After using Fujifilm X-T20 for two years, I found two things with the camera that limited me in doing my photography style. The camera autofocus, when paired with wide-aperture lenses, can be unreliable in capturing movements. Also, the lenses I have don’t allow me some flexibility in focal length while maintaining really shallow depth of field at the same time. In summary, I like having a wide-aperture zoom lens, and the best that I can get is a 16-55 f/2.8 lens.
Because of those two limitations, I’ve been looking for some alternatives, or even replacements, to my Fujifilm X-T20 — especially for portraits, lifestyle, and wedding photoshoots.
I Initially had Sony A7III as a candidate. It has a 5-axis in-body image stabilisation, magical autofocus, and some other awesome tech packed in a very small body for a full frame camera. The battery life, according to some friends who own it, is stellar, too!
I imagined that I would pair it with a Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 lens. The lens has been receiving glowing reviews so far, and is priced at around a third of Sony GM 24-70mm lens’ price. The Sony lens is a premium and high-quality offering, but the Tamron lens can hold a candle to it.
However, by the end of last year, surprise surprise, Canon EOS R was launched… along with the Canon RF 28-70mm F/2 lens. Yes, a full-frame zoom lens with a f-ing F/2 aperture.
My jaw dropped.
At first I thought “F/2 in a full-frame zoom lens? Why haven’t we had this lens until now?” Then I looked at the price and size, and immediately understood: it was either a niche or a show-off product. To me the lens was more of a statement by Canon: “Look, our new RF mount makes this kind of lens possible.“
Then, after living off instant noodles and water for the last 6 months, I was able to get my hands on this pair of badasses. I used it in a few photoshoots (or photowalks as I usually call it), and I finally could put together a quick review of Canon EOS R and RF 28-70mm F/2.
The review won’t focus about specs or technical details, but more about how I perceive how it feels and how I see the results. In the later part of the review, I will do a light comparison between the results of my Fujifilm X-T20 and Canon EOS R.
Before jumping in, I’ll give a shout out to my friends whose photos I put in this post: Ioana, Dorota, and Ancuta. Find the link to their instagram pages in their photo captions and smash that follow button!
Body and Handling
My first impression of the EOS R? Sweet baby Jesus, they are huuuuuge.
Really. The Canon EOS R + RF 28-70mm F/2 combo easily dwarfs my Fujifilm X-T20. Now my X-T20 looks like a cute vintage metal camera compared to my Canon EOS R. The combo is also heavy — carrying it with other stuffs in your backpack for a 5 hours+ is not something I would do twice.
Although noticeably heavy, I think that is also what makes the camera feel really solid when held. In addition to that, the grip feels genuinely nice in my hands. It just feels right. The button placements and the curves feel like they are made to have my palm and fingers rested there
, just like my-ex’s waist.
In summary, I never knew that I missed having a proper grip on a camera body after I held Canon EOS R the first time. Canon engineers really know how to make an ergonomic camera body.
Controls and Buttons
Let’s talk about the buttons and dials on the camera. Yep. They are what you can expect from Canon cameras. They are conveniently placed, nicely sized, and give satisfactory feedback when clicked. That being said, the controls I use are mostly the Multi-Function button, the AF-ON button, and the two dials on top of the body.
I find the Multi-Function button to be well-placed and very useful too. It is easily reachable from my index finger and can be set to adjust different kinds of shooting settings. I currently use it to toggle between Servo AF (Continuous AF) and Single AF.
What about the Multi-Function touch bar? The Multi-Function touch bar on my camera is set to toggle between focus modes (tracking, single-point, multi-points, and so on). It is not as magical as the marketing material suggests, but I still have a use for it.
I’ve heard about some complaints about it, too. The problem of the Multi-Function touch bar, to me, is that there are times I changed the focus mode accidentally, since my thumb rests there. In the end I disabled the touch-to-toggle functionality and only enabled the swipe-to-toggle one.
The touchscreen is just okay. I use the touch screen mainly to move focus points and reviewing pictures. Moving focus points with the touch screen definitely feels quicker than my Fujifilm X-T20’s touch screen, but far behind in terms of responsiveness of current generation smartphone screens. It is the same case when I use it to review pictures.
What about glove friendliness of the screen? I haven’t used the camera in places where I need my touchscreen-friendly winter gloves, unfortunately. I can’t say anything about it at the moment.
And there’s this new control that on the lens: the Control Ring. I rarely use it as of now. I usually shoot using Aperture Priority, and I typically set Auto ISO from 100-1600, and the dial in the body is set for exposure compensation. Maybe I will set it for ISO settings or white balance later — I will need to see which one will fit me best.
The settings menu is quite intuitive. The items are logically organized into logical sections and things are relatively easy to find. I would say it is comparable to Fujifilm’s menu interface, although I got used to Fujifilm’s menu faster.
I find the shooting menu to be super useful to change shooting settings quickly. Its interface gives a big enough virtual buttons or controls, and it feels easy to use them. However, my gut feeling tells me that the touchscreen menu can be improved to make it more intuitive. I just can’t properly elaborate it at this point.
Canon EOS R’s autofocus is one of the things I like from the camera (and the lens). It just feels really fast and confident, and rarely hunts to obtain focus. It’s like a very very short “Whoop!” and then immediate “Beep!”, and there you have the focus!
What’s more to like: It also works okay in low light situations where my Fujifilm X-T20 really struggles! Yes, it is not as fast as in bright environment, but definitely something I’m happy to use. The only times it wildly hunted were because I picked the wrong focus point, or the focus area had no contrast to latch on.
I just want to elaborate my amazement more on the lens in this paragraph, since the AF system is a cooperation of both the body and the lens. This lens is constructed out of many big glasses. And those glasses, good lord, they are heavy as hippos. And yet the lens still achieves very very usable AF speed! The USM moves the glasses around like a champ!
I am really really really impressed.
I also quite like the performance of the tracking AF, when paired with Servo AF. I find it to be useful for my style of photography, where sometimes I ask my models to make some movements. The AF sticks to the subject quite nicely and substantially improves my hit rate, when compared to using Fujifilm X-T20’s tracking AF.
It still misses, though not often — it is not as amazing as Sony’s magical tracking AF after all.
I can’t approach this image quality analysis fully technically, what I write below is purely my personal impression of what I see from my results with the lens.
The Canon RF 28-70mm F/2 USM lens’ sharpness lives up the the L branding. To my eye, the sharpness of the lens at the very least equals the Fujifilm’s XF 56mm F/1.2 lens. The pictures I took are plenty sharp out of the box — the strands of hair and eyelashes of my models have much detail.
Sharpness and details are also retained quite nicely in ISO 3200. Of course they’re not as good as the ones in ISO 1000 or lower, but to me the results are very usable. I’ve never gone more than ISO 3200 so far.
Bokeh is also good. Good in a way that the out of focus highlights are round and smooth, but the so-called onion ring pattern is visible. If you blur objects with hard edges, the blurry things can look quite busy. The creaminess is not at the level of my Fujifilm XF 56mm F/1.2, but still usable.
The colors of default picture profile is definitely wonderful. I watched enough YouTube videos to know that it is not exactly that accurate, but I don’t really care. All I see is that the colors, especially the reds, are beautiful and nicely punchy. I’ll touch on the color differences between this and my Fujifilm X-T20 in a minute.
When it comes to shooting in low light, well, good news. Canon EOS R does a very respectable job in providing great contrast out of the box and keeping the noise level quite low in the shadows. The images that I took in lower light situations had plenty of recoverable details in the shadows. The noise, to my standard, is relatively low too.
Fujifilm X-T20 Color Comparison
The images you see in this section are screenshots of side-by-side comparison between Canon EOS R with RF 28-70mm F/2 and Fujifilm X-T20 with XF 35mm F/2. Unfortunately, you can’t do pixel peeping here. What I’m showing here is only how auto white balance performs differently in both cameras. I’ll also comment on some things I notice from the picture.
The heavy vignetting is probably caused by the Gobe CPL filter which I never detach from the lens. I don’t know.
One thing I notice immediately, when shooting with both cameras, is that Canon EOS R’s auto white balance tends to go to the warmer side. I don’t know if it is because of the CPL filter or how a typical Canon camera would set the white balance.
I also noticed that Canon has a more prominent / saturated yellows and reds compared to Fujifilm’s colors in default settings. When I tried to make the pictures I took side by side look similar, I need to dial down those two colors.
My Fujifilm X-T20, on the other hand, prefers the colder side. When I tested during sunset, it gave a more accurate representation of the scene. I also notice that the Fujifilm X-T20 typically gives more magenta tint than Canon.
This is what was striking to me: Canon EOS R has a slight edge in retaining the highlights in the sky, while exposing the shadow areas nicely. I get so much details in both highlight and shadows, and yet the pictures come out contrasty!
It may probably be because of the CPL filter, I’m just happy with what I see.
Canon EOS R’s battery life is good. It holds up a few hundreds of shots before it runs out of juice. I can push it to 600-700 shots without wireless connectivity turned on, using mostly EVF, using a combination between Single and Servo AF, and shooting burst some times. I still think that I’ll need an extra battery just in case, though.
The wireless connection works fine with Samsung Galaxy Note 8. I like the fact that the camera can send a picture automatically after every shot, but I rarely use the feature because it drains the battery a lot. The wireless connectivity is not as intuitive to set up, but then again there’s always the manual.
The mobile app itself is quite alright. It definitely is more polished than the Fujifilm’s app the last time I used it. And it is definitely miles ahead Sony PlayMemories app I used when I had the A6000 in 2015.
So here’s my current conclusion of this combo so far:
- Heavy and humongous combo, but feels solid in hand
- Great controls (except the Multi-Function touch bar)
- Using the lens is like using multiple primes
- Lens produces great image quality; sharp and colorful
- Bokeh is not the creamiest
- Quick and reliable autofocus, even in low light
- Good enough touch screen
- Good enough battery life for my use
Is Canon EOS R and RF 28-70mm F/2 great for lifestyle or portrait photoshoot? Oh yes. Surely. It is currently replacing the Fujifilm X-T20 and XF 56mm F/1.2 lens combo I’ve been using since 2017.
Would I use the combo for travel or street photography? Probably no. I prefer bringing Fuji’s XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 lens for the size, weight, and versatility. I don’t need shallow depth-of-field during most of my travels, and when I do, I switch to my XF56mm F/1.2 lens.
And when I need to go super light and need a camera that still allows me to take shallow depth-of-field pictures, I take the XF35mm F/2 lens with me. I went to Amsterdam and Berlin with only that lens. And I only needed my daily backpack.
We have arrived at the ultimate question: Is Canon EOS R and Canon RF 28-70mm F/2 for you? The answer is yes, only if:
- You take primarily portrait, lifestyle, or wedding shoots.
- You need a single lens that replaces a bag of prime lenses.
- You like shallow depth of field.
- You’re okay with the weight, also okay with the constant alertness to not drop it or to not put a dent on it.
- You are okay with the weight and size. I once walked for 18 km with the combo in my backpack, and in short, it was not fun after 10 km.
- You have 3k dollars to spare for the lens, or willing to go months on instant noodles.
Thank you for reading this through! Feel free to write below if you have comments or questions. I put some more edited photos below, but if you want to see more pictures of this combo later in the future, check out my instagram page.