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1st Impressions of the New Canon R5

16 / 08 / 20

When I saw the initial specs of the Canon R5 I was very excited! I currently have the Canon 5DIV and the Canon 5DS both great cameras but the R5 looked like another level. This last week I got my hands on the camera and thought I would do a quick blog on how I have got on with it.

So far I've only used it with a few lenses and haven't used it with eye detection nor done any video. I will do a fuller review in due course this was just more how I found it in the first few days.

In short, this camera is a game-changer for me, but prepare for a learning curve and prepare to buy more storage...

At the moment I'm working on some project management work to make up for the drop off in photography guiding and events I'd normally be covering and of course the camera arrived during my busiest week so far!

So the day it arrived my first shot was of course of my 12 year old Bouvier des Flandres otherwise know as the big E. Below is that shot. She's a great test as that dark hair can be a challenge for cameras. In all the shots in the blog, I'll pop the lens and the settings on the caption. I'll also include a crop on some of the images as otherwise you can't see the full resolution.

Initial thought was, great on the blacks, wow on the resolution and another wow on the noise control as this was ISO 3200.

Canon RF 35mm Macro ISO3200 f/5.6 1/125 sec
Canon RF 35mm Macro ISO3200 f/5.6 1/125 sec
1st Impressions of the New Canon R5

It's worth noting that you may not be able to use your normal workflow. I certainly can't use mine at the moment. Normally after a shoot, I would upload my images straight to Lightroom and then either edit from there or for anything more complex (like stacking) I'd then move to Photoshop. Currently, this is not possible as Lightroom can't read the RAW files. So I'm having to move the RAW files to a folder on my Mac, use Adobe DNG Converter Beta to convert them into DNG files, then upload these to Lightroom. This isn't a dealbreaker and will hopefully be resolved soon, when Adobe catches up, but takes more time uses lots of space and might mean I am not be getting the best out of the files...

The following day I had a break between Microsoft Team calls so went looking for an outdoor subject. I was looking for flies as they are a great test for one of my favourites lenses the Canon MP-E 65mm. The marriage between the MP-E and this camera was something I was very interested in mainly because of the inclusion of IBIS in this body. I do a lot of high magnification handheld stacking and the idea of getting stabilisation to make my shots sharper is good! I attached to lens and checked in the IBIS section great looks like the camera recognises the lens so lets shoot...

I then went to put the camera into high-speed continuous mode to do the stack and I couldn't find it to start with. I assumed everything would be the same as the 5D bodies I've been using forever. It is not! Didn't take me long to find it but I had to take a second!

One thing to note here is focus peaking and what a great tool that is for this type of photography, before one of the trickiest parts to handheld stacking especially at high magnification is working out where to start the stack. Now you can see the section flashing red (can be set other colours to suit too) in the viewfinder. Also worth noting when you use the MP-E at five times magnification you get a significant amount of less light making its way to the back of the camera and I was worried how this would work. No issues with this the electronic viewfinder is great. 

It's a dull day so crank the ISO up to 6400 and still only getting 1/80 of a second. Impossible to handhold at 5 times magnification?  Nope :) The below fly was the result. I cropped it to 5:4 for the composition I wanted. Defo a game changer for me!

Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 6400 f/5.6 1/80 sec
Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 6400 f/5.6 1/80 sec

Roll on the next morning and another busy day in the virtual office starting at 9 am so got up at 5:30 am look out of the window and looks dull and windy. Normally then I'd just grab some extra sleep but I'm all excited as I've got a new camera! So off we go I get to my local pond and it's already 18C at 6 am when we get there. As expected at those temperatures all the dragonflies and damselflies are active. I spend a good hour looking for subjects and then find this common blue butterfly perched. A do the hand test and the butterfly looks pretty chilled so I unpack the camera kit and this time I'm trying to tripod stacked image using my Benro Mach 3 tripod and focusing rail. But it's pretty windy so I need a faster shutter speed and I need to work fast in between the gusts of wind.

1st I went for a full butterfly image. The main difference I'm seeing here is the resolution on the full file it's staggering. 

Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 1600 f/5.6 1/200 sec
Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 1600 f/5.6 1/200 sec

I then thought I'd go in a little closer to about 3 times magnification and for this image, I had to include a crop too, as the detail on the hairs and scales on the butterfly really stood out.

Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 1600 f/5.6 1/125 sec
Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 1600 f/5.6 1/125 sec
Crop of the above
Crop of the above

So roll on Saturday morning and similar weather but again I've got new camera so it's like Christmas! The dog was staying at my folks so I could walk a bit further and I went to my local pond but really struggled to find anything. I did find another common blue but this one failed the hand test! So I headed to another local site and pretty much did the full circuit there and only spotting very active insects, saw a lot of birds so was regretting not bringing a long lens (will be doing some bird photography soon). On the way back to the car I spotted this Kite-tailed Robberfly (Machimus atricapillus). I love these predatory flies! Very dull light and partly under the canopy of trees. I switched to the 100mm macro with a 36mm extension tube just to give me a bit more working distance so hopefully not spook the robber!

With the poor light again had to crank the ISO to 3200 and was getting 1/50 of a second shutter speed which normally on a tripod would be fine but I was on a rickety old wooden walkway trying not to breath or move!

Canon 100mm Macro EF f/2.8 L IS  ISO 1600 f/5.6 1/200 sec
Canon 100mm Macro EF f/2.8 L IS ISO 1600 f/5.6 1/200 sec

Got home caffeinated breakfast butty and then heading out to a different site which is generally great for macro. I'd only been there a few minutes and I saw a beautiful jumping spider (species Evarcha falacata). This is one very tiny jumping spider and was moving around really quickly. I had to shoot at around 3.5 times magnification wait for the spider to pause and then fire a burst whilst moving towards the spider by a tiny amount. The super fast burst rate, 12 shots per second in mechanical shutter mode, is another really great feature on this camera which again makes this type of shooting easier.

Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 6400 f/5 1/125 sec
Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 6400 f/5 1/125 sec

Then I found an ant so had to really push it at 5 times magnification. Some noise on this image but it is ISO 6400 and a 50% crop. TBH I'm focusing more on the open jaws! These shots would not have been possible for me before shooting with this camera.  I mean the jaws are sharp and you can see the facets of compoud eye on an ant with no flash!

Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 6400 f/4.5 1/100 sec
Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 6400 f/4.5 1/100 sec

It must have been a day for robber flies as I found another robber fly this time a common awl robber fly (Neoitamus cyanurus) this one huge! It's worth me noting two things here;

1. I had heard that the R5 was going to have a much shorter battery life than the 5 series which I get as it's a much electronic system. I had heard that you were going to get around 400 shots for a fully charged battery. So was pretty surprised to see I was at 30% and taken 1400 shots! Good news!

2. Processing these stacks is not to be underestimated this one was a deep stack ie about 60 images went into the stack in Photoshop and just before I flattened the image this one was weighing in at 21.Gig?!? You need a fair bit of computer power to stack these! On the other side, they still stack and not when editing a single image not seeing any noticeable difference to 5DIV files in terms of performance lag.

Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 6400 f/6.3 1/160 sec
Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 6400 f/6.3 1/160 sec

It was getting to the back of the session and I saw another common awl robber fly take off snag something from the air and then drop to the floor. Turns out he was taken out the male competition and getting a tasty meal at the same time ;-) Didn't expect to finish the day with some cannibalism!

Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 6400 f/5.6 1/125 sec
Canon MP-E 65mm ISO 6400 f/5.6 1/125 sec

So four days shooting in how do I summarise...

Well for me the combination of;

  • IBIS allowing me to get away with slower shutter speeds
  • Focus peaking is the business for macro
  • Seeing the image change in the EVF when you adjust the manual setting
  • Huge resolution for either giant prints or cropping potential
  • Superfast frames per second
  • Less noise at 6400

For my niche handheld stacking with natural light, this camera is literally is a game-changer! But storage is a concern and have ordered some SSD external hard drives. I've got a lot to learn on this camera which I was surprised about as I've been using Canon bodies for years and not had that before! Although that can also be a good thing as it means things have changed and indeed they have :)

Next, I need to test the video capabilities, low ISO performance with some landscape photography and some moving subjects!

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments, please forward on to anyone who is thinking of getting an R5.

All the best,



  • Hi Oliver, Can we do focus bracketing with the Canon R5 and the MP-E65 lens?

    Rex Boggs - 17th August, 2020

  • Hi Rex, thanks for the question. With the MP-E it is not possible as to do focus bracketing you need to use a lens with a focus system like the Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L Macro lens.

    oliverwright - 17th August, 2020

  • Great photos and a great review. The R5, in the hands of someone that knows what they’re doing, looks a great combo!

    Richard - 17th August, 2020

  • How do you get so close to your subjects? Excellent images

    Bryan - 18th August, 2020

  • Does automatic focus bracketing work in combination with the mechanical shutter, or is the electronic shutter required to use this feature?

    M - 19th August, 2020

  • Great work, lovely photos and something I am keen on learning in the near future.
    Any workshops for the midlands area UK planned?

    Gary - 1st September, 2020

  • Hi Oliver, these are amazing to see!! Curious to know… Did the lens work directly on the r5 or did you need to use a converter?

    lisa - 5th March, 2021

  • Can you focus bracket with the R6 and the earlier Canon Macro 100mm 2.8 non IS?

    Graham - 7th March, 2021

  • Hi Lisa, in reply to;

    “Hi Oliver, these are amazing to see!! Curious to know… Did the lens work directly on the r5 or did you need to use a converter?”

    I was using an EF to RF adapter amazed how well it works I was expecting it lose performance but it seems to work very well indeed.

    oliverwright - 8th March, 2021

  • Hi Graham, in response to;

    “Can you focus bracket with the R6 and the earlier Canon Macro 100mm 2.8 non IS?”

    You can definitely do focus bracketing on the R6 and I’m assuming you would be able to do that with the older Canon Macro 100mm but I don’t know that for sure.


    oliverwright - 8th March, 2021

  • Great post. I’m facing a few of
    these issues as well..

    Azeema Rasheed - 12th May, 2021

  • Nice review. Think I’ll have to invest in a macro lens to go with my R5. Your photos are amazing!!

    James - 9th October, 2021

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