Looking at the Canon R5 camera
Testing the EOS R5
Stills photography and 5Ds comparison
...Get our Newsletter for new articles/reviews and why not visit Keith's YouTube Channel
...My book about how to use tilt/shift lenses is now available.
Keith has recently had the chance to test the Canon EOS R5 45MP mirrorless camera.
Looking at it as a potential replacement for his 50MP Canon 5Ds, he tries it with tilt/shift lenses as well as several Canon RF lenses.
How does the camera perform as one for an architectural and industrial photographer?
Jump to Thoughts/conclusions
There is a video that Keith has produced that accompanies this review. There is also one specifically looking at the EF-RF adapter filter holder.
An R5 review
The Canon R5 has drawn a lot of attention and I feel it’s important to note what aspects I’m looking at here. Canon UK kindly loaned me the camera and some lenses for just over a week, which means there’s no way I can produce a detailed review of all it’s capable of and reliably look at what feels like to use. More to the point, I’m an architectural and industrial photographer, so my normal camera use doesn’t tend to challenge autofocus capabilities or speed (or video). That means that I’m primarily looking at the camera compared to my day-to-day Canon 5Ds.
Do remember what sorts of work I do when looking at features…
The camera and lenses
Canon lent me the camera and three RF lenses, the RF 15-35, 24-70 and 70-200. All extremely nice, but they also sent the TS-E50mm F2.8L Macro (see my full TS-E 50 review) which I wanted to try alongside my own TS-E17mm F4L and TS-E24mm F3.5L II (links to reviews).
[you can click on most images to enlarge]
It would take some time to do a detailed review of those lenses, yet alone the testing I was more concerned with.
Each of those lenses perform excellently – surpassing my experiences with older EF mount versions. They are optically great and with the image stabilisation working in tandem with the sensor based stabilisation system of the R5, absolutely superb for my liking of shooting hand-held whenever I get the chance. Sure, I use a tripod for a lot of my work, but in busy factories and constructions sites, the confidence to shoot hand-held in variable lighting is important.
This shot with the 15-35 (@17mm) was using just a single AF point on the boat crew. I actually took it to see how well the shadow could be pulled up in R5 shots – very well it seems (5Ds comparison in a bit).
A 100% crop is perfectly sharp enough.
I’ve shots of all kinds of things taken on my walk along the canal – they are all sharp and usable, except where I’d mishandled focus setting or some other user error. All things that would be fixed with experience – one other reason it takes a while to properly evaluate a camera system.
The camera itself
The camera is slightly smaller and a tad lighter than my 5Ds, but it’s not a lot of difference (see the video for more). I’ve largeish hands and found it perfectly comfortable to use.
The grip is a bit deeper and the tripod mount a bit further forward (thinner body) than I’m used to, but it feels Canon like from the off.
Sealing looks good, but I’m not one for getting wet. I still have my Canon 1Ds3 for unpleasant conditions (mines/quarries/foundries).
The top screen is very clear and easy to read – my close-up eyesight needs assistance these days with the 5Ds screen, but the high contrast display on the R5 is something I can read.
Rear controls caused me no difficulties. I expect it to take a bit of time to adapt to any new camera, What I like/dislike in the first week is only a partial guide as to how I’ll have the camera set up after a month or two.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is very easy to use and offered enough customisation options for me not to feel overwhelmed by what’s on display.
The rear screen is something that’s grown on me since getting my EOS RP ‘test’ camera. It’s something I’ve wished for on the 5Ds a few times whilst holding it inside machinery or at arms length.
Screen brightness is good and crisp enough that I didn’t always need my glasses to make use of it.
I’ll come back to screen/EVF usage in a bit, since it’s one of my few gripes about the R5.
Whilst the R5 takes fast SD cards like my ProGrade 128GB one (Card/reader), it also uses the newer CFexpress format cards.
I note the warning about hot cards. The R5 did run warmer than any of my other cameras, but I didn’t try video or any of the other areas where people have noted concerns over heating.
Gone are those bendable CF card pins that have caused some problems over the years…
Fortunately Canon lent me a USB-C reader and card for the testing.
R5/5Ds detail and noise
My 5Ds is 50MP and the R5 45MP – what does that mean in real life?
I used the TS-E50mm on both the R5 and 5Ds to shoot the same scene. The camera is on the Rogeti RG-1 geared head I use for a lot of my architectural work.
The scene, near my home, has the sorts of brightness variations I often encounter in real life work.
It’s actually the same one I used to look at what difference megapixels make to print quality when I first got the 5Ds in 2015. If you’ve ever wondered what difference megapixels actually make to prints, do have a look.
This comparison show the difference in pixels between 50 and 45MP – both images shown at the same enlargement.
There is no meaningful difference in this respect.
What about detail/noise? Detailed bits of each image after opening up shadows.
Not sure which is which?
Enlarge this 400% screengrab to finally see the 5Ds noise in the shadows…
No, I’m not going into details of image processing and the like.
Why? Well it’s shown me that the R5 can pull more detail out of the shadows and has less noise. That answers my relatively basic initial questions.
It is better, and some of my photos with the RF lenses by the canal reinforce this. However, to analyse it in any more detail needs proper test conditions and a lot of work. An exercise I leave to the likes of DPReview… ;-)
There was never going to be a huge difference, since I get perfectly good results with the 5Ds. It would have been nice to push it bit more with some sunsets and wide dynamic range landscape shots, but our holidays had to be cancelled this year (I was meant to be away during the time I had the R5).
Don’t get me wrong – I was on a recent job and if I’d had the R5 and 5Ds sitting in the office, I’d have taken the R5 in an instant. However, as I mention later, that doesn’t include having to actually pay for the R5…
The lenses I use
What about my other major question about using the R5 for my work? How well does it work with tilt/shift lenses?
If you’re unfamiliar with these lenses, I’ve many articles/reviews about using tilt and shift
The short answer is that with the high quality EVF, the built in level and sensor based IS, it is very easy to use with them. In fact, most of the sample images (even the stitched ones) shown below were taken hand held.
The EF->RF adapter Canon lent me was the one with the built-in polariser filter, which I’ve looked at in another short article & video [A polariser for tilt/shift]
The TS-E50 was every bit as good on the R5 as when I tested it a while ago on the 5Ds and Panasonic S1R (my review). I tend to shoot fully manually, since any tilt or shift throws of DSLR metering systems, but the Av (aperture priority) mode, gave results of a reliability I’d never expect from the 5Ds.
These TS-E50 shots were both hand held using Av mode – only tweaked a bit during processing to bring up shadow detail.
Two TS-E24mm shots of the Mattioli Woods building.
Now a couple with the even wider TS-E17mm F4L
These use the polarising filter adapter, and with the very wide angle, I’m not entirely sure it’s quite right for the colour.
Well, it’s gone back to Canon now, so not a problem to concern me for awhile… ;-)
The square one is a hand held stitched photo from two shifted TS-E17 shots. Two images shifted up/down are flat stitched in Photoshop. There’s nothing in the foreground to cause parallax problems – which is where I’d use my TSE Frame for attaching the lens to my tripod.
Two more hand held stitched shots of a just completed building extension at DMU made me appreciate the combination of image stabilisation and high resolution EVF (for the built-in level).
The disparity in lighting is very strong in the next example, and I’ve been able to lighten the deep shadows without any real problems.
One use of shift lenses that’s less common, is to combine vertical and horizontal movement, so as to offset the image viewpoint. In these two examples (17mm and 24mm) it was the quality of the EVF that helped line them up. OK, I would have used a tripod for work, but I like shift lenses for my ‘walk round’ lenses.
I’ve an article about diagonal lens shift if you’re curious.
Not forgetting tilt…
When using lens tilt I’ll normally use my tilt tables to work out the lens settings, but it’s quite difficult with the normal focus screen of a DSLR to know precisely if the plane of focus is where you want.
With the EVF on the R5 I have the benefit of focus peaking which lights up the area of sharpness in a way that makes understanding how tilt works much more intuitive.
For much more about using tilt see my article ‘focusing the tilted lens‘
A simple hand held shot at f/3.5 and I can see where the plane of sharpness cuts through the sign and the building.
I’ll still check my tilt tables to know whether I can get the plane of focus where I want it, but as I’ve discovered with my EOS RP, a good EVF makes it just that little bit easier.
One of the things I discovered when playing around with the RP was just how easy it was to use adapted lenses. At last my Zuiko 50mm f/1.2 looked like a f/1.2 lens in the viewfinder, and the focus peaking helped me nail focus with the razor thin DOF you get at f/1.2
My old Mamiya medium format lenses worked great on the RP. With the Fotodiox tilt shift adapter, I now had 35/55/85 and 210mm tilt shift lenses to add to my collection (See my Fotodiox tilt/shift adapter review for more).
However, how would these old fully manual lenses perform on the R5 – would it’s much higher resolution leave them too soft to be of use?
Well, the answer is a resounding no. Stepping through aperture settings with vertical shift and the camera in Av mode yielded spot on exposures, whilst the sensor stabilisation did its stuff too. A look at the Sekor C 35mm f/3.5 for example confirmed (at shift) that softness and aberrations dropped of until ~f/11 and then softened with diffraction as you went up to f/22.
This view at f/11 and quite a bit of rise (vertical shift).
It’s a perfectly usable image, but what about fine detail?
It turns out that the sorts of softness you find in lenes like this is extremely fixable with modern ‘smart’ sharpening software.
Here’s a 100% crop of the top of the image. The only correction I’ve made during processing was to auto-fix chromatic aberration in ACR.
Sure, a bit of softness…
However applying Topaz Sharpen AI pulls out detail quite nicely (and reduced the small amount of noise in the sky).
Much as I’d expected, lenses that were usable on my 26MP EOS RP were just fine on the R5, oh and you get IS too.
Do remember what sorts of photography I do as you read this section…
I really like the clear viewfinder and image stabilisation of the R5. The stabilisation is a huge benefit for people like me who rarely use a tripod unless needed – if I had longer I’d have checked the camera in a few more challenging environments, which would also have shown use at higher ISO settings.
The image quality is a step up from the 5Ds – not massive, but it’s there.
The handling is good, and autofocus seems to meet any needs I’d have. Exposure seems accurate and unphased by shift, tilt, or any old optics I might attach. Those RF lenses were rather nice.
The rear screen is clear with lots of detail. The top screen is readable without my glasses.
Control layout is familiar to me – no problems once I’m used to it.
Dust makes an unwelcome return – back at levels I was used to 10 years ago.
Take this photo – taken with the Mamiya 35mm at f/22 (small apertures make the dust more visible).
Looking at the sky, I see the results of a week’s use
Applying a temporary curve (an old old trick from days of printing scanned film) makes the dust spots more visible.
Not a problem, since I always check large prints for dust before any printing, but rather more than I like to see.
Like many mirrorless cameras the R5 can just leave the shutter open when switched on.
I turned on the optional ‘close shutter when off’ mode.
However it does stay open for lens changes – I’ve never remembered to consistently turn off cameras when swapping lenses. I guess I may have to…
Talking of swapping lenses – lens rear caps are more fiddly to fit with RF mount lenses. More difficult to do without looking at the lens/cap.
The R5 uses up batteries distinctly faster than my 5Ds – if I took it on a typical job I’d want two spares, not one. However it can be recharged via the USB port from a battery pack.
A usability niggle
I’ve left this one to last since it may be that I’ve not found the right settings to fix it.
I’d like the option to use the screen/EVF just as I do with all my previous Canon cameras.
- EVF to display what the lens sees, along with any settings/aids I might choose.
- The rear screen only to display info/menu settings and image playback – NO ‘liveview’ unless I want it
That means that the rear screen is blank until I want it otherwise. The screen does not switch displaying the EVF or anything. This is particularly important at night where I don’t want the rear screen doing anything until I want it to.
My non-optimal solution was to work most of the time with the screen like this…
I said this was a niggle – perhaps its best in the long run that I do have to make a conscious choice to use the screen ;-)
So Keith, do you want an R5?
It’s great to use, but no thanks. It doesn’t offer enough real day to day advantages over my 5Ds for my photography work.
Obviously it will be very different for other photographers, but in the current ‘paying work’ situation there is no way I can justify the expense. To be fair, even if the money wasn’t such an issue, I’d want to see something with a bigger difference to what I can do at the moment. If I was a working 5D mk3 or 4 user, then there is probably a much stronger case for getting one.
No, what I want is an ‘s’ version that gives me a hefty jump in MP (my lenses will handle it) and maybe a sensor shift ultra-high resolution mode – much like I tried with my TS-E lenses and the Panasonic S1R when I tested it.
Even so, it was rather nice to try – thanks Canon ;-)
See also my video that goes along with this article.
If you’ve any comments/questions please do let me know – Keith
Enjoyed this article?
All the latest articles/reviews and photo news items appear on Keith's Photo blog
Keith explains tilt and shift lenses
Keith has written a book that looks at the many ways that tilt/shift lenses can benefit your photography from a technical and creative point of view.
There is also a specific index page on the site with links to all Keith's articles, reviews and videos about using tilt and shift.
We've a whole section of the site devoted to Digital Black and White photography and printing. It covers all of Keith's specialist articles and reviews. Other sections include Colour management and Keith's camera hacks - there are over 1200 articles/reviews here...
Articles below by Keith (Google's picks for matching this page)
We're an Amazon affiliate. so receive commission on any purchases you make
...Get our Newsletter for new articles/reviews and why not visit Keith's YouTube Channel
...My book about how to use tilt/shift lenses is now available.