Why the new Canon EOS R5 C doesn’t rule out a top-of-the-line Canon EOS R1.

If you missed the Canon EOS R5 C announcement, the short version is that the Canon EOS R5 now has a Cinema-focused sister in the form of a fan-cooled filmmaking powerhouse that eliminates any concerns about overheating. However, while the EOS R5 C is the closest Canon has come to a real hybrid camera, it isn’t a flagship, and its quirks leave a space for a true Sony A1 competitor.

This may seem like an unusual conclusion to draw in the wake of the introduction of such a strong full-frame camera. After all, does the world really need a flagship when the R5 twins are so well-matched? The EOS R5 is for hybrid photographers that tend toward photography, while the EOS R5 C is a great new choice for hybrid videographers who need a tiny body. The EOS R1’s place in this equation is obviously debatable.

However, the Canon EOS R5 C’s design, as well as persisting speculations regarding a Canon EOS R1, hint that the camera giant is saving room for one overarching hybrid flagship. The EOS R5 C is literally two existing cameras welded together, rather than merging two experiences – flip its dial to ‘photo’ mode, and you can’t even take video at all (and vice versa).

This method allows Canon to include the entire Cinema EOS experience in the camera, complete with all of the traditional menus, without interfering with the photographic UI. While this makes sense for the EOS R5 C’s target market (pro filmmakers), it also means the camera doesn’t provide a really seamless next-generation hybrid experience. And it’s there that the Canon EOS R1 will most certainly debut, along with other advances, in the not-too-distant future.

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One to rule them all

Although the Canon EOS R1 rumors have died down in recent months, the flagship camera is still scheduled to arrive in late 2022 or early 2023.

With the recent release of the Canon EOS R5 C and Canon EOS R3, it’s understandable that the camera giant isn’t in a rush. The EOS R5 and EOS R6 are the sweet spots for skilled amateur photographers, with the EOS R5 and EOS R6 covering the demands of pro video and still shooters.

However, Canon Rumors recently reported that the EOS R1 is “certainly being worked on now,” with the company attempting to gather “as much input as they can from the Canon EOS R3” ahead of a probable introduction in the final few months of 2022.

The existence of the Sony A1 and Nikon Z9 is the only reason why Canon has to contemplate an EOS R1 at all. Both of those cameras are, by a long by, the most powerful image-making devices that either manufacturer has ever produced. While none of Canon’s existing EOS R cameras are particularly weak, the company does not yet have a hybrid camera that can compete with the flagships.

Some might argue, and rightly so, that it isn’t necessary. When the Sony A1 was first released, we claimed that it proved that the ‘no compromise’ camera, like the idea of the ‘perfect’ automobile, is impossible to achieve. Every camera is a compromise in some manner, whether it’s in terms of price or usability, and the presence of the Canon EOS R5, EOS R5 C, and EOS R3 demonstrates that professionals still desire specialized equipment – but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of an EOS R1.

Stacked in its favor

So, what could the Canon EOS R1 bring to the table that isn’t already covered by Canon’s current models? Canon’s 1-series has always catered to professional sports and wildlife photographers, but the Canon EOS R3 now fills that role. So a flagship ‘all-rounder’ camera in the vein of Canon’s 5D series is the most likely scenario.

The Canon EOS R5 now serves in this capacity. However, the price disparity between the EOS R5 ($3,900 / £4,200 / AU$6,899) and the Sony A1 ($6,500 / £6,500 / AU$10,499) shows that there is still potential for a real Canon flagship with next-gen technology, such as a stacked sensor, that may help Canon reclaim the ‘innovation halo’ from Sony.

Mirrorless cameras have evolved dramatically with the introduction of full-frame stacked sensors with lightning-fast readout rates. 50MP versions, such as the Sony A1, can now shoot at 30 frames per second, making them genuine all-rounders. The Canon EOS R3 is the company’s sole camera with a full-frame stacked sensor so far, and the company has made it plain that the R3 isn’t a “flagship” camera.

That almost probably leaves room for a Canon EOS R1 – a gap that the Canon EOS R5 C, despite its outstanding hybrid capabilities, hasn’t filled. While the EOS R5 C belongs to Canon’s Cinema EOS series and combines two cameras, the EOS R1 will most likely be an EOS R hybrid camera to rule them all, with battery-related limitations in its high frame-rate settings.

Renewed focus

The Canon EOS R1 has been speculated to contain an 85MP sensor with a global shutter, a new Quad Pixel autofocus system, nine-stop in-body image stabilization, a 9.44MP electronic viewfinder, and even a new ‘donut’ design, which we found oddly appealing.

These specifications are most likely a wishlist rather than anything based on fact. More recently, Canon Rumors has claimed that a global shutter – which captures all of the information from a sensor’s photodiodes at the same time, rather than in a traditional ‘rolling’ fashion – is less likely for the EOS R1, with sensor readout speeds and processing power “negating the need for a global shutter.”

These processing innovations are similar to those seen in recent camera phones, and they might enable the Canon EOS R1 make some next-generation advancements. Could the alleged “quad pixels” for the new Quad Pixel AF system, for example, be used to allow the EOS R1 to have different resolution modes, such as 80MP for stills and 20MP for video?

Processing power might also offer Canon an edge in one of the most important battlegrounds for mirrorless cameras: focusing. A more adaptable version of the Eye Control AF seen in the EOS R3, as well as a really clever tracking AF system, would be extremely nice. Depending on your topic, you still have to go into the camera’s settings to choose ‘person,’ ‘animal,’ or’vehicle’ tracking. A camera will be able to do that for you soon – and that would be a great trick for a flagship EOS R1.

One direction

The Canon EOS R1 may still be a rumor, but the launch of the powerful-but-specialized Canon EOS R5 C hasn’t put an end to the rumors — if anything, its quirks provide room for a genuine hybrid flagship geared at well-heeled enthusiasts and pros.

After all, the mirrorless camera wars are as much about perception as they are about sensors, lenses, and camera bodies. While a specialty tool like the EOS R5 C is more practical for pros, having a single ‘halo’ flagship is one of the greatest ways to get the flashbulbs going in your direction and persuade floating voters that your system is the one to invest in.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, like the ground-breaking EOS 5D in 2005, was a big step forward for hybrid cameras when it was released in 2016. While the Canon EOS R5 C is shaping up to be an excellent tool for mobile filmmakers, integrating the worlds of its Cinema EOS and EOS R cameras, a real flagship hybrid remains quite plausible — the only issue is when, not if.

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