When I just started out in photography, I first purchased a Canon Rebel T5 after I finished college and was planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest US. I had never been there, and really wanted to capture memories that would be much better than my phone could capture.
After some time, I decided to upgrade as my photography skills continued to grow and I knew that I wanted this hobby to stick around for a while. So, I upgraded to a more capable camera body and lens – the Canon 80D with the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS. The upgrade was immediately visible. I couldn’t wait to try new techniques and travel to new places to photograph.
After a while though, especially after a trip through the desert southwest states, I started to see that my images could take another step forward by upgrading once more. I wanted a bit more resolution, better low light and noise performance, and higher quality, weather sealed lenses. So I sold my 80D and bought the Canon 6D Mark II and the EF 24-70 f/2.8L II.
Once again, the improvements in resolution and lens quality was immediately apparent. I couldn’t believe the images I was seeing! There were two back to back trips coming up a month or two after I bought the new setup, and I couldn’t wait to capture some new stunning images.
However, I found the 6DII had one thing that wasn’t as good as the 80D – the shadow recovery ability, even when shot at low ISOs. I took a couple shots during both trips that I knew had some pretty dark shadow areas, but given the colors exploding in the sunset sky, I didn’t want to blow out the highlights and lose the light show. Thankfully, I did bracket some shots, so it wasn’t a total wash.
At first, the noise in my images was just annoying. I could bracket high dynamic range scenes and blend them later in photoshop if needed. However, learned habits with the 80D kept creeping back in, and I would mess up shots that were important because I kept unknowingly falling back into the smaller DR trap. The rest of the camera was so great though, especially the resolution, FF image quality, and flippy screen (this matters a ton for landscape shooters, esp. those low to the creek images where I don’t want to go swimming), that I kept on persisting.
One day, I had gotten the hang of bracketing for extreme scenes, but there was a new problem: the scene had a lot of fall leaves moving around between shots. There was literally no way to merge them without artifacts or noise with just one exposure. I realized that this would be a continual pain point as a primarily landscape shooter, so I gave up and looked at what other options could be out there.
I came across the new Canon R, which had the sensor of the 5D Mark IV (YES!) and the flippy screen too. It also promised to correct some of those focusing errors with 3rd party lenses. I quickly sold the 6D2 on craigslist and had a new R on the way. It’s easy to say, “well yeah, the R is a better camera so it should be the better choice, duh.”
But the point of this post is to show exactly why I decided on the R as my main camera and moved on from the 6D2 (and consequently never considered the RP as it shares the same sensor).
Below was one of those nights where I misjudged the ability of the camera to handle a scene. This first view is a close up of a flower pedal with a darker background (a lake in the distance). The first is the raw image, then the corrected exposures, and last the fully edited final version. You can see that I still really had to work the image to make it useable:
A few minutes later, I walked to a different spot to shoot the rest of the sunset. This one really should have been bracketed, but I was admittedly still used to the capabilities of my prior 80D. This is a shot I consider to be “ruined” because of the poor noise in the shadows:
As you can see, the shadow detail in the dock is completely gone, and all that remains is heavy noise. I am disappointed because otherwise this is a great moment I would have liked to have captured. I found this to be very discouraging, and this was the final shot that made me start looking to move on from this camera body despite only owning it for ~5 months. I tried to get adjusted to it but it didn’t work for me.
Below is a comparison of the Canon R when pushed in similar circumstances. The first is a comparison with regular adjustments, and then the final adjustments comparison. The first exposure correction looks so good, I hardly did any further noise adjustments or other color corrections. This was exactly what I was looking for in a full frame landscape camera body.
You can see a little bit of the noise creep in if you look very closely at the lowest dark band of sand. The raw image is nearly black in shadow, and yet only a slight bit of noise reduction is needed for a clear image. And while yes, this particular small clip of a shot *could* be done on an RP or 6D2 or any other camera with bracketing, it would not have worked as the single exposure to capture waves breaking in the distance. Bracketing simply would not have worked as well.
I hope this was a useful comparison for anyone considering the full frame options Canon offers, especially the R, RP, and 6D Mark II. If you are a landscape shooter primarily, I cannot recommend the R enough. Portrait, street, family photo shooters may not see any difference and should feel full confidence going with any of the three mentioned here.
While the resolution across all three of these bodies is fantastic, the range is a huge improvement on the R. I found my images all improved greatly as a result. And while yes, I do still bracket when needed, I find I am losing way fewer shots to poor noise than ever before.
What do you think? What is your camera of choice?