Jul 21, 2020

The New 8K EOS R5 from Canon

The Canon EOS R5 is finally here after months of waiting and masterful teases by the – there’s no other word for it – exceptionally canny manufacturer.

No camera in recent memory has received or, dare we say it, deserved this amount of hype. The Canon EOS R5 is a powerhouse performer in every possible respect; its 8K video outclasses many of the best cinema cameras, its shooting speed puts it on par with the best cameras for sport, its 45MP sensor outmuscles all but a few of the best mirrorless cameras, and its 8-stop in-body image stabilization is the new IBIS champion.

In short, the R5 has all the ingredients to be the best Canon camera we’ve ever seen – and we’ve already had the chance to go hands-on with it. Here are our first impressions… can it possibly live up to the enormous hype?

Such are the lofty specs of the Canon EOS R5 that virtually every feature is a key feature. Obviously the headline attraction here is the remarkable video capability. The R5 can capture full-width (uncropped) raw 8K video using the entire readout of the 35mm sensor – and it does so internally at up to 29.97fps in 4:2:2 12-bit Canon Log or HDR PQ (both H.265) in both UHD and DCI.

Its 4K capture is every bit as ferocious, recording at up to 119.88fps (in the same 4:2:2 Canon Log or HDR PQ, in UHD or DCI) with external HDMI recording up at up to 59.94fps.  However, the R5 is much more than just a video behemoth.

Since the 8K DCI video has a resolution of 8,192 x 4,320, the camera has a Frame Grab function that enables you to take high-resolution 35.4MP stills (as either JPEGs or HEIF files) from your footage – which is 5.1MP greater resolution than the Canon EOS R.

All of this is thanks to the brand new 45MP image sensor, which Canon claims makes the R5 “the highest resolution EOS camera ever” – supposedly resolving even greater detail than the 50.6MP Canon EOS 5DS / R. This is thanks to the new low-pass filter design, which was introduced in the flagship Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.

Traditional low-pass filters (employed to get rid of moiré) employ dual-layer, four-point subsampling and introduce a layer of softness to images. Canon’s new tech features quad-layer, 16-point subsampling and combines it with a Gaussian distribution technique to deliver sharpness rivalling the 5DS / R. Our lab results for the 1D X Mark III didn’t quite bear this out, so we’ll need to put the R5 through a full raft of tests.

The flagship 1D X has served as donor for much of the tech in the EOS R5. The AI-powered Deep Learning AF system has been transplanted, enabling the new camera to perform spookily accurate eye, face and head tracking. However, the R5 has a trick that even the Mark III doesn’t have; it is also capable of Animal AF that can track the eyes, faces and bodies of dogs, cats and birds – including birds in flight.

Underpinning the autofocus is the brand new Dual Pixel CMOS AF II – the latest generation of Canon’s much-lauded AF system. And best of all, all these autofocus technologies are available in stills as well as all video resolutions and frame-rates – with a staggering 5,940 AF points for photography and 4,500 for filming.

And the continuous shooting speed is also on par with the 1D X Mark III, as the R5 matches the flagship’s top speed of 20fps via the electronic shutter (and 12fps using the mechanical shutter). Backed up by dual card slots, including lightning-fast CFexpress support, this means that the R5 can stand toe-to-toe with sports cameras, video cameras and medium format cameras alike.

Most excitingly, for long-suffering Canon users, the EOS R5 features the company’s agonizingly overdue implementation of 5-axis in-body stabilization. The wait, however, has been worth it, as Canon is now officially the king of IBIS – the R5 (and the Canon EOS R6) boasts up to 8 stops of CIPA-rated stabilization, depending on the lens.

In the hand, the EOS R5 feels like a slightly beefier EOS R. It’s almost imperceptibly thicker (literally just 3.6mm), but it has notably more heft, weighing about 70g more. The weight is very evenly distributed, though, and the body feels very well balanced – indeed, the extra mass makes it feel a better match for some of the notoriously larger RF lenses.

From the top, the R5 is very similar to the EOS R and bears the same top OLED screen and mode button within the rear control dial. It’s the rear where the differences start to come into play, and the first thing you’ll notice is that the love-it-or-loathe it M-Fn touchbar has been abolished; in its place is a familiar joystick, with the AF-ON button assuming its more traditional position.

Thankfully the camera retains the fully articulating touchscreen seen on the EOS R and RP, which is obviously important for recording video (as well as taking stills from elevated or low angles).

Being a 5-series camera, you can expect the same robust weather sealing – though invariably, given that the mirrorless model is daintier (and also features an articulating screen), it doesn’t feel as sturdy as the 5D. For sure it will withstand some knocks, but unlike the DSLR you really wouldn’t want to drop it or leave it in the hands of children.

The R5 also features a brand new 2,130mAh battery, the LP-E6NH, which features 14% greater capacity than the LP-E6N that it replaces – and it’s backwards-compatible with any camera that accepts the LP-E6 family of batteries, so you can use it with your other cameras as well.

We weren’t able to take any sample shots with the Canon EOS R5, but we took it for a quick spin and came away very impressed with what it is capable of.

In operation, it really does feel much the same as using an EOS R – the controls, menus and ‘feel’ of shooting are all virtually identical, so if you’re comfortable using the existing R system then this will be very familiar.

There’s a significant and immediately noticeable improvement in autofocus performance. The AF on the R5 feels much more nimble, adaptable and reliable. The Deep Learning AF engine from the 1D X Mark III makes a huge difference, with the eye, face and head detection proving just as reliable as it was on the flagship camera.

The tracking seems much better, too, with AF points feeling much ‘stickier’ and more faithful when the view is interrupted by obstacles or passers by. We found the autofocus system in the 1D X III to be the best we’ve ever used – and if anything, the AF in the EOS R5 is an extra cut above.

Finally having uncropped 4K video is a revelation for a Canon camera, but the ability to record all the way up to 120fps while retaining full autofocus functions is a revelation for almost any camera system. However, it’s obviously the 8K video that most people have been eyeing with suspicion and wondering what the catch is.

Clearly we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve run our own stress tests, but that’s incredible performance for a camera in this category – and means that this is an 8K system with legitimate practical use.

Sensor: 45MP full-frame CMOS 36 x 24mm
Image processor: Digic X
AF points: 5,940 Dual Pixel CMOS AF II
ISO range: 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-102,400)
Stabilization: 5-axis, up to 8 stops
Max image size: 8,192 x 5,464px
Metering zones: 384
Video: 8K DCI or UHD at 30p, 24p / 4K DCI or UHD at 120p, 100p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p / 1080p (FullHD) at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p
Viewfinder: 0.5-inch OLED EVF, 5,690k dots, 100% coverage, 0.76x magnification, 120fps refresh rate
Memory card: 1x CFexpress type B, 1x UHS-II SD/SDHC/SDXC
LCD: 3.15-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 2,100k dots.
Max burst: 12fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic shutter
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 5Ghz and 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen 2), micro HDMI (type D), microphone, headphone, N3 remote, flash sync, gigabit ethernet (via WFT-R10 grip)
Size: 135.8 x 97.5 x 88mm
Weight: 650g body only (738g with card and battery)

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