Turks and Caicos with my new Canon EOS RP

It’s not often that I ever get around to actually writing a photography blog, but when I do it’s probably because we either went somewhere or did something amazing, or I got some new photog gear to write about. In this case it’s both, Turks and Caicos island with the new full-frame Canon EOS RP, dubbed the “World’s Best Mirrorless Camera” by independent (and infamous) photo blogger Ken Rockwell.

Turks and Caicos 2019

My workhorse camera over the past few years has been the “crop-frame” APS-C Canon 7D Mark II, along with a Fuji X100F for more casual photography, but I’ve been longing to get back to full-frame photography for quite some time. Crop-frame cameras are great, but they’re just not the same as full-frame. I won’t bore anyone in this blog with gear rationale, going from full-frame to APS-C and back, or from DSLR to mirrorless and blah blah blah, because then I’d never get to the actual photos or our Turks and Caicos vacation. So for now, simply enjoy some fantastic photos of a stunningly beautiful place along with some “pro-tips”, and I’ll get to the system building and transitioning stuff another day!

Getting Back to Island Time

Debbie and I in St Lucia in 2012, shot with my Canon 5D Mark II, 24-105L IS lens at 35mm, 1/50s, f/4.5, ISO 1600, natural light.

The last time we’d been to the islands was just Debbie and I to St Lucia in 2012. This was our first real getaway together after my cancer diagnosis and fight in 2011, and it was exactly what we needed, and another stunningly beautiful place. It’d been far too long, so we were all really looking forward to this as a larger group. Between hectic work and travel schedules and being pretty burned out, we uncharacteristically had zero advanced day-to-day itinerary planned as far as where to go and what to do. That’s pretty unusual for us, so I brought a bit more photo gear than usual and planned to just trim down as needed based on whatever we planned to do on a given day.

This right here was all I really needed. Luckily I’m already pretty much set for lenses, as I used to shoot full-frame with the Canon 5D Mark II from 2010 to 2015, until I switched over to the crop-frame 7D Mark II. My Canon 17-40mm f/4L ultra-wide zoom and Canon 70-200mm f/4L (non-IS) telephoto zoom covered 90% of the photos on this trip, with the little Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens able to cover the rest, along with a compact Canon 220EX flash as needed. All this fits perfectly in my ThinkTank Retrospective 5 bag, doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, and isn’t so heavy that you’ll tire of carrying everything. I’ve always liked high-performance yet lightweight photography setups not just because heavy gear isn’t any fun to carry, but because for years after my cancer fight I suffered from chronic fatigue issues, and physically couldn’t carry that much without it wearing me out! This setup right here was no problem at all to carry, and delivered extremely pleasing results!

The new full-frame Canon EOS RP with the EF to RF adapter, Canon grip, and then the Canon 17-40mm f/4L, 70-200mm f/4L non-IS, 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens, and then an old used Canon 220EX flash, all of which fit nicely into a ThinkTank Retrospective 5 bag.

Turks and Caicos actually consists of 8 main islands, but because of numerous family members being prone to motion sickness, we elected to stay only on Providenciales (Provo), and didn’t do any half or full day excursions via either boat or air to the other islands. Maybe another time, but there’s plenty to do in Provo!

Long Bay Beach

After some initial recovery and dinner the first night with a friend who happened to be in Turks and Caicos at the same time, our first order of business was to hit the beach, obviously! We slept in the first full day, but for some reason Debbie was thinking that it was “too hot” to go out on the beach after lunch when we finally came to and needed to wait. Nonsense! It was only in the low-80’s, and there was a nice breeze which made it feel just about perfect.

Canon EOS RP with the 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 20mm and f/5.6. See the natural vignetting? I love that! It adds another dimension to your photos that’s totally lacking without post-processing on crop frame cameras, and this is half the reason I wanted to get back into full frame photography again. Just stop down to f/8, or turn on the in-camera vignetting correction, and it goes away.

Long Bay Beach was spectacular! We’d never been to a beach where the water was crystal clear like this and seemingly went on for miles off shore. We saw people easily a mile offshore standing in this same water, and this is actually one of the premier kite sailing places in the world with tons of open space and water just 2-3 feet deep. It was spectacular. St Lucia further to the south and east in the Caribbean was stunningly beautiful in its own ways, but if there’s one thing not to like about St Lucia it was that it just doesn’t have nice beaches like these as a volcanic island.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 19mm and f/8, Landscape Picture Style +2 saturation, Vignetting Correction OFF.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L, Shutter Priority, 1/500s, 200mm and f/4.5, "Auto” Picture Style and +1 or +2 saturation.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L, Aperture Priority, 78mm and f/8, 1/400s. This is another reason I wanted to get back to full-frame, because 70mm ends up being too long most of the time on a crop frame, whereas the 70-200 range is “just right” on a full-frame.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L, Shutter Priority, 1/1000s, 149mm and f/5.6. Long Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos is one of the premier kite surfing places in the world due to the length of the beach, and miles of water that’s only 2-3 feet deep. I would have loved to try, but I have hernia issues both from being a big and tall dude, and from cancer surgeries. My body doesn’t need to take a rough fall, so I’ll just watch and take photos!

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L, Aperture Priority, 81mm and f/8. This beach goes on for miles, and the 2-3 feet water goes offshore for miles. Amazing.

Selfie, Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Shutter Priority, 28mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, and Full Auto AF, no flash.

Sunset Dining at magnolia restaurant and wine bar

For dinner after our first full day on Turks and Caicos, we went to the Magnolia restaurant for dinner since it had a nice sunset view off of their deck. The food was excellent, but check the full photo album for those. The view was great, especially right at sunset.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 22mm, 1/60s, f/11, and Canon 220EX flash ON.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L, Aperture Priority, 200mm and f/8, 1/250s, Auto ISO 125. My 70-200mm lens isn’t stabilized, so I have to keep the shutter speed up as the light fades. The Auto ISO takes care of this for you.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L, Aperture Priority, 70mm and f/22, 1/80s, Auto ISO 200. You don’t really get much of a sunstar effect by going to a tiny aperture with the 70-200mm lens, but you can get a little bit of it.

Canon EOS RP and 35mm f/1.4L, Aperture Priority at f/2.8. I was taking some dinner portraits with the 35L (in the album) and took this landscape photo with it also. The 40mm f/2.8 pancake would have done about as well. Going to full aperture on the lens definitely helped yank other dinner parties out of focus better, but I could have left the lens home and just used the 40mm. I’m planning to get the Canon RF mount 35mm f/1.8 macro lens, which will serve my travel purposes better than both, since it can focus more closely for the all important food photos, and its also stabilized. :)

Sunrise at Long Bay Beach

I couldn’t be out on the islands with a brand new camera and not get up early for some sunrise photos, so I got up at 5:45am twice and wasn’t disappointed. Long Bay Beach was just a 5 minute drive from our AirBnB and on the proper side of the island, so very easy to get to.

6:04am: Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 19mm, f/5.6, 1/60s, and ISO 3200. No big deal that my old 17-40L isn’t stabilized or that I didn’t break out my tripod, because ISO 3200 still looks great. You can hardly even tell you’re not at base ISO, the colors still look great, and there’s plenty of dynamic range.

6:28am: Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 20mm, f/4, hand cranked ISO to 400 to get 1/1250s. The winds were at 20-25 knots, so I wanted to keep the shutter speed fast to help freeze the palm trees.

6:34am: Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L, Aperture Priority, 70mm and f/4, 1/800s, ISO 100.

6:41am: Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 22mm, f/4, and 1/1250s, ISO 100, again to freeze the palm tree branches, otherwise they would have been a blurry mess from the wind.

It would have been fun to have my Canon 100-400L II lens for both the sunrise and sunset photos, but it’s absolutely no fun to lug that beastly lens around on vacation when you’re just trying to relax and unwind. In comparison, the 70-200mm f/4L is a faction of the size and weight, and absolutely painless to carry around, so that’s what I went with. If I want tighter crops on any of the telephoto shots, 26MP on the sensor is plenty to work with in the vast majority of cases, so I didn’t miss my 400mm for this.

Grace Bay at Seven Star Resort

Since we rented an AirBnB type place for all six of us, which was way cheaper than a trio of hotel rooms, we didn’t have access to any amenities at any of the resort areas, but you can get day passes at area resorts when space is available that give you access to everything a regular resort guess would have except a room. These tend to be pricey, but at $100 per adult and $50 per child, the Seven Star Resort day pass in Grace Bay was pretty reasonable by Turks and Caicos standards.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 19mm and f/4, 1/1600s, ISO 100. I intentionally shot this wide-open at f/4 to get the vignetting, but probably overdid it a bit. Another photo I took at f/8 looked too flat and boring, so about f/5.6 probably would have been ideal.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L, Aperture Priority, 84mm and f/8, 1/400s, ISO 100.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 40mm and f/8, 1/500s, ISO 100.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 21mm, f/11, 1/640s, and ISO 400. The idea here with these beach foam photos is to get low, wide, and close. Since you want the foam from the waves to be in focus, but also hopefully what’s on the horizon, you need to be shooting at a small aperture for maximum depth of field, f/11 or f/16. But since the wave is moving, you also need to be shooting with a faster shutter speed, 1/500s or faster. That means cranking up the ISO a bit off of base even in broad daylight, in this case ISO 400.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 22mm, f/16, 1/80s, and ISO 100, Canon 220EX flash on. I stopped down to f/16 here because it was super bright out, and didn’t want to risk an overexposed photo with the limited 1/180s flash sync speed of this camera. Looks like f/11 still would have been okay. Notice how the shadows on our faces aren’t so bad? That’s because of the fill flash! :)

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 38mm and f/11, 1/500s, ISO 400. This was actually an action shot because of the 20-25 mph winds, so needed to use a fast shutter speed and bump the ISO a bit.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L, Aperture Priority, 20mm, f/8, 1/400s, and ISO 100.

Chalk Sound

I saw Chalk Sound from out the window of our Southwest flight on the way in to Providenciales and didn’t even know what it was, but thought it looked fantastic. It’s a large lagoon that’s mostly less than 5 feet deep that has this beautiful turquoise color to it, so a drive through Chalk Sound Drive was definitely in order. Let’s just say that land development in Turks and Caicos isn’t always coordinated. Private luxury homes and a lack of official look out points make it difficult to see, but it’s worth it for sure. I know I’ve seen the view in the first two photos below in some magazine before.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 33mm and f/8, 1/320s, ISO 100.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L at 200mm and f/8, 1/320s, ISO 100.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 21mm, f/13, 1/160s, ISO 100.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L at 70mm and f/8, 1/320s, ISO 100. I love that the 70-200mm lenses are just wide enough on a full frame camera to get nice short telephoto landscapes like these. 70mm is way too long on a crop frame camera, which makes this lens more difficult to use.

Canon EOS RP at 17-40L at 29mm and f/8, 1/640s, ISO 100.

Sunset at Leeward Beach

After taking in Chalk Sound and a failed attempt to find out how to get to Taylor Bay Beach, we had lunch and then took naps, and went over to Leeward Beach, which has a nice view towards the west to take in the sunset.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 25mm and f/8, 1/250s, ISO 100.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 40mm, f/14, 1/180s, Canon 220EX flash on, Lightened with Nik Color Efex Pro 4. This was a tricky photo to pull off, and I should have been in full manual exposure mode, and should have had the flash set manually to go full power each time. Chalk it up to being a newbie with the camera though, I didn’t know how or where to set it. This would have been easier with my full-sized 580EX flash, which you can set to full power manually right on the flash itself rather than fiddling around in menus. Either way, I really love how this photo turned out!

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 28mm, f/11, 1/125s, and ISO 100, Canon 220EX flash on.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L at 81mm, f/8, 1/3200s and ISO 100.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 24mm, f/8, 1/400s, and ISO 100.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L at 200mm and f/6.3, 1/320s, ISO 200, cropped to about 350mm equivalent or so. Even with only a 200mm lens, there’s still more than enough resolution to crop pretty heavily if needed and get a nice sized print.

Taylor Bay Beach

Taylor Bay beach is pristine, and when you finally find your way to it you almost feel like you’re on some deserted island beach in the south Pacific somewhere. It just feels special, which is probably why the locals try so hard to keep the general public and commoners like us out of it. While all beaches are public in Turks and Caicos, the wealthy homeowners in this area have blocked off all of the land access, have signs threatening to tow cars away, and have blocked paths down to the beach. Google satellite view helped us find our way down, and once we were there it was spectacular.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 26mm, f/11, 1/160s, Canon 220EX flash on.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 24mm, f/16, 1/160s, ISO 100, and Canon 220EX flash on, lightened in the center a bit more with Nik Color Efex Pro 4. This is where cameras with faster flash sync speeds come in very handy, like my Fuji X100F (or old Nikon D40), as being able to use a faster shutter speed allows you to proportionally capture more of the flash lighting and less of the ambient light, which makes your flash more powerful. Only 1/180s flash sync speed isn’t the best, but most cameras these days aren’t much different. My 220EX flash just barely got the job done.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 21mm and f/8, 1/400s, ISO 100.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L at 200mm and f/8, 1/500s, ISO 100. These people don’t want us on “their” beach, but it’s not technically their beach anyways! :)

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L at 70mm and f/8, 1/500s, ISO 100. Again, here’s where a full-frame camera can make full use of the 70mm wide end of the 70-200mm lenses. This would have been way too long on a crop frame camera.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 27mm, f/11, 1/180s, and ISO 100, Canon 220EX flash on, and some additional fill lighting added in Nik Color Efex 4 Pro. Why not just skip the flash and just do the fill lighting all in post? Because the closer you get it straight out of the camera, the better and more natural it will look in the end, and with less noise.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 24mm and f/5.6, 1/500s, and ISO 100. Again, I love the vignetting with full-frame. Way too many times I’ve taken a photo like this on crop frame and it just looks flat and boring, and then I have to waste time adding some sort of vignette in back in post, that never seems to look quite as good or as natural as you can get right from the camera with a full-frame camera! This looks perfect to me. Had to use a slightly quicker shutter speed to freeze the motion of the palm tree branches in the wind.

Canon EOS RP and 70-200mm f/4L at 140mm and f/8, 1/500s, ISO 100.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 23mm and f/11, 1/640s, and ISO 200. This is another low, wide, close and fast beach foam style photo.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 19mm and f/8, 1/640s, ISO 100. This is one of several massive piles of limestone that the locals probably piled in to stop people from getting down to Taylor Beach. Granted, there’s no “parking area” down there and not safe except for off-road vehicles, but the locals clearly don’t want tourists and other people on “their” beach. Tough. If you see these, you’re on the right track for Taylor Bay Beach. Hot tip. Use Google Maps Satellite view and it’s very easy to find these unmarked paths to get down to the beach. :)

Dinner at Coco Bistro

For our last night in Turks and Caicos, Debbie and I went on a “date night” to Coco Bistro while her sister watched our kids for us (they really don’t need much watching anymore). I don’t think anybody goes to Turks and Caicos for the food, but there’s actually some pretty good places to eat on Provo, even if prices are pretty high. This was one advantage of renting an AirBnB place, because it had a full kitchen that let us do some cooking and our own meal prep, so we really only ate out once per day.

Canon EOS RP and 17-40L at 19mm, 1/60s, f/4, and ISO 10,000. As this is a brand new full-frame camera, high ISO photos look great of course! The color and range still looks great at ISO 10,000.

40mm f/2.8 pancake lens at f/2.8

40mm f/2.8 pancake lens at f/2.8

Canon EOS RP with 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens at f/8, 1/160s, ISO 2000. Unlike the 24mm pancake lens that I was used to on crop frame, the 40mm variant for full-frame doesn’t focus nearly closely enough for good detailed food photos. It will focus on a full plate, but not on individual pieces. Pro tip: switch the camera into 1.6x crop mode, and it’s about as good. Sure, you only have 10MP vs 26MP, but are you really going to print food photos three feet wide? If not, then this is still more than good enough. I’ll probably buy the native RF mount 35mm f/1.8 macro lens anyways.

Canon EOS RP with 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens at f/8, 1/160s, ISO 2500.

Canon EOS RP with 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens at f/8, 1/100s, ISO 12,800, iPhone flashlight lighting. Another pro tip. Using continuous lighting from your phone in flashlight mode is usually enough light to get nice food photos in dark restaurants. Some flashes can’t dial down enough at close range like this, and it’s also less disturbing to other dinner guests.

Canon EOS RP with 17-40L at 24mm and f/4, 1/60s, ISO 1000, Canon 220EX flash.

And that’s a wrap! Be sure to check out the FULL ALBUM below.

capsule Review of the Canon EOS RP

I love it! It’s a brilliant camera, and I love shooting full frame again. The ranges of all of my full-frame lenses make perfect sense again and I get to experience them in all of their glory. I love the look of a full-frame camera with the older generation of lenses developed in the film era.

My full travel kit for Turks and Caicos with the addition of the 24-105L IS and 35L lenses, all packed into my larger ThinkTank Spectral 10 bag.

When I first got the RP with the free introductory Canon promo EG-E1 grip I couldn’t believe how tiny it was, but after shooting with it for a month now I can’t believe what a massive brick my 7D Mark II feels like! The tiny LP-E17 battery and battery life in general was a big concern for me, but I managed all day battery life while out and about by keeping the rear LCD turned around and closed, and just using the EVF, which is actually better battery life than my 7D Mark II with the bigger LP-E6N.

I love being able to get the exposure and color exactly the way I want it in the EVF, and being able to review accurately and instantly even in bright conditions, something that’s nearly impossible with a DSLR. I don’t have much if any time to sit and post-process images, so being able to get things exactly right much more consistently right in the EVF as I’m shooting is a huge plus.

I’m definitely missing the joystick controller for driving AF points, which I’m used to from both my previous 5D Mark II and 7D Mark II cameras for the past 10 years. I’m having trouble developing the muscle memory for the RP method of using the top and rear control wheels to drive the AF sensors, but I’ll get it with time. The autofocus definitely isn’t good enough to keep up with our dog and other fast action type situations, so I’ll probably be holding onto my 7D Mark II for situations that require better autofocus performance and faster frame rates.

I’ll write more in the future about the RP and slowly rebuilding my Canon system around it, but for now I’m just happy to have a full-frame camera again. The Canon EOS RP is fantastic!