I went mirrorless. - Ben Sutton

Halfway to Youngstown, Ohio on the Pennsylvania turnpike, I ended up throwing a Canon 5D Mark IV out of my car window.


Figuratively speaking, of course!


Hey everyone, Ben here from benjaminpatrickphoto.com and this site you’re viewing now, bsuttonartworks.com . It is true I did throw a 5D Mark IV out the window, though, all I did was end up throwing out the idea of purchasing a 5D Mark IV on my way to the camera store, a very reputable one to add, in Youngstown. Let’s step back just a little bit.


Canon has been in the mirrorless camera game for a little while now with the M series, although it wasn’t really geared towards the professional photographer. And then towards the end of February Canon released their M50 mirrorless interchangeable lens body. At this time other manufacturers such as Sony, Fujifilm, and Olympus (in no particular order) were well on their way to with top notch mirrorless cameras aimed towards the paid professional photographers.


And then in September of 2018, Canon truly entered the mirrorless technology market with the release of the long awaited Canon EOS R. I was EXTREMELY opposed to this market as a whole, especially with the new R. I myself am a Canon shooter, and also a semi professional photographer (As I do shoot professionally, but not quite full time yet). I’ve been shooting full frame since the Canon 5D Mark II, which was way back in 2008, and then adding a 5D Mark III a few years back. Both great cameras with very nice quality, both optically and with build quality. Workhorses you could say, and with grips on both of these bodies they felt great in my hand. Shooting events and weddings, being comfortable with what I shoot with is a must

So when Canon seriously entered the professional market with mirrorless, I was actually very opposed. Before the rumors and the release the EOS R, I was looking to upgrade my old 5D mark II. It was quickly approaching 100k on the shutter count, still a lot of life left in it but my second shooter (my wife) and I needed a better back up body. As I said above, Canon is the only brand I know since 2008. I know the cameras, I know the ecosystem, I know the menus, etc and etc. I had hoped Canon would have improved upon their prosumer full frame cameras, namely the 5D series. The 5D Mark IV is an excellent camera don’t get me wrong, and one that I was springing for after making the decision to upgrade. But there wasn’t much difference between the iii and iv that excited me. So much that I was seriously considering going with a difference brand, namely Nikon and their D850. But after a thorough beating from my peers and more thought and research into it (which had more to do with it), I quickly dashed that idea and decided to stay with what I know.

I picked up the EOS R, the battery grip and EF lens adapter with control ring and a promaster rugged SD card. I ended up trading in my 5D Mark II towards this entire purchase, and I couldn’t be happier to add this little guy to the camera bag that includes my 5D Mark III. More on that decision at the end of this first impression review. So let’s get right to it! The Canon EOS R and my first impressions and takes on this little guy.






Unboxing


This is going to be your non conventional review, whereas everyone else goes in depth to opening up a box and pulling a product out. Well, I’m here to tell you that all 3 items were put in a box of their own with some packaging and plastic trays for you to open up and pull out your camera and battery and turn it on and take some photos. That concludes the unboxing section of this review, back to your regularly scheduled program.


The Optics and Guts of the EOS R


Like I said, this is going to be a very non conventional review of the R. Most reviewers will give you an unboxing, a ton of specs that you can go to B&H and find out, how the camera works, how many buttons it has, “guys this thing has WiFi like OMG”, how it looks even though you can clearly see what it looks like, holy cow look 4K, the good the bad the ugly and a final verdict.


But for this first impression of the EOS R, we’re going to go a different route.


So what can I truly say about the image quality of this? Not half bad...like I’m pretty impressed. I keep on convincing myself this is a 5D Mark V (no such thing, by the way, please don’t google that) in a M50 body. Seriously, it’s good. But don’t forget, image quality is only as good as your glass. The lenses I currently have at the time of this blog are the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L mark ii and the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L mark ii. Both excellent lenses, and paired with the 30MP dual pixel AF sensor, so far I’m pleased with the quality. Now I don’t know if it’s the mirrorless technology or the fact it’s just newer and better sensors and processors that contribute to the IQ, but I’m guessing it is the sensor and processor.

It has a nice top down screen with a button you can hold down to go into “night” mode, and a tap of that button will give you a second screen of more information of your settings. The primary information it shows in that first screen is things like ISO, shutter speed, aperture, etc. Also on the top you have a customizable wheel (I have mine set to ISO), a mode button that replaces the mode wheel on most Canon DSLRs, a multi function button, the shutter wheel, a lock button that locks the control wheel and the control ring, the shutter button and a record button for your video. On the rear is an assortment of buttons you’ll normally find on a Canon DSLR.

I feel like I need to just go over a little bit the EF adapter I had to purchase for the EOS R. The EOS R has a new RF mount for their new lens lineup. Your EF lenses will work but only with an adapter, and I opted to go for the one with the control wheel. The control wheel is standard on the new RF lenses, and the adapter with the ring adds this feature to all of your EF lenses. What this ring can do is it allows you to quickly change things like your ISO, aperture and shutter speed by twisting this ring in either direction, in which you can customize the + and - direction in the menu of this ring also. I have mine setup where when I turn it either way, it adjusts my aperture up and down just like an old school manual lens. Very cool and very worth it, I love it actually.

But the two main things that will stand out the most are these : Electronic Viewfinder and the Tilt Touch Screen. I never owned a camera with either of these features and my first impression is this; how have I ever lived before? Like legit, I’m very impressed. Let’s go over the tilt touch screen first. With the other Canon bodies I’ve owned, it was a pain in the gluteus maximus having to get through the menus. It was a real headache to get from one menu to the other for one item you needed. This all can be avoided by being able to setup a custom menu, but the software in the camera will only let you add so many to this custom menu before creating another tab and by the time you were done adding what you wanted, you ended up with more scrolling to get what you needed. In this day in age, time is money and I like making money and not telling clients “Just one moment…”. Being able to tap where I want to go in the menu is awesome. And lets not forget about image previews! You can now pinch and zoom, easily scroll through images by swiping, and if you “pinch out” from an image you have the option now to have a collage of your photos present. Double tap on an image and it’ll become “full size” on your screen. These are all probably features of other Canon cameras with touch screen before the R, but for the sake of this review I’m including it as “new to me technology”.

Electronic viewfinder!

What can I say? I mean...wow? Is that ok to just say and leave it at that is wow? I mean, it’s hard to explain. There’s no mirror to these cameras, obviously. The sensor is always exposed, which gives us the ability to basically live view what you’re seeing in the viewfinder, if that makes sense. This “live view” replaces the traditional pentaprism in your DSLR. What this means is this, and please don’t get lazy for the love of God with your metering, it means you can exposure simulate. Go up and down with your shutter speed, ISO and aperture and the viewfinder will give you a live look of what your exposure is going to be. This is a great feature, but proper metering, exposure, etc should never be forgotten. Embrace the future, but don’t forget what it took to get there is my philosophy. What I actually LOVE about the electronic viewfinder is looking at your images. When you hit the play button you can view those photos in the viewfinder. Kind of like an electronic loupe. The viewfinder also has a sensor below it to turn on and off the back screen when you bring the camera up to your eye. And since there is no shutter, when you take a photo there’s no momentary blackout from the mirror going up like a traditional DSLR. It takes a little bit to get used to if you’re shooting high speed continuous as there is a jittery lag, which is very noticeable but that’s just the name of the game with mirrorless. Canon claims you get put up to 45 pieces of information in the viewfinder but that’s just insane, literally. I want to be viewing what I’m taking a photo of, the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. That’s all I need. You can customize the information in the menus, and you have 3 screens to choose from by pressing the info button.

No joystick? And what the hell is this bar at the top?


Yes, there is no joystick. So how do move the focus point(s)? The touchscreen! Yes, the touchscreen! You move your thumb over to the back of the touchscreen while looking through the viewfinder and move the point(s) around. I find that it’s very sensitive and a bit of a reach sometimes and honestly, it’s a little uncomfortable at times. Very cool feature, but I think I would have rather had a mini joystick. Not a deal breaker though, it works! You can change the sensitivity of the screen for exactly this annoyance too, by the way. And speaking of focus, it is SPOT on with the new digic 8 processor and dual AF technology. I won’t go in depth with it but you can slightly change focus in post processing with Canon’s software ONLY for now. Also you have to activate this feature and it will blow up the file size significantly, so keep that in mind. You can do eye AF, tracking, AI servo (which is excellent), one shot, expanded around the center point, zones and a handful of other AF features we will save for a later time. But my first impression of the autofocus is it’s blazing fast and accurate with excellent glass with minimal hunting. The only time I had it hunt is if there are two subjects with the same color and contrast.

So what’s this bar I’m talking about at the very top of the rear of the body? It’s a touch bar that can be customized for a number of features including ISO, aperture and a handful of other things. I initially set this bar up for ISO. But there’s a downfall to the R’s small size I’ll go in depth down below, but basically….it’s SMALL. I have larger hands and my thumb extends to this bar. And 99% of the time I would hit this touch bar and it would change my ISO. So I would bring my thumb down but now that is hitting the touch screen where I now choose focus points and it would set the focus point on the very far right of the frame. Since I’m a full manual shooter, my right hand and fingers are constantly moving buttons and dials, and my thumb is no exception. With most of the thumb movement on the AF button since I use back button focus to set and hold where I’m focusing. But if I rest that thumb just for once second over that bar, everything is set out of whack and I’m scrambling to get my settings back plus my initial focus point or zone. I disabled this bar to use only for image preview only to scroll through photos, as I just couldn’t help to keep inadvertently hitting this very sensitive touch bar. I’m sure it’s a cool as hell feature, but the way I have to hold this tiny camera, there’s no way of not hitting the bar or the touchscreen, which again, I’ll go over down below.

Other than what was described above, there’s really nothing I can think of that is of significance to add on the optics, guts and features of this thing. Maybe the video? It has 4k but I think it also crops down to 1.7x if I recall correctly?


Overall my first impression of the features is they are a very welcome upgrade from my old technology. It’ll be very hard for you to be disappointed in a new processor, new sensor, an exposure simulated electronic viewfinder, and all the other bells and whistles this thing has. I adapted fairly easy to this whole new system that Canon has introduced and I still haven’t untapped the potential of this little guy. I’m sure there’s more features than I’ll ever need on this body, so I guess I’ll have to actually read the manual eventually. But since I’m a very “figure it out by trial and error” type of person, I may be able to sell an unopened original packaging EOS R manual on eBay one day.

Ok, NOW the main part of this review that should have your FULL attention.


I can go over every feature in detail, I can go in depth with the controls, the rings, the dials, the buttons, the flippy flop flippety touchy touch TOUCH IT screen all I want until I’m blue in the face. But the main reason why anyone would want the EOS R or any other mirrorless camera is its sexy feature, and that is the compact size. This is BIG...I mean small. I mean..it’s a big deal...because it’s small? You know what I mean. How Canon packed a tremendous amount of features into such a small package is beyond me. I mean it when I say this can be labeled as a Canon 5D Mark V...or even a VI for that matter. That’s how clean, organized and buttoned up this camera is feature wise. This very fact has kind of swayed me from my grumpy attitude with Canon, a brand that I first shot with over a decade ago and still continue to do so. I was getting very angry with the lack of innovation….that was until I brought the R home less than one week ago. This next section is really where I’m going to get into the first impression of the EOS R, and I’m going to be very brutally honest too. I hope my honesty with my first take on this camera will help you decide whether you want this camera or not.

When I first physically picked up this camera and felt it for the first time in store, the first thing that’s noticeable is the size. It’s a tiny camera, but you can feel it’s very well built. It’s not too small to compare to a point and shoot but it’s also not as hefty as my 5D Mark III. But, it’s not very far off from my 5D Mark III at all. What really caught my attention is it’s not as rounded as the 5D series. It has a more square, boxy look and feel to it. A small square and boxy feel to it which I think is important to note and one to pay attention to. I was shooting with the EOS R from 5 in the morning to around 5 in the afternoon/evening. I wasn’t shooting that entire time, but from 2 in the afternoon to the end of the day at 5, I was constantly shooting.

I visited the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh because doesn’t everyone who gets a new camera go out and shoot flowers and stuff like that? No? Yes? I don’t know, it seemed like a good time to test out a for instance situation where I would be constantly shooting for a few hours, say for an event. So have you ever crossed your legs too long? Or have you ever held onto something for an extended period of time where your fingers are wrapped around a rope or strap or something like that? And when you try to extend your fingers or uncross your legs and it hurts? Like...it hurts really bad. They feel stuck, right? They cramp, correct? This is exactly what was happening towards the end of the shoot. It wasn’t exactly unbearable but I did have to take a break from shooting.


Why is this? Well, it has to do with the R’s boxy and square nature. The part where you wrap your fingers around the right side of the camera, where all the buttons and controls are, is very pronounced. Whereas on my 5D Mark III it’s a little beefier and well rounded. It’s comfortable, I can shoot a full day wedding with no hand discomfort at all. The only discomfort I have with my 5D Mark III, which has a battery grip on it, is it’s really heavy. Especially with a Canon 70-200 f/2.8L Mark II attached.

To be fair, I did not have the battery grip attached to my Canon EOS R. The reason why is I wanted to test out the main feature of the EOS R, which is the small compact walk around size of it. I felt like using the grip on it all day would bias this review ever so slightly towards a large full frame DSLR with a grip installed or a 1Dx. So how does it feel with the battery grip? Honestly, it doesn’t feel much different. Balance wise, yes, it feels more balanced because the lenses far outweigh the body. And since my hands are so big, my pinky and ring finger rest very nicely instead of being tucked under the body. But the fingers that lay in between that indent in front of the camera to actually hold onto it still bend very sharply around the right front side of the camera, and it starts to hurt after a while. This is extremely important to note for sports photographers or wedding photographers. Again like I said, I cannot see right now using this camera for a full day wedding or event. I just simply can’t, but as stated before this is a very fresh first impression on this camera. I’m hoping that just like learning guitar for the first time that eventually my hand will adapt to these “growing pains” and develop proverbial calluses to this small, but important issue.

To go along with the overall small size of the R, using the controls and buttons on the back can be a little bit of a nuisance also. Like I had stated way at the top of this blog, I would inadvertently hit that new touch bar that sits just to the right of the viewfinder. Easy fix for this would be to just simply disable it. I think that in future versions of the R the AF buttons being placed here would be very ideal. The AF buttons sit to the extreme right of the back of the camera and I find myself stretching to hit the AF buttons since I use back button focus. And since the fingers are wrapped sharply around the front of the camera, this strained my hand numerous times.

Now, I do have a Peak Design Clutch, which is a very nice hand strap. And when loosened just a little bit more than tight against the body, this does help the strain. But the one downfall is since the AF buttons are so far to the right on the body, a secure tightening of the strap can inhibit use of these buttons as you can’t move your hand off the EOS R body enough. But like I said, when it’s loosened just a tad it’s much easier to reach these buttons. The shutter button suffers from the same problem, is very far to the right, and angled right and forward just slightly where you have to contort your hand to use it comfortably.


Let’s talk about weight just for a little bit. The camera itself is very light, coming in at just 1.5 pounds. But things add up quickly, actually. Add a grip and 2 batteries, you’re looking at 2.6 pounds. Add an EF lens adapter plus a Canon 24-70 f/2.8L Mark II and now we’re looking at 4.5 pounds. Take out the EOS and replace it with the 5D Mark III with the above minus the adapter and it’s almost hitting the 5 pound mark at 4.9 pounds. Obviously lenses will far outweigh this camera and it concerns me just a little bit that the RF version of the 24-70 is coming in at 3 pounds! That’s insane to me!


Let’s move to the other side of the EOS R camera body, the left side. I can’t find any flaws, just annoyances that are no fault at all to the EOS R. I have a Three Legged Thing universal L bracket for my 3LT Punks Corey tripod and Neo Switch ballhead. I cannot tilt the screen when it’s flipped out, it’s just not physically possible. Not a huge deal but I would have liked to view the screen top down as I intended on a tripod because low angles are a part of my style. Again, not a big deal, and I’m sure that there will be L brackets produced fairly soon for the EOS R.

But it all can’t be bad, can it?


Alright, let’s slow down a bit and cool down. I know it seemed like through the above points that I hate this camera. After all I named some pretty negative things about it. But remember folks, this is a first impression review of this camera body. I only purchased it on the 9th and really used it on the 10th, 4 and 3 days ago respectively at the time of this review. And the day I did shoot all day with it was kinda cold, so I’m sure that didn’t help my comfort level issue. I HAVE to get used to it, you have to understand this is a first impression type review. But for some folks, that’s all that is needed to choose. And honestly, I believe the more I shoot with it, the more I’ll get comfortable with it. As said numerous times, this is a first impression review. I cannot reiterate that enough. In fact guys….the good about this camera really far outweigh the bad.


So what are my thoughts about the R then? Want me to really get down to it? The entire point to this review? Guys….I really like this camera. I’m not entirely in love with it just yet, but I really honestly like this camera….a lot. I literally was heading to the camera store on the PA/OH turnpike with full intent to upgrade my 5D Mark II to a 5D Mark IV. And halfway there I thought to myself, why not give the EOS R a chance? Up until that point I had not entirely dismissed the EOS R but I was close to it. Why is Canon nearly forgetting about its current customers of their full frame bodies and gearing everything towards mirrorless? I was angry, truthfully. But I didn’t have the means to switch brands (which was a dumb idea anyways) and the EOS R wasn’t something for a professional or a paid professional. So I thought. I will be the first to tell all of you, I was completely wrong. I don’t plan on using this as my main body for weddings or paid events, but you better believe I’ll be using this as my main walk around body and for things like travel and landscape photography. That stance might change, but I’m not getting rid of my 5d3 any time soon and replacing it with another mirrorless body.


Again, I really like this camera. The features, options and images that come out of this little guy fully support my style of photography. It really does seem like Canon developed a 5D Mark V and put it into a small mirrorless body. There is one thing I LOVE about the EOS R, but it’s a bit of a personal one…..I rediscovered that passion for photography by using this. It truly felt like I was shooting with first DLSR, the Canon XTi and it just sparked that passion I had back then to now. Don’t get me wrong, I love photography, I always have. But when just going out to shoot, I found myself in more ruts than ever before. With this little guy, being so mobile and compact and its ease of travel with it, it’s so much fun again and I’m so grateful for that. Canon did a superb job with this, it’s top notch. That’s the point of this review, Canon did their homework and produced a solid camera. Is it for everyone? I don’t know, that’s really for you to decide. I would suggest renting one or at least going to your nearest camera store to play with one or a little bit. It’s small, and if you have big hands like I do, and even folks with smaller hands might notice that the ergonomics are little harsh. Again, something I might be able to get used to and adapt to. I had a TON of fun using this camera, and that’s what it’s all about. Having fun with photography, not making it seem like work.


And Canon, if you’re listening….I’m pretty confident you just made sure I never feel like I’m slaving away behind a camera ever again.

YM Camera

Myself and Robby of YM Camera

Guys I want to take a little time here and give the biggest shout out to YM Camera in Youngstown, Ohio. I mentioned above that I live an hour in a half to two hours away from YM, that’s no exaggeration. I live south of Pittsburgh, PA and if it takes me that long to get to YM, you better believe it’s worth the trip to their shop. What makes YM so special? Since we’re on the theme of small, YM is a small business. And it’s very important to support small businesses not only in Youngstown but small businesses across the nation. There’s a handful of camera stores around me, but YM has the best reputation, best prices, and the best part of YM….is the employees and owners. They do NOT make you feel inferior at all. You have questions? They have answers and they have answers that you can understand. They make you feel literally like family. Jim, the salesperson who sold me my EOS R, helped me out tremendously. Mirrorless is very new to me, and I’m still getting used to it and what it’s all about. And every question I had about the Canon EOS R, he helped me understand the answers I was given. I cannot thank him enough for giving me that push to go with an entirely new Eco System of Canon technology. And just because it’s a small business doesn’t mean the store is tiny either. Oh no, they have pretty much anything you would need. AND they just built a lighting studio/classroom upstairs to test out and learn about all sorts of classes they have every now and then. This family business, no lie, makes you feel like family. Thank you son and father owners of the business, Robby and Jim Yankush, and staff of YM camera. You have a customer for life. Visit their store if you’re local or visit their website at www.ymcamera.com

Single card slot?! WHAT?!

WHOA WHOA WHOA! CONTROVERSY!

I almost forgot!  There is one point that has been a HOT topic on this body.  And that is the SINGLE card slot on the EOS R.  A lot of folks have chimed in on this particular subject and some have gone crazy enough to go out and say since this only has one card slot that this isn't a professional camera.  I couldn't disagree more!  But I don't want to go over that right now, I want to go over just the fact of the single card slot.  

I'm kinda indifferent about this.  Being a wedding and event photographer, I need a second card slot for my own peace of mind for back up purposes.  When the EOS R first came out, just like other folks, I was kinda struck by this.  Why in the HELL would they come out with all of this great technology in a small mirrorless body?  I don't know, honestly.  I just don't know.  Canon didn't have to put a CF card slot in it (which is becoming old tech anyways), but a second SD card slot would have sufficed.  There's more than enough room.  I don't know if it was because of costs or what, that's something Canon will have to explain.  

But over time, I've accepted this issue.  Although...really...a second card slot wouldn't be an issue, in my opinion.  Knock on wood, I've never had a card fail, and the tech that goes into these cards is out of this world.  I ended up picking up a ProMaster Rugged SD Card.  UH3, impact resistant, water resistant, humidity resistant, dust resistant, etc and etc.  Can't go wrong!  If you can't trust a single card slot, move along, but trust me technology with cards is superior to what it once was.  Also, don't skimp on memory cards.  Get the best you can afford.    

Listen, I was in the same boat as a lot of folks were.  I wanted to hate this camera.  And I did at one point.  But I gave it a chance, I'm giving Canon a second chance and so far guys.  Well....I can see a good lasting relationship with my camera body.  Rent one, try one out, see for yourself.  But like I said way above, I'm not so sure this is going to be good for the sports or wedding photographers who are shooting full day events.  I'm hoping that stance will change with the uncomfortable all day shooting nature of this body.  Good luck!  Thanks for reading and stay tuned in a couple months for a 6 month follow up and then a 1 year follow up.  

Peace out and keep shooting!
~Ben