Sports Photographer Richard Pelham reviews Canon’s Full-Frame EOS R

4 March 2019

It’s not Canon’s first foray into the full-frame mirrorless market, but the EOS R is the brand’s debut model in a new line of full-frame mirrorless cameras, based on its new RF lens mount.

Richard Pelham, chief sports photographer at The Sun newspaper, has been shooting sports for the last 30 years. Usually a dedicated DSLR user, choosing the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II as a preferred model, Richard was keen to see how the EOS R would perform in a fast-paced sports environment and low light conditions. He put it through its paces at the boxing…

Camera Features

•£2,349 body only with EF-EOS R adapter
• 30.3-million pixel full-frame CMOS sensor
• DIGIC 8 image processor
• ISO 100-40,000 (expandable to ISO 50-102,400)
• 5,655 selectable autofocus positions
• Single SD card slot
• 4K/30p 4:2:2 10-bit HDMI output with 1.7x crop

– Clear viewfinder
– Amazing clarity and colour in the final images
– Sensor performed brilliantly at low light

– Focus slightly slower than I’m used to
– The back buttons are a little small

I fitted the EOS R with Canon’s new 50mm F1.2L lens, and – not yet familiar with some of the custom settings – I set the camera up in the same way I would with my 1D X Mark II.

For the light conditions in the ring, I set the ISO to 4000, the aperture to f2.0 and the shutter speed to 1/1600 sec. I set the white balance to tungsten, and switched the camera to shoot in RAW.  I also set up back button focusing to move the focus points around easily, and with a custom menu to format and delete images quickly.  I found the back buttons a little small for my fingers but I imagine that will change when a pro version of the model is released.

At first, I found the focus slow compared to the Mark II but once I got the hang of the timing it didn’t really matter.  When you shoot boxing you only need one picture: the boxer making contact with the punch. For the first ten minutes I was missing the key shots and I really had to concentrate, but once I mastered it, I really enjoyed using it.

© Richard Pelham, Andre Sterling (ENG) v Ricky Summer (ENG), Eliminator for the British Light-Heavyweight Championship 10 X 3 Minute Rounds at 12st 7lbs (175lbs), Premier Boxing Champions, The O2, 23 February 2019

I found the viewfinder really helped with the timing, I felt like I could anticipate the punches, a bit like watching it from your sofa at home!  It felt strange going back to my DSLR for the main fights, my timing was a little off and I found the viewfinder was not as clear as the mirrorless.

In terms of lenses, I would usually use a 28-70mm f/2.8 L lens for the boxing as it allows me to get both the punch and knock-down images I need to illustrate the story with just one lens. It felt strange at first using a fixed focus lens, but I soon got used to it – I may be a convert to a 50mm now.

When I opened the images in RAW, I couldn’t believe the quality – the images had great clarity and rich colours. I was especially impressed that the blacks stayed black in the background. I had been eager to see how the sensor would perform in low-light conditions and was completely satisfied.  I am not technical about these things, if the image looks good on the screen then I am happy, and I can now say that the imagery is on a par with that of the Canon 1D x Mark II.

As a camera to throw over your shoulder or to use in the studio I will be using this from now on, the mirrorless revolution is here.

Richard Pelham is a multi-award-winning sports photojournalist. To find out more about his career, watch our profile interview with him on Photography Now. Follow him on Twitter for all his photography highlights.

Look out for a boxing photography video masterclass with Richard Pelham coming soon to Photography Now…


Feature Image:  © Richard Pelham, Anthony Cacace (NIR) v Alan Castillo (ARG), 8 X 3 Minute Rounds Super-Featherweight Contest, Premier Boxing Champions The O2, 23 February 2019