The Mirrorless Camera I recommend the most in 2019, and why.
By Steve Huff
The holidays are here again and just a day away from Thanksgiving 2019 I was sitting in my office and I asked myself what camera impressed me the most this year, as a SYSTEM. I thought back to camera I reviewed this year and late last year including those from Olympus, Sony, Canon, Sigma, Nikon, Leica and others.
My opinion here will not be the most popular as the camera I will be speaking of here is the Canon EOS-R. Yes, I still own one and was going to sell it last week with other gear I let go (I once had two) but then I realized how much I still love this camera and I just can not let it go, so it is still in my “kit”. I have only three “real” cameras here in my home right now. A Sigma FP, an Olympus EM5 III and a Canon EOS-R.
While I feel and say that all cameras of this $2000 level today are fantastic a couple do stick out when looked at as a whole, as a system. For me, the EOS-R with firmware updates that have come throughout the year that improved the speed, eye AF, etc this camera is much better than when it was launched and I loved it even at launch! To those who spew negative nonsense about this camera or system, well, I do not see these people as photographers but rather “spec chasers and pixel peepers” which has nothing to do with photography. At all.
The thing that I love about the EOS-R system above all other full frame mirrorless systems today are the RF lenses. Sure, they are larger but also some of the best lenses I have come across in mirrorless when it comes to design, function and IQ. Lenses like the new 15-35 2.8 RF, the 85 1.2 RF, the 50 1.2 RF and others are simply amazing in feel and use. The 28-70 f/2 is the best zoom lens I have ever tested. The color that comes from the EOS-R is gorgeous as well and using classic lenses like the older 50 1.2 is a treat as the AF is super fast, even with older fast lenses. Even in the dark! I still own my old 50 1.2 and it’s wonderful on the R with the adapter. It focuses faster and more accurate than it did on a 5D MKIII when used on the R.
No, the EOS-R is not the sleekest designed mirrorless full frame camera, it only has one card slot and it does not have IBIS. Doesn’t matter to me, as it is a phenomenal camera that I prefer over Nikon, Sony and other full frame mirrorless cameras in this price range. For me, the camera has great usability, has amazing dual pixel AF that is up there with Sony in performance and also has some gorgeous color (Canon is known for great skin tones). Menus are easy, controls are intuitive and the color is Canon.
So this Holiday season I highly recommend the EOS-R. Still my fave full frame mirrorless in this price range of under $2000. Just look at the slew of 5 star reviews over at B&H Photo that this camera has amassed. To me, cameras should be looked at as a SYSTEM and the EOS-R system is gorgeous as the lenses are works of art. New bodies will come and go but lenses are for life ; )
Sure you can go to any camera and get great results and this EOS-R is a fave of mine in the full frame mirrorless world. It’s not perfect but it’s quite the imaging and video machine with some gorgeous lenses I look forward to testing out soon (15-35 2.8 and 85 1.2). To those who will say “XXX is better” I will say, maybe for YOU but also I would guess you never shot with an EOS-R and a great RF lens. ; ) Specs do not make a camera, the experience and output does.
MY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A KILLER EOS-R SYSTEM
Canon R has been my go-to with Canon RF, Canon EF, and Leica M lenses. I bought a well used journalist’s Leica SL and fell in love again. Now my kit is the Canon R, Leica Q and Leica SL.
I shall sell the SL when Canon updates the R – rather than buy the Panasonic S1 which I was inches away from buying. The S1 sounds like the perfect SL replacement but you sold yours? I was surprised to see it sold. Your reasons/thoughts on not keeping the S1?
Down to $1499 at BH and Amazon today 12/13. Even those that found a lot wrong with the EOS R have to admit it’s a bargain at $1499 including the RF adapter. No incentive to post this. Just agree with Steve about this camera.
Is it weird that after all this time, I’ve mostly ditched mirrorless and have gone to a Nikon DF as my main camera? It’s just more fun to shoot with. It’s as close as I can get to the film experience and I can nail the focus on a 50mm f1.4, using the green dot. None of these new cameras tempt me.
Ahhh! The DF! I loved that camera, as it was different and felt great to use. Unique for sure in its look and style and control.
Thanks for the reviews Steve.
One of the main problems for mere mortals is to afford the lenses that you recommended for the Canon Eos R! For many the cost of lenses for a given system can drive the final decision as to purchase.
Oh I get it, 100%. Lenses, really good ones, are so expensive today but that is with all brands. Sony G master, Leica M, Leica L, Canon L and RF Pro range. All crazy expensive but if one is buying a full frame body, and they skimp on the lenses it would better to go with a cheaper body, even an APS-C and get the better glass. The Glass is an investment, the body is not as it will lose money every day. Lenses though, can actually appreciate if you keep them long enough. Even so, there are some great lower cost lenses for all brands. The Canon 35 1.8 RF is fantastic and much cheaper. Thank you.
I haven’t been to the site in a while, I’ve been shooting less frequently and not as inspired by photography. What happened to Leica and the smaller mirrorless cameras? You’ve totally flipped….just curious about the DSLR ‘type’ cameras that you used to say were too big and less inspiring etc?
Steve’s recommendation surprised me. At the same time it made me happy. Canon had it very hard the last years. The first attempts with the EOS M system were not so promising. But with the EOS R they are competitive again, and yes, the new EOS R models, also the EOS RP are fun.
The autofocus is fast and accurate. I was in the Sony universe once, but Sony brings me new models on the market too quickly, just to sell. Fujifilm and Olympus cameras also inspire me a lot because of the solid quality and fantastic lenses. But now Canon is back again. The Canon EOS R & also the EOS RP are well done and it’s totally fun to photograph with them.
Hi Steve, very interesting choice for your favorite camera of the year and it seems that we are in the minority here! I have had my R for more than a year now and its definitely my fav Canon ever ( I like it even more than my old F1 film camera). I try to make a living as a freelance photographer and the nature of the industry here in the Southern part of Africa is that specialization is difficult.The result is that I have a variety of work from heavily lit and photo shopped kitchens,interiors, & architecture, family portraits, executive portraits, product photography, events, dusty industrial sites and even photographing artwork and the occasional wedding! This past year I have really made my R jump through the hoops and it passed mostly with flying colours. Its the type of camera that I can just pick up and use without really thinking what I’m doing, confident that I will get the pic. I don’t have any of the new RF lenses but all my old EF lenses work flawlessly, so much so that I’m not entirely sure that I will ever migrate to the new RF lenses…why change what works? My new fav lens is a mint used copy of the EF85f1,4 I picked up for a song and its a very very nice lens that gives beautiful bokeh (something new for me) is sharp right from the word go even in the corners . A heavy and bulky lens but one that works very well on my R. I have no practical experience on how the R compares to other camera systems but if you are a Canon user with lots of EF lenses you owe it to yourself to give it a try…
I agree on the lenses but I prefer a no compromise body and the Sony FE body is about as close as you can get to no compromise, by todays standards. Do we really have to say “it’s not perfect, no camera is” anymore? No, we don’t. …but no IBIS and no dual slots and no joy stick make this Canon FF mirrorless iteration a non starter for me. And for heavens sakes GET RID OF THAT USELESS multi-function bar! Looking forward to the Canon EOS R Mark II.
IBIS… Dual Slots… Joy Stick…. Sounds like you’re describing a jet from Top Gun. No compromise as long as you stay above the hard deck.
Sony is lot matured.. no competition… sounds like Steve is now getting paid by Canon
Lol. “Getting Paid” – For your information this doesn’t happen with ANYONE in the review business (I have never seen in it my twelve years) and to say such a thing is ignorant. I do not even have a contact at Canon. Canon has never even sent me a review unit as they are not fans of mine for bashing their DSLR’s for years saying mirrorless is better ; ) Sony is Sony. They work well of course but as I have said for years, the design lacks, the menus are not very good, and the cameras are just not fun or exciting to use. They are sterile, more like a computer than a camera (I have also said this for years). The color science is good but not near Canon, Leica or even the Sigma fp. The Sony’s are fast and are great in low light but most Sony bodies do not inspire me in the slightest, and for me, this is HUGE! But no, I have never been paid by a camera company, EVER. The only camera company that sends me review units is Sony and Olympus and I always state my honest opinions when reviewing all gear. You do not have to like it but to spout ignorant and false things is simply..well..ignorant. Shows you have no idea how reviews work. Anyone who thinks camera companies pay reviewers, or offer bonus money to do them or sell them are clueless and like spreading negative nonsense. In 12 years here I have been accused of being a fanboy for EVERY camera I have ever reviewed positively. That means Sony, Canon, Nikon, Leica, Olympus, Hasselblad and Panasonic. I have no brand loyalty to any camera brand, period. I use what I love using, what excites me and what motivates me to use it. These days it is cameras like the EOS-R, Leica SL, Hasselblad X1D, Sigma FP, Olympus EM5III, etc. I do not say a camera is best because it has animal Eye AF or gimmicks made to do the job of the photographer, rather I enjoy what makes me learn, what makes me work, what rewards me at the end of the day with beautiful IQ and color. The process of getting there has to be as fun as the final product which is why I always have adored Leica. IN 2020 I will actually be more selective as to what I review. If it is something I do not feel is worth it, I will skip reviewing it (after trying it of course). All cameras today are great no matter the brand and all cameras in this price range are better than 99.9% of US who use them. We do not need more “stuff” in this life, we need more kindness and love. Cameras are saturated and companies just want reviewers to push them and sell them via affiliate links. I will only recommend a camera I truly LOVE these days. You will not see me writing about other bodies I do not. That means less $$ for me, but also means more happiness for me as I can always say I am honest and share my true thoughts and opinions. Have a great day, but please do not get into camera reviews if you think a camera company will pay you to do them ; ) Lol.
Jazz- this is Kel Varnsen from Sony. We really think you “get” our products and would love to pay you lots of money to write online reviews for us! Please contact us at your earliest convenience.
I love what you said especially, “ All cameras today are great no matter the brand and all cameras in this price range are better than 99.9% of US who use them. We do not need more “stuff” in this life, we need more kindness and love.“ So so true! Thanks for being an an honest gentleman. Funny, I’m in the market for a new camera and I’m giving serious consideration to buying a vintage (now?) Leica Digilux II. I had it and sold it years ago but my travel Picts were incredible with that camera aside from and it giving me great joy and inspiration to shoot with! And it’s only 5 mega pixels! Keep up the good work and I would love to see what you think of the new Fuji Xpro3.
I am interested in testing the X Pro 3. I am in the process of acquiring one to check out!
I know exactly what you mean in regards to user experience. I have always felt the Sony cameras are cold. When I pick them up I know what they can do but I don’t feel inspired by their design or their menus. I enjoy the Leica Q or the Olympus OMD system more because they inspire me to shoot.
Yea, for me I need a camera that inspires. The Sony’s are fantastic and offer it all but for me, they lack any kind of soul or inspiration and I have spoken with so many in the industry who feels the same. I have asked Sony so many times to make something special in regards to design. They have no interest in that, only big sales #’s so I doubt we will ever see something from Sony that touches the heart and soul. ; )
“Gimmicks made to do the job of the photographer.”
Like IBIS, auto ISO, auto focus, digital instead of film, light metering, auto white balance? Like those too?
If you are getting paid to do photography, they aren’t gimmicks.
More like EYE AF, High RES Shot, yes, even IBIS…and a multitude of other things that used to never be needed to take an amazing photo. Funny how most think they need them today when all it is are things added to help sell a camera. These things are still not present in something like a Leica M which is the purest photo tool one can buy, and one I used professionally for paid work for a couple of years without issue. Was a challenge, invigorating, fun and rewarding. Would not have been as such with something that did everything for me. That’s what I mean. No one today needs any kind of skill as these cameras are made to post, shoot and bam. All looks great. There is no more challenge, no more thinking, no more skill needed. Probably one reason why I still shoot with manual lenses and also why everyone is a photographer today ; )
Nice one Steve. A good response
@Scott, I agree about no dual slots: that’s a big compromise. Lack of IBIS may or may not matter, depending on which lenses you use and under what circumstances. But the lack of a joy stick is actually no problem for me. I just move my thumb across the rear screen. The touch screen is so good that it replaces the joy stick.
Steve! You are like a movie star ( male and female ) who falls in love with every new film partner. ( I have a grin on my face. ) You are in quest of the holy grail and the journey is usually better than the destination. Keep on trekking my friend!
Not at all. I didn’t fall for the Nikon Z, or any of the current Sony cameras. Have not fallen for any Fuji, or Pentax or Samsung. Just the ones that I loved and bought when I reviewed them like the EOS-R, Leica SL, X1D, and the Sigma FP. ; )
The Lenses are really a point. The 2/28-70 i´d like to see some Pictures taken with and the new 50 also.
The body i don´t know. If i look at the picture of your son, it´s a very nice composition, but the skin tones are not what a would call pleasing or realistic.
I´m surprised you prefer the Canon over the Sony A7III. A central point to me is a fast and reliable Autofocus. At the moment i thing Sony is unbeatable here.
Is there a big difference in Image Quality?
I think that Steve hit on something I’d been struggling with – there’s no objectively “best” camera or system. For years I swore by Nikon and am still heavily invested into their system. I still really love my bodies and lenses, but I don’t recommend Nikon to everyone. Test things out and don’t worry so much about minute improvements from one vendor to another. Pick what YOU think is best, brings YOU joy, and does what you need and how you need.
That being said, Steve and others inspired me to jump into Leica M just this past week. I wish I could try all of the systems, but I’ve got what works and makes me happy. Photography is challenging and fun again. Thanks! I think.
Absolutely not. They are only tools (lovely tools).
Nowadays differences between systems are less important than before. The key thing here is the right hands… 😉