Canon EOS R5
Crowdsourced Review; Manual Supplement; Known Issues; Hacks; Insights; User Forum
We’ve found the R5 to be – by far – the best camera we’ve ever used for stills, and the one that takes the best quality video (requiring me to use my external recorder if done for any serious length of time).
Click on a tab below to get a run-down of the feature’s performance; known issues; hacks; and comparisons with models from other companies.
The Big Picture:
– Long-form video shooters lacking external recorder
Major Capabilities; Issues; Discussions
The R5 sits in the hand a little easier than the EOS R, and certainly the RP, if you know and like the DSLR 5 series. It is, however, just about as heavy as the last 5 series DSLR, the 5D Mark IV, which might be a little more than is optimal (1.6 pounds). The controls are intelligently placed and feel very much like a Canon – in a good way. And it is zippy in almost all ways, which is a big deal when it comes to perceptions of interface quality. It hits you right at the start. The on switch gives you a camera ready to take a picture in 0.4 seconds. The Sony A9 takes 50 percent more time, and – oddly – the A9 Mark II takes 4 times as long. You notice it. The R5 feels like the old DSLRs, which didn’t need any fancy firmware boots to do what you needed to do.
The Theme: Speed
The back screen is maximally used for control as well, even more effectively than the previous R models or the M models, due primarily to a zippy processor that eliminates what occasionally had been glitchy response lag. Moving the focus point with your thumb on the screen, without even looking away from the viewfinder is finally the magical experience it was meant to be. The M cameras almost had it. Sony, eventually, almost had it. Canon finally put all the pieces together.
Gone is the track bar formerly seen on the EOS R that never quite made our lives easier due to – again – a slowness to be responsive. We wonder if, with the new processor internals, the track bar would be a success in that alternative universe. In its place, though, is the most responsive joystick we’ve used on a camera. There it is again, the responsiveness of the controls is a detectable characteristic down to milliseconds, and this R5 has got the power to make this feel really, really good.
The R5 now sports two card slots – a legacy SD card (finally UHS-II) and the new CF Express card format, which should take over the world shortly. Yes, that’s another card format you need to sink half the cost of a camera into, but this one is the forever card. We think. We can be certain that it’s working, at least. The CF Express cards are taking data so quickly off the R5 that it runs 10 frames per second without a buffer. So after you fill the buffer shooting 20 FPS with the electronic shutter or 12 FPS with the mechanical shutter, you still have 10 FPS as the punishment for having been so gluttonous with the shutter button. [See the part a few sentences back about needing to sink half the cost of the camera again into new memory cards.] Because tests run by Camnostic on four brands of cards (more later) showed that most are giving only about 60 percent the sustained write speed the standard allows for, we expect new cards to come to market that will at least outpace the mechanical shutter. Imagine, we are at the cusp of an era where wildlife shooters just don’t care a fig about buffer capacity. People taking up photography today will look at us quizzically when we ask what the buffer capacity of a new camera is five years from now. Boomers, all of us.
Canon always does a good memory hatch – at least with their higher-end models. A great memory hatch can be fully operated with one hand. We can open, remove a card, and shut the hatch in about 1/3rd of a second. It’s a beautiful, human design that is obviously unappreciated by other manufacturers. Sony has begun to improve theirs deliberately over the last round of ergonomic reforms. Most others appear to be two-handers.
The dials are deliberately segregated into three pieces of real estate. You have your front dial running vertically, designed for the right forefinger; the top back dial, oriented parallel to the floor, designed for the right thumb, and then the back dial, oriented parallel to the screen and designed for the thumb as well. This mentally segregates these dials in one’s mind by location and by axis. This is the sort of touch Canon uses to make its ergos just feel right. Panasonic copied a good deal of it over time, culminating in the S series, which is the other camera series with a similarly-satisfying feel. The uneven topography of the top plate shows this design philosophy. The front dial lives on its own plateau, with the shutter button falling forward, not just on its own plane, but on one whose tangent is precisely the angle of a shutter finger pulling itself into its palm. The lizard instinct of a shutter finger is to pull on this axis, and Canon angled the plan of the surface on which the button stands with this in mind.
The receipt of two R5 cameras coming in early August is good timing for autofocus testing, as here in Vermont the nighthawks tend to move up the Connectcut River valley and provide a beautiful, frustrating autofocus and tracking challenge. Nighthawks are aerial insectavores, so they constantly swoop in unpredictable vector changes, typically about 100 to 200 feet in the air, and typically in terrible lighting situations, just at dusk. Perfect.
Shooting them requires very long glass, so autofocus difficulties are compounded by having a bit of a soda straw effect. AF needs to happen quickly, or the bird will be out of the frame before the camera starts to track.
Last summer, we tried out the Sony A9 and A7R Mark IV, the Panasonic S1R and the Canon 1DX Mark II. Of all of those, the A9 was the clear winner for tracking and autofocus. With this sort of a target, tracking is very much linked to autofocus capabilities, as these birds are impossible to hold on a static autofocus point. If you don’t get initial AF, you won’t be able to track, and if you don’t get tracking, you’ll fairly instantly lose AF. But the A9’s resolution is a weak point, and this is the sort of reach-limited wildlife photography that often requires hard cropping. My favorite subjects captured were by the A9, but my favorite final images wound up being from the A7R Mark IV, heavily cropped in.
After three nights of shooting the birds this week, we can definitively proclaim the R5 the top of this camera pile. The autofocus is as fast as the A9 and A9 Mark II, but the tracking is – surprisingly – even better. I never imagined that a camera would be able to interpret through 840mm of focal length a bird 200 feet up in the air twirling and be able to put a little box on the eye of the bird so as to autofocus at just the right plane of focus for that creature in that position at that moment. The deep learning technologies available now in cameras are already surpassing not just our human capabilities, but also our very expectations of what might be possible. This is one of the reasons why the introduction to this R5 crowdsourced portal spoke of this being a generational camera release.
The earlier generation of Canon tracking would focus on people, bodies, heads and eyes, but not do terribly well with inanimate moving objects that didn’t trigger one of those tracking responses. This was a clear advantage of Sony’s, which would allow you to define by focus point what to start tracking, and then stay on it like a dog with a bone. With this release, Canon can provide the same functionality. The “stickiness” of the tracking of inanimate objects is not as strong, though, with default settings. You must goose these up in the settings to get the sort of obsessively-determined tracking as you see on Sony with non-living things.
Relative to previous Canon models, like the 5D Mark IV and the 1D series, and any of the previous R models, the R5 is a clean break, but for the liveview mode of the 1DX Mark III, which is very similar, but an awkward way to shoot wildlife, requiring that one hold the camera out to view the screen rather than look through the viewfinder. Aside from the leap in tracking, the most notable new capability is the ability to keep on a subject without getting suckered into jumping to a complex background. Moreso than with Sony cameras, Canon autofocus would work great for a nighthawk against the sky, but as soon as one dipped below a treeline, you’d expect the autofocus to jump back to the background. Not so anymore. Really this is a function of how much bird is in the frame versus the background.
Estimating roughly, the earlier DSLR autofocus systems would require a bird take up at least 10 percent of a frame in order for they AF to reliably stay on the bird and not slink off to the background. The R5 was holding birds steady in tracked autofocus against contrasty backgrounds while an imaginary rectangle around the birds comprised only 1 percent of the frame or less. The shot at left was taken at 840mm from a half mile away. There are four birds in the picture. The camera was tracking the one at the bottom middle. It is in perfect autofocus in this easier situation with a relatively low contrast background. Counting pixels, this bird is about 0.1 percent of the frame. Of course, there aren’t a lot of pixels on this bird, as it’s too far away, but this is just to show that autofocus is no longer the limiting factor.
If given the choice to use the $6,500 1DX III or the $4,000 R5 for a day of bird shooting, the R5 would be the clear choice, for autofocus and for resolution and cropping ability.
One limiting factor can be the lenses, which have varying autofocus motors. The R5 is going to tell the lens where to put its elements to get the right focus, but the lenses determine the speed at which that is done. Testing with the 800mm f/11 and the 600mm f/11 showed that they were much too slow to handle the tracking of such fast-moving and unpredictable flyers.
Frames per Second
Mechanical, 1rst Curtain & Electronic Shutter
|Battery falling below 70%||1/4|
|Lens aberration correction||1/5|
|Use of grip??||?|
|Wifi use (surprising!)||1/4|
|Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO)||?|
The above list is almost certain incomplete. To note errors and omissions, please post the the forum linked below.
|Factor||Post-Buffer FPS Hit|
|RAW vs JPG/HEIF||1/2|
|Dual Pixel RAW vs RAW||1/2|
|High ISO (>6400)||1/5|
The R5, like almost all cameras, writes files first to a memory buffer, and then offloads that buffer over time to the memory card. That last process is the slowest part of the process. This structure allows for faster picture taking until the buffer is full, and then the camera will be limited to the write speed to the memory card. This camera is fast enough in its file writing that if you are shooting JPGs, the card writing can be faster than the camera can even collect information, so there are essentially no limits *if* you are using a fast CF Express card. If you are using a slow SD card, there could be any degree of delay, depending on the sustained write speeds.
In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) and Image Stabilization (IS)
|Lens||Lens IS||With R5 IBIS|
|RF 24-70 f/2.8||5||8|
|RF 24-105 f/4||5||8|
|RF 24-70 f/4-7.1||5||8|
|RF 70-200 f/2.8||5||7.5|
|RF 15-35 f/2.8||5||7|
|RF 35 f/1.8||5||7|
|RF 24-240 f/4-6.3||5||6.5|
|RF 100-500 f/4.5-7.1||5||6|
|RF 85 f/1.2||–||8|
|RF 28-70 f/2||–||8|
|RF 50 f/1.2||–||7|
|RF 600 f/11||5||5|
|RF 800 f/11||4||4|
High ISO Performance
ISO performance is often mischaracterized as good because the people doing the testing use well-lit situations. In point of fact, photographers use high ISOs in light-stressed situations, and in those situations, the ISO effects on image quality tend to be much worse than in well-lit situations. The best way to test for high ISO performance is to shoot a moving subject at a fast shutter speed, forcing a higher ISO and an underexposed shot. That’s the real world. It’s that adrenaline-filled moment when you know you’re compromising between speed, light and ISO sensitivity.
In that real world, I’d rather have the R5 in my hands than any other camera. The shot below was taken at 12,800 ISO.
This shot of a great blue heron could not have been taken by my Sony A7r IV (AF would not have tracked it adequately); or by my Sony A9 II (its low resolution wouldn’t have allowed me to crop in this far, and the AF may or may not have tracked the bird); or my Panasonic S1R (autofocus); or my Canon 1DX III (resolution). But all those issues aside, I don’t think the ISO performance would have been as good if all images were downscaled to a common resolution.
The R5 is the first camera I’ve ever set the AUTO ISO maximum to 25,600, knowing I could get keepers. Just a month ago, my daily shooter was the Sony A7R IV, and I had the maximum ISO set for 6,400. I believe that the image quality I get at 25,600 on the R5 is the equivalent of the Sony A7R IV at between 6,400 and 12,800; and that were I to process the Sony files to equivalent R5 resolution (the Sony has 30 percent more pixels), the improvement in the R5 would be roughly half a stop.
The Sony files do appear to hold up better to more radical levels adjustments in post processing. Files – to my eye – tend to get a bit crunchy after moving exposure more than three stops on the R5, where the Sony files typically can be moved 4 stops without similar negative effects. The upshot of all of this is that if you require four to five stops of exposure correction, the Sony files may be just as good, but in almost all other cases, the R5 files will get you better image quality.
The R5 has plenty of different ways to control ISO. You can use the multi-controller, set it to any of the dials, use the Q button, etc. The annoying part is that when you use the Set button, the lens button, or the depth-of-field preview button, you can move the ISO up or down, but you can’t set it back to Auto. This has been true of previous bodies, and it’s very annoying, but the R5 does default it back to the original setting, after the next series of shots is fired, which is a big improvement. Where those ISO switching methods used to only be useful to people who didn’t use Auto ISO, now it can be used by the Auto users who intend to make temporary changes to the aperture and then let it fall back to its original setting after the shot.
It should be noted that the RF lenses (and most adapters) have a new control ring on them, which allows them to be set for any number of functions, including an ISO dial. There is a charm to having them set to aperture, as it harkens back to the days when the apertures were manually set on the lenses.
All of the elements in these various tabs greatly affect image quality, but the combination of all of them generate a rough sense of what you’ll hear fuzzily termed “IQ.” Aside from the factors specified in these tabs, there are a number of potential IQ killers:
- Anti-aliasing filters that are too strong
- Dynamic range limitations
- Color rendition
- Lower color bit depth used under processor-stressed situations
The R5 does have an anti-aliasing filter, but it is not strong. By way of comparison, the 5DsR does has a negated AA filter and 5 additional megapixels of resolution, but the R5 is demonstrably sharper than the aging high-megapixel DSLR.
Canon seldom tells people the expected dynamic range of a new camera, but this time reps were telling some reviewers that it should wind up being about 12 stops. Bill Claff, one of the industry’s data saints, keeps records of actual calculated dynamic range data for most cameras, and the R5 will in fact sling just under 12 stops – a fantastic showing besting both the “flagship” 1dX Mark III and Sony’s A7R Mark IV, probably the two cameras most often considered as alternatives. The R5 has slightly more than a full stop of additional dynamic range at base ISO versus the 5D Mark IV and EOS R, which share a sensor. At higher ISOs, there is little or no improvement.
Canon has always enjoyed a reputation for good colors, which probably has more to do with some foibles in competing systems. Tony Northrup did one of his wonderful big data articles, polling his audience to see which pictures they thought looked best, without telling them which images was from what brand of camera. In that blind test, people really didn’t show the preferences that they thought they would. However, having shot Sony for more than a year, we can say that the auto white balance in those cameras is poor in the first few milliseconds of a scene change, and gets better as the frame is allowed to settle before firing off a shot. This sort of speed issue may cause shooters to perceive color problems rather than AWB speed problems. If Tony’s sample images were carefully taken shots, they would not have shown these operational issues, so it would skew preferences. All of this is to say that the color rendition is as nice on the R5 has it has been on previous Canon cameras and that the reasons behind certain preference perceptions haven’t been adequately teased out yet.
Color Bit Depth
The Canon R5 generally shoots in 13 bit color when running at its highest speed. When the camera is taken off the H+ settings (either in mechanical or electronic shutter modes), the bit depth goes up to 14. This is an interesting, perhaps innovative compromise relative to the Sony A9 systems, which received criticism for dropping from 14-bit to 12-bit color when shooting at the fastest speed. The upshot of that controversy was that people generally couldn’t tell the difference, although our own tests showed that – if you tried very hard – you could. The difference wasn’t enough to take the hit on the frames per second. With 13-bit color, it will be interesting to see if it can be noticed at all.
It’s a bit odd that Canon didn’t lead with the lack of rolling shutter – caused by a massively-improved sensor readout architecture – as a key feature. This improvement is the difference between a camera that takes nice still lifes and a camera that can be used for sports, wildlife, weddings and any other genre where there is subject movement. The picture below shows a 2010 Eurocopter 135 P2 helicopter ambulance whose rotor speed at the tip is typically around 450 miles per hour. We were taking shots of a speeding dog chasing around the yard, and a boy on a bike when this aircraft happened to fly overhead. If this rotor doesn’t show a great deal of rolling shutter, your sprinter isn’t going to either.
Rolling shutter – sometimes called the “Jello effect” – is where a slower sensor readout causes a distortion effect that gives an image a fun-house mirror effect, typically smudging the image to the left the further down the sensor you go. Our first impression is that the R5’s resistance to this effect is roughly on par with the industry’s current rolling shutter champion, the Sony A9 II.
[Note: This section on Power has been superseded by a special reporting piece done on the R5 and R6 involving a more comprehensive review of power options. That can be found here.]
There is more to the power features of cameras nowadays than just how many pictures you can get out of a battery. Brute force power is important, but also important is the flexibility of power sources, and increasingly, how software reacts to different situations when the camera is powered externally. But first things first…
The new LP-E6NH batteries have about 1/7th more power than the earlier LP-E6N batteries, now making it competitive with the Sony Z batteries, if just shy of the Z100’s rated power. These new batteries come new with no charge, which may suggest a chemistry change, as Canon previously shipped them with about 60-70 percent power.
The camera is rated to 320 shots per battery, which is of course horse hockey. CIPA ratings are notorious for underestimating actual field performance, as they require much in the way of viewfinder use, post-shot viewing, etc. A rough rule of thumb is to double the CIPA rating. Still, the battery performance is less than that seen with the DSLRs running the LP-E6N batteries by a good margin. Our own performance testing found that the R5 showed inordinate battery usage when we were taking occasional shots, but quite good battery usage when we were shooting at high frame rates. The sample set of two R5 cameras were set to maximum battery draining features, such as the higher viewfinder frame rate. This strongly suggests that the overhead of running the viewfinder and spending more uptime per shot took a toll on the battery. In one instance, we got more than 3,000 shots off of one battery, but that was doing shutter speed tests, involving very large numbers of shots over a short period of time.
A sample set of eight LP-E6NH batteries was run through a Dolgin charger that has an MAH measurement feature. All batteries charged up initially to between 2080 MAH and 2100 MAH. Interestingly, subsequent charges reached lower power levels, but then further chargings brought them back up close to their original spec-busting levels. This is notable in that it is likely that many reviewers will start testing a camera in earnest a few charges in, and that is when they’d get the worst battery performance. It is quite possible the variance we see in opinions on the battery across reviewers may simply be a function of how much their battery happened to have been broken in.
Battery chemistry is a series of compromises, and to all of our tests needs to be added a caveate: the long-term performance of a battery will show itself after a few months of use. The classic mistake many make is to buy third party batteries (nothing against third party batteries) and post an opinion on it after a few charges. They do fantastically. Six months later they will often perform about 80 percent as well as the Canon batteries. So this section will be updated to ensure we can detect any trends.
Speaking of third party batteries, the LP-E6NH does still more communicating with the body, and there are certain functions – some important ones – that work only with Canon’s own batteries. There are not yet any third party versions that claim to immitate the NH status and make the camera provide full functionality with, for instance, maximum frame rates.
Old Battery Performance
A hodgepodge set of LP-E6 and LP-E6N batteries – the older ones included with Canon cameras going back to the Cretaceous Period – were run through the R5 cameras. A few things to note:
- The shots gotten per battery were – not surprisingly – directly correlated to the MAH levels those batteries showed
- The earlier batteries – the oldest of which was 10 years old – performed shockingly well for their age. In fact, some of these batteries were dug out of a drawer that hadn’t been opened in 15 months. One of the older batteries had a charge approaching 70 percent.
Using these older batteries will put the training wheels on the camera for H+ shooting, the fastest frame rate capacity. This will move your FPS down to 15 from 20 when using electronic shutter.
USB power is a big deal for some, but there’s USB power, and then there’s USB power. At its most basic, a camera will allow charging of an internal battery when a USB battery is hooked up to the USB port. The Canon R did this – a first for Canon – but it did not all for the operation of the camera under USB power. This precluded the camera from being used as a “remote” hooked up to a big battery, or to be set up in a studio with a larger battery to prevent the hassle of changing out LP-E6Ns. This could be accomplished by using a dummy battery that is then hooked into a battery, but those arrangements more often than not had their own limitations, especially when using USB batteries. Specifically, those batteries tended to turn themselves off after some arbitrarily firmware-determined time, rendering a remote camera useless unless it had been triggered within a specified period of time. Workaround included a small number of batteries that had firmware that did not turn itself off (expensive and quickly drained) or using a product like TetherTools Case Relay device, which had its own hardware that sipped energy from the battery and employed a roughly 1,000 MAH battery internally to keep a larger USB battery on its toes.
The R5 allows for both charging and running the camera, and this is a bit of a game changer for quickly creating reliable remote setups.
There are two grips designed for the new R5 and R6, the BG-R10, a basic $350 grip with two battery slots, and the other, the WFT-R10A, that costs 2.5 as much and includes faster networking features as well as a rubber interface to allow for a dummy battery to be employed.
Canon caveats its frame rate statistics indicating that they may be affected negatively with the use of a grip, but we cannot seem to make the grip by itself cause a degradation in FPS. The networking version of the grip can of course enable the use of a faster wifi connection, but the wifi tax imposed on FPS seems to be the same with or without the grip. We’re betting there are readers who have discovered the subtleties of this concern and look forward to hearing more on it.
Because the amount of juice left in a battery helps determine FPS, it would be optimal if the two batteries in a grip drained in a pattern where one drained to 70 percent, and then the other started draining. This would maximize the times only one battery needed to be removed for recharge, yet keep the highest framerate for the longest time. A pattern very similar to this has been observed with the WFT-R10A, but we are in the process of verifying with actual FPS data.
- Canon managed to launch the R5 without testing the intervalometer function. It will work for precisely one exposure and then stop. Which, we suppose, technically makes it just a timer, not an intervalometer.
- Update 9/3/20: It appears that the intervalometer stops working only when back button focus (BBF) is enabled and the shutter button is set to not control AF. The fix is to temporarily set the shutter button to control AF as well. This has been tested by camnostic with an R5 camera with the old and one with the new firmware. This issue is considered resolved for users not using BBF. Users that do use BBF can create a Custom mode to use temporarily that does not use BBF.
- Update 11/18/20: This issue has been fixed by firmware version 1.2.
- Random freezes can occur, often requiring battery removal to fix. Of Camnostic’s two R5 units, one exhibited this behavior twice on the first day, and then twice in one evening five weeks later. That camera had about 20,000 shutter actuations between those times. It seems that this is very occasional for those afflicted. Forum dwellers have attempted to eliminate factors through deliberate testing and getting more detailed reports.
- Factors known to not be consistent among the freezes (so are likely innocent):
- NH batteries versus N batteries or the old LP-E6
- Battery level
- Autofocus mode
- Ambient temperature
- Length of use
- Control use
- File type shot
- EF lenses versus RF lenses
- We would be interested to hear anyone’s experience shooting the R6 camera and having this issue. No reports have surfaced yet. Please email editorial -@- camnostic.com.
- Factors known to not be consistent among the freezes (so are likely innocent):
- Manual focus override appears to not work when the camera is set for normal shutter button operation. Back button focus (BBF) users are able to use manual focus as soon as they stop pressing the button set for autofocus, but users who activate AF with the shutter button are unable to nudge focus via the manual ring on lenses. This problem presents a problem for people who wish to both use manual focus override *and* use the intervalometer, as both issues appear related to BBF, but require opposite settings to allow their respective functions.
- While Canon mostly meets its disclosed record time limitations in high-bitrate video recording (8k, 120p 4k and 4k HQ), its timer/governor seems at times over-enthusiastic in shutting down the camera. There are reports of very little time being given, despite the camera starting cold. Most people find the camera hews to its limits fairly accurately, but there are instances where warnings appear to be earlier than needed or desired. Some tests have shown that the warnings are controlled by time and not temperature. Tests also show that certain functions that typically do not generate heat (like slow stills work) are counting against these time limits.
- [Update] The new firmware release in late August increased recording time when the internal temperatures warranted it. According to Canon release notes, the temperature sensors are now consulted more frequently. This also effectively shortened cool-down times by about five minutes in most cases. People doing short clips (:30 to 1 minute) report being able to alternate recording and resting almost indefinitely, although that is a fairly narrow use case.
- [Update] A workaround is available by recording externally with both cards out. Oddly, recording externally without taking out both cards will not solve the problem, even as those cards aren’t being used. This has been extensively tested (for contiguous hours) by Camnostic and has proven reliable, if less convenient than internal recording. This issue is considered resolved for users of external recorders. Simply take the cards out. The issue of slow cool-down times remains for people wishing to record internally and is unlikely to be mitigated much further by Canon, but the new frequency of polling the temperature sensors may mean that active cooling measures (fans, etc.) may now prove effective where they hadn’t before.
- Shooting with the WFT-R10A grip (the more expensive, networked one) can cause the fps to go down to 9 from 12 in mechanical shutter, even when the batteries are fresh and the camera can shoot 12 fps without the grip with its current settings. The only solution to this so far is to reset the network settings.
- Some CFexpress cards were polled on startup in a fashion that caused a 4-second delay.
- [Update] Firmware updates (as of version 1.2) appear to have largely addressed this, allowing the caching of information after the first startup following a card change. After that initial startup, subsequent startups appear to avoid the delay.
- [Update] Angelbird’s new firmware allows cards to avoid the delay, even when first inserted into the camera.
Firmware-Addressable Missing Features
- E-Shutter FPS: In electronic shutter, the 0nly frame speed is 20 frames per second. This is often undesirable, and Canon reps have been made aware of this from multiple respected sources.
- Card/Battery Door Opening Changes Focus: When you open either the card door or the battery door to swap cards or batteries, the focus on an RF lens is reset. This is obvious if the original plane of focus was far off from the reset point, but it it is close, this may not be noticed and addressed by the user. This also happens if the camera is turned off and on again. A feature could be added to return the focal plane to the previous location.
- Unlimited 4Q HQ / 8K recording: Using an external recorder allows for unlimited recording in these high-bitrate formats, but only if both the SD and CFexpress cards are removed from the camera. Firmware could address this by turning off those modules, rather than requiring card removal. It is easy to forget to remove the cards – an arbitrary requirement – and have the camera overheat when recording externally.
Just a few weeks after the Canon R5 launched in July, Canon Rumors and Canon Watch were fed rumors of a video-oriented version of the 8k hybrid shooter. They called it the R5c as a best-guess name. Canon shooters will recall that was at the height of the dyspeptic reaction among some video shooters (and seemingly all YouTubers) regarding the R5’s non-optimal heat management. The thinking then was that a low-megapixel version of the R5 would surface with a Sony A7s III-style resolution and much more attention paid to the heat envelope.
After September, chatter quieted down, especially so after a firmware upgrade improved the heat management, and some time had passed to allow even hybrid shooters to realize they didn’t often shoot for very long in the few video formats that caused heat problems. In the intervening months, Canon launched the C70, a ~10 megapixel, super-35 sensor video camera in the body of a DSLR, looking for all the world like husky R5.
More recently, Canon Rumors reports it has been hearing more of a “video R5,” that would have the same sensor, but more active cooling, even rating it the site’s highest level of reliability. This theoretical camera wouldn’t come out until next year, although it could be announced at the end of 2021.
That Canon might have a variant of the R5 come out about 2 years after the first doesn’t sound like much of a stretch. The rumors had more sizzle when they implied the cameras were in the offing. That it would have better cooling seems also seems a given. That it would have the very same sensor might be a disappointment to gearheads of the future who will then likely be over-worrying about keeping up with competitive offerings.
In a respectable showing, but perhaps disappointing to some, Bill Claff over at PhotonsToPhotos.net shows that the new flagship A1 camera only has dynamic range roughly as good as the A7r Mark IV and the A9 Mark II. For most ISO settings it sits in a very narrow range right between those two cameras.
In what is sure to inspire much online forum gnashing, the same data sets show that the A1 comes up slightly short of the Canon R5. It performs similarly versus the Canon 1DX Mark III, which itself performs slightly worse than the R5.
With some exceptions, the differences are slight. A notable exception is at ISO 400, where the R5 appears to have two stops of dynamic range advantage over the new A1. This may be the only setting where images would be noticeably affected.
PhotonsToPhotos.net is a long-standing web resource for reliable third party dynamic range testing.
The Canon R5 has monster capabilities, and with it, monster power draw when used in certain high-performance modes. To account for this, rather than reduce the maximum capabilities of the camera, Canon did two things: they created different modes that the camera could fall to when it was supplied with less power; and it created a battery – the LP-e6NH – that provided a higher wattage for a longer period of time.
They also finally enabled USB charging *with* running the camera while on. Some of these learnings – like the fact that USB batteries of 30 watts or greater will power the camera in addition to charging batteries when the camera is off – are undocumented in Canon materials.
Many incorrectly believe that the LP-e6NH has slightly more usable power than its predecessor the LP-e6N, or the original LP-e6. Real-world tests using dozens of individual batteries over a half-year period with special hardware prove that the newer models don’t push more milliamp hours of power out to the camera over the course of a full charge when battery age and use is accounted for. But the newest batteries do have a special capability: they can keep their wattage up over a certain threshold through the use of about 2/3rds of the battery, maximizing the ability of battery users to employ the most power-hungry modes of the camera – particularly the highest framerate while using mechanical shutter – 12 frames per second (FPS).
The Massive Differences Between the LP-e6, the LP-e6N and the LP-e6NH
To add even more variables to the mix, sometimes the best solution for certain users is to use external batteries attached to a “dummy battery” shaped like an LP-e6 and connected via a D-Tap interface (shown below). Higher end video users will be familiar with this sort of battery arrangement, but it is less commonly seen in the stills community. This article will introduce the benefits of D-Tap and the cost-efficiency of buying the larger video-oriented batteries for some projects.
We tested all of these solutions (and several other, crazier ones that we don’t recommend) and have collected field input to chart out the capabilities, limitations and real-world notes. No EOS R5 cameras were hurt over the course of this project. The last time we conducted experimental battery tech, we blew up an 5D Mark IV and a 70D using an unregulated dummy battery cord made in China, and later one of our own (apparently poor) design. [Ed. note: Canon Professional Services replaced main boards in both cameras at no cost, despite our honesty in describing exactly how we’d abused the cameras. They’ve been a consistent ally.]
This article is the product of half a year of intense, deliberate use of two R5 bodies and one R6 body, with the cameras being left outdoors multiple times in below 0 Fahrenheit temperatures for days or weeks at a time. Earlier CFexpress card tests, burning up hundreds of thousands of mechanical shutter clicks, were exploited for double duty to get information on battery effects.
Even with all of that direct, real-world experience, there were many things we would have missed had not the online communities on FredMiranda.com, CanonRumors.com and DPReview.com hosted intelligent, data-driven conversations on battery issues. Many learnings were first observed there and confirmed with tests. This article could not have been written without those contributors in the community. We hope this article will partly return the favor.
Ways to Power an R5
Think of it this way: an R5 has two plugs into which power can flow. There is the battery compartment, and there is the USB-C connection. Both of those receptacles can attach to several different types of power sources. Both can attach to USB batteries or a wall plug. The battery compartment can also take LP-e6NH batteries and similar. It can also – via a dummy battery – connect to a seemingly endless number of other batteries in various ways.
The battery grips Canon sells just allow putting two batteries in at a time. Interestingly, whether gripped or ungripped, the USB power appears to be routed through the batteries, as in neither case will the camera power on with just a direct USB connection.
Let’s Start Simple: Real-World LP-e6NH Performance Comparisons
Camnostic tested 22 LP-e6NH batteries over the course of the six months since their release. The data over up to 15 full depletion and recharges shows a gradually descending power capacity, moving from an average of 2.04 amp hours to 1.93 amp hours…
The granular data are messier than the red trend line above suggests. To the right are the individual courses over time for the batteries.
If extrapolated for a decade or so, one might expect the NH version of the batteries to meet the current performance of the aged LP-e6 and LP-e6N versions. We had the opportunity to test unused LP-e6 and ‘N variants, and they behaved similarly to the new ‘NH versions.
The blue and orange bars to the left show the average recharge performance of about a dozen used and abused LP-e6 and LP-e6N batteries respectively. The LP-e6N batteries do outperform the LP-e6 batteries, but this is likely due to the “N” batteries being about five years younger on average. When new versions of those batteries were tested, they were all about equivalent to the ‘NH batteries.
The main downside to using one of the older batteries is that the R5 and R6 cameras’ firmware treat those older batteries differently, disallowing the fastest mechanical shutter frame rate modes. This means that your 12 frames per second (FPS) shooting – considered by many to be a perfectly acceptable or preferable to the electronic shutter’s 20 FPS – suddenly drops to 9 FPS, or heaven forbid, 7 FPS.
The same disadvantages seen with obsolete Canon batteries happens with third party batteries imitating the LP-e6 and LP-e6N types. But, worse, more modern camera firmware will put up a dialog box upon first turning on the camera with one of these third party batteries, asking if you recognize that this isn’t a genuine Canon battery. This “feature,” seemed at first a nice effort to try to winnow out of the market manufactures who were selling fake Canon batteries. But the main result today is that if you have a remote camera out in the field, and it needs to restart for any reason, your remote rig is now useless unless a solution is figured out to keep remote cameras on indefinitely.
Unfortunately, all current dummy batteries are treated as third party LP-e6 batteries, not the native NH variant, no matter the power source to which it connects. This means that no dummy battery solution will access the full framerate for mechanical shutter – although silent shutter will of course still provide the even higher 20 FPS. We have found that most use cases for the remote cameras – where this problem would toll the greatest – are exactly the ones where electronic shutter is appropriate, such as remote cameras outdoors on wildlife sites, or remote setups in sports arenas, so this does mitigate the number of times this problem proves a frustration.
Sweet, Sweet GH+
Mwah, Mwah, Mwaaah
Below you can see a bar chart of the frame rates achieved by the various modes. Canon uses an icon (seen above) on the left-hand side of the viewfinder or back screen to indicate what frame rate mode the camera is in at the time. Electronic shutter shows 20 frames per second across the board. It’s lower power draw allows it to be unhindered by the batteries. We’ll concentrate on trying to achieve the fastest mechanical shutter frame rates, particularly the Green H+ (above left and referred to in this article as GH+), which indicates shooting at 12 FPS. If your H+ turns white (above right), you’re shooting at about 9 FPS, and if it starts to blink on you, you’re already down to 7 FPS.
Even though the older batteries can provide the needed wattage – if for a shorter period of time – they do not identify themselves as an LP-e6NH battery, so the R5 does not allow them to access the larger power draw modes. Interestingly, four companies are now producing third party “NH” batteries. Those brands are Big Mike (BM), Watson, Powerextra and Neewer. All of them will identify to the camera as an LP-e6NH, and all of them will access all framerate modes. However, they will do so for only about half of the duration of an actual Canon NH battery before the camera automatically reverts to lesser modes with lesser power draw. Below we show a comparison of all five available “NH-reporting” batteries.
All Currently Known LP-e6 Form Factor Batteries that Successfully Report as LP-e6NH
Real-World LP-e6NH Performance Comparisons
The chart shows the blue columns representing the gross usable power in the battery, with Canon winning by about 10-15 percent (left scale). The orange columns (right scale) represent the percentage of the battery’s power that is applicable in the higher wattage mode allowing for 12 FPS before the waning wattage fails over to a lesser framerate mode.
It is here that the Canon batteries are plainly superior. Users who shoot only in electronic shutter may never notice a functional difference between battery brands, but those who use mechanical shutter and require 12 FPS certainly will. A third party battery causing the GH+ 12 FPS mode to go away isn’t as terrible as it might seem when one can always just switch to electronic shutter and get a consistent 20 FPS. Few applications (rapid panning, for one) do call for mechanical shutter necessarily.
The Battery Grips
The Canon WFT-R10A grip – the $1,000 one – is significantly less capable than the $350 BG-R10 version in some key aspects. This is primarily because even if the wifi feature is turned off, it forces the R5 to consider any limitations associated with wifi to be in force. This means that the maximum framerate of the R5 employing this grip is 9 FPS, down from 12. There is no way to make the camera fully perform in mechanical shutter using that grip. Several calls to Canon Professional Services eventually confirmed this with some surprised CPS reps having to repeatedly double-check with higher-ups. This limitation does not seem rational, especially considering the specific market for which the WFT-R10A was designed: pro shooters with live hookups to photo desks. I the now-fraught choice of flagship cameras for sports, the Sony A1 now provides faster mechanical shutter.
The simpler BG-R10 (pictured above) works as one would expect. Not only will it allow for two NH batteries to be used to maximum effect, it will even allow a single Canon LP-e6NH battery couple with a third party LP-e6NH copy and maintain the higher frame rate mode until just the Canon battery gets below its threshold (typically <35 percent). This is the configuration in the image above, with a Neewer battery mated with a Canon NH battery. Because the third party batteries show roughly 90 percent the gross power capacity of the Canon versions, this means having one of each in the grip will almost double the time two third-party batteries will run at 12 FPS, as the firmware runs the batteries down together, not serially. Running two third party batteries would hit the lower FPS mode when they reached about 75 percent of capacity, about half that time. Interestingly, running either one or two older LP-e6 or LP-e6N batteries, however, would set the framerate down to 9 FPS from the get-go, indicating that those battery types are sensed and treated differently.
Using Power from the Grid
Canon includes a high-quality USB-C cord for connecting to a computer or to an external battery, but not a power supply that can connect to a wall. For that, Canon sells the optional $129 PD-E1, which will both charge and power the camera. A battery needs to be in the camera or grip in order for the wall power or external battery power to run the camera.
We tested the use of the PD-E1’s USB connection with just an unconnected dummy battery in the battery compartment to see if the wall power USB interface would work in that situation. It did not, even as it indicated a battery was charging with the little lightning symbol. An actual battery needs to be in the receptacle for the USB power to work. This is further evidence that the camera operates off of the battery even when it is plugged into wall power.
Unfortunately, the highest power output for the power supply is 9 volts at 3 amps (which makes for 27 watts, as you multiply volts and amps to get the wattage), below the threshold for 12 FPS in mechanical shutter. Our test showed an average of 9.3 frames per second with the PD-E1 power adapter. There is another way, though…
Using a High-Watt USB Battery
It isn’t a high proportion of them, but some USB batteries allow for higher wattage output. Using a good USB-C cord that supports the PD standard and a battery that outputs enough wattage will power the camera and charge the battery. As with the PD-E1 wall plug, this arrangement will allow for the 9 FPS capability and not the 12 FPS capability. [Ed note: Reader reports indicate that a 30-watt battery is sufficient for most, although there are cases where some 30-watt batteries do not work, including a couple of our own. The 45-, 60- and 90-watt batteries tested all work without exception so far. We are conducting more tests and welcome reader feedback on their own findings.]
The RavPower 90W 30,000 mAh PD External Battery Charging Away (Note the green light on the BG-R10 indicating which battery is soaking up the juice)
One downside to running the camera this way is that you have a cord sticking out of the left-hand side of your camera, and if someone stumbled or knocked the battery down, it could break USB connection. As Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz found in their tear-down of the R5, the USB and other ports on that side are attached directly to the main PCB – essentially the very expensive brain of the camera. The image below is from their excellent LensRentals blog tear-down post and is used with permission.
One partial protection from this would be to use the cord protector that came with the camera – that little, odd-looking plastic bit with a screw that you probably threw away or lost some months ago. Oddly, there doesn’t appear to be an aftermarket version of the cord protector available that doesn’t involve first nesting the camera in a video rig cage. Some L-brackets do provide some protection if offset such that there is some stand-off room between the bracket and the side of the camera with the ports.
If you use a battery that outputs 18 watts, it will charge the LP-e6NH (and only NH batteries) inside it when the camera is turned off. It will not run the camera, or charge the battery if the camera is on. A battery of less than 18 watt output, connected via the USB cable, would not do anything but to serve as an opportunity to crack your motherboard.
To run the camera with an external battery, it must provide more watts. This story was first published stating it required 45 watts, but at least one reader reports that a 30 watt battery was sufficient. We do know that some 30 watt batteries do not work, but we have not yet determined whether this is as designed, or a sign of wear. [Update, we purchased a 30-watt battery recommended by that user, and can confirm it can indeed run the camera.] We will report further.
The biggest downside to USB batteries – for some people at least – is the fact that they all seem to have firmware that causes them to sleep after a period of time with no draw, and a surprisingly high proportion of them require a button press or a USB port re-insertion to wake up. This makes using regular USB power bricks fraught for applications that require long periods of waiting. Some intervalometer setups, and certainly remote rigs for sports or wildlife can be ruined by this.
One way to mitigate it is to use a Tether Tools Case Relay connector (pictured above) between the USB battery and the camera. The Case Relay product not only provides a connection between a dummy battery and a USB battery, but it also has its own (roughly 1,000 mAh) internal battery that it uses as a buffer, allowing hot-swapping of USB batteries and also allowing it to sent “wake” signals to the USB battery when needed. In practical experience, though, this has proven to be flaky. It is difficult to determine which component causes failure in any given instance, but we do know that there have been times when USB battery firmware has prevented the wake signal from working after an extended period of time, and we also know that there have been times with the Case Relay battery has frozen in the cold much earlier than the larger USB battery, causing a general system failure – which of course fails to recover upon thawing due to Canon’s battery copy protection startup dialog boxes.
A Safer Solution
Some applications – like wildlife remote cameras – require lots of power to last days or weeks, and often in very cold conditions, where batteries can see their power halved just from the temperature. Camnostic will be producing a series of stories and interviews on that use case in the future. In the meantime, we tested out the large video camera batteries that have an established an at-scale market already with batteries that commonly reach 270 Watt Hours, or a little more 16 times the LP-e6NH’s actual measured performance.
Our favorite turned out to be a 98 watt hour battery from IndiProTools.com (Pictured at right…). It has the trifecta of useful interfaces: a D-Tap connection; a 7.4-volt 2.1mm connector compatible with most dummy batteries; and a simple USB port. All three work to power the R5, depending on what connection your dummy battery employs. It costs $99, comes with a charger, and costs only 25 percent more than a single Canon LP-e6NH battery, yet has the power of six of them. The non-D-Tap version is more popular and is more frequently sold out, but the most desirable one is the one that includes the D-Tap connection.
Unfortunately, like the other dummy batteries, the D-Tap-to-dummy-battery connectors available on the market so far act only as LP-e6 batteries, rendering the frame rate the “White Blinking H+” mode, or 7 FPS no matter the voltage. For remote setups, this is often a perfectly acceptable compromise in order to get the large, cheap batteries that provide reliable power without overly-clever sleep routines, but most times with those setups users are employing the e-shutter at 20 FPS anyway, making the power-related framerate irrelevant. The larger battery sizes available also lead to less freezing and generally higher reliability in the field.
For a particularly long remote camera set requiring no human intervention for weeks at a time (bobcat den), we drilled holes into a grip to provide for two dummy batteries to be placed, connected to two large D-Tap batteries, providing for six weeks of power. We used another battery, hacked to a thermostat part, to provide 5 volts to a small heating pad (originally designed to keep lizard tanks toasty) when the temperature in the cooler-enclosed battery pack got too cold. Setups running on an intervalometer turn out not to need the heating pad, as the slight consistent draw from the battery provides its own warmth from the inefficiency of battery-delivered power, provided the battery rests in an adequately-insulated cozy. For adequate insulation, we found that a well-wrapped battery inside a six-pack cooler worked great for this.
A single 98 Watt Hour battery photographed a barred owl nest on an intervalometer for more than 72 hours before finally reaching the last indicator light of power. The heat generated from simply taking a picture each minute kept the uninsulated battery from freezing in nights that reached 15 degrees F below freezing. The same setup running on the same night, but on an infra-red trigger rather than a constant-draw intervalometer froze solid, preventing the chemical reactions involved in the production of electricity.
The upshot is that the D-Tap batteries designed for video use can provide almost limitless power, without the danger of having something stick out of your USB slot. The D-Tap connector shoots over to the camera via a dummy battery in the battery slot. The downside: you don’t get maximum framerate in mechanical shutter because the known dummy batteries are LP-e6 dummy batteries and not LP-e6NH dummy batteries. Perhaps some enterprising engineer will figure out how to make one of those in the future.
Other Reasons for Slower FPS
Canon tells us we’ll get 12 frames per second so long as certain conditions remain true:
- The temperature needs to be warm enough, with the benchmark set at about room temperature
- It indicates that a Canon LP-e6NH needs to have at least about 60 percent juice left (although our tests show this can go consistently down to 35 percent and still perform at the fastest speed, provided it’s a Canon NH battery)
- Shutter speeds must be high enough to not infringe on the FPS rate, of course
Not Going to Cut It…
- Not connected to wifi
- Flicker reduction turned off
- Set to maximum aperture
To this we can add that power must be drawn from the battery compartment, rather than the USB interface.
As ever, field observations by readers prove very valuable. Have an additional tip, correction or another observation that might improve this review of power options? Please contact us here.
While the world waits for the February 4 Sony embargo date for reviews that include pictures, video and image quality evaluations, Tony Northrup gave his fairly complete set of impressions of the newly-launched Sony A1 flagship camera. Northrup has the camera in-hand, and was able to compare it directly to the camera that appears to be its most direct competitor, the Canon R5.
As is normal for major new series releases, initial spec sheet marketing gives way to the coverage of limitations and caveats.
The biggies on the positive site:
- Rolling shutter appears to be completely quelled
- EVF is indistinguishable from optical viewfinder
- Flash abilities beat those of any other mirrorless camera
- One of the two key features doesn’t work quite as advertised: the 30 frames per second appears to be possible only when using a lower bit depth; a small set of expensive lenses; and while the tracking and autofocus aren’t being engaged. Real-world conditions give frames per second of about half of the rated 30 FPS, which is less than that achieved by the R5.
- The tilt screen tilts in only one dimension, largely preventing its use shooting in portrait orientation.
- Newly-launched bird eye tracking isn’t as good as Canon’s R5 equivalent
- The heat envelope isn’t so different from that of the R5.