A Review of the Canon EOS R5 From a Sports Photographer's Perspective

As more and more photographers move to mirrorless camera systems, it is important to test and get some hands-on experience to see if a specific camera body will meet your average work flow. There are a lot of impressive new mirrorless cameras hitting the market but are they the right upgrade for you?

Sports photography is one of those niches that can be very gear demanding. While you can get away with picking up just about any camera and walking away with good photographs as a portrait or landscape photographer, not all cameras have the tools needed to shoot sports at a professional level. While there is no substitute for first-hand experience, it is great to get reviews from photographers in a variety of fields to better set expectations. 

Local Boston sports photographer Paul Rutherford has been great at sharing behind the scenes photos and videos both on his Instagram account and YouTube channel of what it is like to photograph different professional sports. In Rutherford's most recent video he discusses his personal experience testing out the new Canon R5 during at an MLS match and fitness portrait session. While a lot of reviews focus on the specs and pixel peeping images from one camera to another, I think it is great to see working photographers share their experiences in the field. Especially if you are a sports photographer looking to possibly make the switch to mirrorless. 

The biggest take away from Rutherford's review is the down sides to the electronic shutter at 20 fps. While on the surface 20 fps sounds amazing for action photography, in practice the higher image count, buffering speeds, and rolling shutter add a lot of roadblock to his fast-paced workflow. The rolling shutter being the most surprising for me as I hadn't seen it so badly displayed in other reviews. 

Are you a sports or other fast action type of photographer using or thinking of upgrading to the R5? What are your thoughts?

Rutherford's sports photography work covers a lot of New England sports teams, and his Instagram feed is filled with plenty of great sports moments. If you are a fan of sports, especially New England teams, he posts pretty regularly during and after every game he photographs. 

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23 Comments

vik .'s picture

He's only getting 8fps because the battery has less than 60% charge and he should know that if he's trying to put out a "review"

Tony Northrup's picture

Another way to think of this is how absurd it is that it's possible to spend as much time with the camera as he has without being made aware of a really serious limitation that definitely reduces the quality of his work. The 8 FPS limit at 60% should be on all the marketing specs every time the max FPS is listed. The camera should by default notify you to replace the battery once it passes that threshold (when you're in continuous shooting)... Or at least it should have a visual indicator or the current max FPS that turns yellow once it degrades.

It's a lot easier to update the firmware and marketing material than it is for every single photographer to remember to constantly check battery life to see if it's fallen below 60% (especially when shooting fast-paced sports).

Paul Rutherford's picture

Agreed! I tried finding the reason why by googling 8fps for the mechanical shutter but couldn't find anything. I've only heard from commenters about the 60% battery spec.

Will Hanley's picture

With a full battery, I got 7fps with the 200 1.8, and 8fps with the 400 2.8 (mk1) using the mech shutter. With the e-shutter I got the full 20fps with both lenses. Of course, both of those lenses are 30 years old... it might have been the 'old' battery though which apparently matters. I didnt realize there even was a 'new' battery and didn't think to check which one I was using (I rented the R5).

Deleted Account's picture

So does your battery never fall below 60% while working?

Paul Rutherford's picture

Always learning something new. Part of the reason I put these out is so I can learn something too. And I've been told that you need to be using the newer LP-E6NH batteries, because I had a full charge on my older LP-E6 battery. I agree it should be listed with the specs and it would be helpful if the camera let you know!

Steven Kornreich's picture

Is the 60% battery issue mostly pertain to 20FPS electronic shutter or does it also effect 12fps using mechanical shutter?
I am a Sony A9ll owner and this is where Sony still has the advantage with its Electronic Shutter and hardly any rolling shutter. I was hoping that the R6 would fair better in regard to rolling shutter yet from what I have seen this is not the case

Paul Rutherford's picture

The 20 fps was not affected by the battery.

Will Hanley's picture

I am a Sony a9 sports shooter, and I recently rented the R5 to test it head to head with my a9 specifically looking at rolling shutter, focus acquisition, sharpness, and fps with two of my older Canon lenses (200 1.8) and (400 2.8 mk1 non-IS). I currently adapt these lenses to my a9 and a7R4, but was hoping to replace the a7R4 with the R5.

My rolling shutter test suggests that the R5's readout speed is roughly twice that of the a9. Whether you will actually see rolling shutter artifacts in real life is dictated by a bunch of factors, but it's definitely there and is consistent with Paul's review. The a9 is reported to have a readout speed of 1/160th based on forum discussion if I recall, so the R5's would be in the 1/80th-ish range. My test consisted of photographing scan refresh lines on my phone's screen. The lines move and appear to slant as the camera takes the exposure. Comparing the slant of the lines taken with the a9 vs the slant of the lines taken with the R5 is the basis for my claim. I didn't attempt to measure the readout speed directly, only as a relative comparison to the a9.

I have adapted both of my older Canon lenses with good success, but obviously a more native matchup with the R5 would be optimal. The R5 certainly tracks, acquires focus, and seems to produce sharper images based on my tests. As mentioned in another reply, I achieved 7fps with the 200 1.8 and 8fps with the 400 2.8 mk1 non-IS (both mech shutter) and the full 20fps with the e-shutter for both. This was with a completely full battery. The images seemed sharper, although I have not yet had time to try to compare them to the a9 or the a7R4 (and other reviewers are likely doing that), but I suspect that since neither camera needs AFMAs, they would be comparable.

The attached picture is the basis for the readout speed comparison. The filename describes (SS/[elec/mech]/camera).

I plan to buy the R5 whenever it becomes available again to replace my a7R4 and use exclusively with these older Canon lenses. I am keeping my a9 for dedicated use with my native Sigma 24-70 and 70-200GM.

Side note, while there is no blackout with the R5 using the e-shutter, I could not find a way to remove the overlay info from the HDMI stream while shooting photos. The a9 can send a clean 1080/60p stream out to an external recorder while shooting photos. There is no blackout, so it is like you are recording a movie. This allows you to 'video' the entire game while shooting. The result is a clean version of whatever your EVF/LCD is seeing. You can still use the EVF like normal, too. This method also allows adapted lens users to leverage the photo AF system (since video AF often doesn't work with adapted lenses) to record video (1080/60p) externally. I wish Canon would add this option to the R5. Or maybe I just missed the setting?

Lee Christiansen's picture

Hold on... one of his complaints is that if he shoots at 20 fps, he ends up with too many pictures to tag...?

Well there's a simple solution to that... don't shoot at 20 fps.

What's the next complaint? "I got this 1200mm lens and it makes things look too big..."

Paul Rutherford's picture

Haha. It does sound funny but I wanted to test to see how practical the spec is in real life. If a spec is amazing but not useful then it doesn't matter. When trying to work on a deadline it becomes a lot of pictures to look through and then tag as well as waiting for camera to read out the images taken.

Michael Hickey's picture

His EF lens has to be on the “officially supported” EF lens list to get the maximum FPS in addition to battery power. Pg 896 of the owners manual pdf.

Paul Rutherford's picture

Thanks for the reference! I was wondering where this info was, I couldn't find it anywhere on the web. Seems rough only the most recent versions of lenses and batteries can work with the 12 FPS.

David Pavlich's picture

Buy a battery grip and don't say, "it'll be too heavy". Sports photographers use heavy lenses. If the addition of the grip is too much weight, then go to the gym. I'm officially a 'geezer' and use a 5DIV with a grip. There....problem solved!

Funny thing, when people complained about the poor battery life of a Sony, the Sony faithful said that it's easy to carry a couple extra batteries. ;-)

D R's picture

Monkeypixels (on Youtube) have been shooting pro sports for over a decade, using the best 1D series cameras available (even the 1DX3 as of late) as well as the best from Sony. They have a great review of the R6 just up, and long story short, the R6 is the best sports camera they have ever used (both at 12 FPS and 20 FPS).

I too have been shooting paid sports photography for 15 years, using the 1D3 for about 12 years, and the 5DIV, EOS-R and the R5 and R6 beat them all by a long shot.

Paul Rutherford's picture

The R5 is amazing and I loved shooting with it. If I had no camera bodies and was choosing a new body I'd probably start with the R5 over the 1Dx ii I have now, because it's better overall and mirrorless will only be getting better. But specifically for team action sports I found I like the 1Dx better and I have no reason to switch over now, but hope to in the future. Cameras now are so amazing I honestly think people will be happy with whatever they choose. I watched the review and agree with everything he's saying, but shooting individual figure skaters is very different than a field full of players.

Michael Hickey's picture

The R5 has been my go-to camera since the day I got it, and I've got two 1Dx II's.
I've been shooting sports for Getty for over 15 years and I've got a lot of sporting events under my belt and the R5 is the best tool I've ever used.
As far as having a lot of people in the frame you have to get used to bouncing back and forth from eye-af and traditional center point focusing on the fly.

Paul Rutherford's picture

I agree it is amazing and I think I am more used to the 1Dx ii which is why I still like it a little more right now and don't feel the need to switch, especially since I'd have to upgrade my lenses and batteries to get 12 frames per second. I'm curious if you've found any issues with the 20 fps while shooting sports? I wish I could've tested it out more on football and baseball but had to send it back before I could.

Michael Hickey's picture

I've seen a little bit of distortion in swinging bats and balls that are moving really fast.
One thing I'm really waiting for is shooting basketball under LED lighting at 20 FPS. I've noticed some banding on the green fields shooting soccer from above at night.

George Spyros's picture

I also shot sports, and i've got 3-4 1d series bodies (1d4s and 2 1dx, no 1dx ii however).
My main concern all those years is the shutter wear, i do a LOT of clicks each weekend, my plan is to buy the R6 and use it fully electronic shutter, along with some powerbanks plug in usb-c to extend battery life while on camera is in use.
I can live with lower FPS, and i dont think distortion will be too much of a problem for me (i shot running, triathlons, track n field events, no footballs, basketballs etc).

I hope the battery extention with powerbanks will work fine, and that i will have a new camera with practically immortal shutter.

Jared Ribic's picture

I mainly shoot stills and LOVE the EOS R5. I'm about to do a YouTube video on my 2-month experience with the EOS R5 compared to the EOS R and the 5D Mk4.

Shooting ONLY STILLS the EOS R5 gave me the TEMPERATURE WARNING icon during at least 4 weddings. Even so, I have no regrets and would do it all over again.