With the introduction of the R50 and R8, Canon continues to face the risk of having too many cameras instead of too few.
The biggest complaint about Canon when it first entered the mirrorless space was that it only had one product – not enough for the company’s DSLR shooters to make a full-time switch. At that time, competitors had complete systems with models for different customers and at different price points.
Well, you can’t say that Canon doesn’t have the perfect mirrorless camera line anymore.
I tested the Canon R8 for a few days at a press event in South Carolina and I was impressed (indeed, blown away). Canon representatives describe the R8 as a solid choice for photographers who are upgrading from cameras like the EOS R6 Mark II and R3, and it’s a great choice for that user.
But this camera is also a great second camera for professionals and can even function as a primary camera for many wedding and event photographers. It takes the best features of the R6 Mark II and puts them in a body that’s affordable, comfortable and functional — albeit with some sacrifices to keep price and size down.
At just $1,500, this camera is $1,000 cheaper than the Canon EOS R6 Mark II, meaning a Canon photographer can buy the R8 and at least one good lens or three R8 bodies and one mediocre lens at the same price.
I’ve paired the camera with a variety of lenses in my time with it, including the new RF 24-50mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM. I find that shooting with Canon’s excellent high-end lenses yields excellent results and sometimes makes me forget that I’m shooting with a budget camera.
Honestly, I prefer the size and weight of the R8 over the R6 Mark II, a camera that has the power I like but is housed in a body that feels heavy to me after years of shooting for Sony.
Canon EOS R8: Powerful Yet Compact
At its core, the R8 is the Canon R6 Mark II. The sensor, processor and AF system are the same as on higher-end bodies but with a scaled-down feature set.
24.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor features Dual Pixel autofocus (AF) and DIGIC X processor. The autofocus system features Canon’s new AI-Servo subject recognition technology, for allowing it to lock onto eyes and a variety of animals more accurately, and has an “auto” setting that (theoretically) allows the camera to identify the subject and set the right conditions for the subject to be recognized.
In practice with both the R6 Mark II and R8, the autofocus works with more precision when placed on the right subject, but having autofocus is what all focus is based on. Artificial intelligence (AI) may be the way forward.
The addition of the new AF tracking feature from the R6 Mark II makes the R8 a very attractive camera. It is capable of finding and locking onto various subjects, including humans, birds, and animals, and can track them anywhere in the frame. These AF features give the R8 an edge over cameras like the Sony a7 IV, a7C, and Nikon Z5. Pure autofocus also puts the R8 ahead of Nikon’s Z6 II and Z7 II.
The significant difference between the R8 and R6 Mark II is the lack of in-body image stabilization. I bid a fond farewell to those readers who read that statement and decided that this was not the camera for them.
This limitation is much more important than the other camera differences compared to the R6 Mark II. Many advanced photographers will only go back to using cameras with image stabilization. While I thought this would be a poor choice for me, I also found that when I paired the R8 with Canon’s image stabilized lenses, it performed very well for portraits and landscapes.
Looking at my photos, I can’t tell the difference between photos taken with a lens with image stabilization and a photo I took with a camera with image stabilization and a photo I took with a camera with image stabilization. The lens does not have IS. For many people, a cheaper camera and more expensive glass is a good balance, as it’s easy to upgrade a camera while the glass lasts forever.
The lack of image stabilization also means that videographers must carefully plan their shots around an image-stabilized lens or situations where the camera might be locked on a tripod. or gimbal.
I tested the DJI RS 3 Mini and the R8 would be a perfect camera for the compact gimbal’s maximum load capacity of 795 grams. The R6 Mark II is so heavy that some lenses cannot be used and meet the weight requirements.
The rear LCD is identical to the R6 Mark II, although the EVF is smaller and has fewer dots (0.39 inches vs. 0.5-inch EVF on the R6 Mark II, and 2.38 million dots vs. 3.69 on the R6 Mark II).
Unlike the R6 Mark II, the R8 does not have a standard mechanical shutter but has a front electronic shutter and silent modes. The lack of a mechanical front shutter means the R8 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 second with the electronic front shutter and 1/8000 second with the electronic shutter. In contrast, the R6 Mark II has a maximum speed of 1/8000 in the mechanical, electronic and electronic blinds.
Without a mechanical shutter and designed more with consumers in mind, the R8 is limited to six frames per second (FPS) with the electronic front curtain shutter but can’t achieve the full 40 FPS that the R6 Mark II is achieved with fully electronic shutter shooting.
The R8’s buffer fills up to about 60 RAW shots (using a high-speed SD card), but it can take more than 1,000 large JPEGs before filling up.
Speaking of SD cards, there’s only one slot, which might have startled camera reviewers just a few years ago, but it’s a compromise that makes sense for a consumer-oriented camera. use more than this.
That single slot is what keeps this from being a “professional” camera, the rest is the small battery which significantly reduces the usage time per battery compared to the R6 Mark II. I understand that smaller form factors often require smaller components, but this is one area where I’d be willing to go with a slightly larger body in exchange for longer battery life.
The R8’s spec sheet doesn’t list a CIPA rating for battery life – not that CIPA has been reliable in this area for a while – but I got less than a day of shooting with a mix of stills and video .
There are also some UI differences, such as the lack of a joystick on the back and the lack of a photo rating button. I probably don’t need the rating buttons, but the joystick is one of those camera components that should be universally applicable but often isn’t.
There’s an optional grip that extends the grip surface, adding about half an inch of material under the camera body. It makes the R8 easier to hold but just makes me wish the R8 was that tall to begin with and had a larger battery.
Like the R6 Mark II, the R7 has a micro HDMI port, unfortunately that connector breaks easily and leads to many video problems.
Canon EOS R8: Misplaced creativity
Canon has added a new A+ auto mode and some innovative control features to the R8, which could have been more complex and valuable. With other innovative controls already present in Canon’s camera user interface, having another dedicated dial and several buttons on the LCD seems disorganized.
I’ll discuss these new features in more detail in my review of the Canon R50.
Canon EOS R8: Kit collection
I tested the Canon R8 with the RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, the Canon RF 135mm f/1.8 L IS USM, the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM, and the new kit 24-50mm f/4.5 – 6.3 IS STM ($299) and the picture is much better than I expected.
The 24-50mm produces sharp, vibrant images, with some distortion but overall image quality is high. I shoot portraits with the 24-50mm lens, which while not in the same league as the 50mm f/1.2, provides good enough quality to use for paid work.
Canon EOS R8: Upgraded downgrade
The Canon EOS R8 is an excellent full-frame mirrorless camera and it helps differentiate Canon’s product line. With the addition of the R8 and R50 also introduced today, Canon has really improved the product range.
Other companies have more products in their product lines, but Canon’s RF mount mirrorless cameras are ticking all the boxes. The R8 makes the product line more attractive and interesting.
It takes almost no time to switch to the R8 from shooting the R6 Mark II; I kind of had to get used to the missing joystick. As a left-eye dominant, I can’t use the LCD screen as a touchpad — my nose moves the focus points — so losing the joystick reduces convenience significantly.
Even though most of my shoots are with a higher performing camera than the R8, it fits the niche I’ve filled for years with the Sony a7C very well. I’ve used the a7C as a travel camera, a studio camera, and a portrait camera, and the Canon R8 serves all those purposes as well. There are rumors of a new a7c II that could change the dynamics of this product comparison, but for me, for now, the R8 and a7C are equally attractive. A7C is smaller but R8 is more powerful.
The Canon R8 feels like the perfect travel camera. When I’m with my family, I want a camera that can take good pictures and I don’t want it to be too flashy or too big. There are many times when traveling when it’s good to have a camera that doesn’t look like a professional body, and the R8 fits in well there.
The fact that it has the same sensor as the R6 Mark II means it easily matches images and footage captured with the R8, and that means image quality is very good. In many of the images in this review, I paired the R8 with a Canon prime lens like the 135mm or 50mm, but I shot with the new 24-50mm lens and it feels great to use and as I mentioned , it produces great images.
The R8’s target customers will be happy with the compromises made to accommodate the $1,500 price point. However, Canon’s release of some affordable yet highly effective lenses in the RF line will make the R8 more popular than I give it credit for. RF users also won’t feel sorry for Canon’s high-priced optics on the third-party market, as Canon will not license its RF mount.
The R8 is essentially a stripped down R6 Mark II, lacking some of the features that made the R6 Mark II so powerful but retaining many of the other features that made it so desirable. These compromises are a great balance for customers looking for a high-powered camera without a lot of bells and whistles.
Are there any alternatives?
Because of the Canon EOS R8’s features and price, even within Canon’s camera lineup, there are no solid full-frame competitors with a price similar to the $1,500 R8. The closest option is to buy an R7 with an APS-C sensor, but comparing APS-C to full frame is apples to oranges.
The Sony a7 IV is another alternative, but it uses dated autofocus technology and the R8 beats it in focus performance.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you are looking for a solid camera with “pro” features then the Canon EOS R8 is for you. It’s the best full-frame Canon you can buy without paying more.