The Canon R5: According to Adventure Photographer Paul Zizka, a Camera That Has It All

Over the last few weeks I’ve talked with several adventure, wildlife, and landscape photographers about the Canon R5. I think that Paul Zizka’s four-word summary has been the most direct expression of satisfaction to date: it has it all.

Quintessential Paul Zizka.

A Bit About Zizka and OFFBEAT

Zizka is a Canon ambassador, specializing in adventure and landscape photographery based out of Banff, Canada. Zizka was recently named a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. Zizka runs OFFBEAT, a photography community and workshop provider with his friend and colleague, Dave Brosha.

Connecting with the power of nature. Paul Zizka.

Zizka and Brosha’s goal is to facilitate creative connections for those in their community. Coming from the world of corporate law, I understand it when Zizka explains that a lot of his audience and clientele are people who have had to in part suppress their creative side to succeed when life got busy.  

The artistically creative part of their brain wasn’t used for a while because of family or career. We try to help people see that there is creativity in everyone if you take the time to explore that part of your brain.

Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of some of my more creative legal solutions, but that's not the same as trying to reflect your view of the world in a photograph. 

More than sparking creativity, Zizka and OFFBEAT try to also facilitate a return to the wilderness. 

The world would be a better place if people were more connected with their creative side and the wilderness. Once you’re out there and develop the connection to the outside world, you become a much better observer and this leads to a growth in creativity.

Low light in Namibia. Workshops Paul Zizka.

Zizka and OFFBEAT also offer a business of photography course. I asked Zizka to name the one thing he’d want people to take away from his course. He mentioned that people are bent on gathering a large audience. According to Zizka that can be discouraging for newer photographers, especially in light of the algorithms running under social media today. Instead, Zizka suggests that what you need is a dedicated audience. People who admire your work and are willing to part with their hard-earned money to invest in what you're producing. 

Stay true to what makes your photography your own. Let the right people notice. What you need is a genuinely interested audience. 

Zizka's Camera Journey

Zizka started shooting professionally with Canon’s 5D series, upgrading along the way with each new iteration of the 5D line. He explained that although every new 5D was a great camera, it was always lacking something. Even if it was just a small inconvenience, it was something. For example, Zizka pointed out that the 5D Mark III didn’t have an internal intervalometer. Which just meant more weight when he has to carry a third party trigger and timer.

As with the other adventure photographers I’ve talked to, Zizka is always looking for a way to shed weight. Zizka admits, between the 5D and R5, there isn’t a huge difference at first blush, but, when you’re covering a lot of miles, every little ounce plays a part in your mood.

Hiking far and wide with the R5. Paul Zizka.

Having tried out the R during the last Canon product upgrade, Zizka was pleased with the weight of the mirrorless, but the 5D Mark IV still had certain advantages. For example, he was much more confident in the low light capabilities of the 5D compared to the older mirrorless.

Until now, going out on multi-day adventures meant that he had to seriously consider his options. He had to make a choice between what camera to haul over mountain and dell. Now, looking at the R5, as Zizka puts it, there is no more mental torture in making the choice. 

With confidence, the R5 can be the tool that I need regardless of the situations that are presented. For me, that’s where the R5 stood out. It’s the camera that has it all.

Low light with the R5. Paul Zizka.

What Zizka Loves About the R5

Wildlife photographers have been gushing about the R5’s autofocus. More specific to Zizka's shooting style, he has been impressed with the R5’s autofocus in low light. He’s found that even with a little moonlight the R5 is spot on.

Part of Zizka’s mission was to determine if there was any loss in quality using the RF adaptor in combination with his existing Canon glass. For those Canon users that have thousands, if not tens of thousands, invested in Canon lenses, this is a genuine concern. Zizka shot several scenes with two different setups, one with the native RF glass and the other with EF glass and the RF adapter. He didn’t find any real world differences when he used the adapter.

Shooting with the R5. Paul Zizka.

Perhaps the biggest games changer for Zizka is the stabilization. Zizka shoots a lot of low light scenes. Point blank, Zizka exclaimed that:

The stabilization blew my mind. I tested it extensively. Situations that typically might need a tripod were great without one.

He went so far as to explain that he’ll have to retrain his brain to stop reaching for a tripod in situations that he may have needed it in the past but no longer does. Again, for Zizka, this means being able to leave some gear at camp instead of climbing with it.

Epic landscapes with the R5. Paul Zizka.

Any Reservations?

Zizka didn’t have any reservations about what he tested, but he did note that he didn’t have time to really work the R5’s batteries over in bitterly cold weather. When he tested the R5, the battery wasn’t a limiting factor at all, but, as he mentioned, it was pleasant outside.

Likewise, because Zizka didn’t have any inclement weather, he’s itching to test the R5 in snow or rain. For him, the 5D was a tank, it could handle almost anything. Given his rough and tumble subjects, he can’t babysit his gear. So, time will tell if the R5 can handle what he throws at his cameras.

For now though, it’s a camera that offers Zizka everything he needs.

Based on what you've read about the R5, are there any features you're excited to try out?

All images used with Paul Zizka's permission.

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JR Martinez's picture

For what its worth I appreciated hearing what someone has to say about the r5 from an adventure\landscape perspective, the review is useful because I also don't give a damn what camera fanboys think one way or the other, because i'm not weighing a decision about whether to switch to or from Canon.

Apparently Canon making a good camera and someone writing about it hurts a lot of yall's feelings lol.