Canon R5 review: a powerful 8K camera that’s not for everyone


As Canon has learned the hard way, innovative products can be criticized as much as they are celebrated. This was certainly the case with the EOS-R5 full-frame mirrorless camera, launched alongside the EOS-R6 to be acclaimed with revolutionary features like 8K video. This praise quickly turned sour, as critics noticed that the tiny body had a tendency to overheat, which reduces the amount of time you can record a video.

Since its launch, however, Canon has introduced the firmware updates which have reduced, but not eliminated, heating problems. Even though the camera was launched some time ago, these have made it a more mature product, while time has allowed the market to better absorb its pros and cons.

Advantages

  • 8K 4K 120p video
  • Fast and precise autofocus
  • Best-in-class image stabilization
  • Great maneuverability
  • Sharp, crisp images

The inconvenients

  • Video overheating issues
  • Micro-HDMI port
  • Aging menu system

What got lost at first was that in addition to its 8K video powers, the EOS R5 is a fast, high-resolution photo shooter. It also offers other innovative features, like powerful in-body stabilization and a much improved autofocus system, which put it on par or ahead of its competition, especially Sony. With all of this and the perspective of time, let’s see how it works.

Video

Canon R5 review: a powerful 8K camera that's not for everyone

Steve Dent / Engadget

I’ll start with the most exciting and controversial part of this camera: the video. The R5 has some extremely powerful video features that few rivals can match, but also some unique issues. The question is, how does all of this affect the average user?

You can record 8K 30p or 4K 120p videos in high quality or even in RAW modes, directly to an internal memory card. It also supports 10-bit recording and S-Log in all modes.

As Canon says, 8K shooting gives you “extra cropping” or “unique angles next to a main camera”. What he does do not say is that the R5 is a good 8K main camera. This is mainly because it still overheats even after firmware updates.

Canon says you can shoot in 8K for 20 minutes straight before the camera turns off, but I’ve found that now can go for longer – over 25-30 minutes before I have to. Stop. And it recovers from overheating faster, so I was able to take photos sooner and longer after it was shut down. When I shot 8K for a few minutes at a time and turned the camera off between shots, I was able to shoot for several hours without any issues.

Shooting in 4K at 120 FPS is limited to just 15 minutes, but again I found I could go up to around 20 minutes on a moderately hot day. Canon says you can shoot 4K at 60 fps for 35 minutes with the full sensor, or 25 minutes using APS-C crop with 5.1K oversampling. Again, I found Canon’s estimates to be conservative, as I could extend for 5-10 minutes.

My biggest concern was the 4K HQ video at 30 fps. This is my preferred mode, as it oversamples the entire sensor to provide the sharpest 4K video. I used it to film myself for my review video and was forced to leave the camera on while I started and stopped recording remotely with a smartphone. During the 90 minute session, the camera stopped several times.

Canon R5 review: a powerful 8K camera that's not for everyone

Steve Dent / Engadget

Most of the delays lasted a short time before I could shoot again, but a few minutes before I finished shooting it went on for a while. I was forced to switch to normal (non HQ) 4K mode to finish filming before sunset.

There are no heating issues when shooting in non-oversampled or cropped APS-C 4K (with 5.1K oversampling) up to 30 fps. If you do this, image quality issues such as moiré are reduced because the R5 has an anti-aliasing filter. Another option is to capture the video to an external recorder from Atomos or Blackmagic Design. If you do this, there is no overheating limitation in 4K modes, including Upsampled HQ.

What does it all mean? Overheating only affects people who continuously shoot 8K or 4K high frame rate videos. It’s also a problem if you’re shooting long interviews in 4K HQ mode and can’t turn the camera off between shots. If you do any of these things, I suggest you get a different camera. If you’re shooting primarily at standard frame rates, with the occasional 8K or 4K slow motion clip, you’ll rarely have to worry about overheating.

On top of all that, there is a lot to like about the R5 for video. Canon’s highly efficient Dual Pixel video autofocus is available in all 8K and 4K recording modes. It’s not as responsive as the AF on the Sony A7S III, but it’s still pretty good. You can count on it to follow your subject, even if it is moving at a good speed. Most importantly, it’s precise and doesn’t try to focus.

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