First Look Review: Canon EOS R5 And EOS R6

Digital Photo Pro may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. Digital Photo Pro does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting Digital Photo Pro.

When shooting photos, I found the color accuracy was spot-on with both the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 (used here).

This year has been a dramatic one for everyone, including those in the camera industry. The coronavirus has affected every aspect of the economy and hit the camera world severely, resulting in one manufacturer, Olympus, stating that it will no longer make cameras.

However, there have been bright spots. Canon offered one of the brightest when it announced in February that it would develop a new EOS full-frame mirrorless camera, which would be the company’s “most advanced full-frame mirrorless camera ever.” Then, in July, it officially announced that it would offer not only the EOS R5 but also another EOS full-frame mirrorless camera alongside it, the Canon EOS R6.

And although Sony and Nikon have offered impressive products this year, like the video-centric Sony a7S III full-frame mirrorless camera and more entry-level Nikon Z 5 full-frame mirrorless camera (as well as its impressive full-frame DSLR, the Nikon D780), it may be Canon’s year to reclaim the industry buzz and perhaps market share from Sony.

I had the opportunity to shoot with both Canon models for the past few weeks as I was putting together this issue, the November/December edition of Digital Photo Pro. Here are some of the features I’ve liked about the 45-megapixel EOS R5 and 20-megapixel EOS R6 as well as some areas where they may come up short.

Canon EOS R5

Design And Controls

One of the difficulties Canon has faced in producing a top-notch pro full-frame mirrorless camera has been that it already had a powerful line of pro cameras, the 5D series of DSLRs, which included a camera many pros adored, the Canon 5D Mark IV.

Yet when Canon decided to produce full-frame mirrorless models, the first two versions—the EOS R and the EOS RP—included designs that looked as if they were moving away from the 5D Mark IV. With these new iterations—the new EOS R5 and EOS R6—it appears that Canon has reversed course somewhat. I felt they did a nice job of synthesizing the look and feel of the 5D Mark IV DSLR with the design elements from the first two R-series. For example, the bulkier, wider grip just feels better on the R5 and R6 than the thinner grip found on the EOS RP. Both the new R-series also include dual-card slots, which was available on the 5D Mark IV. The EOS RP and R only included one slot.

What’s also important to know about the two new models is that while they share a number of characteristics, they also differ from each other. For example, because the sensor on the EOS R5 has been designed with a 45-megapixel image sensor that can capture 8K-resolution video, Canon has included a CFexpress memory card slot to ensure that the memory card can keep pace with the massive video files being produced in the camera. The other card slot on the R5 is compatible with SD memory cards, as are both memory card slots on the EOS R6.

There are other differences, too.

Canon EOS R6 (back view): The controls on the back of the Canon EOS R6 are nearly identical to the controls found on the EOS R5.

When you first look at the front of the two cameras, it may not look like there’s much of a difference between the two. But if you examine the top of the cameras, you’ll notice that the EOS R5 sports a digital LED display that works in concert with the mode button and quick control dial (which encircles the mode button). These are the same controls found on the original Canon EOS R camera. But the EOS R6 instead uses a more traditional mode dial.

Both are used for setting shooting modes. However, it’s important to know that you’ll see specific camera settings in the menu system, depending on what shooting modes you’ve set. For instance, if you’re in a still-photo shooting mode, you need to set the camera on a movie shooting mode to alter the video resolution settings. Conversely, if you want to capture a still photo, you’ll need to exit the video shooting mode and set the camera to one of the still-photo modes. I can’t say I love this approach, but it’s something that you’ll need to get used to.

Another difference is the resolution of the OLED electronic viewfinders. The EOS R5 has greater resolution, with a 5.76 million-dot OLED viewfinder. The EOS R6 has 3.69 million dots. In use, though, I didn’t find much of a difference between the two EVFs. Both really worked well. 

Image Quality And Performance Of The Canon EOS R5 And EOS R6

For this article, I used two lenses for capturing still photos and video: The Canon RF24-105mm F4 L IS USM zoom lens and Canon RF35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM prime lens.

The Canon EOS R5 did a nice job with rendering my daughter’s skin tone and hair color.

In my image quality test shots, in which I captured various subjects in various lighting—bright, moderate and low-light settings—I was really impressed with the sharpness of both cameras.

In bright light and normal light, both cameras really produced striking images in cases where there was a large depth of field and shallow depth of field. In the latter case, where the background or foreground was blurred, I found both the EOS R5 and R6 produced a very nice, pleasing bokeh, which seemed natural, not harsh or distracting. I also didn’t notice any excessive onion skinning or other defects in the bokeh of my images.

The burst moods mostly worked as stated, although in the quickest mode—using the electronic shutter mode—I didn’t feel I quite got to 20 frames per second. But as someone who has tested cameras for many years, I do understand that various factors can slow that frame rate down.

In one shooting scenario, I captured action shots of my son pitching a baseball against a pitch back. I used this scenario to try out the burst mode as well as the impressive eye-tracking capabilities of the cameras, which worked on both still photos and video: Once I focused on my son’s eye (from my position behind the pitchback’s net), a small square appeared around my son’s eye. And that square stayed in its position, no matter how he moved and what subjects came into view. I also had him approach me and completely turn around. When the subject’s face was no longer visible, the eye-tracking square disappeared (since my son had turned his face away). But the square icon reappeared around his eye when his face came back into view.

Canon EOS R5 (top view). You can see how the EOS R5 includes an LED as well as a mode button and quick control dial.

Another informal test I performed was to shoot a relatively long exposure photo—starting at around 1 second and increasing each new shot by one second—to see how well the built-in image stabilization system (IBIS) worked.

In the initial handheld shots I captured, I got a decent shot that was relatively sharp using a 2-second shutter speed (with an ISO set a ISO 200 and a wide-open ƒ/4 aperture setting on the 24-105mm lens). But images shot with shutter speeds longer than 2 seconds became blurred. Still, I was pretty impressed at the IBIS system in these two models.

But the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 didn’t ace all my shooting tests.

For example, I was disappointed in shots captured at high ISO settings. On the EOS R5, I captured a still life image using ISO settings from ISO 12,800 to ISO 102,400. With the EOS R6, I shot the same still life but adjusted from ISO 25,600 up to ISO 204,800.

In all cases, the non-colored and colored grain interfered with details in shadows, midtones and highlights. The grain becomes quite conspicuous at ISO 25,600 and above, on both EOS models, at which point all the sharpness and detail in the photograph become progressively more obscured.

Canon EOS R6 (top view). Instead of an LED, the EOS R6 has a more traditional-looking mode dial.

Video—Image Quality And Versatility  

After the development announcement of the EOS R5 back in February, there was a tremendous amount of buzz and excitement, due in large part to the news that the R5 would capture 8K-resolution video (at 30 fps). Most of the buzz was positive, although some of it turned negative when it became known that the EOS R5 could overheat if its recommended time limits weren’t followed. Canon even issued a “media alert” explaining why it opted not to include a fan in the camera body’s construction and restating the time limits for various resolutions and frame rates, modes and approximate shooting times.

In this first-look review, I’m not going to spend much time on those issues—I’d need many more pages—but I will give you my take on my experience shooting video on the EOS R5 and the EOS R6.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the differences between the two models is that while they each include two memory card slots, only the EOS R5 includes a CFexpress memory card slot, which can handle very high data processing of shooting and capturing uncropped 8K video and uncropped 8K RAW video at up to 29.97fps (among other settings). But it’s important to know that I had to buy a new memory card.  

I liked the way the EOS R5 captured different textures in this image.

I also tested the 8K and the 4K 120 frame-per-second slow-motion video features. I shot in various settings, including capturing video of my son pitching against a pitch back (as I did to test the cameras’ burst modes) as well as other subjects.

My favorite clips are the ones I captured of my son pitching a baseball at me in slow motion. The effect is still mesmerizing, and the Canon R5 was able to shoot the footage with incredible 4K detail. It reminded me of the fact that it wasn’t so long ago that you needed to buy an entirely separate slow-motion camcorder, which was very pricey, in order to shoot any kind of slow motion.

On the downside, though, during my brief session of shooting various video clips, including 4K slow motion video, the EOS R5 did display the overheating icon on the LCD. So I had to wait and let the camera, or, more accurately, the camera’s CFexpress memory card, cool down.

Price & Bottom Line

Canon has several price configurations for the two new EOS models:

Canon EOS R5

  • $3,899, body only
  • $4,999 with RF24-105mm F4L kit lens

Canon EOS R6

  • $2,499, body only
  • $2,899 with RF24-105mm STM kit lens
  • $3,599 with RF24-105mm F4L kit lens
I set my 35mm lens at ƒ/1.8 to get a very shallow depth of field effect. But because it’s also a macro lens, it produced an even shallower depth of field.

There’s no doubt that both are pricey, although Canon is charging a premium for the EOS R5’s high 45-megapixel, 8K-resolution video and other such features. Yet that isn’t deterring the demand. As of this writing, the Canon EOS R5 appears extremely popular, with various websites and forums noting that the EOS R5 has been hard to keep in stock.

But the question is: Are either new EOS R-series models for you? 

For many pro photographers who may be interested in occasionally shooting some video, the Canon EOS R5 has the high-resolution capabilities, robust speed and performance and, most of all, high image quality, in still photos and occasional video, that will more than meet their needs. And for those photographers, such as event shooters, who may not need such a large, 45-megapixel sensor, the EOS R6 will save them money and also meet their needs.

However, videographers will have to really consider the issues that go into their workflow and if the EOS R5 and R6’s heat issues and the limitations they bring will affect the type of footage they shoot.

For more on Canon cameras, go to usa.canon.com.

Leave a Reply