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(Pocket-lint) - With the camera market dwindling over recent years, how can brands invigorate and entice customers? Well, Canon has a pretty good idea: throw everything including the kitchen sink into the specification and watch them come a-flocking.

That's pretty much the idea behind the EOS R5: a packed-to-the-gills mirrorless camera that not only touts a 45-megapixel full-frame sensor - which also means it can capture 4K and 8K video - but an in-body stabilisation system, super autofocus system, and a top-end viewfinder.

It's got pretty much everything - including a massive asking price. That's perhaps why fewer may come flocking than Canon would like. But for those who are looking for a multi-faceted pro-spec mirrorless camera, the EOS R5 - as the sort-of spiritual successor to the EOS 5D MkIV - is an absolute powerhouse.

Design & Lens Mount

  • 5.76m-dot resolution OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF), 120fps refresh rate
  • 3.2-inch, 2.1m-dot resolution articulating LCD touchscreen
  • Canon RF mount (EF & EF-S via adapter - sold separately)
  • Body dimensions: 138.5 x 97.5 x 88mm / Weight: 738g
  • Dual card slots (1x CFexpress, 1x SD)
  • Weather-sealed design

The EOS R range is now fully fledged, with multiple options within the range - there's the EOS R, RP, R6, R3 - showing Canon's commitment to its mirrorless future. Indeed, older EF lenses, as you'd use for Canon's DSLR range, are being discontinued piece by piece, paving a way for the future of the RF mount - which is the very fitting you'll find on the front of the EOS R5. Fortunately you can also use EF and EF-S lenses via an adaptor (sold separately) if you've got great old glass that you want to keep using.

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To look at the EOS R5 is very much Canon and very much traditional. If you've been using Canon DSLR cameras over the years then this will feel immediately familiar, with button placement in well-known spots to make for easy use. It's a little different, of course, as it's mirrorless and touchscreen controls and screen-based use are a little more formative here.

The screen articulates, which is really handy for positioning it flat for waist-level shooting or overhead work, or even flipping it all the way around - which can make lighter work of some video shooting, depending on the situation. It's a decent quality screen, responsive to the touch to the degree that we often and rather annoyingly moved the autofocus area by accident. We really like that it can be stowed inwards to the body, though, ensuring you won't get it scratched.

Above the screen is an electronic viewfinder with some of the highest-end specification you'll find in any EVF. It's large to the eye, and despite being a digital OLED display, it's got a fast refresh rate option (to 120Hz) which really helps negate some of the 'stutter' in motion that some EVFs can suffer. It'll eat away at battery life a bit more as a result, but it's worth it, we think, for that altogether more traditional feeling in use.

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To the side of the camera is the card slot, which easily pops open, revealing slots for both SD and CFexpress. The latter, while supremely fast and therefore useful for burst shooting at full resolution and high-end video capture, is also supremely expensive - so don't forget to factor in a card purchase and card reader if it's the slot you're interested in utilising.

Performance

  • Autofocus: Dual Pixel CMOS AF II
    • Face & tracking, single point, multi-point, various zone systems
    • 1053-area in automatic, 5940 points in manual selection
  • 12fps burst shooting (20fps electronic shutter)
    • 350 JPEG / 180 Raw file buffer
  • In-body image stabilisation system (IBIS)
  • Functions to -6EV in low-light
  • 320 shots per battery

It's almost hard to know where to begin with the EOS R5's performance capabilities. It's probably best summarised: this is one super-fast, super-capable camera that rarely to never puts a foot wrong in any regard.

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Starting with the autofocus system, which is available in a whole host of modes: Face Detection + Tracking, Spot, 1-point, Expand area, Expand area: Around, Zone, Large Zone Vertical, Large Zone Horizontal. These cover all eventualities, from pinpoint focus in a specific selected area, to wide-open zones/areas where automatic focus can better handle moving subjects through a scene.

Of the lot, however, it's the Face Detection + Tracking option that's the most impressive. It's got a whole bunch of features quietly baked-in, from the human head tracking, to animal and bird detection, which can really assist in getting an always-in-focus shot without needing to adapt the settings manually.

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Furthermore the autofocus system works really well in low-light conditions, too, as we found when shooting at five-figure high ISO sensitivity in a dimly lit pub one evening. It'll capture contrast difference right down to -6EV, so there needn't be more than candle light for focus to be plausible. Impressive.

Then there's the in-body stabilisation system, a rarity among Canon EOS cameras. Indeed, the R5 is the first to feature this system, alongside the R6. Canon says it's good for up to eight stops, depending on the lens you're using, which is a massive amount of anti-handshake assistance. It can make all the difference in getting that extra sharp shot, which is particularly important with a full-frame sensor's scale and resolution as high as this.

If you need to shoot moving subjects at pace that's no problem for this system, plus there's a 12 frames per second burst mode, increasing to 20fps if you use the electronic shutter version. That's super quick, to a pro-spec level, ensuring nothing will go amiss.

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Use all of this heavily, however, and the battery life dwindles pretty quickly. We captured around 280 shots before it called time, fortunately it's easy to carry spares and the dedicated battery bay to the base of the camera is easily accessible.

Image Quality

  • 45-megapixel full-frame sensor, Digic X processor
  • 8K 12-bit raw video (24/25/30fps)
  • 4K/120fps video (4:2:2 10-bit)
  • ISO 100-51,200 sensitivity

Swapping our day-to-day camera for the EOS R5 has been transformative for capturing images - most of which has been product photography for Pocket-lint's reviews.

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The first benefit of the R5 is that full-frame sensor. Its large scale really helps to enhance background blur, while the f/2.8 lens we've been using gives more depth of field control of this too. Having melt-away backgrounds in shots really elevates their look.

Then there's the resolution and resulting detail. Canon isn't mucking about when it comes to this all-new sensor, that's for sure. There's 45-megapixels to play with - about double that of the EOS R6 - presenting massive scale that's easy to resize or crop into without needing to worry much about limitations.

Beyond the resolution it's the clarity that's particularly phenomenal, with even higher ISO sensitivity selections proving just how adept that stabilisation system and image processing is overall. Handheld capture at ISO 12,800, for example, looks like anything but - most image noise is held back, delivering only a subtle grain if you're looking up close.

If anything this is Canon's best sensor for handling resolution, resolving detail, and offering expansive dynamic range. So if you've been pondering upgrading from, well, any other Canon camera then the R5 won't let you down - especially if you've got the better of the RF lenses to go along with it.

From stills to video, the R5 is really adept when it comes to moving image capture too. The ability to shoot 4K at 120fps or 8K at 24/25/30fps is impressive - but don't let the figures sweep you off your feet just yet, as there are overheating issues when saving to card within the camera, which will limit some of those upper resolution options.

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If you thought the 29min59sec threshold was irksome, we wouldn't worry, you'll end up 10 minutes shy of reaching that anyway - and then will have to twiddle your thumbs while the camera comes back down to functioning temperatures (before it all happens over again). So if you want to see the R5 as a pro-spec video camera rig then you'll need some additional kit, really, in order to capture off-camera.

Verdict

So does throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the specification work? Largely, yes, as the Canon EOS R5 is an absolute powerhouse that's formidable when it comes to image quality, autofocus, stabilisation and overall speed. The articulating screen and top-drawer electronic viewfinder are great too.

There are some hiccups as a result of such power though: the 4K and 8K video capture modes, while clearly impressive from a technical standpoint, will reach overheating issues if you're hoping to capture long scenes onto the cards in-camera. The body-only asking price is also much higher than the lower-res EOS R6 primarily as a result of the 45-megapixel sensor here. Oh, and battery life isn't especially astounding either.

All said, though, the Canon EOS R5 is a massive step forward for the R series, cementing the RF mount full-frame camera as the go-to purchase in this line-up. And as Canon's DSLR line-up quietly sails off into the night, it's great to see better-than equivalents appear in this newer mirrorless market. You're in safe hands, people, Canon absolutely knows what it's doing - but, there again, so does Sony, so if you're not steadfast in brand allegiance then the competition can't be ignored either.

Also consider

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Canon EOS R6

Don't need quite such resolution or the high-end video capture stuff? The R6 is far cheaper, which makes it more accessible.

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Sony A1

Looking for even more? The A1 is faster and even pricier, but there's little that can compete with its sheer power.

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Writing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 18 October 2021.