameras are capable of capturing a dynamic range that is much larger than can be displayed on most computer monitors and any physical print. It’s really not a spec you should be basing camera buying decisions on.

The image below has no noise reduction applied. A well exposed image in camera is key to getting low noise in your final image. I have not needed to use any very high ISO yet, but will incorporate that into further testing.

Canon EOS R + 400mm f/5.6L USM
ISO 800 – f/5.6 – 1/400th


Autofocus is another key point in determining how this camera will perform with wildlife photography. I’ve been testing with many different birds, both still and in flight, and I have been extremely impressed. Mirrorless cameras use an autofocus method similar to live view on a DSLR, since there is no mirror or focusing screen. The EOS R has 5,655 focus points covering almost the entire sensor, meaning you can follow your subject over more of the image area and compose without changing focus points.

When using the Tracking AF mode with AI Servo, a variable size square locks on your subject and follows it quickly and accurately. As long as the subject is easy to recognize, I found the focus stayed locked on well for birds in flight. Pelicans are relatively slow fliers, but I also photographed bald eagles, gulls, osprey, egrets and terns. With AI Servo, you get up to 5 frames per second (compare to 7 in the 5D Mark IV). In One-Shot AF mode, that rate increases to 8.

Canon EOS R & 400mm f/5.6L USM + 1.4x III extender (560mm)
ISO 1000 – f/8 – 1/800th (handheld)

I have been using my EF lenses with an included EF-RF mount adapter. Autofocus with extenders is quick, and this camera can autofocus at f/11 (100-400mm + 2x extender). I have found the EOS R paired with a 400mm f/5.6 to be a great lightweight combo. The lack of image stabilization in this lens doesn’t affect birds in flight much, but if you really need IS the 100-400mm or 300mm f/4 are additional options.

The new RF lenses are limited right now, with no RF native supertelephoto lenses available. With that said, there is no decrease in speed or quality when using the adapter with lenses you already own.

Handling & Feel

The camera is noticeably smaller than the 5D Mark IV, but the grip is still comfortable to hold with large hands. Other mirrorless cameras I’ve used have seemed too small to hold firmly with large lenses.

The EOS R is about half a pound (25%) lighter than the 5D IV, but it helps if weight is a factor for you.

Canon EOS R & 400mm f/5.6L USM + 1.4x III extender
ISO 400 – f/8 – 1/800th

One thing I really like about the camera is the LCD screen that flips all the way around. This allows for extremely low angle shots that are easier to compose since you don’t have to look through a fixed LCD or viewfinder.

Canon EOS R & 400mm f/5.6L USM + 1.4x III extender
ISO 200 – f/8 – 1/800th
Canon EOS R + 400mm f/5.6L USM
ISO 200 – f/5.6 – 1/800th

The biggest con I found with the camera was the viewfinder being too dark to see well in bright sunlight. I just figured out how to adjust the viewfinder brightness, not just the LCD, so that problem should be resolved now… The multitouch bar is a feature I have turned off, since it was easy to accidentally touch. I will experiment more with that and try setting it for different functions to find one that fits well.

I will be playing with this camera for a couple more weeks, but I’m pretty well convinced it would make a great second body or even a full replacement for my current 5D Mark IV. I would still like to test the focus system it on larger animals, which Florida is lacking.

If you’d like to get one online, check it out at Hunt’s Photo & Video. They are easy to work with and will get you the best price possible with quick shipping. If you prefer working with people, Gary (gfarber@huntsphoto.com) and others at Hunt’s will be glad to help you get what you want. They have physical stores in the northeast as well.

You can currently get a free EF lens adapter, but that offer may change in the future. A 24-105mm kit lens is also available with this camera.

P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are a few ways I can help you improve your photography.   1. Download my free eBook My best advice that you can start using right away to improve your wildlife photography — Click Here   2. Join The Art of Wildlife Photography and connect with like-minded photographers A free Facebook group for photographers interested in learning the art of wildlife photography — Click here   3. Join my online photography workshop Get started taking consistent high quality images with an online workshop offering one-on-one help with the fundamentals of wildlife photography — Click here   4. Join a photography workshop in Yellowstone Improve your photography with hands on instruction in an environment rich with opportunities for both wildlife and landscape photography — Click Here​


  1. Mike Blevins says:

    Excellent review! I’m very curious about this camera and look forward to any other thoughts you might share about it.

  2. Sharon Konley says:

    Beautiful shot!

  3. Sandra says:

    Gorgeous pictures

  4. Merle Becker says:

    Trent very nice review. Looks like good testing and nice article. Wonderful photography.

  5. Dennis Danner says:

    Great article, excellent shots! Thanks for sharing in the newsletter.

  6. Keith Davis says:

    Trent, You summed up my own personal opinions about this delightful camera very well. That articulating screen makes it simply a no-brainer. I also have deactivated the multi touch bar… and don’t miss it. Very comparable to the 5D MK IV, and I am really happy with my version of the R.

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