I was fortunate enough to spend a week with the Canon EOS R10 camera, which is currently the cheapest route to an RF mirrorless system. And while it’s not perfect, the R10 convinced me that it should now be at the top of the beginner’s photographer list.
It’s quite a big deal, because it’s something that we couldn’t say about the Canon camera for a long time. His Rebel DSLRs (known as triple-digit EOS cameras outside of the US) were once the default choice for students. But in the mirrorless era, Canon got confused and allowed Sony, Fujifilm, and Nikon to steal his budget camera lunch.
Well, it has finally rediscovered its form with the Canon EOS R10. At $ 979 / £ 899 / AU $ 1,499, this camera isn’t what we traditionally call the entry-level model. It costs 50% more than the Canon Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D and comes with quite advanced controls and functions.
But with the smartphone era, I think the definition of a “beginner’s camera” has changed. Nowadays, buying a standalone camera and using it as a point-and-shoot camera has few advantages as smartphone processing has filled the image quality gap.
What the best entry-level cameras need today is intelligent autofocus, creative control, powerful continuous shooting, solid filming skills, and a wide range of lenses that empower photographers to develop. And the Canon EOS R10 handles these fields better than most cameras I have tested in this price range in the last few years.
The most useful feature of the camera for beginners is the intelligent autofocus system – and that is the real advantage of the Canon EOS R10.
Autofocus is more important in cameras than in phones, as the latter’s small sensors and wide lenses mean most of the scene is sharpened by default. That’s why the phones have “portrait modes” to digitally reproduce a shallow depth of field. But when you’re photographing a fast-moving subject with the APS-C’s bright lens, you need help from autofocus.
The AF system of the EOS R10 is impressive and, importantly, intuitive. The Dual Pixel CMOS AF II setup comes from the Canon EOS R3 professional camera. And while it doesn’t match the performance of this camera, its basics are the same.
The EOS R10 can track and follow a wide range of subjects including people, animals (dogs, cats, birds) and vehicles within the frame. It’s a really handy tool, especially if you’re just starting out and focus on other things like composition.
I have tested it on a wide variety of animals including cats, deer, and a speeding cockapoodle. And while the hit rate was certainly not 100%, the EOS R10 did the job of finding and targeting eyes, even from 5-10 meters away. Unlike previous autofocus systems, this tracking is also available in most of the EOS R10’s AF modes, and automatically switches to face or body if no eyes can be found.
When shooting action or sports, autofocus is only one part of the equation – ideally you also need fast bursts and a decent buffer. Fortunately, the Canon EOS R10 is also impressive here.
Canon claims the EOS R10 can shoot at an impressive 15fps with a mechanical shutter and 23fps with an electronic shutter – and my testing confirmed these claims, even though the camera was unable to sustain those speeds for as long as the spec says Canon.
I was able to record uncompressed raw files at 15fps using a mechanical shutter before the buffer slowed down to around 7fps. If you are taking photos in JPEG format, you can continue at 15fps for a more useful six seconds before it goes down to around 12fps.
The electronic shutter is capable of briefly reaching the 23fps mark, but is much slower on a longer burst – and when photographing moving subjects it can cause warping issues (otherwise known as roll-up shutter), which makes the Mechanical is still the best choice in most situations.
The Canon EOS R10 is therefore not a professional sports camera. But it’s fast enough to capture fleeting moments of rushing animals, people laughing, or key sports moments if you get it right. And this has not always been possible with beginner cameras.
Another important feature of an entry-level camera is that it is small and light. The easier it is to take your camera with you, the more you will use it. And while the design of the Canon EOS R10’s “mini digital SLR” means it’s not the smallest mirrorless camera on the block, it only weighs 426g (about the same as two iPhones).
I also found it inconspicuous enough for street photography, which is a good way to learn a craft.
Since the EOS R10 has dual control dials – one on the top plate behind the shutter button and the other on the rear – it’s quite easy to take pictures manually or adjust exposure compensation for a more dramatic look.
Getting these controls along with a dedicated AF joystick on a beginner’s camera is again quite unusual, but they give you more control over your photos and help you get shots that would be much more difficult to achieve on a phone.
Another beginner’s bonus is the EOS R10’s Scene Modes, including a focusing feature that comes in handy for macros.
This takes a series of photos (you can decide how many) with small sharpness shifts in between. These are then combined on the camera into a single JPEG file. The panning mode I haven’t tried also selects a shutter speed based on how fast you move the camera to get a blurry background that gives the impression of speed.
Unfortunately, Canon cameras do not offer as many calculation modes in the camera as in the Olympus cameras (now OM System). But now there’s kind of a gap between older models like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV and the professional OM OM-1 system. For now, the EOS R10 and its handy stacking in-camera can help you get on with the experimental side.
How good is the image quality of the EOS R10? Like most cameras, good enough. Canon says the R10 has a new 24MP CMOS sensor, although it’s possible it’s a modified version of the one we’ve seen on previous cameras. Either way, it is not a state-of-the-art chip, nor is it a “stacked” design, nor is it BSI (backlit).
Thanks to advances in processors and image processing, the latter is not a huge miss. And the reality is that the EOS R10 provides quite a bit of detail to bring out the shadows in Lightroom when needed. Here’s the result of removing shadows from an underexposed door.
It’s possible to do basic in-camera editing on the EOS R10 and fine-tune things like white balance and noise reduction, but it’s still easier to do in programs like Lightroom or Snapseed.
Since the raw files are the entire sensor output – effectively making them a digital “negative” – you get a greater dynamic range to work with than with JPEG files. This can be used to correct exposure errors or sculpt the light to direct the viewer’s eye towards the main subject of the photo.
Does the EOS R10 for beginners have any disadvantages? In my experience, nothing is unexpected for the price. The electronic viewfinder is quite small with an effective magnification of 0.59x, there is no body image stabilization (IBIS), and the 4K / 60p video mode has a pretty large 1.56x frame (see below). But neither of them are contract breakers.
My only real criticism is not about the camera itself, but its lenses. Currently, Canon has only made two lenses native to the EOS R10 and EOS R7: RF-S 18-45mm f / 4.5-6.3 IS STM and RF-S 18-150mm f / 3.5-6.3 IS STM zoom. That’s pretty paltry compared to Sony and Fujifilm.
Still, there are a couple of reasons why it’s not as bad as it sounds. First, a wide range of lenses is not necessary for more advanced cameras, which is why our Canon EOS R7 review gave this camera a harder time for the same problem. Also, there are some quite useful (and relatively inexpensive) full-frame lenses that should work well with the EOS R10.
In addition to the zoom of the 18-45mm kit, I tested the camera with the RF 85mm f / 2 macro ($ 550 / £ 670 / $ 1,049) which is a fairly versatile prime. Other full-frame RF lenses that should work well with the EOS R10 are the RF50mm f / 1.8 ($ 180 / £ 220 / $ 340), the RF 16mm f / 2.8 ($ 299 / £ 320 / $ 479) and, for wildlife snappers, the RF600mm f / 11 ($ 699 / £ 860 / AU $ 1,399).
That said, it would still be good for Canon to bring a few additional APS-C lenses to the market for its new small-matrix cameras.
Appetizer for ten
Canon EOS R10 does not scare off its beginner rivals in cameras. But I think the power and usability of the autofocus, as well as the handy shooting speeds of the series give it an edge over its rivals Sony and Fujifilm – for now.
It’s a lot of fun to use, and finally it’s the mirrorless counterpart of the Canon Rebel (or triple-digit EOS) DSLRs that many have been waiting for for years.
If you like a retro camera and need a large range of native lenses then the Fujifilm X-T30 II may be a better choice. Likewise, the older Sony A6400 has more lenses than the EOS R10 and is a more compact camera.
But despite the old-fashioned sensor, the powerful EOS R10 processor, the autofocus experience, and the solid control setup give beginners a great camera to start with and a pretty impressive camera to grow up to. Especially if Canon does back up the promise of the R10 with a few extra native lenses.