Updated on November 21, 2023
See also my latest Nikon Z7 II Review for a comparison!
In March 2021 I did it: I bought a new camera, and it wasn’t a Nikon! Not that I never owned other cameras. I’m loyal to my wife, not to my camera gear.
I was looking for a way to reduce weight when hiking. At first I bought a Nikon Z6 II and lenses but wasn’t happy with the focus system and switching between rear display and EVF. While on a hike I missed a good opportunity to shoot low flying eagles because of these two issues. To be fair, I had the “cheap” 24-200mm lens mounted, not some top glass. And I had practically no hands-on experience with that camera. Within a few days I returned the equipment and – after all the recommendations, positive reviews as well as out of curiosity – I jumped to the “other” side: I bought the Canon EOS R5 and an assortment of lenses.
At that time the Canon R5 was the standard remedy for GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). People were drooling all over the specs. Can it be real? 45 MP, incredible focusing system with eye detection for people and animals, 8k video, the list goes on. Outdoor Photographer published a nice positive review of the Canon EOS R5 for wildlife photographers. More relevant to my photography, there is a review for landscape photographers posted on Fstoppers. The reviewer – photographer Adam Karnacz from First Man Photography – uses the same 15-35/f2.8 RF lens I’m referring to below.
The following article is about to bring you down to my reality. I have tried everything to make the Canon R5 and lenses work. I was hesitating to post this review, since none of the known reviewers raised the issues I’m going to bring up here. But before you read on: If you own the Canon EOS R5 and get the results you are looking for, don’t waste your time in reading this – obviously the system works for you!
Note: I consider myself primarily a landscape and travel photographer. It comes from the job. If you are into portraits, for example, what I write below may not apply to you. You still may find some useful information, though.
I own a Nikon D850 with a 45MP sensor. The Nikon reveals more detail than the Canon R5. It doesn’t matter which lens I use on either camera. This may have to do with the anti-aliasing filter on the Canon that can reduce the sharpness.
I’m doing a lot of landscape wide angle shooting and I love detail in the pictures. The Nikon delivers, the Canon often not. The Canon has an IBIS in-body-stabilizer-system and the Nikon doesn’t. The Canon starts at ISO 100, the Nikon at ISO 64. What I’m getting at is that the Canon has all the reasons in the world to come out on top in day-to-day hand-held shooting situations. Yet it doesn’t.
Update November 9, 2021: Just found a report about Canon IBIS causing blurry photos. Have to look into that.
Update January 12, 2022: I tried both with and without IBIS – 2 out of 3 lenses are bad, no matter what IBIS setting I use. (One lens went to repair today.)
Aside from the sensor, the most important part are the lenses. They make or break a photo. I purchased altogether four lenses for my Canon:
Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM
At $500, this is the second cheapest lens I got from Canon. It is also the best performer of all four Canon lenses, by far. As a prime lens, its optical design is more simple and it has less moving parts.
Also on the good side is that I haven’t noticed any chromatic aberration.
In the above photo the sun was in the back, on my right side (you’ll understand this remark when you read on).
Canon delivers the RF 35mm/f1.8 IS Macro STM without a lens hood. There is also no mount to fasten a lens hood! I noticed that fact when I got an aftermarket lens hood for next-to-nothing from you-guess-where and saw the way it had to be mounted. Just remember that Canon charges $41.95 for a plastic ring they call “lens hood”. Who are they kidding?
This prime lens has a completely exposed front glass (it’s probably not a lens, just a protective glass). As long as the sun is behind you, you are fine. Otherwise the sun is likely to hit the front glass with the usual consequences of reducing sharpness and introducing some haze. (I haven’t noticed any flare, though I haven’t given it a try.) Why would a manufacturer be so greedy to not deliver an essential accessory? Is it the $2-$4 Canon saves? Unfortunately other manufacturers are following suit (Nikon). Whoever had this idea should be fired!
Without lens hood, the front glass is fully exposed to accidental touching and knocking into objects. I don’t want to worry about that stuff. It’s a total nuisance as it can easily be avoided altogether!
If you can live with the shortcomings of not getting a lens hood, this lens is great.
Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens
I dropped $1,100 on this lens. This is perhaps the worst lens I ever owned! I know there are sample variations and I had my fair share of grievances with lenses. For example the Tamron 15-30/f2.8. I had to send it in two times to finally get a lens that worked.
However, the difference between the Tamron 15-30/f2.8 (F-mount) and the Canon RF 24-105/f4 is this: The Tamron was able to capture some good photos even when it had issues, the Canon lens never really produces sharp images, at least not at the wide end. It may have to do with a decentered element. You would hope that Canon has some quality control for it’s “L” class lenses? Well, my RF 24-105/f4 is a paper weight.
Below is a photo taken at 24mm. This is as good as it gets with this lens.
At 1800px wide, that is for publishing on the web, this photo is fine. I would not use this lens for any work that needs to be printed large, though. Let’s put it this way: Published at the above resolution, my cellphone takes photos of the same quality.
I’ve added the following recent photo and crops to better illustrate the issue with the 24-105/f4 lens.
Below are two crops from above image, one on the left side and one in the center. The left side is significantly blurred and I can see it even in the above, relatively low resolution of 1800 pixel width.
As you can see, the center is reasonably sharp from close distance to infinity. Although there is not much detail in the mountains, the contour is sharp against the sky. The palm trees on the left are also still OK, although closer inspection reveals that as you reach the left border sharpness drops.
The above crop from the left side of the photo is self-explanatory. At a blur diameter of 30 micro (for 35mm sensors), anything from about 2m-2.5m distance to infinity should be sharp at f7.1. I have tried different f-stops to improve the situation, but it doesn’t matter what I set. The blurriness is repeatable and seems to be related to the lens.
I don’t expect the 24-105/f4 RF to deliver the same sharpness as my 24mm prime lens on the Nikon D850. I bought the lens as a somewhat lightweight travel lens for hiking trips and as a general walk-around lens. As it is, I find it hard to use this lens at all.
Edit December 19, 2022: DXOmark tests for the RF 24-105 f/4 L lens confirm my finding regarding lens sharpness, but their test doesn’t show the “ring of blur” that I get with this and the 15-35 f/2.8 lens. Also note that you better disregard their lens score – it’s meaningless.
Perhaps I could accept the quality if this lens was sold at $300. But the lens is simply not worth the price they charge. Yes, it feels well built. It focuses quickly and reliably. But where is the optical performance?
Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens
Update January 21, 2022: This lens is currently in repair at the local Canon repair facility. I’ve spoken to the head of the department and provided enough photos for him to see the issue. I sincerely hope they will be able to fix it. I will of course report the outcome here.
Update October 4, 2022: The repair center had the lens for 2 weeks but wasn’t able to fix the issue. It seems their equipment wasn’t able to detect the fault, although I had explained that the blur occurs with distant objects (that’s why shooting test charts is ridiculous). The lab, however, also checked my camera and there is no fault with the R5.
At $2,400 this is the most expensive lens in my Canon collection. It’s heavy and feels sturdy and professional. But don’t let the outside appearance distract you. From 15mm-24mm it produces blurry areas in the image, no matter which aperture and focus distance you choose, except for close subjects. At 15mm, about 10-15% of the image is just blurry. Unfortunately it’s not the corners or the edges. It appears somewhere 1/4 into the image. In my sample, the left side is worse than the right.
This blurriness has been described by user Vincent in his 3 star review over at B&H. He wrote that he tried 4 lenses and returned them all.
I got a loaner from the vendor to compare. It had similar issues, though to a lesser degree. In either case the quality is unacceptable. For a $250 lens I may have been content. But not for the price I paid for this lens.
To be fair, the 15-35/f2.8 lens could find use in video and portraiture work, for example with wedding photographers. In those cases, I believe that lens could actually work despite its potential faults. But I wouldn’t buy it unless there is a real need for it, and I would look very hard for better alternatives.
In other words, if you shoot images with people in the front and blurred background, you may be happy with the lens. It focuses quickly and is easy to handle. But for landscapes – forget it!
While I don’t think my lens is suitable for landscape work, I found it performs well at close objects. With close I mean anything within a distance of a few meters (a dozen ft.). There are no issues with photos of walls taken from a distance of 2-3m (6-9 ft). Too bad I’m not a brick wall and test chart photographer.
Below is a photo I took at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. This is just one example. Any photo from that lens at 15mm shows the same or similar results, no matter which aperture or focus distance. The lens only becomes somewhat useful at the 24-35mm range. This is NOT what I bought it for!
The above photo was processed in Lightroom Classic, including some minor perspective correction. Important: The lack of sharpness (blurry regions) shown in the crops below can be seen even without any editing and perspective corrections.
Enlarge the above crop no. 1 to full size. Imagine a diagonal line going from bottom right to top left. Can you see how the sharpness drops approximately along that line, in the right upper side?
Crop no. 2 is pretty blurred, except the wall left to the column. The inscription “ST. XI” is still OK, but the wall to the right of the column looks out of focus. See the next crop below.
In crop no. 3 we see the left part still somewhat out of focus or blurry, but the wall in the back (the farthest part in the picture) is crisp and clear. You can easily read the writings in the pictures and practice your Latin. Also notice the concrete column in the center which is perfectly in focus.
Crop no. 4 is taken from the very right part of the photo. I would expect the inscription “ST. IV”, being at the edge of the picture, to be somewhat blurry, but it isn’t. Nor is the concrete column itself, or the cables that can be seen. This sharpness is perfectly acceptable or even good. But look at what goes on behind to the left of the column. The writing in the painting on the left side is really hard to make out. Everything is just a blurry mass. As your eyes turn further left, you can see that sharpness improves and the lines of the stones in the wall become better defined.
Crop no. 5 is from the center lower half, with objects closest to the camera. Most of what’s seen in this crop is perfectly in focus and sharp.
I have hundreds, if not more than a thousand photos that all show the same issues. At 15mm to 24mm, this lens has areas that are blurred. It’s not the lack of edge or corner sharpness, which I would accept up to a certain degree.
As I mentioned earlier, I got a loaner from the shop to try and compare. The loaner was a little better, but did have the same issues. Unfortunately the shop where I purchased that lens did not let me replace it, claiming “they never had any issues with these Canon lenses”.
It should be noted that objects at close distance to the camera are sharp over the entire frame, as far as I have seen. I haven’t shot any brick walls, which I leave to the more gifted reviewers.
Below is a photo shot at 15mm that actually came out OK. Notice that the areas that are usually blurry are within relatively close distance.
My advise: If you buy this lens, only buy from a shop that has a good return policy. Run it through the paces and see if it performs as expected.
Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM Lens
Update November 21, 2023: The photos below taken with the 16mm lens are cropped and edited to remove the faults of the lens.
I needed a wide angle lens and was willing to give Canon one more chance – the RF 16mm f/2.8 STM prime lens. On the outside, it looks much like the 35mm f/1.8 lens, just smaller. It even has a programmable control ring. And unlike the 35mm f/1.8 lens, it does come with a lens hood mount, albeit without the lens hood.
At the expense of $299 plus a lens hood plus shipping and import taxes I became the owner of said lens. This was my cheapest RF lens in my Canon lens collection and to be honest, I didn’t expect miracles. However, I hoped that Canon would be able to design a wide angle lens with reasonable performance. A prime lens design is obviously less challenging than a zoom design. I would have been perfectly happy if the lens had produced good center sharpness, moderate off-center sharpness, and soft corners and/or edges. In many cases I can crop to say 20mm or 24mm, so yes, I don’t mind if it’s soft in the corners.
The lens, unfortunately, turned out to be a piece of junk! I took a few hundred photos of architecture and street views. I came home with very few photos that may be suitable for web view. But now the specifics.
Center sharpness: The center sharpness is OK to good. Meaning that about 20% of the frame (at best) is reasonably sharp. If you want to save money and get a cheap 50mm lens and don’t mind loosing 80% of your pixels, by all means, go for that lens and crop down to the center of the image.
Outer sharpness: Between bad to terrible. I’ve never seen such a thing.
Chromatic aberration: If you like purple leafs in your photos, go get this lens. Ah, it also appears on all bright/dark contrast areas, especially metal objects. Adobe Lightroom CA removal won’t be enough. Often even manual removal won’t work. In my book, the 16mm RF lens is the “king of CA”.
Distortion: Adobe Lightroom profiles take largely care of that. But the distortion is so strong that a substantial part of the registered image is truncated. In other words, your Canon R5 high-resolution 45MP sensor will deliver fewer pixels (how much, ask Canon). Try that: Create an X and Y offset in Adobe Lightroom. See how much data is truncated. Digital lens profiles are great to fix minor distortions, but Canon takes it to a new dimension.
Flare: I bought a lens hood and I always use it. I haven’t noticed flare, but I didn’t really try to shoot into the sun. This is a positive point.
Vignetting: Rather extreme. The lens profile fixes much of it, but introduces noise that can be seen at base ISO.
Once I saw the photos taken with the RF 16mm lens, I realized there is no way I will be happy with the Canon RF system. Except for the 35mm, the RF lenses I tried just don’t deliver. I sold everything and bought a Nikon Z7 II with the 14-24mm/f2.8 and 24-120/f4 Z lenses.
Canon advertised the EOS R5 supporting 8k video. It does shoot 8k video for a few minutes, but to advertise it as a camera offering 8k video is, mildly put, misleading.
The fact is that any video format other than 4k 8-bit and lower will sooner rather than later overheat and shut down the camera. This means you can forget any RAW format except for very short clips.
When in video mode, the time the camera is turned on and the viewfinder/screen is active counts towards the overheating/shutdown time. Once the camera is overheating, you better have a spare camera in the ice box or you can reschedule the video shoot. It takes ages until it cools down enough to be useful again.
I’ve been able to use the camera in 4k/60fps H.265 8-bit under moderately hot climate (30C/86F). Any setting higher than that would soon lead to overheating. Using firmware v1.4.0, the best I got so far – under almost ideal conditions of ~20C/68F – was 29:59 minutes recording at above settings. After that an overheating symbol would appear and I had to wait for around 10-15 minutes until it would once again record anything. It would then overheat after 12 minutes.
Update December 5, 2021: I just discovered this video on the DIY Perks Youtube channel. It has already 1.3 million viewers so many of you may have seen it. Not only does this video reveal the disastrous thermal design of the Canon EOS R5, it provides a solution to mitigate it. Unfortunately this solution involves modifying your camera. Now that I’ve seen the inside of the camera, I would expect Canon to do a callback and at least partly fix the faulty thermal design by adding a better heat sink and thermal pads as well as – if possible – by including a heat pipe to the tripod mount! Looking at the evidence in the video, I would nominate Canon for the first price in the category “sloppiest thermal design in digital camera history”.
The overheating issue is only half the story. If you do manage to shoot anything at more than 8-bit, that is H.265 10-bit or 12-bit RAW, you will have to accommodate for the storage needs. Canon has provided firmware update v1.3.0 which offers a RAW Light option that compresses the RAW files to less than half of their original size, at practically no loss of quality or processing ability. At 8k RAW (not RAW Lite) your super-fast 128 GB CFexpress type B card will fill up in no time at all – we are talking about single digit minutes. A card like that also drains your purse by $200 each.
If you do want to use the Canon R5 for high bitrate video recording, get some really big AND fast CFexpress cards. Just so you know, the SD cards are too slow and useless for RAW recording. Better even, get the new Atomos Ninja V+ for external recording. According to a CineD lab test, recording to the Atomos Ninja V+ solves the overheating issue. I don’t own the Atomos and can’t comment on that.
Two other important aspects are focusing and stabilization. See under the “Focus” and “Stabilization” headings further below.
Adobe camera profile support
That’s a simple NO at the time of this writing – at least no profile that would match the camera’s jpeg colors. However, there are after market profiles from Color Fidelity at $25 last time I looked. I got them and it helps get the colors right.
You could of course profile the camera yourself, if you have the equipment and time.
Update October 4, 2022: Sorry I forgot – some time ago Adobe added Canon R5 profile support to Lightroom and the profiles are great!
Perhaps I’m spoiled by the Nikon D850’s excellent dynamic range at ISO 64 (and higher). Opening Canon EOS R5 RAW file in Adobe Lightroom almost always exposes unrecoverable shadows.
I’m usually working with the Color Fidelity “Standard” profile and switch to “flat” or “portrait” when needed. While I like the colors these profiles produce, recovering shadows isn’t so easy. The Nikon files, when processed in their standard camera profile, retain more shadow detail.
This is the last thing I would be concerned about with the Canon R5. It is definitely easy to process photos to get good results.
The Canon R5 does a good job with white balance, about as good as Nikon. One camera is more apt to miss the correct tint, the other is more likely to have the color temperature off by a notch or two. Both cameras are much closer to the real color than for example the “Auto WB” feature in LR (though sometimes it actually nails it).
Note: White balance is a difficult subject and it very much depends on what and where you shoot. Some of my friends prefer the Canon look of skin tones, though I think the R5 as well as other Canon cameras tend to add magenta. Nikons, on the other hand, have a green and yellow boost. I did some Canon R5 shooting alongside the Nikon D850 in the Judean desert and was able to more or less match the colors (click to enlarge the photos and let me know if you can spot a difference).
Colors at higher ISO are good too.
Here is where the Canon EOS R5 shines. The focus acquisition and accuracy, at least with the above mentioned RF lenses, is great. All three lenses focus very fast, with the 15-35/f2.8 being the fastest.
This works also extremely well in video mode. If it wasn’t for the overheating issue (and the lens QA issues), this could be a superb video camera. One of the nice things about the three lenses mentioned is that their focus motor is almost quiet, much quieter than the Nikon F-mount lenses I own. Unfortunately the programmable multifunction ring on the lenses is of the clickety-click type. If you want that noise removed, you have to send in the lens and pay.
I’m sure there are some great professional photographers and videographers out there who produce fantastic shots and footage with this camera, simply because of their talent and the really good eye detect focus (and generally good focusing system) the R5 offers. When coming from a DSLR, the full screen focusing system is short of a revelation.
Most of the professional photographers successfully employing the Canon R5 will not use the lenses I use. For people and portraits, 50-85mm would be better suited. They will also want to blur the background, so edge-to-edge sharpness is a non-issue. Nearby subjects are usually sharp with all the lenses I own, it’s the landscape/cityscape style photography that suffers from the inadequacies of these lenses.
I haven’t been able to test the Canon at wildlife photography as I don’t own any lenses longer than 105mm, not enough to get close to the beasts. As far as I’ve heard and seen, the king in this category is the Sony A1, perhaps contested by the newly announced Nikon Z9. But the Canon R5 should be a close second or third.
Update October 4, 2022: I took some photos of our dog running and playing at the dog park. These are fast action scenes and the camera and RF 24-105/f4 lens did a good job. See photos below.
Another note on video recording: The focus action of the Canon R5 is very smooth. Hardly ever did I notice focus hunting.
The IBIS (in body image stabilization) of the Canon R5 works well. But so does the Tamron 15-30/f2.8 on the unstabilized Nikon D850. Or the Nikon 70-200/f4 or /f2.8 on the Nikon.
The in-body stabilization of the Canon comes in very handy when used with lenses that do not have a stabilizer. Or when shooting video, but with some caveat.
The Canon EOS R5 supports either full stabilization of both camera and lens (if stabilized), or no mechanical stabilization at all. There is also digital stabilization when shooting video that comes at the cost of some crop.
The problem with stabilization in video is that it tries to counteract any movement, including panning. That means when you start to pan the camera, it will at first keep the frame at the same spot until it cannot physically counter the movement anymore. At this point the picture will jump. In other words, panning with stabilizer enabled will be a very jumpy experience.
Canon could address this issue with a panning option in the menu, or a switch on their future lenses. Nikon has a “sports” mode that accommodates for panning movement, though I haven’t tested it with video. I would settle with a menu option that could be assigned to a function button.
Coming from many years of Nikon use, and some Olympus shooting, I was a little concerned about getting used to the “Canon way” of doing things. It’s a non issue, as many converts to Canon will attest.
I immediately felt comfortable with the spinning wheel at the back, and the front and back wheel of Canon is just like a Nikon.
The only gripe I have with the Canon R5 is that the buttons feel all the same and have no tactile differentiator, that is different size or form. Especially those on the back of the camera on the top right. In any case, I was able to use the camera from the first day on with minimal RTFM (read the … manual). This is good!
I do have an issue with the lens mount cap. The lens mount cap – believe it or not – must be aligned with the notch on the lens to be able to fit and fasten. This is ridiculous! Who had this dumb idea?
The lens hoods of both the 15-35/f2.8 and the 24-105/f4 lenses are “L” class “luxury” hoods. As such they have a little knob that you need to press to release the hood. Guess what: These lens hoods regularly get loose and drop. Last time it happened it nearly fell into a canyon.
When I carry the camera sling type at my side, the knob often rests on my hip, thus pressing and releasing the hood. I have to pay attention to mount the lens hood so that the knob faces outwards away from my body.
Compare that to all my other lenses (I’ve stopped counting) from Nikon, Tamron, Sigma, etc. The lens hoods on all these other lenses stay put without this nonsense. In fact, I never accidentally dropped even one non-Canon lens hood.
As to the 35/f1.8 lens (not a “L” luxury lens, just the poor mans type), it doesn’t even have a mount for a lens hood. I wrote about this above. Suffice to say that attaching an aftermarket lens hood is a pain in the neck, removing that lens hood is even worse.
Low light performance
As to high ISO picture quality, look at the test charts on other websites. There is nothing I can add – neither good, nor bad.
Focusing seems to work well under low light conditions.
Batteries and power on time
Battery life of the Canon R5 is poor compared to any DSLR I ever owned. At best a few hundred shots. You better not keep the camera on (though it shuts down the viewfinder etc. after some time). I managed to drain a battery empty in a few hours without excessive shooting, and no video at all. You definitely need at least one fully charged spare for non-professional use, pros / wedding photographers should bring some 10 spares.
Power on and off time is on the long side. If you wander in the wilderness and have your once in a lifetime encounter with a unicorn, you might miss the shot because of the boot up time. However, the Canon is no worse than the Nikon Z 6 II that I briefly owned.
There is a relatively long (~2 to 3s) wait until the camera shuts down. If you want to switch lenses, power off, wait a few seconds, unmount the lens and mount a new one, fiddle around with the lens mount cap, you get my hint. Not exactly pro.
This camera is almost as heavy as my Nikon D850. The lenses, especially the 15-35/f2.8, are heavy too. I started out looking for a way to save weight. In the end I didn’t really. Add the extra batteries you need for the R5, you won’t save any weight.
Nikon is producing smaller and lighter lenses for their mirrorless system. Sony manages to create some more compact, lightweight cameras, some of which support continuous 4k high bit video.
I’ve had the camera for half a year and changed lenses perhaps several dozen times, sometimes under very dusty environment. No sensor dust so far! The shutter protecting the sensor when the camera is turned off is a good idea and works well.
(On the Nikon D850 I also rarely find dust – I cleaned it perhaps thrice in 2 1/2 years.)
This one is going to be short: Rent the equipment before purchasing! See that it fits your needs. For my photography, the Canon EOS R5 and the lenses I have are not suitable, with the exception of the 35mm perhaps.
Buy from a vendor with a good return policy!