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Canon R5 review: An 8K powerhouse camera that’s not for everyone

As Canon has learned the hard way, innovative products can be criticized as much as celebrated. That was certainly the case with the EOS R5 full-frame mirrorless camera, which launched alongside the EOS R6 to acclaim with groundbreaking features like 8K video. That praise shortly turned sour, though, as reviewers noticed the smallish body had a tendency to overheat, reducing the amount of time you could shoot video with it.

Since launch, however, Canon has introduced firmware updates that have reduced, but not eliminated the heating issues. Even though the camera launched quite a while ago, those have made it a more mature product, while time has allowed the market to better absorb its pros and cons.

Pros

  • 8K 4K 120p video
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Best-in-class image stabilization
  • Great handling
  • Sharp and accurate images

Cons

  • Video overheating issues
  • Micro-HDMI port
  • Aging menu system

What got lost in the early fuss is that, on top of its 8K video powers, the EOS R5 is a fast, high-resolution photo shooter. It also offers other innovative features, like powerful in-body stabilization and a much-improved autofocus system, that put it on par or ahead of rivals — especially Sony. With all that and the perspective of time, let’s see how it performs.

Video

Canon R5 review: An 8K powerhouse camera that’s not for everyone

Steve Dent/Engadget

I’ll start with the most exciting and controversial part of this camera: video. The R5 has some extremely powerful video features that few rivals can match, but some unique problems, too. The question is, how does all this affect the average user?

You can shoot 8K 30p or 4K 120p video in high-quality or even RAW modes, directly to an internal memory card. It also supports 10-bit and S-Log recording in all modes.

As Canon puts it, the 8K shooting gives you “extra cropping” or “unique angles alongside a main camera.” What it does not say is that the R5 is a good 8K main camera. That’s mainly because it still overheats, even after the firmware updates.

Canon says you can shoot 8K for 20 straight minutes before the camera will shut off, but I found that it can now go longer — more like 25-30 minutes before I needed to stop. And it recovers more quickly from overheating, so I was able to shoot sooner and for longer after it shut down. When I did shoot 8K for a few minutes at a time and shut down the camera between takes, I was able to shoot for several hours without any issues.

Shooting 4K at 120 FPS is limited to just 15 minutes, but again, I found I could go up to about 20 minutes on a moderately warm day. Canon says you can shoot 4K at 60 fps for 35 minutes with the full sensor, or 25 minutes using an APS-C crop with 5.1K oversampling. Again, I found Canon’s estimates conservative, as I could go 5 to 10 minutes longer.

My biggest concern was with 4K HQ video at 30 fps. This is the mode I prefer, as it oversamples the entire sensor to deliver the sharpest 4K video. I used it to shoot myself for my review video, and was forced to leave the camera turned on while I started and stopped recording remotely with a smartphone. During the 90-minute session, the camera shut down several times.

Canon R5 review: An 8K powerhouse camera that’s not for everyone

Steve Dent/Engadget

Most of the delays lasted a short time before I was able to shoot again, but a few minutes before the end of my shoot, it went on for some time. I was forced to switch to the regular (non-HQ) 4K mode to complete filming before the sun set.

There are no heating issues when shooting non-oversampled or APS-C cropped 4K (with 5.1K oversampling) at up to 30 fps. If you do that, image quality issues like moire are reduced because the R5 has an anti-aliasing filter. Another option is to capture video to an external recorder from Atomos or Blackmagic Design. If you do that, there are no overheating limitations in any 4K modes, including oversampled HQ.

What does all this mean? The overheating only affects people who shoot 8K or 4K high-frame-rate video all the time. It’s also an issue if you’re shooting long interviews using 4K HQ mode and can’t shut the camera down between takes. If you’re doing any of that, I’d suggest you get a different camera. If you mostly shoot at standard frame rates, with the occasional 8K or 4K slo-mo clip, you’ll rarely need to worry about overheating.

Besides all that, there’s a lot to love about the R5 for video. Canon’s highly effective Dual Pixel video autofocus is available in all 8K and 4K recording modes. It isn’t quite as responsive as the AF on the Sony A7S III, but it’s still very good. You can count on it to follow your subject, even if they’re moving around at a good speed. More importantly, it’s accurate, and doesn’t hunt back and forth for focus.


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