Canon EOS R5 Initial Thoughts & Review

The Canon EOS R5 is one of the most exciting cameras of 2020 for underwater photo and video featuring 8K video, a new CMOS sensor, in-body image-stabilization, and 12 fps burst shooting!
By Nirupam Nigam

The Canon EOS R5 is no doubt the most popular camera to hit the market in the last decade. It's also a testament to the amazing technological progress made in the mirrorless camera field in recent years. With the ability to shoot 8K RAW video, 4K video at 120 fps, 45 megapixel still images, and image stabilization capable of 8 stops of recovery, the R5 is the elusive dream least on paper.

It's our job at the Underwater Photography Guide to separate fact from fiction. We're looking forward to being some of the first divers to take the amazing machine that is the Canon EOS R5 underwater. Canon has indicated that camera shipments will be slow through the end of the year, so check back with us in early September to see some of the underwater photo and video we capture with this camera. In the meantime, our review of the EOS R5 is an overview of the camera and our first thoughts on how we think the camera will perform underwater for photo and video. There's no doubt that the EOS R5 will change underwater photography and video as we know it. 

Staus: Shipping Now (with some delays)

U.S. MSRP Canon EOS R5: $3,899 

Jump to Section


EOS R5 vs EOS R6 vs EOS R   |   Specifications   |   Key Features   

EOS R5 for Underwater Photo and Video   |   Who Should Buy?   |   Underwater Lenses 

Underwater Housings   |   Conclusions


Purchase a Canon EOS R5 underwater housing at Bluewater Photo:


Nauticam Canon EOS R5 Underwater Housing


Ikelite Canon EOS R5 Underwater Housing

Sea & Sea Canon EOS R5 Underwater Housing

Aquatica Canon EOS R5 Underwater Housing

Isotta Canon EOS R5 Underwater Housing


Canon EOS R5 Compared with Canon EOS R

The Canon EOS R5 addresses many of the concerns from the original Canon EOS R release, and brings the camera line to levels far beyond its competition. 

For underwater photography, Canon was lagging behind Sony and Nikon because of a lack of in-body image-stabilization. The Canon EOS R5 will be Canon's first camera with IBIS, capable of 7-8 stops of correction when combined with a stabilized lens. Fortunately, Canon has a large selection of stabilized lenses from both its RF and EF line up which can be used with an adapter.

The R5 is equipped with a new 45 megapixel CMOS sensor. This is a much higher resolution than the original 30 MP sensor on the EOS R - addressing concerns that the EOS R was not a high enough resolution for professionals. Furthermore, the EOS R5 has the capability of shooting 12fps in burst modes (20 fps electronic shutter), up from the 8fps on the EOS R. Did we mention dual card slots?! That's right, the EOS R5 is equipped with one Cfexpress and one UHS-II SD card slot, thus solving the concern of not having redundant media cards to back up your content on the go.

In many ways, Canon overcompensated for the EOS R's lackluster video performance with the R5. For underwater videography, the original EOS R fell short of its competitors by offering cropped 4K video, rather than 4K using the full width of the sensor. The EOS R5 goes above-and-beyond at addressing these concerns. The EOS R5 is capable of 8K RAW internal video recording using the full width of the sensor that can also be downsampled into 4K. It also features 4K oversampled, uncropped video up to 120 frames per second. However, because there are only slight body modifications from the original EOS R5 - there are some issues with overheating. So far, Canon states that you can only capture 8K video for about 20 minutes at room temperature. We have yet to see how this might affect underwater videographers.

The Canon EOS R5 will need a new housing if you intend to upgrade from an EOS R housing.


Canon EOS R5 Compared with Canon EOS R6

The Canon EOS R5 and Canon EOS R6 are close siblings in many respects. The main difference between the two cameras is resolution and, of course, price. While the R5 has a 45 MP CMOS sensor, the R6 is equipped with a 20.1 MP sensor - likely the same sensor as the Canon 1DX Mark III. Although this might be too low of a resolution for some users, the 20.1 MP sensor promises amazing low light performance with less noise at higher ISOs. This is likely due to the fact that each pixer on the R6 is larger than the R5. When it comes to underwater video, the EOS R6 can shoot 4K at 60 fps with is well beyond the capability of it's competitors, but certainly not as capable as the R5. The R6 can shoot 4K @ 60fps for up to 35 minutes due to overheating concerns. The EOS R6 is retailing for $2,499 compared to the R5 at $3,899. 

Other than those few distinctions, the cameras are very similar. Both cameras are capable of shooting at amazing speeds - 12fps with the mechanical shutter and 20 fps with the electronic shutter. Both cameras are equipped with similar autofocus systems, capable of covering 100% of the field of view! The autofocus tracking systems in both cameras appear to be phenomenal. 

Finally, when it comes to build - it appears that both cameras are very similar, but they differ in size by a few millimeters. This means that it is likely that they will require separate underwater housings.


Canon EOS R5 Specifications

Key Canon EOS R5 Specs

  • New 45 Megapixel Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • Canon's first 5 axis In-Body Image-Stabilization (IBIS) which works in conjunction with optical IS RF and EF lenses. Up to 8 stops of correction
  • Improved Dual Pixel II Autofocus
  • 100% of the sensor has AF coverage!
  • Animal eye AF detection (for birds, cats, and dogs) - we'll see if it works for fish!
  • 12fps burst shooting with mechanical shutter
  • 20 fps burst shooting with silent (electronic shutter)
  • Dual card slots - 1x CFexpress and 1x SD UHS-II
  • 8K video @ 30p, 10- bit 4:2:2 - using the full width of the sensor!
  • Internal RAW and C-Log recording
  • 4K oversampled video up to 120p, 10-bit 4:2:2


Canon EOS R5 Key Features

Body, Build, and Ergonomics

We love Canon for their ergonomics, and Canon kept up the standard with the EOS R5. The build quality of the body is similar of the EOS R. Grip and button placement are very similar to Canon DSLRs, so it will be easy for any Canon user to migrate to the R5. The construction is solid and the body is weathersealed. 

Mirrorless camera need an electronic viewfinder (EVF) instead of the traditional optical viewfinder in DSLRs. EVFs are useful because you can review your images and settings changes right in your viewfinder! The 5.76 million dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the Canon EOS R5 has a similar resolution to its nearest competitors, the Sony A7R IV and the Panasonic S1H

Fortunately, they replaced the much maligned touch bar on the orignal EOS R with a new AF joystick that many topside photographers are going to love using. 


Image Quality

With a 45MP CMOS sensor, the EOS R5 is a high resolution camera by any standard. Although many new cameras are coming to the market with this sort of resolution - 45 megapixels is still groudbreaking - especially for a Canon mirrorless cameras. The orginal EOS R offered 30 megapixels of resolution. So any photographer who was waiting for Canon to come out with their professional grade mirrorless camera - this is it! Macro photographers who are looking to crop their images and bring out even more miniscule details should consider the R5 over the R6 or R. Any photographer will benefit from the ability to create large, high resolution prints. 

Resolution Comparison

When it comes to resolution, the EOS R5 is on par with the Sony A7R III (42MP) and the Nikon Z7 (45.7MP) - both popular high resolution full-frame cameras with professional photographers. A first look at the images coming from the EOS R5 indicates that it functions similarly to those two cameras, and any of those camera will be a good choice for underwater photographers - especially macro shooters. However, it likely won't compete in resolution with the 61 MP sensor of the Sony A7R IV. That being said, the pixels on the A7R IV are so small that they can produce a little bit of motion blur and noise that slightly reduces the resolution of the image in some situations. Personally, we think that any of these cameras would be great options for a photographer looking for a high resolution camera.

The Best Autofocus on the Market?

With all of the hype surrounding the R5's video specs, the cameras spectacular autofocusing ability was definitely overlooked. In fact, this might be one of the most exciting aspects of the camera for underwater photography. The R5 is gifted with Canon's dual pixel II autofocus system with 100% coverage of the sensor! That's a Canon first. This means that no matter what scene you are shooting, you will be able to select an autofocus point anywhere in the scene - yielding total creative control of the image. 

Moreover, the autofocus tracking capability, which was already great in the EOS R, has been significantly improved in the R5. Along with better eye AF tracking, the R5 has been introduced with animal eye AF tracking capable of tracking birds, cats, an dogs. We're excited to see if it will also be able to track fish. We've had mixed success with other animal eye AF tracking cameras, like the Sony a6400


In-Body Image-Stabilization

In-Body Image-Stabilization (IBIS) is a system that has become ubiquitous in mirrorless cameras. It is used to stabilize an image or video by allowing the sensor to move in order to compensate for camera shake that could cause motion blur. The EOS R5 is Canon's first camera with 5-axis in-body image-stabilization. Canon's marketing material claims the R5 will be able to recover 7-8 stops of exposure with its IBIS system. This means that an image 7-8 stops darker can be exposed properly without a tripod than what is capable when not using IBIS. However, not all IBIS is created equal. When it comes to IBIS in the R5's video, we have noticed some unattractive wobbling. It's not enough to ruin the video, but it is cause for some concern. For stills, we are optomistic that the R5's IBIS could really improve our low light, low shutter speed photos.

Improved Video Capability

The Canon EOS R5's video specs have created quite the stir after the R5's announcement. The camera is capable of 8K internal RAW video recording @ 30 fps using the full width of the sensor. When it comes to 4K video, the camera is capable of recording 4K @ 120fps using the full width of the sensor! This is going to be a huge deal for underwater videographers who are looking to slow down and stabilize their clips in shaky underwater environments. Combined with 5 axis IBIS, there's no beating the EOS R5 for stable, high resolution underwater video.

The EOS R5 can record both RAW and C-Log video internally, so the user can choose just how much video editing capability they desire with the files. 

While Canon used 8K RAW internal recording as a cornerstone of its marketing for the camera, there has been some recent backlash about the limited recording times the camera is capable of due to overheating. Certainly the R5's specs were an ambitionous project and the technology to cool down the camera is not quite at the level of ambition. When shooting 8K RAW video at room temperature, the EOS R5 is only capable of recording for 20 minutes before shutting down


Canon EOS R5 for Underwater Photography

The Canon EOS R 5 will clearly be one of the best tools on the market for underwater photography. A higher resolution sensor will place the camera in the same niche as the Nikon Z7 and Sony A7R III/A7R IV. We anticipate that it will be a great tool for professional macro photographers that need the higher resolution to crop on minute details. But with amazing burst speeds of up to 12 fps mechanical and 20 fps electronic, the EOS R5 will be an excellent camera for wide angle shooters who need to photograph quick, moving subjects. Canon's first rendition of IBIS in a camera promises 7-8 stops recovered with an image stabilized lens. That's going to be exciting for cold water underwater photographers that shoot in low lighting situations.


Canon EOS R5 for Underwater Video

Underwater video is really where the Canon EOS R5 shines (if you're filming for less than 20 minutes, of course).  8K video? Internal RAW recording? really don't have to say much more than that. As the specs sheet claims, the EOS R5 is currently the best full frame mirrorless for underwater video. With high resolutions, high frame rates, and data heavy recording formats, underwater videographers will have the ultimate tool to create underwater scenes from their wildest dreams. That being said, there is the caveat that recording times are limited. We will be the first to test how long this camera can last underwater and how that might affect your dive if you intend to shoot 8K or frame rates higher than 4K @ 30p. 


Who Should Consider Purchasing the Canon EOS R5?

The Canon EOS R5 is one of those rare cameras that would work perfectly for any professional underwater photographer or videographer. There's no doubt that it is a high-end full-frame mirrorless camera for anyone who is looking for the best on the market. It features in-body image-stabilization and resolutions high enough for macro photography. It has burst shooting abilities good enough for wide angle shooters. The video is excellent and has the potential to revolutionize underwater video.


Lens Options for Underwater Photography

Because the RF lens mount is so new, there are a couple RF lensesthat could be viable for both wide angle and macro photography in the future (e.g., Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L for wide and RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro for semi-macro and portraits) – but nothing quite as good as the available EF and EF-S lenses with the EF-EOS R adapter. 


Recommended Underwater Lenses with the EF-EOS R adapter


Macro lenses enable to you get close up shots of little critters.

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro: This is a great all-around macro lens. It is easier to use than the 100mm macro lens and focuses quicker. However, it has less working distance than the 100mm so it is more difficult to get shots of skittish subjects. This is the recommended lens for blackwater diving.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS: This is the best macro lens for small and shy subjects due to a larger working distance. It’s also an essential tool for supermacro photography when combined with a macro diopter. We tested this lens with the Canon EOS R and loved how sharp the photos were and the working distance for skittish subjects. If you are new to macro photography, it would be better to start with the 60mm macro for faster autofocus speeds.

Nauticam Super Macro ConverterThe Nauticam super macro converter (SMC-1) is a wet diopter that can help capture sharp macro and super macro images. It’s the strongest, sharpest diopter on the market. If you are a super macro photographer, this diopter is best used with the Canon 100 mm f/2.8 macro.


Wide Angle Fisheye

Wide angle fisheye lenses allow for an ultra-wide field of view but result in a distorted image. The distortion is reduced underwater to the angle of refraction of light through the water.

Canon 8-15mm f/4L circular fisheye: This is going to be the best choice for a full-frame fisheye lens. At 8mm, the lens vignettes over itself creating a cool, artistic, circular fisheye affect. For traditional fisheye images, just zoom into 15mm and you will capture beautiful ultra-wide angle shots without vignetting. We tested this lens with the Canon EOS R and loved its functionality and quick autofocus with autofocus tracking.


Rectilinear Wide Angle

Rectilinear wide angle lenses retain a wide field of view but do not exhibit the distortion found on fisheye lenses. They are great for large animals like sharks and reefscapes. 

Canon 16-35 f/2.8 III Ultra-Wide Zoom lens: This lens is the best choice for those who are buying their first wide-angle lens and don't have a strict budget. Most underwater shooters use rectilinear wide-angle lenses for shooting subjects that don't come close enough to fill the frame with a wide fisheye lens: sharks, whales, sea lions, dolphins, etc.

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II Wide-Angle Lens: This has been the most popular rectilinear wide-angle lens for Canon full frame. This lens sat at the top of the selection for the last few years in terms of corner sharpness, speed, and price... although that will change as more new shooters purchase the version III.

Canon 11-24mm f/4L Ultra Wide-Angle Lens: Want the widest lens you can buy? The Canon 11-24mm offers a much wider field of view than the 16mm. This perspective is great for reefscapes, massive wrecks and very wide shots where you do not want the distortion of a fisheye lens. The downside is that this lens is larger, heavier and more expensive than the other wide-angle lens choices.


Underwater Housings for the Canon EOS R5

Due to the anticipated popularity of the Canon EOS R5, we anticipate housing from all leading underwater housing manufactures, Therefor, there will be great aluminum housing options from Isotta, Sea & Sea, Aquatica, and Nauticam. An excellent polycarbonate option can be expected from Ikelite.

If you are upgrading to the Canon EOS R5 from the EOS R, you will need a new housing. The EOS R6 will likely require a separate housing as well, but this has not yet been determined for most brands. 



With improvements including in-body image-stabilization, more resolution, 4K video with the full width of the sensor, 8k video, dual media slots, and burst shooting, the Canon EOS R5 is will definitely receive the popularity that Canon has been hoping for in its mirrorless line up. We can only hope that it lives up to its announcement after taking it underwater. But if it does, the EOS R5 just might be the 2020 camera of the year for underwater photography.


Purchase a Canon EOS R5 underwater housing at Bluewater Photo:

Ikelite Canon EOS R5 Underwater Housing

Sea & Sea Canon EOS R5 Underwater Housing

Aquatica Canon EOS R5 Underwater Housing

Isotta Canon EOS R5 Underwater Housing

Nauticam Canon EOS R5 Underwater Housing



Nirupam Nigam is a dedicated underwater photographer and fisheries scientist. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. He received degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, at the University of Washington. Now he works as a fisheries observer on boats in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. When he is not at sea, he is traveling with his fiancee and taking photos. Check out more of his photography at!


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