This week I answer a question from listener Derek Bezuidenhout, who recently asked what happens with mirrorless cameras when we add an Extender or Teleconverter, so I’m dedicating this week’s episode to answering that Derek’s excellent question, which I’ll read out to you now.
As we know, when using an extender we typically lose 1 stop of light for a 1.4X extender or 2 stops of light through the lens for a 2X extender. And when using an extender on a DSLR, because of the way the focusing mechanism works, either the camera won’t be able to focus at all, or it will only be able to use the centre focus point. With mirrorless cameras, the focusing mechanism is completely different – it uses the main sensor instead of dedicated focus points. So does that mean that with an extender on a mirrorless body we would be able to reliably use all (or most of) the available AF points, rather than just the middle one?
I can’t believe I didn’t think to mention this in my EOS R reviews, but I didn’t, so I really appreciate this question. Thanks, Derek! I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that you surmised exactly what happens as you posed your question.
The camera manufacturers have made strides in their recent years, enabling most modern DSLR cameras to focus with extenders down to an aperture of f/8. What this means, is if you are using an f/4 lens, and put on a 2X Extender, which reduces your aperture by two stops, your camera’s widest aperture changes from f/4 to f/8, and you maintain autofocus on at least the center focus point, sometimes more, depending on the camera.
If however, the minimum aperture of your lens is smaller than f/4, for example like my 100-400mm lens, with its widest aperture of f/4.5 at 100mm or f/5.6 when zoomed in to 400mm, on a DSLR that only focusses down to f/8, because I would be forced down to f/11 at 400mm when adding two stops, the autofocus stops working.
The Mirrorless Advantage
Because Mirrorless cameras focus differently, as Derek pointed out, at least as far as my Canon EOS R goes, it will continue to focus down to f/11 and what’s more, according to Canon’s website, you can continue to use autofocus across the full range of 88% x 100% on the image frame if you are using Mark III Extenders, which I am. This is the same as when you are using no extenders. Apparently with Mark I or Mark II Extenders that is reduced slightly to 80% x 80% of the total image frame, which is still very good in my opinion.
When we consider that many DSLR cameras bunch the autofocus points up towards the center of the frame, it becomes quite limiting to where you can place your subject in the frame, especially when photographing something like birds in flight, when you actually might want to place the subject much closer to the edges sometimes.
I tried to think of a way to show you the speed of the autofocusing system and how wide an area the camera will focus across, and figured it was probably best to just show you in a video, so I hooked my EOS R up to a video capture box and recorded my screen as I switched between my 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 Mark II Lens with no Extender fitted, to using it with the 1.4X Extender, and then the 2X Extender. I also show the 200-400mm with its built-in 1.4X Extender engaged, and a 2X Extender fitted, so both are focussing at f/11 with the 200-400mm lens at a focal length of 1120mm.
Finally, I disengage the built-in 1.4X Extender to show you the effects of just having the external 2X Extender fitted. For all of these demonstrations, I was using the Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter to fit these EF lenses to the RF Mount of the EOS R.
Things to note are that autofocus does slow down very slightly, especially when using the 1.4X and 2X Extenders together. Also note that I did these demonstrations in my studio with bird ornaments, so in reality, when the autofocus has further to physically travel, it can be a little bit slower than you’ll see in the video as well. Anyway, here is the video, so please take a look.
I hope you found that interesting or at least useful to see. I find it amazing that we can now use autofocus at this level, down to f/11 apertures.
Upcoming Autofocus Improvements via Firmware Update
I noticed too that Canon have just announced a firmware update to improve autofocus further. On the US website it just says coming soon, but in Japan it is slated for the end of September. Here is what Canon are saying:
AF function improvement for EOS R and EOS RP Cameras
A new firmware update for Autofocus (AF) with the EOS R and EOS RP cameras will soon be available. This exciting new update will offer enhanced AF functions to help you better view, track and capture subjects. The three main components are:
Eye Detection AF will be improved so you can better focus on a moving subject’s eye even if it is far away or when the face appears small in the viewfinder.
AF frame tracking is improved so there is virtually no delay between the actual focusing and when it’s displayed in the AF frame, helping you continuously track the subject and shoot comfortably.
The AF function works faster overall so even at a distance, you can capture the subject quickly.
This firmware will be available via a free download in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
I look forward to seeing how these changes affect autofocusing, and I can’t wait to see where the autofocus on mirrorless cameras leads us next. I honestly did not expect autofocus on these cameras to be anywhere near as good as it’s proven to be. Being able to focus on a sea eagle a split-second before it snatches a fish from the sea, as in this photograph from this year‘s Japan Wildlife Tours, I had no complaints, but improvements are always welcome.
Anyway, we’ll wrap it up there for this week. Thanks once again to Derek for the great question! Also, note that I’m running behind on the development of my new Mentorship system. Various things and other commitments have kept me a little too busy lately, but I am working on it and hope to release something very soon.
Following on from last week, today we conclude my review of the EOS R, Canon’s first full-frame sensor mirrorless camera offering, having used it for four weeks in the field during my first two tours of 2019.
If you haven’t already checked out part one of this review, you can see that here. This article will probably make more sense after reading or listening to the first episode.
I made the decision to try and work with the EOS R without the battery grip, because I am trying to lighten my load, at the same time as lowering my profile. I imagine that part of the problem I had with the Moroccan customs people late last year was partly caused by the fact that I had two DSLR cameras with battery grips, and they look much more “professional” than the much smaller EOS R, especially without the battery grip.
Here’s a photo of the two next to each other, so that you can see how much more daunting the 5Ds R looks next to the EOS R, although of course, the Battery Grip on the 5Ds R makes the most difference. I also took my Really Right Stuff L-Bracket off the 5Ds R before shooting this, because I don’t have one for the EOS R yet, but that also makes the 5Ds R look even bigger, and that’s just more food for thought. For this photo, I aligned the back edge of the cameras and propped up the 5Ds R with a memory card case, so that they are at roughly the same angle.
Camera Bag Downsizing
For my two recent trips, my bag was much lighter, although I did take both 24-105mm lenses on the Landscape trip so that I could do that direct comparison that we looked at in part one of this review.
For my wildlife trip, I actually left the EF 24-105mm lens at home, and was able to fit my 200-400mm lens with the built-in 1.4X extender, one 5Ds R and the EF 100-400mm lens, along with the EOS R and the RF 24-105mm lens, as well as a couple of extenders etc. all in my 26L GuraGear Bataflae bag. That just wasn’t possible when I was working with two 5Ds R bodies, both with battery grips. And the bag was, needless to say, much lighter to carry around.
As you can see, I can just about fit two EOS R bodies into a bag like this taking up roughly the same amount of room as one 5Ds R with a battery grip. Although I want to keep one 5Ds R for high-resolution work, I am now seriously considering selling one of the two and replacing it with a second EOS R. That would make traveling to Namibia in June this year much easier, especially as I don’t take the 200-400mm lens along for that trip.
Traveling overseas with lots of gear has just become too tedious, so the timing of jumping into the world of mirrorless and the downsizing that it will gradual enable couldn’t have come at a better time really.
Direct Comparison without Battery Grip
While we’re on the subject, let’s take a look at the Canon EOS 5Ds R without the battery grip, with the EF 24-105mm f/4 L lens fitted, compared to the EOS R with the RF 24-105mm f/4 L lens. Note that in this photo both lenses have a third-party protector filter fitted.
Weight-wise, the 5Ds R with the EF24-105mm lens attached, as well as a two camera strap loops and a protector filter, weighed in at 1,745g, and the EOS R with the same accessories weighed in at 1,380g. That’s a saving of 365g.
The EOS R has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and when you use the Bluetooth Wireless Remote BR-E1, you have to select one of the two timer drive modes, but I really like the fact that the camera automatically switches to start the exposure immediately when you press the remote’s shutter button.
As I used the remote for the first time, I was hoping that would be the case, and it was really nice for the camera to just work how I wanted it to, so I thought this was a nice touch. If you use the Canon Camera Connect app on iOS though, you can actually use the two timer modes for a 10 or 2-second timer, and release the shutter in all of the other drive modes remotely, so it’s very flexible.
I might put a lanyard on this remote so that I can hang it around my neck, but the hole that is provided enables you to easily slip a finger through, and you can then just hold it in your hand and press the buttons quite comfortably, even with thin gloves on. A small lanyard tether wouldn’t hinder that workflow, but I’m just trying to decide if a lanyard is really necessary.
The Joys of the Electronic Viewfinder
I have to admit that I was not looking forward very much to using an electronic viewfinder, but I was pleasantly surprised by how clear the world looks, and there are definitely benefits to seeing exactly what you are going to get in your photos, including the exposure, and when necessary almost being able to see in the dark through the viewfinder.
The live histogram is also very useful, as is the digital level and pretty much everything on the screen is customizable, and you can select a few different modes to increase and decrease the level of information shown. I give a surprisingly enthusiastic thumbs-up to the EOS R’s electronic viewfinder.
Distance Meter with RF Lenses
Another thing that I like, is that you can change the settings on the EOS R to show you the focusing distance in the Electronic Viewfinder, either when you are manually focusing, or all the time. This only works with the new RF mount lenses, but I love having this information right there in the viewfinder.
Here’s a quick photo, shot with my iPhone, looking into the viewfinder on the EOS R, when I was shooting some video during my Hokkaido Landscape Tour. You can see the distance set to infinity in the scale towards the bottom of the screen.
Of course, there aren’t that many practical uses for this, but it’s nice to be able to visually check as you tweak the focus, and also this will be really useful for astrophotography, when you want to manually adjust focus to infinity, but often it’s difficult to see without some light, and that can damage your night vision, so this will be very welcome the next time I’m shooting the night sky.
Another practical use would be when shooting video and you need to manually adjust the focus to a preset point that a subject will walk to on queue. You could have them walk into the focus as you slowly set it manually rather than having to rely on snappy autofocus.
Focus Peaking in Manual Focus Mode
The EOS R also has Focus Peaking, which outlines anything that is in focus with a color you select in the menu, but this only works in Manual Focus mode. I can appreciate why, and I certainly don’t want to see the focus peaking guides all the time when using autofocus, but I’d love an option to be able to at least quickly turn this on or off in Autofocus mode.
The Focus Guide that you can easily turn on and off is also useful when manually focusing. You basically have two triangles facing each other vertically when your subject is in focus, and then the top triangle splits into two and gets wider and wider as you focus past the subject, and the same happens with the bottom triangle as you focus before your subject. It’s easy to use, but in the field I found myself referencing the focus peaking when manually focusing more than the focus guide.
OMG! Only One SD Card Slot!
The EOS R uses SD UHS-I or UHS-II memory cards, and if you’ve been following the many negative reviews about this camera, you’ll have no doubt heard people complaining about the fact that it only has one card slot.
People seem to be going insane with anger over the decision by Canon to only build in one memory card slot to the EOS R. Personally, I never record my images to two cards simultaneously, so this really is not an issue for me.
That’s not to say that it will never be an issue, but as of February 2019, I have only ever had one card fail on me, and I only lost the last few images that I’d shot, and all images to that point were recoverable from the card, so I still don’t feel the need to write to two cards at once.
Prograde Digital Memory Cards
By the way, as the EOS R is the first camera I’ve used that takes SD Cards, I’ve just started to use the SDXC UHS-II cards from a new company called Prograde Digital, and I am very happy with them.
These people are making fast, high-quality cards, and their card readers, or workflow readers as they call them, are off the chart speed-wise. I’ll be bringing you a review of these cards and readers very soon, but do check out their products. Like I say, I’ve been very happy with them.
The EOS R also has a new Multi-Function Bar, that works differently depending on whether you are shooting or browsing images. When shooting, I’ve configured mine to Magnify the image in the electronic viewfinder by swiping, show the electronic level when I tap the left side of the bar, and show the Focus Guide when I tap the right side of the bar.
When browsing images, I can quickly move back and forth through the images by swiping or just tap the left side to display the previous, and the right side to display the next image.
As usual, there are a lot of people that seem to enjoy panning new features like this, but personally, I find it relatively easy to use, and it doesn’t take up much space, so I don’t really care either way.
No Dual Pixel Raw for Me, Thanks!
The Dual Pixel Raw feature interests me, but Dual Pixel Raw images require you to process them in Canon’s Digital Photo Professional which I will not use, so I haven’t tried this format and probably never will, unless Canon start to license this technology to third parties so that it can be used in Capture One Pro and Lightroom etc. That, in my opinion, is the only way that Canon will ever get wide-spread acceptance for this interesting technology.
Hoping for a Mirrorless 5Ds R Mark II
To be completely honest, when I first heard about the EOS R, although it interested me slightly, it wasn’t until I heard that the 5Ds R Mark II might be a mirrorless camera, that I really started to take it seriously. Then, I took a look at the RF mount, and instantly fell in love with it.
The additional terminals and engineering quality of the mount, is a clear indication that Canon had put a lot of thought, and R&D money, into this new mount, and this to me shows that it’s probably the way forward for Canon, so I decided to give the R a chance, and I’m very pleased that I did.
So, at this point in time, with my new-found love for my little mirrorless camera, the EOS R, I am really hoping that the rumors are true and that Canon is now planning to release the 5Ds R Mark II with the RF mount, and therefore as a mirrorless camera.
My Wish-List for Canon Mirrorless Cameras
To summarize what I’d really like to see Canon do in their future mirrorless cameras, in order of high to low priority, without doubt, the thing they need to work on most is the viewfinder fogging in snowy cold conditions.
No More Fogging!
This pretty much renders the camera useless in conditions that have never affected any of their DSLRs that I’ve used, including the D30, 10D, 20D, 5D, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, 7D Mark II, and the 5Ds R. I have also never had this problem with the 1Ds Mark II or the 1D Mark IV or the 1D X, but that’s a given as the 1 series bodies really are weatherproof.
Better Electronic Viewfinder in Burst Mode
The next thing on my wish-list is improving the electronic viewfinder to reduce the lag that you see when shooting in burst mode. You can get used to tracking a subject with almost stroboscopic vision, but when the movement is erratic it gets very difficult and you certainly lose more shots than you would with a DSLR.
I am also absolutely tired of using my cameras with the GP-E2 GPS unit in the hot shoe to GPS tag my images. When this was all I had, it was fine, but my 7D Mark II had GPS, then my newer 5Ds R did not. Canon then released the 5D Mark IV, which I did not buy, with GPS, and then left it out of the EOS R. Aargh!! Seriously Canon, I am responsible enough to leave it turned off if battery life is a problem for me, so just include it in all of your cameras from now on and please stop second-guessing your users’ needs!!
Brighter Histogram Frame
In bright conditions, it can be very difficult to see the frame around the histogram on the LCD. It’s fine through the viewfinder, but there are times when we need to use the LCD to get a high or low angle, and it’s almost impossible to see the frame around the histogram in bright conditions, so please put a brighter, thicker border around the histogram boxes.
Better Autofocus in Heavy Snow
I would also like to see improvements in the autofocus when used in heavy snow. In light snow, it was not a problem, but when the flakes are relatively large, the autofocus would often focus on the snow and not the intended subject, so detecting and dealing with this better would be great. At the moment, my DSLR cameras handle similar amounts of snow much better.
Digital Level in Face+Tracking Mode
Finally, I really missed the Digital Level in the Electronic Viewfinder when using the Face+Tracking autofocus mode. Although the Face Detection may have helped with some of the snow monkey shots, I found that AI Servo works best for me even for wildlife when in the Face+Tracking mode. I don’t like using clusters or smaller zones and never have. I find it a clunky way to shoot and with the settings I use I have no problems tracking with my subjects.
Even when using this Tracking mode though, I want my photos to be straight, and I rely on the in-viewfinder digital level a lot, so I really miss this on the EOS R, and hope that Canon will bring it back either in a Firmware update or in a future mirrorless body.
Hoping for Improvements via Firmware Update
Although I’d like to see Canon do a recall to provide better sealing on the viewfinder, they obviously wouldn’t be able to add GPS to the EOS R now, so hopefully, they won’t ignore this again in any future mirrorless bodies they release.
But, everything else in my wishlist might be possible via firmware updates, so I really hope that Canon considers at least some of the things that I’m pointing out here.
As I was preparing this review, Canon actually did release a firmware update that added support for Continuous Shooting in Silent Shutter. I haven’t tried this yet, although I have updated my camera. The rest is bug fixes, so nothing on my wish-list was changed in this release.
Also, there was a version 2.0 firmware released for the RF 24-105mm f/4 lens, that enables this new feature added to the EOS R with the version 1.1.0 update.
Rolling Shutter in Silent Continuous Shooting Mode
Silent Mode basically enables the camera to just leave the physical shutter open, and record images directly from the sensor for the length of your selected shutter speed. Because the light from each photosite is not recorded at exactly the same time though, the images can be distorted because of what’s called a Rolling Shutter.
I haven’t shot with the EOS R much with the new firmware, but I did shoot a handful of frames in Silent Mode while moving the camera at a 1/60 of a second and could see some distortion from the rolling shutter, so I’m not sure this will really help with widlife shooting. I will try with a faster shutter speed though, and let you know. If this can help to reduce the stroboscopic viewfinder that you get when the mechanical shutter has to flap up and down, then it would certainly be a good step forward.
Happy I Waited for the EOS R
I waited to do this review because I really wanted to get a lot of experience with the EOS R before I talked about it. The four full week’s that I’ve shot so far when we shoot literally from dawn ’til dusk most days, have been a lot more fun that I could have possibly imagined.
I am, of course, a self-confessed Canon Fanboy, and although I seriously considered getting a Sony Mirrorless camera around three years ago, ultimately, it took Canon releasing the EOS R to get me to jump to the dark side, and I’m glad I waited.
Being able to use my EF lenses with the Control Ring Mount Adapter has made the transition almost completely painless for me. This was a bonus and almost feels like a reward for my patience. I also just really like being able to dive into the familiar Canon menu system.
I work with the menus of other systems all the time with my workshop participants and although they often make sense, they always seem to be so much more difficult to use than the Canon menus. Obviously, this is partly because I’m accustomed to Canon menus, but I see my participants struggling so much more with their menus than I ever had to with Canon’s.
Now I’m just clinging to the edge of my seat, waiting to see what Canon release next in the higher-end mirrorless RF mount camera system. Boy, do I hope that there really is a mirrorless 5Ds R Mark II equivalent on the way.
I’ve watched with enjoyment as people have gotten all bent out of shape over things like the EOS R only having one card slot, or the image freezing momentarily in the electronic viewfinder when shooting in burst mode.
I honestly don’t know how much better the other mirrorless cameras on the market are in these areas, but I do know that people love to complain. It’s as though they need to find reasons not to like something, and have to reinforce that decision by making the people that they influence feel bad about the gear under review as well.
I have found things about the EOS R that I don’t like, and shared them in this review, but there are enough things that I do like that to make me very happy with my decision to jump to mirrorless with this first full-frame sensor offering from Canon. I love the image quality, and the camera is fun to use, while mostly supporting the shooting workflow.
I’m not trying to get you to buy an EOS R, rather just share my experiences, warts and all, in the hope that it might help you to put everything into perspective, and make up your own mind. I was not enabled by Canon or any other third party in the making of this review. I bought all of the Canon gear mentioned at full price with my own money.
If you did find this review useful and buy from our friends at B&H Photo, using the links in this post will provide us with a modest affiliate payment that helps with the upkeep of the website and payment for my time invested in the creation of this review.
By the time you listen to this, I’ll be just getting started with my second Japan Winter Wildlife tour for 2019, and using the EOS R for wildlife for another two weeks. If I learn anything new about the camera, I’ll include details in the travelogue series that I’ll release when I get back, so please stay tuned for those, starting in two weeks time.
Having just shot my two week Hokkaido Landscape Tour and the first of my two Japan Wildlife Tours with the Canon EOS R, today I’m going to share my thoughts on Canon’s first full-frame sensor mirrorless camera offering.
Let’s get this out there right away, as I know many of you are eager to hear my overall verdict; with a total of four weeks of shooting with the EOS R from dawn till dusk each day, I am happy to tell you that I have fallen absolutely head-over-heels in love with the Canon EOS R camera and RF 24-105mm lens.
There are lots of reviews out there panning the EOS R, and because of that, this was probably the most cautious gear purchase I’ve made for a while, but I can honestly say that my concerns were pretty much completely unnecessary. I’m not saying that this is the best mirrorless camera on the market right now, but if you are a Canon user, looking for a way to gradually move over to mirrorless, Canon has now put the first stepping stone in place, and it gives us a very firm footing, as I’ll explain.
Not Perfect, But Close…
That said, it has one major issue and a number of other areas that need work, but as Canon’s first full-frame sensor mirrorless camera, it has way surpassed my expectations, to the point that I avoided using my Canon EOS 5Ds R bodies as much as possible during the last two tours. It’s not that the 5Ds is all of a sudden a bad camera, but the EOS R is more fun to use, and the image quality is spectacular, to the point that I didn’t really mind working harder to overcome the problems that I did have, and I’ll share details of these shortly.
You can see full details on the Canon website, but to touch on the key specs, the EOS R has a 30.3MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor with a DIGIC 8 Image Processor. It supports 4K video, the first camera I’ve owned that does after my iPhone, and it has Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus, with an amazing 5655 Autofocus Points!
The EOS R sports a 3.69m-Dot Electronic Viewfinder and 3.15″ 2.1 million-dot swivel touchscreen LCD, which is also a first for me. The ISO can be expanded up to 102400, and in burst mode, it shoots a very respectable 8 frames per second.
Before I go on to explain more about the few problems I did have, and provide my wish-list for this and future Canon Mirrorless cameras, let’s jump in and take a look at some real-world examples, and as you’ve probably come to expect, I’m going to blow a few myths out of the water as well.
The first one is a comparison that I did between the EOS R and the 5Ds R. With my tripod in the same place, I switched out the cameras to make two identical photographs of this scene, which I shot with the EOS R and the RF 24-105mm lens.
EOS R and 5Ds R Image Comparison
Although when comparing a 30-megapixel image with a 50-megapixel image, the 50-megapixel shot obviously has more resolution, but I found the quality of the EOS R images to be very pleasing, with sharper edges and slightly more definition. Here is a screenshot of both shots displayed at 100% in Capture One Pro, and you can hopefully see the qualities that I mention in the bottom of the two images, from the EOS R.
If you can’t see the detail on the Web page, click the image to open up the larger version, or consider subscribing to our MBP Pro membership to get access to the eBook with high-resolution images for this post.
Snow is Fine Sometimes
Another image that I wanted to share from the landscape trip is to segue to the first and main issue that I have with the EOS R. Here, is an image that I shot in the snow, with the RF 24-105mm lens.
And here is a photo of my EOS R with a decent amount of snow on it, as I shot the previous image. The snow melted occasionally on the top around the LCD and buttons, and I wiped it off from time to time because I don’t trust the weather-sealing on any Canon camera that is not 1-series.
It’s actually quite annoying that Canon use marketing terminology that would have you think that the EOS R is weather-sealed. Here is a quote from the Canon USA website:
The EOS R camera is designed for use in a variety of weather conditions. Sealing materials are used in critical areas like the buttons, terminal covers, the battery compartment and the card slot cover. Precise design and construction help to minimize accidental penetration of dust and moisture in the rest of the camera body. Combined with an RF lens, or any other weather-sealed EF/EF-S lens, the EOS R proves to be a reliable partner in virtually any climate.
Don’t Believe the Marketing Blurb
There is also an image that shows the EOS R’s weather-sealing, and you’d think from this text and looking at the graphic that the EOS R is weather-sealed, but I can assure you that it is not. Why? Because when you use the EOS R with a long lens that makes the camera sit at an angle, with the viewfinder pointing upwards, even a relatively small amount of snow falling on the eyepiece will make it do this.
This photo was from a few weeks after my Landscape tour, when I was on my first Japan Winter Wildlife tour of this season. I was shooting with the 100-400mm lens and got a little, definitely not a lot of snow, on the back of the camera and the viewfinder, and within minutes, the inside of the viewfinder fogged up like this.
I had decided to take just the EOS R to photograph the Snow Monkeys, and I’ll share some images in a moment, but on the main full day, when it snowed the entire day, the viewfinder fogged shortly after I started shooting, and then in the afternoon, I got the second layer of condensation that you can see in this photograph, which formed over the first. I literally had to shoot the entire day looking through the small gap at the top or bottom of the fogged area of the viewfinder.
It Happened More Than Once
A week later, the next time I used the EOS R in the snow, literally within five minutes, it fogged up again, as you can see in this photograph.
Seriously, I had the camera in the snow for around five minutes, to shoot our group photo for the tour, and as soon as the snow hit the back of the camera, it fogged up. The temperature on both occasions was probably around -5°C or 23°F, and granted, Canon only say that their cameras will work between 0-40°C or 32-104°F, but if we really couldn’t use these cameras when it goes below freezing, I for one would stop buying Canon cameras, and I know that I’m not alone on this.
And what does that say for the last sentence of the quote I just included from Canon’s marketing blurb? “The EOS R proves to be a reliable partner in virtually any climate.” Is below freezing really not included in such a bold statement?
I would also like to add that the EOS R actually works very well in the cold. On two consecutive mornings on the wildlife trip, I used the camera at -23°C and -25°C, which is -9°F and -13°F respectively, and there were absolutely no problems at all. No fogging, no problem with the battery, nothing. It just worked, so cold is not a problem. It’s snow that is the problem, regardless of the fact that Canon shows a diagram with weather sealing around the viewfinder in their marketing materials.
This, mind you, was the only serious issue I had with the Canon EOS R camera, so rant over. I’ll get off my soap-box now, and we can look at a few more example images, and we can come back to the other few issues after that.
A Walk on the Wild Side
So, landscapes are fine, and I doubt that anyone ever thought they would not be. But how about wildlife? When I first got the EOS R one of the first things I did was have my wife walk around erratically so that I could see how well the autofocus kept up with her. I was pleasantly surprised that it seemed to do a pretty good job.
It has, of course, been the main problem with mirrorless cameras, that the autofocus isn’t quite as snappy as our DSLR cameras, and that was my main reason for holding off buying one, until now. Well, I’m happy to say that the autofocus itself is great, but it takes a lot of getting used to tracking a moving subject in a viewfinder that essentially becomes stroboscopic as soon as you start shooting in burst mode.
I really like to stand in a certain place at the Snow Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan, and wait for the monkeys to come running down the mountain, as we can see in this photograph.
When I first starting shooting this kind of image though, it was really hard to keep the monkey in the frame while tracking them with the AI Servo, because even with the camera’s Display Performance set to Smooth, which is supposed to make “Quick-moving subjects display smoothly”, quoting the note in the menu.
Of course, when just moving the camera with the subject in the viewfinder, they are relatively smooth, but then as soon as you start shooting in burst mode, you have to track the subject by watching a series of still photographs, almost like watching them move around under stroboscopic light.
Note too that I have turned off the preview so that I am not presented with the photo that I just shot, so I’m really just seeing the camera’s best effort to track and display a moving subject while shooting and recording images in burst mode.
My Tracking Settings
I did find it necessary to tweak my Autofocus Tracking settings, for the first time in many years, to get the most out of the EOS R for wildlife photography, including birds in flight. Here are the settings that I settled on.
I reduced the Tracking Sensitivity to -2 to help keep the camera locked on to a moving subject. I increased the Acceleration/Deceleration Tracking to +1, to stay with an erratically moving subject, and I generally tend to leave the AF Point Auto-Switching at zero, because increasing this can make the autofocus jump to the background or things that cross in front of your intended subject a little too easily.
You Get Used to it!
The cool thing is though, although it was difficult to track a moving subject with the EOS R at first, as I tweaked my settings I did also find you do get used not being able to see the subjects every move, and after my first hour or so struggling, before too long I was nailing shot after shot where I had to focus relatively quickly on a moving subject, and then rely on the camera to accurately track it.
Occasionally the camera simply will not focus, and it stays out of focus until you stop focusing and try again, quite often taking so long to gain focus again that you miss the shot completely. I’d say that after two weeks of shooting wildlife like this every day, that happens maybe once with every 20 or 30 bursts. If you have just one chance to photograph something, honestly the EOS R is not for you, but if you will have multiple chances, and don’t mind losing a few opportunities, it’s totally workable.
Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R
To mount EF lenses to the RF mount, Canon has released a number of adapters, and I bought the Control Ring Mount Adapter which, as the name suggests, has a built-in Control Ring, and it comes in a nice little case, to protect it when you aren’t using it.
You can program the Control Ring to do a variety of things, and I have set mine to enable me to change the ISO by rotating the Control Ring, and that applies not only to the Control Ring on the Mount Adapter but also the one that is built into all RF lenses.
100-400mm Lens with Mount Adapter
I shot most of the wildlife during my two-week tour using the 100-400mm lens attached to the EOS R with the Mount Adapter. I also used it with the 200-400mm with the built-in 1.4X Extender, and during the landscape workshop with the 11-24mm EF lens. It works great with all the lenses.
Sharp Sea Eagles
I went on to Hokkaido and had no problems photographing birds in flight with the EOS R, but right until we actually started photographing the Sea Eagles at Rausu, I honestly thought that the EOS R would not be able to cope with how I photograph the eagles.
Basically, so that I can wait until I see the actual eagle that is going to try and snatch the fish out of the water, I don’t track with the birds before the catch. I literally wait until one eagle is almost on the fish, then frame it up, and snap the focus in at the last minute before releasing the shutter.
I had thought that the EF 100-400mm Mark II with the Control Ring Mount Adapter was going to be too slow to focus, despite me now having had a week of practicing shooting wildlife with the EOS R. Well, I am happy to say that I was completely wrong! The camera and lens performed admirably, and I was able to bag hundreds of eagle shots that were perfectly in focus and sharp as tacks.
Here is a shot of a Steller’s Sea Eagle as he reaches out with his talons shortly before pulling the fish out of the sea. This is literally a moment after I framed the bird up and focussed on it.
This photo is not cropped and has a little bit of Clarity applied in Capture One Pro, but that’s all. I’ve done nothing else to it.
Steller’s Sea Eagle Pulling Fish from Sea
Although the EOS R is supposed to have a frame rate of 8 frames per second, I set it up to give preference to achieving focus, rather than just firing away regardless, and this slows the camera down slightly, but generally, for these bursts, I get two to three images. The frame after the previous image is this one, as the eagle pulls the fish from the sea.
Again, this is not cropped and has just had a little bit of Clarity applied. My settings were 1/1600 of a second at f/9, with the ISO set to 1600, and I had my 100-400mm lens zoomed all the way in to 400mm.
I really was incredibly happy to find that I could shoot the eagles just as I have been with my 5Ds R, because to me, this is my ultimate test of the robustness of the autofocus system on a camera.
Happy to Go Completely Mirrorless with Canon
If I couldn’t get shots like this, I’d need to own different types of camera bodies for different purposes, and when you travel overseas to do lots of different types of photography, it makes life so much easier if you can just take two identical bodies. More importantly, if I can shoot images like this, I know that I would now be happy to go completely mirrorless with Canon as they release future bodies.
Here is a 100% crop to show just how sharp the image is, and again, this is with the EF 100-400mm Mark II lens attached to the EOS R with the RF Mount Adapter.
Actually, the version embedded in the blog post is slightly smaller than the 100% crop. To see it pixel for pixel, click on it to open the lightbox viewer.
It Works, But it isn’t Easy!
So, to summarize my experience with the EOS R for fast-paced wildlife shooting, it works, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is not going to apply to everybody. I know this will sound conceited, but I am an experienced photographer and I’ve been shooting this sort of wildlife work with the 50-megapixel Canon EOS 5Ds R for the last three years.
Many people say that you can’t shoot wildlife with the 5Ds R and it’s given me great pleasure to prove those people wrong, but at the same time, I do appreciate that a lot of it is down to my skill and experience. I would say that if you want to shoot wildlife with the EOS R, don’t make it your first camera. You’ll want to own and be proficient at shooting wildlife with a DSLR before you consider using this camera. I’d say the same would go for sports photography. It works, but it isn’t easy.
Wrap-up for Now
OK, so we’ll wrap up this review for now, and continue next week with the second part. Before we close I’d like to mention that I was not enabled by Canon or any other third party in the making of this review. I paid full price for all of the Canon gear mentioned, and my comments are not influenced by any external forces.
As part of my business, I rely on affiliate payments when visitors click on links in posts, and this helps us with the upkeep of the website and to pay for my time, while costing you nothing. If you found what I’ve provided here useful, I’d really appreciate it if you use the links provided, assuming of course that you will be buying from our friends at B&H Photo.
Part two will be released tomorrow, so please check for a link to the second part below if you are visiting after February 17, 2019.