Tempted by Canon - but NOT switching!

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JeffW84 Forum Member • Posts: 95
Tempted by Canon - but NOT switching!
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Sharing some thoughts here after renting a Canon EOS R5 and RF 70-200 f/2.8 for a few days of detailed testing. Happy to discuss any/all of this, but not looking for endless debates, so take it for what it's worth.

I've had my Z6 and Z7 for almost two years and am mostly happy, with the exception of two areas: autofocus tracking and autofocus accuracy in low-light situations, specifically when stopped down. The latter is more important to me, as I do a lot of headshots in a dimly lit studio setting, mostly at f/8. While my DSLRs have no problems nailing the focus (hit rate = 98-100%), the Zs struggle a bit, partially (in my opinion) because they will only open up to f/5.6 for focus acquisition no matter the lens or selected aperture. My Z success rate usually falls somewhere in the 85-90% range. When I learned recently that the Canon R5 focuses wide open, like a DSLR, I was intrigued, and decided to check it out for myself.

TL;DR version: The R5 is a great camera, but not some mystical and miraculous unicorn, as the YouTubers and influencers would have you believe, and not fantastic enough for me to spend thousands of dollars switching brands.

Detailed observations:

Autofocus -- tracking. The R5 was super impressive here, beating my Zs and my D850 as well. In bright sunlight, I photographed my daughter walking toward me in a zig-zag motion from across the backyard. I used *only* Eye-AF/tracking mode and shot at f/2.8 and f/4 and shutter speeds between 1/500 and 1/1250 to freeze motion. The R5 tracked almost perfectly, with an average of 95% out of more than 200 shots in perfect focus. Using my D850 and Z7 with the 70-200 f/2.8E, with multiple AF area modes on each body, the best I could do over a total of 500+ shots was an average 75-80% hit rate. Interestingly, the Z7 using Eye-AF was the best performer of the Nikons.

Autofocus -- indoors. Here's where I was disappointed with the Canon. I shot in a dimly lit studio at base ISO of 100, shutter speed of 1/160, and used apertures of f/8 and f/4. All those settings were sufficient to eliminate all ambient light. For most of the shots I had my subjects angle their heads so that if the closest eye (my target) was in focus, the farther eye would be ever-so-slightly out. I used mostly Eye-AF, but also tried single-point focus in both Servo and Single-shot mode. None of that seemed to affect the outcome, and the Canon averaged 85% to 90% of the shots in sharp focus. That's roughly the same as my Zs, and some photographers may find it quite acceptable, but it's not as good as my DSLRs so I could never be happy with it. What's more, I found using the Eye-Af mode on the Canon to be rather frustrating. Quite a few times it focused on the wrong eye (the farther one), and many times it only chose the whole face (large square) and did not let me select the eye.

R5 image quality. In a word, excellent. Very comparable to my D850 and Z7. I did some shooting at very high ISOs (~6400) and tried pushing severely underexposed images by 3-4 stops in Lightroom. I found the Nikon files to be a little cleaner, but almost imperceptibly so.

So many Canon fans rave about "Canon colors," and I did like the looks of the JPEGs, but here's something really odd: Lightroom has no camera-matching profiles for the R5 or R6. All you get for raw processing is the Adobe profiles and, frankly, they look like crap. So be prepared to do a lot of tweaking to create your own profiles, or buy some from an aftermarket source.

Ergonomics: Subjective, of course! I really liked the feel of the R5. It's slightly bigger and slightly rounder than the Z bodies and it just felt good in my hands. I actually like the slightly forward-canted position of the Canon shutter button better than the top-mounted Nikon. I also feel like I could quickly adapt to the different positions (and uses) of the dials vs. the Nikons. I did not, however, like the feel of the AF-ON buttom and the ones around it, as I felt they were too small and did not stand out far enough from the body. The menus were mostly intuitive and I liked being able to scroll through them using the three dials. I did have a hard time with the opposite direction of the zoom ring on the lens. All of this could be adjusted to, of course, but it is hard to unlearn 10+ years of muscle-memory that I've acquired with the Nikons.

RF 70-200 f/2.8:  I really liked this lens. It's lighter than my Nikon 70-200 f/2.8E and, when retracted, significantly shorter. It focuses fast and is sharp across the frame. In my test shots at various apertures and focal lengths -- newspapers taped to the wall -- I found almost no difference in sharpness between the RF and my Nikon, which surprised me a bit since the Nikon is reportedly one of the best 70-200s ever made.

So all in all, even though the rental was expensive, it was a worthwhile learning experience. Whatever the Z bodies may lack in autofocus capabilities, I hope (and do believe) Nikon will fix within the next couple of years. And if they do it will be worth the wait for me.

Canon EOS R5 Nikon Z6 Nikon Z7
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