Exploring the Canon RP Part One, or “That’s not an eye”

Recently I bought a Canon RP.

I put a lot of thought into buying new camera gear. This is especially true of camera bodies. I ask myself a series of questions.

Will this make me a better photographer?

The answer is always no, but I ask as kind of a mental reset. If somehow I’m leaning towards “yes” then the answer is really to seek training. Better yet realize that it’s a temporary emotional thing and not a real need.

What problem am I trying to solve?

There has to be a very good reason for this purchase. My 7d did its job, but just barely. My 7d Mk II did its job very well, but had some limitations. My 5d Mk III is outstanding and it’s still my preferred workhorse. What would the new camera do that these others can’t? Is there a workaround?

Are there higher priorities?

This is the really big question. What else is going on in life right now? This should seem obvious but man, 2020 has been a whopper of a year. Is now really the time to part with precious resources to acquire more stuff? Really?

The problem to solve

I’ve been doing a lot of portraiture over the past year.

The 7d Mk II does a good job, my only real complaint is the crop sensor; and that’s not a very big complaint. The dual pixel autofocus system is outstanding and achieves focus even in poor light. The crop sensor however does introduce some limitations since now I need a lot more space. This becomes a real problem in a small studio. The number of focus points is pretty good, but also creates some limitations in composition. This camera is still great for most things although the dynamic range of the sensor is, to be generous, poor. It’s still my choice for most outdoor sports. Aside from the high quality construction the original 7d isn’t worth discussing.

My 5d Mk III is an old camera now, but it’s still outstanding and my go-to for almost everything. Great for landscapes, great for indoor and outdoor portraits, good dynamic range, plenty of pixels to work with. Outstanding build quality. It’s got the same number of autofocus points which I find a bit limiting. The downside: It’s a contrast-based autofocus system which results in poor autofocus in low light. In most low-light portrait situations it’s almost unusable. Ouch.

The problems to solve:

  1. Autofocus in low light
  2. More focus points
  3. Compatibility with my current EF lenses

Other attractive features

  1. Eye Detection AF
  2. Articulating rear display
  3. I got one hell of a good deal. If it wasn’t for the exceptional price on a refurbished Canon RP I might have waited until I wore out my 5d Mk III.

Taking the RP out for a test drive with Rohanna

I outfitted the RP with a Viltrox lens adapter and Rohanna and I wandered downtown Santa Cruz to try out the eye detection autofocus feature. There were problems almost immediately. We work together great and I love her style. Today she arrived with a broad hat, boots, and a long checkered coat.

That’s not an eye!

I know the feature works. I’ve seen the feature work. It would not work in this situation. The feature failed immediately and spectacularly. It would focus on the brim of her hat, her ear rings, and most frustrating of all; Rohanna’s coat. It would misidentify the intersecting pattern of her coat as an eye pupil. The only workaround was to disable the feature and go back to spot autofocus. Lesson learned, some subjects work, a few don’t. At least now I know.

My grumbling “That’s not an eye!” became the running joke for the shoot.

Details worth noting

  1. The camera body is small. I have big hands but I don’t mind the smaller body.
  2. One card slot. This is not ideal for events and is probably a deal breaker for some people.
  3. The body isn’t the same build quality. It’s OK but nothing like the 5d series. I was worried about damaging the lens mount while slinging it around with a heavier lens.
  4. The button layout is minimal and takes a little getting used to.
    1. The touch screen more than makes up for this
  5. What the hell is “FV” mode, how is that different from Program Mode, and why in the world would I care?
  6. There is no built-in image stabilization. This is no secret and not a deal breaker for me. It does mean that the battery wears down faster to power image stabilization built into a lens.
  7. I haven’t found a way to rename the files. My other cameras allow me to rename file sequences like “SCM5D3_” which I find very helpful. With this model I seem to be stuck with “IMG_”. This is a minor annoyance. At least the camera model is in the metadata.
  8. Back button focus. My favorite Canon feature is available on this model.
  9. Frames per second. I shot some surf and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s advertised as getting around 5 shots per second but my experience was better than that. I felt like it had potential to replace my 7d Mk II for sports. That’s probably not entirely true, but it was a really nice surprise.
  10. Video. I’ve read a lot of grumbly reports about the crop needed for decent video. I don’t plan to shoot video with this camera so that’s not a consideration for me.
  11. It looks ridiculous mounted to my longer lenses. I did this just for fun but wound up trying it out later. I was pleasantly surprised how well it worked on a monopod. I wouldn’t want to swing it around carelessly though.
I swear I’m not compensating for something here.

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