Canon EOS R8: Initial Thoughts & Review

An affordable full-frame option for underwater shooters
By Nirupam Nigam

If you've ever thought about upgrading to full-frame, now might be the time. The recent release of the Canon EOS R8 represents incredible value for an entry level full-frame mirrorless camera. At just $1499 for the camera body, the R8 is capable of 24.2 megapixel photos, 4K/60p video recording and animal eye autofocus tracking. In fact, the R8's design carries over from the Canon EOS R6 Mark II - with the same sensor and processor. That said, being an entry-level full-frame camera, there are some limits to the R8 including a lack of in-body image stabilization. The question is - will these limitations be a hinderance for underwater shooters? 

Canon EOS R8 Key Specifications

  • 24.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
  • Dual pixel autofocus with animal eye autofocus tracking
  • Low light autofocus down to -6.5 EV
  • Uncropped 4K/60p video with C-Log3 recording
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording 
  • 1/200s flash sync speed
  • 370 shot battery life using LCD
  • Electronic first curtain shutter (only one mechanical shutter)
  • 6fps burst shooting
  • No in-body image stabilization
  • Size: 132.5 x 86.1 x 70mm
  • Weight: 461 grams

Canon EOS R8 vs Canon EOS R6 Mark II

With many similarities between the Canon EOS R8 and the R6 Mark II, many may be wondering which camera to buy. Afterall, there is a $1000 price difference with the R6 II retailing for $2499 for the body - but is it really worth it? As we mentioned, the Canon R8 has the same image sensor and processor as the R6 Mark II. For the most part, that means the image quality will be roughly the same. However, there is a key difference between the two cameras. The Canon R8 does not have a mechanical first curtain shutter - only one mechanical rear curtain shutter. This means at high shutter speeds, the exposure may not be consistent throughout the image and the quality of bokeh at open apertures is not quite as pleasing. For underwater shooters, this doesn't pose much of a problem as you don't go above the camera's sync speed underwater when you are shooting with strobes. So many of the image quality issues at high shutter speeds you might witness with the R8 are not applicable underwater. That said, those that do a lot of topside photography - particularly wildlife photography - may want  to consider the R6 Mark II. 

The second major difference between the two cameras is that the Canon R8 does not have an in-body image stabilization system (IBIS). An IBIS system allows cameras to shoot at lower shutter speeds with less motion blur from camera shake as well as capture smoother video. For cold water photographers that shoot in limited visibility, it is a shame that there is not IBIS in the R8 - but that's what keeps the camera smaller. Overall, the lack of IBIS should be more of a concern for underwater video shooters. 

Beyond those two limitations, out of the box, the Canon EOS R8 is very similar to the Canon R6 Mark II with the same autofocus system and the same video recording and log recording capability. Overall, we believe most underwater photographers would be happy with the Canon EOS R8 over the Canon EOS R6 Mark II as many of the photo limitations on the R8 do not apply underwater. On the other hand, video shooters may want to consider the Canon EOS R6 Mark II as IBIS is very useful for capturing steady video in a three dimensional environment. 

A Giant Pacific Octopus photographed with the Canon EOS R6 Mark II. The image quality from the Canon EOS R8 will be almost identical.

Canon EOS R8 Key Features

Excellent Full-Frame Image Quality

You may be considering the Canon EOS R8 as your first full-frame camera. But why is a full-frame camera a good choice for underwater photography? Typically, full-frame sensors are able to capture more details in both your highlights and shadows so that you are able to capture images with better dynamic range. They also create better background separation by reducing the depth of field in your image. While this can be useful for some kinds of photography, it does require you to shoot at higher f-stops if you want more of your image in focus.

The Canon EOS R8 is equipped with a 24.2 megapixel sensor which we consider to be the "sweet spot" for a full-frame sensor. Sensors of this resolution do not produce much noise, but they also do not have as much cropping ability as high resolution sensors like the one found on the Canon EOS R5

Professional Autofocus

Although it is an entry level camera, the Canon EOS R8 is equipped with one of the best autofocus systems on the market - the same one that is available on the Canon EOS R6 Mark II. We've had plenty of experience using the autofocus system when we reviewed the R6 II underwater. We found it to have incredibly quick acquisition and accurate focus tracking. This includes animal eye autofocus tracking. The R6 Mark II was able to acquire fish eyes even when shooting wide angle, which was not something we've found on previous models. 

One Mechanical Shutter

The Canon EOS R8 was designed with a single mechanical shutter - the rear curtain shutter. The front shutter is electronic. This modification reduces the mechanical drive speed of the camera which is 6 fps. Six frames per second is plenty fast enough for anyone shooting with strobes. That said, a single mechanical shutter can produce uneven exposures at very fast shutter speeds (above 1/4000) and can affect bokeh at shutter speeds higher than 1/500. 

Canon EOS R8 for Underwater Photography

While there have not been any official Canon R8 underwater housing announcements, we expect underwater housings from Ikeite and Nauticam. Overall the Canon EOS R8 represents and extremely affordable full-frame option for underwater shooters that are looking for the best value underwater image quality. The camera's shutter limitations will not be an issue underwater, but cold water shooters may want to consider the fact that the R8 does not have IBIS. That said, the autofocus system is capable of focusing underwater in most lighting conditions (even without a focus light). 

Some underwater photographers may be considering the Canon EOS R7R10, or R50 as an even more affordable (or similarly affordable) APS-C mirrorless option. Generally speaking, because full-frame cameras produce images with a shallower depth of field, underwater macro photographers may be more keen on the APS-C siblings of the R8. But if you are a wide angle photographer or love photographing sunballs, the dynamic range of a full-frame sensor is unstoppable. 

Canon EOS R8 for Underwater Video

Although the Canon EOS R8 is missing an IBIS system, it still represents one of the best value full-frame video cameras on the market. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find another camera that can shoot 4K/60p video using the full width of the sensor for the same price point. Due to large amounts of movement when filming underwater, it's important to be able to film at 4K/60p so that you can slow down video footage to stabilize it. 

The R8 is also capable of shooting C-Log footage that allows you to film video with more dynamic range and better detail. Log footage does need to be color graded in post production, but the camera is also capable of recording in 10-bit 4:2:2 chroma sampling which makes editing a bit easier.


The Canon EOS R8 is an incredible option for anyone looking to shoot their first underwater full-frame camera. It's also the best value full-frame camera option for underwater photo and video. While it does have it's limitations with the shutter, battery life, and IBIS - many of these limitations will not be very significant underwater. Overall the benefits of a pro-level autofocus system and pro-level image quality outweigh the drawbacks. We can't wait to get our hands on the first underwater housing released for the R8 and take it diving for a full underwater review!


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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