There’s no doubt that Canon has a feeling for the right time to bring out a camera of epic proportions. With the 5D they succeeded to capture a professional DSLR market in the 2010s, and with the R5, they’re looking to shift gears, bringing high-grade technology and equipment to the mass professional market in a mirrorless guise.
Canon EOS R5: Key Specs
Processor: Digic X
Sensor: 45MP full-frame CMOS
Video: Max 8K 30p/4K 120p/1080p 60p
Stabilization: 5-axis stabilization
ISO Sensitivity: 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-102,400)
Screen: 3.5-inch fully articulating touchscreen
Released in the throes of the COVID pandemic to much acclaim, the Canon EOS R5 (opens in new tab) felt like a natural progression from the brand’s Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, with the earlier-released Canon EOS R (opens in new tab) mirrorless camera acting as a test bed to get people used to the idea of a full-frame mirrorless setup. After a couple of years, some stiff competition and a few firmware upgrades, can the R5 still live up to expectations?
In this review, we’ll be taking a more detailed look at the Canon EOS R5, testing it in a range of situations and subject styles, as well as looking at its video capabilities to ask whether this is the best mirrorless package for professional photographers available.
Canon EOS R5: Design
- Excellent best-in-class ergonomics
- A heavy, sturdier design than some other mirrorless cameras
- Customizable buttons and controls play to pro photographers
It’s immediately obvious, out of the box, that Canon is serious with the R5. It has a relatively bulky appearance and a weighty feel in the hand, but compared to older DSLRs like the 5D it’s a breeze to handle and makes the latter feel like old technology. It’s almost certainly lighter than non-mirrorless cameras out there but feels a little more delicate and less shockproof than older setups.
Users of the 5D, which many purchasers of the R5 will be, will be kept happy with a nice balance in design and ergonomics between that and the more modern EOS R. There’s a screen on top and a fully-tilting touchscreen display, but the right thumbstick and rotating dial on the back to adjust autofocus makes an appearance and is a welcome throwback to older versions of Canon’s professional camera setups.
Canon EOS R5: Performance
- One of the best autofocus systems out there
- Superlative resolution and image quality
- In-body image stabilization works well for pros
The Canon EOS R5’s numbers are exemplary, and the speedy processor and professional storage options can keep up with the large file sizes and high-resolution outputs. A CFexpress slot is available as a backup to an SD card slot. In our testing, we found no problems using high-grade SanDisk Extreme PRO cards, but if you don’t have one, we’d recommend researching this element and purchasing a high-speed card to cater to the R5’s file sizes.
Much fanfare was made about the fact that the R5 uses a brand new processor unit and the first one with inbuilt body stabilization. It works very well, stabilizing dark scenes and low light conditions to enable the detail in shadows and blacks to be reclaimed in Lightroom. It is also an excellent option for astrophotography when paired with the right wide-angle lens.
It’s also worthwhile making specific reference to the autofocus system, as combined with the image stabilization, it’s one of the fastest systems we’ve used. Tracking is probably the best in class, with accurate face, eye and head detection that makes portrait, sports or action photography a breeze. Continuous focus mode doesn’t have problems keeping objects or people focused, even in dynamic situations.
If you’re looking to shoot top-notch video, although the R5 hasn’t been designed with filmmakers in mind per se, as you’d imagine. Yet it still boasts incredibly grandiose specs, offering the possibility of uncropped 8K recording in RAW. That being said, overheating and battery problems aren’t uncommon, and whilst it’s impressive that Canon has been able to pack so much technology into what is essentially still a small consumer camera, it is overkill for most people’s needs. Normal HD at 120FPS is still silky smooth and lovely to shoot.
Canon EOS R5: Functionality
- Easy to use Canon architecture
- Battery life is slightly compromised
- Headline features offer best-in-class performance across the board
Speaking of batteries, being a mirrorless camera, usage over the day took its toll on the power sources, which understandably struggled to keep up with the camera’s specs. Not that it was entirely disappointing, however, and Canon has managed to pack 2,130mAh into their new battery, which is also surprisingly and welcomingly backward-compatible with any camera that accepts LP-E6.
The headline figures keep coming when you’re fiddling through the functions and settings. Even the burst shooting stands out, rivaling the 1D X Mark III (opens in new tab), a camera that was previously considered to be the benchmark for sports and wildlife photographers. Inside the day-to-day usage of the camera, it’s pure Canon, using the same logic that users will be familiar with.
Should I buy the Canon EOS R5 camera?
Whether to recommend the Canon R5 is a more difficult question than you’d first imagine. On the face of it, absolutely. For semi-pro photographers looking to upgrade to a camera for life, or professional photographers who need to keep up with the speed of change, we think this is a very worthwhile camera to own. It might be the most complete camera Canon has ever produced. It doesn’t however mean that everyone should rush out to buy it.
If you’re a filmmaker, overheating and storage concerns may mean you look elsewhere, such as rival Sony options, and if you’re a beginner or an amateur photographer just looking to get going in the industry, there are far, far cheaper options that will produce excellent images. The price means that the camera will probably only ever be owned by people earning money from their photography, and in many ways, that’s exactly what it was built for. The Canon R5 is a very impressive piece of kit.
If the Canon EOS R5 isn’t for you
We’re well aware of the price of the R5, but there are alternatives out there that fit the bill, even if you want more or less the same performance. The obvious option is the Canon EOS R6, which provides similar results without the superlative specs but for a more affordable cost. For most professional photographers, this option will suffice.
With a 61 Megapixel sensor, the Sony A7R IV 35 (opens in new tab) full-frame camera is another obvious choice that on the spec sheet can match up to the R5, but again, expect to pay for it. For those with a slightly smaller wallet and not ready to make the jump, you won’t be disappointed with a used Canon 5D Mk IV or Nikon D850 either.