The Canon R3 has now been made accessible to the general public after being introduced to professionals at the Tokyo 2020 (2021) Olympics. Canon’s newest mirrorless camera is poised to become the most powerful all-around tool for working professionals in its class.
Despite the fact that it is not technically a replacement for, or even an equivalent to, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III (as it is a 3-series camera rather than a flagship 1-series camera), it technologically outperforms the 1D X III in virtually every department – and stakes a bold claim to being the best professional camera thanks to its 6K RAW video, blistering (and blackout-free) 30fps shooting, and its peerless image quality
Is the 24.1MP sensor in the Canon EOS R3 sufficient for professional-level photography in 2021, given the presence of cameras such as the 50.1MP stills / 8K video Sony A1 (and the Nikon Z9, which will also capture 8K video at a minimum of 39MP resolution and have a minimum of 39MP resolution)?
In terms of technology, there’s no denying that this is Canon’s quickest and most advanced camera to date, even outperforming the powerful Canon EOS R5 when it comes to video recording – not to mention record times and overheating, which are both issues while shooting video. Is it a clunker, or has Canon done something very brilliant by selecting a 24.1MP sensor and 6K resolution instead of 8K? Let’s have a look and see.
Check Out: Best Lenses for Canon R3
Canon R3: Key Features
The Canon EOS R3’s standout characteristics are nothing short of spectacular. Its stacked, back-side-illuminated 24.1MP sensor has extremely fast readout speeds, allowing it to capture photographs at up to 30 frames per second when using the electronic shutter (buffering 540 JPEGs or 150 RAWs), or 12 frames per second when using the mechanical shutter (buffering 540 JPEGs or 150 RAWs) (for over 1,000 JPEGs or 1,000 RAWs). Furthermore, the sensor’s speed nearly minimizes the effect of the rolling shutter.
It is really possible to slow down the shutter mechanism itself because the camera as a whole is extremely quick. Due to the R3’s extremely fast shutter lag of only 20ms, it is possible that your muscle memory from using previous cameras will cause you to push the shutter button prematurely – in which case you can increase the shutter lag up to 45ms to compensate.
If we’re talking about shutter speed, you can shoot at speeds as low as 1/64000 second to truly capture moments in time, and you can utilize flash in conjunction with the electronic shutter, which was previously unthinkable.
Because of the 24.1MP resolution, the sensor is capable of capturing 6K RAW footage at up to 60 frames per second, as well as oversampled 4K video at up to 60 frames per second. The camera also has the ability to shoot 10-bit 4K up to 120p (with even cleaner results than the 4K 120p captured by the EOS R5), as well as the Canon Log 3 profile, which is not available on the EOS R5.
Combined with the remarkable sensitivity of ISO100-102,400 (expandable to 50-204,800), the backside illuminated sensor design provides outstanding low light performance, with the autofocus capable of focusing down to -7.5EV in dim lighting conditions.
If you’re searching for a unique feature in terms of focusing, the R3’s Eye Control AF is it. This incredible feature allows the camera to identify where your eye is looking so that you can put a focus point by merely staring at your subject, which is quite remarkable.
On top of that, the camera is equipped with the same Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system that powers the Canon EOS R5 and Canon EOS R6, but with a brand new Deep Learning AF algorithm. This means that not only is autofocus performance improved, but it also adds a new subject detection capability beyond human eye AF and animal eye AF: vehicle AF.
Once again, similar to the EOS R5 and R6, the Canon EOS R3 has a strong in-body image stabilization technology that provides up to 8 stops of correction when used with specific Canon RF lenses (including professional and trinity lenses like as the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L).
Canon R3: Build & Handling
This is a professional DSLR-style body with an integrated vertical handle (which uses the same high-capacity battery as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III), and it has mirrored controls that are in the same location whether the camera is in portrait or landscape mode. However, despite the fact that it has the same amount of weather sealing as the flagship 1DX Mark III, the R3 differs from the rest of the EOS R series by having a fully articulating touchscreen.
However, the new 21-pin Multifunction Show (as well as a number of other Sony cameras) has a proviso in that it delivers both power and communication to devices that are placed on the camera. Thus, new accessories such as the Canon Stereo Microphone DM-E1D, which does not require an internal battery or other connections, may be utilized without the need for a separate power source or additional cables – and they can be managed directly from the camera’s menu system.
When utilizing current generation accessories with the R3, such as the Canon Speedlite EL-1 with the hotshoe, you will impair the R3’s weatherproofing capabilities, even if these new attachments will retail the weather sealing capabilities. You’ll need the new Hot-shoe Adapter AD-E1 if you want to keep your weather sealing while still using your current accessories.
In terms of weight and feel, the R3 is comparable to the 1D X III, albeit it will not be quite as durable due to the articulating screen. Even though it’s considerably lighter, it doesn’t seem bulky or heavy when moving between it and the R5 – and the vertical grip means that even the larger RF lenses, such as the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L, are extremely well balanced on the camera body.
The R3 adopts the memory card configuration from the R5, rather than the flagship DSLR, and includes one SD card slot and one CFexpress Type B slot, rather than the R5. In one way, this is similar to the R5, in that it eliminates the need to invest in the more expensive new card format – and ensures that you’ll never be without a replacement card. However, certain filming settings (such as 4K 120p) are not available when using an SD card, and buffering photos at 30 frames per second is not always a smooth experience.
The presence of the optical Smart Controller from the 1D X III is one of the camera’s greatest handling characteristics. A normal joystick moves AF points one at a time; the Smart Controller allows you to move them around the screen at the speed of your thumb – but not as quickly as your eye can move them around the screen.
The electronic viewfinder of the EOS R is significantly larger than on other EOS R cameras in order to accommodate the Eye Control AF. The EVF makes use of technology developed by Canon’s medical division to map and scan the human eye. It has eight low-powered infrared LEDs that scan the front of the eye and then project that information onto the sensor, allowing a point to be placed on the sensor. And it’s truly effective! (More on it in a moment.)
For a camera that is intended for sports and news photography, the R3’s starting time is extremely rapid, which is an important feature. Canon claims that the bootup time is under 0.4 seconds, and while our fingers weren’t fast enough to verify that claim, flicking the button causes the camera to turn on very instantly. The R3 is all about speed, just like the 30 frames per second shooting!
Canon R3: Performance
There is just one thing that can be stated about the Canon EOS R3: it is a high-quality camera that delivers. In comparison to shooting detail-rich portraiture with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, the increased resolution is immediately noticeable while maintaining the speed and manageable file sizes required for professional shooting (taking 30fps 50.1MP images with the Sony A1 is fine, but not very useful when you’re uploading hundreds of images to your picture desk or agency).
With the rock-solid Dual Pixel AF II, it doesn’t matter whether you’re tracking a basketball player or a dog fetching a ball (we haven’t yet had the opportunity to test it with cars); you get an almost flawless hit rate – and with a CFexpress card, you can shoot at 30 frames per second for well over 15 seconds before the buffer fills up with data.
There is one minor limitation here: while utilizing an SD card, the R3 could only accomplish 24 frames per second – but this was to be expected given the slow transfer rates of the old format. Also, keep in mind that battery life is important; when our battery was down to 50 percent, our burst rate decreased to 20 frames per second, so make sure you have additional batteries on hand if you’re going to shoot action.
What can we say about the Eye Control AF system other than wow? We were suspicious since we’d heard Canon tout comparable technology in the past; in fact, Eye Control AF was incorporated, albeit with different technology, with the R3’s forebear, the Canon EOS-3 SLR, which is the R3’s predecessor. The service was unreliable, if it functioned at all, and was particularly difficult to use if you were wearing spectacles.
The technology in the R3, on the other hand, left a lasting impression on us. What matters is the calibration; similar to an eye exam at the optician, you gaze into the viewfinder while looking at dots positioned at the topmost, bottommost, leftmost, and rightmost sections of the screen as the camera scans your eye.
For best results, Canon suggests that you repeat this method at least four times before shooting in a new environment for the next several months (since the detection will obviously change in a bright outdoor setting compared to a dark nighttime setting). And when you do this… amazing, once more.
This technology is not intended to be utilized with subjects that move quickly, such as birds. As a result, it serves as a sort of shortcut for the AF system. Consider the following scenario: you’re a photographer covering a star on the red carpet. Whenever a celebrity pauses with a group of followers to snap a selfie, the eye detects AF may leap to any given topic, requiring you to manually pick the AF point using the joystick or Smart Controller, depending on the situation.
Instead, Eye Control AF allows you to just gaze at the celebrity in question, and the focus point will be placed exactly where you are looking. Now, all you have to do is half-press the shutter button and the autofocus mechanism will kick in for flawless eye recognition because you’ve taught it where to look. While individual results may vary, in our opinion, this has the potential to be a game changer.
We’ll need a little more time to put the video through its paces, but so far the 6K and 4K footage has been really stunning, and it once again benefits from the smart AF detection that we’ve seen on the stills side of things. And, maybe most importantly, overheating is no longer a concern, as it was with the R5 and R6!
As a result of the R3’s bigger body and magnesium-alloy design, heat dissipation is significantly improved. Canon says that you can capture up to 6 hours of “normal video” and up to 1.5 hours of 120p video with this camera. So far, all we can tell is that we filmed in 4K 60p for more than an hour and fifteen minutes until the battery expired.
Canon R3: Specifications
|Body type||SLR-style mirrorless|
|Body material||Magnesium alloy|
|Max resolution||6000 x 4000|
|Image ratio w:h||1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9|
|Effective pixels||24 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||27 megapixels|
|Sensor size||Full frame (36 x 24 mm)|
|Sensor type||Stacked CMOS|
|Color space||sRGB, Adobe RGB|
|Color filter array||Primary color filter|
|ISO||Auto, 100-102400 (expands to 50-204800)|
|Boosted ISO (minimum)||50|
|Boosted ISO (maximum)||204800|
|White balance presets||6|
|Custom white balance||Yes|
|CIPA image stabilization rating||8 stop(s)|
|JPEG quality levels||Super fine, fine, normal|
|File format||JPEGHEIFRaw (Canon CR3, 14-bit)C-Raw (Canon original)|
|Optics & Focus|
|Autofocus||Contrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View|
|Autofocus assist lamp||Yes|
|Number of focus points||1053|
|Lens mount||Canon RF|
|Focal length multiplier||1×|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Articulated LCD||Fully articulated|
|Screen type||TFT LCD|
|Minimum shutter speed||30/11 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/8000 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed (electronic)||1/64000 sec|
|Exposure modes||Scene Intelligent AutoFlexible priorityProgramShutter priorityAperture priorityManualBulb|
|External flash||Yes (via hot shoe or flash sync port)|
|Flash X sync speed||1/250 sec|
|Drive modes||SingleHigh-speed continuous+High-speed continuousLow-speed continuousSelf-timer/remote control (10 or 2 sec)|
|Continuous drive||30.0 fps|
|Exposure compensation||±3 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)|
|AE Bracketing||±3 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)|
|Format||MPEG-4, H.264, H.265|
|Storage types||SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II supported) + CFexpress Type B|
|USB||USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 GBit/sec)|
|HDMI||Yes (Type A)|
|Wireless notes||802.11ac + Bluetooth|
|Remote control||Yes (via smartphone)|
|Battery description||LP-E19 lithium-ion battery & charger|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||760|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||1015 g (2.24 lb / 35.80 oz)|
|Dimensions||150 x 143 x 87 mm (5.91 x 5.63 x 3.43″)|
Canon R3: Verdict
However, after extensive shooting with the Canon EOS R3, we can confidently state that it should be the tool of choice for working professionals. We have yet to complete our full suite of lab tests, but after extensive shooting with the Canon EOS R3, we can confidently state that it should be the tool of choice for working professionals.
You will never miss a moment of action or detail with the blackout-free 30 frames per second stills and 6K RAW video, regardless of whether you are shooting sports, portraits, pets, or news. The improved autofocus performance, combined with ghostly good Eye Control AF, will ensure that every shot is focused exactly where you want it in any situation.
When it comes to memory, the option between CFexpress / SD cards is the one major flaw, as the slower speed of SD prevents things like 4K 120p from being shot and slows the 30 frames per second shooting down to 24 frames per second – and clearly does not play well with buffering.
Regarding the elephant in the room, the 24.1MP resolution appears to be ideal for the sports and news photographers who will be using this camera to document their work in the field. Certainly, 50.1MP is impressive, but if you’ve ever had to transmit hundreds of files to an FTP server, you’ll understand how inconveniently large those file sizes may be.
It does really shoot at 30 frames per second, and the Eye Control AF is uncannily good at recognizing and detecting targets. It also manages to capture 4K 60p video without overheating, which is a significant improvement over the R5.