Canon’s entry-level full-frame mirrorless does a lot to appeal to enthusiast photographers, says Andy Westlake, but some might find it over-simplified
Canon EOS RP: Build and handling
The EOS RP sports an unusual squat-looking design, that comes as a result of Canon pairing the 54mm-diameter RF mount with a good-sized hand-grip, then building up the shoulders around the top-plate dials such that the viewfinder ends up almost fully embedded within the body. Compared to Sony’s Alpha 7 models, it’s lower but wider, with the grip being both deeper and spaced further from the lens mount. This makes it more comfortable to hold, particularly with larger lenses.
Unsurprisingly for such a lightweight camera, the RP is built using a plastic shell over a magnesium-alloy chassis. It may not offer the same sense of solidity as the EOS R, but then again it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart either. The rubberised grip feels secure in your hand, and there’s a well-defined space on the back for your thumb to rest. Canon promises a degree of dust- and splash-proofing similar to the EOS 80D mid-range DSLR.
In operational terms the EOS RP resembles its larger sibling, with similar control logic. Two electronic dials on the top plate are used for changing exposure settings, with one operated by your forefinger and the other conveniently placed at the tip of your thumb. It’s also possible to use the additional dial found on RF lenses to control shutter speed, aperture, ISO or exposure compensation, either directly or while pressing the AF On button.
However instead of a top-plate LCD, the EOS sports a conventional exposure mode dial, complete with Canon’s clever new Flexible value (Fv) mode that can behave as any of the other modes from fully-automatic to manual. The EOS R’s controversial touch bar has been discarded, and I doubt many people will miss it.
The RP inherits the neat Dial Function menu that gives quick and easy access to settings such as ISO, white balance, and drive and AF modes, with all the changes displayed clearly in the viewfinder. In effect, this replaces the EOS 6D Mark II’s line of top-plate buttons, offering the same functionality in a considerably neater interface. In conjunction with Canon’s onscreen Q menu, it allows you to change almost any major setting without taking your eye from the viewfinder. The only irritation is that it’s operated from the tiny M.Fn button just behind the shutter release; it’s a shame Canon didn’t have the courage of its convictions and provide a large, properly labelled button.
To move the focus point, you can use either the touchscreen or the d-pad, with the latter first requiring a press of the AF area selector button on the camera’s shoulder. It’s possible to reconfigure the d-pad to move the focus area directly, which personally I prefer, but unfortunately on the EOS RP this is quite slow and cumbersome in practice, and comes at the cost being unable to use Fv mode to its full potential. It’s a real shame that Canon has again refused to include a focus joystick, as they’re much quicker and more intuitive to use.
The EOS RP’s simplified layout brings some further irritations, too. It’s highly customisable, which sounds great until you realise that the few buttons Canon has retained all do useful things, which means that reconfiguring any of them sacrifices valuable functionality. To be really satisfactory to enthusiasts, the RP could just do with a few more controls.
Depth-of-field preview is a case in point. One great advantage of mirrorless cameras is their ability to provide a completely accurate preview at any aperture; indeed Sony provides this all the time. This is especially useful with full frame, given that additional control over DOF is one of the main reasons to upgrade from APS-C, and Canon is actively exploiting the mirrorless architecture to provide some impressive ultra-fast lenses.
However, not only has Canon chosen to deliver the live view feed with the aperture held open, incredibly there’s no depth-of-field preview button – something which Canon provides on all but the most basic of its DSLRs. So if you want to visualise how your images will look in terms of front-to-back sharpness and background blur, you have to reconfigure a button to DOF preview, and then hold it down while changing the aperture. This suggests that Canon doesn’t yet fully understand the key benefits of mirrorless, and how to make best use of them.
Canon EG-E1 extension grip
For those who find the EOS RP too small, Canon is offering the EG-E1 extension grip, which screws into the base of the camera and adds a bit of extra depth. It has its own battery compartment door, which requires the camera’s to be removed first, along with a tripod socket.
For users with large hands the EG-E1 could noticeably improve the camera’s handling, but the bad news is that it comes with unfathomable asking price of £84.99.