The Canon EOS R5 Is Mind-Blowing but There Are Still Major Questions to Be Answered

The Canon EOS R5 Is Mind-Blowing but There Are Still Major Questions to Be Answered

Yesterday, Canon swapped the Cripple Hammer for the Tickle Spanner: the EOS R5 is going to be a game-changer. With price and sensor size unknown, there are still some major questions waiting to be answered, and while it’s a dream for many videographers, some photographers might yet be a little frustrated.

The specs of the EOS R5 are staggering. After years of protecting different cameras across their hybrid and cinema lines by crippling specific features, Canon has decided to take the gloves off — and then some. With the video-centric NAB trade show canceled, Canon’s announcements were expected to be video-oriented, and the figures are exceptional. 8K raw internal up to 29.97 fps, 8K internal up to 29.97 fps in 4:2:2 10-bit, and 4K internal at 120 fps — all with Dual Pixel Autofocus and, most significantly, no crop. Alongside all of that, there's the small matter of in-body stabilization. 

These figures seem a little insane. Such specifications make it a direct competitor to Canon’s own cinema cameras, not to mention various others. 

With the dust settling, various huge questions remain unanswered, with Canon beautifully teasing us with nuggets of information over the course of several months. The hype for this camera is immense — justifiably. If I were Canon, I too would want to spend my time rubbing the noses of the naysayers into those 8K numbers. As a result, Canon is taking its time with other announcements, and it feels that Canon has swapped out its legendary Cripple Hammer for a brand new Tickle Spanner: instead of handicapping its models, it’s keeping us titillated with teases, and taking its time to tell us something truly titanic.

This recent patent now seems beautifully redundant.

Canon is either trying to keep us entranced for as long as possible or — and this seems unlikely given the excitement that Canon is enjoying — because there are some significant caveats yet to emerge.

Let’s run through a few of the details that are keeping us clamoring for more.

Sensor Resolution

Not so long ago, the headline of any camera would be the number of megapixels it’s packing, with figures leaked and rumors flying. By stark contrast, Canon is bizarrely quiet about the resolution of the sensor in the R5, and speculation has not been as frantic either.

45 megapixels was mooted back in January, and the ever-eagle-eyed Canon News has an interesting theory to support this: in among the chaos of various broken links on the Canon website, Canon USA posted some details, including this line:

No crop 8K and 4K video capture using the full-width of the sensor*

That asterisk grabbed everyone’s attention. Furious scrolling ensued. At the bottom, this:

*When in 8K RAW, 8K/4K DCI modes.

Canon News took this to mean that the R5 will shoot 8K DCI. It explains: “This means to fit the DCI full width on the sensor, the sensor width must be 8192 pixels wide, and because full-frame sensors are a 3:2 screen size, that means the height is 5461 pixels.” And critically: “This translates to a sensor resolution of 44.7MP.”

There are a few further details explaining why there is still some uncertainty, but this ties in with the early rumors. It does then raise the question: why is Canon keeping quiet about it? My guess is to stagger the news and keep the industry buzzing with the prospect of Canon’s most significant camera since the 5D Mark III.

How Hot?

With a new DIGIC processor throwing around vast amounts of data coming off a new CMOS sensor, it's intriguing that the R5 does not have a cooling system similar to that in the Panasonic S1H. Recording limits are yet to be mentioned. A few months ago, critics would have been sure that the limitations would be fairly severe, but with Canon exploding every negative assumption about the R5 in its press conference, it's now tough to say what those limits might be.

Yes But How Much?

The elephant in the room is the price. Some say $3,500. Others suggest $4-5,000. A few suspect closer to $6,000. There’s good logic for each.

Starting with $3,500: Sony’s tactics make a solid argument for camera bodies to be loss leaders, dragging users into an ecosystem and then making money on glass. Given the price of RF lenses, this would certainly make sense. Sony’s aggressive pricing was part of the reason that people like me sold their older 5D and 6D models and jumped to the a7 III, and if Canon wants to regain those customers, pricing should be part of the incentive. All it would then need is Sigma to make a lens adapter so that those swapping from Sony to Canon could keep using their Sony glass. (I’m not serious. Or am I?)

The amount of tech arriving in the R5 makes such a low price point seem impossible, but given that so much else about the R5 feels impossible, maybe it’s not so crazy. $4,500 seems much more realistic, and looking at the $6,499 you need to spend to grab yourself a 1D X Mark III, you’d be forgiving for thinking that $4,500 would be a bargain. The video specifications of the new 1D X is massively impressive, and yet the R5 somehow puts it to shame. Can the R5 really come in that much cheaper?

Canon 1D X Mark III. Yours for $6,499.

Pricing remains a mystery. Major retailers say “Coming Soon.” Interestingly, however, Lens Rentals has it listed at $271 per week (hat tip to docsmith). Given that the 1D X Mark III is $347 per week, a little bit of math puts the R5’s retail price a shade over $5,000. So, $4,999?

What About Photographers?

This is all incredible news for hybrid shooters, but what about those who don’t shoot video? For some, anything above $4,000 is going to be a stretch for a 45-megapixel camera, and given that the EOS R, the Lorem Ipsum of mirrorless full-frame cameras, now feels somewhat redundant and the R6 is expected to be a mere 20 megapixels, this may leave something of a hole in Canon’s line up. For photographers who don’t need a burst speed of 20 frames per second and have run out of children to mortgage, there might be better full-frame mirrorless options out there.

No doubt this will hole in Canon’s cameras will be filled, so let’s be patient. Until then, we have to wait and see if the dynamic range of Canon’s news sensor matches the ground that’s been broken in terms of video.

Over To You

How much will this new camera cost? Will you be placing a pre-order? Why don’t we know its resolution? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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Good article, Andy. Thank you.

I will mention that I think the term "sensor size" is being misused. We do know what the sensor size will be - it will be 36mm by 24mm ..... a.k.a. "full frame".

The resolution is something completely different from, and unrelated to, sensor size. We know the sensor size. We do not yet know the resolution. It is important to use the correct terms when writing articles about camera gear, lest you may confuse your readership.

Thanks Tom, glad you enjoyed it. And thank you for making a valid point in such a gentle manner! I've since updated the article. Thanks again. 😊

Thanks for being such a class act, Andy ..... you rock!

I've been in the market to update my camera as I've been shooting commercially on the D810 for a number of years now and the gear is due for an upgrade. Up till now I was leaning towards the Leica SL2 but with the latest details on this R5 it is likely to be the new front runner for me. I will wait until a full spec release but its looking likely that this will be my next ecosystem.

Price doesn't really matter to me. Since I shoot full time, this is a tool and an investment. I was already debating the Leica and the GFX100, both of which are rather pricey options. So in my case, even if it is priced at $6500, I feel that is fair for the tech and what I will get out of it.

Andy, will you be placing a preorder? Will this camera takeover the mirrorless market?

Ha, no - I wish! I get to upgrade once every five or six years. Whether it will take over really depends on the price, I suspect, not to mention the a7S III and a7 IV, and whatever else comes along.

I'm worried about data rates. Canon has been known to include incredibly high quality data rates, but that are impractical to shoot more than a few minutes worth of footage (without attaching a server farm to the camera.) I just hope they included some middle ground, useable codecs in there, like 4K 4:2:2 10-bit H.265 30p/60p or even full sensor All-I HD 4:2:2 10-bit. I shoot hours of footage every week, and I can't afford to accumulate multiple TB for every shoot.

The guy from FroKnowsPhoto confirmed h.265 as the codec for 422 10-bit

"With price and sensor size unknown" shouldn't be sensor resolution? Size I believe is full frame, no?

Absolutely correct. Since fixed. Thanks for spotting!

4500 seems to be too high .. but after EOS R being kind of meh and not really up there with competition with better price and some improvements it might be just what Canon users wants right now ..


Two thoughts here:

1. I think Canon is slow playing the release because the Olympics were canceled (their usual target for releases) and because their manufacturing efforts are compromised with COVD-19. Rather wait to announce a sure date vs apologize and make excuses for things you can't control.

2. Not being fully read up on the R6 sepcs, I wonder if it'll be an R5 but without the epic video capabilities? This would satisfy the purely photographers market and offer a middle pricing option between the R5 and the R

I just don't see how the R5 comes in under $4,500

The body of the R5 is thicker than the R. The difference in specifications is enormous. A second card slot, a new processor, a new sensor housing (to accommodate IBIS), inclusion of some sort of heat sink to handle 8K - these specfications are punching a full weight class above the R. To say it's the same is insulting to the Canon Engineers.

I think that it will have FAR MORE processing speed and power than the EOS R, and processing capability is a huge part of the cost of a camera.

Processing power is the main reason that a 1Dx2 costs 10 times more than a Rebel. I mean, yeah, the sensor and the build quality and AF abilities play a part, too, but the main reason the 1DX2 is so much more than a Rebel is the processing engine. So why wouldn't you think that a massive, almost exponential increase in processing power would cause the price of the R5 to be far, far more than that of the EOS R?

And at the very end of the article: "What About Photographers?"

My predictions are this will have 8K RAW and 4k 120p......and then nothing else. So you either shoot in 8K RAW....or you don't. And there will lie the "cripple hammer". They already did this with the 5DmkIV with its motion jpeg codec. The next part of this cripple will come with price. Its not going to be any less then $4,500 and with all the PRE-HYPE they are getting they might even go to $5,000 and RF glass is NOT cheap. Its great, but not cheap. So Lets go $4,500 for the body, then $2299 for this 15-35, then if you want to shoot in 8k RAW....memory cards are gonna be on the rather high side I would imagine. A 1TB CF Card runs about $900. I mean when you are at these prices, this is where you should just RENT video equipment for that job. You DEFINITELY shouldn't need this much to do like daily vlogs or something like that. Who can afford that?? I know People can, and do....but man. I just hope it pushes the industry further.

The C500 Mark II shoots 6k and 1080, so I don't think Canon would omit 1080 when even their to top Cinema camera still shoots it. As for the price, I don't see them getting too close to the prices for the c200 or the c100 Mark II. If the R5 were $4,500, anyone doing video would opt for one of those cinema cameras over the R5

And yet the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K is $2,495.00. So from that to $5,000? Better be one hell of a camera. I want to see false color, focus assist, zebras, etc. Also it's so nice recording to T5 drives than expensive cards. I'm all good at 6k and using the 5d mark 4. And I bet you could get both for the price of the R5 when it comes out. We'll see.

I agree. This camera looks to be sticking it to both Sony a9II And the a7RIV.
A high enough resolution camera with better specifications than the A9II and making people wonder why they would even think of getting the dead slow by comparison a7RIV.

I'd love to have 8k with auto focus to mess with but we'll see what the codec is. Not touching mjpeg. Cameras to me are like printers, they usually sell them cheaper to get people to buy the ink / lens which is where the big money is. Especially with a new system and new lens.

I really think Canon needed the mind share.

When browsing forums or reddit it seems these days that only Fuji and Sony exists.

People will only look at specs and recommend based on that. If you so much remember these people that Canon or Nikon exist you are downvoted to hell and back.

Now with the R5 Canon is recovering a bit of mind share. People might suggest that a Canon camera can be better than Sony or Fuji,, even if it is expensive.

If Canon has an ace in the hole which seems that it could be using the DPAF to increase dynamic range then photographers would certainly be interested. They teased it with the first DPAF camera for adjusting focus in post but maybe in the ensuing decade they have perfected it a la the Fuji S1?
I also think that they will price it as high as they think they can get away with to "skim the cream" of the users who will buy new tech at any price before adjusting the price for the rest of us hoi polloi

For non-sports photographers, the question is indeed whether you would buy an eg $4500 R5 Full frame or a Fuji GFX medium format. Lenses are more or less on the same price level.

I can't imagine that any serious wildlife photographers would even consider the Fuji medium format.

Price, $3,500. The final stick it to Sony.

Sony will be fine; Nikon on the other hand...

How can it be mind blowing if there isn't even a pre-production model for anyone like F-Stoppers to give it a whirl and can tell us if it really is mind-blowing or not ???

I don't think we're really supposed to say that out loud...

I hope all this is true without any caveats. Competition is great and especially great competition is good for everybody. However, Canon being the crippling king, I would wait for the reviews.

If and when the R5 becomes available, will it be a matter of too little- too late?

Yes, to an extent they did.

Two of my good photography friends have been using Canon exclusively for 20 years. But one of them ditched all of his Canon gear back in December, and spent over $20,000 on new Sony gear. The other friend just bought a Sony A7R4 and an A-9 and a 200-600 and a 100-400 three weeks ago, and has now put all of his Canon gear up for sale on his local Craigslist site. He plans to buy a Sony 600mm f4 prime shortly.

So for two of the guys I know best, Canon indeed waited too long to give them what they wanted. I am sure there are thousands of others that have done what my friends did. I myself have over $20,000 of Canon gear, and am seriously thinking about ditching it in lieu of Sony. But I need to wait a few years until the Sony gear is older, and drops in price as it becomes more widely available on the used market.

Why is it always a contest? They are all excellent tools. I know it's exciting to see the brand you currently use to get hyped as the latest and greatest but that will always be changing. Any true advantage is usually short lived. Sony became really hot because they were groundbreaking at the time for those of us who really liked some of the unique features - the combination of high resolution, small size, EVF and great dynamic range in a body that could use almost any lens ever made. Nikon and now Canon seems to have caught up in most if not all the features people loved about Sony Alpha. But I don't think anyone is going to dump one system for another anymore - it's just doesn't make business sense to keep chasing the latest and greatest. The money lost on your lens set will be dramatic.

I will also never understand the big deal with video in still cameras. I think it's mostly hype. A serious video shooter, will usually go for a cinema camera for shooting video. It's nice to have the option in a still camera, but does anyone need more than 4K? Doubt it.

If the camera is as good as the specs say, those that hung on to their Canon gear should be very happy. For everyone else - it's a non-event IMO.

Everyone keep safe and be smart!

Over promising leads to failure even if you have a gold medal winner. Watch yourself Canon. I have a funny feeling Sony sensors will perform better still even with muscular bold Canon specs. I use Sony and am happy, but if I ever switched I'd go Z mount over RF.

Several typos in this article - no proofreading?

I really hope future owners could say after proper testing: I love this sh&%T!! :) And not crying inside when they start do lift up the shadows, while their peers get cleaner/flexible files with "non-8k-hyped-specs" cameras.
I have a EOS R and I belong to the "I expected a bit kore" group.

The R5 looks to be as good as they can make it with current technology. The 5D IV wasn't that crippled either apart from the Canon Log added later via a paid update, the heavy 4k crop and rolling shutter were is just what technology allowed Canon to do at that time. The could do better than a 6D Mark II, though.

Except the R6 to be crippled by both the hardware and the software as well. Just like any other lesser, cheaper Canon camera.

The D5 Mark IV is currently discounted here in Switzerland for about USD 2200. As we know Canon likes to dump their inventory before a new version of just about anything comes out. The R5 is supposed to be a parallel camera to the D5 and while not replacing it, the R5 should play in the same league. Same league - same target market - same price? I would think so. It would simply not make sense to raise the price above D5 levels when it hit the market (so around 3500). Why would you build so much market expectation if the target market then gets blown out by a price above expectation?

If I was Canon, I would probably build up expectation (just as they are) in order to overperform in any aspect of the discussion (as they are) to then surprise the market positively with a great price that lies below expectations. That would be the final selling point to anybody who has been following the revelations and the talks about this new camera.

Canon has lost so much space and goodwill during the last few years during which Sony benefitted and overtook Canon by technology, product and reputation. So many seasoned Canon shooters have changed to Sony and started to invest in their universe. But an even greater number of "Canoniers" have held out waiting for Canon's response. The "R" was not it, that became evident very quickly - too many features and capabilities were missing. For all these folks it is now decision time: either Canon comes out with a winning product (and by that I mean by features, capabilities but certainly also by price) or they move out.

Should Canon decide to skim the market first by introducing the R5 at a price between 3500 and the D1 level, they would instantly trigger a large wave of movers. I know I'd be one of them. For me it's the last moment Canon can get it right or I'm leaving 40 years of fidelity to Canon behind me and switch over to Sony.

So let's hope Canon is as excited as all of us D5 shooters to convert us to R5 shooters and will launch at a ridiculously low price (far below 3k).

I agree that it would be a good move to price the R5 cheap, but when has Canon ever done this? They have a history of over pricing everything, the eos R was $2500 on launch and was just a mirrorless 5d4 without sensor stabilization and one card slot. I don’t see Canon pricing the R5 below $5,000. There is a lot left to learn about this camera, if Canon prices it at $3,500 it will be worth $3,500.

Some fascinating speculation. And while I am firmly in the "shoot what you have and stop wondering if you need better gear" camp, the video spec on this is admittedly making me salivate.

Following this camera just for the enjoyable experience of riding the hype train is fun, even if I am pretty unlikely to ever buy one. I'm still happy with the results I'm getting from my 5D2. And my 80s era film SLRs for that matter.