Mirror, Mirrorless on the Wall [The Canon EOS R]
Updated: Feb 1, 2019
Almost two years ago, my husband seriously upgraded my point-and-shoot game by investing in a Canon 80D for me. It has been nothing short of amazing shooting with one of the best crop sensor cameras on the market. As I developed by own style and began to seriously increase my amount of bookings, I decided an upgrade was something I definitely needed to consider. In early September, Canon announced they'd be releasing their first pro-series full frame camera- the R. Prior to Sony's Alpha series- pros and semi-pros alike only shot with DSLRs (mirrored cameras). Though Canon is a little late to the game- trailing Sony and more recently, Nikon- Canon has made it easy for users to decide what they wanted as an upgrade- the only mirrorless they offer or a DSLR.
The R's specs are very similar to the 5D Mark IV which comes in at an over $3k price point and is already two years old. However- the 5D Mark IV has a tried and true focusing system and is a go-to choice for many professional photographers. It took about 3 weeks of researching and debating to decide which upgrade would be right for me at this point. Ultimately- my husband helped me decide to take a leap of faith and to give myself the experience of working with a mirrorless camera- especially because at this point- the advancement of the DSLR might be limited.
After my first experiences shooting clients with the R- I'm ready to tell the world about what I think! In this short post, I'm going to discuss how different it is to shoot with a mirrorless camera and what I believe when it comes to the impact on the final product that we provide to our clients.
The biggest difference I noticed initially was how the shutter feels in your hand. If you've ever shot with silent shooting on live view mode on a previous canon model- you're 75% there when it comes to experience a mirrorless shutter. Both the silent and non-silent shutter modes feel "slower" than a traditional DSLR. You also don't feel such a large movement inside the camera mechanism when it captures the shot. This takes a little getting used to- but it isn't anything that ultimately affects the shot as long as you're holding steady all the way through the shutter.
ii. NEW file type
This was one issue that I did not hear many professionals trying out the Canon EOS R discuss. The R comes with a new raw file type- a .CR3. The CR3 was introduced in April with the Canon's M50. The CR3 boasts larger compression with less data loss when choosing the c-Raw option in your file settings. c-Raw apparently allows for minimal data loss while reducing the raw file size by half. I won't take this chance, personally, but if disk space matters a lot to you, this could be a great option. I hope you have Adobe's creative cloud (monthly fee cloud based service)- you'll need the newest version of Lightroom and camera raw to actually view the camera's files. Just updating your camera raw reader in your older version of Lightroom won't work either. And don't expect your windows 10 to be able to decipher the .CR3 files as images- it won't and there is no word from when windows will patch the software so that this file type is supported. It's not a make or break for me if you're willing to updated Lightroom. If you're not, you'll have to use a DNG converter which will strip the raw file of all it's proprietary data. If you thought you were already starting with square one when editing your raw files- this takes raw to a whole new bland level. Don't freak out when your image previews of the DNG files looks blurry- windows only reads the thumbnail and increases the size of the preview- the full photo's details can be viewed in a photo editing software like Lightoom. You can also use Canon's Digital Photo Professional editing software by entering in your Canon's serial number- however- it is not as in-depth or as quick to use as Lightroom is.
iii. White Balance
I did notice during testing inside my office that the mirrorless camera did tend to pick up more yellow in the surroundings than my 80D DSLR. Outside- I did not notice as much of a difference. If you're manually keying in your kelvin balance- this won't even matter.
iv. Error 70
This was pretty disheartening. I just purchased a new camera with an adapter for over $2400 dollars and I'm getting an error I can't find many details on in my google search. Error 70 reads on Canon cameras as a battery malfunction- the only way to rid the camera of the error is to remove the battery and reinstall it afterwards. Unfortunately, the error code does little to actually help you decipher the problem at hand which has to do with the camera trying to read an image. Error 70 occurs when an image is written with parameters the camera's coding does not allow. I ultimately determined that this was due to unformatted memory cards that I was testing my EOS R with. My biggest suggestion is to just buy a new memory card to use with your new R. The camera is extremely customizable but is also very fickle when it comes to images written by older cameras- even Canon at that.
v. Focus Quality
You have to try really hard to make this camera shoot an unfocused image. With over 5000 focus points- the R has by far the most focus points Canon has ever offered. In real world settings- this focus quality is evident. The camera will constantly search for focus if you decide to turn this feature on- but be wary of how this can drain the battery. Overall- the photos it generates are sharp and it's quick to find the right focus- even on the Yongnuo 85mm that my 80D had terrible trouble focusing.
vi. Battery Life
Battery life is obviously- much worse on a mirrorless camera than it is on a DSLR since a mirrorless camera is electronically simulating the world around you constantly. Shooting hour long shoots I don't find this to be a problem at all. However- at a wedding, you should be sure you not only keep extra batteries with you but you should keep an eye on the battery life on your camera so you don't run into any issues during special moments until the battery life/ shutter count of your battery life becomes second nature to you.
vii. Viewfinder/ Liveview
A liveview viewfinder means you should never come out with exposure you didn't expect when shooting
with the EOS R. It's a huge benefit that is very similar to shooting in live view mode on the current canon models- except you can actually see it right through the viewfinder. The only thing that I find that takes some getting used to is the fact that the image you just took stays up in the viewfinder until you half-press the shutter trigger again or after your image preview ends (you can set this according to your own needs). Not seeing the next scene immediately is a little odd and it takes a conscious effort at first to clear the old image from the viewfinder.
viii. Size, Buttons and Menus
The EOS R is considerably more compact and lighter than the 80D. It's easier on the wrist but still provides the ergonomics that Canon users love. The R does not have a default wheel for ISO control- which is a deal breaker for those who shoot in manual mode. However- you can easily deal with this when shooting with EF lenses by buying the $200 dollar lens adapter option which comes with a customizable control ring. I suited the ring with the ability to control ISO which is just as good as having the control wheel on the body itself. The menu on the R is exactly the same as the 80D and leads to ease of use for those who are upgrading- making the menu functionality feel very familiar.
ix. DSLR vs Mirrorless overall
My experience working with the 80D and the EOS R simultaneously in this maternity shoot, revealed the R's capabilities to produce sharp, pixel-peeping worthy photos quickly and accurately with it's advanced auto-focusing system. The 80D is still a fabulous option for semi-pros, but it's considerably slower and less accurate when focusing especially at wide apertures- leading to softness when it's not desired. Overall- the EOS R is an incredibly customizable camera- and is worth the investment if you're willing to go the extra mile and update your Lightroom so you can actually view and edit the raw files directly. I feel the future of photography is probably mirrorless- but we will see some more DSLR advancements in the near future, before it completely fades away. The focusing speed, weight, quality and constant live view are all obvious benefits to mirrorless cameras that can't be ignored and will only continue to be refined as the technology improves.
Chynna DeStefano-Pasquale is the owner of Bridoll Photography and an avid lover of weddings. She has been serving the Wedding industry since 2016 and also offers family and party photography.