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Canon EOS R5 review

Canon's best ever stills camera, with some video compromises

Canon EOS R5
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Canon's best ever stills camera, the EOS R5 is an incredibly powerful tool for almost every kind of photography. While that versatility doesn't quite extend to video, it is still a compelling hybrid option if you're aware of its limitations. The only major barrier for most of us is that price tag.

For

  • Tried-and-tested form factor
  • Very versatile stills camera
  • Incredible autofocus skills
  • Improved battery life
  • Solid IBIS system

Against

  • Not cheap
  • Dual memory cards will require investment
  • Recording limits for video shooting

Two-minute review

For stills photographers, there isn't much wrong with the Canon EOS R5. It's Canon's best mirrorless camera so far, and by some distance. The combination of a next-generation autofocus system, excellent image quality and fast 12fps/20fps continuous shooting means this is a camera that is just as comfortable (and capable) in professionally-lit studios as it is shooting breaking news stories at dusk.

The EOS R5's autofocus deserves a special mention. Its eye-detection is incredibly accurate and sticky, while its subject-detection and tracking is similarly impressive. As we found on our wildlife shoot, the animal detection is simply mind-blowing and a huge selling point on its own, if you regularly indulge in that kind of photography. 

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

What about battery life? If you're coming from a traditional DSLR, this is an obvious constriction. But we managed about four hours of very intensive shooting, while using the EVF. On a standard shoot, this means going through two (or, at a push, three) batteries in a day. With spares easy and relatively cheap to come by, plus backwards compatibility with the older LP-E6N battery, it’s not quite the impediment it firsts appears.

The picture for video shooters is little less clear. If you’re a high-volume, high-speed filmmaker, you might find the EOS R5's heat constrictions a little onerous. But during our half-day documentary shoot, where we shot in a variety of formats, we didn't see any overheating warnings. 

The video footage was also sharp and flexible for color grading, while the combination of stabilized RF-mount lenses and in-camera image stabilization (IBIS) meant it was possible to get reasonably smooth shots without a gimbal.

All of this means that, for most people, the Canon EOS R5 is very much capable of being the true hybrid camera that it yearns to be. Demanding professional filmmakers who want to shoot 4K/60p at length will be likely better off with the Sony A7S III. But the EOS R5 trumps the video performance of Nikon Z7 and Sony A9 II, making it a very capable option for hybrid shooters in this exclusive section of the mirrorless club.

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

As you'd hope at this price, the Canon EOS R5 brings lots of smaller treats, too. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is superb and practically indistinguishable from the optical ones found in DSLRs, at least to our eyes. And weather-proofing is right up there with the 5D series, if not quite as indestructible as the Canon EOS 1DX Mark III.

Canon has pulled out all the stops with the EOS R5, but it had to. It was relatively late to the mirrorless party and the competition at the pro level is now fierce. But it's Canon's best camera for stills shooters, and a more-than-capable hybrid option for those who like to mix that up with some video, too. 

Professional filmmakers who are looking for a small, hybrid camera whose priority is 4K video shooting should consider the Sony A7S II instead. And non-professionals of any kind should certainly wait for our verdict on the Canon EOS R6. But even if, like us, you can't afford justify the Canon EOS R5's price, it's certainly an exciting example of what happens when Canon fully commits to mirrorless. Traditionalists have some thinking to do.

Canon EOS R5 release date and price

The Canon EOS R5 was released on July 30 with a body-only launch price of $3,899 / £4,199 / AU$6,899.

Right now, it's difficult to find EOS R5 in stock. The first wave of cameras are on their way to those who were quick off the mark with pre-orders, and Canon UK recently told us that "unprecedented demand is exceeding supply at present and we are working to fulfill back orders as soon as we can."

That said, you can still put in a pre-order at retailers like B&H Photo in the US, Wex or Park Cameras in the UK or Camera House in Australia, where you can get it for as low as AU$6,548. 

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Just bear in mind that you could be in for a little wait for your EOS R5. Canon has debunked rumors that it'll be delaying shipment of the next batch of cameras to investigate overheating issues, but naturally delays are possible – Canon Australia told us "we are simply working in the parameters of a supply chain affected by the global pandemic.”

Of course, that price tag is a big investment, particularly during a global pandemic. But it's in the ballpark of its nearest rivals. It's only a shade more than the lower-resolution, 4K-only Sony A9 Mark II and the newly announced Sony A7S III in most regions. It's also very much in the region of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV's original pricing, which started at $3,499 / £3,599 / AU$5,060 when it launched in 2016.

Is the Canon EOS R5 expensive? Yes. Unjustifiably so? Probably not...

Design and handling

  • Weighs 738g without a lens
  • Rear AF joystick instead of Touch Bar
  • Impressive 5.76-million pixel EVF

Design-wise, we’re not looking at a game-changer with the Canon EOS R5. But given the usability of the Canon EOS R, which it's heavily based on, that’s no bad thing. 

In terms of width and height, the EOS R5 is all-but identical to that latter camera; three mysterious millimeters have been added to its depth, and 70g has been added to its weight. 

Significantly, the EOS R’s touch bar – the touch-sensitive strip on the top-right of the camera – is gone, perhaps testament to its lukewarm reception. In its place is a chunky, knurled joystick for navigating autofocus points and menus, along the lines of the control on Canon’s other high-end cameras. 

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Pick up the EOS R5 and the first thing you’ll notice is that it practically floats in the hand. Its 738g weight with a card and battery compares extremely favorably to the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV’s 890g, and even more favorably to the tank-like Canon EOS 1D X Mark III’s 1.4kg kerb weight.

The EOS R5 is still substantial-feeling, with a deep grip that makes it easy and comfortable to hold, but it’s also easy to tote around without it feeling burdensome. Weather resistance is said to be up to the standard of Canon's 5D series, which professionals will tell you means the R5 should withstand troublesome weather better than some photographers. We’d be confident in most situations.

Canon’s adroit touch when it comes to building cameras that are quick and easy to use is much in evidence. Along with that four-way joystick, which makes diddling through menus or selecting autofocus points a breeze, you also get a click-wheel on the back, plus a dial behind the shutter button and a ring around the mode dial. 

Don’t forget that RF-mount lenses also have a control ring, so getting the EOS R5 set up just-so is easy. If you’re coming from another of Canon’s cameras, the learning curve is basically flat – the R5 is easy to adjust to. Newcomers will find the menus responsive, intuitive, and powerful, whether you’re a power user or launching into photography for the first time.

A square display on the top right-hand shoulder of the camera displays your current shooting information. This is a good way to keep the rear monitor turned off between shots, and the secondary display has a backlight that you can turn on and off manually. The touchscreen monitor is a good ‘un, too, measuring a generous 3.15in and offering a 2.1MP resolution. It’s also vari-angle, which is handy for video.

But goodness gracious, the electronic viewfinder. The only thing that beats it for resolution right now is the Sony A7S Mark III’s 9.44-million pixel EVF. And while the R5 might only offer 5.76-million pixels, in use we could barely distinguish it from the true optical viewfinders found in traditional DSLRs. 

Beautifully smooth and with an incredible amount of fine detail, it makes the normal bugbear of mirrorless cameras – being able to tell when an image with slim depth of field is actually focussed – a thing of past. It’s really easy to tell, and with focus peaking available in manual focus mode, it conspires to make the R5 very easy to use.

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Specs and features

  • 45MP (effective) full-frame sensor
  • Same DIGIC X processor as the EOS 1D X Mark III
  • 8K video recording

On paper, the EOS R5 might be the best hybrid mirrorless camera on the market. It’s both high resolution and full-frame, producing 8,192 x 5,464 resolution files that weighed in, on average, at about 60MB each. 

That means, at the R5’s fastest continuous motor mode, you’re shooting about 1.2GB per second. In other words, make sure you’ve budgeted for extra storage, both in your camera and at home.

Speaking of storage, the R5 brings a pro-level solution to the table, offering both a standard SD card slot and a CFexpress slot. This allows you to either boost your camera’s available storage, shoot to two cards for real-time backup, or shoot raw files to one card and JPEGs to the other.

Memory cards take on more of a bearing if you plan to use the R5’s movie-shooting abilities. Its higher-end video modes, including 4K 10-bit HEVC (which is what you’ll shoot in Canon LOG or HDR PQ), 4K ALL-I 50/60fps, 4K 100/120fps or 8K ALL-I or raw, all require a CFexpress card. We shot exclusively with SanDisk’s 512GB Extreme PRO card, which is rated at 1,400MB/s write speed, and found that the buffer refilled at virtually the rate it was depleted, making in-the-field workflow completely hassle-free.

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Powering everything is Canon’s DIGIC X processor. It’s the same chip as the one you'll find in the powerhouse 1D X Mark III and it kept everything ticking over as our EOS R5 voraciously gobbled up light and churned out data.

The sensor is a new model, and this is Canon’s first body to feature in-body image stabilization (IBIS). In combination with the high speed data throughput of the RF mount, this can combine with the image stabilization in a lens to offer, in the right circumstances, up to eight stops of image stabilization.

You get all the expected mod cons, and then some. Wi-fi is there, of course, but in exotic 5GHz as well as 2.4GHz. There’s an FTP client built-in, allowing press photographers to offload images to remote servers as they shoot. 

Just about the only thing not present is a proper Ethernet socket – the Sony A9 Mark II does have one of these and pro sports photographers might lament its absence here. If you want one, you’ll need to dig out your wallet for the Canon WTF-R10B –this upgrades the R5’s FTP client to one that supports SFTP, while also adding two MIMO antennae for stronger connections and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Those are pretty niche features that will only be desirable for full-time agency photographers, though.

Of more interest to the rest of us is the EOS R5's new battery – the LP-E6NH has about 14 per cent more capacity than the slightly older LC-E6N. Those who already own Canon kit should note that the older model of battery is still compatible with the R5. You can also use a Power Delivery supply to charge the R5 via its USB-C port, saving you popping the battery out when it’s time to recharge.

Flick the mode selector to video and you’re greeted with yet more out-of-this-world performance. 4K, naturally, but up to 120fps, and with the option of shooting raw. 

Or, the headliner: 8K video. Again, the option of shooting raw is there, at 30, 25, 24 or 23.98fps, and at a galactic bitrate of approximately 2,600Mbps. Opting to shoot H.265 files, at the same settings, lowers the bitrate to about 1,300Mbps, while H.264 lowers it further to 300Mbps. 

Of course, these headline figures are only part of the video story, and Canon was forced to subsequently recalibrate expectations a little by publishing estimated recording times for each of the EOS R5's modes. We've included that information in the table below.

Canon EOS R5
Resolution/frame-rateMax recording time at 23°CRecommended scene
8K/30p20 minutes8K productions where full-frame mirrorless can be used alongside a main camera.
4K/120p15 minutesShorter bursts of slow motion.
4K/60p35 minutesHigh frame rate high resolution productions and independent films.
4K/30pNot limited by heatInterviews, longer duration capture such as weddings.
4K/30p (8.2K oversampled)30 minutesWhen additional resolution is required with a 4K30p production.

Perhaps even more significant than these recording times, particularly if you're planning to use the Canon EOS R5 as your main video workhorse, are the 'cool down' recovery times it needs after shooting extended scenes. Most mirrorless video cameras overheat, but not as many need quite as long to recover as the EOS R5.

For example, when shooting 8K/30p, a 10-minute rest will then give you only three minutes of recording time, while letting it cool for an additional 20 minutes will give you an extra eight minutes of recording.

That's fair enough for 8K, a mode that no other mirrorless camera offers, but even if you're shooting 4K/60p on the EOS R5, a 10-minute rest will only give you another 10 minutes of recording time. So for both of the EOS R5's most demanding modes, you're restricted to relatively short bursts. 

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Autofocus

  • 5,940 AF zones
  • Animal and face-detection
  • 100 per cent horizontal autofocus coverage

The Canon EOS R5’s autofocus is very nearly unbelievable. Its eye-detection is practically infallible, grabbing hold of human faces and holding on even with subjects moving rapidly forwards or backwards through the frame. Subject detection and tracking is similarly impressive. 

The new animal detection mode is out of this world, as we raved about in our wildlife test, with the R5 detecting and tracking non-human eyes and faces in some very demanding circumstances.

The R5 uses a new version of Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus, which means focussing is done on the sensor itself. This allows you to manually choose from 5,940 different AF points across 100 per cent of the sensor’s horizontal dimension and 90 per cent of its vertical. 

You can cut things however you want; splitting the sensor into large autofocus zones, allowing it to pick entirely for itself, or opting for tiny individual autofocus points using either the joystick or by dragging your thumb across the touchscreen monitor. Once you’ve got a zone picked, the R5’s autofocus will blow you away.

The animal recognition currently works for dogs, cats and birds, but it naturally isn't blind to other species, too. We're looking forward to seeing where this autofocus system goes next, but Canon's certainly made a very impressive start on the EOS R5.

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

  • 12fps mechanical shutter/20fps electronic shutter
  • Backwards-compatible batteries
  • High-speed video modes

With the Digic X processor on board, it’s fair to expect good things of the R5’s performance – and so it proved in our tests. 

With our SanDisk Extreme Pro card we found the buffer cleared almost as fast as we could shoot, writing multiple frames per second when we’d finished shooting a burst of raw files. The EOS R5 will shoot 12fps using the mechanical shutter, or up to 20 with the electronic shutter. 

Purists who are concerned about the jello-effect of electronic shutters can put their minds at rest – we saw very little evidence of it. It was possible, on frames with tall elements in them, to detect a very small amount of distortion, but even with incredibly fast subjects, frames shot with the electronic shutter were just as usable as with the mechanical option. Another plus: the electronic shutter is totally – literally – silent. Wedding photographers and wildlife photographers, rejoice.

Battery life gets a significant thumbs-up as well. It’s still well down on traditional DSLRs, of course, but we managed about four hours of extremely intensive shooting (approximately 2,000 raw frames, all shot using the power-sucking electronic viewfinder) on a single charge. 

On a fairly intensive shoot we’d anticipate going through perhaps two batteries in a day, maybe three at a push. Because the R5 is backwards-compatible with the LP-E6N battery – first seen on the 2009 EOS 7D – it’s possible that many upgraders will already have a few spares.

Video performance and quality

Video performance is excellent as well. We tested the EOS R5 on a small half-day documentary shoot (see above), capturing just over 240GB of 4K video for a total of a shade over 55 minutes overall. 

Of that, about just about 38 minutes was shot in 4K, All-I, 25fps in 10-bit Canon LOG, with the rest (a hair under 17 minutes) shot at 50fps, still in All-I and in LOG. Of note is that the shoot happened on the warmest day of the year with the ambient temperature resting at an uncomfortable 32-degrees. We didn’t see any overheating warnings. 

Canon’s own claim is that the R5 will shoot up to 35 minutes at 50/60fps before it overheats, at which point it will recover at the rate of one shootable minute per minute of cool down. Not ideal, perhaps, if you want to shoot a documentary at 4K and 60fps but those shooting 24 or 25fps films with a smattering of 60p for slow motion clips it’s quite possible you could use the R5 fairly intensively and never see an overheating warning. Canon claims that 25/30fps full-frame 4K video has no heat limitation.

Putting those slightly overhyped overheating claims to one side, it's far more useful –and fun – to look at the results that the EOS R5 is capable of. 4K video is gorgeously sharp and the LOG files we shot were incredibly flexible when it came to grading. 

The combination of stabilized RF-mount lenses and the in-camera IBIS ensures that, if you tread softly enough, you can create reasonably smooth tracking shots without a gimbal. Our selection of RF-mount lenses – the RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM, RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM and RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM – all provided sound-free tracking autofocus. For single-crewed shooters, or those tasked with filming BTS (Behind the Scenes) or B-roll, the EOS R5 could be an incredible addition to any toolkit.

A quick note – if you’re shooting 10-bit files, you’ll be wanting a proper editor. Those using BlackMagic’s free version of Resolve will need to upgrade. We edited and graded with Premiere Pro on an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Image quality

As you'd hope for the price, the R5 shoots excellent images. Up to about ISO 4000 you should have very few concerns, which is incredible. Push further and you’ll find fine-grained speckling in your images – we suspect editorial photographers won’t mind it much, but those with an eye on producing art prints might be a bit more cautious. 

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For those dedicated to capturing once-in-a-lifetime moments, whatever the light, the R5 will shoot ISOs up to 102,400. We shot in anger up to ISO 51,200 and while the results were undoubtedly grainy, there was no color shift to contend with and there was plenty of detail. 

Having a camera that produces outstanding, high-resolution images in perfect light but which is capable of shooting usable shutter speeds in the dark again marks the EOS R5 out as an exceptional photographic tool. For a more in-depth look at the EOS R5's Animal Eye AF performance, check out our feature on a wildlife photographer's visit to a bird hide.

Should I buy the Canon EOS R5?

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You want the best Canon stills camera money can buy

While the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III might edge it for pro sports photographers, the EOS R5 is a simply the most powerful and versatile stills camera Canon has ever made. It's as comfortable shooting landscapes as it is wildlife and weddings – just remember to pack one or two spare batteries.

You've been waiting to upgrade from a Canon DSLR

If you're a Canon EOS 5D-series owner with a nice stash of lenses, the EOS R5 is the excuse you've been waiting for to upgrade. While it isn't actually much smaller than those DSLRs, the R5's autofocus, burst shooting and EVF offer a next-gen shooting experience that could take your photography up a notch or three. 

You're a stills-first creative looking for a small hybrid camera

For professional 4K filmmakers, there's no doubt that the Sony A7S III is the more compelling hybrid camera. But as long as you're aware of the EOS R5's limitations, it can still make a great lead camera on small shoots (like our short film above) or a fantastic way to shoot pro B-roll or behind the scenes footage. 

Don't buy it if...

You like having savings

For most of us, the EOS R5's cost of entry is prohibitive. It's not just the camera's body-only cost – add a few RF-mount lenses and the costs can easily spiral into five figures. Realistically, most non-professionals who want to get into the RF system should be looking at the Canon EOS R6 instead.

You prize the practical advantages of DSLRs

The present and future of cameras may be mirrorless, but there's no doubt that DSLRs still have some practical advantages. Pro sports shooters prefer lag-free optical viewfinders, while the handling and battery lives of the Canon 5D-series aren't to be dismissed. That said, the EOS R5's battery limitations can be easily overcome, while its other advantages far outweigh the downsides for all but the most traditional photographers.

You need compromise-free 4K video at high frame-rates

The Canon EOS R5 doesn't match its stills versatility when it comes to video shooting. Its high-resolution sensor and overheating limitations mean that it's trumped for both practicality and outright video quality by the 12MP Sony A7S III, while dedicated cinema cameras like the Canon EOS C300 certainly still have their place.