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Canon EOS R5 review

The Canon EOS R5 combines unsurpassed stills with fantastic, if frustrated, video

Canon EOS R5 review
(Image: © Digital Camera World)

Our Verdict

As a stills camera, the Canon EOS R5 is simply Canon's finest product ever. It’s the perfect amalgamation of the EOS R’s form, the EOS 5D’s function, and the professional-grade autofocus of the EOS-1D X. If you're a stills or hybrid shooter who flits between photography and videography, it's one of the best cameras you will ever have the pleasure of using. Alas, we can’t recommend the R5 if your primary interest is pure video shooting. Don’t get us wrong, its video is incredible – but having to navigate the overheating restrictions prohibits it from being your A-camera (unless you only shoot 4K 30p, in which case you don’t need this anyway).

For

  • Pristine image quality
  • Best AF on the market
  • Best full-frame IBIS
  • 8K video is astounding
  • Lightning-fast burst

Against

  • Recording limitations
  • Standard 4K is just okay

The Canon EOS R5 is finally here after months of waiting and masterful teases by the – there’s no other word for it – exceptionally canny manufacturer. 

No camera in recent memory has received or, dare we say it, deserved this amount of hype. The Canon EOS R5 is a powerhouse performer in every possible respect; its 8K video outclasses many of the best cinema cameras, its shooting speed puts it on par with the best cameras for sport, its 45MP sensor outmuscles all but a few of the best mirrorless cameras, and its 8-stop in-body image stabilization is the new IBIS champion. 

Of course, something had to be too good to be true. No sooner had the camera been revealed than the realities hit home regarding the headline video capabilities – and ironically, those red-hot specs are literally too hot for the camera to handle, as the R5 is subject to recording limitations to prevent it overheating. 

So, just how painful is this sting in the tail – and is there anything else on that remarkable spec sheet that has also proved too good to be true? With the R5 otherwise having all the ingredients to be the best Canon camera we’ve ever seen, let's see if it can possibly live up to the ridiculous hype…

Head to head: Canon EOS R5 vs R6

Specifications

Sensor: 45MP full-frame CMOS 36 x 24mm
Image processor: Digic X
AF points: 5,940 Dual Pixel CMOS AF II
ISO range: 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-102,400)
Stabilization: 5-axis, up to 8 stops
Max image size: 8,192 x 5,464px
Metering zones: 384
Video: 8K DCI or UHD at 30p, 24p / 4K DCI or UHD at 120p, 100p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p / 1080p (FullHD) at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p
Viewfinder: 0.5-inch OLED EVF, 5,690k dots, 100% coverage, 0.76x magnification, 120fps refresh rate
Memory card: 1x CFexpress type B, 1x UHS-II SD/SDHC/SDXC
LCD: 3.15-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 2,100k dots.
Max burst: 12fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic shutter
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 5Ghz and 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen 2), micro HDMI (type D), microphone, headphone, N3 remote, flash sync, gigabit ethernet (via WFT-R10 grip)
Size: 135.8 x 97.5 x 88mm
Weight: 650g body only (738g with card and battery)

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Key features

Such are the lofty specs of the Canon EOS R5 that virtually every feature is a key feature. Obviously the headline attraction here is the remarkable video capability. The R5 can capture full-width (uncropped) raw 8K video using the entire readout of the 35mm sensor – and it does so internally at up to 29.97fps in 4:2:2 12-bit Canon Log or HDR PQ (both H.265) in both UHD and DCI. 

Its 4K capture is every bit as ferocious, recording at up to 119.88fps (in the same 4:2:2 Canon Log or HDR PQ, in UHD or DCI) with external HDMI recording up at up to 59.94fps.  However, the R5 is much more than just a video behemoth. 

Since the 8K DCI video has a resolution of 8,192 x 4,320, the camera has a Frame Grab function that enables you to take high-resolution 35.4MP stills (as either JPEGs or HEIF files) from your footage – which is 5.1MP greater resolution than the Canon EOS R

All of this is thanks to the brand new 45MP image sensor, which Canon claims makes the R5 “the highest resolution EOS camera ever” – supposedly resolving even greater detail than the 50.6MP Canon EOS 5DS / R. This is thanks to the new low-pass filter design, which was introduced in the flagship Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Traditional low-pass filters (employed to get rid of moiré) employ dual-layer, four-point subsampling and introduce a layer of softness to images. Canon’s new tech features quad-layer, 16-point subsampling and combines it with a Gaussian distribution technique to deliver sharpness rivaling the 5DS / R. (Our lab results for the 1D X Mark III didn’t quite bear this out, and we’re currently testing the R5 to see if it comes true this time). 

The Canon EOS R5's Animal AF is truly remarkable – and even works on birds in flight (Image credit: James Artaius / Digital Camera World)

The flagship 1D X has served as donor for much of the tech in the EOS R5. The AI-powered Deep Learning AF system has been transplanted, enabling the new camera to perform spookily accurate eye, face and head tracking. However, the R5 has a trick that even the Mark III doesn’t have; it is also capable of Animal AF that can track the eyes, faces and bodies of dogs, cats and birds – including birds in flight. 

Underpinning the autofocus is the brand new Dual Pixel CMOS AF II – the latest generation of Canon’s much-lauded AF system. And best of all, all these autofocus technologies are available in stills as well as all video resolutions and frame-rates – with a staggering 5,940 AF points for photography and 4,500 for filming.

And the continuous shooting speed is also on par with the 1D X Mark III, as the R5 matches the flagship’s top speed of 20fps via the electronic shutter (and 12fps using the mechanical shutter). Backed up by dual card slots, including lightning-fast CFexpress support, this means that the R5 can stand toe-to-toe with sports cameras, video cameras and medium format cameras alike. 

Most excitingly, for long-suffering Canon users, the EOS R5 features the company’s agonizingly overdue implementation of 5-axis in-body stabilization. The wait, however, has been worth it, as Canon is now officially the king of IBIS – the R5 (and the Canon EOS R6) boasts up to 8 stops of CIPA-rated stabilization, depending on the lens. 

While you get the top stability when using specific RF-mount glass, the IBIS also works with EF lenses, EF-S lenses, as well as ‘dumb’ lenses with no electrical contacts – that means vintage lenses, cinema lenses, lenses adapted from other camera systems… essentially any lens.

Canon EOS R5 with Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L (1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO100) (Image credit: James Artaius / Digital Camera World)

Build and handling

In the hand, the EOS R5 feels like a slightly beefier EOS R. It’s almost imperceptibly thicker (literally just 3.6mm), but it has notably more heft, weighing about 70g more. The weight is very evenly distributed, though, and the body feels very well balanced – indeed, the extra mass makes it feel a better match for some of the notoriously larger RF lenses. 

From the top, the R5 is very similar to the EOS R and bears the same top OLED screen and mode button within the rear control dial. It’s the rear where the differences start to come into play, and the first thing you’ll notice is that the love-it-or-loathe it M-Fn touchbar has been abolished; in its place is a familiar joystick, with the AF-ON button assuming its more traditional position. 

A control wheel has also replaced the individual D-pad buttons seen on the EOS R and Canon EOS RP, all of which makes the R5 feel much more like using a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV – fitting, as this is a 5-series camera intended to sit alongside its DSLR counterpart.

Thankfully the camera retains the fully articulating touchscreen seen on the EOS R and RP, which is obviously important for recording video (as well as taking stills from elevated or low angles). 

Being a 5-series camera, you can expect the same robust weather sealing – though invariably, given that the mirrorless model is daintier (and also features an articulating screen), it doesn’t feel as sturdy as the 5D. For sure it will withstand some knocks, but unlike the DSLR you really wouldn’t want to drop it or leave it in the hands of children.

The R5 also features a brand new 2,130mAh battery, the LP-E6NH, which features 14% greater capacity than the LP-E6N that it replaces – and it’s backwards-compatible with any camera that accepts the LP-E6 family of batteries, so you can use it with your other cameras as well. 

Canon EOS R5 with Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L (1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO320) (Image credit: James Artaius / Digital Camera World)

Performance

Okay, let’s deal with the thing everyone’s talking about right away: yes, shooting anything above standard 4K 30p video will cause the Canon EOS R5 to heat up internally, thus necessitating recording limits to prevent overheating. 

Shooting 4K 30p causes no overheating issues whatsoever, so you can shoot as much video as you like (all recordings are subject to the usual 30-minute limit per single file, but you can record as many 30-minute files as you like). However, limitations will be incurred the more demanding your video settings. So shooting 4K 60p will cause the camera to overheat in about 35 minutes, while shooting 8K 30p will result in overheating in about 20 minutes – after which you will need to allow the camera to cool down before recording again (a breakdown can be found here).

If you regularly shoot video above 4K 30p, this is definitely an issue. While it’s unusual for any production to shoot single 20-minute takes, the overheating issue is cumulative – so if you shoot a series of shorter videos, or if you shoot a lot of stills, the camera innards will already start to heat up, making it very difficult to gauge how much time you can actually record for. This is also affected by the temperature of your location; hot outdoor settings and direct sunlight will sap the record times further, making things unpredictable unless you're in a cool, controlled environment.

Again, none of this applies to 4K 30p – and we happily spent days on end shooting both 8K 30p and 4K 60p clips in-between stills without a single issue. However, if your primary interest is video first and stills second (if at all), we don't think the R5 will be fit for purpose – and we strongly recommend taking it for a test drive to make your own determination. 

Watch video: Canon EOS R5 sample 4K capture

If you don't fall foul of the recording limitations, though, you will behold 8K video that is astoundingly rich and detailed (and of course, 20 minutes of 8K is still 20 minutes more than any other camera right now), while the oversampled 4K modes produce some of the best footage we've ever seen. The standard 4K modes feel a bit pedestrian, however, and early word is that regular 4K is actually superior on the Canon EOS R6.

As you can see in the sample 4K videos above (at 60fps) and below (at 120fps), the quality is crystal clear and the powerful IBIS truly enables you to shoot gimbal-free in most situations. Just bear in mind that if you're going to be filming 8K, oversampled 4K or 4K 120p, you will need to invest in one of the best external hard drives because you will fill up memory cards and disc space fast. You'll also need a very beefy computer to actually process 8K, as some won't even open the videos – let alone handle editing and grading the footage. 

So, aside from the video restrictions, are there any other stings in the tail? In short, no – everything else behaves exactly as we all hoped and expected it would. The 45MP photographs are stunning, with crisp detail that may or may not match the 5DS/R in pure lab tests, but taken side-by-side they certainly pass the eyeball test and look every bit as good. 

Almost as impressive are the 35MP Frame Grabs that you can extract from 8K video. This is technology that has been seen in other cameras before, but never with the level of detail and fidelity seen here. Simply scrub through your 8K footage on the back of the camera, pinpoint the frame you want as a still, and push a button to produce a 35MP image – and it isn’t the kind of blurry, low-res still you get when you screenshot a YouTube video; it’s a pristine high-resolution file that looks like it was taken as a photograph on a camera with a very, very good 35MP sensor. 

Of course, being that it is a JPG taken from a video, you get virtually zero dynamic range to play with – the video exposure is baked in, so you can’t recover anything from blown-out highlights (though there is still data to recover in the shadows). Still, provided that your lighting is right in the first place, yes – you can literally now film your photoshoot as a video, and simply pull the still frames you want from it afterwards. Cheating or not, it works and it’s brilliant. 

Watch video: Canon EOS R5 sample 4K 120fps footage

Speaking of cheating, that’s what the new Animal AF is: it’s literally a cheat code for wildlife photography. Canon’s new Deep Learning algorithm is so good that all you have to do is point your camera at an animal and the R5 will recognize, track it and even focus on the eyes. 

No need to move any focus points, no need to touch the joystick at all; just set the camera to ‘Subject: Animals’, stick it in C-AF and hold it towards an animal. Canon only certifies it for dogs, cats and birds, but we successfully tested it on lions, monkeys, turtles, iguanas, fish, skunks, meerkats, raccoons, sand squirrels, Fennec foxes… if it’s got eyes and a face, the R5 will almost certainly recognize it.

No exaggeration, this is genuinely game-changing technology that is probably going to put a lot of wildlife photographers out of business. Because you could put this camera in the hands of your children, and they would come home from the zoo with a whole load of in-focus pictures of animals. It’s that easy and that good. 

And obviously the AF is even better when it comes to shooting human subjects, with a witchcraft-like ability to find and focus on faces and eyes in an instant – even when features are obscured or your tracking gets interrupted by hands, objects or passers-by. You can safely tell your Sony-owning friends that, yes, Canon now has the best autofocus in town – it really is black magic.

Best of all, these autofocus functions are all 100% available and effective when shooting video as well. So whether you’re filming videos of the bride and groom at a wedding, or footage of wild animals chasing each other across the Serengeti, the Canon EOS R5 will find your subjects and focus on them. The AF is spookily good – it’s just a shame that the R5 is haunted by the specter of its video.

Canon EOS R5 with Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L (1/40 sec, f/8, ISO100) (Image credit: James Artaius / Digital Camera World)

Lab data

We are currently in the process of putting the Canon EOS R5 through our full battery of tests in the camera lab, where we'll test dynamic range, signal-to-noise ratio and dynamic range. 

As soon as we've crunched the numbers on our test data, we'll update this review with our findings.

Watch video: Portrait Relighting enables you to edit the lighting in-camera

Verdict

The Canon EOS R5 is a real Jekyll and Hyde product. For photography, it is absolutely the camera to beat. While the Sony A7R IV boasts a 61.2MP sensor, the resolution isn't that much sharper than the R5 to the naked eye – and it doesn't have Canon's outstanding new AF technology. 

The autofocus really can't be overstated. If you take pictures of people or animals, you will automatically benefit from the advantages that the R5 delivers. We'd go so far as to say that not only is it the best camera for wildlife photography, but that any serious wildlife shooter should really think about adopting it.

The image stabilization in the EOS R5 is the finest we've used on any full-frame system, and is only bested by Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic (which feature superior IBIS because their sensors are so much smaller). It makes such a difference whether you're shooting in low light, with long shutter speeds, on long lenses or filming video without a gimbal.

Alas, video is the Mr Hyde of the equation. The reality is that we can’t recommend the Canon EOS R5 if your primary interest is pure video shooting. Don’t get us wrong, its video is incredible – but having to navigate the overheating restrictions prohibits this from being an A camera (unless you only shoot 4K 30p, in which case you don’t need this anyway). 

It's perfectly possible to never once run into the recording limitations if you only film videos that are a few minutes long, which for many people will actually be fine. And in short bursts, its top-tier 4K and 8K modes are truly stunning – but the more video you shoot, the less usable it becomes, making it hard to recommend for video-first use when there are other cameras that shoot above 4K 30p with no limits. Sadly, it's not the magic camera that content creators and cinematographers hoped for.

However, as a stills camera, the R5 is simply Canon's finest product ever. It’s the perfect amalgamation of the EOS R’s form, the EOS 5D’s function, and the professional-grade autofocus of the EOS-1D X. If you're a stills or hybrid shooter who flits between photography and videography, the Canon EOS R5 is a remarkable piece of technology and one of the best cameras you will ever have the pleasure of using. 

Canon EOS R5 sample images

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Read more: 

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The best Canon camera: Canon's DSLR, mirrorless and compact cameras
Best Canon RF lenses: the best lens for Canon EOS R, RP, R5 and R6 cameras

  • John
    It is disappointing that Canon would not allow any images to be taken, the obvious question is why? Maybe for still photography the R5 isn't any better than the existing cameras many people have. I will hold off on my perches until I see some comparisons.
    Reply