Canon is a huge company and it is widely known for their cameras and printers. You may have seen various Canon DSLR cameras being sold in Kenya. They range from the relatively affordable 4000D that retails for roughly 30,000 to the Canon R5 that goes north of Kshs 400,000 that I’m reviewing today. It is not the most expensive Canon camera I’ve ever handled, that belongs to the C200 but I really like it.
To understand the Canon R5 in its delight, I will give you a backstory. The backstory is the camera industry move from DSLR’s to Mirrorless cameras.
DSLRs vs Mirrorless camera revolution backstory
DSLRs (Digital Single Reflex Cameras) have been with us for decades now. They work by having a mirror mechanism that lets you view the subject via an optical viewfinder (OVF). They are now being phased out for mirrorless cameras which do away with the mirror mechanism and you view your subject via an electronic viewfinder (EVF).
We can credit Sony for spearheading the industry’s move to mirrorless cameras. They announced the A7 back in 2013 and it was not an impressive camera at the time, but it signified an impending change. The announcement of the Sony A7III in March 2018 signified that mirrorless cameras were here to stay. This camera retailed for under $2000 and it handily beat the Canon and Nikon DSLRs at the time, which meant they had to adapt or die.
Canon responded to the Sony A7III in September 2018 with the EOS R, which was their first full frame mirrorless camera. It described to the world that they were now serious in the mirrorless camera game and with it also brought about a new mount called the R mount. It featured the Canon 5D MarkIV’s sensor but still paled in comparison to the excellent Sony A7III.
Back to the EOS R5
This is why the R5 was very interesting to me. Canon is a giant in the industry and I knew they wouldn’t take Sony’s onslaught lightly and they showed their tech prowess with the Canon R5. When this camera was launched, I was visibly stunned. Canon managed to put everything but the kitchen sink on this camera and I love it.
I’ll be focusing this review on the photography side because of the limited time I had with the camera plus I wasn’t provided the necessary CFast card to test out the 8K RAW capability. However, I still feel like most reviewers are glancing over the photography side of this camera which I believe should be the main thing here.
But first, let us see the basic specifications first. More detailed specs for the curious among you can be seen on Canon’s site.
|Full Frame (36mm x 24mm) 45MP effective sensor
|100-51200 (native), 50-102400 (boosted)
|Sensor shift, upto 8 stops with a compatible lens
|Dual Pixel AF, 5940 AF points
|30 sec – 1/8000sec (both mechanical and electronic)
|8K RAW (24/25/30 12 bit internal
4K 120 4.2.2 10 bit internal
4K HQ mode
Canon Log 1
|CF Express and UHS II SD card slots
|USB 2.2 Gen 2, USB charging, microHDMI, microphone, headphone, WiFi, remote control, Bluetooth
|LP-E6NH (320 shots CIPA rating
|3.15″ 2.1 million dots vari-angle touchscreen
|0.5″ OLED EVF, 5.76 MILLION DOTS, 100% coverage, 0.76x magnification.
The Canon R5 is incredibly solid thanks to the magnesium alloy body with polycarbonate and fiber glass materials. The design is technically dust and water resistant but Canon says that will not completely prevent dust or water droplets from entering the camera.
They changed a few things compared to the EOS R that it was replacing. The joystick is back and it replaces the touch bar from the EOS R. The company also moved from an arrow button to the old scroll wheel which was also a bone of contention. Finally, they also moved some buttons here and there for ease of use. If you had the EOS R, you will take some time to adjust.
At the front , we have the mount with the 45MP sensor hidden behind the shutter when the mount is open, which I love. The right features the grippy handle that gives an assurance of security while holding the camera. The top features the on/off switch, a status LCD monitor, shutter button, horseshoe mount, and a scroll wheel.
On the left side, we have all the ports that are labelled pretty well. The back features the eyepiece that holds the viewfinder, the LCD monitor, a scroll wheel for navigating menus, joystick, menu buttons and a number of buttons useful for operating the camera.
It is a familiar feeling camera if you have used any DSLR before. I’ve used DSLR’s before and I felt at home almost immediately. Canon is very good at this and they nailed the design.
The Canon R5 uses the RF mount which is a brand new mount from Canon. If you have a Canon camera, especially a DSLR, you are probably using the old EF mount. If you’re using the EOS M50, you’d be using the EF-M mount but that is a story for another day.
The RF mount is new so it does not have a lot of lenses right now, but Canon is dropping a crazy amount of love for the lens mount. They have really good lenses for the mount which are optically excellent and
The RF mount is particularly interesting to me. Canon has made some jaw-droppingly good lenses for this mount and they gave me two lenses to use: The 24-105 f4 which is a very good all round lens for the mount and the absolutely bonkers 50mm f/1.2 lens.
The RF has massive potential and it was leaked that there are16 new RF lenses on the way. Judging from the lenses that I used, I’m pretty excited about this new mount.
However, if you still have EF lenses, fear not, you can still use them with the R5. You can adapt EF lenses to the Canon R5 using the EF-EOS R adapter. RF lenses are not cheap and this is a great way to use relatively cheaper EF lenses on the Canon R5.
The user experience on the Canon R5 was strange at first. I’ve used the Canon 80D for years now and I’m aware of its button placements and all. The Canon R5 took me a whole day to get used to it.
First, changing between video and photo modes is weird. On the 80D, you just flip a switch between photo and video modes. On the R5, you have to press the menu button to switch between the modes which took a while to get used to.
The touch screen is easy to use on the Canon R5. Menus can be navigated using the touchscreen and you can even set it to touch to take a photo like a smartphone.
The viewfinder is GLORIOUS. This is my first time using a mirrorless viewfinder and I’m visibly spoilt by the Canon R5 viewfinder. It is 5.76 million dots, its huge, bright and goes upto 120Hz. The best thing about EVFs is that they give you a preview of the expected exposure of the photo you’re about to take which is great for user experience. This is one of Canon R5’s strengths and this EVF is top tier.
Last about the user experience is the handle. The handle felt great in my hands which is no surprise from Canon. They didn’t compromise on that and it made it easy to use the camera, especially with the heavy lenses I was using.
The camera has different ways to customize your buttons to your liking but I didn’t get enough time to truly customize the camera like if it was my own. I used mostly aperture priority mode which allows you to change the aperture of the lens by scrolling the top wheel while it changes ISO and shutter speed to expose your subject properly.
As I was shooting, I thought I’d be using the joystick to take photos but a neat feature by Canon made me not use it. The Canon R5 allows you to use the right half of the touchscreen as a joystick to control AF points while shooting, which was critical to the subjects that I was shooting.
Speaking of subjects, this camera is suited for shooting a number of subjects: People, landscapes, buildings, animals…you name it. With the limited time that I had, I decided to try wildlife shooting. I packed my equipment and went straight to the Nairobi Animal Orphanage with the two lenses that I was given.
Shooting with the Canon R5 was great! The large bright EVF was lovely to use and the grip allowed me to hold the camera well. I only needed to make sure that my shutterspeed was high enough to freeze motion.
This was my first 45MP camera and my second full frame camera experience and I’m spoilt. The high megapixel count means that there is tons of detail in the photos and there is more room to crop in the photos. Although it churns out 45MP photos in RAW, JPEG or both at once, it never feels slow and I love that.
Animal AF is great
The Canon R5 features eye detection autofocus for humans as well as animal detection autofocus and it works surprisingly well. You’ll need to check whether these settings are turned on the autofocus menu setting and it is one of my favourite things about mirrorless cameras. The EVF shows a box on an animal’s eye or face when you acquire focus and it is amazing.
However, I didn’t get this all the time, and I blame the chain-link fence in the Animal Orphanage. The fence would make the AF trippy but I had no issues taking photos of monkeys that roamed around.
The other feature that I wanted to use was the headlining 20 frames per second shooting. This is a feature that we saw first with the Canon 1DX Mark III and it made Canons on par with the top of the line Sony A9.
You’ll have to use the electronic shutter for this since the maximum speed for the mechanical shutter is 12fps. Canon also requires you to disable a number of things to enable the electronic shutter: You need to disable distortion correction, flicker detection and more.
When you finally get to enable shooting with the electronic shutter, choose the drive mode to high and watch the magic fly. When you start shooting, it shows a black bar around the EVF and it is fast. This is perfect for those instances you want to capture really fast action and it is absolutely lovely.
There is a major downside: this mode will fill up your storage really quickly. I was able to fill my 32GB card in minutes from using this mode. Also, you need to use this sparingly because you will have to go through a lot of photos afterwards.
Nevertheless, this feature is still invaluable for those instances when you need to capture the best shot of fast moving subjects. This includes wildlife or sports and the Canon R5 will handle that no problem.
Night time shooting
The Canon R5 excels in daylight and it flexes its muscles with its high megapixel count but it is still surprisingly good at night.
You would assume due to the high megapixel count that it would be bad at night, but it is quite good. I had a 50mm f/1.2 lens which wide open takes in a lot of light and I was able to take great photos at night. You can crank the ISO up to take photos with a higher shutter speed but I’m comfortable until ISO 6400 with this camera at night.
Also thanks to the excellent in-body stabilization, I could do handheld shots during the night up to 1/8 of a second without taking blurry shots which was incredible. This was done on the 50mm 1.2 lens that doesn’t have stabilization and that shows how great it is to have in-body stabilization.
The Canon Connect App
One of the best aspects of owning a Canon camera is the rather excellent Canon Connect app. This app allows you to transfer photos from your camera to your hone via Bluetooth or WiFi. This is great since you can take a photo and obtain the JPEGs quickly for quick sharing to social media.
My favourite feature about it is that you can set it up to automatically send photos to your phone for quick sharing. I can see this being an invaluable tool in many scenarios as backup when you lose files in your cards or when you lose the camera. It is a huge plus for the Canon ecosystem and it works beautifully with the Canon R5.
Who is this camera for?
The Canon R5 is a great camera but a master of one. It is suited to shoot a whole variety of shots. I mostly narrowed on wildlife, landscape and night time photography. However, I see it being used in studios for detailed portrait shots, as a sports camera thanks to the incredible 20fps shooting with the electronic shutter and an events/wedding camera thanks to the silent shooting.
The RF mount also comes with incredible lenses but the issue is that they are expensive! Nevertheless these lenses take advantage of the 45MP by extracting as much detail as possible which is a joy.
This camera goes for $3899 in the US and I’ve seen 3rd party vendors in Kenya sell it for Kshs 430,000 so that should be your guiding price. This is a workhorse of a camera and I fully recommend it.