Continuing the first part of the comparison between Canon R5 and Canon 5D Mark IV, here are my findings about the new camera. I have already covered the areas that I could discover after a week or two. Here are the more complex details and also features that needed more testing to really uncover the behavior.
First is some more general stuff and there are several use cases later.
Various positive features
The camera is generally very responsive. Gone is the bug from the 5D Mark IV, which is a fine camera, but when shooting individual frames, the shutter button was less responsive than on the older 5D Mark III. Even though I was pressing the shutter button as fast as I could, the camera needed time to pause, so the 5D Mark IV could only achieve 2.27 fps here (!) – after taking a photo you need to wait almost half a second until you are allowed to take another. Sometimes this was visibly limiting. The 5D Mark III had 3.25 fps. The Canon R5 had 3.99 fps in the same situation with Mechanical shutter and around 5.5 fps with 1st Curtain Electronic and fully Electronic shutter.
The sensor is now Dual Gain with the step at ISO 400. So not only is the dynamic range better at ISO 100, it is also very good at ISO 400 (almost the same DR as 5D Mark IV at ISO 100). See Photons to photos tests for more details.
The camera has a large buffer. Even during bursts and saving RAWs to both cards it feels very fast and it is limited by SD writing speed (even for very fast cards) only after a several seconds.
As with the previous camera the views are very configurable. You can choose the individual views available when using the the viewfinder, back display and review. For each of those there is an independent list of views you will be able to switch between (you can disable those you don’t need) and each of the views is again configurable and you can show or hide elements in one view or another (show histogram and level in this view, but not in that view etc.)
The wireless options got improved. Not only there is a new Wireless menu, whereas on the 5D Mark IV the connectivity options were buried deep inside a submenu. There is also an option to batch-send a set of pictures you already TOOK that you can arbitrarily select. I wasn’t able to find this in the menu of the 5D Mark IV, that camera only allows you to upload pictures that you WILL take.
The Image Search function seems nice. It can filter out photos according to various conditions. These can be pretty complex, not completely like database queries, but close. Want to find RAW files with three stars or higher taken on a specific date in certain folder? Easy.
Obvious firmware bugs
In the last month my camera froze two times. The second freezing happened half an hour later after the first one. Not sure what was the cause, but I tried to shoot sport at that moment with settings “to the max”, i.e. long bursts with high frame rate with High-Speed Display Mode. The viewfinder was showing frozen image, but the level was updating as over that as normal. Off and On didn’t help, I had to remove and reinsert the battery. Maybe even bigger issue was that the camera forgot all the settings’ changes made in the last session: Everything in the menu, exposure changes etc. Since I tested it and made about 10 unusual changes it took me about 5 minuted to restore most of them. I still forgot to go to the ISO speed settings to set the minimum shutter speed to really fast, so in the meantime the photos was unusable.
The interval timer is not working if your shutter button is not set to activate the autofocus. Since I have the autofocus activated by the AF-On button, I was really puzzled while trying to take landscape pictures and eventually disregarded the timer. I had to search the web for this bug to find out what is going on.
You can set up you main focus mode as Face/Eye focus and have another focus button ready for fail-safe spot focusing (See Part 1 of this comparison). Sometimes you use the other mode, focus on the center and take the picture. No issues so far, but try to take a look at the image and use the “Set” button to zoom at 100 % at the used focus point. I understand the camera does not know the exact focus position, but it is jumping to the extreme top left corner of the photo. The photo center would have been much more logical choice.
Various negative features
The auto-focusing can be tricky as it partially depends on the exposure settings of the currently displayed live image (if the Exposure simulation is On). If your settings result in a dark image, the auto-focus virtually stops working and starts to hunt even in daylight. To restore the autofocusing abilities, you can just temporarily increase the exposure time or, if using the back LCD display, just tap on any spot – the display brightens up for a fraction of the second and the focus is acquired.
While starting speed of the camera is fine, turning the camera off is very slow – and you have to do it every time when changing lenses. By default there is the automatic sensor cleaning – nice 3 seconds of waiting that you cannot skip if you cleaned it up five minutes ago. And after this is over, there are another 2 seconds until the IS in the lens shuts down – couldn’t this be done simultaneously with the previous procedure? Coming form the DSLR and used to detach the lens and mount another at any moment, this needs time getting used to and plan the camera shut down in advance. By the way, the 5D Mark IV is able to turn off the lens IS even during the sensor cleaning.
Both lens and mount RF caps has to be aligned properly! so it is not possible to just slap a cap in the darkness rotate it a bit and it will fit. While three different rotations works for the EF caps, there is only one correct for the RF. No idea what was the point of this design.
I have the EF-RF mount with the ring, but I am not sure what to use the lens ring for. There are no interesting options. Perhaps something like ultra-precise focusing wound be nice.
The live histogram shown when shooting can be finally made smaller if you choose so!!! It doesn’t occupy a quarter of the display like on 5D Mark IV (the small histogram was already available on the Canon R though).
Unfortunately, the review histogram is still huge and to see it you have to switch the modes to the one where you have your picture reduced to 20 %. So just because of this you need to cycle the modes, which is even more annoying than it was on the 5D Mark IV – on that camera the buttons for going through photos and switching the modes were on separate hands. It was pretty fast to use them without any significant movement. On the Canon R5 the right thumb has to move like crazy across the buttons to operate both functions. This hassle wouldn’t be necessary if there was small histogram option together with the full size photo.
Turning on the blinking for overblown highlights or zebra in the viewfinder while taking pictures would be probably too revolutionary. The zebra stripes are also only reserved for the video modes.
As a side note, there was a brightness issue that the photos came up darker than expected, but this was found to be a bug in the Adobe Lightroom 9. Version 10 fixed that.
Use case: Wedding
Focusing is great, easy to use and precise. You can think about the composition instead. It works even on people wearing face masks, but sometimes has issues with profiles of people wearing glasses or having too many hair on the side of the face. That’s why it is important to have another focus option quickly available – I have another button with an alternative focus mode set up for these cases.
Adult faces seems to be preferred over children ones. When two people are kissing it sometimes switches from face to face (maybe reducing the AF4 setting “Switching tracked subjects” would help?)
The group shots were essentially perfect in comparison to the 5D Mark IV, which is sometimes able to focus on the background or miss the focus by a notch.
If you had another shooting before and forgot to change the priority from “Animals” it still works, but can find faces and eyes only on shorter distances. It puzzled me for a good half of one wedding. I will know better next time.
Because of the quick focusing and having the right composition ready at almost all times, it is easy to be carried away and take huge amount of pictures. With the previous cameras I had 1:3 ratio, 1 photo to be handed over from every 3 photos. This changed to 1:4 ratio with the Canon R5, i.e. few hundreds new pictures to choose from.
Use case: Sports
I was only testing it for under an hour and I am no expert in this field. Aside from camera freezing twice as mentioned above, it worked well. But I felt like I was learning a new video game: I could have been much better, but the muscle memory wasn’t there yet. The handling is different, but it certainly seemed to be better than the 5D Mark IV, because I could just press the joystick to start tracking any player and then pay attention to the composition.
Following a player when looking into the viewfinder wasn’t a problem. The FPS or FPS+ (60 or 120 Hz frequency) wasn’t a deciding factor. The High Speed Display on the other hand was useful (i.e. when shooting bursts, the images are interlaced with the live view of the scene).
Switching between the back display and the viewfinder is often fast, but unfortunately sometimes unreliable. So if I was reviewing photos on the back display and there was an action starting to develop, I put the camera to my eye, but the viewfinder was black and woke up after a second, which is sometimes a long time. I haven’t found the settings that could change this.
Use case: Landscapes (during sunset)
Switching modes (Av/M) in total darkness is easy with bright displays, no need to guess.
Handling the camera and viewing the scene in darkness is pleasant. Both the viewfinder and the LCD brighten the image up for you.
Then there is the Exposure Simulation. I would like to have it On most of the time, but sometimes switch if Off to have better overall view and improve the composition. Not possible to change it by a button, only using a menu entry. I thought temporarily switching to Picture style with negative contrast could be an option too. But again, not possible to map this to a button. You can map the Picture Style selection menu to SOME buttons (nice limitation again), but changing the Style is a matter of several button presses, which is similar to changing the Exposure Simulation using the menu. There is an option to switch picture styles using the lens control ring though. It seems like an overkill, but since I have no idea about a better use of the ring I will try it out.
Shooting with a timer is possible if you want a 2 second or 10 second delay. User-settable delay would be great, as 5 seconds tend to be enough for me in most cases.
Use case: Studio
The autofocusing precision is awesome. The eye is almost always in focus even in challenging scenarios!
Also the resolution bump and the ISO 100 and ISO 400 quality is impressive. I am astonished by the images.
My flashes have no modelling light and I am of course having Exposure Simulation set to Off, so the camera has to adjust itself without my intervention in various scenes (to a completely different light then on the actual photo) and has no problems doing so.
My biggest gripe is again that the review histogram is essentially on a different page than the photo and also that the viewfinder is sometimes black when brought to an eye and it takes a second to activate it.
For me the Canon R5 is a better choice than the 5D Mark IV. There is a lot to like, but there is also a lot of rough corners that could have been polished to make the user experience is even better. It is a solid mirrorless camera and for us, Canon DSLR shooters, it is a revolution.
But from a photography standpoint I can see only an evolution. It “just” gathered the main features of the competitors, increase a few numbers in the specs and introduced all of them in a single package. Certainly no small feat.
But imagine what it would be like, for example, to have a camera with an open API that you could reprogram or download plug-ins for! Need a usable Fv mode? Just install it from the web. You want a better night sky photography with a red UI suitable for the darkness? Easy, there already might be ten people who did that. That would be a revolution, but it is not here yet.
Same with the almost infinite dynamic range for landscape photographers – what about just keep capturing images with electronic shutter, one by one, and stack them into one single RAW file? Seems straightforward. But again, it is not here yet for a reason that is unknown to me.
There is always hope for he next version of the camera.