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Canon EOS R5's 8K video is superb, but R6 is the choice for photographers

Canon's EOS R5 and R6 impress, and it's not just because of the 8K video.

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Canon

Canon's EOS R5 and R6 sit squarely at the top of the company's mirrorless camera lineup and with features like 8K video, in-body image stabilization and lightning-fast auto focus, they offer a lot to get excited about.

The 45-megapixel R5 is the hero of the pair and having spent some time shooting 8K footage, and testing out its stabilization, I'm impressed. Its footage looks stunning, and while I did experience it overheating (which I'll come to later), I found it to be a superbly capable camera overall. If money is no object and you really want to push your video production to new heights, this is the camera to go for.

At £4,199 body-only in the UK ($3,899 in the US), you're paying a lot of cash for that 8K video.

The R6 doesn't have the 8K skills and its 20-megapixel resolution is lower, but it packs the same stabilization and handles just as well. Its lower £2,499 ($2,499) price makes it the one to go for if your focus is more on still photography than video. 

But both models have compact designs, convenient fold-out screens and a broad selection of dedicated RF-mount lenses, making either one a superb choice if you're looking to move from Canon's traditional DSLRs into the world of mirrorless.

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Taken on the R5, this cloudy, low-contrast view of Edinburgh is no challenge for any modern camera, but the huge 45-megapixel resolution allowed me to crop further into the scene without worrying about losing image quality.

Canon

Why do you need 8K?

8K might seem like an unnecessary amount of resolution, given that very few people own any device that can play back 8K footage at full resolution, but its benefit is more for post-production.

Having extra resolution in videos allows producers to crop into the footage, either to digitally stabilize the shot, to better reframe a shot, or to create zoom effects in the footage or during transitions. Shooting at 4K and then cropping to zoom in post means you probably can only output your finished film in full HD. Starting off with a higher 8K resolution means you can do all kinds of stuff to your footage in post, but still be able to deliver a finished 4K file. 

For those after the technical details, that 8K can be shot in 10-bit 4:2:2 H.265. The file sizes are immense, so you'll need to invest in a large-capacity CFExpress card, which the R5 supports and is the only type of card fast enough to write those 8K files. Even so, the camera can fill up a 128GB CFExpress card with a little over five minutes of 8K raw footage, so it'd be worth considering a 512GB CFExpress card. That currently retails for £530 ($600), so factor that into your budget. 

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Does the R5 overheat when shooting 8K?

In my time with the camera, I only saw the temperature warning once, and that was when I'd intentionally shot 8K footage for several minutes at a time. Most of my clips were between 10 and 20 seconds, with maybe 30 seconds break for recomposing the shot between each, which is pretty standard for shooting nice B-roll. When I shot my 8K test video this way, I didn't encounter any overheating problems, even though I filled the card with 8K raw footage.

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The EOS R6's face detection auto-focus meant it was easy for me to take this self portrait, knowing that my eyes would be in pin-sharp focus every time. Taken on the EOS R6 and edited in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Shooting a constant 15-minute or more clip at 8K will perhaps cause more issues for you, but I don't imagine many people will want -- or need -- to shoot such long clips at that resolution. 

EOS R5 and R6 in-body image stabilization

One of the big features of the R5 and R6 is the in-body image stabilization. Essentially, this physically moves the image sensor inside the camera to try and counter slight movements from your hands. Together with the image stabilization found in some of the lenses themselves, this allows for hand-held shooting at shutter speeds much lower than you'd normally be able to achieve, without getting blurry shots. 

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Despite being shot hand-held with a 4-second exposure, this image is still surprisingly sharp.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

I was amazed at being able to get a steady shot when hand-holding with a huge 4-second exposure time. With my Canon 5D MkIV I wouldn't hand-hold a shot at anything less than around 1/80-second usually, and shots of a second or more are totally out of the question. I used Canon's 24-70 f/2.8 RF lens, which also uses its own stabilization that works with the camera body. While some of the fine details are admittedly a touch blurry, the overall shot looks generally fine and at one or two seconds my shots were pin sharp. I'm really impressed at the stabilization and it'll certainly appeal to photographers who regularly work in low light. 

The sensor's generous 45-megapixel resolution results in shots that are packed with detail. There's plenty of scope to crop into the shot without loss in quality, or for printing in high-quality larger formats. The Digic X processor's 12 frames per second shooting at full-resolution raw meanwhile makes it a great option for wildlife or sports photographers who need to capture the action as it happens.


Body and handling

The R5 and R6's physical bodies are almost identical. They're also the first of Canon's mirrorless cameras I've used, so to me they seemed a huge departure from my 5D MkIV, which now seems clunky and bloated by comparison. They're both larger than the almost pocket-size EOS RP, but they're both comfortably small enough to fit into regular photography shoulder bags.

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Canon EOS R5

Canon

The button placement doesn't feel as intuitive to me as the 5D4's layout (I missed having a dedicated button to access ISO settings), but I have no doubt I'd get used to it in time. I love the fold-out touch screens though, which make composing shots in difficult places much more comfortable. They're bright and easy to view on both cameras, even under harsh sunlight, but the electronic viewfinders provide a sharp, vibrant view, too, if you don't want to use the main screen.

The R5's body is made from weather-sealed magnesium alloy, while the cheaper R6's body is built from polycarbonate. Both felt sturdily built and I'd have no qualms in taking either on a rough-and-ready road trip into the wilderness.

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The fold-out screen is a real boon when it comes to getting shots in difficult positions.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

New Canon RF mount lenses and ImagePrograf Pro-300 printer

The cameras are joined by some new RF-mount lenses in the form of a 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 zoom lens which offers up to 6-stops of stabilization when paired with an R5 or R6. It'll set you back a meaty £2,900 (converted, just over $3,800). 

For zoom lovers on a budget, Canon has a couple of quirky options; 800mm and 600mm prime lenses, both at fixed apertures of f/11. That's an extremely narrow aperture that won't let in a lot of light, so don't expect to use these for night-time wildlife shots. However, Canon argues that the stabilization of the cameras means you can shoot at much slower speeds than normal and in daytime situations, these lenses will perform well and won't break the bank. The 800mm will cost £930 ($1,230, converted), while the 600mm will cost £700 ($925). 

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Canon

There's also an image-stabilized 85mm macro lens with an f/2 aperture, costing £650 (about $850) and two new teleconverters, adding 1.4x and 2x zoom to compatible lenses, costing £560 and £700, respectively ($740 and $925).

Finally, Canon has a new ImagePrograf Pro-300 printer, which prints at up to A3 size and is designed to bridge the gap between its consumer Pixma printers and its higher-end Prograf Pro-1000 printer. Canon reckons it's particularly suited for black-and-white printing and will suit professional photographers well who want to add print sales to their business but who can't stomach the higher cost of larger-format pro printers.