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Nikon Z9 initial review: We take a detailed look at Nikon’s new pro mirrorless camera

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Nikon Z9 initial review: We take a detailed look at Nikon’s new pro mirrorless camera

All images by DPReview

The Nikon Z9 is a 45.7MP full-frame pro sports mirrorless camera: a high speed, 8K-shooting statement of intent from one of the industry’s biggest players.

Nikon becomes the third brand to build a pro-grade mirrorless camera around a fast-readout, stacked CMOS sensor, and seems determined to show that has no intention of being an also-ran as the market moves to mirrorless.

The Z9 is the first camera in this class to abandon the mechanical shutter entirely and, particularly in terms of video, it’s by far Nikon’s most ambitious camera yet.

Key Specifications

  • 45.7MP Stacked CMOS sensor
  • 30 fps JPEG shooting
  • 20 fps Raw shooting (for over 1000 compressed Raws)
  • 120 fps JPEG shooting at 11MP resolution
  • 8K/30p capture and 4K-from-8K, with ProRes 422 HQ option
  • 8K/60p, 12-bit 8K N-Raw and 4K ProRes RAW to be added with f/w
  • Internal 10-bit N-Log and HLG capture
  • 3.69M dot OLED EVF with reduced lag and greater brightness
  • XM dot rear LCD with multi-directional tilt
  • Twin CFexpress Type B card slots
  • Full-time electronic shutter camera
  • Sensor shield to protect sensor

The Nikon Z9 will be available before the end of 2021 (in the US, at least), with a recommended price of $5500, body only.



What’s new

Stacked CMOS sensor

Nikon had said some time ago that the Z9 would be built around a Stacked CMOS sensor, with all the speed benefits that brings for burst rate, readout speed, AF updates and video performance. But that initial reveal didn’t make clear how ambitious a sensor it would turn out to be.

The sensor delivers the fastest readout rate of any full-frame camera we can think of, resulting in a flash sync of 1/200 sec (as fast as many mechanical shutters can manage). But, just as excitingly, it has precisely the same pixel count as the sensor used in the Z7 cameras, along with the same base ISO of 64. This makes it likely that the design of the photodiodes themselves is very similar, but with more sophisticated readout circuitry. Our early impressions indicate that dynamic range is just under a stop behind the Z7 II.

Autofocus

Just as ‘Stacked CMOS’ has become the key hardware change underpinning the latest generation of pro-grade mirrorless cameras, subject recognition algorithms trained by machine learning is proving to be the defining software advance.

The Z9 has been trained to recognize a similar range of subjects to that of the Canon EOS R3, with humans, animals and vehicles all capable of being prioritized by the camera. Like the Canon, the Nikon has been trained to recognize eyes, faces and torsos, so that it can maintain focus on the same person, and focus in on the most relevant detail. In terms of animals, the algorithm can recognize cats, dogs and birds, while the vehicles setting knows how to home-in on planes, trains, bicycles and motorbikes.

Nikon says the combination of the Stacked CMOS sensor and the faster data throughput of the Z mount allows the camera to process and communicate 120 AF calculations per second.

Auto
People Animals Vehicles Off
Eyes Dogs Planes Tracks subjects based on distance and color.
Faces Cats Trains
Torsos Birds Motorbikes / Bicycles

Unlike the comparable multi-subject systems from Olympus, Canon and Sony, the Nikon system doesn’t demand that you specify which type of subject you’re shooting. It provides an ‘Auto’ subject mode that will assess the scene for any of the types of subject it can recognize. There are individual People, Animal and Vehicles settings if you want to ensure the camera doesn’t pick the wrong subject, but for much of the time, it’s ready to track whatever you point it at. There’s also an ‘Off’ option to disengage the camera’s subject recognition system.

3D Tracking works in conjunction with the subject recognition system, drawing a gray box around recognized subjects near your AF point. The latest algorithms can detect eyes and faces that are smaller in the scene than any camera we’ve yet tested.

The other major addition to the Z9 is something we’ve asked for since Nikon first launched the Z series: the arrival of ‘3D Tracking’ on a mirrorless Nikon. The Z9’s implementation looks and behaves exactly like it did on the company’s DSLRs: presenting you with a small square box that will tenaciously track anything that’s underneath it when you initiate C-AF. The only differences you’re likely to experience are that the AF point can now range across the entire scene, rather than within the confines of a central AF array, and that it’s more dependable, now it’s underpinned by your choice of subject recognition. If you have subject recognition disabled, the system will still track your chosen subject using distance and color information.

Synchro VR

Unlike previous Z-series bodies, the Z9 gains the ability to combine its in-body stabilization with the stabilization in its VR lenses. Previously the camera would pass responsibility for pitch and yaw motion off to the lens, but the Z9 is able to use both systems in a synchronized fashion (as done by Panasonic, Olympus, Canon and Fujifilm).

Initially, this ‘Sychro VR’ mode will only be available when using the Z MC 105mm F2.8 VR and the just-announced Z 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 VR S, with Nikkor Z 70-200mm F2.8 VR S support coming after a pending FW update.

Burst shooting

The Nikon Z9 can shoot bursts of JPEGs at up to 30 frames per second, putting it level with the likes of Sony’s a1 and the (lower resolution) Canon EOS R3. However, if you want to shoot Raw, the maximum frame rate drops to a still considerable 20 frames per second. As you’d expect of a Stacked CMOS camera, there’s no blackout while the camera takes an image, so instead there’s a selection of display and audio indicators that you can engage to let you know when you’re shooting.

The camera’s buffer is deep enough to let the camera shoot at this rate for over 1000 frames, if you’re shooting JPEG or using the new HE Raw compression option. On which subject…

Raw compression options

To cope with the large number of large files the Z9 will so readily produce, Nikon has added two new Raw compression options. The default option is a lossless compression mode, but alongside this are two ‘High Efficiency’ compression options. The ‘HE*’ mode delivers files around 1/2 the size of the uncompressed data, and the more compressed ‘HE’ files are typically around 1/3rd the size.

Nikon hasn’t given us any details of how the compression works, or where it might have impact on the files, so that’s something we’ll look at once we have Raw support.

Video

The fast readout sensor was always likely to help the Z9’s video performance but Nikon has clearly put a lot of effort into making sure it offers modes that are usable, rather than just looking good on the spec sheet. For instance, it becomes the first Nikon camera to be able to capture Log footage internally.

At launch the camera will offer 8K/30p, oversampled 4K (from 8K capture) at up to 30p or less detailed 4K at up to 120p taken from the full width of the sensor (either binned or line-skipped). These capabilities will be expanded with a promised firmware update in 2022. At first, you’ll have the choice of 8 or 10-bit files with H.264, H.265 or vast, delivery-ready ProRes 422 HQ compression. But these options too will be expanded at a later date.

Video rolling shutter rates
Video mode Rolling shutter time
8K/30/24 ~14.3ms
4K/30/24 oversampled (from 8K) ~14.3ms
4K/120/60 subsampled ~7.8ms

The firmware update will enable internal Raw video capture at up to 60p. Nikon says this will include a 12-bit 8K/60 option in a new, proprietary ‘N-Raw’ format or internal ProRes Raw HQ capture at up to 4K/60.

Nikon says the camera will be able to shoot its oversampled 4K/30 for more than 2 hours (at ‘normal’ temperatures). It also says the latency over HDMI has been halved, compared with the Z6 II and previous Nikon cameras, meaning it’s much more practical to monitor the camera’s output.


Body and controls

The Z9 has an angular design that’s consistent with the other Z cameras but has some details that will be familiar to users of the company’s DSLRs. Nikon hadn’t maintained the same level of ergonomic consistency that Canon likes to, in its high-end cameras, but the experience isn’t going to be utterly alien to existing D5 and D6 shooters.

The design change you’re most likely to notice, as an existing Nikon user, is the repositioning of the playback button from the top left to lower right of the camera body. If you find you can’t adapt, after a period of inadvertently pressing the wrong button, you can customize the ‘Protect’ button at the top left to be playback instead.

One thing the Z9 has in common with existing high-end Nikon DSLRs is that most of its buttons are back-lit, so can be illuminated when you’re trying to operate the camera in dark conditions, and need to quickly check your hand positioning on the body.

AF Button

It may not look the same as the one on your Nikon DSLR, but as soon as you pick up the Z9, you’ll find the AF mode button is exactly where you expect it to be.

Making a welcome return on the Z9 is a dedicated AF mode button on lower left of the front of the camera. There’s no AF-C/AF-S/MF switch around it, but a combination of the AF button and two control dials means it’s possible to change AF drive mode and AF area mode quickly, in a way that Nikon’s DSLR shooters will be used to.

Like Nikon’s DSLRs, you have the option to assign AF area modes (with or without AF-On then being activated) to the camera’s Fn buttons, to provide quick access in fast-changing circumstances. You can’t assign different subject recognition modes to these combinations, though.

Matched CFexpress slots

The Z9’s high-speed features are supported by the presence of a pair of CFexpress Type B slots. These are backwards-compatible with any of the older XQD cards a the user might have, but the newer, faster cards are recommended to get the longest bursts and for maintaining the highest data rates the camera will put out.

Viewfinder

The Z9’s viewfinder can run around twice as bright as most previous OLED finders, achieving around 760 nits for a fully white display. There’s no more-lifelike HDR viewfinder mode to exploit this, though.

The viewfinder specs are the area in which the Z9 most obviously falls behind its competitors. It’s a 3.69M dot panel, which is relatively low resolution, compared with its immediate rivals. However, it does appear that Nikon makes full use of this resolution for the camera’s liveview, even while focusing continuously, rather than only utilizing the full detail level in playback. This means it gives a much better, and more consistent, experience than the bare specs imply.

The company also stresses that it never uses frame interpolation to give the impression of faster refresh.

Multi-directional rear LCD

With the Z9, Nikon has resisted the urge to simply fit a fully-articulating screen, and has opted instead for something that will be a better fit for some photographers. It’s essentially a conventional pull-out up/down tilting cradle, but which has then been fitted on another hinge that lets it tilt horizontally.

The result is a somewhere between the vertical/horizontal tilting screens we like so much on several Fujifilm and Panasonic models, and the rather more elaborate telescopic workbench design of the Pentax K-1.

The important thing is that it lets you tilt the screen up to face you, whether you’re shooting in the landscape or portrait orientation, and does so while keeping the screen centered over the optical axis, making it easier to frame your shots.

Sensor shield

The Z9’s electronic shutter is so fast that there’s no need for a mechanical one. Which, in turn, means the camera can have a dedicated sensor protector instead. The protective curtains come down when the Z9 is turned off.

The Nikon isn’t the first camera to cover its sensor when the camera is turned off, helping to protect it and keep dust off the sensor during lens changes, but it’s the first where the cover is solely designed for that purpose. So, although the mechanism looks like a closed shutter, it doesn’t have to be made using the super-light (low inertia), potentially fragile shutter blades.

Battery

The Z9 uses the EN-EL18d, the latest variant of the large battery used by previous pro-grade Nikons. It will work with all previous EN-EL18 batteries but can only charge the b, c and d versions in-camera, over USB and will deliver more shots with the EN-EL18d. The charger supplied with the Z9 also only supports the three more recent variants.

The z9 is rated as delivering 740 shots per charge if you use the rear LCD and 700 if you use the viewfinder. These figures jump to 770 and 740, respectively, if you use energy saving mode. As always these numbers are not directly representative of how many shots you’re likely to achieve, partly because the CIPA standard test demands more use of playback than most photographers do.

It’s only intensive shooting of stills and video together that are likely ever cause any concern for Z9 users in terms of battery life

This discrepancy is especially acute when shooting bursts, which represents the opposite extreme of using the camera and where the amount of image review time, per image, is near zero. To illustrate this, Nikon claims the Z9 is good for 5310 shots per charge when shooting bursts. Although Nikon doesn’t specify its test method, this figure corresponds much more closely to our initial experiences of shooting fast action with the Z9. So, while we wouldn’t take this number literally, either, it does highlight that CIPA numbers can seem unrealistically low.

The standard test numbers tend to be broadly comparable between cameras, though, with a camera rated at 700 shots per charge typically delivering twice as many shots as one rated at 350. We find it hard to imagine a shooting scenario that will exhaust a camera rated at over 700 shots per charge, so it’s only intensive shooting of stills and video together that are likely ever cause any concern for Z9 users.


How it compares

The Z9 matches the Sony a1’s trick of delivering both speed and high resolution, so that’s the most immediate reference point. However, a fair chunk of its audience are likely to be existing D5 and D6 owners, seeing if the Z9 justifies a move to a world without mirrors.

It’s unlikely many people will be directly choosing between Canon’s 24MP R3 and the 45MP of the Z9, but we’ve included it here to show how each of the biggest brands’ current range-toppers compare. We’ve also included the smaller, less expensive Z7 II to illustrate where the Z9 fits, in relation.

Nikon Z9 Sony a1 Canon EOS R3 Nikon D6 Nikon Z7 II
MSRP at launch $5500 $6500 $6000 $6500 $3000
Sensor type Stacked CMOS Stacked CMOS Stacked CMOS FSI CMOS BSI CMOS
Pixel count 45.7MP 50.1MP 24MP 21MP 45.7MP
Maximum frame rate
(Full res)
30 fps (JPEG)
20 fps
(Raw + JPEG)
30 fps (lossy Raw)
20 fps (lossless Raw)
30 fps (e-shutter)
12 fps (mech)
14 fps (viewfinder) 10 fps
E-shutter rate 1/270 s 1/260 s 1/200 s N/A ~1/16 s
Image stabilization In body
(lens IS takes over pitch/yaw)1
In body
(lens IS takes over pitch/yaw)
In body (lens IS combines for pitch/yaw) In lens only In body
(lens IS takes over pitch/yaw)
AF sensitivity2 -5.0EV (-7.0 in Starlight AF mode) -4 EV -4.5 EV -4.5 EV (center) -3.0EV
HDR image format 10-bit HLG HEIF 10-bit PQ HEIF
Viewfinder 3.68M-dot
0.80x
9.4M-dot
0.90x
5.76M-dot
0.76x
Optical
0.72x
3.68M-dot
0.80x
Viewfinder refresh rate 60 fps up to 240 fps3 up to 120 fps N/A 60 fps
Video 8K/30p
4K/120p
(8K/60 via f/w)
8K/30p
4K/120p (1.12x crop)
DCI 4K/120p
(6K/60p Raw)
4K/30p 4K/60p
(1.08x crop)
Bit depth 10-bit internal
(12-bit Raw internal via f/w)
10-bit internal
16-bit Raw over HDMI
10-bit internal
(12-bit internal Raw)
8-bit internal 8-bit internal
10-bit over HDMI
Rear screen 3.2″ 2.1M dot-dual tilt touchscreen 3.0″ 1.44M- dot tilting touchscreen 3.2″ 4.2M-dot fully articulated touchscreen 3.2″ 2.36M-dot fixed touchscreen 3.0″ 2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen
Media formats 2x CFe Type B / XQD 2x Dual CFe Type A / UHS-II SD 1x CFe Type B
1x UHS-II SD
2x CFe Type B / XQD 1x CFe Type B / XQD
1x UHS-II SD
Wi-Fi 2.4GHz and 5GHz 2.4GHz and MIMO 5GHz 2.4GHz4 2.4GHz and 5GHz 2.4GHz and 5GHz
GPS/ Glonass Yes No Yes No No
Ethernet Yes 1000Base-T Yes 1000 Base-T Yes 1000 Base-T Yes 1000 Base-T No
Battery life (CIPA) LCD/VF5 740 / 700 530 / 430 760 / 440 – / 3850 420 / 360
Weight 1340g 737g 1015g 1450g 675g
Dimensions 149 x 150 x 91mm 129 x 97 x 81mm 150 x 142 x 87mm 160 x 163 x 92mm 129 x 96 x 76mm

1‘Synchro VR’ which combines lens and in-body IS is initially available with the Z 105mm F2.8 S and the new Z 100-400mm F4.5-5.6, with Z 70-200mm F2.8 S following via FW.
2Lowest light level at which phase-detect AF functions with an F2.0 lens. Canon and Nikon quote figures for F1.2 lenses, so we’ve adjusted by +1.5EV, for ease of comparison.
3 Viewfinder resolution and magnification reduced at 240 fps

4 5GHz and MIMO Wi-Fi available using WFT-E9 accessory

5 OVF and EVF battery figures are not directly comparable

The Nikon Z9’s specs very look strong, even compared to the most capable mirrorless cameras on the market. It can only shoot JPEG when matching the Sony a1 and Canon EOS R3 at their fastest rates, but that’s one of the few areas it falls behind. The 3.69M dot, 60 fps viewfinder could look disappointing on paper (much less so in the real world), but, while HDR photo capability would have be nice, the Z9’s video capabilities are significantly beyond those of its peers.


Initial impressions

Even if you haven’t fully subscribed to the ‘the sky is falling’ theories about Nikon, it’s still fair to say that the Z9 is an important camera for the company. Its Z6 and Z7 models have been very good, and the Z5 provides a very affordable way into the Z system, but what’s been lacking is a real ‘halo’ product. The Z9 clearly plays that role: both to convince professional shooters that there’s a future for them in the Z mount, and also to provide a little sparkle that can shine down on the rest of the lineup.

The Z9’s screen works just as well for portrait or landscape-orientation shooting, but without the odd off-axis hinge of a fully-articulating display, that can make composition awkward.

Having used the Z9 in some pretty demanding circumstances, it makes a very good impression in both regards. As a pro-grade sports camera, it appears to perform just as well on the sidelines as it does on paper. It offers a combination of resolution and speed that’s previously only ever been offered by Sony’s a1. But, despite the popular assumption that the Z9 would simply borrow that camera’s sensor, there’s the exciting prospect that the Z9 could offer pro-sports speed with D850 image quality (still the high bar for full-frame, in some regards). We’ll know more when we can dig into the Raws a bit more.

The camera’s Raw shooting rate of 20 frames per second is slower than the a1 or the lower-res EOS R3, but was still enough that two afternoons of shooting left me with 3100 Raw/JPEG pairs (170 Gb) to work through. And, if the action you’re shooting requires 30 fps, you can match the Sony and Canon’s top speed, if JPEGs are sufficient for your needs (which is likely to be the only practicable way of shooting in some circumstances). If you don’t mind 11MP JPEGs, the Z9 can even shoot at up to 120fps.

Video is easily accessed, using a dedicated switch, at which point the Z9 reveals itself as not only Nikon’s best video shooter, but probably the best-specced full-frame mirrorless stills/video camera on the market.

Another area where the Z9 looks extremely competitive is video, which is not something we always associate with Nikon. The last time Nikon led the market in video specs for ILCs was the D90, which offered HD video from an APS-C sensor, only to be outgunned by Canon’s full-frame, Full HD-shooting EOS 5D II, just a few weeks later. Since then it’s continued to improve both its support tools and core video specs, but nothing on the level of the Z9. Not only is the Z9 the first stills/video ILC to offer 8K/60p, but after a firmware update, may also be the first to offer internal ProRes RAW capture and 8K Raw video.

Nikkor Z 24-70mm F2.8 S | ISO 64 | 1/640 sec | F5.0
Photo: Dale Baskin

The Z9 isn’t just about sheer grunt though: options such as internal ProRes HQ capture and internal Log capture suggest Nikon has been listening to the needs of videographers, rather than just pushing to deliver impressive looking spec figures. Promising a camera that can shoot 8K/30p is one thing: delivering one that can do so for over two hours suggests you want that feature to be usable.

The Z9’s AF tracking system is much faster and simpler to use than on previous Nikon mirrorless cameras, as well as being stickier and more dependable. Nikkor Z 70-200mm F2.8 S | ISO 1400 | 1/2000 sec | F5.0
Photo: Richard Butler

Away from the raw specs, though, the thing that surprised all of us about the Z9 was just how DSLR-like it is. The viewfinder might not have the highest resolution or refresh rate, but it felt very responsive and consistent. This DSLR-like experience is helped greatly by the return of Nikon’s 3D AF Tracking: arguably the progenitor of modern AF tracking systems. Pre-placing your AF point and being confident that the camera will then follow your subject around the scene is something we’ve increasingly come to take for granted, but Nikon’s DSLRs were the first to do it well. The Z9’s system is now backed-up by algorithms trained by machine learning, but you don’t really need to think about that when you’re using the camera: it just works like a D6 or D850 would, only more consistently and reliably.

The Nikon Z9 isn’t the first camera to do without a mechanical shutter, it’s not even the first full-frame mirrorless camera to try it, but it’s the first where you’re rarely going to notice its absence. There’s no equivalent of Canon’s High Frequency Anti-Flicker mode for moments where the shutter rate clashes with fast-flickering panels, though.

The Z9 isn’t the first mirrorless camera to do away with the mechanical shutter, but it’s the first to get away with it. The ~1/270 sec rolling shutter is faster than some mechanical shutters, which has prompted Nikon to go one stage further than just removing the mirror. And yet, with little details such as the return of the AF mode button, the Z9 will feel immediately familiar to Nikon DSLR shooters.

And that brings us to the audience for this camera. There’s a general perception that camera prices are going up all the time (a perception not always borne-out by the facts), but the Z9 is priced lower than the D6 that it effectively replaces. It’s $1000 lower than the Sony a1’s launch price (more if you add the battery grip to match the form-factor), and $500 below Canon’s current mirrorless flagship. This still makes it considerably more expensive than the D850 was, but should broaden its appeal. After all, if can deliver near-D850 image quality only much faster, with image stabilization, much better autofocus and with access to better lenses, it seems fair to assume some photographers will be willing to pay a premium for that.


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Canon EOS R5 II for video: what you need to know

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Canon EOS R5 II for video: what you need to know


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Canon EOS R5 II as a video tool

The Canon EOS R5 II isn’t just a new version of the company’s popular R5 mirrorless camera; it’s the spiritual successor to the EOS 5D series of ‘affordable’ full-frame digital cameras. That includes the EOS 5D Mark II, the world’s first Full HD video-capable DSLR, a model that reset the market’s expectations for video capabilities on ‘photography’ cameras, and which, according to several Canon insiders we’ve talked to over the years, gave Canon the confidence to expand more aggressively into the digital cinema market.

Many of the R5 II’s headline-grabbing specs have centered around the camera’s photo capabilities, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that the EOS R5 II is for filmmakers as much as it is for stills shooters. In the following slides, we’ll examine what the camera offers to movie shooters.

Video specs

The EOS R5 II includes a wide variety of resolutions and frame rates to support just about any level of video quality. At its highest quality, the camera can capture DCI-style 8K Raw video internally at frame rates up to 60p. The R5 II also features a new 4K ‘SRaw’ recording option, with frame rates up to 60p. Canon hasn’t disclosed whether this 4K is downsampled from 8K or subsampled on the sensor, but it’s something we’ll test for our full review.

When shooting compressed video, the camera can capture 8K, 4K, and even Full HD resolutions in either DCI (1.89:1) or UHD (16:9) aspect ratios, using either the full width of the sensor or a very slight crop (1.05x). This includes 8K up to 30p, subsampled 4K up to 120p, and subsampled FHD up to 240p. It’s also possible to capture 4K and FHD resolutions in both DCI and UHD ratios using a cropped APS-C region of the sensor.

Finally, when connected to an external recorder via HDMI, the camera can also output 8K Raw at up to 30p or 4K Raw at up to 60p, both in a 1.89:1 aspect ratio. We’d be very surprised if this can’t be encoded as ProRes RAW once Atomos has had some time with the camera.

Codecs

The R5 II includes multiple codecs to support its myriad video options. When recording Raw video, the camera provides the option to record in either Canon’s Raw or Raw Light format. Video captured at frame rates of 50p or higher uses the Raw Light format to keep file sizes in check. Of course, there’s also the aforementioned SRaw option for 4K Raw video.

In an effort to better align its newest mirrorless cameras with its Cinema EOS product line, the R5 II features Canon’s XF-HEVC S and XF-AVC S compressed video formats, both of which can capture 4:2:2 10-bit color. The XF-HEVC S format, based on the H.265 codec, also allows you to capture 4:2:0 8- or 10-bit video, whereas XF-AVC S, based on the older H.264 codec, offers a 4:2:0 8-bit option.

The R5 II also includes the ability to capture HDR video by simultaneously capturing normal and underexposed frames, combining them to better preserve highlights in high-contrast scenes. This can be combined with the camera’s PQ picture profile for use on compatible TVs or displays.

Rolling shutter

One of the most significant upgrades in the EOS R5 II is the addition of a Stacked CMOS sensor, which promises to improve the camera’s rolling shutter performance (though it isn’t nearly as fast as the one in Canon’s new flagship mirrorless camera, the R1).

We measured the R5 II’s rolling shutter rate when shooting DCI 8K video at ∼12.6ms. That’s not going to set any records, but it’s faster than the 15.4ms we measured for the same resolution on the original R5, which should make rolling shutter artifacts less noticeable on the newer model.

Most Stacked sensor cameras don’t capture video using the super-fast multi-line readout modes they use for stills, so they’re not as impressively fast. A sub-15ms rolling shutter rate is extremely good, though, so you’d have to really provoke it to see any rolling shutter distortion.

C-Log2

The EOS R5 II will be the first Canon mirrorless camera to hit the market with Canon’s C-Log2 gamma profile. According to Canon, this is part of its effort to better align video capabilities and workflows across its product line.

C-Log2 encodes a wider dynamic range than the C-Log3 gamma profile included on some previous Canon mirrorless bodies and will better replicate and match footage from Canon’s cinema cameras. However, C-Log3 remains available for use in less challenging situations where the extra dynamic range of the C-Log2 curve isn’t required, retaining more data per stop of light.

Overheating

The original R5 received criticism for its propensity to overheat, particularly when shooting 8K video. The R5 II can also experience thermal issues at its most demanding resolutions and frame rates, but Canon has introduced a new accessory grip with a built-in cooling fan, the CF-R20EP, to help mitigate this issue. It joins manufacturers like Panasonic and Fujifilm that have provided accessory cooling fans for video-focused mirrorless cameras.

According to Canon, when capturing 8K/30p video, the R5 II should run for up to 26 minutes or up to 37 minutes with the camera’s auto power-off temperature set to high (based on an unused camera starting in an environment of 23ºC/73ºF). With the accessory fan attached, these times should increase to 106 minutes or 120 minutes (or more). When capturing 4K/60p footage, Canon claims the accessory fan will allow recording without time restrictions.

The CF-R20EP has a suggested retail price of $400. It also includes an ethernet port for fast connectivity or remote operation.

Dual recording

The R5 II includes a new dual recording feature that allows you to capture high-resolution JPEG images while recording video. Using this feature, the camera can capture Full HD video at up to 30p on one card while capturing UHD 8K (7620 x 4230 resolution) JPEG images at up to 7.5fps on the other.

This feature does have limitations. You’ll likely need to optimize your shutter speed for either photos or video, as the camera uses the same setting for both media. Also, some camera functions, such as focus breathing correction, chromatic aberration correction, diffraction correction, and in-camera image upscaling, will not work in this mode. Dual recording requires the new LP-E6P battery that can provide more sustained power.

Video tools

Although the R5 II has some very impressive video specs, we’re equally excited to see Canon include helpful tools to better support the user experience of capturing video. To start, Canon has finally added a waveform display to one of its mirrorless bodies, allowing video shooters to judge exposure across the frame when shooting video more accurately. Similarly, Canon has also added a false color display, which makes it easier to visualize exposure values in an image or to quickly dial in the correct exposure for a particular part of an image, like skin tones.

On the hardware side, the R5 II now includes a full-sized HDMI port, an improvement over the mini-HDMI port on its predecessor. It also has a front tally light to let subjects know when you’re recording. It includes 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks.

Finally, Canon has also added the ability to pre-capture either three or five seconds of video, which should help in situations where it’s difficult to anticipate when the action will start.

Multi-function hot shoe and digital/4-channel recording

The EOS R5 II also gains Canon’s multi-function hot shoe, which includes communication pins for compatibility with accessories beyond speedlights. The original R5 didn’t include this feature, though it appeared subsequently on the EOS R3.

The main benefit of the multi-function shoe for video shooters is support for digital audio input, as well as 4-channel audio support.

Summary

The original EOS R5 came to be known as a capable video camera, able to deliver stunning video quality, once the initial concern about overheating had cooled. The R5 II goes the next step to address some of the challenges encountered by its predecessor, such as providing an add-on fan to improve thermal management, refining the workflow experience through the addition of tools like waveforms, false color and better hardware connections, and through enhanced capabilities, like the addition of C-Log2 and dual recording.

The result is a camera that promises to perform very well for both stills and video and could potentially integrate pretty seamlessly as a B-cam on a production using Cinema EOS equipment. If you’re a serious video shooter or even an enthusiast just looking to experiment and expand your horizons, the R5 has a lot of potential. We’ll see how it stands up to real-world use once we receive a production copy, and look forward to testing the autofocus to see how well the experience on the stills side of the camera translates to video.



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Canon EOS R5 II for photographers: what you need to know

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Canon EOS R5 II for photographers: what you need to know


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Intro

The EOS R5 II is the successor to Canon’s popular and highly capable enthusiast/pro mirrorless R5 model. It continues with the same pixel count as the existing camera but just about everything else has changed.

The R5 II can trace its lineage back to the EOS 5D series. While the 5D Mark II was a landmark for video capture, the series has also always been significant for stills shooters, as it was Canon’s first full-frame digital camera outside the pro-focused 1 series.

We’re going to look through the major changes and what difference they’ll make for photographers. We’ll look at video features and updates in a separate article.

Fact check

The complexity of the EOS R5 II and its broad feature set, along with some inconsistent specs from Canon have led to some confusion. We checked directly with Canon US’s technical expert on the camera to clear up some of the misunderstandings we’ve seen.

The EOS R5 II does not have the cross-type autofocus offered by the EOS R1. There are Canon spec sheets that say it does, but these are not correct. The R5 II uses the same left/right pairs of photodiodes to give sensitivity to vertical edges as the original R5.

The EOS R5 II does not use 14-bit readout for its video. Like almost every camera on the market it drops the sensor readout to 12-bit mode to speed up the readout and lower the rolling shutter time (it’s typically around twice as fast). You can still get significantly more than 12 stops of DR, despite this, particularly in the 4K Fine modes, where multiple pixels are being combined.

It does not have built-in GPS. Some of the spec sheets we’ve seen made this appear ambiguous but GPS is handled either via a smartphone app or by using an external GPS accessory.

Eye control AF

Almost every specification of the EOS R5 II has been improved by some degree, compared with the previous model, but perhaps the biggest single improvement is the inclusion of Eye Control Autofocus. Canon promises improvements over the system revived in the EOS R3, saying that the system can now monitor the photographer’s eye movements over a greater distance than before and gains a mode to detect whether the user is wearing glasses, so it can adapt accordingly.

The name eye control AF risks creating misunderstanding: your eye movements don’t constantly direct where the camera focuses, they help position an AF target. When you initiate focus by half-pressing the shutter button or hitting AF-On, the camera selects the subject nearest to that target and tracks it. So it doesn’t matter if your eye darts around the frame to check composition or monitor other action in your shot: the only time it plays a role is when you tell the camera to start tracking. At its best it’s probably the fastest, most obvious means of subject selection, and it’ll be a major addition to the R5 II if really does work more reliably for more people.

Speed

Although it has the same pixel count as the Mark 1, the R5 Mark II has a Stacked CMOS design, that reads out 16 lines at a time (in stills mode). This makes its electronic shutter significantly faster than its predecessor (around 6.3ms readout, rather than 16.4ms), even when capturing 14-bit Raws. This means both that it can shoot faster: up to 30 fps, rather than 20 fps, but also that it will exhibit significantly less rolling shutter distortion when shooting subjects moving rapidly across the frame.

The EOS R5 II also gains a mode that starts buffering shots when you half-press the shutter and will then save up to 1/2 a second’s worth of these images when you fully press the button. The R5 has no such equivalent mode and the new implementation is more elegant than the one added to the EOS R6 II, in that it saves regular JPEG, HEIFs, with out without Raw files, rather than combining the results into a single, large Raw that needs DPP to extract your chosen frame.

Autofocus

The EOS R5’s autofocus in stills is very good, but from our experience of the R5 II so far, Canon has made significant steps forward.

This is most apparent in the Action Priority AF modes, where the camera has been trained to recognize key moments in Football (Soccer), Basketball and Volleyball matches, meaning it knows what to focus on and when to shift focus between players.

But even beyond these modes, the R5 II’s AF seems stickier and more dependable, showing the benefit of a system derived directly from the one developed for pro sports shooters in the EOS R1 (though without the + type autofocus sensitivity). This, and the camera’s faster shooting rate, expands the types of shooting it’s suited to, making it a much more capable sports camera, for instance.

Handling/layout

The EOS R5 II’s handling is relatively unchanged, compared with the existing model. The power switch has been moved to the top right of the camera, in front of the command dial that sits on the shoulder of the camera, while the two-way switch on the left of the viewfinder is now a stills/video switch. This is a change that’s only likely to matter to anyone trying to use both generations of camera alongside one another.

What’s likely to make a bigger difference is the R5 II’s brighter viewfinder and it receiving the Optical Viewfinder Simulation mode from the EOS R3. This shows a wider dynamic range view of the scene, ignoring the current color or contrast settings that your final image will have, showing brighter brights and more balanced shadows to give a more lifelike view of the world (though it doesn’t show enough DR to fully represent the camera’s HDR PQ shooting mode, designed for viewing on HDR displays).

The menus have also been reworked, with all the R5 II’s customization options now gathered together into an olive-colored tab in the menu structure.

Other features

The EOS R5 II gains two “AI”-powered post-shot processing modes, one of which denoises Raw images, the other doubles the resolution (quadrupling the pixel count) of JPEGs or HEIF files.

The resolution-boosting mode is especially interesting in the context of an already high-resolution camera. Canon makes clear that it’s not using generative AI (ie: not synthesizing image elements that weren’t really present), just making guesses about what would existed between the captured pixels. This is an interesting alternative to the multi-shot high res modes we’ve seen elsewhere that can capture higher levels of chroma or spatial resolution by shooting and combining multiple images. It’s possible that Canon may add such an option in the future but, for now, a mode that boosts detail to some degree, but without the need for a very stable tripod and near-static subject might prove more useful in more circumstances.

Our early impression of the “neural network” noise reduction are pretty favorable, with the camera doing a good job of working out which areas can be smoothed and which details should be preserved, all with the noise level reduced.

The R5 II is also the first generation of cameras we’ve seen to support the new, faster 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6E) Wi-Fi standard that promises quicker, more dependable communication.

Image quality

The one thing we won’t know for sure until we get hold of a production-spec EOS R5 II is how its image quality compares to that of the existing model.

We’ve not seen enough Stacked CMOS sensors from Canon to be able to predict what, if any impact the change in sensor will have. We’ve seen slight increases in read noise in other fast Stacked CMOS chips, which decreases the peak (ie: low-ISO) dynamic range measurements but has minimal impact on overall image quality.

And, while it’s perilous to extrapolate from the behavior of these other designs, the image quality and performance of the EOS R3 means we’re not overly concerned that Canon has decided to risk its reputation in order to offer slightly faster video.

As with the EOS R3, the EOS R5 II has a high-frequency flicker mode, which scans the scene to measure the flicker rate of fast-flicking LEDs then tries to find a fractional shutter speed that’s at a harmonic of that flicker rate (ie: that allows a whole number of flicker cycles during the exposure so that each line of the sensor captures the same number of dark/light cycles and thus minimizes banding).

Summary

The EOS R5 II arrives on the market four years on from the original model. And, after a period of high inflation, is built around a much more expensive Stacked CMOS sensor, both of which help explain a price hike of $400 to $4299. Whether you feel it’s worth the extra, vs the heavily discounted original R5 is an entirely personal decision.

Purely considered as a stills camera, lots of the R5 II’s specs have been improved. Its faster shooting, faster readout and latest generation autofocus will certainly expand the types of photography for which it can support the photographer. That’s not to say you can’t shoot sports with the Mark 1, of course, but the Mark II will make your life considerably easier.

But the question of what it brings to, say, landscape shooters and even wedding photographers is where we think it gets interesting. Eye control AF is likely to mean a lot to the latter, if it proves to work dependably, and it’s always hard to say no to improved autofocus. But the EOS R5 II is going to have to impress us a lot if it’s to step clear from the shadow of its already capable predecessor, as an all-rounder.



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Canon EOS R1 initial review

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Canon EOS R1 initial review


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The EOS R1 is Canon’s flagship mirrorless camera and is the first EOS body to receive the coveted 1-series moniker since the EOS-1D X Mark III in 2020, which is in line with Canon’s regular release cadence for the EOS-1 series for the past decade. As with most other 1-series models, its features and specifications are aimed at sports photographers and photojournalists who need the highest-performing, must rugged camera available.

According to Canon, the EOS R1 is as reliable and durable as the 1D X Mark III but includes more advanced features than the EOS R3.

Key specifications

  • 24.2MP Stacked CMOS Dual Pixel sensor
  • 100% AF coverage with cross-type sensors
  • Up to 40fps blackout-free shooting (JPEG+Raw)
  • Pre-capture for photo and video (1/2 sec. for photos, 3 or 5 sec for video)
  • Eye-controlled AF with improved eye detection
  • AI-trained Autofocus and post-shot processing modes
  • 6K/60p internal Raw video capture
  • DCI-4K capture up to 120fps
  • Canon C-Log2 gamma profile
  • Wi-Fi 6E and Ethernet connectivity

Canon says the EOS R1 will be available later in 2024 at a recommended price of $6300.


What’s new:

As you might expect on a Canon 1-series camera, the EOS R1 includes Canon’s latest and fastest technology for capturing and processing images.

Sensor

The EOS R1 is built around an all-new 24.2MP Stacked CMOS sensor. It’s a faster sensor than we’ve seen in previous Canon cameras and has a full sensor readout rate of 2.8ms (1/360) when shooting stills. That compares to just under 5ms on the EOS R3, making the R1’s full sensor readout nearly twice as fast as the R3’s.

In addition to the faster speed, the R1’s sensor also includes 100% AF coverage with cross-type sensors. This is accomplished by rotating every other line of the sensor’s dual-pixel PDAF pixels 90º to create PDAF zones sensitive to horizontal lines as well as vertical. Cross-type autofocus works in photo mode only and does not work under certain conditions, such as flickering light sources.

The new sensor delivers up to 40fps blackout-free continuous shooting in 14-bit mode.

New Digic accelerator

The EOS R1 uses Canon’s Digic X processor along with a new Digic Accelerator co-processor. Canon claims this co-processor is the key to the camera’s improved autofocus features, particularly those using AI features derived from machine learning.

The result is that the camera can do more than identify a subject; in certain situations, it can identify a subject, such as a person, and determine what type of action that person is performing, such as a basketball player driving to the basket with the ball. This allows the camera to prioritize and maintain focus on the most important subject in a scene.

Autofocus

Canon claims the R1 has the most advanced autofocus system ever featured on an EOS body, anchored around several new features.

Eye-controlled AF

The EOS R1 receives an updated version of the eye-controlled AF system found on the EOS R3. (Which is a modernized version of the system found on some of Canon’s EOS film cameras from the 1990s and 2000s). With eye-controlled focus, the camera moves a focus target around the viewfinder by following your eye. Once this target is close to your intended subject, initiating autofocus will trigger the camera to lock onto the most likely subject and continue tracking it.

Eye-controlled autofocus has been a polarizing feature on previous EOS models because it hasn’t worked well for all users, but Canon hopes to change that. On the R1 (and R5 II), the system has a wider field of view to better track your eye, which results in an expanded viewfinder area and larger eye cup. Additionally, new compact optics and a revised line-of-sight detection algorithm mean your eye can be approximately twice as far away from the EVF and still work. The updated system also includes eyeglass detection, which should improve performance for glasses wearers.

Action Priority AF mode

Another important new feature is Action Priority AF mode. This mode uses machine learning technology to analyze a scene and attempt to predict the most important subject(s) based on the context of the scene. For example, when shooting basketball, the AF system will generally attempt to stick with the player with the ball, even if that person crosses paths with similar-looking players. If the player passes the ball, the system will know to re-prioritize AF on the player who receives it.

Action Priority AF mode is currently trained on football (soccer), basketball and volleyball. A Canon representative hinted that additional sports might be added in the future.

Pre-registered person priority

The EOS R1 allows users to pre-register particular people that the AF system will prioritize. Up to ten people can be registered on the camera, and adding someone is as simple as selecting a memory bank and taking their photo. Relative prioritization among registered subjects can be changed simply by changing their order in the menu.

Pre-registered person priority could prove useful in situations where there are many identifiable subjects in a frame but only a limited number of subjects you want the camera to focus on, such as a specific athlete in an arena or a bride and groom at a wedding reception.

Pre-continuous shooting mode

The R1’s pre-continuous shooting mode can capture still images or video before the shutter button is fully depressed. In continuous shooting mode, the camera can pre-capture a half second of buffered images (up to 20 photos at maximum shooting speed). This can be done in JPEG, HEIF or Raw. In movie mode, it can pre-capture either three or five seconds of video.

AI-trained in-camera image processing

The EOS R1 adds two new in-camera processing features that replicate deep learning functions typically found in software like Adobe Camera Raw: neural network noise reduction and image upscaling.

Out-of-camera JPEG image (ISO 102,400) Image reprocessed in-camera using neural network noise reduction (ISO 102,400)

Neural network noise reduction is designed to improve image quality without sacrificing detail. This feature requires a Raw image to use and is applied in the in-camera Raw conversion menu in playback mode. It can be applied to multiple images that you select but has to be applied selectively after capture.

In-camera upscaling increases the size of the image 2x in each orientation, resulting in a 96MP image when applied to photos from the R1. Canon hasn’t revealed much about its methodology but says this upscaling does not use generative AI. Interestingly, upscaling can only be performed on a JPEG or HEIF image.

Out-of-camera JPEG image (24MP) Image re-processed using in-camera upscaling (96MP)

You can apply noise reduction or upscaling to a single image, but not both. Images each take a few seconds to process, which explains why the feature isn’t available in real-time while shooting. However, it’s possible to batch process images for efficiency.

Blur/out-of-focus image detection

A new Blur/out-of-focus image detection feature promises to make culling images after a shoot more efficient. When activated, the R1 analyzes each photo it captures and tries to identify the ones in which the primary subject is in focus. The camera then adds a metadata tag to each image that can be read downstream by Canon’s DPP software or used as a selection criteria in the playback menu. Canon says the feature could be implemented in any third-party application updated to support this tag.

To use Blur/out-of-focus image detection, the feature must be enabled before you shoot; it cannot be applied to already-captured images.

Video

As you’d expect of a modern pro-grade camera, particularly one with a Stacked CMOS sensor, the EOS R1 boasts some impressive video specifications.

Its 24MP sensor means it can’t shoot 8K video, but instead, it will capture 6K Raw footage at up to 60p in the 1.89:1 aspect ratio. Alternatively, it can shoot DCI or UHD 4K derived from this 6K capture at up to 60p. There are also subsampled DCI and UHD 4K modes that allow capture at up to 120p.

Canon says it wants the EOS R1 to easily fit into existing workflows that use its Cinema EOS cameras, and with this in mind, it has done a lot to make its footage readily comparable.

To start, it gains Canon’s wider dynamic range C-Log2 curve, with the less ambitious C-Log3 option still available if you’re not shooting in very high DR situations. It also adopts the XF-HEVC S and XF-AVC S file formats used in Canon’s pro video cameras.

But beyond the boost in video modes is a significant increase in the support tools accompanying them. The R1 gains waveform and false color displays to provide industry-standard ways to visualize exposure. These come in addition to the zebras already offered. There’s also a tally lamp on the front of the camera, helping to indicate to anyone in front that it’s recording.

It also has the ability to handle digital audio inputs via the connectors in its multi-function hotshoe and lets you individually control the levels for four-channel input.

Dual Shooting mode

The EOS R1 also offers a Dual Shooting mode that captures JPEGs on one card while video is being recorded on the other. In this mode, the R1 will capture FullHD video at up to 30p while capturing JPEGs in bursts.

JPEGs are 17MP 16:9 images (5616×3168) and can be captured at up to 10fps while you’re shooting 1080 video. However, the differing shutter speed requirements for stills and video capture still require you to prioritize one over the other.

Temperature control

Significant efforts have been made to help the camera stay cool while shooting, and Canon says that, if it hasn’t been used, the EOS R1 can shoot for over two hours at 23°C (73°F) when capturing 6K/60 Raw with proxy recording also engaged. The 4K/60 derived from this footage is a little more demanding, seeing the recording time drop to 109 minutes, though it increases to over two hours again if you use the sub-sampled 4K/60 mode. The company says there is no time limit for capturing sub-sampled 4K/30.


How it compares

The EOS R1 ushers in the mirrorless generation of EOS-1 series cameras, a product line historically focused on delivering the highest performance available in a Canon body. The R1 takes over this spot in the lineup from the EOS-1D X Mark III, a DSLR we consider its direct predecessor. (Of course, there’s also the EOS R3, which Canon maintained was not a replacement for the 1D X III, despite having a similar body style, price and specs.)

Unlike some manufacturers, Canon has not combined its highest-performing camera with a higher-resolution sensor. As such, we’ll compare it to other bodies aimed at the high-performance, 24-ish megapixel market: its predecessor, the EOS-1D X III, the EOS R3, and the Sony a9 III.

Canon EOS R1 Canon EOS R3 Sony a9 III Canon EOS-1D X III
MSRP at launch $6300 $6000 $6000 $6500
Sensor type Stacked CMOS Dual Pixel (cross-type) Stacked CMOS Dual Pixel Stacked CMOS FSI CMOS Dual Pixel
Pixel count 24MP 24MP 24MP 20MP
Max burst rate E-shutter: 40fps
Mech shutter:
16fps
E-shutter: 30fps
Mech shutter:
16fps
E-shutter: 120fps Live view: 20fps
Viewfinder: 16fps
Rolling shutter rate 2.78ms 4.84ms 0ms <4ms with mech shutter
Image stabilization Up to 8.0EV Up to 8.0EV Up to 8.0EV Lens only
Video options 6K/60 Raw
4K/60 from 6K
6K/60 Raw
4K/60 from 6K

4K/120 from 6K 5.5K/60 Raw
4K/60
Viewfinder 9.44M dots
0.9x
5.76M dots
0.76x
9.44M dots
0.9x
Optical
0.76x
Rear screen 3.2″ 2.1M dots
Fully articulated
3.2″ 4.2M dots
Fully articulated
3.2″ 2.1M dots
Articulate & tilt
3.2″ 2.1M dots fixed
Battery life, viewfinder / LCD 700 / 1330 440 / 760 400 / 530 2850 / 610
Dimensions 158 x 150 x87mm 150 x 143 x 87mm 136 x 97 x 83mm 158 x 168 x 83mm
Weight 1115g 1015g 703g 1440g

The R1 outpaces the 1D X III in almost every way, with one notable exception: battery life. Without the need to drive a high-resolution EVF, battery life is still a potential advantage for DSLRs (though it’s one the CIPA rating system can exaggerate a bit). Also, while it’s not necessarily a pro or con, users who still prefer the experience of using an optical viewfinder (and we know you’re out there) will probably find more joy in the 1D X III.

Assuming you’re OK with an EVF, the R1 will also give you a slight advantage in size and a noticeable advantage in weight over the 1D X III. On the other hand, if you like the general design of the R1 but prefer a slightly smaller, lighter body, the EOS R3 is no slouch and delivers all but the very newest features found in the R1.

The a9 III plays the role of disruptor in this group. First, its compact, full-frame body will likely appeal to a different set of users than the Canons. Again, that’s not unequivocally a pro or con but a preference. Second, its global shutter sensor sets it apart from all other mirrorless cameras today and could be a deciding factor depending on your needs and shooting style. However, it’s worth noting that the a9 III’s higher base ISO means it gives up a little image quality potential for this.


Body and controls

The EOS R1 undeniably has the heft and feel of an EOS-1 series camera, with a build that suggests you could use it to pound nails into a board if your hammer went missing. It comes in somewhere between the size and weight of the EOS R3 and the EOS-1D X Mark III it replaces. The most noticeable differences between the R1 and the 1D X Mark III are the camera’s height, with the R1 a noticeable 18mm shorter, and weight, where the R1 comes in over 300g (10.6oz) lighter than its mirrored predecessor.

Weight Width Height Depth
Canon EOS R1 1115g 158mm 150mm 87mm
Canon EOS R3 1015g 150mm 143mm 87mm
Canon EOS-1D X III 1440g 158mm 168mm 83mm

The R3, by comparison, feels noticeably smaller in the hand than the R1. Not only is it shorter, but its body is almost a full centimeter narrower in width than the 1-series cameras. If you’ve been shooting with an R3, know that the R1 will feel somewhat larger by comparison.

Fun fact: the R1 includes a little mystery window in the lower left corner on the back of the camera. A Canon representative told us it’s reserved for a future feature but doesn’t do anything at the moment. Feel free to speculate in the comments.

Customizable smart controller

Canon’s smart controller, a two-function controller that originally appeared on the 1D X III and again on the R3, doubles as the AF-On button and simultaneously acts as a trackpad for your thumb. It can be used to move the AF point around the viewfinder while pressing it initiates autofocus.

On the EOS R1, the smart controller becomes a three-function controller, gaining the ability to distinguish between its half-pressed and fully-pressed positions, similar to the shutter button. This facilitates a degree of customization. For example, you could set it to engage autofocus at the half-pressed position, with the fully-pressed position switching the camera to its fastest continuous shooting speed. This would allow you to use a more conservative burst rate but instantly accelerate the camera to its maximum burst rate at the critical moment of action.

However, the smart controller isn’t fully customizable. You can customize either the half-pressed or the fully-pressed position, but not both. You can also leave one of the positions disabled, meaning the controller will function similarly to the 1D X III or R3.

EVF

The R1’s viewfinder is visibly larger than those on previous EOS mirrorless cameras due to the updated eye-controlled AF system. The EVF uses a 9.44M-dot OLED viewfinder, which Canon claims is approximately three times the brightness of the R3’s EVF when used in OVF mode (a setting intended to simulate using an optical viewfinder). It has a magnification of 0.9x, the highest in the EOS series, and 40% larger than the one in the 1D X III.

Notably, the EVF’s display does not drop to a lower resolution when shooting, though Canon confirmed that, while it offers the higher DR ‘Optical viewfinder simulation mode,’ it does not support HDR display of images.

Above the EVF is Canon’s multi-function hotshoe, which can provide communication and power for accessories like a microphone adapter.

Updated menus

Canon has added a new color-coded tab to its menu system. Described as “olive green,” the new section centralizes the camera’s control customizations into a single menu for easier access, including customizations for both shooting and playback modes.

Storage and connectivity

The EOS R1 has dual CFexpress type B card slots supporting capacities up to 2TB. Instead of being accessed through a door on the back of the camera like the 1D X III, cards now load through a door on the right side of the body, similar to the R3. The camera includes a 2.5 GBASE-T Ethernet port and 802.11ax Wi-Fi support for direct connectivity. This is the new WiFi 6E standard that promises faster connections, in part by using the parts of the 6GHz spectrum, in addition to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz regions currently in use.

Other connections include a USB-C port (USB 3.2 Gen 2, 10Gbps), a full-sized HDMI port, 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks and a PC Sync terminal.

Battery

The Canon EOS R1 uses the same LP-E19 battery as the EOS R3 and EOS-1D X Mark III but, unlike those cameras, isn’t compatible with the earlier LP-E4N or LP-E4 batteries. On the R1, this battery delivers a CIPA-rated 700 shots per charge, up from 440 shots on the R3, an increase of nearly 60%.

Due to the CIPA testing methodology, these ratings typically underestimate real-world performance for most users, particularly when using continuous shooting (as one might expect on a sports-focused camera). However, they generally provide a good basis for relative comparisons between models.

Canon supplies a battery charger with the camera. The camera can also be charged over USB using Canon’s PD-E1 or PD-E2 power adapter or a similarly powerful USB PD power pack.


Initial impressions

By Dale Baskin

It’s hard to believe that Canon’s EOS-1 series of cameras is 35 years old. Consider that the original EOS-1 was introduced in September of 1989, two months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the same year that Tim Burton’s original Batman hit the big screens, New Kids on the Block was all over the pop charts, and Miami Vice was wrapping up its final season.

Just as the EOS-1 series made the leap from film to digital, It was inevitable that the series would eventually make the jump to mirrorless. With the EOS R1, Canon officially has its flagship mirrorless camera.

The waters are muddied a bit by Canon’s “definitely-not-our-flagship” EOS R3 launched in 2021, which has effectively served as a mirrorless proxy for the 1-series until now. Not only does the R3 resemble a 1-series camera, but it launched with similar top-level specs and slid squarely into the 1-series’ historical price bracket.

Ultimately, every company is entitled to designate a flagship product as it sees fit, and Canon has been clear that the EOS R1 is it. However, given the three-year gap since the R3 was introduced, it’s understandable that some will be underwhelmed with what seem like relatively minor upgrades, such as jumping from 30 to 40fps in a market where competitors can shoot 120fps.

Canon EOS R1| F2.8 | 1/1250 sec | ISO 4000

The critical thing about EOS-1 series cameras is that they’re designed almost exclusively for people who are already using EOS-1 series cameras. Canon has indicated in the past that the EOS R3 was aimed at pros and very dedicated enthusiasts, whereas the 1-series is aimed entirely at pros who expect zero compromises.

In this respect, there are some differences between the R1 and R3. While the R3 is a fully weather-sealed, rugged camera, Canon was clear that it wasn’t designed to withstand the same level of punishment or challenging conditions as the 1D X III. The R1 has no such asterisks next to it, and if your income depends on the reliability of your gear, that’s not a trivial difference. Similarly, the 1D X III has a virtually unlimited buffer when shooting, whereas the R3 – while still impressive – is a bit more limited. We haven’t tested the R1 yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out it performs similarly to the 1D X III in this respect.

I suspect the R3 was a good test bed for technology like eye-controlled autofocus without fully committing the EOS-1 brand to the feature. If the result is that the R1 arrives with a superior version that works more reliably for pros when they try it, I can see the logic.

Canon EOS R1|F2.8 | 1/500 sec | ISO 1600

Speaking of eye-controlled AF, I’m happy to see Canon continuing to invest in the feature, which really has the potential to be a differentiator in terms of usability. I’ve written about some of my own experiences using it, and it can be a game changer – if it works for you. Canon knows that inconsistency in user experience is the most significant barrier to broader acceptance, and the fact that it has attached the feature to a 1-series model makes me hopeful that the newest iteration works more universally.

In my limited time with the EOS R1 so far, I can safely say that the shooting experience feels more similar to using the R3 than the 1D X III, mainly because the R3 is also a mirrorless camera with eye-controlled autofocus. However, the EOS 1D X III DNA is unquestionably there, and the camera has a heft and battle-hardened feel you don’t get from the R3. I’m really looking forward to pushing it to the limits along the sidelines to see how it performs.

And if I’m being completely candid, I’m particularly hoping the new sports-trained Action Priority AF mode delivers on its promise. If it does, it will make me look like a much better sports photographer than I really am.



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