Is the EOS R5 all that?

Canon spent the better part of the the first half of 2020 teasing the world with a slow drip of stats on the new EOS R5 mirrorless camera body. This steady flow of juicy details however spent a fair bit of time oiling up the video features as opposed to its impressive still camera stats. This would prove to be a bit of a marketing error for the worlds largest camera maker as overheating and mandated maximum 30 minute clip size was a bit of a drag on the otherwise amazing machine.

I dug a little deeper and found what I thought to be a potential still camera juggernaut and anxiously awaited the announcement on my birthday in July of this year. The $3899 price was a bit daunting, and I spent the rest of July grinding out the reasoning on the cost benefit equation. On August 3rd I placed my order at Pro Photo Supply in Portland. I knew I would be on a long wait list as the cameras had already been available to pre-order for several weeks.

September rolls along and Canon delivered a small batch of cameras to USA retailers which moved me up on my list but not enough to take delivery. October was more of the same. Frustration was setting in as I had nearly four thousand bucks on the line and still no camera. Then at the end of October, Canon sent out a massive delivery presumably all across the fruited plains and I got the call. My EOS R5 was finally here!

It was just a day before the election and I figured if Trump won, they would burn the city down along with my shiny new EOS R5, so I cleared my schedule and immediately headed south along that perilous 7 mile journey between Vancouver WA and Portland OR 😉 Alas there it was, my EOS R5.

So is it all that? in a word, YES. Some people will complain that it took Canon too long to implement an IBIS system, and the features they pushed in the marketing blitz were not those they should have highlighted. I might agree actually since I like still photos more than video anyway. This camera is a solid video camera but it is a fantastic stills camera. Canon has delivered a camera that can match the speed of Sony’s a9 II and the resolution of Nikon’s Z7. They have the best still photo IBIS on the planet and an autofocus system that is once again on top. 

For those few who are not aware of the R5’s spec prowess, here it is:

  • 45 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • 5 axis IBIS with enough room to push the boundaries toward 4-5 stops
  • 20 FPS with full AF electronic and 12 FPS mechanical with full AF
  • Eye detection AF is improved over EOS R and added excellent animal eye detection
  • 5.76 m-dot EVF and 2.1 m-dot 3.2 inch fully articulating screen
  • Full width 8k 30p video, full width 4k 120p.

There’s quite a bit more to the spec sheet, but that sums it up well enough. I actually would have been happy with a “$2499 EOS R II” with IBIS and the animal eye detection. But canon decided the $2499 camera (EOS R6) would have the smaller 20 megapixel sensor from the EOS 1DX Mk II. I really didn’t want to go backwards on resolution although I did give it careful consideration. 

As a guy who reviews a lot of vintage glass on this blog, you can imagine just how awesome a few stops of IBIS means when shooting an old school Leica rangefinder lens in low light. I’m not really going to do a full blown review of this camera as that has been done to death on YouTube and all over the blogosphere. A great deal of negativity surrounded the 8K video mode and its overheating issue. I will not likely shoot 8k and frankly I rarely shoot 4k, so I won’t have to worry about that.

This new camera offers 50% MORE resolution yet delivers MORE dynamic range. Some still may say the 42mp Sony a7R III has better dynamic range, but I bet they are close enough at this point. The Canon is reputed to be on par with the 61mp Sony a7R IV as far as exposure range is concerned. I am not concerned with the extra mega pixels as I feel 45 will be more than most of my lenses can resolve anyway. I have some amazing L series lenses, but 45mp is about double the resolution of Kodachrome 64, so I’m good with that 🙂

The EOS R5 IBIS is excellent for still use. I shot the picture on the right with an 85/1.2 L Mk II at just 1/20th second hand held. Some folks may have steady enough shooting hands to do that without IBIS, but NOT ME. Here I am able to shoot this shot in available light at ISO 100 because the IBIS is there to help me stabilize the image. It is RAZOR sharp and thankfully Muffin the Cat didn’t move much 🙂 As good as the 85 L is, the sensor on this camera is more than a match for it. 

The camera also has rather excellent ISO performance. The camera delivers what seems to be noticeably superior results versus my EOS R across the board at least to ISO 12,800. Above that not sure if the smaller pixels start to hurt the R5. ISO 800 is as good on the R5 as 400 was on the R. I think the Digic X processor plays a big role in that.

This EOS R5 is the best all round camera you can buy right now. Seriously, it is everything the EOS 5D Mk V would have been and more. I doubt Canon will launch a 5D Mk V because… why would they? This camera can be used as a hard core sports camera if need be with 12 FPS and up to 20 electronic. This is almost as fast as the EOS 1DX Mk III which does 16 FPS mechanical and 20 FPS electronic. It delivers all this crazy raging speed with 45 megapixels not just 20 like the 1DX Mk III and more than the 24mp that the Sony a9 II has. Canon really lit the photo world up with this camera and I feel like I can hold on to this one for years to come.

Muffin the Cat, R5 with 24 L. ISO 800 1/50 second @ f/1.4

The All-in-One Question

For several decades now, the so-called “all-in-one” lens has been a tool in the world of lenses. In the beginning back in the early to mid 80s, these lenses were 35-200mm and later 28-200mm for full frame (35mm) SLRs. These lenses were never particularly sharp nor did they make images that could be used in a serious or professional manner. The biggest problem the lenses had was distortion typically severe barrel distortion at the wide end and heavy pincushion distortion at the tele end. In the film days there really wasn’t much you could do to “correct” distortion. But the modern era is different, digitally we can correct these issues. Has the modern lens manufacturing and engineering coupled with high tech digital cameras  made these lenses a viable and quality alternative to multiple zooms? I bought a few to try out.

I got started on this notion as I reckoned back to a trip I took to Europe last year. Prior to that trip I had to decide whether to take my EOS-R and maybe two lenses or my M5 travel kit that is well described on this blog. It which includes five or six lenses depending on my loadout. I opted for the compact M5 set up and had just about every focal range covered. The only complaint I had was the few times I had to fumble around for either a tele lens when a standard zoom or prime was attached or vice versa. I started thinking that an all in one like Canon’s EF-M 18-150mm might have served me well even though I’d have given up that 50mm at the tele end. (I have the Canon EF-M 18-55mm/55-200mm tandem among the lenses in that kit). Of course Tamron has an 18-200mm for the EF-M mount as well. Honestly both of those EF-M lenses are a bit spendy. They are small and compact, that is for sure.

I decided to pick up two lenses. The first was the Tamron 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Aspherical, LD, IF for EF mount, full frame. This was a lens that was introduced late in the 35mm SLR cycle just as DSLRs were coming around. It was a pretty aggressive range for the era. The second lens is the Sigma DC 18-250mm F/3.5-6.3 Aspherical OS for EF-S mount. This is a modern lens in fact it is still sold new. It is designed for APS/c cameras, not full frame.

My thinking was centered around the EOS M5 which is of course an APS/c camera. The older EF lens has the advantage of being compatible with my full frame EOS R and my EOS M5. Honestly it is unlikely I’ll shoot that lens on the EOS R, I use the EOS-R for my more “serious” work. So why the full frame version? Ah, great question. I have a Metabones adapter for my EOS-M5 that applies a speed booster to full frame EF lenses. That 28-300mm effectively becomes a 20-213mm and the speed drops from F/3.5-6.3 down to pretty bright F/2.5-4.5. I figured it would be a pretty slick lens, if it holds up optically.

The Tamron is an older lens but it had similar issues to the modern lens as far as aberrations like barrel distortion at the wide end and pincushion at the tele end. Both lenses are pretty awful at those two issues, the much older Tamron was worse. The modern solution is in post processing or in the case of the Sigma maybe even in camera (depends on whether your camera supports custom lens corrections). These are not to hard to correct in post. Back in the film days you just had to live with it. The Sigma has two glaring advantages over the Tamron. It is much more modern and frankly, noticeably sharper across the range, plus it has optical image stabilization. Both lenses are reasonably sharp especially considering their ridiculous zoom range. 

So which was best? Well for me it was easy, the Sigma is smaller, much smaller, and faster focusing, much faster. The optical image stabilizer cannot be overlooked either. I want to spend a bit of time with each lens however so I’ll start with the Tamron.

Tamron EF 28-300/3.5-6.3 LD Aspherical

Tamron 28-300mm @ 300mm f/6.3 with Metabones effective 212mm f4.5

This lens has so much to overcome. A wide to super tele in one zoom with an image circle large enough to cover full frame and still remain somewhat compact. That is a tall order for even today’s engineers let alone those at the turn of the millennium. This Tamron lens is actually a decent performer optically between 28-200mm then gets fairly soft as you close to 300mm. It is not however unusable at 300mm. For the Instagram and Twitter peeps it’s pretty solid. The lens is fairly compact all things considered but on a small Canon EOS-M body it is just too big. On a DSLR or full frame mirrorless it’s totally manageable. This lens incorporates an older Tamron AF system and on my Canon it is really slow compared to even Canon lenses of the same era. It also tends to miss and rack back and forth a bit at times. On the M5, with the Metabones adapter the 28-300mm lens (full frame equivalent 45-480mm) becomes a more well rounded range at 20-212mm (full frame equivalent 32-340mm). The extra stop of lens speed is what really makes it shine. F/2.5-4.5 is a respectable F stop for that zoom range. The lens however is heavy all by itself and added to the heavy Metabones adapter you have a beast that weights in at 860 grams (647g lens only). That’s quite a bit MORE than the EOS M5 body that weighs in at 445 grams. 

Sigma DC 18-250mm/3.5-6.3 Aspherical OS

The Sigma is a better performer all the way round. The focus is fast and rarely misses. It is not quite as snappy as a Canon EF-M native lens, but good enough for most shooting. On the EOS-R with APS/c crop OFF, I shot a few images and the image circle is significantly larger than needed for a 1.6x crop. That no doubt helps keep the corners a little cleaner and sharper but likely leads to a bit more distortion and vignetting which at 18mm is severe wide open. Of course distortion is typically easier to correct than soft photos 🙂 On the M5 the lens and EF adapter are still a tad unwieldy compared to the Canon EF-M 18-150mm or the Tamron EF-M 18-200mm. But compared to the Tamron 28-300 with the Metabones the package is notably thinner and lighter. The Sigma lens alone weighs about 504 grams and with the EF adapter attached it is still just 611g, that’s lighter than just the Tamron lens alone! I think I would have liked using this setup on that Europe trip. In that little travel bag I carry, that lens mounted on the EF adapter and the camera fits in the center and I can still get one of my fast primes like the EF-M 32/1.4 and both the EF-M 11-22mm and the Samyang 8/2.8 fisheye.

Optically I feel like the Canon EF-M 18-55 performs better and the EF-M 55-200mm as well but less so. Having that entire range plus an extra 50mm up top however would have allowed me to spend less time swapping lenses and more time shooting photos on most of my travel shoots. If you shoot straight out of camera to JPG, then the two lenses are better as they have less distortion. If you use post processing in Lightroom or Photoshop then the Sigma holds its own. One thing I did notice in a side by side between the Canon EF-M 18-55mm and the Sigma 18-250mm is that the Canon at 18mm is noticeably wider than the Sigma. I would have rather had Sigma trim a bit off the tele end than sacrifice a millimeter at the wide end. That is about what it seemed like the Sigma might really only go to 19mm. But it could be that the Canon is a tad wider than 18 and the Sigma is a tad longer something like 17.5mm vs 18.5mm. Anyhow it’s a minor gripe. My EOS M5 does not have IBIS and I will not likely buy a future M5-Mk II since I have an EOS R5 pre ordered and that tapped the camera budget pretty hard.

I took some photos with the lens on my M5 to test it out. I have several shot wide open. Overall the lens is not as sharp as the two lenses it effectively replaces across the whole range but at some focal lengths it may be sharper (EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3). I still have the EF-M lenses and the jury is out on whether this will be a permanent change.

The Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River, Sigma 18-250 @ 18mm f/3.5

People along the waterfront, Sigma 18-250mm @ 250mm f/6.3 ISO 100

Wifey on the waterfront, retouched 🙂 Sigma 18-250mm @ 37mm f/4.5

Grant Street Pier, Sigma 18-250mm @ 61mm f/5 ISO 100

A small blackbird in the bushes nearby, Sigma 18-250mm @ 250mm f/6.3 ISO 100 at 1/50th sec. Stabilizer!

A strings trio along the waterfront. Sigma 18-250 @ 128mm f/6.3

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