How Do You Test Camera Gear? Canon’s Road Trip Offers Photographers a Chance to Experience the New Mirrorless

How Do You Test Camera Gear? Canon’s Road Trip Offers Photographers a Chance to Experience the New Mirrorless

Have you ever tried out a new camera at a convention, tech show, or open house? Do you have a method for testing out something you’ve never touched before? 

Canon Canada is taking its R5 and R6 along with a wide range of RF lenses across Canada as part of a Creator Lab Road Trip to give you a chance to take the gear on a test run. Between now and mid-October, Canon is making over 20 stops. 

How Do You Test Drive a New Camera System?

This leads me to the question I have for you: how do you test out cameras or new lenses? Do you have a process you follow each time?

Cameras and their related gear are expensive. Really expensive. It’s worth spending time investigating reviews. I’m firm in the opinion that in the end, nothing is better than getting your grubby little mitts on the gear. If I’m looking for a car, I take it for a test drive. At best, I might be able to open it up on a highway for an exit or two. If I’m serious, I may see if I can rent the car to try it for a week. Likewise, if I’m looking to move to a new home, I do a walkthrough. If I’m serious, I’ll get a home inspector to walk through with me. Maybe I’ll talk with a contractor about what certain repairs might cost me. Both cars and homes are huge investments. These are likely the largest investments most of us will ever make. If you’re not spending time testing them, you might be wasting your money on something you’ll never enjoy.

My total investment in cameras and related gear comes close to what my car is worth. So, if I’m looking to invest this much in gear, I’m going to get as much information and experience as possible when it comes time to upgrade or switch. At a convention, I can pick up a camera attached to an anti-theft cord and aim it around the hall. At a camera store, I can walk around the store or I might even be able to get a sales associate to come into the parking lot with me to test it out — a test drive, if you will. Neither of these situations provide me with enough information to make a $10,000 decision. 

It's fun to play with the R5, but I'm not shooting anything that will really help me judge the camera. It's more about the experience of using the camera.

I could find a shop that’s renting the gear and pay for a week's rental. This approach comes with two caveats. First, if I'm looking at several systems, this can be expensive. Second, if the gear market is really hot, like the current demand for the R5 and R6, most rental houses won’t have the gear in stock soon enough to be on the cutting edge.

If you do get your hands on the gear, what do you do? Do you take a few pictures with your equipment and with the test gear and compare them? Hopefully, you get some birds, some architecture, a landscape; maybe you bring a friend along to model for you. This isn’t a bad idea, but for me, there is no real-world equivalent to tracking a cheetah or shooting a campaign except for tracking a cheetah or shooting a campaign. There are too many moving parts in the kind of work I do to replicate in a parking lot.

I take my time and read as many reviews as I can, especially from photographers that have similar shooting styles to mine. I look at the sites that share in-depth stats reviews and do a fair amount of pixel-peeping.

In the end, though, there is no equal to shooting the gear yourself. As I noted, rentals are expensive. So, I need to experience the gear enough to decide if I’m going to go out and rent it for a week or more.

In Steps the Canon Road Trip

It seems Canon has found a way to bridge the gap, giving you a chance to experience the gear before you shell out for it.  

As well as inviting the public to walk around with a new camera and lens for 45 minutes, Canon is also setting up a portable studio at each location. Speaking of locations, Canon isn’t dropping you into a parking lot; there are wineries, nature reserves, art parks, national parks, turn-of-the-century hotels, and historic sites to shoot in and around.   

From my perspective, having read what I could about Canon’s cameras, I just wanted to get my hands on them, to feel what it was like to hold them — more of an experiential moment than a rigorous test. Sure, I also brought my favorite lenses to try out the EF/RF adapter. But, I had no intention of doing anything more than experiencing the cameras, which is exactly what I had the chance to do. We might be visual artists, but touching and holding something provides important input. 

I tested Canon’s gear at their head office, taking advantage of the small natural area behind their property and a small nature reserve here in Toronto. In both instances, I was able to shoot a few birds in flight and some very rudimentary landscapes and architectural details. Walking around by myself at my own pace without a sales associate was the experience I needed.

You can see the experiences other photographers are having by looking through the IG hashtag #canonroadtrip. You can follow along with Canon Canada’s IG stories as well as with Canon Ambassadors John E. Marriott, Chloe Chapdelaine, Paul ZizkaBen Waugh, Justin Wu, Irene Rudnyk,  and Jacob Clark.

A New Workflow?

I’d love to hear how you evaluate gear. Perhaps we can come together to create a workflow for testing it all out.

Images are the authors.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Mark is a Toronto based commercial photographer and world traveller who gave up the glamorous life of big law to take pictures for a living.

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I love to "experince" things too 😬

edit: title corrected


i hope canon france will do same , i want to test those 5dR

I some research and found a similar series of events in the U.S., but didn't see something about Europe. If you find something, please let me know, I'd love to update my article!

Disappointed that they aren't stopping in Winnipeg. :-(

I was surprised at some of the 'blank' spots across the country. I'd assume that it's purely a population / economics driven decision. I know that stinks - but, at least you're closer to the polar bears than I am ;)

For sure, Mark. Winnipeg is one of the 'big cities' of Canada, but is near the bottom when it comes to population. Regardless, it's nice that Canon is doing this. But, I'm still disappointed. :-)