Most of us know about the headline features of Canon's sensational full-frame mirrorless EOS R System cameras. We know that the flagship Canon EOS R5 has a 45MP CMOS sensor, up to 20fps silent shooting with the electronic shutter and 8K RAW video recording.
You probably also know that the Canon EOS R6 has a smaller 20.1MP resolution for stills and captures 4K video at up to 60p, but shares many features with the EOS R5, including the same fast 20fps continuous shooting speed, up to 8 stops of Image Stabilization and Dual Pixel CMOS AF II intelligent autofocus that can recognise and track eyes, faces and animals.
Of course, the pioneering Canon EOS R is the camera that launched the EOS R System, and it has a 30.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor, Dual Pixel CMOS AF for quick and accurate autofocus, and a customisable multi-function bar. It introduced the revolutionary, high-speed RF lens mount, which has enabled the development of a growing range of fast, high-performance RF lenses.
It also offers other important features such as a fully articulated vari-angle touchscreen, completely silent shooting, and an optional Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter, which enables you not only to use your existing EF lenses but make even more of them. These features are also available in the other cameras in the EOS R System, including the smaller, lighter, 26.2MP Canon EOS RP.
However, these impressive features have overshadowed other technological innovations contained within the compact bodies of the Canon EOS R System range of cameras. To delve a little more deeply into what these cameras offer, we spoke to Canon Europe's Professional Imaging Product Specialist Mike Burnhill.
There's much more to discover about what these groundbreaking cameras can offer, Mike says. "When a new camera is being launched, we highlight the bigger features, but lots of other things are hidden away that actually have a big impact," he says. "Sometimes some of the really cool, interesting technologies are buried way down in the specifications."
Here we lift the lid on eight lesser-known but significant features of the Canon EOS R5, EOS R6, EOS R and EOS RP that you may not know.
The Face Detection and Tracking function has been around for over a decade, but Canon has gone one step further with Eye AF, introduced on the Canon EOS RP and added to the Canon EOS R via a firmware update. It enables the camera to identify and lock focus on the subject's eyes, which of course are a key part of portraits.
"For any portrait, you first look for the eyes to be sharp," says Mike. "Face Detection AF is great for portraits at certain distances, but as you get closer to your subject, there's a point where the eye becomes clearer and the depth of field becomes more noticeable. At that point, focusing on the eyes becomes much more crucial than focusing on the face as a whole.
"Eye AF takes all the effort out of making sure the eyes are sharp. It means you can engage with your subject much more readily and capture the subject's expression and emotion, rather than the camera being a block between you and your subject. It also – when shooting weddings, for example – frees you up to concentrate on framing and what's going on around the scene."
The feature is particularly useful when taking portraits with wide apertures on lenses such as the Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM or Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM. "Now," Mike explains, "you can get all the magic of shooting portraits with these beautiful fast lenses, without worrying whether your subject's eyes are sharp."
Eye AF is accessed via the menu when you choose your AF point. You're offered the option of choosing face tracking, then you press the Info button, which turns Eye AF on or off. If you're using Eye AF and the subject's eyes aren't visible for a short period, the camera automatically reverts to Face Detection AF. Then when your subject looks back at the camera, it returns to Eye AF.
The Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 take Eye AF to the next level with their AI-based ability to detect and track the eyes of animals as well as people. "It's programmed using a large database of animal photography that allows the camera to recognise cats, dogs and birds within a scene," says Mike. "The system will also work with other animals, but not with the same level of accuracy. If the animal isn't looking at you, which is often the case, it can still detect the animal's body shape, and then as soon as the animal turns around it will lock on to the eyes."
It's not just an accurate system, but flexible too, because you can tell the camera whether people or animals should be prioritised via the Subject to Detect option in the AF menu. "Say you're photographing a dog, a person and a cardboard box, and the box is in the centre of the frame in the foreground," Mike suggests. "If you choose Animal as the priority, the camera will focus on the dog. If the dog leaves the frame, the camera will then focus on the person. But if you select People as the priority, the camera will ignore the dog and go to the person first. And if you select No Priority, the camera will focus on the object in the foreground, which in this case is the box."
Everyone's familiar with Canon cameras' existing exposure modes: P (Program), Av (Aperture priority), Tv (Shutter priority) and M (Manual). The Canon EOS R5, EOS R6, EOS R and EOS RP, however, offer an additional Fv (Flexible Priority AE) mode. So how is it different from existing exposure modes?
"To change between different modes, such as going from P to Av, you'd usually have to press the 'Mode' button and switch from one to another," says Mike. "That can be inconvenient if you're in a situation where you need to react quickly. The purpose of Fv is to allow you to switch between controlling your aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO within the same mode.
"For me, Av is fine for 90% of my photography, but occasionally you get scenes that fool the exposure meter. Now you can quickly go from Av to adjusting the exposure compensation or even selecting a fully manual exposure in Fv. Then, at the touch of a button, you can go back into Av mode again without taking your eye from the viewfinder."
When you adjust one setting within Fv, the remaining ones automatically adjust to maintain the correct exposure. Controlling exposure between these variables therefore becomes much quicker and easier.
A key feature of the Canon EOS R System is the innovative RF mount, which has a short flange distance that allows radical new lenses to be developed. It also features a revolutionary 12-pin connection that enables a faster, higher-bandwidth communication between the lens and the body and enhances image quality in several ways.
"The benefits of this improved communication include real-time Digital Lens Optimisation, so you can correct for distortion, aberrations and diffraction and have no effect on the buffer," says Mike. "On previous cameras, when you turned those functions on, they slowed down the camera – you couldn't shoot as fast, or the buffer would be half the size as it processed images. Now, if you turn it on or off, there's zero performance difference – you just get superior images."
Faster, higher-bandwidth communication means photographers can access real-time focus distance information, which is displayed in the viewfinder. It previously wasn't accurate on older lenses because of a time-lag caused by a slower transmission speed. It also means aperture settings in RF lenses can be updated more rapidly, and in smaller increments.
The other major benefit of the improved communication speed is better Image Stabilization. "The lens-based IS system that Canon uses is very effective, but doesn't pick up so well on low vibrations," Mike says. "The gyroscopes in the lens detect movements such as slight wobbles of the hands, but low vibrations like your heartbeat and vibrations from breathing are not as easily recognised.
"On the Canon EOS R5, EOS R6, EOS R and EOS RP, the sensor can pick up those things and feed that extra information into the system, resulting in a better Image Stabilization effect. Although we might say a lens offers 5-stop IS, for example, it's actually much better than other similar systems because it's getting rid of the small vibrations as well as the big ones, which improves image sharpness."
The Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 are able to deliver up to 8 stops of stabilsation with the help of their 5-axis In-body Image Stabilisation (IBIS). This compensates for camera shake by moving the imaging sensor itself to keep the image steady. Not only does it work in a co-ordinated way with IS lenses to correct a greater range of vibrations, it can stabilise the image when you're using non-IS lenses too.
"As you can imagine, when you're shooting at 20fps you've only got a very short gap to move both optical systems to correct for any vibrations, and they have to be in sync," Mike explains. "They have to work together as a team, and compensate in different ways without one nullifying the effect of the other. The high-speed communication that we've built into the RF mount from the very start allows the lens IS to talk to the in-body IS and vice versa, all in mere fractions of a second."
The Canon EOS R and Canon EOS RP enable photographers to shoot movies in HDR, which extends the contrast range between the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows. But how does HDR Movie shooting actually work on these cameras?
Mike explains: "The EOS R and EOS RP shoot HDR video at 60fps, but when they are shooting at that speed, they are actually shooting two 30fps videos at two different exposures – one underexposed and the other normally exposed. The camera automatically combines these two videos. It keeps the highlights protected, extends the dynamic range, and you end up with a Full HD 30p video.
"If you're shooting a high-contrast situation, for example someone in a car with the sky behind them, HDR makes a big difference. The inside of a car is quite a dark, shaded area, and without HDR the sky will be blown out because the exposure is so different. Shooting in HDR Movie on the EOS R or EOS RP gives you really nice, edit-ready video clips that can be used straight away, without additional processing. It makes professional-looking results very simple to achieve."
For true HDR filmmaking, the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 have the capability to record in HDR PQ. "This is where we're combining a hybrid HDR signal inside of a normal signal," explains Mike. "So while it does contain a wider dynamic range that can be extracted and edited, it's also usable footage straight out of the camera. You can just watch it on your TV and it looks good, and then you can connect it to an HDR-compatible TV and you get an even better picture. It's recorded in 10-bit as well, so you have more dynamic range and more grading flexibility if you do want to go down that route."
Time-lapse videos, where minutes or hours can be shown passing in a matter of seconds, are a popular and creative alternative to still images, particularly for genres such as nature or street photography. However, in the past they were complicated to make. Traditionally, an external intervalometer was plugged into a camera and used as a remote shutter trigger. It enabled you to set the frequency of exposures and the length of time you wanted the camera to continue exposing. After the shoot you'd then need to use editing software to stitch the individual images together to make a time-lapse video.
The Canon EOS R5, EOS R6, EOS R, EOS RP and even the astrophotography-specialist camera the Canon EOS Ra make it possible to create time-lapse videos in-camera in 4K UHD or Full HD. Thanks to its high-resolution sensor, the Canon EOS R5 can also produce 8K time-lapse movies.
The built-in software enables you to shoot with intervals of two seconds or more for up to 99 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds, with a finished duration of up to 3,600 frames. One of the big benefits of shooting with the Canon EOS R System cameras is that the time-lapse video is then assembled in-camera.
Mike says: "These cameras have the interval timer built in – you set up your camera and shoot the images, then it stores them all and stitches them together to create the movie at the end. So you don't need any accessories, just a constant power supply or a battery, depending on how long you're going to do it for.
"To create longer time-lapse videos you can use a dedicated external intervalometer such as the Canon TC-80N3, or with the EOS R5 and EOS R6 you can use the built-in interval timer to shoot at intervals of one second or more for up to 99 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds, saving an unlimited number of shots as stills in your preferred format (JPEG or RAW). In either case, you then need to use software to stitch your set of stills together into a video.
"But with the in-camera time-lapse movie function, all the EOS R System cameras offer a great opportunity to discover time-lapse shooting and get used to the whole process. You just work out how much of a gap you want between images and how long you want to shoot it for, and the camera takes care of everything else – and with the added benefit that you can do it in 4K UHD or Full HD quality, or even 8K with the EOS R5."
If you want images that are sharp from foreground to background, one way to do it is by stopping down the aperture and using a long exposure. "Traditionally," says Mike, "you'd get maximum depth of field this way, but the downside is you get what we call diffraction, so you lose sharpness the smaller the aperture gets. Also the problem with macro photography is that even if you stop down to f/22 the depth of field is very small."
Focus bracketing is used particularly in genres such as still-life or architectural photography. It essentially entails taking the same shot multiple times, very quickly, while changing the focus point by very small increments, then blending or stacking those images together to make one super-sharp shot. It could be an image of something as large as a building or as small as a flower or an insect.
"It's one of those techniques that's been around for a while, but previously photographers did it manually," Mike says. "It was a technique you had to learn, then master. Now, with the Canon EOS RP, EOS R5 and EOS R6, you just turn it on, work out how big the object is and how many exposures are needed, then off you go."
All three cameras can take up to 999 shots, automatically incrementing the focus as required, ready for you to stack the images in Canon's Digital Photo Professional software.
"Like other Canon EOS R System features, focus bracketing is all about using the latest technology to make it easier for people to expand their creative potential and obtain great results."
If you're considering making the move from a Canon EOS DSLR to a Canon EOS R System camera, then you can bring your favourite lenses with you. There are three Canon EF-EOS R Mount Adapters available that enable practically all EF and EF-S lenses to work seamlessly on RF mount cameras.
The standard Mount Adapter EF-EOS R provides a simple way to connect an EF or EF-S lens to a Canon EOS R System camera and benefit from the enhancements offered by the camera, including blazing fast AF and low-light performance. The Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R features a customisable Lens Control Ring just like the one on an RF lens, adding this handy additional control facility to your EF lenses, while the Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R adds the convenience of being able to use 52mm drop-in filters.
"Most adapters on the market have a translation chip, because they are converting information from one type of lens to a different kind of body," says Mike. "But if the different languages and protocols aren't translated correctly, there is potential for misinterpreting things – and some features may not work at all. However, the EOS R System is essentially bilingual. It speaks both EF and RF languages, so no translation is needed when you put an EF lens on via the adapter.
"This means that the performance of an EF lens on an EOS R System camera is as good as it is on a camera with an EF mount, if not even better. An EOS R System camera contains lens maps for every EF lens, so when you put an EF lens on it knows all of the optical characteristics of the lens and it can enhance those electronically. So you actually get a sharper result with the same lens on an EOS R System camera than you would on an EF body because it's better at processing out chromatic aberration, vignetting, diffraction and so on."
Making its debut in the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and featured in the Canon EOS R, Dual Pixel RAW recording captures two images at once. One image uses the combined data from the dual photodiodes of each pixel on the sensor, the other uses data from just one of the photodiodes. The subtle offset between the two images makes it possible for the image processor chip to embed a depth map in the RAW file saved by the camera, enabling a new level of post-shoot adjustments to be made in Canon's Digital Photo Professional software.
"Previously, Dual Pixel RAW allowed us to do things like focus shift, which allowed you to correct images that were slightly front focused or back focused, and perspective shift in order to reduce or increase the amount of flare," Mike explains. "But the powerful data processing of the DIGIC X processor has enabled us to introduce some new in-camera Dual Pixel RAW features in the EOS R5.
"One of those new functions is what we call Portrait Relighting. It uses the Dual Pixel RAW depth information to see where the light is coming from in a portrait of a person, and allows you to make the shadows stronger on the subject's face, or to lift them slightly. You can effectively move the light around after you've taken a shot, and adjust how widespread it is as well.
"Background Clarity is also new. This allows you to selectively enhance the contrast in the background of a shot, and is especially effective for shots taken on hazy days. The Dual Pixel technology can detect and mask the subject, so that only the tones in the background are affected, which enhances the overall appearance of the image."