Autofocus and performance

The EOS RP's Dual Pixel autofocus system works very well across a wide variety of situations, including in low light. Out-of-camera JPEG.
ISO 8000 | 1/160 sec | F1.8 | Canon RF 35mm F1.8 Macro

Key takeaways:

  • The EOS RP's Dual Pixel autofocus system is generally fast and accurate
  • Tracking autofocus performance is impressive, though burst rates aren't the fastest
  • New Servo Pupil Detection generally works very well, but is not as responsive or 'sticky' as some competitors' systems
  • In most respects, the EOS RP is a snappy performer - unless you want to use the silent shutter

The EOS RP takes the existing Dual Pixel AF system we saw on the EOS 6D Mark II and combines it with an updated Digic 8 processor. The older 6D II struggled with moving subjects when using Dual Pixel in Live View, even with subjects approaching in a straight line, which most cameras are more competent at nowadays. The EOS RP on the other hand, presumably thanks to its newer processor, performs much more reliably.

How to set up the EOS RP's autofocus system

By default the EOS RP selects what it wants to focus on Face Detect/Subject Tracking mode, in continuous (Servo) AF mode. However, as you grow into the camera and want to take a little more control, we'd strongly recommend changing option 7 in section II of the Custom Functions menu:

This setting lets you choose the subject to track in Servo AF, rather than leaving it up to the camera.

This setting lets you specify the initial subject for subject tracking. It works rather well, ignoring humans if you tap or point the AF target at a non-human subject, or tracking their face (and eyes) if you level the target at a person. This means you can leave the camera in this mode for most shooting situations with minimal need for user input.

Servo AF performance

Canon's terminology for having the camera continuously focus on a subject while it's moving about is called Servo. To test Servo AF performance, we first try to shoot a subject approaching at a steady speed using the central AF point. This lets us see how good the camera is at assessing subject distance and whether it can drive its lens to that point quickly.

Straight On

We then have the subject weave across the camera's AF region in a way the camera can't predict. This has the advantage that the approach rate varies as the subject changes direction. For this test we use the camera's subject tracking mode, so it needs to identify and follow a subject around the scene, as well as trying to keep it in focus.

The EOS RP really performs admirably here. Its maximum burst speed of 4 frames per second isn't terribly impressive these days, but will be more than enough for casual shooting. More crucially, even though the camera has an option to shoot more slowly in a 'Tracking Priority' mode, we found that we didn't really need to use it, thanks to the good hit rate at the higher speed.

Pupil Detect in continuous AF

The camera's eye detection system does a pretty good job, though it's not as responsive as some of its peers.
ISO 500 | 1/60 sec | F1.8 | Canon RF 35mm F1.8 Macro
Photo by Richard Butler

The EOS RP is Canon's first camera to offer pupil/eye detection in continuous (Servo) autofocus mode. In principle this means it will track your subject's eye as they move around, making it easy to shoot family and social situations.

The performance isn't all that we'd hoped for. Pupil detection works best when the subject's face takes up quite a large proportion of the screen, so only works well at relatively close distances. Some competitors are able to detect eyes that take up, comparatively, a very small portion of the scene. The speed is also rather lens motor-dependent: it's reasonably fast with the 24-105mm F4L lens but noticeably less responsive with the 35mm F1.8.

This means it's useful when you're taking posed portraits or dealing with any subject that stays relatively still, but means it's not quick or consistent enough to rely on for photographing kids or unpredictably moving subjects.

Overall performance and silent shutter

In almost all respects, the EOS RP performs well. The touchscreen interface is responsive, whether you're navigating the Quick Menu or the main menus. Power on is quick enough that you won't likely miss a shot if you turn the camera off between photographs (which you may want to do, thanks to the short battery life). Unfortunately, one area where the RP isn't such a snappy performer is how fast it can read out its sensor.

For most users, this won't matter. But for those wanting to photograph absolutely silently in sensitive conditions, the RP isn't the best choice. There is a silent electronic shutter option, but it's buried in a scene mode and doesn't give you any control over your exposure besides exposure compensation. The very slow read-out of the sensor (around 1/8th sec) is apparent with very strong 'rolling shutter' artifacts, meaning slanted vertical lines if you're panning the camera, or perhaps odd compression / elongation of moving subjects. You may also see banding under artificial light.

For more information on rolling shutter artifacts, we've taken an in-depth look at them on Sony's a7 III - which has a much faster readout speed than the EOS RP, meaning that artifacts on the RP will be much more pronounced.