The Canon EOS R8 is a compact full-frame mirrorless camera aimed at anyone upgrading from the EOS R and RP, or perhaps an older DSLR like the 6D or an APSC model.
Announced in February 2023, the EOS R8 becomes the most affordable – not to mention lightest – new model in Canon’s full-frame range, positioned below the R6 II and above the RP. This essentially makes it the unofficial successor to the original EOS R. It’s also available in a kit with the RF 24-50 launched alongside it.
I spent some time with a final-production R8 and in the video below will show you everything I’ve learned so far. I’ve also made a separate short video about the RF 24-50 zoom. If you prefer to read the written highlights, keep scrolling!
If you’re after the TL:DR version, the R8 is essentially a cut-down version of the R6 II, taking its sensor and processor for the same photo, video and AF performance, and packing it into a more compact body similar in size and features to the RP.
Given it’s £1000 cheaper than the R6 II at the time I made this video, that sounds like a bit of a bargain, although as you’ll learn there’s obviously a number of key differences to achieve that price.
Here’s the new R8 on the left with the R6 II on the right and the first obvious difference is the R6 II is a heftier camera and while the upper controls are actually very similar, they’re more recessed on the R8.
In terms of features you can’t see here, the R8 loses the IBIS and 6k RAW output of the R6 II, has a single card slot, a lower resolution viewfinder, no joystick, a slower mechanical shutter and a smaller battery too. But again at roughly two thirds the body price, those are sacrifices you may be willing to make.
Let’s switch in the EOS RP on the right, still the lowest-priced model in the series and sharing a similar recessed control style. The R8 is a few grams lighter but once in your hands they’re in the same ballpark.
Both cameras share a similar cut-down feature-set including a single card slot, 2.36 million dot viewfinder, modest battery, and no IBIS or AF joystick either.
But while the RP sports 26 Megapixels versus 24 on the R8, the newer sensor and processor give the R8 a number of key benefits. Stills photographers will enjoy Canon’s best subject recognition to date with a useful Auto option as well as slightly faster mechanical bursts at 6fps and much faster electronic bursts at 40fps, not to mention the RAW burst mode with a pre-capture option. And while the R8 (like the RP) lacks a popup flash, it makes up in some part with the updated Multi-function shoe.
Meanwhile videographers enjoy a big upgrade on 4k video which was cropped and lacked decent AF on the RP. Now on the R8 they get uncropped 4k up to 60p, full autofocus, the option of C-Log 3, and recording times up to two hours. Oh and there’s 1080 up to 180p as well.
My final feature comparison is against the EOS R7, costing a few hundred less. The major difference here is full-frame on the left versus cropped APSC on the right, but the smaller sensor of the R7 with its higher resolution of 32 Megapixels makes it preferable for cropping-in on small distant subjects like wildlife.
Conversely the larger pixels on the R8 make it better in low light or for capturing broader dynamic range, and it also supports uncropped 4k up to 60p.
What the R7 saves on sensor size, it invests in higher-end body features including IBIS, dual card slots, a larger battery, AF joystick, and much faster mechanical bursts up to 15fps. If you’re photographing action or wildlife, I’d say it makes more sense than the R8.
The R8 may be one of Canon’s smaller full-frame bodies, but it feels solid and comfortable in your hands with a decent grip that’s tall enough to accommodate all my fingers.
In terms of controls, the R8’s top panel looks a lot like the R6 II, starting with a switch for stills and movies on the left side. In the middle is one of Canon’s now standard Multi-function accessory shoes, and to its right a recessed mode dial, along with a thumb dial sporting a power and locking collar. There’s also a finger dial and dedicated record button.
From the rear, the R8 is more like the budget RP, lacking the rear wheel and AF joystick of higher-end models like the R6 II, although you can use the screen as a touchpad to adjust the AF position while using the viewfinder.
Speaking of which, the EVF specification also matches the RP, with a basic 2.36 million dot OLED panel with 0.7x magnification. It’s fine, but not as detailed as the 3.69 million dot panel on the R6 II and delivers a slightly smaller image too.
The screen’s the same as the R6 II though, a 3in panel with 1.62 million dots and a side-hinged mechanism which allows it to face forward for vlogging and selfies, twist up and down for framing at unusual angles, and back on itself for protection. Again in the absence of a joystick, you can use the screen as a Touchpad to control the AF position.
The R8 offers the same ports as the R6 II as well, albeit presented in a different arrangement. You get Micro HDMI and USB-C, the latter supporting Power Delivery for charging or actual powered operation as well as data transfer. There’s also 3.5mm jacks for microphones and headphones, as well as a wired remote control port, but unlike the R6 II, there’s no option to output RAW video over HDMI.
In one of the biggest physical downgrades from the R6 II, the R8 switches to a single SD card slot and the smaller LP-E17 battery, both housed in the same compartment under the camera.
Only you can decide if you can live without the backup a second card can provide, but everyone will feel the impact of the smaller battery, especially videographers. The R8 may allow clips lasting up to two hours each, but my fully-charged battery ran out after 65 minutes of 4k 25p, so longer clips will require USB power. I put this to the test and managed a full two hour clip of 4k 25p while powering the R8 with my MacBook Pro charger.
Which leads me to the other major downgrade from the R6 II: the R8 does not have sensor-shift stabilisation. In this respect, not to mention the single card slot, the R8 is actually no different from the original R and RP, but it’s still the first new full-frame EOS R camera to not have it.
How big a deal this is will depend on which lenses you’re using, as those with optical IS of their own – like the RF 24-50 kit zoom – will still do a good job at ironing out most wobbles. Also don’t forget there is optional digital stabilisation for movies too, albeit incurring a crop and not available for still photos. I’ll show you some examples in a moment.
As an EOS R camera, the R8 has an RF lens mount, which right now means the only native lenses designed specifically for it are made by Canon. Sadly there’s still no third party lenses in the native RF mount, but you can adapt older EF DSLR lenses from both Canon and others. I really hope Sigma and Tamron are able to make native RF versions sooner rather than later as it would make Canon’s system more attractive, not to mention competitive against rivals.
So let’s move onto photo quality, with the R8 employing the same 24 Megapixel full-frame sensor as the R6, capturing images with up to 6000×4000 pixels.
You can record RAW in Standard or Compressed formats, both at the full 24 Megapixels, but the Compressed version occupying roughly two thirds the file size while still giving you the flexibility of post processing.
Meanwhile JPEG shooters have the choice of four resolutions: 24, 11, 5.9 or 3.8 Megapixels, with all but the smallest available with two different compression levels. You can also switch the camera to record 10 bit HEIF rather than JPEG if preferred.
Under the aspect ratio menu you can choose 3:2 in full-frame or cropped formats – the latter applying the same 1.6x field reduction as Canon’s APS-C models – or the full frame cropped to 1:1, 4:3 or 16:9.
Here’s a couple of photos I took with the R8, although since it shares essentially the same quality as the R6 II, I’ll encourage you to watch my video about that if you’d like a deep-dive into the resolution, noise levels and RAW dynamic range. Suffice it to say here, the R8 delivered equally satisfying images out-of-camera as its pricier sibling.
I’m also relieved to see Canon equipping the R8 with what looks like the same autofocus system and options of the R6 II which, in my tests, proved to be one of the most confident all-rounders I’ve tested.
So along with a selection of AF areas including customisable zones, the R8 inherits the same subject detection capabilities with separate modes for people, animals – which includes birds, and vehicles, or an Auto option which attempts to figure everything out by itself.
I’m going to show you a clip from my R6 II review, as when I tested the R8, it performed identically in this regard. You’ll see it here in the Auto subject mode, effortlessly recognising humans, even the back of their heads, as well as passing vehicles.
Like the R6 II, I found the Auto mode was perfect for general use and a highlight of the camera, although if you’re only shooting one specific subject, like cars at a race, people at an event, or animals in a zoo, you’ll enjoy a boost in recognition speed by selecting that type in the subject menu.
Moving onto bursts, the pricier R6 II boasted one of the fastest mechanical shutters of its peer group at 12fps. The R8 though is noticeably slower, only shooting up to 6fps with its mechanical shutter, which is also only available in an electronic first-curtain mode. Here’s how that sounds.
And here’s my splash test – which also confirmed the 6fps speed – and if you’ve seen any of my other reviews, you’ll notice the relatively modest number of frames to choose from.
In my formal tests the R8 seemed happy to keep recording JPEGs at 6fps for as long as I held the shutter, with the modest speed eliminating any bottlenecks with the SD card. In RAW, you’re limited to around 35 frames at the top speed.
If you’re after something faster though, the R8’s fully electronic shutter will match the top speed of the R6 II of 40fps, and here’s how that looks with my splash test, showing considerably more frames to choose from.
You may however have noticed some skewing on the falling brick, as like the R6 II and most cameras without stacked sensors, the electronic mode will suffer from rolling shutter artefacts if the subject or camera are in motion. But it’s there if you need the speed or the silent operation.
In my formal tests I confirmed the speed of 40fps, recording 99 JPEGs in 2.5 seconds, after which it took about 14 seconds to fully empty the buffer to the SD card. Once again if you’re shooting RAW, you’re limited to around 35 frames.
The R8 also inherits the RAW Burst mode of the R6 II which grabs a short burst of frames using the electronic shutter at 30fps, with a pre-burst option that keeps a rolling buffer of the last 16 shots as the shutter is half-pressed. These are then committed to memory when you fully push down, allowing you to record the moments just before.
Here’s my splash test again in playback where you can navigate the RAW burst. Frame 16 represents the moment I pushed down on the shutter and as you can see, I’ve missed the initial contact. You can of course go forward in the sequence like any other burst, but also backwards to those frames prior to the push, in this case capturing the moment the block hit the water. It’s easy to see how this could be used for birds taking flight, although remember the skewing caveats of the electronic shutter.
Just before moving on, the R8 also inherits many of the R6 II’s other photo features including focus bracketing and stacking in-camera, multiple exposures and a Bulb timer. None of these are casualties of the price cut.
Next for video with the R8 inheriting most of the capabilities of the higher-end R6 II, including uncropped and oversampled 4k video from 24 to 60p. 1080 is also available in a High Speed mode up to 180p, albeit with no sound. All video is encoded using IPB compression with standard or light options.
You also get the full autofocus options, subject detection and the chance to record C-Log 3 for grading, as well as use false colours to judge exposure.
The maximum clip length is 2 hours for any 1080 or 4k mode up to 60p, although as I mentioned earlier, a fully charged battery only got me just over an hour’s worth of 4k. Switch to slow motion 1080 and the maximum clip length is 30 minutes at 100 or 120p, or 20 minutes at 150 or 180p.
As noted earlier, the R8 also misses out on 6k RAW video over HDMI of the R6 II.
Let’s have a look at some footage filmed with the R8, starting with 1080 at 25p, followed by 1080 at 50p, both uncropped as you’d hope, and here using the RF 15-30mm at 30mm.
Now here’s 4k at 25p, showing a boost in detail thanks to the oversampling, followed by 4k at 50p, impressively still using the full image width without a crop. Indeed this makes the R8 one of the cheapest full-framers with uncropped, oversampled 4k up to 60p.
Oh and here’s the same view filmed in 4k 25p using 10-bit C-Log 3 for grading later. The base sensitivity here is 800 ISO.
Now back to 1080 at 25p before switching to the high frame rate modes, first at 100p, or 120p if the video system is set to NTSC, followed by 150p, or 180p for NTSC for comparison. Like most Canon cameras, there’s no sound recorded above 60p and the footage is automatically slowed down, in this case by four or six times to 25p.
To demonstrate the slow motion in action, here’s that splash test in 4k 50, playing back at normal speed.
And now here’s the same clip, but playing back at 25p for half speed.
Next here’s 1080 at 100p for a four times slowdown, obviously with a reduction in quality.
And finally for 1080 at 150p for a six times slow down on my 25 timeline.
To test movie autofocus, here’s a quick focus pulling test with the R8 and RF 15-30 at 30mm f6.3. This lens doesn’t have the fastest focus motors and the depth of field is not exactly challenging here, but you can still see it’s smooth and confident.
For comparison, here’s an adapted EF 50mm f1.8 STM, again a fairly leisurely focuser, but again driven by the R8 confidently here with the much shallower depth of field at f1.8. Side-note, I’ve boosted the tracking sensitivity here in the menus a little to speed up the initial response. Again the actual racking speed is limited by the lens here.
Single AF pulls are easy though, so let’s try face and eye tracking with the R8 and adapted 50mm at f1.8 again. Here I’m using People as the subject, and the R8 is easily driving the lens to follow me as I move around and back and forth. Notice how when I duck out of the frame that the R8 refocuses on the background, like most cameras.
But now let’s try the R8 with Subject Detection set to Detect Only in the menus, an option inherited from the R6 II. Notice how when I’m in the frame, the camera continues to adjust its focus as normal, but when I duck out, it stays locked on the last position.
This is because the mode is only telling it to refocus when the selected subject – in this case, a person – is on the frame. If there’s no people, there’s no change in focus. So when I re-enter the frame, it refocuses on me, then locks again when I exit.
The result is more like what you’d see with a professional focus puller in TV or movies where they’d rarely if ever refocus on the background after a person left the frame.
And finally before my verdict a few quick vlogging tests, filmed here with the R8 and RF 15-30mm, initially set to 24 to represent the widest coverage of the 24-50 kit zoom.
My first clip is without any stabilisation at all. Remember the R8 lacks IBIS, so relies on optical IS in the lens and or digital in the body.
So here’s the same walk but with the lens’ optical stabilisation enabled. It’s not perfect but it is an improvement over the unstabilised version before.
Next here’s a version with both optical IS in the lens and digital Movie stabilisation set to standard where the view is much steadier, but at the cost of a crop. And since I started at 24mm, it’s now become arguably too tight for handheld vlogging.
The enhanced digital mode crops even more, so I’ll mercifully move on to my last clip, still using enhanced mode, but this time with the lens zoomed-out to 15mm. The digital stabilisation still crops the image a great deal, but by starting at 15mm, the end-result is much more acceptable.
So if you’re buying the R8 with the 24-50 kit zoom for vlogging, beware it may not be wide enough for filming at arm’s length when you’re also applying digital stabilisation. If you’re a handheld vlogger, I’d recommend the RF 15-30 or the RF 16mm.Check prices on the Canon EOS R8 at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!