Ergonomics and customisation in the EOS R System

Canon's RF mount has led to a revolution in lens design – but it's also enabled an evolution of EOS camera ergonomics.

Canon EOS R System cameras deliver next-generation technologies, but they also build on the heritage of Canon camera design, with intuitive menus and classic EOS camera ergonomics that have been refined over the past 35 years. They are modern cameras to suit modern ways of working and incorporate many innovations, such as the EOS R3's breakthrough Eye Control AF, which takes camera control to a new level, but are also reassuringly comfortable in the hand. They work the way you expect while making new features easily accessible and also giving you unprecedented scope to customise their controls and menus to suit your preferences, so you can get going in no time and shoot without breaking your creative flow.

"When designing new EOS cameras we had to consider that users have very much got used to how the system operates," explains John Maurice, European Product Marketing Manager at Canon Europe. "So the way you introduce change is through evolution. Some of the changes we've made have been subtle, but we're building on things that work."

Here we look at some of the ways that EOS R System cameras combine familiarity and innovation, with the overriding emphasis on ergonomics and usability, and how you can customise controls and menus to suit the way you want to work.

The metal chassis of a Canon EOS R3 stands on a sheet of design sketches, with two pencils alongside.

In the design and construction of Canon's groundbreaking EOS R System cameras and RF lenses, the priority is usability and ergonomics.

A hand holds a mockup of a Canon EOS R5 camera.

Every aspect of a new camera's design, from the shape of the grip to the positioning of controls, is subject to extensive testing and user evaluation.

EOS camera ergonomics

Canon pioneered many of the camera controls and features that are now standard across the industry, including command dials and multi-controller joysticks. The development of the EOS R System was an opportunity to take the camera control interface to the next level.

One of the goals of the design teams was to create a more immersive shooting experience, enabling you to work without taking your eye from the viewfinder. Accordingly, the positioning of all the controls is carefully designed to put everything you need in reach and identifiable by touch. The shapes of the camera bodies in general and the grips in particular are engineered for the optimal balance of secure hold and ease of finger movement. Canon built a database of hand shapes and sizes from people around the world to ensure that the EOS R System ergonomics would translate internationally, and every design was prototyped and rigorously tested for usability.

Central to this new way of working is the electronic viewfinder. Bright and sharp, with high refresh rates up to 120fps and minimal lag, the EVF in an EOS R System camera is capable of displaying an image that's closer than ever to the final look of a photo or video. Taking the Live View feed from the sensor means that the image in the viewfinder can show you not only the effect of changes in exposure and other settings, but also of image processing parameters such as white balance and Picture Style. Unlike ever before, you can see what you're going to get.

When you take the shot, there's no blackout when the shutter fires, as there is in a DSLR, so you remain connected with the scene. Being able to review images in the viewfinder is another advantage for mirrorless cameras – especially in bright conditions where detail and colour can be hard to discern on a rear screen.

A person holds a Canon camera in one hand and an RF lens in the other, as if about to fit it to the camera.

"The RF mount has enabled us to create lenses that are different compared to their EF counterparts," Canon Europe's John Maurice explains. "They can be smaller and lighter, but also higher quality or with more functionality."

A Canon camera with the vari-angle touchscreen folded out to the side and tilted up, showing the beach scene in front of it.

Many models in Canon's camera lineup, including all the EOS R System range, are equipped with a vari-angle touchscreen, making for comfortable viewing and control when shooting from creative angles.

Canon camera design

Mirrorless camera technology enables EOS R System cameras to be made more compact and lightweight than their DSLR counterparts, but that wasn't the goal. Nor was eliminating the reflex mirror mechanism an end in itself.

"We did not set out to create a small, lightweight camera," says Canon engineer Manabu Kato, Deputy Senior General Manager of the ICB Optical Products Development Centre at Canon Inc. "The ideal lens was what Canon was striving for. This new [RF] mount and the 35mm full-frame mirrorless structure were the best solution for achieving our ideals."

Thanks to the revolutionary design of the RF mount and new technologies in cameras and lenses, the EOS R System delivers innovative lens designs that have not been possible before, such as the breakthrough RF 5.2mm F2.8L DUAL FISHEYE lens, which radically simplifies the capture of immersive 180° VR footage. But in the cameras as much as the lenses, usability has been a design priority.

"With mirrorless, some users do expect a slightly more compact body, which means you have to be more efficient with the buttons you've got and the space you have available on the camera," John explains. Rather than simply shrink or strip out many of the direct controls, however, Canon's designers have introduced new ones across the EOS R System camera range.

The controls on the top and back of a Canon EOS R7.

The buttons and controls on a modern EOS R System camera, such as the EOS R7, are positioned for easy operation and have different shapes and textures, so you can identify them by touch without taking your eye from the viewfinder.

A user's thumb adjusting the combined Quick Control Dial and Multi-controller on the back of a Canon EOS R7 camera, with a representation of the effects of adjustments being made.

The Canon T90 was the world's first camera to feature an electronic input dial, which has since been a consistent feature of the EOS system. The EOS R7 is the first EOS camera to feature a combined Quick Control Dial and Multi-controller, just to the right of the viewfinder. "They are familiar controls, but they've been combined and positioned for convenience, so you don't need to move your thumb too much," explains John. When using either the rear screen or the viewfinder, for example, you can turn the Quick Control Dial to adjust exposure compensation or the aperture setting for manual exposures (shown in red) and move the Multi-controller (in blue) to position the AF point.

Innovative controls

The majority of models now have a Multi-Function Lock button on the top panel, for example. Enabling this will prevent settings from being changed if you accidentally touch the camera dials, multi-controller or lens Control Ring.

The EOS R7 introduces added convenience in the shape of a power switch that has a movie recording setting as well as on/off. This allows the camera to be switched instantly from stills to video and vice versa.

All EOS R System cameras also have a movie shooting button near the shutter release button (or on the EOS R3, by the viewfinder, near the AF-ON button), enabling you to record video without having to switch the camera to movie recording mode. "It's a recognition that more and more photographers also shoot video, and need to do so almost spontaneously," says John.

This movie shooting button is a different shape to both the shutter button and the Lock button – in fact, all of the buttons are designed to feel different so that you can tell just what you're pressing when your eye is at the viewfinder. "We don't make one part and then duplicate it around the body," John affirms.

With the EOS R5, it's even possible to assign your preferred video recording setup to the C3 custom shooting mode when the camera is in movie mode, and then trigger this with the movie shooting button when the camera is in photo mode.

A view of two racing motorbikes through the viewfinder, with an orange circle and blue rectangle outlined on the rear bike.

Canon's revolutionary Eye Control AF system in the EOS R3 can set or switch the AF point by detecting what you're looking at in the viewfinder. Here is what you see in the viewfinder as it is switching the AF point to the bike on the right – the orange circle shows that the camera has detected the photographer's eye looking at this, and the blue frame indicates the new AF point to which the focus instantly shifts.

A cutaway illustration of an EOS R System camera with RF lens attached, showing the Control Ring and its communication with the processor chip in the camera.

A variety of functions can be assigned to the Control Ring on an RF lens via Customise dials in the Custom Functions menu. This includes settings such as AF method and ISO, which would ordinarily require a button press before being adjusted by a dial on the camera.

Customising the RF lens Control Ring

The customisable Control Ring that's an integral feature on Canon RF lenses is another innovation that enables users to respond quickly to changing events. Being able to assign a commonly used function to the Control Ring allows adjustments to be made on the fly, without taking your eye from the viewfinder. Canon's Control Ring Mount Adapter brings this ergonomic function to EF lenses when you use this adapter to attach them to EOS R System bodies too.

By default, the Control Ring on an RF lens adjusts exposure compensation while the shutter button is pressed halfway in Fv, P, Tv, Av or M modes. But other commonly-used functions can also be assigned via the camera's Custom Functions menu. You can use the Control Ring to change ISO, aperture or shutter speed, for example, or even the AF method.

"The rings have different textures, so even when you're not looking at the lens you can tell whether you're touching the focus ring, the Control Ring or the zoom ring," says John. "It's a subtle piece of design, but it helps users to navigate their tools in an intuitive way. The last thing you want to do is change the focus when you want to change the aperture – especially if you're filming."

A top-down view of the Canon EOS R5, showing the various buttons and dials on the top.

Pressing the Multi-Function (M-Fn) button on the EOS R5 and then rotating the Quick Control dial provides a rapid way to adjust your frequently accessed camera settings, such as ISO, drive mode, AF operation and white balance. The settings available can be customised in the Custom Functions menu.

A man holds a Canon camera with lens attached, adjusting the mode dial with one hand.

Flexible Priority (Fv) is a customisable shooting mode on EOS R cameras. "It's all modes in one," says John. "Aperture, shutter speed and ISO can all be fully auto or you can set just one, two or all three parameters to manual. You have a 'get me out of here' option as well, which resets everything to auto at the press of a button. That's particularly good for events where you're having to work in very changeable situations."

Canon custom functions

The EOS R5 and EOS R6 Mark II include a second Quick Control dial, bringing the total number of dials to three (or four, counting the lens Control Ring). This can provide direct control over the aperture, shutter speed and ISO when shooting in Manual mode.

All of the dials can be further customised, as can the functions of most of the buttons on the camera. "The range of button assignments is more extensive than it is on an EOS DSLR," confirms John. "This has been driven by an understanding of the way that people want to use their cameras now. Users want to change things according to the way they work, both for stills and video." If you want to use the EOS R6 for vlogging, for example, then you can assign movie recording to the depth of field button, which allows you to start shooting video while you're looking down the lens.

In addition to the familiar EOS feature set, Canon has debuted innovative new control methods in the EOS R System. The original EOS R introduced the Multi-function touch bar, for example, which offers a silent way to change settings and can be customised for a number of commonly used functions, such as ISO or white balance. It's also possible to fine-tune the function so that swiping the bar or tapping each end of it will perform a different operation.

"Since then," John adds, "we have also introduced the touch-sensitive smart controller on the EOS R3 as well as the EOS-1D X Mark III, which combines AF-ON and AF point selection. And on the EOS R3 we've also got the cutting-edge Eye Control AF. So we have introduced these new aspects of ergonomics across the EOS R System, all of which are designed to make the cameras and lenses even easier to interact with."

Whatever subject you're shooting, and whatever way you like to work, the handling and adaptability of Canon EOS R System cameras, developed and refined through decades of EOS design experience and understanding of users, help make them the ideal tools for visual storytelling.

A person taps an option on the rear screen of a Canon camera showing the button customisation screen.

EOS R System cameras and RF lenses offer an extensive level of button and dial customisation options. "We now offer more control over what an individual button can do than ever before," says John. When setting up a Custom Shooting Mode, you can choose to enable Auto update set, which will update your custom shooting mode as you make changes to the camera settings, or leave it set to Disable to retain your original settings.

Tips for customising your EOS R System camera

Whether you want to switch from stills to video, move between different environments or try an alternative creative style, you can customise an EOS R System camera to fit the way you like to work.

Custom Functions

The Custom Functions menu provides a wealth of options for customising the buttons, dials and other parameters of the camera. "Don't change everything at once," suggests John. "See how the camera behaves differently given one setting change." Although you can clear Custom Functions individually, you can also reset them all using Clear all Custom Func (C.Fn). This won't clear the customised buttons and dials, though – to do that, select Clear customised settings.

Canon My Menu shortcuts

The My Menu tab enables you to create a shortcut to the menu items and Custom Functions that you frequently adjust. It's possible to curate up to five My Menu tabs via Add My Menu tab. Usefully, you can rename the tab under Configure and by selecting Menu display you can set the menu screen that appears first when the MENU button is pressed. "I've created my own 'Ilvy menu'," says Ilvy Njiokiktjien, who explains that for her as a documentary photographer, being able to work quickly is vital to capture the moment. "All the things that I use often are in that menu."

Custom Shooting modes

Selected EOS R System cameras have three Custom Shooting modes that allow you to save a snapshot of your current camera setup, which can then be recalled via C1, C2 or C3. In recent models, you can create separate Custom Shooting modes for when the camera is set to stills or video, giving you six different options in total. "You can set your camera to follow your way of thinking, which makes the process run smoothly," says portrait specialist Guia Besana. "It's like a best friend to me!"

Save settings to SD cards

If you work with two EOS R5 or EOS R3 cameras, then you can transfer your customised camera presets from one body to the other using an SD card. "If you have to send your camera in to be serviced, say, or you need to rent an extra camera for a job, then it's really convenient to be able to save all your settings on a card and load them into another camera," says action sports photographer Martin Bissig.

Marcus Hawkins and Alex Summersby

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