Canon's EOS R100 Is the Mirrorless Camera for Most People

And it's cheap enough to tempt you away from your phone camera

  • At $480, Canon's R100 is hard not to buy. 
  • Canon has a habit of dropping excellent, affordable cameras that really hit the spot.
  • Going up against smartphone cameras is not an easy fight. 
canon eos r100 front view without lens


Canon's new R100 is so cheap and so good that it might tempt people away from their phone cameras. 

The R100 is a mirrorless camera that uses interchangeable lenses and is small enough to carry everywhere. It's very basic but has everything you need to improve on your smartphone's pictures. But the killer feature is the price. The R100 costs just $480 for the body, and you can buy whichever lenses you like, including the new super-compact $300 RF28mm f/2.8 'pancake' lens. It looks like a winner, but can it tempt you away from using your smartphone for photography?

"The R100 has some significant features despite its low cost, such as a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor, a decent 2.36 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder, and Dual Pixel AF with face and eye detection, which can be really useful for portraiture or tracking moving subjects," photographer Kelsey Smith told Lifewire via email. "For budding photographers looking to step up from smartphone photography or those wanting a more serious secondary camera, the EOS R100 could be a suitable choice." 

The Art of What to Leave Out

Canon has a history of making excellent, cheap, popular cameras. Whenever a major shift happens in the camera world—autofocus SLRs, digital SLRs, and now SLR-shaped mirrorless cameras—Canon drops a model that is at once the perfect distillation of that new paradigm and also so much cheaper that nearly everyone buys one. 

For example, the EOS 1000 (1990) and EOS 500 (1996) were both amazingly capable for their price and very popular at the time (I owned the latter and loved it). Then, in 2003, it did the same with the EOS 300D, aka Digital Rebel, the first DSLR available for under $1000. 

And now it's the R100, which demonstrates Canon's recipe for successful cheap cameras: it knows exactly what to leave out. Even if we ignore the arbitrary disabling of features in software just to help better differentiate products in a lineup, a cheap camera will never do everything the top-of-the-line models manage. They usually have tougher bodies, more and better components, and are harder to build: the weather-sealing in pro-level cameras requires tight manufacturing tolerances, for example. 

So, once you know you'll have to leave stuff out, you have to choose what stays and what goes. In this case, Canon has saved most of the costs by using a super-basic rear screen. It's fixed, so it doesn't articulate in any direction, nor is it a touch screen. The viewfinder, too, is basic, with a 2.36 million dot display, which is good enough. Video recording is likewise basic, but then, you have your phone for that. 

canon eos r100 rear view with screen


But what you do get is a sturdy metal—not plastic—lens mount, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for phone integration, a 24.2-megapixel sensor that goes up to ISO 25,600, and lots of modern autofocus features, like face detection. In short, this is not a camera for enthusiasts who know what they want. It's an excellent entry-level mirrorless camera to tempt people away from their phones. 

Saving big on that screen was a genius move because photos from this camera, I would argue, are mostly going to end up on your phone anyway.

Winning Against Smartphone Photography

It's hard to beat the convenience of a phone camera. It's always in your pocket, the photos get location-tagged and saved in your photo library, and you can edit them and share them right there on the device. 

A camera is a tougher sell. It takes better pictures and is easier to use thanks to mechanical controls and not being a slippery slab of glass. But if all you're doing is sharing those pics on Instagram, then maybe the superior image quality doesn't matter.

Front view of the Canon EOS R100 with RF-S18 45 mm lens.


"The convenience of having a [smartphone] camera readily available at all times makes it difficult for many consumers to justify purchasing an additional device solely for photography purposes," Jacob Richard, founder of Camera Prism, told Lifewire via email. "On the other hand, dedicated cameras do offer several advantages over smartphones when it comes to quality and versatility. "

But for people who are sick of the iPhone's over-processed photos, this could be ideal. It has everything you need in a proper camera, including the one thing the iPhone will never have—those swappable lenses. And it does it at a price that's around half the cost of a new phone. 

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