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Canon EOS R: R is for reliable, realistic shots

Canon's first full-frame mirrorless camera, the EOS R, makes a creditable debut

The EOS R is the first full-frame mirrorless camera from imaging giant Canon, as it looks to fight Sony's dominance in this genre.

As you might expect, the camera comes with a new lens mount called the RF mount. Canon is launching four new lenses for this mount - a 35mm f/1.8 macro lens, a 28-70mm f/2 lens, a 50mm f/1.2 prime lens and a 24-105mm f/4 kit lens.

For this review, I tested the camera with the RF 24-105mm f/4 kit lens and my personal EF 24-105mm f/4 lens using the basic EF-EOS R mount adaptor.

The RF lenses are necessarily big - big optics are needed to capture better images and you cannot fight the laws of physics. Unfortunately, the huge RF lenses negate the R's relatively small body and give the impression that the camera is big.

In fact, the R is thinner and smaller in volume than its DSLR camera cousins like the EOS 5D Mark IV.

The camera body weighs 660g. Even with the kit lens mounted, it weighs only about 1.4kg - that is about the weight of an EOS 1D X Mark II body.

The weather-sealed camera feels solid and sturdy, with a hefty grip that makes it comfortable to hold.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $3,399 (body only), available next month

    IMAGE SENSOR: 30.3-megapixel full-frame

    DISPLAY: 3.2-inch rotatable touchscreen LCD with 2,100,000 dots; electronic viewfinder with 3,690,000 dots

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 50 to 102,400

    SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 8 frames per second

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 660g (body with battery and memory card)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Its button layout is quite different from that of current EOS DSLR cameras and will take some getting used toif you have been using an EOS DSLR camera.

The power switch, which looks like a command dial, is on the top left of the camera. The shutter release button is on top of the grip, with the real command dial behind it.

Another command dial, which encircles a Mode button, is on the top right. Beside this dial sits a small monochrome display that shows all the important information.

To change shooting modes, press the Mode button and turn either of the command dials to toggle to the desired modeshown on the display.

A touch-sensitive M-Fn control bar - the first such feature on an EOS model - is behind the display on the R's rear. It can be customised to control the settings you want.

For example, set it to change the size of the autofocusing (AF) point and you can quickly get to the AF point size you want by swiping on the M-Fn control bar.

I am initially unhappy with the lack of an AF joystick to quickly move the AF point.

But the R offers a terrific touch-and-drag feature that lets you drag the AF point on the 3.2-inch touchscreen display when you are looking through the electronic viewfinder (EVF). Given that there are 5,655 AF points available, it means you can practically drag an AF point to anywhere in the frame.

I also like the EVF, which is super sharp and made me forget I am using an EVF instead of an optical viewfinder.

Whether it is the kit lens or my EF lens with the mount adaptor, the AF is instantaneous in bright sunlight. Under dim lighting, it takes about a second to get a focus lock with the help of the AF assist light.

I used the R to cover the launch of the new iPhones and Apple Watch in Cupertino and it did a splendid job, from capturing presentations in near darkness to shooting products under bright floodlights.

Battery life is rated at 370 shots per charge. However, I managed to squeeze in about 700 shots at the event before the battery went flat.

Operation-wise, the R is quite fast with starting up and shutting down taking about one second and 2.3 seconds respectively.

Using an SD card with a writing speed of 95MB per second, the R shot 45 RAW images in 8.7 seconds before it ran out of buffer.

Excellent image quality is what you would expect from a Canon camera. Images look razor-sharp with plenty of details even in the darker areas. Skin tones look natural and the auto white balance is spot-on in most situations.

Noise performance is stellar. There are no noise artefacts before ISO 3,200 and only a little chromatic noise in the dark areas at IS0 6,400. Even at ISO 12,800, noise is not evident. The noise level and detail loss become significant only at ISO 25,600 and above.

The big disadvantage is the single SD card slot.

For a professional mirrorless camera, dual SD card slots are necessary so photographers can have either more space or an immediate backup of the shots taken.

• Verdict: It may be Canon's first try, but the EOS R ticks almost all the boxes for a professional mirrorless camera.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2018, with the headline 'R is for reliable, realistic shots'. Print Edition | Subscribe