Canon EOS R and the 85mm F1.2 RF Initial Impression Review

Canon has always been an interesting company to me for photography. On one hand, their camera has always been good but never outstanding. The lens on the other hand has always been great especially on the top end. They have a tendency to be different such as the F1.2s and the 200mm f1.8 of the past. Today’s review is one such setting, a good camera and a great lens.

EOS R with RF 85mm F1.2

This review unit is on loan from SLR Revolution. Without their help, I would not have been able to test it out. You can visit them at https://www.slrrevolution.com.sg .

Build Quality 

On general, the build quality is great. Every thing had a heft to it, no wobbles and lose knobs/buttons. Bulk of the body is made from metal including the dials. All the buttons are just nice to push and never loose. There is no flex even with the relatively heavy 85mm RF and nothing is out of place. For the 85mm lens, it is similar: very solid and heavy, with a durable plastic barrel. The inner part of the lens is made from metal and you can see it extend from the mount in. I felt that the outer plastic case is actually rather nice, since it resist markings better then metal coatings. The EOS R comes with a flip out and twist type of screen, great for selfies and vlogs.

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Function and Usability

The Canon body is well designed. Having handled Fuji, Nikon, Sony and Olympus Body, the general handling I will place it at the front with the Olympus. The grip is deep and comfortable, the button placement are great and logical. If anything, I am probably not use to the front dial which is at the top and behind of the shutter button since other makers are front and after. The thumb rest is one of the most comfortable and the AF on button is at the place that I felt is the most right among all cameras, which is next to the thumb rest .

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The camera has a top LCD that shows the modes and various camera information. When off, it only shows the mode. It would have been nice if it worked like the GFX100, to show the battery life and last settings, which I thought is useful. You can also brighten up the screen for night usage.

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One thing I have to say Canon done really well in terms of usability is the touch function. It is fast, responsive, and you can use it to change almost anything including the menu items. Most other makers had only quick menus for touch, but canons can change most common setting on their quick menu and even the main menu is touchable. It is lucky that the touch screen is great because the R has no joystick, which is the way to change AF points for many. You can use the touch screen to quickly change the points. Due to its responsiveness, it is quick to pick up and a joy to use even with the eye on the EVF.

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The only useless control to me is the touch bar. Its responsive is sketchy to me and the number of custom function you can map on to it is quite limited. Especially with a great touch screen and customization controls for everything else, its existence is rather pointless.

There is no function on the lens other then the rings and and a focus limiter. You can program the control ring for aperture or some other stuff. As this lens auto focuses and does it great, I have never used the manual ring before once. One aspect of usability the lens suffer is the size and weight. It is the heaviest lens in the 85mm range and has a super thick body. See the comparison with my GF110mm, a medium format lens of equivalent to around 89mm, below.

Size Comparison

Auto Focus

The EOS R and 85mm F1.2mm RF together focuses great. Its is fast and extremely accurate. In-fact in a shoot of 40 + shots, I have only 1 soft shot and the rest are in focus, all the while in servo mode (Canon’s name for continuous). The single shot is similarly impressive, never misses unless with really strong back light, which at times will result in it giving up. The servo AF can also track a target rather well, moving back and forward rarely throws it off unless in really quick movement. Once again, this is with the RF 85mm F1.2, a lens with a ultra thin depth-of-field and tons of huge elements to move. You can actually feel the lens moving into position to focus.

Wide Open zoomed in
Wide Open zoomed in. Rarely misses.

The camera also spots Eye AF. It works well in good light especially with the latest firmware. I still will not rely it too much for my portraits since it does not detect properly in landscape mode with the person filling the frame vertically. Maybe cause changing the AF point with touch screen is really that fast.

The AF is just great, especially with a lens like RF 85mm F1.2. Probably one of the best performance in terms of accuracy and general speed for its class.

Image Quality

I will not be too in-depth into this since I have only one lens plus I did only 2 shoots with it. I also did not have a chance to shoot in high ISO. The image file from the R is great on general. Its dynamic range is decent, and raising shadows do not cause too much noise on my test. I quite like the default colors from the camera. Compared to the GFX I have on hand, its below it but so is the Nikon Z. It does better on general compared to my Fuji and Olympus in terms of noise and dynamic range.

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Now for the lens, the RF 85mm F1.2 is in one world, Sublime. It is probably one of the very best full frame 85mm F1.2/1.4 you can ever get. It is really really sharp, has relatively low lateral CA, a almost non existence longitudinal CA (LOCA), and quite resistance to flare, wide open. What all this mean is it produces one of the cleanest, great contrast image you can ever get from a lens of its class. This is coming from someone used to GFX110mm F2, which is on par if not better then even the OTUS. The only weakness of this lens is vignetting, and it is visible at the edges significantly. It can be corrected and for its purpose which is portrait, vignetting is probably fine. Below are comparison for CAs.

RF 85mm vs GF 110mm
RF 85mm vs GF 110mm
RF 85mm vs GF 110mm: Laterial CA
RF 85mm vs GF 110mm: Lateral CA
RF 85mm vs GF 110: Longitudinal CA
RF 85mm vs GF 110: Longitudinal CA
RF 85mm vs GF 110: Longitudinal CA Bokeh Ball
RF 85mm vs GF 110: Longitudinal CA Bokeh Ball

Lastly, for a F1.2 lens, talking about bokeh is unavoidable. It is smooth, and magical. This magical part is made up of  a few components: A sharp and contrasty lens wide open, F1.2 Aperture, and the lack of LOCA which normally results in rimming of bokeh balls and also making the bokeh tinted. All together gives you this really pop in focus and smooth everywhere else look.

Fall off and Bokeh
Fall off and Bokeh

Now for some pictures shot with the camera below.

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Summary

For a initial review, I think I wrote too much. On general, the EOS R is a good camera, great AF and the RF 85mm F1.2 is a fantastic lens. Among all the mirrorless full frame, I will say the R mount has the greatest potential, purely from the commitment Canon gave in the lens roadmap. The lenses released are nothing short of interesting, even the “normal” 70-200 is one of the smallest, and the 28-70mm F2 one of a kind. If anything I would like to say the R mount could improve on, IBIS will be great since it will ensure sharpness in most situation. Personally myself, I am tempted even though I already own a GFX100 purely for the lenses in the RF series.

Thanks to Sheryl for the modeling and SLR Revolution for the equipment loan.