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Hands on: Canon EOS R5 review

Small body, ridiculous power

What is a hands on review?
Canon EOS R5
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The Canon EOS R5 is shaping up to be the game-changing mirrorless camera we hoped it would be. A true hybrid that's just as powerful for video as for stills, it will be a seriously tempting option for everyone from landscape shooters to pro videographers. If the image quality and IBIS performance matches its early promise, it'll be a flagship camera with few compromises – apart from that price tag.

For

  • Tried and tested form factor
  • Strong set of video features
  • Improved battery life
  • Promising IBIS system

Against

  • Not cheap
  • Dual memory cards will require investment
  • Recording limits for video shooting

Update: Our Canon EOS R5 hands-on review has been updated to reflect the fact that the camera is now available to buy. Here are our impressions of the camera so far. 

The Canon EOS R5 is a supercomputer buried in the body of a full-frame mirrorless camera that's the size of last year’s Canon EOS R – you can pretty much close your eyes and stab your finger on the EOS R5's spec sheet for its most impressive ability.

At 45MP, it’s the highest-resolution camera on Canon’s books except for the EOS 5DS from 2015. It shoots full-resolution stills at up to 20fps using the electronic shutter, or 12fps using the mechanical shutter, for up to 350 JPEGs or 180 raw files.

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Along with its more affordable Canon EOS R6 sibling, it’s also the first Canon camera to offer in-body image stabilization, across all five axes. 

Use it with compatible, stabilized lenses – or even ones with no built-in IS, like the RF 28-70mm f/2 – and Canon claims you can get a frankly silly eight stops of stabilization. Couple that to its maximum ISO of 102,400, and it’s a camera that promises great things in virtually any lighting situation. 

Of course, since its hugely hyped launch the Canon EOS R5 has been taken down a peg or two by criticism of its practicality as a professional video workhorse. In particular, the long 'cool down' periods it needs when shooting lengthy clips in high-quality 4K, which can make it toastier than us during a mid-summer Ironman. 

We're in the process of testing the camera and will reveal our findings soon, but in the meantime we've included Canon's quoted recording figures below in the 'specs and features' section to give you an idea of whether it's the right camera for you.

Leaving overheating debates aside, what's the Canon EOS R5 actually like to hold and use? We've been playing with a pre-production model to find out.

Canon EOS R5 release date and price

The Canon EOS R5 was released on July 30 with a body-only launch price of $3,899 / £4,199 / AU$6,899.

Right now, it's extremely difficult to find EOS R5 in stock. The first wave of cameras are on their way to those who were quick off the mark with pre-orders, and Canon UK recently told us that "unprecedented demand is exceeding supply at present and we are working to fulfill back orders as soon as we can."

That said, you can still put in a pre-order at retailers like B&H Photo in the US, Wex or Park Cameras in the UK or Camera House in Australia, where you can get it for as low as AU$6,548. 

Just bear in mind that you could be in for a little wait for your EOS R5. Canon has debunked rumors that it'll be delaying shipment of the next batch of cameras to investigate overheating issues, but naturally delays are possible – Canon Australia told us "we are simply working in the parameters of a supply chain affected by the global pandemic.”

Of course, that price tag is a big investment, particularly during a global pandemic. But it's in the ballpark of its nearest rivals. It's only a shade more than the lower-resolution, 4K-only Sony A9 Mark II and the newly announced Sony A7S III in most regions. It's also very much in the region of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV's original pricing, which started at $3,499 / £3,599 / AU$5,060 when it launched in 2016.

Is the Canon EOS R5 expensive? Yes. Unjustifiably so? Probably not...

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Design and handling

Design-wise, we’re not looking at a game-changer with the Canon EOS R5. But given the usability of the Canon EOS R, which it's heavily based on, that’s no bad thing. 

In terms of width and height, the EOS R5 is all-but identical to that latter camera; three mysterious millimeters have been added to its depth, and 70g has been added to its weight. 

Significantly, the EOS R’s touch bar – the touch-sensitive strip on the top-right of the camera – is gone, perhaps testament to its lukewarm reception. In its place is a chunky, knurled joystick for navigating autofocus points and menus, along the lines of the control on Canon’s other high-end cameras. 

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

The superb, touch-sensitive autofocus point controller on the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III is, sadly, absent. But, as on the EOS R, you get a small, high-contrast square display on the top of the camera which shows current shooting information.

The monitor on the back of the EOS R5 shares its specifications with the unit on the EOS R – it’s a 3.15-inch, 2.1MP vari-angle touchscreen – but the electronic viewfinder gets a substantial upgrade. 

It’s the same size, at 0.5 inches, and it's still an OLED, but where the EOS R’s excellent viewfinder had a resolution of 1280 x 960, the EOS R5’s is much more refined, at 1600 x 1200, or 5.69MP. That makes it easier on the eye, and easier to judge whether you’ve caught focus or not without having to resort to the time-consuming practice of using either focus peaking or image magnification to double check.

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

All this performance means the EOS R5 represents a tough task for Canon’s battery technicians, and to that end the R5 has an improved cell compared to the EOS R’s, the LP-E6NH. 

The new unit offers 2,130mAh against the old one’s 1,865mAh, and claimed performance – per CIPA’s famously conservative testing – is up to 490 stills if you frame up using the large touchscreen monitor, or up to 320 shots using the EVF. 

You can pretty much bank on more, although the mantra of all mirrorless photographers (“carry a spare battery, perhaps two”) is unlikely to become redundant anytime soon. Like all mirrorless cameras, the EOS R5 can’t hope to compete with the claimed battery lives of DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, with its up-to-900 frames from a charge. 

On the plus side, you’ll be able to opt for the BG-R10 battery grip, which accommodates a pair of batteries and a set of vertical-orientation controls – and the truly monied can go for the WFT-R10B, which adds a pair of batteries as well as the ability to file images via SFTP, plus a full-size gigabit Ethernet port.

Specs and features

The Canon EOS R5's headline specs are eye-popping: 45MP stills… burst shooting up to 20fps… 8K video. It’s the first R range camera (along with the R6) to include in-body stabilization; use it with the right stabilized lenses and it will offer up to eight stops of compensation. 

As mentioned above, you're also getting a new battery, and it's an improvement over the power pack in Canon EOS R and Canon EOS RP, with the new model offering 17% more capacity than the battery that came with previous RF-mount cameras.

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Flick the mode selector to video and you’re greeted with yet more out-of-this-world performance. 4K, naturally, but up to 120fps, and with the option of shooting raw. 

Or, the headliner: 8K video. Again, the option of shooting raw is there, at 30, 25, 24 or 23.98fps, and at a galactic bitrate of approximately 2,600Mbps. Opting to shoot H.265 files, at the same settings, lowers the bitrate to about 1,300Mbps, while H.264 lowers it further to 300Mbps. 

Of course, these headline figures are only part of the video story, and Canon was forced to subsequently recalibrate expectations a little by publishing estimated recording times for each of the EOS R5's modes. We've included that information in the table below.

Canon EOS R5
Resolution/frame-rateMax recording time at 23°CRecommended scene
8K/30p20 minutes8K productions where full-frame mirrorless can be used alongside a main camera.
4K/120p15 minutesShorter bursts of slow motion.
4K/60p35 minutesHigh frame rate high resolution productions and independent films.
4K/30pNot limited by heatInterviews, longer duration capture such as weddings.
4K/30p (8.2K oversampled)30 minutesWhen additional resolution is required with a 4K30p production.

Perhaps even more significant than these recording times, particularly if you're planning to use the Canon EOS R5 as your main video workhorse, are the 'cool down' recovery times it needs after shooting extended scenes. Most mirrorless video cameras overheat, but not as many need quite as long to recover as the EOS R5.

For example, when shooting 8K/30p, a 10-minute rest will then give you only three minutes of recording time, while letting it cool for an additional 20 minutes will give you an extra eight minutes of recording.

That's fair enough for 8K, a mode that no other mirrorless camera offers, but even if you're shooting 4K/60p on the EOS R5, a 10-minute rest will only give you another 10 minutes of recording time. So for both of the EOS R5's most demanding modes, you're restricted to relatively short bursts. 

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

On the plus side, 8K footage could be a potential godsend for those who master in 4K but want to crop, trim and rotate their footage without losing valuable pixels.

Speaking of autofocus, the R5 offers autofocus points across the full width and height of its full-frame sensor, if you shoot with automatic selection turned on. If you opt for single-point autofocus, you get your choice of 5,940 points in stills mode or 4,500 points in movie mode. 

The EOS R5 uses an upgraded version of Canon’s tried, tested and terrific Dual Pixel autofocus system, and although we’re waiting for the chance to test the camera for a longer period, we’re expecting this to be a camera that will suit sports photographers as well as it does portrait artists. 

You also get face detection, as well as animal recognition for dogs, cats and birds – again, further testing is needed, but it would be surprising if the system was blind to other species.

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Flip open the memory card door and there’s another nod to pros: a pair of slots, one SD slot and one new-fangled CFexpress slot. Professionals who simply can’t abide the thought of shooting to a single card will need to brace themselves, though, because adding a CFexpress card to your stock of storage is currently very expensive, per gigabyte. 

You also get internal 802.11a/b/g/n/AC wireless at Bluetooth 4.2, including the ability to upload to an FTP site via Wi-Fi – handy for news shooters. Those with truly demanding clients can opt for the WFT-R10 wireless transmitter, which includes a pair of battery slots as well as the ability to transmit via SFTP or via the gigabit Ethernet port.

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

Early verdict

Despite the recent overheating headlines and the inevitable flame-themed EOS R5 memes, we remain very excited about the Canon EOS R5 following our time with it so far.

The key thing, perhaps, is to consider the EOS R5 as a stills camera with some nifty video features, rather than the hybrid-to-them-all that can simultaneously please wildlife shooters and pro filmmakers looking for a tiny cinema camera.

Its pure power – whether in its Dual Pixel autofocus system, its straight-line speed of up to 20fps, or video skills – all in a small, lightweight package, make it a dream for amateur photographers, albeit an extremely expensive one.

Perhaps a more likely scenario is seeing the EOS R5 adopted by professionals. Battery life is likely to remain a stumbling block, but the combination of performance and size will pose a significant conundrum to those who previously considered themselves Sony stalwarts.

All that performance is packed into a body weighing just 738g with a battery and card installed. Final image quality is yet to be seen, but it hardly feels like a huge risk to venture that Canon’s impressive legacy when it comes to full-frame, pro-grade DSLRs bodes pretty well.

After years of Sony dominance, the Canon EOS R5 has the potential to blow the market wide open.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.