When I upgraded to a Canon EOS R5 last year, I knew it was going to be an excellent camera and quite a step up from my DSLR, but I was completely unprepared for just how monumental a leap forward it would be. As companies continue to push the technological boundaries and announce new mirrorless options, here are five reasons why the R5 is still king in 2022.
1. Autofocus Animal
It’s no secret that the autofocus system in Canon’s new mirrorless cameras is one of the best on the market. But it’s hard to describe how good the system is until one experiences it firsthand. Out of the box, the autofocus is almost flawless, and after spending time some time tweaking the settings, it becomes near perfect. This holds whether using the camera in still or video mode, and it has revolutionized the way I think about autofocus and the way I shoot. As a headshot and portrait photographer, knowing that the camera will nail the focus every time, especially with the added benefit of eye-tracking, has been extremely liberating. In hindsight, I didn’t realize how much time and energy I spent worrying about focus with my older camera, and I have found my compositions are easier to accomplish and more creative because this barrier has been removed. The same principle holds whether in or out of my studio and also using video. As I use the camera more, my confidence in the autofocus grows too.
2. An EVF and LCD to Love
Without getting into the debate over the viability of DSLRs, let me just say that I was skeptical when the EOS R was launched a few years back, and as a life-long Canon DSLR and SLR shooter, the whole idea did not interest me. The smaller size of the camera coupled with the idea of abandoning my optical viewfinder made me wait to see what else Canon had up their sleeves. And I am glad that I waited.
The R5, within the first hour of using it, made me a believer not only in mirrorless cameras but in EVFs and LCDs. Regarding the LCD, I intuitively started to use the touchscreen for everything from menu selections, to autofocus point selection, to composition, and review. The LCD on my DSLR, on the other hand, was only a review screen, but on the R5, it’s become an important part of my process. The touch response works well, and navigating the menus and other options has become much easier.
Although the LCD is great, it’s the EVF that has impressed me the most. I initially dreaded the idea of an EVF since most of my work is done in the studio. I thought the EVF would not be as good as an optical viewfinder in a situation where I didn’t want an exposure preview, and boy, was I wrong! The EVF is so good that I forget I’m looking at a screen. Just as with the LCD screen, the EVF has not hindered me in any way and has also improved my workflow.
A silly portrait of my son taken with the Canon R5 and EF 50mm f/1.4 lens. 3. Flawless Ergonomics and Operation
Having tried an EOS R about a year ago, I didn’t like the camera for several reasons, but mostly for the ergonomics and changes in the dials from Canon’s previous cameras. The omission of the multi-controller and the smaller size of the camera were the biggest turnoffs for me. I initially thought the R5 would be ergonomically similar to the EOS R, which was another reason I waited to upgrade. Once again, I was glad to be wrong. The ergonomics of the R5 are near perfect, especially if you are coming from a Canon DSLR. It’s a bit smaller than my 5D Mark III, but most of the removed bulk is where the prism would be, which means the body is about the same size. The grip and build quality are top-notch and an improvement over the 5D series cameras.
The R5’s excellent ergonomics combine with an intuitive button and menu layout to create a camera that is almost flawless in operation. Every button and dial has been thoughtfully placed in such a way that it makes using the camera easy and truly enjoyable. The high customizability of the dials and menus also add to what can only be described as a near-perfect user experience. The menus are straightforward, something Canon has been known for, and although there are a few small quirks to the menu and dial operation, as a tool for a professional, the operation of the R5 can’t be beaten.
4. Tons of Great Lens Options
It’s so easy for us as photographers to get lost in the weeds of tech details when discussing our favorite gear, but at the end of the day, it’s all about image quality. And, this is where the R5 truly shines.
Although I have owned the R5 for about six months, I have not purchased an R series lens as of the writing of this article. Initially, my decision was based on cost, but I quickly realized that my EF lenses work quite flawlessly on the new body. All of my impressions mentioned above regarding the autofocus have been made using older EF lenses, primarily a 50mm f/1.4, 70-200mm f/2.8 (non IS version), and 24mm f/1.4. When Canon announced a new lens mount, I was upset like many others at the thought of having to purchase an entirely new series of lenses. Initially, I felt like the EF lens adaptor would be a band-aid until people migrated to the new lenses, but again, I was wrong. My EF lenses perform much better than they did on my 5D Mark III, and although I will eventually upgrade them, I see no drawbacks to using older lenses for the foreseeable future. Plus, the fact that Canon took care to make sure legacy lenses not only work but work well on the new system impresses me on many levels.
5. Quality, Quality, Quality
At the end of the day, it’s all about image quality. And this is where the R5 truly shines. The 45-megapixel sensor provides a ton of detail, excellent performance at high ISOs, and accurate color rendition. Check out the straight-out-of-camera image of Brandon above taken with the R5 and a 50mm f/1.4 lens, using an LED daylight panel as fill, and two LED light sticks in a split pattern. The color transitions and skin tones look great even without editing.
There are many other reasons to love the R5, but if I listed them all this would be a very long article! I would like to add one final thought about the R5: Although I think it would be silly to say that a camera can make one a better photographer, I will say that the R5 has reduced some of the barriers that stood between me and capturing images, allowing me to concentrate on my subject and artistic vision in a greater way while making the process a lot of fun. And until it is dethroned by another Canon camera or a model from another brand, in my book, the EOS R5 is still king.