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Traveling with Canon’s entry-level EOS R8 and R100 mirrorless cameras

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Two weeks ago I was thinking about how to test Canon’s entry-level EOS R8 and EOS R100 cameras in the miserable French weather when I had a thought: “Hey, why not take a vacation to a warmer place to test these models?” After Googling the nearest location with 75 degree-plus weather, I found myself in the balmy Canary Islands. It turned out to be a great spot to take photos as well, so everything came together perfectly.

Both cameras have far different price points, currently around $450 and $1,300, respectively. They’re still the company’s least expensive new full-frame and crop-sensor mirrorless cameras, though, and Canon markets them both as ideal for tourism and adventure — so I figured that this is a great way to test the capabilities of both.

Like any potential buyer, I wanted to see if they’re better than a smartphone for traveling — specifically if the larger sensors can counter a smartphone’s AI computational photography. I also looked at ease of use and automated operation, flexibility for sunny beaches or dark bars, vlogging and more. After trying them out at some of Gran Canaria’s most scenic spots, I found one of them to be a camera worth buying and one, not so much.

Smartphone computational photography

Before detailing my experience with these cameras, I want to talk about computational and AI photography. Most smartphones incorporate these tricks, like taking multiple photos in quick succession to get the best one or improve low-light shots. They often deliver better-exposed shots with superior white balance, too. There is a price to be paid though in terms of over-sharpening and other artifacts that can give photos an artificial look.

I tested this by taking a few shots with both a Pixel 7a and a camera in the auto settings, as many travel photographers do. As I suspected, at first glance the shots on the smartphone look better, but a closer look reveals superior photos from the camera in terms of detail, color accuracy, skin tones, true noise levels and more. I believe it’s important for buyers to understand this and have a basic idea of how to adjust images in post, or their new purchase could end up in a drawer.

Canon EOS R100

Canon EOS R100
Steve Dent for Engadget

The 24-megapixel APS-C EOS R100 seems like it should offer a lot for travelers. It’s small and light at 356 grams, so with a compact lens, it’s not a huge burden compared to a smartphone. At the same time, the larger sensor potentially offers superior quality and the flexibility of interchangeable lenses.

The small size comes with big compromises, though. Handling is mediocre and the settings aren’t super intuitive. I’d love to tell you could just control it on the screen instead, but the display isn’t touch sensitive and is nearly useless for vlogging as it’s fixed in place too. The electronic viewfinder has low magnification and is relatively dim, so it’s hard to use in the sun — especially with glasses on — unfortunate if you’re on the beach, for example.

It has just a single UHS-I card slot, so storage is relatively cheap but you won’t have a backup if the card glitches. You get a microHDMI jack to output to a TV, along with a mic input, but no headphone jack. The USB-C 2.0 port can only transfer files, not charge the camera or let you use it as a webcam.

It supports Canon’s smaller LP-E17 battery, but is rated for a decent 430 shots on a charge and many more in real life. One big benefit is a built-in flash with exposure compensation to dim it down – though settings are limited in the fully automatic mode most beginners will use.

Performance and video

Traveling with Canon’s entry-level EOS R8 and R100 mirrorless cameras
Steve Dent for Engadget

The R100 has anemic performance, to put it mildly. It shoots and focuses at just 3.5 fps max, the slowest in its category. It feels sluggish when shooting RAW photos, even in single shot mode. Luckily, it’s much more reactive when shooting JPEGs.

The sensor has some of the worst rolling shutter I’ve seen in silent mode. Luckily, it does have a first-curtain mechanical shutter that eliminates that, and the silent mode setting is hidden away where many folks will never find it.

There’s eye-detection AF for people only, and it works well if your subject is close to the camera. That’s OK for family photos and the like, but not ideal for candid or street shots on your trip. The autofocus isn’t great in low light either, but is otherwise fairly reliable.

The R100 is OK for grabbing the odd travel video, but not suitable for content creators. Max resolution is 4K 24p, but that comes with a 1.5 times crop, or 2.2 times with electronic stabilization, killing the bokeh advantage of a large sensor. And there’s no option for log, 10-bit, or any other high-end video features. That said, 4K video is relatively sharp and colors are nice and accurate.

Image quality

The bright spot of the EOS R100 is photo quality. As you’d expect from Canon, image quality is excellent with warm skin tones and accurate colors straight out of the camera. It can also handle low-light shooting well thanks to the large sensor, with little noise up to ISO 6400. All that will help you take great shots of mountains, the beach, nightlife and other typical vacation scenarios. The ability to shoot RAW, along with the mechanical shutter, is another good reason to get this model over most smartphones. And finally, the built-in flash is there to help you get nice looking images even in dark environments.

EOS 100 wrap-up

So would I recommend the EOS R100 for travel, particularly over a smartphone? Sorry Canon, but no. It’s too stripped down to replace a good smartphone, and while it does deliver better image quality, it’s too complicated. Instead, I’d suggest Canon’s older EOS M50 Mark II, as it offers the same image quality but has a touchscreen, is smaller, and still offers good lens options. Sony’s A6100 has better autofocus and video options, and if you can afford a little more, Canon’s own R50 is the same size but far more capable.

EOS R8

Traveling with Canon’s entry-level EOS R8 and R100 mirrorless cameras
Steve Dent for Engadget

Like the EOS R100, Canon’s R8 is the company’s most stripped-down and cheapest new full-frame camera. It gives you the same sensor and image quality as the $2,000 EOS R6 II for $700 less, but takes away some of the speed, video features and more.

The main thing lacking in the R8 is in-body stabilization, so it relies on lens and electronic shake reduction – but that actually worked pretty well for me. It’s also missing a full mechanical shutter, but does have a front-curtain shutter that eliminates rolling shutter. The EVF is far more basic, with lower resolution and magnification.

On the plus side, it has the same flip-out display as the R6 II, meaning it can serve as a capable vlogging and selfie camera. It also has a decent range of manual controls, with dual dials for the main settings, a full range of manual and auto settings and a dedicated photo and video switch. It’s also smaller and considerably lighter than the R6 II, so it’s a better travel option.

It has both mic and headphone jacks, along with a microHDMI port. It captures photos at high speeds to a UHS-II card, but there’s only one slot. The biggest compromise is a battery that’s the same as the one in the R100. Given the extra power demands of the larger sensor, it delivers only 290 shots on a charge, max and under an hour of video shooting.

Performance and video

Traveling with Canon’s entry-level EOS R8 and R100 mirrorless cameras
Steve Dent for Engadget

For a budget camera, the R8 is fast. It supports only 6 fps with the electronic curtain shutter, but can handle 40 fps bursts in electronic mode. There’s significant rolling shutter, though, so keep that in mind for action shots.

The R8 uses Canon’s latest AI subjection recognition tech, meaning it can track both animals and humans accurately. It also comes with an auto setting that lets the camera determine the subject and follow it accordingly.

I think autofocus is one of the most important features for travel photography, and the R8 delivers. It can locate and lock onto various subjects and track them rapidly around the frame. That makes it more capable than other recent models like the Sony’s A7 IV and the Nikon Z6 II. Focus can be selected via the touchscreen with your eye to the EVF, which works well, but be sure to enable the “touch and drag” setting in the menu.

It’s also a good video and content creation camera, with a few caveats. You can shoot uncropped video at up to 4K 60p, and it supports Canon’s C-Log 3 with 10-bit capture, along with HDR PQ. 120 fps ultra slow mo is available at 1080p. That said, 4K 60p has some pixel binning, so it’s less sharp than the 30p mode. The lack of in-body stabilization also makes it less useful for vlogging, because electronic stabilization adds a 1.25 times crop..

Image quality

Image quality is a strong point with the R8 too, especially for tourists who want far more than a smartphone can offer. It’s a great people and scenery-shooting camera, with rich skin hues and accurate colors. At the same time, the full-frame 24-megapixel sensor is great in low light, delivers plenty of detail and offers beautiful background bokeh. Serious photographers can grab RAW photos and get the same level of detail found on more expensive cameras.

EOS R8 wrap-up

Canon’s entry-level full-frame R8 is definitely worth taking on your voyages. It offers impressive image quality and is great for content creators, too. The main drawback is the lack of stabilization and a small battery, but you’ll be fine if you carry an extra battery or two. Rival options include Nikon’s Z5, which has image quality on par but inferior autofocus and video, and if you’re more into vlogging, the Panasonic S5 is a better option for less money. If you’re looking for the best affordable hybrid full-frame camera, the Canon R8 is a great choice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/traveling-with-canons-entry-level-eos-r8-and-r100-mirrorless-cameras-160054076.html?src=rss

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