image stabilization, dynamic range, frame rate, touch screen all there

Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera Review

Check out this real-world Canon EOS R review by a professional photography who puts it through its paces. Should you buy this camera in 2023?!

When Sony announced the first iteration of the a7 in 2013, not many photographers thought much of it. Now, it seems as if nearly all of my colleagues are jumping ship from Canon & Nikon to Sony.

So where does that leave me, having been a Canon user for nearly 10 years now? I enjoy the 5D Mark IV. I love its size, dual-pixel autofocus and for the most part, it does a good job of keeping up with my editorial approach to weddings.

However, with Sony forcing Canon’s hand, its inevitable that we’ll all one day be shooting mirrorless. The electronic viewfinder has its advantages over the optical, but Canon’s go at their first full-frame mirrorless, the EOS R, falls short in many areas.

In short, when shooting with the Canon EOS R, your ability to hit focus and nail exposure increases dramatically over any dSLR I’ve ever shot with.

However, due to its finicky controls, odd ergonomics and laggy interface, you’ll miss moments, because the camera just can’t keep up.

It’s the Toyota Prius of electric cars. It does some things well, but Sony’s current a7 models are more like a Tesla in comparison – check the Canon EOS

Canon EOS R Review Summary

The Canon EOS R has its fair share of both pros and cons. The EVF is great, the autofocus is excellent, and the customisation options are powerful and plentiful. On the downside, the ergonomics leave a bit to be desired, and the single card slot may be a deal-breaker for some.

Canon EOS R | The Pros

Canon EOS R

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  • Incredible AF performance
  • Excellent EVF
  • Good image quality
  • Solid build
  • Single card slot
  • Cumbersome LCD
  • Subpar ergonomics


Ever since the 5D Mark IV arrived with its dual-pixel autofocus, I’ve found myself shooting from the rear LCD more often than not. I hate feeling like a tourist at the Grand Canyon, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make in exchange for knowing my pictures will be in focus.

The Canon EOS R gives you that same increased hit rate without looking like Aunt Sally trying to use a dSLR for the first time.

If I had to take an educated guess, my hit rate using an SLR over the past 4 to 6 years would be anywhere from 40 to 60 percent. This includes everything from dimly lit prep photos all the way to bodies moving on the dance floor.

The hit rate of any camera in good light during a portrait session will be much higher.

In my past two months with the Canon EOS R, my hit rate is near 90 percent. While the powerhouse pro bodies are still slightly quicker for initial focus lock in servo, the EOS R has a better chance of delivering more pictures in focus from the set. This is a great improvement in Focus Point Coverage

Gone are the days of being locked into a few dozen AF points clustered in the middle of your frame. The AF selection coverage, 88% horizontal and 100% vertical, is mind-blowing compared to an SLR.

You’ll spend less time cropping in post, which is a huge bonus.

EVF & Exposure

Gone are the days of completely blowing an exposure. As is the case with any mirrorless, what you see in the EVF is what you get.

The EVF in the Canon EOS R is great. The technical specs are one thing, but moving from an optical viewfinder to the EVF in the EOS R isn’t an issue.

The refresh rate is fast and the resolution is crisp. I did notice some odd lag when using IS lenses at slower shutter speeds. At 1/50th or faster, it is a non-issue.

Canon EOS R | The Cons

Flip screen on the Canon EOS R

Flip screen on the Canon EOS R

Flip-Out Screen

Ever since Nikon put the tilt screen on the D750, I’ve been eagerly waiting for Canon to follow suit. I cringed when I heard Canon might go with the flip-out approach, and unfortunately my fears where confirmed.

The flip out LCD is cumbersome. In order to achieve tilt functionality, the LCD must be folded out to the side and then rotated 180 degrees.

Even more annoying is how the LCD is now hanging out to the left of the camera.

[Editor’s Comment: it should be mentioned that the Canon EOS R is the first full frame camera to offer a front-facing screen, so this will no doubt please vloggers in particular.)

Single Memory Card Slot

When Nikon released the specs of their Z6 and Z7, people lost their minds over the single memory card slot. Canon took slightly less flak when announcing the same news, but the fact remains that a single memory card slot is unacceptable.

[Related: Nikon Z7 Review]

The only UHS II cards I have are a few Lexar Professional 128GB 2000x. Using the camera during a shoot, it gave me a recording error, requiring a reboot. I lost the last 30 photos I had just shot. Tony Northrup had a similar experience with the same model memory cards.

Many have advocated using two cameras or swapping memory cards during a shoot to minimize card failure, but it’s frustrating that Canon took two steps back during their first step forward.

I’ve been shooting dual memory cards ever since upgrading from the 5D Mark II. For me, dual card slots is the equivalent of having a second body, just in case my first body fails.


The ergonomics and button layout on the Canon EOS R are a step backwards as well. I miss the thumb scroll wheel, my top ISO button and the Play and Menu buttons on the left side of the LCD.

Some might say the touch screen suffices, but muscle memory and touch screens don’t work out all that well.

There are many other odd choices made by Canon regarding functionality.

The camera’s forward and backward touch pad was a weak attempt at trying to replace the scroll wheel. It just doesn’t work as quickly or as reliably.

Using back-button focus, your thumb will activate the forward button far too often. It either needs to be further away from the AF ON button, or require an actual button press.

Canon EOS R | What Needs Work

Portrait shot with the Canon EOS R

Canon EOS R + Canon 135mm f/2 | 1/400 at f/2 ISO 100

Touch screen AF point selection

When using the EVF, you can very quickly move your AF point from one side of the screen to the other using your thumb and dragging it across the rear LCD. While it takes some getting used to, it’s much faster than using a rocker or directional pad to navigate the AF points.

At first, the imprecision of this method bothered me, but I thoroughly enjoy the speed of moving my box. This still needs tweaking, but is a feature I’d love to see on every camera moving forward.

The Lenses

While this review is focused around the Canon EOS R itself, the EOS RF lens lineup is one of its biggest advantages. Canon has been killing it lately with sharp, contrast-y lenses that resolve pictures beautifully. The newly released EOS RF 28-70mm f/2 might be the perfect lens for our kit one day.

Canon isn’t rushing lenses to the market just to cover certain focal ranges. They’re releasing quality glass a lot faster than I ever expected. I still need to see the primes (24, 35, 85 and 135mm) made in native RF mounts before I’ll ever fully commit to the EOS R lineup.

Focus Ring

The focus ring makes up for some of the odd button placements on the camera. You can set it to just about anything you’d like, but I went back and forth between having it adjust ISO and aperture. My hand is always there, and it quickly became second nature.

I would like to see the size and placement standardized across all lenses moving forward.


Canon EOS R + Canon 35mm f/1.4 II | 1/1250 at f/1.4 ISO 100

Servo Performance & Burst Speed

I’ve never been a high burst kind of guy. I don’t shoot hundreds of pictures of herons catching fish, so the slower burst speed in servo mode doesn’t bother me. That said, I’m not a fan of the changing rates between single shot versus servo.

I’d like to see the camera perform the same way in both modes.

Button Customization

More than any other Canon SLR that I’ve used, the customizability of the EOS R is great. I don’t shoot video, so I can change the record button to switch from one shot to servo. I can set the illumination button to zoom in on an image while reviewing it in the EVF.

I love being able customize the buttons. I wish they would stop labeling buttons altogether.

Image Quality

Canon made progress with its sensors in the 5D Mark IV and 1DX MKII. The dynamic range and ISO performance were finally on par with other similarly priced cameras. The Canon EOS R is virtually identical in how it processes images to the 5D Mark IV, which I’m fine with.

However, being slightly newer, it would have been nice if they had pushed it even further. It’s not really a complaint, but more like wishful thinking.

Everyone has their opinions on which sensor looks the best, but we can all be thankful the photos look nothing like the 5D Mark III.

Canon EOS R Review | Conclusion

Night photo with the Canon EOS R

Canon EOS R + Canon 35mm f/1.4 II | 1/200 at f/18 ISO 100

The Canon EOS R is the first step in the right direction, but it’s so far behind Sony that I wouldn’t recommend it to another professional photographer.

Nikon and Canon’s top of the line dSLRs are still plenty capable for the time being. If you’ve been bitten by the mirrorless bug and can’t shake it, my choice would be the Sony A7 III or Sony A9. Sony went all-in a few years ago and its paying off for them – check this Canon EOS R vs Sony a7 iii comparison for more on that.

With its single card slot and unpredictable lag, I wouldn’t shoot with the EOS R when a client is depending on you to make the picture.

I’m confident in saying that the EOS R will give you more properly exposed and in-focus pictures than say the 5D Mark IV, but it also poses the risk of completely missing the picture all together.

Canon didn’t knock it out of the ballpark with the EOS R, but maybe that was their intention all along. Their EOS bodies and EF lenses are still in production, so the can completely kill that lineup until they know full well that the EOS R system is ready to full adopt by professional photographers.

They’ve also priced this camera accordingly. You’ll get the same image quality and a better focusing system than the 5D Mark IV, but we just wish it worked as well as it should.

My hope is that 2023 brings a more well-rounded Canon EOS R body that I can eventually migrate to. If not this year, I may be jumping ship to Sony along with everyone else come 2020.

Build Quality7
Ergonomics and Handling5
Viewfinder and Screen Quality9
Metering and Focus9
ISO Performance7
Image Quality8


  1. Laura L on March 8, 2021 at 6:33 am

    Great read, I’m looking at trying to purchase a camera to photography my artwork, oil paintings. I’d like to be able to use the camera for traveling as well so on the compact side. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  2. Dazed and Confused on December 18, 2020 at 5:39 am

    Gosh after reading this and all the reviews, I thought I was finally set on leaning toward the mirrorless, because, yeah it’s the future…..But there’s too many IFs and reasons to hold off, than there is for me now to feel excited enough to rush out and buy one today. I’ve got a crop sensor Canon T3i. I am not a beginner, but I am definitely not a pro. I’ve always wanted a FF camera. And now that I have the option to be able to get one, and researching more, I feel like a yo-yo. Should I? Shouldn’t I? and which one. I always wanted the Canon Mark IV. Not for any reason other than I know its a great camera and my own wedding photographer and any other professional I’ve seen at events etc has that wonderful camera I so wished to have. Then there’s the future of cameras being mirrorless and DSLR is dead….so I’m told.

    I feel like I should stay with midrange Canon and continue to be able to use my current lenses with an adapter…..and then again, I am also leaning toward that Sony a7iii because as for price range, it’s not that much of a difference and it appears to me by everything I’ve read, that Sony in this case is was better overall. But then I’d have to get all new or at least a few lenses to start and that brings up the price. Then I think, I’ve waited this long, maybe I should wait a bit longer. I am told I should get the RP. Not sure why. It has no image stabilization which would seem a rather important factor. And if I get a mirrorless, I should just get the R or the Sony. By the time I decide, may be another year or so and then I’ll have even more options to consider to throw into the mix. So, what to do? Is there ever going to be that perfectly right camera?

    • Deborah on September 22, 2021 at 6:13 am

      I swear I feel like I wrote this myself. I had to do a double check. I’m in the same exact boat and well, here we are going into 2022 and I myself still have not upgraded from my own T3i. Th R5 and R6 are out and now the R3. All, a bit out of my price range unless I just want to take that huge plunge. Not sure if ready for that. Did you ever decide which camera to get? If so, what did you go with and why? How did you finally make your decision? Also, what do you shoot? Landscape? Weddings? Family?

  3. Megan Gant on July 22, 2020 at 3:33 pm

    Thank you for this honest review of the EOS R, I’m eagerly awaiting a review on the R5 and the R6 as I plan to sell my second body and use the mirrorless as my backup/second camera while I get used to the difference. I personally was hoping for an EOS R body that was kind of in between the 5 and 6 as I love the 5’s photographic capabilities, but I really have no need for 8k video shooting, and the 6’s megapixels are just a bit of a let down. I’m glad they have brought the thumb scroll dial back at least!

    • Mark Condon on July 23, 2020 at 11:57 am

      We’ll be putting the R5 and R6 through their paces soon, Megan!

      • Christopher James Hall on January 22, 2021 at 5:14 pm

        I have been using my EOS R for a couple of years now (not so much over the last year unfortunately due to lockdown). I also have the 5DIII.

        The EOS R is a great camera but it is more suited towards studio work where I can link it to my pc (solves the 1 card slot issue).

        I will be getting a second 5DIII for my out of the studio work.


  4. steve on May 6, 2020 at 6:09 am

    Swapped the 6dii for eos r and never looke dback for video and photo, sent sony a7iii back after a day, focus was shocking and eosr amazing

  5. Zanfirescu Cezar on February 18, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    Hello! How about the wedding photo session ? Or wedding reception ? Did u use eos r for weddding ? Af is fast enough, reliable? You have enough out of focus shots ? Or is better than mk4? How about iso for wedding ? I use 6d with primes in church and rise iso up to 3200-4000 if I needed without any problems, the photos are cristal clear after Lightroom edit . With eos e how high you can go Without any problems ?
    Thank you .

    • Trent Gillespie on February 19, 2020 at 5:10 am

      The EOS R does very well with auto focus. I found it to be more reliable than the 5D Mark IV when using the view finder. Canon nailed the AF with its new Dual Pixel Auto Focus feature. ISO is in line with other pro bodies. Not the leader, but we use ISO 6400 all the time. Occasionally we’ll move up to 12800 on our Mark IV. I don’t have much experience with the EOS R at that high.

  6. Barry M. Pressman on December 11, 2019 at 9:05 am

    I have the EOS-R for about a year and wish I never had traded in my 5D iv for this body. My main concern is that it is almost incapable of shooting birds in flight with the Canon 100-400 v2 lens. It misses the bird over 90% of the time. Unless you can pre-focus on the distance the bird will be before you, the camera blurs out, hunting and missing focus.
    I never had this problem with the 5D 1v. I wish that Canon would buy my EOS-R back from me.

  7. Boris on November 3, 2019 at 12:23 am

    “we can all be thankful the photos look nothing like the 5D Mark III”
    I think you mean MK II, the MK III and MKIV are very similar IMO

    • TRENT GILLESPIE on November 4, 2019 at 3:01 am

      The 5D Mark III and IV are quite different. While the 5D IV files are ‘flatter’, they have much more dynamic range. When boosting the shadows on a 5D Mark IV, you don’t get the purple fringing that shows up in 5D III files. The 5D III RAW is quite a bit more contrasty and vibrant from the get go.

  8. DAVID LONGSTAFFE on October 3, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    I am a bit concerned that we are even reading a review of a pro photographer that has a AF hit rate of 40-60% ? Then you go onto state about lag in this and that. I would strongly suggest that you slow down, shoot less and concentrate on image quality over speed and quantity. Your clients will remember the colours by far more than your gear, Canon has THE BEST COLOUR SCIENCE. Its AF has been the best for years going back to the 5D and 1Ds MKIII, its colour is amazing and I moved from shooting fashion and commercial stills to TV & Cinema film and the 5DIV with C100MKII output to Atomos HDMI with Clog is amazing. I am on the edge of buying and EOS R for its Clog and 4k via HDMI and the 4k 422 colour is closer to the RED systems.

    All this to one side, I have Pro shot on Canon since 2006 and their entire system of bodies, grips and lenses knock everybody out of the park, photographers are too picky and constantly comparing their kit to others. Get married, stay married and stop looking over the fence. If for whatever reason I had to return back to stills and film in Weddings, Fashion and Commercial then its Canon Canon Canon. Not to mention that I also run a lansdcape gallery and sell images from 36 inch to 30 ft and all shot on Canon 5D / 1Ds MKIII / 5D III / 5D IV.

    If I have 5 out of focus images in 500 i am worried about my skills not my gear because canon will always be faster and more accurate than you.

    • TRENT GILLESPIE on October 4, 2019 at 12:33 am

      Thanks for the comments. I should have prefaced that the 40-60% hit rate is in part due to our editorial approach to wedding photography. We shoot actual moments all throughout the day. Not “Can you please come stand in front of this window and hug your mother.” We also shoot several thousand dancing photos at the reception, all in dark spaces. From the sounds of it, you have a hit rate of 100%. You either have a different level of acceptable sharpness or shoot entirely different than we do. If you would like examples, let me know.

      Many lifelong Canon users will argue that Canon AF is great, but ask anyone who has shot Nikon & Canon, they’ll tell you that Canon AF has been behind for years, especially in the 5D series. In comparing the 5D Mark III to the Nikon D750, the AF isn’t even close. The 5D IV has the rock solid dual pixel AF in liveview, but still lacks the 800 series in optical VF AF.

      We have shot Canon for going on 12 years now as well. There has always been shinier cameras, but as you mentioned, the Canon ecosystem has been great. However, in the mirrorless game currently, Canon is severely behind Sony.

  9. Jeff Allen on May 8, 2019 at 3:31 am

    Four months of shooting with the EOS R and I have a love / hate relationship with it. I will outline the bad first. Touch Bar, I really cannot get used to it, its now disabled. Lag in viewfinder between taking shots, very annoying (would be useless for sport or action). Back button focus needs to be further to the left. Touch Screen, disabled drag & touch as your nose activates it when looking through finder.
    Good. Pictures just like excellent 5D MKIV, expanded AF points, now updated firmware (April 2019) eye tracking works really well. Nice balanced weight, flip out viewfinder (yes I like it). Silent mode, exposure simulation (except when shooting in the studio with strobes in low light, disable it whilst shooting or everything will be black).

    A single card slot has not bothered me, Ive used a Canon 6D, 6D MKII for years and never had a card problem. If it was that critical I would use my 5DS. The RF 24-105mm f4L IS USM is worthy of a mention its so much better than the EF versions optically and actually makes a great portrait lens.

    The Canon 6D MKII and the 5DS are more intuitive to use Ive struggled to get used to the EOR R and Im still in two minds about it from an ergonomics point of view. However its the future direction and you really notice the weight difference.

    • Steve Ealy (EOS R Owner) on May 17, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      Hi Jeff,

      To Elaborate on this point:

      “Lag in viewfinder between taking shots, very annoying”

      Do you use a cheaper UHS-I SD Card (the cheap $20-50 ones) or do you have a 300x UHS-II one (300mb/s)?
      I ask because I have the same camera and its my only annoying issue, but I wonder if its the buffering we are seeing and not a physical delay by the EVF.

      • Scott on November 6, 2019 at 8:58 am

        I bought the EOS-R when it first released at $2300. My opinions sounded just like Jeff Allen’s above. I loved the shape, the feel, the wieght. I hated the touch bar. I missed the joystick and thumb wheel. But it was mirrorless – the future – right? I couldn’t love the controls. And I really disliked the shutter “click”, I’ll call it. You push the button, the click comes at the end of the of the exposure, not the start. So for slower shutter speeds, I really missed that audible sound that I was taking a photo. After a few months, I sold the thing and fell back to the 6D II. The price came down to $1999 and I gave the EOS-R another shot. After 2 weeks I sent it back because I still couldn’t love it. But now… it’s down another $200 and it’s back on my mind. It’s mirrorless…. the future, right? I’m so confused.

        • Dillan K on February 8, 2020 at 4:55 am

          Why didn’t you just turn on the beep? Shutters tend to close at the end of an exposure, rather than the beginning. What can you do?

          • Chris F on February 9, 2020 at 4:11 pm

            Mirrors make noise when the flip up out of the way when the exposure starts. That’s what Scott is referring to. Technically, you can turn a click on (full mechanical shutter), but it will delay the start of the exposure a split second.

  10. Thomas Macioszek on April 23, 2019 at 3:20 am

    Hello, thank you for this article. I just purchased the EOS-R and am awaiting it’s delivery. Just wanted to comment that the Canon 6D mark II (which I also own) also has a flip screen that can be viewed from the front. You incorrectly stated that the EOS-R is the first full frame Canon to do this.

    • Mark Condon on April 23, 2019 at 4:49 am

      Maybe he meant to say, first Canon full frame mirrorless that’s able to do that!

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