Photographers who have been clutching hard to their beloved Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, waiting patiently for an upgraded version of the camera with the latest imaging, autofocus, and video features, should look no further than the EOS R5 ($3,899, body only). It gets most things right and a few things wrong, but corrects most of the missteps Canon made with the EOS R. If you’ve been waiting for a mirrorless from Canon that handles as well as your trusted SLR, this is it.
The Mirrorless 5D
It may drop the mirror box, but the design language that Canon has established in the EOS 5D SLR series is ingrained in the R5. The grip and controls feel familiar, even though they’re not note-for-note identical, and curved lines give it an unmistakable silhouette.
It’s sized well; the distance between the image sensor and lens mount is shortened, so it’s not as chunky as a 5D, but it feels similar in the hand. The R5 measures 3.8 by 5.4 by 3.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.6 pounds without a lens attached.
RF 50mm F1.2 L USM, f/1.2, 1/5,000-second, ISO 100
It’s one of two pro-geared models released at the same time. The other, the EOS R6, is built around a 20MP sensor (as opposed to the R5’s 45MP imager) and makes a few sundry changes. It’s priced less, $2,499, and worth a look if you don’t need a high-resolution camera.
Canon’s designers did a good job with the R5, putting the controls you want at your fingertips without making the body too big or heavy to handhold for extended periods. Photographers covering all-day events will certainly put less stress on their backs carrying an R5 versus, say, a big gripped SLR like the 1D X Mark III. There’s an add-on grip with vertical shooting controls available for the R5 if you like using one.
Controls rest in places familiar to longtime Canon system users, including a uniquely angled shutter release, located at the front top of the handgrip, joined by a vertical front command dial just behind it. Most camera systems flip these positions, and while I don’t have a strong opinion in either direction about which is better, you may. If you’re among those who prefer a steeply angled shutter release, the R5 will make you as happy as your aging workhorse Canon SLR.
There’s a depth of field preview button adjacent to the lens mount, and M-Fn, Record, Lock, and Mode buttons on the top plate. The top also houses a second command dial, surrounding the Mode button, a monochrome display that shows exposure information, and the On/Off switch, off by its lonesome on the left. There’s no in-body flash, but you do get a standard hot shoe to mount a Speedlite or wireless trigger for off-camera lights.
RF 50mm F1.2 L USM, f/1.4, 1/8,000-second, ISO 100
Photographers moving from the 5D Mark IV may miss having a traditional dial to set the shooting mode. Canon has opted for the button here, and it works pretty well whether you’re setting the mode with the camera at your side or at eye level—the options are shown both on the top info display and in the EVF.
The rear is packed with buttons. Rate and Menu are at the top left corner, abutted by the EVF and vari-angle display. An eight-way joystick for autofocus control and the AF-ON button line up in the same row, just to the right of the eyecup. They take the place of the touch-sensitive multifunction strip used in the Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless effort, the EOS R, a control surface that was more cumbersome to use than beneficial; I’m happy to see Canon take a more traditional approach here.
There are also buttons to lock exposure, adjust autofocus settings, play and delete photos, and adjust the on-screen information overlay. A flat command dial, with center Set button, rounds out the rear controls.
Buttons are supplemented by the on-screen Q menu, a touch-sensitive overlay. Its options include some that you’ll want to set without diving into text menus, including the drive mode, autofocus settings, and metering options.
RF 85mm F1.2 L USM DS, f/1.2, 1/800-second, ISO 100
You have the option to customize controls, and it’s appreciated by this photographer. I’m left a little frustrated by some of the out-of-the-box settings, notably in terms of focus control. Canon’s default setup requires you to press a button before adjusting the position of your autofocus area—but it’s easy enough to adjust, as are many other functions.
Display and EVF
The R5 has two viewscreens—a 3.2-inch vari-angle LCD on the rear and an OLED electronic viewfinder at eye level. The LCD shows very sharp detail thanks to a 2.1-million dot design, and offers adjustable brightness so you can use it under bright sunlight. It supports touch input and is mounted on a hinge—it can face forward, up, or down when swung out to the side, and you have the option of closing it against the body for full-time EVF use.
As for the EVF, it’s a stunner. It’s larger to the eye than you get with most SLRs—the magnification rating is 0.76x—and packs 5.76 million dots into its frame. The image is lifelike, with smooth motion and no perceptible lag, and if you want to apply any sort of color effects to your shots—like shooting in black-and-white—you’ll be able to preview them in real time.
There are other advantages versus optical viewfinders—you can set what information is overlaid on your frame, adding a live histogram and grid lines if you’d like, or opt for a clear, distraction-free view of your frame. It’s also possible to punch in and magnify the frame for precise manual focus.
Connectivity and Power
The R5 includes Bluetooth and dual-band Wi-Fi. It connects to smartphones and tablets, so you can transfer shots or remotely control the camera; the Canon CameraConnect app, for Android and iOS, is required.
RF 50mm F1.2 L USM, f/1.2, 1/800-second, ISO 100
The app works well and is quick to setup—I had the R5 and my iPhone 8 Plus connected in a matter of minutes. You can transfer full-size or reduced size JPGs, Raw images, and video; I wasn’t able to copy photos shot in the HIF format to my phone, however, despite it being an Apple-friendly file format. Photos transfer pretty quickly, but 4K footage can take a while—consider using a card reader if you’re an iPad Pro video editor.
Canon’s Wi-Fi system also connects to a home network, so you can transfer shots to your Mac or PC (using Canon’s EOS Utility software), and there’s a function to send images directly to Canon’s cloud hosting service if you’d like. Tethering via USB-C is also supported, and you can use the R5 as a webcam along with the Canon EOS Webcam Utility.
Ports include a 3-pin remote connector (on the front), along with PC sync, 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks, USB-C, and micro HDMI, all on the left side.
The USB-C port is also used for in-camera charging. It’s a function supported when using the new LP-E6NH battery; it looks just like other variations of the LP-E6 used by Canon for years, and older batteries will power the R5—just without support for charging in-body, and with a bit less capacity. A wall charger is included in the box as well.
RF 85mm F1.2 L USM DS, f/1.2, 1/1,000-second, ISO 100
Canon estimates about 320 shots using the LCD or 220 with the EVF per charge, based on CIPA estimates. That’s in line with what I saw in lab and field testing, though how you use the camera will effect things—expect less if you do a lot of playback, mix in video, and use Wi-Fi, and more if you’re firing off loads of shots in burst mode. Any way you slice it, battery life is about half of what you get with the Sony a7R III or a7R IV.
There are two memory card slots, a must for pros capturing events, but you’ll probably have to buy a new memory card to take advantage of one of them. The main slot supports CFexpress Type B cards, and the secondary supports the more common UHS-II SDXC format. CFexpress supports much faster transfer rates, but is also costly—expect to spend around $200 on a 128GB card.
Smart, Reliable Autofocus
The EOS R5 delivers an incredible autofocus experience, one that’s absolutely on par with the best mirrorless competitors, like the Sony a7R IV, in tracking performance, subject recognition, and speed. If you’re moving up from a 5D Mark IV or similar Canon SLR, you’ll undoubtedly be impressed by what the R5 can do.
RF 85mm F1.2 L USM DS, f/1.2, 1/2,000-second, ISO 100
Focus points cover the sensor from top to bottom and nearly to the left and right extremes as well. When set to its wide area mode, face and eye detection kick in automatically for perfectly focused portraits, but you’ve got a wealth of control options at your fingertips.
You can disable face detection if you want to, and really fine-tune the autofocus system to handle the way you’d like. Tracking can be initiated manually, or based entirely on subject detection, there are various sizes and shapes of manually selectable autofocus coverage. If you dive into the menu you’re able to fine-tune parameters for subject recognition and tracking, just as with pro Canon SLRs.
RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM, f/1.8, 1/8,000-second, ISO 100
The visual feedback you get from the focus system is beneficial as well. The camera draws a white box over the set autofocus area, and when you engage the system it switches to blue when it locks onto a subject. If an object or subject is recognized, a series of small boxes dance around it.
Excessive resolution and loads of speed don’t always go hand in hand, but they do here. The R5 tracks subjects and rattles off 45MP Raw quality images at 12fps when using its mechanical focal plane shutter, and at 20fps when using the electronic shutter. The mechanical shutter supports 1/8,000-second speed, with 1/250-second flash sync.
RF 50mm F1.2 L USM, f/1.2, 1/8,000-second, ISO 100
You should think of the R5 as a 12fps camera first, though—shutter readout speed is faster than in previous models, but not quick enough to freeze action reliably when using electronic mode; the Sony a9 II is still a better way to go for absolutely silent shooting, but costs a bit more and offers just 24MP resolution.
You’re not limited to just a few shots at top speeds, either. With a Sony Tough UHS-II SDXC card I netted 85 Raw+JPG, 71 Raw+HIF, 78 Raw, and 150 C Raw shots before the camera slowed or stalled. With a Sandisk CFexpress Type B card I was able to get more than 100 Raw+JPG or Raw+HIF shots, and finally let up on the shutter after 500 Raw exposures in a row—regardless of memory card choice, the R5 gives you ample buffer capacity.
RF 50mm F1.2 L USM, f/1.2, 1/2,000-second, ISO 100
Overall, the R5 is an incredible performer when it comes to stills. Autofocus is smart, speedy, and accurate, the buffer is ample for burst capture, and the image quality, well, let’s get to that now.
Finally, a Stabilized Canon
The 45MP image sensor is a stunner, delivering loads of detail, a wide sensitivity range, and for the first time, in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The five-axis system corrects for shake with any attached lens, and works in tandem with RF lenses with their own optical stabilization systems.
If you’re working in JPG or HIF format, you’ll get photos with little noise and strong detail all the way through ISO 6400. There’s a slight drop in clarity at ISO 12800, and more noticeable softening at ISO 25600 and up. This is with default noise reduction—it can be turned down or off if you prefer. You’re also able to set upper and lower limits for automatic ISO control.
We’re all familiar with the JPG format, the de facto standard for in-camera processing since digital entered the mainstream. Canon has added HIF capture as an option—turn on HDR PQ in the menu to enable it. It’s a compressed format, just like JPG, but one that captures about twice the data, delivering files with more editing flexibility and smaller file sizes. In theory, at least.
RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM, 15mm, f/2.8, 1/1,600-second, ISO 100
The problem right now is that it’s not widely supported. You can’t load and edit the files from the camera in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, or Capture One Pro. Until it’s supported by the editing applications photographers actually use, it’s more of a curiosity than a game changer.
The same is true for the Dual Pixel Raw function. It’s not new—it dates back to the 5D Mark IV—but Canon has expanded what you can do with it. You can process out JPGs with adjusted bokeh clarity or portrait lighting, and Canon’s desktop software adds some additional editing features…but it requires you to use Canon’s desktop software. It’s something I’d encourage creative photographers to experiment with, but not something that should drive your purchase.
RF 50mm F1.2 L USM, f/1.2, 1/500-second, ISO 100
The standard Raw files load in Lightroom and Capture One. I processed our studio test images in the former, using default processing settings. Detail is excellent and noise is well controlled all the way through ISO 12800. The output tends toward grainy at ISO 25600, and the effect is stronger at ISO 51200.
Still, I’d not hesitate to push the camera that far if the situation called for it. ISO 102400 is another matter—grain is heavy, and there’s a slight loss of color fidelity. If you want better output at extremely high sensitivity, think about the 20MP EOS R6 instead.
RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/250-second, ISO 100
It’s not all about high ISO performance, of course. The Raw files offer plenty of flexibility for editing. Opening shadows and pulling in highlights reveals detail that would be otherwise lost, and you’ve got ample room to tune colors, white balance, and the like.
State of the RF Lens System
A camera is only as good as its lenses. Canon has done a commendable job building out its RF lens system in its first two years, but it’s by no means complete. Photographers moving from a Canon SLR to mirrorless can use all of their current EF lenses with an adapter.
RF 85mm F1.2 lens
As for native lenses, Canon has sixteen at press time. Most are geared toward pros—there’s a trio of F2.8 zooms, plus uniquely bright optics like the 28-70mm F2, 50mm F1.2, and two versions of the 85mm F1.2 portrait lens.
Midrange entries like the 24-105mm F4, 35mm F1.8 Macro, and 85mm F2 Macro add appeal to photographers who don’t want huge, expensive lenses—we hope to see Canon add more lenses like this down the road.
RF 85mm F1.2 L USM DS, f/2.8, 1/2,000-second, ISO 100
The telephoto end is developing. There’s no native version of any of Canon’s high-end primes yet, but wildlife photogs will appreciate the new RF 100-500mm zoom, and the 600mm and 800mm F11 lenses are unmatched by other systems when it comes to weight, price, and telephoto reach—you just need to make sure you’ve got ample light.
Third-party support isn’t quite there yet, though. As exciting as some of the native Canon lenses are, you do lose access to a growing library of excellent mirrorless lenses from Sigma and Tamron. For now, they’re only available for other systems.
8K Raw Video…With Limitations
The R5’s 8K Raw video capabilities are ballyhooed and attention grabbing, but huge files sizes, the need for expensive CFexpress cards, and record times curtailed due to heat buildup limit its practicality.
There’s already been a lot written about the R5’s limitations when it comes to heat. If it only affected 8K video it’d be easier to dismiss—videographers are more likely to opt for Raw capture not for resolution, but for more flexibility to grade a scene with tough lighting. But recording limits extend to the highest-quality 4K footage.
Canon publishes a chart with expected record times (above), and our testing shows it to be accurate, but it doesn’t address cooldown time, nor does it take into account that initial record times are reduced by using the camera for stills.
Starting with a freshly charged and well-rested camera, I was able to record about 20 minutes of Raw 8K footage in a continuous clip on a sweltering August day. At 4K, using the highest-quality recording and ALL-I compression, I netted 30 minutes before the camera paused recording.
RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM, 20mm, f/8, 1/125-second, ISO 100
It’s recovery time that is the real issue. You can’t just start recording another 4K clip immediately, the camera has to have some time to cool, and ambient conditions do come into play.
I did more tests at 4K—it’s a more practical resolution for most, and records more reasonable file sizes (that 20 minute 8K clip came in at a staggering 360GB, just for reference). Even with the updated Firmware 1.1 loaded, there is an excessive amount of time required for the camera to get back and ready to shoot.
RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM, 15mm, f/2.8, 1/1,250-second, ISO 100
In an air conditioned room, the R5 estimated 5 minutes of 4K capture after 5 minutes of cooling down, and jumped to 10 minutes after a 10-minute delay. But I waited 20 minutes to get 15 extra minutes of video capture, 30 minutes to get to 20, and 50 minutes to get back up to the original 25-minute recording estimate.
It’s an improvement from Firmware 1.0, which required 95 minutes to get back up to the 25 minute estimate under very similar conditions, and while it limits the R5’s usefulness as a 4K camera, you can always roll at 1080p if you absolutely need to get a shot, and you can leverage the lower-quality 4K settings if you don’t want to worry about heat in the first place.
RF 85mm F1.2 L USM DS, f/1.2, 1/2,500-second, ISO 100
I don’t see either as an acceptable compromise, though—a camera that costs this much and advertises future-thinking video should at the very least match what competitors can do in the 4K realm.
If you’re a video-first creative, the EOS R5 is absolutely not your camera. Think about the Panasonic S1R or Sony a7R IV if you want loads of resolution and quality 4K without worrying about heat management, or the Panasonic S1H or Sony a7S III if you’re not after a high-res sensor.
RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM, f/1.8, 1/8,000-second, ISO 100
On the other hand, for photographers who may only use video occasionally, whether to add a bit of motion to a wedding package or some b-roll for a travel log, the R5 has more appeal. Its 4K output is stellar, as long as you opt for the High Quality setting—the standard output is a bit soft—and there’s a flat profile available if you prefer to grade your own footage.
Likewise, there are a wealth of frame rate options. You can use a 24fps for a cinematic look, opt for 30 or 60fps for smoother motion, and there’s a 4K 120fps setting for slow-motion. You’ll need to put the camera into video mode to access any of these—in its stills mode it can capture video with a button press, but only at 1080p.
A Superlative Stills Camera
Make no mistake, the EOS R5 is a statement from Canon. The imaging giant was slower than others to embrace mirrorless systems, but it’s now all-in, and this is the model that’s intended to compel 5D owners to jump to a new lens system, and maybe bring some pros who have jumped to the Sony mirrorless system back into the fold.
RF 50mm F1.2 L USM, f/1.2, 1/2,000-second, ISO 100
It makes a more convincing argument than the first-generation EOS R, one of the few recent serious cameras that I dreaded picking up. It’s just the opposite with the R5—I’ve enjoyed using it as much as any in recent memory, and I think photographers clutching to a 5D will feel the same.
As good as it is for stills, though, we cannot ignore its limitations with video. There’s no wanting for quality—the footage is superlative, and it benefits from speedy autofocus and the 5-axis IBIS system. But recording limits are real, and recovery times frustrating. This isn’t a camera that’s suitable for pro video work in the same way as the Panasonic S1R or Sony a7R IV.
You can largely ignore the concerns about video if you’re concerned about stills alone, or are more of a dabbler in the video world. For you, the EOS R5 is a fantastic full-frame model, albeit one that comes at a premium price, and backed by a native lens system that’s not as well built out as better-established competitor Sony. But if you prefer the Canon way of doing things well, you’re in for a treat.
For serious video work, the lengthy cooling down period makes the R5 a nonstarter. It’s one of the big factors, along with the extra resolution, lower cost, and stronger lens support, that the Sony a7R IV remains our Editors’ Choice among high-resolution, full-frame cameras.
Canon EOS R5 Specs
|Dimensions||3.8 by 5.4 by 3.5 inches|
|Sensor Resolution||45 MP|
|Sensor Size||Full-Frame (24 x 36mm)|
|Lens Mount||Canon RF|
|Memory Card Slots||2|
|Memory Card Format||SDXC (UHS-II), CFexpress (Type B)|
|Battery Type||Canon LP-E6NH|
|Display Size||3.2 inches|
|Display Resolution||2.1 million dots|
|EVF Resolution||5.76 million dots|
|Connectivity||PC Sync, Remote (Canon N3), Bluetooth, USB-C, Wi-Fi, micro HDMI, Microphone (3.5mm), Headphone (3.5mm)|
|Maximum Waterproof Depth||0 feet|
|HDMI Output||4:2:2 10-bit|