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Canon finally produces a serious mirrorless camera, the EOS R

Create: 10/26/2018 - 19:14
Canon EOS R system


  • Full-frame 30.3-MP CMOS sensor
  • New lens mount with four lenses at launch
  • Adapters allow the use of EF and EF-S lenses

After testing the waters these past few years with varying degrees of commitment to the mirrorless segment, Canon apparently has decided to get serious.

The Canon EOS R represents a concerted effort by the camera maker to provide photographers with a high-end camera.

The EOS R is a full-frame camera that arrives with yet another camera mount for Canon – the RF. Note that Canon was careful to not confuse its current users by making the name a variation of “EF.”

Canon uses a 30.3-MP CMOS sensor that is linked to its DIGIC 8 image processor to capture photos at up to 8.0 frames per second. There is a low-pass filter in front of the imaging sensor, which has an ISO range of 100-40,000, which is extendable to 102,400.

The EOS R uses Dual Pixel CMOS Auto Focus phase-detection system that features 5,655 manually selectable autofocus points. Canon claims the autofocus can lock onto a subject at f/11, and when paired with a f/1.2 lens can work in lighting as low as EV 6. Canon also claims the EOS R with the RF 24-105mm lens is mounted has the world’s fastest autofocus when compared with other full-frame digital cameras under certain conditions. Keep in mind that the “world’s fastest autofocus” claim has been made before by various camera makers, and almost always this is achieved under specific circumstances.

There is an autofocus lamp, which can be turned off.

The body style of the camera resembles Canon’s current line of dSLRs. While it probably will seem familiar to its longtime users, the EOS R lacks the excitement of a fresh design.

There are both manual and electronic shutters with speeds running from 30 seconds to 1/8,000. Electronic shutters allow a photographer to shoot with very little camera noise, which is useful when in a quiet environment.

Although it can shoot at a rate of 8.0 frames per second, this is achieved with “One-Shot AF” enabled and a shutter speed of 1/1,000 or faster. When using Servo AF, the speed drops to 5.0 frames per second.


The body lacks body image stabilization. Most Canon lenses have stabilization, so this might not be a huge omission.

When shooting video, you get digital stabilization, however, what you don’t get is full-frame coverage when shooting 4K video. Instead, there is a crop factor of 1.75X, which is roughly APS-C.

Although Canon doesn’t talk about the sensor crop, it’s likely caused by the heat that is generated when recording 4K video.

There is a single stereo port, although it’s not clear if it’s for an external microphone or headphones.

Clips are limited to 29 minutes, 59 seconds, as is expected for a still camera, and are broken into 4GB segments.


The EOS R uses an OLED electronic viewfinder providing 100% image coverage. Diopter adjustment is available. Some 45 different pieces of information can be displayed in the electronic viewfinder although not all at once, thankfully.

There also is a 3.15-inch LCD monitor, which also provides 100% image coverage. The LCD swings outward from the body and rotate and can be used in Live View mode.

Still images (RAW and JPG) and video (MP4) are saved to a single SD memory card. When using high-speed UHS-II memory cards, Canon recommends the use full-size cards rather than a microSD slotted into an SD adapter.

As expected with a camera intended for advanced amateurs, the EOS R lacks a built-in flash, although it can couple with Canon Speedlite models.

Like other Canon cameras, connectivity with a handheld device is possible via Canon Connect. The app can also provide remote control of the camera.

The EOS R has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth but lacks on-board GPS.

The camera is powered by a single LP-E6N battery, which has a capacity between 350-430 shots when using the electronic viewfinder and 350-560 shots when using the LCD monitor.

Canon offers the BG-22 battery grip (US$490), which holds two batteries and doubles the shooting capacity. The grip also includes a shutter release for holding the camera in a vertical position.

When compared with the Canon 5D, it’s smaller and lighter.

Canon EOS R vs. 5D Mark IV
Canon produced this photo to show how much smaller the EOS R camera is compared with the 5D Mark IV.
  Canon EOS R Canon 5D IV
5.4 x 3.9 x 3.3 inches
(135.8 x 98.3 x 84.4mm)
5.9 x 4.6 x 3.0 inches
(150.7 x 116.4 x 75.9mm)
23.2 ounces
(660 grams)
31.4 ounces
(890 grams)


The announcement of the EOS R camera and a new lines of lenses gives Canon four camera mounts for three still camera systems: EF and EF-S for traditional digital SLRs using full-frame and APS-C sensors; EF-M for its mirrorless M cameras; and RF for the new EOS R cameras

Canon launched the EOS R with four RF lenses, of which three are premium L optics.

  • 28-70mm f/2 L USM, $US2,999
  • 50mm f/1.2 L USM, US$2,299
  • 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, US$1,099
  • 35mm f/1.8 MACRO IS STM, US$499

The f/2.0 28-70mm kit lens is notably faster than comparable lenses from other camera makers. Canon says that this lens performs better than its own EF f/2.8 24-70 L II USM lens.

Canon refers to the 50mm optic as a portrait lens and uses Canon’s Air Sphere Coating to combat flare and ghosting.

The 24-105mm provides a wider zoom range in a lens that is shorter than the EF version.

The 35mm macro lens is somewhat unusual because macro lenses tend to be longer focal lengths because they are less prone to geometric distortion and provide longer subject to lens focusing distance. The 35mm macro provides a magnification of 0.5X.

What’s lacking in this lineup is a medium-range telephoto zoom in the popular 70-200mm range, although you can always buy an EF lens.

While that seems like a small number of lenses, Canon is making available adapters that allow the use of nearly all EF and EF-S lenses. That should provide a large number of choices.

There are three adapters. Two allow the use of EOS EF, EF-S tilt-shift and macro lenses and a third mount is for using drop-in filters for certain lenses.

At this time, there is no adapter that will allow for the use of EF-M lenses, and it’s possible that there never will be one.

Because EF-S lenses are intended for APS-C sensors and not for full frame, the EOS R automatically adjusts for the smaller image.

The EOS R has a smaller flange to sensor distance than its other cameras, meaning that the RF lenses cannot be used on cameras with EF and EF-S mounts.

Like other mirrorless cameras, the short flange-to-sensor distance should allow for the use of many film system lenses with the proper adapter.

One of the most popular aspects of mirrorless cameras is the ability to use lenses from other camera systems, including those made for film cameras. Those require a third-party adapter. Although none are available at the time this article was written, it likely is only a matter of time until they begin to appear on the secondary market.


Canon has been in the camera business for decades, and it's often made forward-looking moves that weren't appreciated by its users. 

Back in the 1980s, it dumped its FD breech-mount cameras and lenses in favor of developing automated bodies with autofocus lenses. Although Canon users were angry, it was the correct decision. It also was an early digital convert, first producing the PowerShot G, which enjoyed a strong following, and later the highly acclaimed full-frame 1DS.

When it comes to mirrorless cameras, however, Canon hasn’t provided any models for the advanced amateur. The EOS R is Canon’s first attempt at producing something for those photographers.

While it’s not a perfect camera, it is a decent first step.

However, and it’s a big “however,” the Canon EOS R is clearly behind other camera makers, which have produced multiple generations of models for the advanced amateur. Canon will need to address the camera’s shortcomings if it hopes to compete.

One of the limiting factors is the cost of getting into the system. The body is US$2,299, and the least expensive lens is the 35mm macro. The others are each more than US$1,000. Sold with the 24-105mm kit lens, the EOS R comes a pricetag of US$3,399.

Full frame or not, this is a pricey camera. Add the battery grip and a couple of the lens adapters, and you are pushing US$4,000.

Canon’s position as one of the top camera makers will only carry it so far for those who use mirrorless cameras.

About the Author

Mike Elek is a longtime journalist and was one of the original editors for The Wall Street Journal Online. He also has worked as a reporter and editor in Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Vineland, N.J.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; New York City; and Hong Kong. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran. He shoots with film and digital cameras.