Canon RP Review

bythom canon rp

Yes, it says R on the front, which confuses people (because there’s an R model, too). Here we see the RP with the basic 24-105mm f/4-7.1 kit lens.

What is It?

The Canon RP was the second camera to make use of Canon’s RF mirrorless lens mount. The intriguing thing for most people is that the RP is a full frame mirrorless camera body that often drops down to the US$999 price point (it was introduced at a still low US$1299 price; but the body-only configuration currently is US$999 as I write this, as it often is). 

Coupled with a familiar layout, feature set, and control design mostly cribbed from the Canon DSLRs, the Canon RP attracts interest among those that are interested to transition from older Canon EF mount (DSLRs) to the new Canon RF mount (mirrorless), but want to do so at a low cost.

Canon reused a lot of parts from various Rebel/EOS models to keep costs down. As others have suggested, because of the parts use the RP feels a lot like a full frame mirrorless Rebel (or Kiss in some regions). 

The internals of the RP shares many things with the Canon DSLRs. The 26.2mp image sensor is one that was used in the Canon 6D Mark II, now coupled with a Digic 8 processor. The micro lenses on the sensor have been redesigned slightly to account for the shorter flange distance of mirrorless, but otherwise the 6D and RP image sensors are identical. Note that the RP image sensor is fixed in place; image stabilization needs to be done in the lens (and Canon makes several suitable lenses for the RP that have stabilization).

Like the 6D Mark II, ISO can be set from 100 to 40000, plus there’s a low and two high options if you’re adventurous. Auto ISO is quite flexible, though be aware that some limitations exist in Scene and Silent modes.

The biggest drawback to using the 6D Mark II sensor for the RP are some limitations that turn up on the video side of the camera. High-end video is limited to 4K/24P, and this comes with a 1.7x crop factor. You need a UHS-II card to record 4K. Also, dual pixel autofocus isn’t supported in 4K. 

1080P video is generated from the full frame and reaches 60P, but there’s a considerable amount of rolling shutter on fast pans and motion. The RP uses IPB compression for pretty much every format, with a max of 120Mbps for 4K, 60Mbps for 1080P/60. Surprisingly, though, the RP has headphone and microphone jacks, things you’d expect with higher end video capability, not the more basic video the RP supports.

Focus is performed by Canon’s dual pixel method (on sensor phase detection), which includes eye detection and tracking. Canon claims 4779 focus detection points, but that’s a little deceiving. Selectable focus points you’d typically use are more on par with the Sony and Nikon cameras (143 areas on the RP). Be aware that the focus coverage is across about 88% of the frame horizontally (it’s 100% vertically). With an f/1.2 lens, focus is rated down to -5EV, which is quite good, though not quite at the state-of-the-art level. Curiously, the RP has a focus bracketing feature, something usually only found in higher-end cameras.

While the RP looks very much like a Canon DSLR, it has a very low viewfinder hump and not as much body depth (though still with a significant hand grip). While slightly bigger than the Sony A7 series bodies and the Nikon Z’s, the RP is still a fairly small camera for a full frame sensor. Moreover, the body features a lot of polycarbonate material and weighs in at a modest 17 ounces (485g). A magnesium alloy subframe sits inside, but most of the things you’ll interact with on the outside are plastic.

The viewfinder is a 2.36m dot OLED one with 60Hz refresh, basically the lower level type that’s being used in full frame cameras at the moment, but perfectly suitable for the price point. The viewfinder has a 22mm eye point and 0.7x magnification. Diopter settings from -4 to +1 are available.

bythom canonrp back lcd out

On the back of the camera you’ll find a fully articulating, 1.04m dot, touchscreen-enabled, 3” LCD. While there’s a lot of back-and-forth on the Internet about whether a fully articulating or a tilting LCD is better, for this level of body I actually prefer the articulating version, as it allows you to fold the display side of the LCD up against the body and protect it when you’re carrying it around casually. 

Don’t be fooled by the USB-C port on the side of the RP: it’s really configured to work at USB 2 speeds, not USB 3 or later. The RP has Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.1, with the usual Canon Camera Connect app support. Like Nikon’s SnapBridge, this allows for wireless transfer of images, wireless control of camera, and even GPS tagging.

The RP uses SD cards, and the slot (in the battery compartment) is UHS-II compliant. You don’t need a particularly fast card—though make sure that it’s fast enough for video recording you want to do—as the frame rate is maxed out at 4 fps with continuous autofocus (5 fps without), and the camera has a surprisingly large buffer. JPEG shooters don’t really have to worry about the buffer, but even in the worst case raw scenario, we’re talking about 42 shots with a non-USH-II SD card, which is more than 10 seconds of shooting. 

Shutter lag is very fast at 55ms, which is near pro camera realm. But the shutter only goes to 1/4000 and has a flash sync speed of 1/180.

Canon uses the LP-E17 battery in the RP. The CIPA rating is only 250 shots per charge, which is pretty low. I’ll speak to that more in the performance section, below. You can charge the battery in the camera via USB, a nice touch. Canon specifies start up time as 0.82 seconds, which is a little slower than some of the higher-priced competitors, but still decent.

The Canon RP is made in Japan. Canon sells body-only and several body+lens kits. Most users would probably buy the RP+24-105mm f/4-7.1 lens combination, which as I write this sells for US$1299.

Canon’s Web Site for the RP

Source of reviewed product: purchased

How’s it Handle?

The RP is a true consumer camera, so has a lot of attributes about it that tend to make it handle well when used in all or near-all automatic modes. On the other hand, some abilities can be slightly limiting because of that. For instance, the silent shutter capability of the camera is locked into a Scene exposure mode only, where you can only change exposure compensation. 

That said, any Canon shooter is going to be reasonably comfortable with the controls and menus from day one with the RP. The touch-bar of the R is gone, and we’re back to something more resembling the lower-end Canon DSLRs in terms of control types and locations. Strangely for its strong consumer orientation, the RP has dual dials, though the second dial is not the traditional Canon ring around the Direction pad, but something more akin to the Nikon Rear Command dial up on the top rear of the camera.

The Mode dial is recessed in the top right side of the camera, and there is no top settings LCD as you tend to find in higher-end models. The power switch is also recessed, and on the top left. Some might complain about this, but I prefer a not-accidentally changed switch and position like the RP has.

The menu system will be familiar to any Canon user, though because this is an entry camera, there are fewer choices than you find on the higher models. Like Nikon, Canon has made the menu system touch accessible, which helps making settings quick and easy to make. A Canon shooter is going to find all controls to be where they expect them to be, other than the second dial. I will say one thing: unlike a lot of consumer cameras I’ve used and reviewed, the RP seems to not be prone to accidental settings. The recessed controls and locations of others make them less like to be changed by rough handling.

Autofocus points are only picked via the touchscreen, not the Direction pad or dials, though. You can move the focus point with your right thumb on the LCD while looking through the viewfinder—you have to change from the default to do this—which is my second-favorite method of positioning focus (a properly placed thumb stick is my first). As usual for Canon cameras that allow the LCD to control the focus point while shooting, you can define how much of the LCD is active for that purpose. 

LCD-scrolling isn’t a perfect way of interacting with the camera, but I suspect that most users won’t mind as they’re probably using one of the more automated focus modes rather than controlling focus directly. The bigger issue is that if you’re not looking through the viewfinder and touching the LCD display to do something, you have to make sure that you don’t trigger the eye detection on the right side of the viewfinder with your hand, as it’ll turn off the LCD. You can cancel the auto detection by setting the Display Control to manual, but then you don’t have auto detection again until you reset that menu.

I’m also not sure Canon has produced the “right” lens for the RP. The most likely general purpose lenses people would use on the RP are the 24-105mm f/4-7.1 and the 24-240mm f/4-6.3. The latter is a larger, heavier lens that makes the camera/lens combination somewhat front heavy. While the hand grip helps deal with the then weighty combination, some people will not find this to their liking. 

I have to admit that I don’t shoot as often with Canon cameras as I do with Nikon and Sony cameras. Despite that lack of familiarity with the Canon UI, I found that I mastered the RP very quickly and felt comfortable in making settings quickly while shooting. With fewer buttons and controls than on the high-end cameras, you’re likely to used to the RP very quickly. 

And yes, there’s a fair amount of customization of controls that can be done if you’re not satisfied with the basic control set. I do note that after two months’ worth of shooting with the RP, I’ve only customized two or three things; I’m close to fully comfortable with shooting the camera as it comes out of the box, and you probably will be, too.

How’s it Perform?

Battery: If the RP has an Achilles heel as a still camera, it would be battery performance. In basic walk-around, intermittent shooting, with modest use of Bluetooth/Wi-Fi, I’ve been getting 200 to 250 shots per battery charge. Shooting some sports action (lots of shot bursts) I was getting more in the 300-400 range. Both these numbers are going to be the most restrictive aspect of the RP for most people. 

Even though the RP has an ECO mode to conserve battery, I’d suggest you not use it. EVF refresh gets cut down and the viewfinder gets clearly laggy. My suggestion to any RP user is that they always carry an extra charged battery, maybe two. For travel use, find a portable battery you can use to charge the camera via USB, too.

Buffer: With a fast SD card in the camera, a JPEG shooter is never going to hit a shooting limit, and even the raw shooter would be hard-pressed to do so. Technically, I was able to measure about 90 frames before buffer hit on my fastest card with the worst case raw format. That’s over 20 seconds of shooting. I sincerely doubt that buffer will ever be an issue for any RP shooter, as long as they’re using a state-of-the-art card, not some SD relic they found in their draw that they bought 10 years ago.

Focus: The autofocus performance will probably surprise most RP purchasers. Because Canon is using the dual-pixel technique now across a lot of cameras, it has evolved even on the consumer cameras to be extremely good. Surprisingly good. Most people buying the RP will probably be in one of the more automatic modes and be quite happy with the autofocus, I think. 

The eye detection works extremely well. When the camera is detecting eyes, you can manually switch between which eye to focus on. If eyes aren’t detected, the RP falls back to face detection. If it can’t find faces, it falls back to object detection. I found the camera basically doing what I wanted (and expected) it to do when shooting people at events and in some casual travel photography.

The object tracking works decently well, too. Actually the object tracking works extremely well if you force the starting point to be on the thing you really want the camera to focus on. Focus is generally fast and precise. Fast enough that the limitation of using the RP for sports or wildlife action is really just the slow frame rate.

However, one aspect of object tracking works less well on the Canon cameras than on the Nikon/Sony implementations: if your tracked subject leaves the frame, the RP doesn’t tend to recognize it if it returns into the frame. With birds in flight (BIF), for instance, if you’re having a hard time keeping the bird in the frame, subject tracking may not be the focus method you want to be using. 

Motion tracking works a bit better on the RP than it does on my Sony A7 Mark III, at least up to a point. Canon seems to not fall back to a “DOF hit”, but instead appears to be trying to always pinpoint the focus plane, much like the Nikon Z’s. However, that slow frame rate and the slightly slow EVF makes panning with fast subjects and following erratic subjects not as good as on other mirrorless competitors.

Image Quality: State of the art for sensors with similar pixel counts would be a usable dynamic range of about 11 stops at base ISO. The RP, like the 6D Mark II and other earlier full frame Canon cameras, lags that, maybe making 9 stops best case. As has been usual with Canon, the RP is not a ISO-less design. Instead, it has a jagged but very shallow slope to dynamic range performance up to about ISO 1200, where it’s down only about a stop from its ISO 100 performance. At higher ISO values, though, the RP acts more ISO-less and only lags the state-of-the-art Sony-sensor cameras by a small amount. 

What’s that mean in real terms? Canon’s been criticized—okay, more like trolled—for its sensors lagging Sony’s for some time. Yet plenty of great shots have been taken with Canon cameras during that time, so what gives?

Basically we’re talking about a difference in deep shadow detail, mostly in bright light (e.g. low ISO values being used). It’s very true that I can pull up deep shadow detail on my Nikon Z6 or Sony A7 Mark III at base ISO that I can’t do on the Canon RP without triggering a lot of noise. Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimizer is less effective than Nikon’s similar Active D-Lighting function because of that. The RP does have a built-in HDR capacity, though, which would be a better way of dealing with a high dynamic range situation.

At ISO 1600 and above I’m not sure that there’s enough difference on a properly exposed photo between the Canon and Sony sensors to get excited about. I was perfectly happy with ISO 3200 and even ISO 6400 on the RP: not absolutely noise-free, but still quite usable with a little care in setting or processing. Let’s look at what that means, plus the areas where there is a difference:

bythom CUWV RP 1783

One way that Canon differs from the Sony-based cameras is this: Canon puts more of capture above middle gray (at least a half stop, arguably more). That means you can dial back all kinds of highlight issues, as I have here. At the same time, that puts less of the capture below middle gray, which tends to block up shadow detail. Note the opposing player in black almost disappears, and the spectators also are dark.

bythom CUWV RP 1783 detail

This is ISO 6400. At near pixel level view (again, this Web site conforms images to your viewing size, so I can’t promise 100%), the noise isn’t terrible, though the shadows are blocked up a bit. The four spectators  sitting in a square disappear (didn’t see four, did you? ;~).

bythom CUWV RP 1783 push

If I push the exposure up three stops in post processing, the noise does become visible, and it’s a rougher noise at this point than the Nikon/Sony noise at the same ISO value and exposure push level.

Finally, note that if you do use the silent shutter Scene mode, any large or fast motion is likely to show rolling shutter effects (e.g. tilt). 

Final Words

The RP is one of those “you get what you pay for” products. It’s an entry-level full frame camera, so it has features and performance that are entry-level. At the US$999 price it is usually available at, the RP is enticing as it represents a current full frame camera at a price you can’t match. Yes, you can find some older full frame cameras under the US$1000 mark (Nikon D610, Sony A7 Mark II), but these are previous generation cameras on end-of-life sales. They have rough edges and tend to be missing some features or performance compared to a current generation camera.

For a casual user or as a “beater” camera for a more sophisticated photographer, the RP is pretty much what you’d expect, with a handful of positive surprises and only a few negative surprises. If you’re coming from a Rebel (Kiss) DSLR, you’re likely to find it everything you want, only with a full frame sensor and in mirrorless form.

The downside to the RP isn’t the camera itself, in my opinion. It’s the available RF lenses. Realistically, there are only three current RF lenses that are truly appropriate to use on the RP: 24-105mm f/4-7.1, 24-240mm f/4-6.3, and the 35mm f/1.8 macro. Everything else is too high end for an entry camera, too big and heavy for the small/light RP body, or don't have IS. Because Canon hasn’t announced a lens road map for RF, you’re only guessing whether or not there will be additional appropriate lenses for the RP. Conspicuously missing at the moment is a compact, consumer telephoto zoom and a compact, consumer wide angle zoom.

You can find a few third party lenses that might be interesting for use on the RP. For example, the Samyang 14mm f/2.8. Plus you could use the optional EF-to-RF adapter and mount some of the smaller, lighter, and appropriately-sized EF lenses, such as the 24mm f/2.8, 40mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.8, or 85mm f/1.8 primes. But the lack of sensor-based IS comes into play with all these non-IS lenses.

If you’re looking to get into Canon mirrorless on a budget, there’s a lot to recommend about the RP. Again, it’s going to be very familiar to Canon DSLR users, it has a solid level of appropriate features, it features generally excellent performance for the price point, and it is a very approachable camera for someone that doesn’t want to spend forever trying to figure out all the complexity and nuances of a higher end product.

If that’s what you’re looking for, I can definitely recommend the RP. If you’re much more prosumer than consumer, you may find the RP slightly lacking in a few areas though (wait for the R6 that’s rumored to be coming soon to the lineup). The RP is not a low light camera or an action camera, either, but as you might tell from the image quality example, I was able to press it to do both.

While I labeled the original RF camera, the R, an experiment, I believe the RP is dead on to the expectations of entry level and casual Canon users, and it’s the best entry level full frame mirrorless camera you can find. It’s priced appropriately to its abilities. And yes, it is a step up from Canon’s older EF-S DSLRs in terms of image quality.

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