Testing The Limits of the New Canon EOS R8 Mirrorless Camera

Testing The Limits of the New Canon EOS R8 Mirrorless Camera

The Canon EOS R8. Is this the lightest, smallest, most diverse, and most affordable full frame Canon mirrorless camera yet? Let's see how it performs.
I was really pleased to test this new full frame camera from Canon, and I can genuinely say that this feels like the lightest full frame camera I’ve ever tested, weighing in at just 414g. Like my previous R6 Mark II review I’m not going to go into detail about specifications (which can be found here) but rather go over my experience using the Canon R8 for the last week. I tested this alongside the Canon RF 24-50mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM lens. This is a great combination and befits a camera that has multiple uses as a great backup body for wedding photographers, a handy, light walkabout camera for day-to-day use, and as a great and fast sports camera capable of good low-light performance.

The video capabilities are also superb and capable of shooting 4K up to 60p oversampled. As a photographer, though, I won’t be using it for this and only mention it for those looking for a worthy full frame capable camera. Firstly, big thanks go out to Canon UK, especially Jaime Chan and Frankie Jim, for lending and trusting me with the Canon R8 and the Canon 24-50 f/4.5-6.3 kit to review.

The Initial Settings I Changed From the Default Settings Are as Follows

  • Image quality from L to raw.
  • Release the shutter without a card to Off from On.
  • Bracketing sequence to -0+ from 0-+.
  • Customize buttons changed M-Fn to AF Point selection.
  • Turned on the back button focus by changing the shutter button to Metering start from Metering and AF start and the AF ON button on the back to Metering and AF start.
  • I also customized the My Menu tab with Battery Info, Format, and Beep on/off.
  • I set the AE Lock button to Set ISO speed (hold button turn dial) as the lens didn’t have a control ring for me to use.
  • I also changed the AF point button to Direct AF area selection as it was a little easier for me

Scenario 1

Tasked with getting some shots of my friend’s new rooftop apartment, I knew I’d want to use the dynamic range of the camera to catch the light and dark areas and get some great detail in there, and with the R8’s great low-light performance, I wasn’t wrong. His new apartment features dim mood lighting with a great view, and the high-contrast areas would normally make for difficult shots to get the detail in the underexposed and blown-out areas. 

Getting the interior shot was easy, but on the day, with the weather being extremely bright outside, the dynamic range was going to be tested to its limits.

Using the HDR mode on the camera with the EV turned up to 3+ meant that I got the shots I wanted within the dynamic constraints of this scene.

Needless to say, I think he's going to be very happy with these. The R8 performed well under these circumstances and was a good choice for this shoot, keeping detail in the required areas with no visible banding (even while used handheld).

Scenario 2

Street photography really isn't my thing. I'm not great at it, and it is definitely a skill that has to be mastered. However, I can see that this camera would be ideal for this style of photography, as it's small, light, and easy to handle. Taking the R8 out with me on a walk meant attempting to get some images that could show the level of detail the R8 can capture.

While I love these old telephone boxes, it's hard to see them when they are vandalized and most aren't used for telecoms now. Some have been repurposed into stations with defibrillator machines in them (not this one). Capturing the color was very important, as it's iconic to the history of these boxes.

This is one of my favorite places to go in Penarth, and the detail and sharpness coming out of the R8 are outstanding and can't be faulted. 

I am really pleased with the results, and while I don't see myself taking on this type of genre anytime soon, it's good to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things.

What I Liked About the Canon R8

It's small, light, and portable. What's not to like? As a professional photographer, I could definitely see this being in my bag as a solid backup camera. I have large hands, so if this was paired with a battery grip in the future, then this would be an ideal combination. At present, there isn't a battery grip available for this model, but I did read that this is compatible with the Canon EG-E1 Extension Grip, which would make it easier in my ape-sized hands (although I've not personally tested this). It's got most of the functions you'd normally use that are found on the more expensive models and is very reasonably priced at $1,499 or $1,699 when bundled with the RF 24-50mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens. It has a great dynamic range and a burst mode of up to 40 fps, plus raw burst of 30 fps with 0.5 seconds of pre-recording.

What I Didn't Like About the Canon R8

Batteries. I think having to carry around different types of batteries would possibly irk me in the long run. Owning the R6 and EOS R means owning one type of battery that is compatible with all the different cameras I own, and I have a lot of them. While this isn't an issue if this is going to be the only camera you own, having a cross-compatible battery would have meant not having to scramble around in my bag for different batteries when changing during a shoot. Ergonomically, having the card slot near the battery was a little strange for me, as with all my previous Canon cameras, it's been under a flap on the side, but this is more of an issue for me having owned the previous models. I'm guessing that new adopters of the R8 won't have an issue with this.

My Final Thoughts

This is a great camera that's very reasonably priced with a ton of great features. If I had extra money, I'd probably purchase one to keep as a backup in my bag, but this wouldn't be my go-to main camera body. For that, I'd use the Canon R5 and the Canon R6, with the backup being the Canon EOS R (although the next change of camera bodies will be the R6 to the R6 Mark II). For enthusiasts, this is a great option. Great low-light performance, speed, and weight benefits mean that if you're trying to lighten your kit, this could be the solution for you.

Peter Morgan's picture

Peter Morgan is a professional photographer, drone pilot, writer and tech enthusiast. He has worked in the tech sector since the age of 16 and has over 30 years experience of working with technology. He also runs his own photographic company and shoots weddings, headshots and commercial projects.

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1 Comment

Hell yeah! Pushing the limits of your camera with that phone box and apartment images, you really took that equipment to the brink! Good thing you didn't bother with easy stuff like fast action in low light during extreme weather. Those storefronts are just the next level stress test and it's amazing how you managed to put it thought it's paces ! Now on more serious note: you would get the exact same images on any 15 year old DSLR as long as it had any kind of exposure bracketing.