Most of us know about the Canon EOS R's headline features: we know it's a full-frame mirrorless camera with a 30.3MP sensor; Dual Pixel CMOS AF for quick, accurate autofocus; and a revolutionary RF mount that's enabled the development of a range of fast, high-performance RF lenses.
You probably also know that it offers other important features such as a fully articulated vari-angle touchscreen, completely silent shooting, a customisable multi-function bar, and an optional Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter for using with your existing EF lenses. And that many of these features are also available in the smaller, lighter, 26.2MP Canon EOS RP.
However, these impressive features have overshadowed other technological innovations contained within the compact bodies of the Canon EOS R and Canon EOS RP. To delve a little more deeply into what these cameras offer, we spoke to Canon Europe's Professional Imaging Product Specialist Mike Burnhill.
There's much more to discover about what these groundbreaking cameras can offer, Mike says. "When a new camera is being launched, we highlight the bigger features, but lots of other things are hidden away that actually have a big impact," he says. "Sometimes some of the really cool, interesting technologies are buried way down in the specifications."
The Face Detection and Tracking function has been around for over a decade, but Canon has gone one step further with Eye AF, introduced on the Canon EOS RP and added to the Canon EOS R via a firmware update. It enables the camera to identify and lock focus on the subject's eyes, which of course are a key part of portraits.
"For any portrait, you first look for the eyes to be sharp," says Mike. "Face Detection AF is great for portraits at certain distances, but as you get closer to your subject, there's a point where the eye becomes clearer and the depth of field becomes more noticeable. At that point, focusing on the eyes becomes much more crucial than focusing on the face as a whole.
"Eye AF takes all the effort out of making sure the eyes are sharp. It means you can engage with your subject much more readily and capture the subject's expression and emotion, rather than the camera being a block between you and your subject. It also – when shooting weddings, for example – frees you up to concentrate on framing and what's going on around the scene."
The feature is particularly useful when taking portraits with wide apertures on lenses such as the Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM or Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM. "Now," Mike explains, "you can get all the magic of shooting portraits with these beautiful fast lenses, without worrying whether your subject's eyes are sharp."
Eye AF is accessed via the menu when you choose your AF point. You're offered the option of choosing face tracking, then you press the Info button, which turns Eye AF on or off. If you're using Eye AF and the subject's eyes aren't visible for a short period, the camera automatically reverts to Face Detection AF. Then when your subject looks back at the camera, it returns to Eye AF.
Everyone's familiar with Canon cameras' existing exposure modes: P (Program), Av (Aperture priority), Tv (Shutter priority) and M (Manual). The Canon EOS R and Canon EOS RP, however, offer an additional Fv (Flexible Priority AE) mode. So how is it different from existing exposure modes?
"To change between different modes, such as going from P to Av, you'd usually have to press the 'Mode' button and switch from one to another," says Mike. "That can be inconvenient if you're in a situation where you need to react quickly. The purpose of Fv is to allow you to switch between controlling your aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO within the same mode.
"For me, Av is fine for 90% of my photography, but occasionally you get scenes that fool the exposure meter. Now you can quickly go from Av to adjusting the exposure compensation or even selecting a fully manual exposure in Fv. Then, at the touch of a button, you can go back into Av mode again without taking your eye from the viewfinder."
When you adjust one setting within Fv, the remaining ones automatically adjust to maintain the correct exposure. Controlling exposure between these variables therefore becomes much quicker and easier.
A key feature of the Canon EOS R System is the innovative RF mount, which has a short flange distance that allows radical new lenses to be developed. It also features a revolutionary 12-pin connection that enables a faster, higher-bandwidth communication between the lens and the body and enhances image quality in several ways.
"The benefits of this improved communication include real-time Digital Lens Optimisation, so you can correct for distortion, aberrations and diffraction and have no effect on the buffer," says Mike. "On previous cameras, when you turned those functions on, they slowed down the camera – you couldn't shoot as fast, or the buffer would be half the size as it processed images. Now, if you turn it on or off, there's zero performance difference – you just get superior images."
Faster, higher-bandwidth communication means photographers can access real-time focus distance information, which is displayed in the viewfinder. It previously wasn't accurate on older lenses because of a time-lag caused by a slower transmission speed. It also means aperture settings in RF lenses can be updated more rapidly, and in smaller increments.
The other major benefit of the improved communication speed is better Image Stabilization. "The IS system that Canon uses is very effective, but doesn't pick up so well on low vibrations," Mike says. "The gyroscopes in the lens detect movements such as slight wobbles of the hands, but low vibrations like your heartbeat and vibrations from breathing are not as easily recognised.
"On the Canon EOS R and Canon EOS RP, the sensor can pick up those things and feed that extra information into the system, resulting in a better Image Stabilization effect. Although we say it's 5-stop IS, for example, it's actually much better than other similar systems because it's getting rid of the small vibrations as well as the big ones, which improves image sharpness."
The Canon EOS R and Canon EOS RP enable photographers to shoot movies in HDR, which extends the contrast range between the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows. But how does HDR Movie shooting actually work on these cameras?
Mike explains: "The EOS R and EOS RP shoot HDR video at 60fps, but when they are shooting at that speed, they are actually shooting two 30fps videos at two different exposures – one underexposed and the other normally exposed. The camera automatically combines these two videos. It keeps the highlights protected, extends the dynamic range, and you end up with a Full HD 30p video.
"If you're shooting a high-contrast situation, for example someone in a car with the sky behind them, HDR makes a big difference. The inside of a car is quite a dark, shaded area, and without HDR the sky will be blown out because the exposure is so different. Shooting in HDR Movie on the EOS R or EOS RP gives you really nice, edit-ready video clips that can be used straight away, without additional processing. It makes professional-looking results very simple to achieve."
Time-lapse videos, where minutes or hours can be shown passing in a matter of seconds, are a popular and creative alternative to still images, particularly for genres such as nature or street photography. However, in the past they were complicated to make. Traditionally, an external intervalometer was plugged into a camera and used as a remote shutter trigger. It enabled you to set the frequency of exposures and the length of time you wanted the camera to continue exposing. After the shoot you'd then need to use editing software to stitch the individual images together to make a time-lapse video.
The Canon EOS R and Canon EOS RP make it possible to create time-lapse videos in-camera in 4K UHD or Full HD. The built-in software enables you to shoot with intervals of one second or more for up to 99 hours, 99 minutes and 99 seconds, with a finished duration of up to 3,600 frames. One of the big benefits of shooting with the Canon EOS R or Canon EOS RP is that the time-lapse video is then assembled in-camera.
Mike says: "These cameras have the interval timer built in – you set up your camera and shoot the images, then it stores them all and stitches them together to create the movie at the end. So you don't need any accessories, just a constant power supply or a battery, depending on how long you're going to do it for.
"To create longer time-lapse videos you still need to use a dedicated external intervalometer such as the Canon TC-80N3, but the Canon EOS R and Canon EOS RP offer a great opportunity to discover time-lapse shooting and get used to the whole process. You just work out how much of a gap you want between images and how long you want to shoot it for, and the camera takes care of everything else – and with the added benefit that you can do it in 4K UHD or Full HD quality."
If you want images that are sharp from foreground to background, one way to do it is by stopping down the aperture and using a long exposure. "Traditionally," says Mike, "you'd get maximum depth of field this way, but the downside is you get what we call diffraction, so you lose sharpness the smaller the aperture gets. Also the problem with macro photography is that even if you stop down to f/22 the depth of field is very small."
Focus bracketing is used particularly in genres such as still-life or architectural photography. It essentially entails taking the same shot multiple times, very quickly, while changing the focus point by very small increments, then blending or stacking those images together to make one super-sharp shot. It could be an image of something as large as a building or as small as a flower or an insect.
"It's one of those techniques that's been around for a while, but previously photographers did it manually," Mike says. "It was a technique you had to learn, then master. Now, with the Canon EOS RP, you just turn it on, work out how big the object is and how many exposures are needed, then off you go."
The Canon EOS RP can take up to 199 shots, automatically incrementing the focus as required, ready for you to stack the images in Canon's Digital Photo Professional software.
"Like other Canon EOS R System features, focus bracketing is all about using the latest technology to make it easier for people to expand their creative potential and obtain great results."