Canon EOS R Takes on the NFL

Can the Canon R mirrorless perform well enough under the pressure of shooting an NFL football game?  There is more to camera performance than the quality of the photographs.

Famous sports photographer Peter Read Miller recently took the Canon R mirrorless to an NFL game between the Titans and the Broncos to see how the camera functioned for sports photography. To me, this is the best way to evaluate photography equipment. Different types of photography require different features. Not only are the features important, but the feel of the camera is essential and can be a determining factor for a photographer. I find these aspects to be crucial and not easily evaluated in lab settings or studio settings, unless of course the body is intended as a studio type of camera.

As to be expected with any modern camera, Miller has no issue with the quality of the photographs he can produce with the camera. Let’s all admit that the quality of the image from a modern camera is not an issue. Sure, if you want to pixel-peep and compare camera images side by side, then yes, there may be differences. But is this an issue when the image stands by itself? I don’t think it is. 

Miller does have a few comments about how the camera worked differently for him when shooting an NFL game. Miller has shot NFL games for years, so I find his feedback of how the Canon R functioned in an environment that he is very accustomed to being associated with valuable to a sports photographer who is thinking about purchasing the Canon R.

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17 Comments

Ed Sanford's picture

I was glad to see this vid because I had been commenting in several of these articles that I had not seen sports photographers using mirrorless. So, it was great having a top pro try the camera at work and then comment. His first observation I think is important in that he found the camera to be too small for the large lenses. Consequently, he got a battery grip to make it bigger and more balanced. Not to be picky, but in a small way it defeats the purpose of using a smaller lighter camera. I note that most of the people shooting NFL/MLB are using cameras in the 1DX class which are huge cameras. He found the auto focus and the fps to be sufficient. Overall, I think that pros shooting sports will probably move to mirrorless but at a much slower rate because of the investment that they have in these huge telephotos and also the need to retrain muscle memory to work with a "different" camera. Also, I believe that Canon, in this case, really has some further development to do to attract the pro sports and media guys to upgrade at a faster rate. Meanwhile, I see mirrorless as still in the prosumer stage. For me, there is no image quality benefit to changing now.

Douglas Turney's picture

As a sports photographer that has to travel (air travel) to the events I cover I would appreciate smaller camera bodies, however 5 fps is, like Miller said, "adequate". I choose to shoot with D500s for several reasons, one of which is I can go to 10 fps if I need to. Usually I'm shooting more at 7 fps as 10 fps is not normally needed for me. And yes I do find a difference between 5 and 7 fps in getting "the shot" at times.

Ed Sanford's picture

So Douglas, can I conclude that you probably won't be moving to mirrorless anytime soon?

Douglas Turney's picture

Yeah you can assume that. BUT not because I think mirrorless isn't good. I don't think that at all. Rather I have equipment that is doing the job I need it to do without any complaints. To make money in photography you need to keep expenses low so why buy something to replace equipment that is working just fine for me.

Ed Sanford's picture

I agree 100%.... It appears that whenever new technology is introduced, a lot of early adopters purchase it for the sake of having new technology. All the best!

Elan Govan's picture

I thought it was a terrific review. He was very honest about his own expectations and did not try to sugar coat the camera's performance either.

Christian Berens's picture

it's nice to hear about a pro photog using a mirrorless, but damn, he needs to get the players' names right LOL

Spy Black's picture

I found it rather comical that he commented about image blackout between frames. So many mirrorless pundits are always trying to hammer in that one of the greatest advantages of mirrorless is that you don't lose sight of what you're tracking because you don't have the mirror flipping up and back, yet this is exactly what was happening to him with the mirrorless camera.

Those commenting on zero blackout mirrorless are refering to a few newer bodies, like the Sony a9. Maybe future Canon RF bodies will include the feature, but this one does not.

Spy Black's picture

OK, but the Canon is a newer body than all of them, and has blackout. So if say an A9 does not have blackout then WTF was Canon thinking when they made this body? Even my pocket Olympus E-M10 Mk II's EVF doesn't black out on sequential shooting (although the frame rate suffers). Clearly a massive fail on Canon's part, don't you think? Unless of course Canon has incorporated a mirror emulation in the EVF, which would be be ridiculously hilarious.

See below. This has nothing to do with a mirror. It has to do with having a physical shutter on the camera and not a global electronic shutter during its main shooting modes.

I see this a lot and I don't think it's really understood. MIRRORLESS CAMERAS STILL HAVE PHYSICAL SHUTTER CURTAINS! The A9 doesn't have EVF blackout because it has a 100% electronic shutter when shooting in high-speed burst. When working with studio lights, however, frame rates drops down to 5fps and has a physical shutter curtain. The EOS R, when in silent shooting mode, does not have EVF blackout either but only in this mode. It is literally impossible to avoid blackout when you have a physical shutter passing in front of the sensor. To compensate for this Canon on the EOS R and many other manufacturers place an image in your EVF that is slightly in the past to give the impression that there was no blackout. Just like pretty much everyone else other than the A9 which, once again, has a fully electronic shutter in its main shooting modes.

Spy Black's picture

The electronic shutter has nothing to do with it. I can shoot mechnical or electronic with my Olympus and I don't get blackout either way. Your point makes sense but I see what I see in my EVF. The Canon's blackout is inferring something else.

Remember that Pete has been shooting with DSLRs all his life and was never distracted by the mirror blackout the way he's being distracted by the blackout on the R.

Brian Albers's picture

Totally off-topic-

Audio engineer here (Clear Channel Radio for 15 years, worked on Jim Rome Show, Chris Myers Show...), suggesting that the guy get the damn mic out of his face so we can see him. Drop it down to about his second shirt button and angle it up at his mouth, and it'll sound just as good. In fact, it might even sound better that way, because as it is now, the mic will have a much greater chance of popping Ps, especially without a windscreen/pop filter.

Better yet, just get a high quality lavalier and pin it to his shirt. High quality shotgun mic out of picture would accomplish the same thing, but might catch more room sound.

Spy Black's picture

Better overhead facing down to avoid nasal sounds. Fortunately the RE-20 he's using doesn't suffer from proximity effect, so that would be an ideal setup I think.

Colin Robertson's picture

LOL! At least he wasn't using his camera's built-in mic...

Colin Robertson's picture

Valuable insight from a working pro. Bottom line is, yes you *can* use the R to shoot sports, but obviously there are much better options, even in the mirrorless space (of which Peter admits he has no experience with). I assume he's a Canon-only guy and there's nothing wrong with that. He obviously has a significant investment in Canon glass... But a pro will get good shots no matter what camera you hand them.