Canon EOS RP / Initial Hands on Review
Updated 7th March 2019
The EOS RP arrived in the UK this week and I was able to get my hands on one with the RF 35mm f/1.8 STM lens. Here’s my initial review…
‘In this world there are two kinds of reviewers. Those who use the equipment and those who just quote specs.’
A bit tongue in cheek, to be sure, but there is some truth in the above statement.
I am definitely someone who uses the equipment and am not that concerned about the tech specs. I am well aware that this camera’s imaging chip is based on the EOS 6D II, which doesn’t have the best dynamic range. According to DXO it ‘only’ has 11.9 stops. But 11.9 stops is actually pretty decent. Fuji Velvia, by way of comparison, had just 5 stops of dynamic range. And we didn’t complain. We just worked within its limitation or used grey grad filters to compensate.
The truth is, the EOS RP has a tech spec that we would have drooled over just a few years ago. It far exceeds any 35mm film camera and is more than adequate, specification wise, for any photographer.
* Cost £1399 (body + EF converter)
* Various packages available to include a lens.
* Full frame digital mirrorless camera
* RF lens mount
* Compatible with all EF and EF-S lenses via converter.
This camera is small and lightweight. It sits well in the hand. I was testing it with the RF 35mm f/1.8 STM lens and this felt like a well balanced combination.
Setting up the camera was very easy. After entering the date and time I went through the menus and soon had the camera set the way I wanted it I’m a landscape photographer so I set it up as follows:
* Aperture priority
* Single shot mode
* ISO 100
* Auto white balance
* Zone auto focus
* Screen grid display: 3×3
* Histogram: on, RGB, large
* Focus plane: always display distance to focal point in feet
This took no more than 10 minutes. I was then ready to shoot!
I visited Nymans Gardens – a convenient location for me and a good place to photograph. It has gardens, scenic views and an old, derelict, Stately Home that is very photogenic.
At first it felt a little weird. The camera felt so light! And I wasn’t used to the 35mm focal length – it’s quite different from my usual zoom lens and you have to work hard with prime lenses to get the most out of them.
But using prime lenses is good for your photography. Rather than plonk yourself in one spot and zoom in and out, you have to move around, find creative angles and so forth.
So, I found myself walking around trying to find the best viewpoints and often having to back away from the subject to ensure it fitted in the frame.
After a while, I found myself enjoying the experience! Canon EOS cameras are easy to use. The controls are well laid out and the menus very intuitive. And the EOS RP is no exception. It’s very easy to frame the scene, set the aperture and take the picture.
I was using the viewfinder rather than the LCD screen to frame my pictures. But I used the LCD to control the AF point – dead easy once I got used to it.
I have fairly large hands but had no difficulty hand holding the camera throughout the photo shoot. Weirdly, Canon don’t do a battery/vertical grip for it but they offer a tiny extension to make it a little larger. At £80+ this is surely a joke? The nifty fifty 50mm f/1.8 STM lens doesn’t cost much more!
I did find myself wishing it had a built in flash. Of course, it has a hotshot for a speedlight, but these can be quite heavy and it’s a shame that the camera lacks a built in one. But, I guess that it helps to keep the costs down to omit one as well as make the body seem a little more ‘professional’, whatever that means.
The little 35mm lens is a very nice optic. As the sample images show, it is sharp. And it is versatile. Unlike many prime lenses designed for landscape and general use, as this one surely is, it can also focus extremely closely. It’s not a true macro lens but is a 1:2 (half size) macro. For floral images, this is usually close enough.
Canon claim the lens features 5 stops of image stabilisation. I certainly found I could hand hold it at slow shutter speeds (1/3 second) and still get sharp pictures. The camera may not have image stabilisation built in, but the stabilised lenses certainly do a good job.
Depth of field
One of the much touted differences between full frame and APS-C cameras is that full frame has less depth of field. I certainly noticed that during my tests.
On an APS-C camera, such as the NX500, the closest to the RF 35mm lens is the NX 20mm. They have similar angles of view after the crop factor is taken into account. But, due to its inherently smaller aperture sizes (physical size, not f stop numbers, which are proportional) the 20mm lens has far greater depth of field than the 35mm when using the same f stop.
I, therefore, found that sometimes I focused too closely when using the RF 35mm, resulting in a soft, out of focus, background. Changing to full frame does require some thinking and an awareness that the hyperfocal focus point that was OK with APS-C will not be OK with full frame.
Then again, with longer lenses you can stop down to f/11 or even f/16 without diffraction being too detrimental. It’s all relative but I think that APS-C is more forgiving than full frame. In other words, full frame will make you a better photographer as you need to be more thoughtful, more disciplined, to make good use of it.
Related to depth of field is, arguably, the best way to maximise it: focus stacking. You take many photos of the same subject at slightly different focus points and then merge them all together to make one uber-sharp image. You can use this technique for both landscape and macro photography. The main prerequisite is that the scene must be static – a moving bug or a landscape on a windy day is not a good candidate for this technique.
Macro images typically require many photos taken at very precise intervals as the depth of field close up, even at tiny apertures, is just millimetres. The EOS RP has a rather wonderful capability – give it a starting focus point, tell it how many images (from 2 to 100(!)) you want to stack and how far to shift the focus each shot and it will do the rest. Provided, that is, you use a supported lens. There are only a handful and the RF 35mm f/1.8 is one of them.
Update 7th March 2019: Focus stacking worked ok on the 100mm F2.8 USM (the non L version), so I wonder if the list of ‘supported’ lenses just means the ones Canon have tested…
I created a simple scene and set the lens to f/8 – probably its sharpest setting. After a few experiments, I settled on 20 shots. You have to use a bit of trial and error to get the shots and the focus distance changes right. I used the remote trigger to fire the camera and it rattled off 20 images silently. Very nice. Assuming a living bug was asleep, the camera wont wake it!
I put the resulting JPEGs into Affinity Photo and it did a decent job, but it wasn’t perfect. I then put the RAW pictures through Canon DPP’s focus stacking function and it worked perfectly. It took longer, of course. How long? No idea – I left it to do its stuff and read a book… The result is so impressive though:
Affinity may have done better with the 16 bit TIF files produced by DPP, but I am testing the camera here, so I’ll stick with DPP’s result. Good, isn’t it?
For macro photographers, using a supported lens, this function is really useful. I wouldn’t use it for landscapes, as the calculation of the needed focus points is quite different and, generally, only a handful of photos is needed. Certainly, nothing like 20. So, Landscape focus stacking is, I think, better done manually.
As yet no 3rd party RAW converter that I know of supports the EOS RP. That leaves you with no choice other than to use Canon’s DPP software. It’s not the fastest RAW converter out there but it is good enough.
For these sample pictures I just developed them with no RAW adjustments at all. I then put the resulting TIF files into whatever software seemed appropriate. Photo Ninja and Topaz Clear A.I. were used on most of these, unless otherwise indicated.
Compared to the NX1
The Samsung NX1 is a great APS-C camera. Its imaging sensor is one of the best ever produced and the camera is a delight to use. The NX 16-50mm f/2.8 S lens is an excellent optic. So, how does it compare to the EOS RP?
I did a very brief comparison, using the EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 STM lens. At 24mm it has the same field of view as the Samsung at 16mm.
I took just one sample picture at f/8 and was expecting the Samsung to be at least as sharp as the Canon. After all, the STM lens is ok, but hardly class leading. At f/8 both lenses are just about at their optimum.
I processed the RP image in DPP (there’s no other alternative) and the NX in Photo Ninja.
The result surprised me. The Canon’s image was significantly better that the Samsung’s. It was sharper and the colours were so much better. I used Photo Ninja’s advanced colour and detail capabilities to try to make up the difference. It couldn’t. Canon’s DPP software is pretty good but I’d rate Ninja and DXO as far better. Goodness knows how good the EOS RP’s pictures will look when these tools get round to supporting it.
EF lens adapter
This comes with the camera and it works. All EF lenses work with the EF RP. EF-S lenses also do but only produce a cropped image.
This adapter comes in three flavours. One is the basic unit, one has an extra (and rather pointless IMHO) control ring. One allows for a polariser or a ND filter to be slotted into it.
The EOS M has a basic adapter and it has a tripod socket on it. None of the RP’s adapters have a tripod socket. That’s ok for the EOS R but the EOS RP would benefit from one.
* Full frame image sensor
* Very good resolution (26mp)
* Lightweight body
* A joy to to use
* Massive range of quality lenses available
* RF 35mm f1.8 STM lens is excellent
* The other RF lenses are very highly regarded. Just google the reviews!
* Adapters that allow EF and EF-S (but not EF-M) lenses to be used. Really good news for EF lens owners!
* Automatic focus stacking
* Reported battery life is small (250 images per charge)
* Only one memory card slot
* No battery/vertical grip available
* Limited dynamic range compared to the competition, although good enough most of the time.
* No tripod socket on the EF lens adapter.
My reviews list known limitations in this section. There’s no point criticising equipment for having limits. If these limits don’t work for you then buy something else.
* 5 frames per second burst mode
* No built in flash
* No in body image stabilisation
* No 3rd party RAW converter support yet. This will surely change soon but for now you’re stuck with DPP.
* EF-S lenses can only produce a heavily cropped image. In my opinion it makes no sense to put an EF-S lens on this camera.
To my mind, the full frame vs APS-C sensor debate is far from settled. Most APS-C cameras are really good and some are exceptional. Yet, the lure of full frame is strong.
One advantage I hadn’t considered earlier is that, without a crop factor, longer lenses can be used and this has several advantages:
* They put more light on the sensor than the APS-C equivalent focal length
* Wider lenses have to do more to ‘normalise’ a scene than a longer one. A 16mm APS-C lens has work harder than a full frame 24mm to correct straight lines and so forth. Take a group shot with a 16mm lens and the people on the edges of the frame look unnatural, even with any distortion removed.
* Canon’s top quality prime lenses are full frame. To be able to use these without the crop factor just feels better. I don’t really know why.
By releasing the EOS RP at this relatively low price point Canon have started a shift towards full frame mirrorless cameras that I suspect will gather momentum in the coming years. APS-C may well come to be viewed for what it originally was – a compromise to get digital SLRs into the consumer market quickly by reducing the cost of ownership.
APS-C is, of course, no longer a compromise. The best examples of them provide image quality that could only be dreamt of just a decade ago. Even the tiny EOS M100 is a fine camera.
Despite its limited specification, the EOS RP beat the Samsung NX1 when it came to picture quality. That’s no easy task.
In terms of usability, lens choice and sheer fun the EOS RP is as good as it gets. And it produces really fine images. Once the 3rd party RAW converters can handle its files (or Adobe update their DNG converter to support it) then this camera’s images will be up there with the best of them.
So, if you are looking for an affordable entry into full frame digital photography, or just want a lighter full frame body, then this camera is worthy of serious consideration. If you already own EF lenses then it’s a really attractive camera.
Ignore all the negative comments regarding its dynamic range – it has plenty for most circumstances. And HDR or the humble ND grad filter can easily compensate for any limitations here.
This is not the ideal camera to buy if you are a sports/action photographer. Its frame rate is too low for that. But for general use, portraiture, landscape, wildlife (apart from fast moving animals/birds), street and macro photography this is a really good tool.
Pay no attention to it being described as entry level or enthusiast level. There is no such thing as a professional camera. The professional/enthusiast/beginner is the user. A camera is a tool and in the right hands even a modest tool can produce a work of art. This camera is far more than a modest tool. It’s not at the leading edge tech wise. But can a good photographer produce works of art with it? Undoubtedly!
After using it for a week
The experience has been 100% positive. This camera is lovely to use and its performance at higher ISOs is far better than any APS-C camera I have used. The main challenge is getting used to the depth of field differences. Being able to use the full range of Canon optics at their intended focal lengths continues to be a great experience. The RF 35mm lens is quite wonderful.