Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless For Wedding Photographers (vs Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR)

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

– CFexpress
– UHS-II SD

– Mechanical Shutter (12fps)
– Electronic Shutter (20fps)

– Ergonomics and button layout
– Flip vs. Tilt Screen
– Rate/Microphone (Audio Tag)

– 39.3 Megapixels or 44.7 Megapixels
– Improved Dynamic Range
– ISO Performance

first impressions

(UPDATED July 9, 2020) After announcing development of the EOS R5 camera back in February, Canon today unveiled the full specifications of its new flagship mirrorless camera. Pre-orders of the R5 should start shipping by the end of the month. Canon also announced the R6 camera – a lower resolution, but still very capable mirrorless body that will ship in August.

After struggling to gain traction in the mirrorless space, the R5 and R6 are clearly what professionals have been asking for. In the announcement, Canon talked at length how they took feedback from previous mirrorless models (EOS R and RP) and used it to shape decisions on the R5 and R6.

Canon teased us in 2018 with the original EOS R mirrorless announcement. Since then, they’ve announced and released some inspiring lenses with unique features like the control ring. With today’s official announcement, it looks like Canon users will finally be getting the real mirrorless camera we’ve been waiting for.

I have my pre-order in and am looking forward to sharing sample images and an in-depth review in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I wanted to share my thoughts and talk about the features of the EOS R5 and how they’ll affect my work as a wedding photographer. Most of our comparison will be to the 5D Mark IV DSLR, since that’s what we’re using now.

the second card slot

Any discussion of a modern camera for wedding photographers has to start with dual card slots. Unfortunately, with its single card slot the original model R, was a non-starter for wedding photographers. In 2020, no responsible photographer should opt for a camera without two card slots – at least not in the wedding industry where losing images can be a career ending injury. As I explained on a facebook group “I never want to be in front of a judge explaining why I chose a camera with a single card slot, when dual-card slot cameras exist.”

A huge percentage of the negative feedback Canon had to receive on the EOS R centered around the decision to go with a single card slot. If this generation of mirrorless cameras improved on anything, it had to be dual card capable. If Canon said nothing else in their February development announcement, after “the camera will feature dual card slots,” I would have been content.
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“Additionally, the camera will also feature dual-card slots”

CFexpress
I predicted in February that at least one of the card slots would be CFexpress, if only because they needed to support 8K video frame rates. With the newly released 1DX Mark III (and their Cinema products)  using CFexpress cards, it was easy to see this transition coming. CFExpress cards are relatively new, but they actually use the same form factor as XQD (this could be good news for Nikon users, but would require firmware – the 1Dx Mark III currently isn’t backward compatible with XQD). While CFexpress cards are about triple the price of top-tier Compact Flash cards, they’re also crazy fast (up to 1700MB/s read speeds)!

 UHS-II SD
The second card slot is SD with support for UHS-II. While this won’t result in quite such a dramatic speed increase for our workflow, UHS-II cards are about 3x faster than our current SD cards. SD cards and readers are ubiquitious at this point, so I’m okay with two different cards in this case. UHS-1 SD cards are also VERY inexpensive. With a Sandisk Extreme Pro 256GB SD card costing less than $70, we can afford to have enough cards that only format after photos are delivered.

Our current 5D Mark IV workflow requires about 90 minutes of ingest time. Which isn’t bad, considering we’re copying 600-800GB (two sets of cards from each photographer). At the end of a long wedding day, anything that speeds that process up, will be welcome. My estimates show us cutting our total ingest time to ~30 minutes or less with the new faster card standards. Though purchasing new CFexpress and UHS-II SD cards will cost us, I’ll be happy to get things backed up an hour earlier at the end of a long wedding day.

in-body image stabilization (IBIS)

Outside of the second card slot, perhaps the most disappointing feature missing from the original EOS R announcement was in-body image stabilization (IBIS). Konica Minolta first released this technology on a camera in 2004 shortly before they were purchased by Sony. Sony’s been building IBIS into its mirrorless lineup for years. Following the release of the first RF-mount mirrorless, Canon touted the superiority of their lens-based image stabilization. “We feel that in-lens IS is the optimum system for image stabilization,” Canon UK’s product intelligence consultant, David Parry told Digital Camera World.

With the EOS R5, Canon finally appears to have recognized the potential benefit of an in-body solution. Obviously being able to automatically add IS to every non-IS lens we own will be great. But the ability to couple the in-body and in-lens technologies for a potential of up to 8-stops of image stabilization will be huge. Image Stabilization, remember, only helps with camera shake and can’t help with motion blur caused by the subject moving. So don’t expect to magically be able to shoot a couple walking down the aisle at 1/20th of second. But as the megapixel count continues to grow (more about that below), blur from camera shake is increasingly an issue, so getting a little help from IS is certainly a welcome addition.

frame rate

With each iteration of the 5D-series cameras, Canon has improved the frame rate. With the 5D Mark IV shooting at 7fps, it’s nearly as fast as the original 1D series cameras (8fps) I used when working as a photojournalist covering professional sports.

The 5D Mark IV also introduced Dual Pixel Autofocus (DPAF), which is the single most game-changing feature in a camera I’ve ever used. It’s so good that we essentially switched from using the optical viewfinder to using Live View for the entire wedding day – at least until the dancing, where it’s too dark to keep up. Unfortunately, in Live View the frame rate drops to 4.3fps. For much of the day, that’s not a problem. And truthfully, I’ll take 4.3fps at 100% in-focus over 50% in-focus at 7fps. But for certain moments (first look, kiss, walking back down the aisle.) we’ve missed the higher burst speed.

Mechanical Shutter – 12fps
Mechanical shutter mode operates essentially the same as the 5D Mark IV in Live View mode, with its mirror is locked up. A traditional physical shutter mechanism slides open and shut in front of the sensor to make the exposure, as SLRs always have. Barring some other technical advancement, the mechanical shutter will have a faster sync speed, so it’s what we’ll have to use whenever we’re shooting on lights.

The R5 will be capable of continuous shooting at up to 12fps in this mode. That’s the same rate as the original 1Dx. Assuming this handles AI Servo (continuous AF tracking), I can see a lot of photographers shooting A LOT more frames. We’re already shooting 10,000-12,000 images on a wedding day, so I’m really hoping we see some options to set the frame rate manually in the custom functions. That’s a feature currently only an option on the 1-series bodies.

Electronic Shutter – 20fps
Yeah, you’re reading that right. Twenty Frames Per Second. That’s dangerously close to 24fps – which is a common cinema/video format. It’s also the same rate as the flagship 1Dx Mark III. I’ll reserve judgement until I get a chance to really use it, but for weddings this seems like overkill. The 1Dx Mark III also has no way to limit the 20fps in Live View mode – it’s always 20fps. If I have to use it at full speed that would be a real bummer.

The real advantage of the electronic shutter is the silent shooting mode. As documentary photographers, we’re always working to be as unobtrusive as possible – especially during the morning preparations and during the ceremony. The 5D Mark IV has a “silent shutter” mode, but it’s essentially a way to quiet the the mirror box slapping out of the way while the physical shutter still makes noise.

Many mirrorless photographers have learned about “banding” while shooting in silent/electronic shutter mode. Rolling shutter can also be a problem with high action situations causing strange distortions in moving objects. Hopefully, Canon has addressed this. If not, I suspect we’ll see a lot more posts like this with photographers searching for Lightroom fixes that don’t exist.

Buffer Size
Outside of Dual Pixel AF, the biggest difference in going from a 5D Mark III to the Mark IV is the expanded buffer. While the 5D Mark III was borderline unusable (9 frames in most situations), the 5D Mark IV is still not great. I easily ‘buffer out’ shooting first looks and processional/recessional. Given how much processing power it’ll take to handle video at 8K, it would seem like there would have to be a healthy buffer size. Which is promising for shooting at lower fps (as I plan to). 20fps won’t be very useful if you can only use it for a second and a half or something silly.

The other component to buffer size, is how fast the buffer clears. And that’s based on the write speed of the cards. No doubt one of the reasons for the unlimited buffer on the 1Dx Mark III is the insanely fast CFexpress cards. If the second card slot is an SD, that will certainly be a limiting factor.

physical dimensions

Personally, one of the biggest reasons I’ve been apprehensive about the current crop of mirrorless cameras has been their physical size. I started using Canon’s 1-series bodies 15 years ago. I switched to the 5D Mark IV because DPAF with servo tracking (unbelivably) wasn’t available on a 1-series body until last month. And even though I shoot far less than 1% of my pictures vertically, I really can’t operate without a vertical grip.

To me, the 5D body with a grip is the smallest I want to go. I have very small hands (women’s small gloves) but every mirrorless camera I’ve picked up feels (and looks) like a toy. The original EOS R was closer than the Sonys or any other mirrorless in terms of looking like a real camera. But it was still too small for my tastes.  Hover over the image below for size comparison between the EOS 5R Mirrorless and the 5D Mark IV DSLR (desktop only)

Ergonomics and button layout
The EOS R featured a few truly terrible user interface decisions, like removing the rear scroll wheel in favor of something called a Multi Function Touch Bar. Fortunately, it appears Canon is at least listening to professional photographers – the R5 is a huge improvement over the original EOS R and an acknowledgement that smaller isn’t automatically better.

While the EOS R5 looks to still be smaller than the 5D Mark IV, the ergonomics look good. This is the first mirrorless body that looks like a real camera – not a Playstation controller. The buttons look to be spaced properly and should feel relatively familiar to those coming from the 5D Mark IV.

Still, there’s a few things I’m not thrilled about – particularly the missing “AF Area Selection Button” that was new with the 5D Mark IV. I set my C.Fn preferences to allow me to adjust ISO by changing the Main Dial while holding that button. I’m also not happy to see the playback button has moved from the left of the screen – I’ve got 15 years of muscle memory telling me to use my left hand for that function. It also would be nice to see the new Smart Controller built into the AF-On button, like on the 1Dx Mark III.

Flip vs. Tilt Screen
I also would have liked Canon to go from their flip (articulating) screen to the better tilt screen design used by Sony and Nikon. This isn’t a vlogger camera. Flipping the screen to the side makes using the screen while shooting in Live View look even dumber than on our current 5D Mark IV. I suppose it’s better than a completely fixed screen, but barely.

Rate/Microphone (Audio Tag)
The RATE button clearly shows a microphone icon. This would indicate that this would be the first non-1-series body to get audio tagging. This isn’t exactly a wedding feature, but for those of us who crossover and still shoot sports, it’s a REALLY big deal. This is Canon giving pro sports photographers one less reason to buy a 1Dx. It’s both surprising and refreshing.

image quality – sensor

Even after four years, the 5D Mark IV’s 30-megapixel sensor still feels like the sweet spot to me. It offers a good ability to crop and still retain a ton of pixels without causing too much of a problem with workflow and storage. I love that I can shoot a single wedding on a set of 256GB cards without having to worry about switching or needing more cards. Canon’s EOS R5 announcement specifically mentions “a newly designed CMOS sensor and new image processor.”

39.3 Megapixels or 44.7 Megapixels
Canon hasn’t officially listed the resolution, but given the announced 8K video resolution support, we know that the sensor has to be (at least) 7680px wide. Video is 16:9, but remember the full sensor still has to be a 3:2 ratio. Therefore, we can calculate the vertical height to be (at least) 5120. A sensor with those dimensions (7680×5120) is 39.3 megapixels. A 1:1px ratio makes the most sense for processing video. Also 8K at 30P requires almost exactly the same bandwidth as 5.5K at 60P – which is what the newly announced 1Dx Mark III is capable of.

The other 8K standard is 8192px on the long edge, which the RED 8K cinema cameras use. So it’s also possible we could see 8192×5460 which would be a 44.7 megapixel sensor.

CR3 file format and C-RAW (Compressed RAW)
Going from 30 megapixels to 40-45 megapixels would normally result in ~35-50% more data. That means larger memory cards, larger hard drives – and more CPU/GPU processing power required in Lightroom. As image sizes have been expanding, Canon introduced its .CR3 RAW file format in 2018 with the EOS M50, replacing the .CR2 format. I’ve never been a fan of the S-RAW or M-RAW options, as I can’t bring myself to throw away pixels.  While .CR3 RAWs aren’t inherently smaller than .CR2 RAWs, they do enable an option called C-RAW that “lossless-ly” compresses the file, resulting in a ~40% smaller file without any reduction in resolution. That’s pretty impressive.

In some limited research, the C-RAW option looks interesting, especially considering how much smaller the file sizes are. There are no free lunches however, and with aggressive exposure adjustments, artifacting does begin to appear. This usually isn’t noticeable until pushing an image 3+ stops, but that’s something we do fairly often. We do this deliberately in an effort to “hold” the highlights (such as a blue sky when the couple is in shade). We shoot the scene “underexposed” then applying our adjustments in Lightroom to the non-highlight part of the image. We deliberately use the lowest native ISO when doing this to preserve dynamic range. Based on these pushed shadows tests, I don’t think it’s something we’ll be able to use in those scenarios. So hopefully there’s a quick way to toggle it off and on with a custom function.

Improved Dynamic Range
Until we see sample images, we won’t know how much of an improvement we’ll see to dynamic range, but I suspect we’ll see at least a minor improvement compared to the EOS R, which was already a slight improvement compared to the 5D Mark IV. An ISO-invariant sensor would be a HUGE step forward for Canon, but I’m not holding my breath.

ISO Range
Canon hasn’t made any announcement about ISO performance of the EOS 5R. I think it’s safe to expect some improvement over the 5D Mark IV, but it looks like we’ll have to wait until July for the full details. On the 5D Mark IV, I’m totally happy everything up to 1600 ISO – especially with Lightroom’s noise reduction. I have no problem going to 3200 and 6400 ISO for indoor ceremonies or when we really need it. So if we get even a one-stop improvement, that would be great.

pricing & availability

Canon didn’t officially announce a release date or price yet for the EOS R5. CanonRumors is still pointing to a summer/July ship date. They also predicted a price of, wait for it…$3299!

Personally, I think anything under $4,500 will be well received (that’s where Sony’s A9 is). Under $4,000 and it’s a steal – even with the few specs that have been confirmed. At $3,299 they’ll suck all the oxygen out of the room and I think they’ll be scarce into 2021. But honestly, that’s what they have to do. Canon (and even more so Nikon) has been hemorrhaging wedding and portrait photographers to Sony for the past 3+ years, and it’s only getting worse. They have to price this well to stop the bleeding. They’ll get their money back in sales of the new glass. That old EF-mount 50mm f/1.2L  is going to look miserable on a 45megapixel sensor.

When can I see one?
Canon announced that a “preview of the EOS R5 will be on display at the 2020 WPPI Show (February 25-27) in Las Vegas.” We don’t yet know if that means a hands-on demo or if it’ll be a non-functioning display only. If it’s hands-on, we’ll see A LOT more info coming soon.

final thoughts

It’s very good to see Canon stepping up to the plate. Once I used the 5D Mark IV and discovered the power of Dual Pixel AF and Live View, I knew mirrorless was the future. I needed a mirrorless version of the 5D. And while the EOS R5 might not be a perfect 1:1, there’s certainly more than enough positives to make the upgrade a no-brainer. The future of the RF system looks bright (Canon also announced that they’d be releasing seven new lenses plus 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters coming in 2020.) Personally, I’ll be comfortable using my existing glass and the EF-to-RF control ring adapter at first. Once the full lineup of fast L primes (24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm) is available, I’ll go all in. It’ll be an expensive transition, but it’s a cost of doing business.

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