(Pocket-lint) - The Canon EOS RP is the step-down version to the impressive R – the camera that catapulted Canon into the full-frame mirrorless market back in 2018 – designed to act as the entry-level footing to the EOS R range.
The RF lens mount that features here is Canon's third EOS lens mount in recent years. The EF-S provided for Canon's DSLR cameras, while the EF-M was designed specifically for the smaller EOS M mirrorless models. The RF, however, is the company's first full-frame mount since the launch of the original EF back in 1987. This is a massive move, hence there being fewer lenses available – although there are already 10 high-end optics, which is good going considering the short time-frame. With such an investment, a series of cameras was always on the cards.
The RP is a scaled back and more affordable camera than the R. Sewing the stepping stones to introduce a lower-spec camera, its more DSLR-like layout is a bid to entice would-be DSLR purchasers over to the mirrorless format. It's cheaper, lighter and will be more familiar for many users – but has Canon lost the plot in what it is trying to do with mirrorless?
Design: Who is the RP for?
- Canon EOS RF lens mount
- 0.39-inch, 2.36m-dot OLED viewfinder (0.7x mag)
- 3-inch, 1.04m-dot vari-angle LCD touchscreen
- HDMI, USB, mic & headphone ports
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support
- 485g with card and battery
- 1x SD card slot (UHS-II)
- Dedicated mode dial
The RP does have a slimmed down spec sheet compared to the R, though not as slimmed as you might expect for its price. The camera also borrows from the EOS 6D MkII for its sensor, which is a good thing, and from the M-series for its battery, which is less of a good thing.
The build of the RP has quite literally been slimmed down compared to the R. It's shorter in every dimension, by a notable amount, and weighs 140g less. This means it's less balanced with the large pro RF lenses and means a smaller grip too, which is less forgiving for those with bigger hands.
With the resizing has also come a reduction of buttons: gone is the small top screen and mode button, replaced with a simple mode dial; gone, too, is the touch-control M-Fn bar, replaced with a regular function dial.
This thumb dial features a handy lock switch to stop you accidentally changing the settings. Though novel, we were never big fans of the M-Fn bar on the EOS R, so a return to a standard dial is a bit of a relief here.
On the top of the RF there's a dedicated video record button and an M-Fn button, the latter which can be used to quickly access the ISO sensitivity, shooting mode, autofocus mode, white balance, and flash compensation. The on-off switch takes up all the space on the left of the top panel, which although doesn't feel like the best use of the space, is actually a handy place for the power button.
The rear of the camera, with the exception of the M-Fn bar, is very similar to the EOS R. Autofocus, exposure lock and focus point selection sit handily for thumb operation. Below, an info button cycles between screen modes, while and a multi-directional dial provides the main navigation, with a central 'Q' set menu button for access to the main shooting settings.
The rear screen is a 3-inch LCD with 1.04-million dot resolution. This is considerably lower resolution that the 3.15-inch, 2.1-million-dot screen on the R, but is still very competitive for its price point. It is mounted on a vari-angle bracket, allowing easy viewing from above, below or in front of the camera.
The viewfinder has also been scaled back from the 3.69 million dot version on the R and replaced with a 2.36 million dot one. In use it still appears extremely lifelike, and it's only when it comes down to manual focusing that you really notice the difference.
The RP is not shy on inputs either, offering both 3.5mm mic in and headphones sockets, as well as remote release, HDMI and USB. These are mainly for video capture, but the USB allows you to charge the camera without removing the battery.
Rather than a separate SD card compartment, this is housed under the battery door. This is clearly a space-saving move, assuming owners of the RP will be using a single card. For those changing cards though, it does make it trickier.
Performance: A watered-down EOS R?
- Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus (88% horizontal and 100% vertical coverage)
- 4,779 autofocus positions, via multi-direction selector or touchscreen
- Zonal, AF expansion, Spot AF, Face Tracking and Eye AF options
- 5fps continuous shooting (4fps with focus tracking)
- 13 special scene modes (including silent shooting)
- LP-E17 battery: 240-250 shots per charge
- Shutter speeds: 30-1/4000sec, Bulb
Unlike the EOS R, the RP isn't designed to be a professional camera, but it does give semi-professional models a run for their money. Being a mirrorless camera, it uses the main image sensor for its autofocus, with a Dual Pixel AF autofocus arrangement to provide a fast phase-detection method, rather than the contrast-detection of old. This works very well, only occasionally requiring any 'hunting' to achieve focus.
The focus point can be manually positioned anywhere in the image frame (through a total of 4,779 positions) using the rear directional navigation or, much faster, by using the touchscreen.
You can use the Spot AF to really fine-tune your focus point or one of the expanded or zonal options for wider options. There is also a Face Detection and Eye Detect option, which once locked on will follow the subject around the frame until you half press the shutter.
For moving subjects, the Servo mode will keep adjusting the focus even once half-pressed. Unlike on other EOS models, there is no AI Focus mode to automatically switch between Servo and One Shot modes.
In addition to the regular Manual, Program and Priority shooting modes, the RP offers an Intelligent Auto (iA), which automatically adjusts to the scene, as well as a series of 13 special scene modes covering portraits, landscapes, sports and night scenes.
The silent mode eliminates autofocus confirmation beeps and shutter noise, for those moments when you need to stay quiet. However, because of this it can be difficult to know when the picture has taken – a white frame briefly appears to confirm on the screen.
Perhaps one of the main areas where the RP reveals its more entry-level status is in continuous shooting. Those looking to capture fast action may find its five frames per second (5fps) high speed mode a little pedestrian (the EOS 6D does 6.5fps), especially as the RP slows further to just 4fps when using the Servo mode. This has been a common way for Canon to distinguish its models: the EOS R offers a significant raise to 8fps.
The other major issue is the RP's battery life. Rather than the LP-E6N – as used in the EOS R, 6D Mk II and many other models – it uses the same LP-E17 as in the EOS M5 mirrorless and the EOS 800D DSLR. While on these cameras it was capable of up to 420/600 shots, on the RP it is good for around 240-250. Again, this is a serious limitation for heavier shooting sessions, and would mean carrying a second battery.
One other potential limit of the RP is the 1/4000th maximum shutter speed, compared to the R's 1/8000th. However, this only becomes an issue when shooting wide open using professional lenses on extremely bright days.
Image quality: Think 6D MkII
- Digic 8 processor
- 26.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-40,000 (expanded L: 50, H1: 51200, H2: 102400)
- 4K video (24/25p); Full HD (60, 50, 30, 25fps) [29m 59s max]
Probably the biggest downgrade from the R, at least on paper, is the RP's image sensor. Rather than a 30.3-million pixel resolution, the RP offers the same 26.2-million-pixel sensor we've previously seen in the EOS 6D Mk II. A difference of 4.1MP is far from significant, though. With an A2 print this is the difference between a 271ppi and a 252ppi resolution.
For the testing, we used the new RF 28-70mm f/2.0 lens, which at over £3,000, is not cheap, but is a decent pairing for the RP. Lower priced RF lenses are still limited, but Canon EF-RF adapters start at just £99 and allow you full control over any EF or EF-S lens (the latter will give a 1.6x crop on the sensor, thus be even lower resolution).
The images produced by the RP are impressively detailed when viewed at 100 per cent magnification. Even with high-contrast edges, haloing is almost non-existent, and images retain sharpness right into the corners. Image noise is well controlled throughout the regular ISO sensitivity range, with only subtle signs above ISO 6400 and only the H2 setting of 102,400 ISO really losing significant detail.
The metering system comes with a range of options, from spot to centre-weighted but, when using the evaluative setting, the camera was able to nicely exposue a range of scenes without any trouble. With the RP's evaluative mode there's no need to shoot slightly underexposed to preserve highlights. In testing it never blew the highlights, keeping detail in often tricky cloudy skies, while also keeping shadow detail in high-contrast scenes.
The auto white balance (AWB) has a default ambience priority setting, which leaves images on the warmer side, especially when shooting indoors. If you prefer a more neutral effect, this can be changed to white priority in the white balance menu, or you can use one of the seven presets to adjust the temperature values.
For image processing, the RP uses the same Digic 8 that features in much of the new Canon EOS range (including the entry-level 250D and the pro-spec R). For videographers, this means a similar performance, with 4K and HD options.
Video shooting is possible up to 4K resolution at 24/25fps (it's 8-bit 4:2:0 onto the card, for those interested in geek specs), but, unfortunately, the 4K recording is cropped (by 1.6x, as if an APS-C sensor), which limits wide-angle shooting, and suffers from a rolling shutter when panning. HD capture, however, is full-frame and doesn't have the same shutter issues.
There's little doubt that the future of Canon's advanced amateur and pro market lies in the R series, and the RP offers an affordable route into the system. Much as the EOS 300D – Canon's first sub-£1000 DSLR – was for the EOS range in 2003.
While it may not have the full feature set of the R, the RP is more of a mid-range camera than a beginner's, and aside from a few niggles, it is a great performer too. It handles extremely well – arguably better than the R – despite its smaller form. Images are well exposed and highly detailed. The ISO performance means that it is easy to shoot in low-light without flash or tripod.
However, it's the camera's battery life and 4K video performance that is likely to put users off. For still shooters not looking to take hundreds of images a day, though, this is unlikely to affect you.
This article was first published 14 February 2019 and has been updated to reflect its full review status
Canon EOS 6D MkII
The 6D MKII is an advanced amateur / semi-professional DSLR with very similar specs to the RP, as well as a similar price point. Here though, you get a traditional optical viewfinder and faster continuous shooting (up to 6.5fps). On the downside though, there's no 4K video, less sensitive AF performance in low-light and a heavier body.