For the past year, I’ve been using the Canon EOS R5 as my primary stills camera. It is a superb piece of equipment, carefully engineered to fulfill all of my wildest dreams for stills photography. I purchased it for what will become a recurring theme for me – how to make photography more convenient.
As I get older, there are aspects of photography such as the tracking of moving subjects, the determination of tack sharp focus, remembering to switch from high ISO back to normal ISO, remembering to switch from single shot to continuous shooting and back, that could use a little help. The Canon EOS R5 provides that to me exceptionally well.
Its large, high resolution viewfinder allows me to arrange all of the important shooting information around the edge of the frame without affecting the ability to see the subject clearly. That’s what defines a mirrorless camera frankly and separates it from a DSLR. That clear view of the subject and the settings allows me to set up the shot easily even with my diminishing vision, and when I can’t, there are built-in warnings and colour overlays to help me.
Likewise, the LCD is big, bright, rotatable to any angle that saves my aging back and knees, and yet lets me get the camera into the right angle to capture any scene, no matter how high or how low.
I can customize essentially every button and dial to perform the function that works for me, I can set up and save custom shooting settings that give me everything from landscape setups to close up to action setups at the flick of a button. And I can save out all my customizations to a file to store remotely, in case something causes the camera to need a reset.
Sounds like a gem, doesn’t it. It’s fast, light, smart and takes pretty pictures too. It even shoots video.
Say what? Shoots video. But the title of this blog is that it is not a video camera. Read on, intrepid friend.
Over the past year, I’ve sat through endless YouTube videos (no irony in that) in which the makers complain that the EOS R5 fails miserably on recording video. Not enough exposure warnings, limited ability to track, strange IBIS wobble when recording wide angle video, and of course, the big one, no unlimited 8K recording capability. In fact, no unlimited 4K high quality recording capability. There’s a timeout and an overheat warning.
I’ve decided enough is enough and it’s time to set a few things right.
Canon was the first to introduce high definition video recording capability into essentially a DSLR camera body with the 5D Mark II in 2005. It revolutionized the industry and gave photographers the ability to offer their clients a mix of standard still photography and short duration video footage. The video footage would supplement the stills, which provided high resolution, high quality capture of the event. By contrast, video footage was wonderful, but much lower resolution comparatively. It was often used to capture behind the scenes activities, or dialogue/monologue, or the lead up to some funny moment. It was not the event itself.
In 2008, Panasonic introduced the first mirrorless camera, and it and its successors came to be known as hybrid cameras, because of their advanced electronics that brought detailed information to the viewfinder and integrated it with a direct representation of what the sensor was seeing.
It’s not entirely clear to me, but somehow over the years, hybrid cameras have come to be known as those that shoot both stills and video, even though, fun fact for today, that label was never applied to that purpose initially. Go look it up.
So why the history lesson?
I got into a bit of an online debate recently with someone who yet again raised the issue of no unlimited 8K or 4K recording capability for the EOS R5 and I suddenly realized that this was a false flag and needed someone to speak up in its defence.
Camera manufacturers sensationalize their products – it’s part of the DNA of getting you to buy. We want more and more, and, strangely, expect to pay less and less. When the EOS R5 was announced, Canon marketed it this way:
- The EOS R5 builds off of the powerful legacy of Canon’s full frame cameras offering next generation refinements in image quality, performance and reliability. It’s an ideal choice for a large range of photographic and cinematographic environments from weddings, portraits, sports, journalism, landscape, cinematography and more.
Ok, it takes pictures. And it shoots video. But what is it primarily? Canon tells you – it builds on the legacy I talked about – It’s a stills camera that sometimes shoots video.
There’s the crux of the matter. It’s not a full-time, unlimited movie machine. It just isn’t. Like its predecessors before it, it is meant to provide options to a creator who would like to offer many ways to their clients to experience an event.
And for me, this so called recording limit isn’t a limit at all. 30 minutes is a lot of content – it’s a lot longer than it would take me to read this blog in front of a camera.
I also note that the majority of those complaining use the camera for pretty basic stuff: talking head monologues, maybe an on-camera interview, and vlogging while out and about. Then the result is posted on YouTube. Why anyone would need 8K high res. for these situations is beyond me. If you are a professional production company making content for a major brand, ok, but come on people – most of you ain’t doing that.
In a sense, Canon brought the turmoil onto themselves in two ways: combining video with stills in the first place in the 5D Mark II, and not being up-front on the “limitations” inherent in a camera that costs less than half of a true cinema camera for video. It would have been easy to say – 8K recording for 30 minutes in the publicity materials and we would all have accepted it. But no, they sensationalized instead. The limit is right there in the manual – very deep inside the manual.
Those complaining the loudest appear to never have been still shooters. Not seriously anyway. So of course they will feel hard done by with the best stills camera on the market. There was another video recently about the Canon EOS R6, which has more traditional dials and essentially the same functionality as the 5D Mark IV. The maker was complaining that the custom settings dial, which saves three custom settings for stills, saves no custom settings for video. That was, he put it, a deal breaker. And yet, again, my only response: you get what you pay for.
Ok, enough said. We have to get away from this mentality that you can have it all but not pay for it. That you can just complain enough and they will give you what you want. Or, most importantly, that you can take one tool with a wide ranging purpose and use it for an even wider ranging purpose, then be indignant when it doesn’t work.
Steve Brazill, from Behind the Shot TV on YouTube (and on podcasts everywhere) recognized this from the day the camera was released in July 2020. In conversation with Canon’s Drew MacCallum that month, he noted that if people need 4K 120 unlimited, or 8K unlimited, there are cameras for that. The R5 is not one of them. I also note that he addresses the question of video at the one hour mark of the show – maybe that’s a hint about the real priority of this issue?
Despite my valid position that the EOS R5 is not a video camera, Canon released a firmware update in the last week to enable unlimited 8K recording to an external Ninja V+ recorder. Universal praise has ensued, followed by this or similar statements from many “dedicated” video creators:
- I don’t plan to record in 8K because I don’t have the processing capability or the display capability for it right now.
Face plant into palm. Huh? You get the solution you’ve been asking for, but you don’t plan to use it?
Also new on the scene is a dedicated separate cooling system for the R5 that can be tacked onto the back in the slot reserved for the LCD. More money to spend to “fix” the video issue, more weight, and more gobsmacked am I.
I will say it again. The Canon EOS R5 is not a dedicated video camera; it’s not even a primary video camera. I encourage everyone to learn to use it the way it was intended. And to those with complaints, save your pennies to get yourself the unlimited cinematography equipment you say you need.
Canon has “cooled” the complaining, at least for now. Their solution is actually quite creative, but requires not only an investment in the camera, but a further 4 figure investment in the Ninja V+ recorder and in the separate SSD you need for the footage. Hmmmm – dedicated cinematography cameras are about the same price as that package solution once you buy everything. A coincidence? I think not.