I was lucky enough to spend a week with the Canon EOS R10, which is now the cheapest route for their RF mirrorless camera system. And while it’s not perfect, the R10 convinced me that it should now top the list for budding photographers.
That’s a big deal, because it’s something we haven’t been able to say about a Canon camera in a long time. Their Rebel DSLRs (known as triple-digit EOS cameras outside the US) were once the default choice for students. But in the mirrorless era, Canon failed and let Sony, Fujifilm and Nikon steal your budget camera lunch.
Well, it finally rediscovered its form with the Canon EOS R10. This $979 / £899 / AU$1,499 camera is not what we traditionally call an entry-level model. It costs 50% more than a Canon Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D and comes with some pretty advanced controls and features.
But in the age of smartphones, I think the definition of ‘camera for beginners’ has changed. Now, there are few advantages to buying a standalone camera and using it as a point-and-shoot, as smartphone processing has filled the image quality gap.
What the best entry-level cameras need today is smart autofocus, creative control, powerful continuous shooting, solid video skills, and a variety of lenses that give photographers room to grow. And the Canon EOS R10 ticks those boxes better than most cameras I’ve tested in this price range in recent years.
The most useful camera feature for beginners is an intelligent autofocus system – and that’s a real highlight on the Canon EOS R10.
Autofocus is more important on cameras than on phones, because the latter’s small sensors and wide lens mean most of the scene is usually in focus by default. That’s why phones have ‘portrait modes’ to digitally recreate a shallow depth of field. But when you’re shooting a fast-moving subject with a bright lens on an APS-C camera, you need some help from autofocus.
The EOS R10’s AF system is impressive and, most importantly, intuitive. Its Dual Pixel CMOS AF II setup comes from the professional Canon EOS R3. And while it doesn’t match the performance of this camera, its fundamentals are the same.
The EOS R10 can track a wide variety of subjects, including people, animals (dogs, cats, birds) and vehicles, and will follow them around the frame. It’s a very useful tool, especially if you’re just starting out and focusing on other things like compositing.
I’ve tested it on a wide variety of animals including cats, deer and a cockapoodle at high speed. And while the hit rate certainly wasn’t 100%, the EOS R10 did a job of finding eyes and blocking them, 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 will automatically switch to a face or body if it doesn’t encounter any eyes.
When you’re shooting action or sports, autofocus is only part of the equation – you also need fast shots and a decent buffer. And luckily the Canon EOS R10 also impresses here.
Canon says the EOS R10 can shoot at an impressive 15 fps with its mechanical shutter and 23 fps with its electronic shutter – and my tests confirmed those claims, even if the camera couldn’t maintain those speeds for as long as Canon’s spec sheet it says.
I was able to shoot uncompressed raw files at 15 fps for a second using the mechanical shutter, before the buffer slowed down to around 7 fps. If you’re shooting JPEGs, you can continue at 15 fps for a more useful six seconds, before dropping to around 12 fps.
The electronic shutter is able to briefly hit the 23fps mark, but it’s much slower in an extended burst – and when shooting moving subjects it can produce distortion issues (aka rolling shutter), making the mechanic even the best. choice in most situations.
The Canon EOS R10 isn’t a professional sports camera, then. But it’s fast enough to capture fleeting moments of speeding pets, laughing humans, or crucial sporting moments if you get the timing right. And this is not always possible on beginner cameras.
Another important feature for an entry-level camera is that it is small and light. The easier it is to take a camera with you, the more often you will use it. And while the Canon EOS R10’s ‘mini DSLR’ design means it’s not the smallest mirrorless camera on the block, it only weighs 426g (roughly the same as two iPhones).
I also found it discreet enough for street photography, which is a good way to learn your craft.
As the EOS R10 has dual controls – one on the top plate behind the shutter button and one on the back – it’s very easy to shoot manually or adjust exposure compensation for a more dramatic look.
Getting these controls, along with a dedicated AF joystick, on a starter camera is again pretty uncommon, but they give you more control over your snaps and help you get shots that would be much harder to get on a phone.
Another bonus for beginners is the EOS R10’s scene modes, including a focus stacking feature that comes in handy for macros.
This takes a series of photos (you can decide how many) with small shifts in focus between them. These are then combined in-camera into a single JPEG. A pan mode, which I haven’t tried, also chooses a shutter speed based on how fast you move the camera to get blurred backgrounds that give an impression of speed.
Canon cameras unfortunately don’t offer as many in-camera computational modes as you’ll find on Olympus cameras (now OM System). But now, there’s a gap between older models like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV and the professional-grade OM System OM-1. For now, the EOS R10 and its useful in-camera stacking can help you explore your experimental side.
How good is the EOS R10’s image quality? Like much of the camera, good enough. Canon says the R10 has a new 24MP CMOS sensor, although it’s possible it’s a modified version of one we’ve seen on previous cameras. Either way, it’s not a high-end chip, nor does it have a ‘stacked’ design, nor is it BSI (backside-illuminated).
Thanks to advances in processors and image processing, the latter isn’t a big miss. And the reality is that the EOS R10 offers a pretty generous amount of detail to recover from shadows like Lightroom, if you need to. Here is the result of lifting the shadows of an underexposed door.
It’s possible to do some basic in-camera edits on the EOS R10 and adjust things like white balance and noise reduction, but this is still easier to do in Lightroom or Snapseed.
Since raw files are the total sensor output – effectively making them a digital ‘negative’ – you get more dynamic range to work with than JPEGs. This can be used to correct exposure errors or sculpt the light to bring the viewer’s eye to the main subject of your photo.
Are there any downsides to the EOS R10 for beginners? In my experience none that are unexpected for the price. The electronic viewfinder is quite small with an effective 0.59x magnification, there is no in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and the 4K/60p video mode has a pretty sizable 1.56x crop (see below). But none of these are dealbreakers.
My only real criticism is not related to the camera itself, but its lenses. Right now, Canon has only made two native lenses for the EOS R10 and EOS R7: the RF-S 18-45mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM and the RF-S 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM. That’s pretty insignificant compared to the likes of Sony and Fujifilm.
Still, there are a few reasons why this isn’t as bad as it sounds. Firstly, a wide range of lenses isn’t quite the necessity it is for more advanced cameras, which is why our review of the Canon EOS R7 made this camera tougher for the same problem. In addition, there are some very useful (and relatively affordable) full-frame lenses that should work well with the EOS R10.
Along with the 18-45mm kit zoom, I tested the camera with the RF 85mm f/2 Macro ($550 / £670 / AU$1,049), which is a pretty versatile prime. Other full-frame RF lenses that should work well with the EOS R10 are the RF50mm f/1.8 ($180 / £220 / AU$340), RF 16mm f/2.8 ($299 / £320 / AU$479) and, for life snappers wild, the RF600mm f/11 ($699 / £860 / AU$1,399).
That said, it would still be nice to see Canon release a few more native APS-C lenses for their new small sensor cameras.
Beginner to ten
The Canon EOS R10 doesn’t surprise its entry-level camera rivals. But I think the power and usability of its autofocus, plus its useful burst shooting speeds, give it the edge over its rivals Sony and Fujifilm – for now.
It’s a lot of fun to use and is finally the mirrorless equivalent of Canon’s Rebel DSLRs (or triple-digit EOS) that many have been waiting years to make.
If you like a more retro-styled camera and need a wide variety of native lenses, the Fujifilm X-T30 II might be the best choice. Likewise, the older Sony A6400 has more lenses than the EOS R10 and is a more compact camera.
But despite its aging sensor, the EOS R10’s powerful processor, autofocus experience, and solid control setup give beginners a great camera to start with and a pretty impressive one to grow. Particularly if Canon really backs up the R10’s promise with a few more of these native lenses.