The war of the mirrorless camera has indeed started now with the introduction of the Canon EOS R camera hot on the heels of the Nikon Z7.
The tilt towards mirrorless is a matter of time as its smaller footprint and ability to have a bigger mount means new lens designs can allow more light into the camera and create better image quality while keeping the camera quiet.
There is no mirror actuation that causes unwanted noise and vibration, which is useful while shooting in a concert hall, during meetings or while stalking wildlife.
For those who are familiar with Canon cameras, the EOS R will feel familiar rather quickly. Most of the controls can be reached with your right hand, apart from the On/Off switch to the left.
The mode button is cleverly integrated with the rear mode button so I can change modes fairly quickly without my eyes leaving the viewfinder. That’s handy.
There are also two new control mechanisms – the Multi-Function Bar and the Control Ring on the lenses – that allow new ways to control your camera.
I find it useful that, on top of having a Focus Ring on the lens, the Control Ring can be customised so as to map it to exposure compensation for a quick exposure adjustment. You can also map Aperture, Shutter or ISO settings to the Control Ring.
The Multi-Function Bar is touch-sensitive so you can tap or swipe to make minute changes to your settings. Like the Control Ring, you can customise what settings to use it for. During my test, I used it for quickly engaging different types of Auto Focus modes.
I am pretty impressed with how the major settings – Aperture, Shutter, Exposure Compensation and Auto Focus Modes – can be changed without diving into the menu. You also don’t need complicated button presses, which helps with quick snaps.
Even when the EOS R is matched with a third-party lens such as the Sigma 150-500mm f5.6-6.3 consumer-level super zoom lens, the system performed well. This was done by using an adapter.
I did a series of action shots of dogs running and birds perching on branches and the autofocus managed to catch up with the subjects once the camera was woken up from its slumber.
Unfortunately, the EOS R can be a little slow to react from standby mode. That cost me some magic moments as well.
With the On/Off switch situated on the left side of the camera, away from the fire button, you need to get your hands fast on the controls to get some snapshots. I would prefer to have the switch on the right hand.
The viewfinder is as good as those found in the Sony Alpha 7 series of mirrorless cameras and I do not feel disoriented. However, some users may find fault in the slight blackout after each image was shot in continuous exposure mode.
For videographers, the EOS R has a rear-view screen that can be flipped forward if you want to shoot a video of yourself. It allows 10-bit colour data to be recorded via an external HDMI video recorder but the EOS R does not use the whole sensor for the recording.
That means the image will be cropped. If you attempts to do a vlog at arm’s length, consider an ultrawide-angle lens.
The EOS R ergonomics reminds me of the Sony A series cameras. Although the EOS R has a much deeper and higher grip, I feel that the new EOS R lenses, especially the larger 50mm f1.2L USM and 28-70mm f2L USM, will create a massive imbalance when you carry them around.
Even a 24-105mm f4 lens is huge when compared with DSLR lenses and this mirrorless camera feels and weighs like a DSLR.
On the whole, the camera performs well and for most photographers other than the most demanding professionals, the pictures it is capable of will not disappoint.
One issue, however, is the lack of dual memory card slots which is a deal breaker for some professionals seeking to have flexibility and security.
The Canon EOS R is still rated as an enthusiast camera but at S$3,399 for the body alone or S$5,098 with a kit lens, it is not cheap. For comparison’s sake, the professional EOS 5D Mark IV camera body is going for S$5,199.
If you are in the market for a camera, the EOS 6D Mark II may be a better buy at S$2,899 for the body alone. It is still best to wait for Canon to flesh out the lens lineup for the new mirrorless system in the coming years before committing.
Even though I did enjoy using the Canon EOS R very much, thanks to its innovative way of controlling the camera, but as a professional tool, it has left some boxes unticked.