Canon R5 - First Impressions

3 days with the Canon R5



I am a Canon shooter since my beginning as a photographer. Starting out with a Canon 450D, I have tested many many different photo- and video cameras over the years, here is a list:
Canon: 450D, 7D, 6D, 5D III, 5D IV // Sony: A7 ii, A7 iii, A7 IV R // Leica: Q, Q2, SL2 // Fuji: GFX 50s, GFX 100, XT-20, XT-30, XT-3 // RED: Helium, Epic, Scarlet, Gemini, Raven and for sure more that I have just forgotten over the time.

I was often asked, why I still stuck with Canon over all those years and why I haven’t switched to Sony (as so many have done) – a simple fact was, that I love the workflow that I have with my two Canon 5D Mark IVs – I still love an optical viewfinder, the Canon color science and just that I know the camera so well, that there was no point in changing my setup. The downsides of the Mark IV are very apparent to me at this point in time: bulky, no good video capabilities, horrible 4K codec, and crop, no eye-detection, only 7 fps in photo etc. But I had my RED for shooting great video.

But you know what – in the past 4 years, I was just happy, having a good and super reliable camera that I probably shot over 500.000 pictures in every situation.

Canon releasing the classic R was a bit of a bummer. The design was good, but what it could do was just not really better than what the Mark IV could do (except the flip-out screen) and no joystick to change my focus point. And the RF-lenses in the L-Version – COME ON! how expensive and big can you make glass Canon? We will have to talk about this, also for R5!!!

Last year I added a Fuji XT-3 to my camera bag. For simple size reasons. And you know what, it is an awesome camera. I got to love mirrorless: smaller size, flip-out screen, great video capabilities, small lenses with great apertures. But I hated the fact that I had two different camera systems still.



(Disclaimer: I got a pre-production model of the R5 not with the final software)

When the first rumors started to appear last year about the „pro model R“, I got cautiously excited – „how much better could she be? Did they listen to all the feedback of what pro photographers wanted…?“ Many unknowns.

More and more specs appeared on websites: Two card-slots (well, dah!), 4K in 120 fps (what??) and then 8K Raw (not possible!) – how could they all pack it into such a small form factor, how will they prevent overheating, how much will it cost, how good is the codec, how much crop etc. etc. etc.

„This is your final chance CANON, do this right, or I will switch!“

Having the Mark IV for over 4 years, it was time to make a decision, waiting for Canon to just make the R5 as great as they said or I would switch to Sony entirely.

Then Kücher Digitale Welt reached out to me, my trusted shop for all my cameras and lenses for the past years, and asked me if I was interested to test the R5 before everyone else – and my excitement shot through the roof! Of course, I want to!

I got the pre-production model of the R5 and couldn’t wait to put her to the test. In anticipation, I already ordered a San Disk CF-Express 128GB Card, so I was ready for everything. Here is what I think about the R5:

Design: the R5 looks great.
Size: The paint-job, the size (I have normal-sized hands for a guy) feels great in my hand.
Screen: the flip-out touch screen is a lifesaver. And the electronic viewfinder is awesome.
Wheels and buttons: 3 wheels (on the front for shutter, mid (new) for ISO, and on the back for the f-stop are great to have everything I need at one glance.
Joystick: my beloved joystick from the Mark IV made it back to the R5 (the R doesn’t have it) I need it to shift my focus points around quickly.
Small settings screen: the top screen, where you can see your modes and settings is like a kindle now, looks great!
Sensor safety: the R5 has a built-in screen that protects the sensor when you remove the lens (when the camera is switched off) – I love that.

Sensor: 45 megapixels – great bump for bigger, but not too big files. I love that they didn’t go over 50 MP (in comparison to the Mark IV which had 30,4 MP)
IBIS: for the first (!) time, Canon has in-body-stabilization in a camera with 5-axis. And it is also compatible with the lens stabilization. I shot videos handheld and they looked great.
8K / 30fps RAW – 4K / 120fps: Insane specs, for the first time, 8K RAW in such a tiny camera. And 4K in 120 fps in Canon-log with NO CROP. Shooting works super well – especially face-, eye, and animal detection (yes, it knows when you film your dog). The dual pixel autofocus works so so well with both RF and EF lenses ( I used my 24-70mm f2.8 L lens with the EF to RF adapter for shooting) – Still missing 240 fps in Full-HD! I hope they make it.
Video file formats: Spoiler: They are super slow! the R5 delivers .mp4 with h.265 codec or 4:2:2 10 bit HDR PQ in h.265 – I put them in Premiere Pro and it is not fun to work with them – maybe because I used a pre-production model – the files ned rendering all the time to be able to cut them well. But they look nice.
Auto-focus: I have the feeling that the AF’s speed increased 10 times compared to my Mark IV. So fast and reliable. I tried various types of RF and EF lenses with the R5 and all of them are amazing.
RF-lenses: I got a test package of Canon with the following RF lenses: 15-35mm f2.8 L, 24-70mm f2.8 L, 50mm f1.2 L, 85mm f1.2 L and 70-200mm f2.8 L. Here are the pros and cons: PRO: super fast, super sharp lenses – the 70-200 is amazing because it is tinier than my 70-200 EF lens and faster. CONS: some of them are big, and I mean very big. the 85mm is frustratingly huge, as is the 28-70 f2 – they just look wrong. and all of them are expensive: 50mm f1.2 = 2500€, 24-70 f2.8 = 2400€, 70-200 f2.8 = 2800€ and the 28-70 f2 will cost you are rocking 3200€ – that is a hefty hefty price tag. But I am glad that the adapter works perfectly.
Dual Card Slot: The new CF-Express cards are insane in two ways: 1) Super fast with 1700 MB/s read speed 2) Expensive, a 128GB San Disk CF-Express will cost you 300€, 64 GB 170€ and a 256 GB about 400€.

R6: Canon also announced the R6, the smaller Version of the R5. What is different? 20.1MP Sensor, 4K/60, 1080p/120 (no 8K) – and that’s about it.

Price: R5 = 4500€ a super fair price for what this camera can do. And the R6 = 2700€ – Amazing price for a great great camera. Can’t wait to test both.

Overall: Canon did the impossible with the R5. It is a full production unit in the palm of your hand. And I can’t wait to put it to the test.

Even if I only had a pre-production model, I think the R5 is wonderful, just freakin wonderful!

I will update my thoughts as I will test the R5 more.

Thanks again to Kücher Digitale Welt to collaborate with me on this.