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REVIEW: Canon R5--Does it really focus as good as they say?

I had no intentions of buying one of the new Canon mirrorless cameras: the Canon R5 or R6s... and then I went down the Youtube rabbit hole and had to get one. The biggest selling point to me was the supposed focus and eye tracking. I had been shooting with a 5DMark 2 and a 60D in studio and on location. While I loved them and the 5D was my work horse, the focus was off-- A LOT.

The videos I found on Youtube show the camera tracking eyes and rarely missing and this intrigued me as I work with a lot of kids. And even with newborns, the focus point was often off.

And while I found the Canon R5 to be a huge improvement, I don't think it's quite as perfect as others have made it out to be.


This is a session that is barely edited, just basically run through LR, but it highlights a lot of my issues with my other cameras and the good and bad with the new Canon R5, which is what I ended up settling on. (However, from what I understand, the focus should be the same between it and the R6.)

I also got the 24-70 lens. All the reviews I saw said that the new lenses were significantly better than the old ones with a converter. And I use a 24-70 on 99% of my shoots.

Why the R5 vs the R6?

I went with the more expensive one for a couple of reasons.

1-The ability to freeze frame video and turn it into HIGH RES images intrigued me. I have yet to do this yet as it seems like it would not be ideal for studio use, but still.

2-I read that it is one megapixel away from a medium format camera. I shoot a lot of commercial work, mostly headshots, but every once in awhile it's something else and I liked that the files were huge and could easily product a billboard if needed.

I also can't take a straight image to save my life. So I have to rotate and crop ALL THE TIME. While I hadn't had any quality issues on large prints with my older cameras, I wanted the ability to alter and crop in a lot and still have a decent file to work with.

3-I'm the type of person who HATES regret. I worry that if I go with the cheaper option if I'll regret it in the long run. I don't want to be stuck with something or regret a decision. I would rather have room to grow and then loathe a purchase.

Sooo, how is the eye tracking?

Pretty good actually. Not perfect though.

My biggest issue with my 5d Mark 2 is with photos like the above, the camera would grab the bow or something A LOT. I would end up shooting at about 4.5 DOF just to help compensate for it. I mastered the art of focusing in Photoshop to try and correct the slightly missed focus.

I had the camera calibrated professionally, but still, it was just always an issue.

With the Canon R5 you can see from the photos above the focus is ON her eyes in ALL but the top right, where it missed out. You can see below a close up of that shot, where it got her ear instead.

These were all shot at 3.2, so a much more limited DOF than what I would normally shoot at with my old cameras.

With the R5, about once every photo shoot the focal point grabs something totally unrelated and def. not an eye. There is a red square in my viewfinder so I can see where the screen is grabbing.

When this happens, I pull the camera away from my face and use the back of the camera. I simply touch the child's face and the camera refocuses and usually I have no more issues.

I have also found that sometimes it will miss one shot completely. It seem to be the first image in a series, like above. Then the rest of the images will be fine.

While I was aiming for the child, the Canon R5 went for the cake instead. It worked out, lol, but it's not the shot I wanted.

In conclusion

Do I think the Canon R5 is superior than my other Canon cameras? Definitely. Do I think everyone should go out and buy one? Well that depends.

I don't know that everyone needs the R5, the R6 may do just as well for you and a much cheaper price tag.

I can say this, I am happier with it's focus than my old 5D Mark II (which is still in my studio as a backup). It is much more consistent and actually seems intuitive. With my old camera, I would have to sharpen 5-10 images out of a narrowed down 40 image gallery. That worried me for larger prints where those details would be blown up.

This photo shoot, I only had 1-3 images that the focus were off slightly, like on the ear. And maybe 2 images where the focus was completely off where I wanted. This to me is a MUCH BETTER improvement over the older Canon cameras.

About the author

Christy Whitehead owns a photography studio in Jacksonville, Fl. She specializes in newborns, families and corporate. She is the author of the popular Ebook on In Person Sales for Photographers.

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