Canon R5 and Sony A7SIII
The Race to the Middle
Posted on August 29, 2020
When the Canon R5 was first announced on July 9, 2020 I was excited to see that the rumors were more or less confirmed. Canon was finally giving us a compact and relatively affordable camera with impressive specs. It was like it was 2005 all over again and Canon just added 24p recording to the 5D MkII. The R5 has features like 10 bit 4K video recording at up to 120 frames per second, 8K RAW, IBIS, and all with their fantastic autofocus. “This could be my new camera”, I thought. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though.
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If you’ve been paying attention you know that the Canon R5 has issues with “overheating”, or at least with a recording time limit. Initial reports showed that video recording was limited to as little as 20 minutes. Despite efforts to cool down the camera and even after a long down time, you could then expect maybe 13 more minutes of recording. We now know that this wasn’t really an overheating limit as much as an artificial firmware timer designed to limit recording time. This is a moving target since recording times have been improved with a new firmware update, but it seems the Canon cripple hammer lives on. Canon simply won’t risk hurting sales of their expensive cinemas cameras.
Enter the Sony A7SIII
Not to be outdone and seemingly triggered by Canon’s announcement, Sony has announced the next camera in their video-centric A7S line - the A7SIII. While not as impressive on paper compared to the Canon R5, the A7SIII is a very welcome contender. It features Sony’s great autofocus and 4K120 video recording, and introduces IBIS and a flippy screen (what took you so long Sony?). Perhaps the most notable feature is that it doesn’t suffer overheating issues nearly as much as the Canon. That sounds ridiculous coming from the world of Z CAM where overheating is non-existent, but such is the world of semi-professional hybrid video/stills cameras.
Who Are These Cameras For?
The Canon R5 is a hybrid mirrorless camera. While it prominently features 8K RAW video recording it is also a very impressive stills camera. The $3899 USD price keeps it out of reach of the casual photographer/videographer. While not a bad price given the feature set, and coming in below comparable cameras such as the Panasonic S1H, you really have to be into photography or video to want to drop that kind of money on a camera body.
Like most DSLR-shaped cameras, the Canon is a stills camera first and a video camera second. While you can certainly take it out handheld and shoot video without any accessories, you might want to add a few things to make the experience more enjoyable. When you add up media, a cage, and other accessories you are easily over $4K.
Likewise, the Sony A7SIII is a high performing video camera and capable stills camera, despite being only 12 megapixels. It’s small and relatively lightweight - you could even blog with it. The flippy screen makes it much more useable in that regard. Coming in at $3499, a few hundred less than the Canon, this is also outside the budget of the average shooter. When equally outfitted, the Sony would near $4K as well.
This price range is for people who want quality video and more than set-it-and-forget-it automatic features. They are used to recording in log profiles and dealing with 4K timelines, but they also want the excellent autofocus. They probably aren’t shooting scripted narrative projects. They are making YouTube videos and posting stills on Instagram. That’s not a put-down since that’s more or less what I do with my more expensive gear. I’m actually still considering one of these cameras, but only after the dust settles.
These Cameras Are Mainstream
Make no mistake - despite their relatively high price tags these cameras are mainstream. There were a bunch of Canon and Sony Ambassadors with polished reviews ready for release on day one. This is a different world from smaller companies like Z CAM who don’t have the brand recognition or following of Canon and Sony. If you are into cameras you probably saw at least one of these videos pop up in your feed.
That puts these cameras in the middle. They aren’t high-end cinema cameras and they aren’t blogging Go Pros. It’s a crowded space to be in and the competition is heavy, but people are already climbing over each other to buy one. These cameras will likely sell in the hundreds of thousands of units, perhaps even millions. The initial batch of Canon R5 sold out immediately and the next batch isn’t expected until September. The Sony doesn’t ship until late September, but I can only imagine what the preorder numbers look like. I put a preorder in for the Canon R5, but cancelled it a few days later after news of the overheating surfaced (and also because I knew it would be forever until mine would ship).
I don’t think these cameras will really disturb the professional market, especially not with the aforementioned Canon cripple hammer. Sony has a hammer of their own, it’s just less noticeable. The ARRI, Blackmagic, Kinifinity, RED, Z CAM and other professional cinema camera manufacturers are still safe to make their great products and charge a premium. These small hybrid cameras won’t have SDI, built in ND, and other professional features.
Are You in the Middle?
Will you be buying the Canon R5 or Sony A7SIII? Maybe you’ve already place your order, or maybe you got lucky and are already shooting with the R5. Drop a comment in this Facebook thread and let me know.