But Does It Do The Job?

Ian-Jones Avatar
Ian-Jones 19 134 2 United Kingdom
14 Aug 2022 5:11PM
Hi all. In these days of sponsored content, churnalism (repeated rewriting of press releases or other people's articles), and relentless optimism about anything new, it's tough to work out what camera's best for the job. Often the only way to find out is to trial it yourself. The following story talks about how/how not to do this, mirrorless in general, and the Canon R series in particular. Hopefuly, somebody else might learn from my experience.

Over the last four years, I'd met quite a few fellow snappers, who'd either gone mirrorless, or were talking seriously about it, so I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about. I'm a sports/action Canon 1DX user so I hired the Canon R3, optimised for sports/action, from Wex for the Old Buckenham Airshow, Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st July.

I chose a two day show because on the first day I could see how the lighting changes throughout the day, how the aircraft displayed, and choose the best locations/angles i.e. if I mucked it up on day 1, I'd get another chance on day 2. Wink Also, if the weather is rubbish one day, conditions might be better on the other. Finally, it wasn't an important event compared to Duxford Battle of Britain, La Ferté Alais, RIAT etc. so if it all went Pete Tong, it'd be no great disaster.

Normally, I'd pick up hire kit the day before an airshow, and test it at a local airport, but that wasn't possible this time. However, I was meeting up with a friend who's a Canon R user, runs photography workshops, and is generous with his time. I assumed that at a 2 day event, my experience, reading the manual, and asking my mate questions would be good enough, but you know what they say about assume. It means it makes an ass out of you and me. Sad

The first "fail" was that Wex hadn't included a manual, and when I asked for one, they confessed that the R3 wasn't sold with a full manual. It had to be downloaded by the user. I was in a bad reception area so that was a non-starter, and when I was able to download the manual, I discovered I couldn't read it on a mobile phone in direct sunlight. In the field, a printed manual is the only useful solution, and since the R3 is a pro body costing £5K, Canon were being cheapskates.

The second "fail" was all mine. The R3 takes either CF Express or SD memory cards. The CFX cards don't fit anything I own and are very expensive so I wasn't going to buy any. I did have SD cards, but the R3 shoots at ~30fps, more than double the frame rate of any other camera I've ever used. Consequently, my cards were full within two hours. Fortunately, my friend had a spare 128GB he could lend me. What I should've done was ask Wex if I could hire one, or buy a bigger SD card!

The third "fail" was spectacular, and all Canon's fault. I setup the R3 in TV (shutter priority) mode, took pictures of the first display aicraft, and then waited for the next plane. The next time I pressed the shutter I discovered the camera had reverted to P (Program) mode. I switched it back to TV mode, but every time the R3 went into standy, it reverted to P mode. Clearing custom settings, all camera settngs, reverting to factory settings, and even pulling the battery (a hard reset), didn't fix this. To make matters worse, when I could shoot in TV mode the camera would eventually switch from the shutter speed I'd chosen to TV Auto (where it chooses the shutter speed) and lock up. There was something seriously wrong with the R3 I'd hired and I was stuck with it. Wex would be closed by the time I drove to their Norwich store, and they were closed the next day (a Sunday).

However, even when the R3 worked, there were other features that made it unfit for purpose:
1) The R3 hunts when the background is cloudy. My friend told me that his R5 and other R cameras he'd trialed don't handle low contrast situations well. Anyone who uses expensive prime lenses would be especially unhappy to find out their lenses superior ability to focus in challenging conditions was nixed by the camera body. I certainly was.
2) The electronic view finder is darker than an optical one making tracking objects in low light more difficult than it should be. It would also tempt first time users to overexpose shots they shouldn't.
3) The Eye Control AF (aka Eye Focus Tracking) actively works against the user. If you're tracking a fast moving object through the view finder you're looking at where the object will be, rather than where it is, so any camera following your eye is focussing in the wrong place. There's a very good reason all sports/action photographers I know use single spot centre focus, so the logic behind including this in any sports/action camera is seriously flawed.
4) Every time the R3 takes a picture it's displayed in the electronic view finder, so rather than viewing the fast moving subject you're trying to take pictures of, you're looking at a magic lantern display of the pictures you've taken. This makes predicting and tracking the object's path impossible in burst mode, and if you can't track a subject, you can't correct your aim if it's off.

I couldn't work out how to fix/override/disable these things. There might be a way to do this, but even if you can, the R3 default settings conspire to reduce a photographer's hit rate, and most users will blame themselves rather than admitting that they've been sold a very expensive lemon.

In the end, I returned the kit to Wex Norwich the following Monday, and had a long conversation with the manager. He mentioned that Wex had bought two R3's for hire (since naturally everyone wants to try out the latest kit). One had already gone back to Canon to be repaired, and now mine was faulty too (I later learnt it also got sent back to Canon). When I said the 1DXIII looked like a better bet, he told me a common fault with heavy use 1DXIII's was that they sprayed lubricating oil onto their sensors. I guess the moral of the story is don't become an eary adopter unless you've got deep pockets, or enjoy righteously discussing product failings with a vendor or the manufacturer.

P..S. Wex handled my complaint well and refunded the cost of the hire, so although it was a lousy experience, at least I wasn't £230 out of pocket.
clicknimagine Avatar
clicknimagine Plus
13 1.3k 105 India
14 Aug 2022 5:41PM
I don't think hiring a camera, which you have never used nor you had any idea about the use of it, was a good idea...
Stevetheroofer Avatar
14 Aug 2022 6:36PM
I jumped into the mirror less market without even a test drive.
My Canon R5 has been fabulous although there have been several quirks along the way.
The viewfinder is amazing and displays the image as it will be shown on the memory card.
Electronic shutter is ridiculous and several hundred pics are taken before you realise there is no noise. Mechanical shutter for me.
Focus tracking needs setting for your needs and time setting up your camera before venturing out is worth the effort. Online tutorials are the way forward for this.
I had a Canon 5D mk 4 before and never turned it on again after the R5.
I popped it in a box and set it to MPB for a fair price

Carabosse Avatar
Carabosse Plus
20 44.3k 270 England
14 Aug 2022 6:51PM

Quote:But Does It Do The Job?

Went mirrorless 11 years ago with an MFT Olympus Pen. Any disappointments, and there were a few, were most definitely user error! Blush

Been through several cameras since then. Not one of them has had a flappy mirror. Smile

Have these cameras done MY job? Most certainly. And that includes photos for local print media.
Ian-Jones Avatar
Ian-Jones 19 134 2 United Kingdom
14 Aug 2022 10:03PM
*ClickNImagine*. Since 2007 I've used the Canon 5D Mk1, 2, 3, 4, S, & R, Canon 7D Mk1 & 2, Canon 1DS Mk3, Canon 1DX Mk1 & 2, and now the Canon R3 in combination with Canon 200-400mm L (with in-built 1.4 extender), 500mm L Mk1, 600mm L Mk1 & 2, & 800mm L lenses. I hired all of them except for the 5D Mk1 & 4, 1DS Mk3, & 7D Mk2. All hires were for airshows I'd shot at before displaying aircraft I was familiar with. So I may not have been familiar with the kit the first time I hired it, but the steady progression of body and lens types minimised the new things I had to learn, as well as allowing me to compare and contrast the pro's and cons of all the semi-pro/pro bodies and lenses I'd used. Having said that, we all make the Dalek said crawling off the dustbin.

Steve. I take your point about the 5DIV. I hated mine. The 30MP sensor blurred high contrast areas of moving objects (other aviation snappers have said that's common). After it did that with the white numbers on the black boiler of a steam train moving at 20mph, I px'd it for a 1DX. As to changing focus tracking, my mirrorless owning friend made suggestions, but the AV to P fault reset the tracking mode as well. I'd only have reached nirvana if the R3 had worked properly. As I said, Wex didn't argue, and after having had Fixation (a Canon authorised repairer) investigate the fault, they sent it straight back to Canon, and I got a full refund. The camera was f****d with a capital F.

*Caraboose* I'm happy that you've been happy with your mirrorless kit. I'm only griping about Canon's mirrorless/high mega-pixel stuff. I've not used any other sort so I wouldn't feel qualified to pass comment.
Carabosse Avatar
Carabosse Plus
20 44.3k 270 England
15 Aug 2022 12:05AM

Quote:I'm only griping about Canon's mirrorless/high mega-pixel stuff

What sort of photographic work do you do to need this sort of gear - and does it pay well?Smile

There are pros who make a living using Micro 4/3 kit. Or so they claim... probably got a digital Hasselblad secreted for emergencies! 😀

For full frame mirrorless you may be better off with Sony.


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