Conclusion

What we like

What we don't

  • 30MP sensor offers good dynamic range and low light performance
  • Pleasing JPEG and video color
  • Comfortable grip
  • High quality viewfinder
  • Near-seamless compatibility with EF and EF-S lenses using EF-EOS R adapters
  • Dual Pixel Autofocus allows for precise focus off the image sensor: no more calibrating lenses
  • Best-performing mirrorless in Single AF that we've yet tested
  • Touchscreen interface is generally polished
  • Latest Digic 8 processor allows for C-RAW compressed Raw format
  • Silent shutter option, though rolling shutter limits its usefulness
  • Reliable Bluetooth + Wi-Fi connectivity, good app experience
  • New flexible-priority exposure mode works well
  • 4K video capture with Dual Pixel AF
  • 10-bit color and Log when using external HDMI video recorder
  • Dynamic range and noise performance lag behind the competition
  • Quirky, questionable ergonomics may turn off some users
  • Inconsistent and arbitrarily limited customization options
  • 4K video comes with substantial 1.8x crop
  • Significant rolling shutter in 4K mode
  • Unimpressive burst shooting speeds
  • Very difficult to follow moving subjects while shooting bursts
  • Video output is generally soft
  • Dual Pixel AF is surprisingly unreliable in video shooting
  • Evaluative metering may vary greatly from one shot to the next of the same scene
  • Tracking and face detect autofocus prone to hunting unnecessarily
  • AF struggles in back-lit scenarios
  • No in-body stabilization further limits usefulness as a video camera
  • No interval timer
  • Flipping out the articulating screen does not disable the eye sensor for the viewfinder
  • Auto ISO can't be engaged using dials or M.Fn bar while the meter is active
  • Battery life is below average for the class
  • USB charging is choosy about chargers

Overall conclusion

The EOS R is Canon's first full-frame mirrorless camera, and with a proven sensor and great color output, it's capable of producing really great photographs. But then again, there are many full-frame cameras on the market today that are capable of producing really great photographs, so it's the process of getting to those photographs that is becoming increasingly important to consider. In that sense, the EOS R comes up short.

Oh, those colors. Out-of-camera JPEG.
ISO 100 | 1/160 sec | F6.3 | Canon RF 24-105mm at 47mm
Photo by Richard Butler

Surprisingly for a Canon camera, we're unimpressed by the EOS R's ergonomics. The M.Fn Bar is, in its current state, superfluous. The rear dial is too recessed, the buttons are mushy, don't offer good feedback, and are questionably arranged on the body of the camera. Available customization options are puzzling, with great freedom in some areas and frustrating limitations in others.

There are some software and interface issues as well. When using 'evaluative metering,' you may find your exposure varying wildly from shot to shot, even with very similar lighting and composition. In playback, you can't instantly zoom to the AF point used, even if you've enabled that option in the menus (though a double-tap on the touchscreen will zoom in to wherever you tap). A firmware update could fix many of our usability concerns with the EOS R, but right now, the user is left with an experience that feels distinctly unpolished.

A firmware update could fix many of our usability concerns with the EOS R

From a feature set and performance standpoint, the EOS R also struggles to stand out from the crowd. Burst rates are unimpressive, and rolling shutter artifacts limit the usefulness of the silent electronic shutter option. While the on-sensor Dual Pixel Autofocus system is capable of incredible accuracy in Single AF and down to very low light levels, performance in Servo (continuous) AF can be disappointing, with random hunting ruining some of our shots. And in terms of video, its high-bitrate 4K footage with beautiful color rendition is hampered by a substantial crop factor and somewhat low-detail capture.

Processed using Adobe Camera Raw 11.
ISO 100 | 1/1000 sec | F1.2 | Canon RF 50mm F1.2L
Photo by Barney Britton

In the end, it's perhaps best to look at the EOS R as a case study for the future benefits of the RF system; all native lenses released so far are of very high quality, plus Canon offers a total of three EF lens adapters depending on your needs. But unfortunately, we find it difficult to recommend the EOS R to the broader public besides perhaps existing Canon users looking for a second, lightweight full-frame body. Because ultimately, while the EOS R is unequivocally capable of taking beautiful photos, it too often distracted us and pulled us out of the picture-taking process instead of becoming an invisible part of the process itself, as the best cameras do.


What we think


Richard Butler
Editor
The EOS R feels like a series of good ideas undermined by their implementation. The interface tries to balance innovation and familiarity but instead delivers that most un-Canon-like experience: inconsistency. Used a certain way the sensor and autofocus can both be extremely good but other situations will confound the autofocus or highlight the dynamic range and video shortcomings. It does enough to earn faint praise, but also deserves the rebuke this implies.


Barney Britton
Editor
The Canon EOS R is a camera I really want to like, but despite its attractive form-factor, good sensor and solid stills photography feature set, I just don't enjoy shooting with it. I appreciate Canon trying something different with the ergonomics, but the end result is a camera that - very unusually for Canon - feels like it's never entirely in my control. That said, I will happily put up with almost anything to use some of Canon's excellent new RF-series lenses.

Compared to its peers

To get a sense of how Canon sees the EOS R fitting into the marketplace, it's useful to compare it against Canon's own mid-range full-frame DSLR, the 6D Mark II. The 6D is somewhat cheaper, but both have broadly similar burst speeds and build quality, both have fully articulating touchscreens and they both come with a single SD memory card slot. Where the EOS R really has a leg up on the 6D Mark II is image quality. Its more modern sensor, similar to that of the pricier 5D Mark IV, gives better dynamic range and more resolution. The 6D Mark II's ergonomics will likely be friendlier to many shooters, but overall, the EOS R is the better option as a tool for taking photographs.

Sony's a7 III sets a high bar at a similar price point to the EOS R. Compared to the Canon, the Sony has faster burst rates, a more capable autofocus system, dual memory card slots, better battery life, full-width (and very detailed) 4K video, and it all comes in an appreciably smaller package. There are those who may prefer the EOS R's larger grip, articulating screen and user interface over the Sony's, but in most regards we think that the a7 III is a better camera for most users.

This brings us to the Nikon Z6. Although we haven't yet put that camera fully through its paces, it's safe to say that it seems like the 24MP Nikon has the upper hand. It strikes a better balance between its stills and video performance, and its ergonomics are more fully thought-out. Of course, just like the EOS R, we have some gripes - such as its cumbersome AF tracking interface - but on the whole it feels like a much more 'finished' product than the Canon.


Scoring

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Canon EOS R
Category: Mid Range Full Frame Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
With a 30MP sensor, fantastic color reproduction and on-sensor autofocus, the EOS R can produce some beautiful photographs with pinpoint-accurate focus. But it's Canon's first mirrorless full-frame camera, and in many ways, it shows. The ergonomics feel unfinished, and for the same or less money, you can find better video, more dynamic range and faster burst speeds elsewhere. But we have to admit that Canon's new RF lenses are simply spectacular, and at this time, the EOS R is the only way to get to use them.
Good for
General and social photography, casual video shooters and those looking for either a backup body for their full-frame Canon glass or are looking at building up a collection of new RF lenses.
Not so good for
Those looking to shoot sports or fast-moving subjects, those needing the absolute best image quality for either landscape or video work.
79%
Overall score