Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon EOS R3
Resolution: 24.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(36.0mm x 24.0mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 102,400
Extended ISO: 50 - 204,800
Shutter: 1/8000 - 30 sec
Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.6 x 3.4 in.
(150 x 143 x 87 mm)
Weight: 35.8 oz (1,015 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $5,999
Availability: 11/2021
Manufacturer: Canon
Full specs: Canon R3 specifications

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24.10
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Canon EOS R3 Preview -- Now Shooting!

by William Brawley
Originally posted: 04/14/2021
Updated: 02/17/2022

Updates:
06/02/2021: Additional product details and images added
09/14/2021: Full product details and specs announced; Preview updated
11/24/2021: First Shots added

01/21/2022: Gallery Images added
02/17/2022: Hands-on Review added

 

Canon EOS R3 Hands-on Review

Canon's souped-up full-frame mirrorless delivers excellent usability, image quality and performance

by William Brawley | Posted 02/17/2022

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/1000s, ISO 800

At long last, I'm getting some proper hands-on time with Canon's latest and greatest full-frame mirrorless camera, the much-hyped EOS R3. Featuring a 1D-like exterior, an all-new imagine pipeline and incredible performance specs, the Canon EOS R3 is, without a doubt, Canon's most high-end, highest-performance EOS R-series mirrorless camera to date.

At first glance, the Canon R3 appears to be a camera that goes head-to-head against the likes of the Nikon Z9 and Sony A1, and in some cases, that's true. All three of these full-frame mirrorless cameras offer blazingly-fast performance specs, such as 20-30 frames per second burst rates, super-fast AF speeds with sophisticated subject-detection and tracking features, and advanced, high-resolution video recording options. We also can't forget price. All three cameras are quite expensive, in the $5000-6000 range -- well beyond mere "enthusiast camera" territory. All three models are clearly designed for professional creators.

However, there are some, albeit not many, differences that make the EOS R3 a slightly different camera than the Z9 or A1. The most notable is the sensor resolution. The EOS R3 features a 24-megapixel sensor, whereas the Z9 and the A1 both have much higher-resolution imagers, 45MP and 50MP, respectively. The combination of high-resolution image and high-speed performance make the Z9 and A1 arguably more versatile cameras than the R3 -- particularly for subjects like landscapes and wildlife.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/1600s, ISO 1250
(JPEG, cropped)

However, Canon has tailored this R3 camera to a smaller sub-set of professionals, particularly sports photographers and photojournalists, who often do not need incredibly high-resolution images. Speed and nimble file management are higher priorities. Additionally, Canon has been careful not to consider the R3 a "flagship" camera, unlike how Nikon and Sony position both of their two top-of-the-line models. Despite the 1D-like body design and flagship-like price tag, the R3 still isn't the king of the hill for the EOS family -- at least in Canon's eyes. My money's on seeing an "R1" model make its debut sometime in the near future, which will like more closely compete with the likes of the Z9 and A1.

Comparisons aside, the Canon EOS R3 itself is designed to be an incredible workhorse of a camera, offering rugged and dependable build quality, outstanding performance and excellent image quality.

In this hands-on review, I'll explore the camera's design and handling characteristics as well as its image quality, autofocusing and performance more from the perspective of a still photographer. The R3 is, of course, also packed with amazing video features; however, that discussion will come in a follow-up hands-on review.

For now, let's grab a couple of lenses and head out into the field with the R3...

Canon EOS R3 Key Features & Specs

  • Canon-developed, full-frame 24.1MP stacked BSI CMOS sensor
  • DIGIC X Image Processor
  • ISO range of 100-102400 (Expandable: Low ISO 50 to High ISO 204800)
  • Up to 30fps burst shooting with electronic shutter
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Deep Learning-based eye- and body-detection AF
  • Subject-detection AF now includes Vehicles (cars and motorcycles)
  • IBIS up to 8 stops
  • 6K 60p RAW video, 4K 120p 10-bit with Canon Log 3
  • New body design with integrated vertical grip
  • 1D X-level weather-sealing
  • New 5.76M-dot OLED EVF with "Eye Control AF"
  • Fully articulated touchscreen LCD
  • Dual card slots (1 CFExpress Type B, 1 UHS-II SD)
  • 1015g (2.2lbs.) with battery
  • MSRP $5999 USD body-only

Design & Handling: Canon's largest R-series model is both comfortable yet surprisingly lightweight

Words such as "big," "heavy" and "built like a tank" are all ones that usually apply to Canon's premier gripped EOS 1D-series cameras. These top-of-the-line models are professional workhorse cameras and are essentially built without an over-arching priority to cut down on weight or size. They need to take a beating and also feel comfortable and balanced with long, heavy lenses.

Now, as the camera world is going full-steam into mirrorless, one of the benefits (arguably) is that camera bodies can now be much smaller and lighter than a classic DSLR camera. This helps a lot in terms of portability and general comfort when carrying a camera around for long periods of time. However, the drawbacks to smaller, lighter camera bodies can be worse balance with larger lenses as well as cramped controls or fewer buttons and dials -- which many advanced users come to expect and appreciate.

However, the Canon R3 has managed to not only be a pleasingly large camera -- one with ample handgrips and lots of physical controls and dials -- but also a camera that is surprisingly lightweight despite its large overall shape. In the initial press briefing on the camera, Canon mentioned that we would be amazed at how lightweight the camera, and the R3 lives up that promise.

Now, is the EOS R3 a "lightweight" camera? Well, not necessarily, no. It's still a fairly large camera, as is typical with dual-gripped cameras. That said, it's quite a bit smaller and definitely lighter than a 1D X Mark III, weighing in about 1015g (2.2 lbs) compared to the 1D X III's 1440g (3.2 lbs). The R3 shaves off a few millimeters in both height and width compared to the 1D X III, as well, but overall the R3 is still a rather large camera.

When it comes to handling characteristics itself, the EOS R3 has an incredibly comfortable design -- something I've always appreciated with Canon EOS cameras. The primary grip on the R3 has excellent ergonomic contouring, and the camera fits into my medium-sized hand perfectly. The addition of the built-in vertical grip has the added benefit of making the horizontal grip larger and easier to hold. It also provides a handy little "corner" for your pinkie finger, adding some nice additional security. Though it wasn't my experience with smaller EOS cameras, such as the R5, but with many smaller-sized mirrorless cameras, I often find myself sliding my pinky finger under the camera due to the shorter, smaller grip. The gripped design of the EOS R3 eliminates that often awkward hold on the camera. Furthermore, the large handgrip on the R3 combined with a subtle but effective thumb grip on the back and a new golfball-like dimple pattern on the exterior grippy coating of the body makes the Canon R3 extremely secure-feeling and comfortable to hold.

It should also go without saying, but the larger-sized camera body and bigger grip provide a nice, balanced hold when using larger lenses, such as the RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L lens I often used. The R3 plus this telephoto zoom setup was altogether surprisingly lightweight to carry around and use for extended periods. It's not a feather-weight setup by any means, with the rig weighing a bit under six pounds (2.7kg), but I was pleased with how easy it was to carry and use handheld, nonetheless.

I mentioned the contouring of the primary grip on the R3, which is fantastic. However, the vertical grip does not share the same comfortable ergonomics. Given that vertical shooting is likely a less-common shooting orientation, the vertical grip having a more basic design isn't that unexpected. It's a similar experience on 1D-series cameras. Nonetheless, the vertical grip has the same golfball textured rubbery material for an easy hold (and smooth, rounded surface), as well as several duplicate controls and buttons that you'd expect on this style of camera.

Regarding buttons and dials, the EOS R3, as one would expect, provides ample physical controls, much like its 1D-series bigger brother. Not only are buttons and dials plentiful, but they are also nicely spaced out and a bit larger overall than those on smaller EOS R-series cameras like the R5. Notably, the rear control dial around the SET button is much larger than the one on the R5, as are the AF-ON buttons. Essentially almost all other buttons are slightly larger than those on the R5. The R3's buttons also have a bit more travel, which I find makes them a bit easier to operate just by touch or if you need to wear gloves.

When I reviewed the EOS R5, one thing I noted that I missed was the top-deck series of buttons for essential shooting settings, such as ISO, white balance, Drive/AF modes that you usually see on most of Canon's EOS DSLRs. The R3 being larger, I had hoped to see these same buttons reappear, but alas, that is not the case, for the most part. Canon has however added a dedicated exposure compensation button right on the top behind the top command dial, which is nice. Instead, much like on the R5, the EOS R3, by default, gives you immediate access to all three major exposure adjustments -- ISO, shutter speed and aperture -- on each of the three control dials. You can obviously customize the functions assigned to these dials, but it's a convenient setup just straight out of the box. I'm not used to having immediate access on a control dial for ISO -- usually that requires at least one button press of some sort and then you adjust it -- but it does speed things up.

Now, unlike on the smaller R5, the R3 does include similar 1D-series-style settings buttons to the left of the viewfinder. The R3 has a shortcut button for DRIVE and AF modes, and one for Metering mode and Flash Exposure Compensation. And similar to the 1D-series, you can press both of these buttons together to access yet another setting: Auto Exposure Bracketing. These buttons and their functionality should be very familiar for those used to the 1D-series cameras. However, you can also access many of these settings, such as Drive mode and AF mode via the touchscreen Quick Menu (or via the Q button). The R3 offers variety.

One thing that is different from the 1D-series is the Mode selection control. The R3 shares the same "Mode Button" design as on the R5 and the original EOS R model rather than a typical "PASM" dial or, like on the 1D-series, a simple Mode button on the left side of the viewfinder. In some ways, this R-series style Mode Dial design is nice in that it's more challenging to accidentally change your shooting mode (though a locking PASM dial can solve that problem). Still, it's hard not to like the tactile and instantaneous mode changing that a PASM dial offers. One thing that the R3 does a bit differently than the R5 is that the R3 has a physical toggle switch to go between Photo mode and Video mode. I highly prefer this control design. On the EOS R5 and R, you had to first press the Mode Button then the Info button to toggle back and forth between photo and video modes, which felt cumbersome. Here, the R3 takes after the 1DX III and other EOS DSLRs, like the 5D Mark IV, and gives you a physical toggle switch -- and a conveniently-located video record button.

Lastly, I want to touch on the LCD and the EVF. For starters, the rear LCD design is clearly different from that of Canon's 1D-series camera in that it's an articulating LCD rather than the solid, fixed LCD screen of their flagship DSLRs. In this day and age, having a mirrorless camera without an articulating screen of some fashion, in my mind, would be quite out of place. And especially so on a camera such as the R3 with its focus on both stills and high-resolution video. The argument for a fixed rear screen, such as that of the 1D-series, is one of durability. It's one fewer movable component that could break. For a camera like the 1D X III that's designed to take a beating, it makes some sense, at the cost of some user-friendliness. That said, I think most R3 users will appreciate the articulating screen, especially if they record a lot of video.

The Canon R3 + RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS lens (Big thanks for Lensrentals for sending us the lens!)

Personally, and I've said this many times before, I'd prefer a simpler, up-down tilting rear display over a full-articulating one, much like Sony did with the Alpha 1. When shooting from a low angle, I prefer the tilted screen to be in line with the lens. However, I understand the usability improvements of an articulating screen -- especially front-facing capabilities -- when it comes to video recording. Plus, the R3's screen does make it easier to shoot down low in a vertical orientation, which is pretty handy.

In the field, the LCD proved to be reliable and sharp. The screen is the same overall size as the one in the EOS R5, a 3.2-inch touchscreen, but the panel's resolution has been nearly doubled, offering 4.15-million dots of resolution. The screen is incredibly sharp and detailed, and when combined with good glare resistance and very smooth and responsive touch functionality, the R3's rear screen is an all-around winner.

Regarding the viewfinder, one of the unique features of the Canon R3's EVF is the addition of an Eye Control AF feature that lets you move the AF point around the viewfinder just by looking at where you want it to go. It's quite clever and works well, but I'll discuss that feature further down in the Autofocus section.

From just a usability standpoint, the Canon R3 electronic viewfinder is fantastic. Just by looking at the specs, the R3's EVF doesn't appear much different from the already-great EVF in the EOS R5. In many ways, they are nearly the same. Both cameras use a high-resolution 5.76-million-dot OLED screen with both 60fps and 120fps refresh rates and a 0.76x magnification factor. They aren't the highest-magnification EVFs on the market, but for me personally, the EVFs on the R3 and R5 are plenty big, sharp and responsive.

The eyecup, too, is large and soft and offers excellent coverage around the eye to block stray light. One thing I also appreciate about the EVF's physical design -- as well as that of the R5's -- is that it protrudes out from the back of the camera by a noticeable amount, more so than on the 5D Mark IV, for example. I'm a left-eye dominant shooter, and with the R3, I don't find my nose pressing up against the rear screen. There's also plenty of room to comfortably fit my thumb over the joystick control without my finger smushing up into my face. The larger size of the R3 overall helps with this, as well. Controls are plentiful but also have ample room for easy operation.

The R3 goes beyond the EVF of the R5, though, utilizing an all-new, Canon-designed OLED panel in this EVF. The EVF includes a setting called "OVF Simulation" that is said to mimic the natural viewing experience of the 1D X's optical viewfinder thanks to the EVF display's high brightness performance and Canon's HDR image processing technology. By default, OVF Simulation is turned off, which means you can see a live preview of the exposure and image-processing picture profile settings as you shoot -- just like with most mirrorless cameras (arguably one of the qualities I enjoy from an EVF over an optical viewfinder).

However, for those that prefer the look at the behavior of an optical viewfinder, the OVF Simulation works quite well. But, the OVF Simulation goes beyond just making things look like an optical viewfinder and turning off the exposure preview simulation, for example. The OLED panel can get incredibly bright, and with Canon's HDR technology, you essentially have a natural-looking, HDR-based view when the OVF Simulation mode is enabled. You can see more highlight and shadow detail than in the standard EVF mode, as well as get a very bright and crisp view of your scene.

Overall, the Canon EOS R3's usability and handling are fantastic, though I wasn't expecting anything less than excellent here. The R3 is a big camera, but not as unwieldy or as heavy as a 1DX-series camera can be -- though to be fair, I did not have a chance to use a supertelephoto 400mm-600mm L-series lens with R3. (That said, the new Mark III series of the Canon 400mm and 600mm L-series telephoto lens are surprisingly lightweight compared to their predecessor models.) The Canon R3 is overall a surprisingly lightweight camera. What's less surprising and even more important is that the R3 is a comfortable camera to use, with excellent controls, lots of user customization and great ergonomics.

RF 100-500mm: 400mm, F7.1, 1/1600s, ISO 2500
(Image edited in Lightroom. Click to see original.)

Image Quality: Is the R3 a good choice for wildlife photography?

Although the Canon EOS R3 is priced like a flagship camera, when compared to other recent "competing" mirrorless cameras -- namely the aforementioned Nikon Z9 and Sony A1 -- the R3 is somewhat of an outlier when it comes to sheer imaging resolution. Unlike the Z9 and A1, both of which have high-resolution sensors, the EOS R3 more closely resembles its EOS 1D X-series brethren sporting a sensor with a more modest megapixel count. The Canon 1D X Mark III sports just a 20MP sensor, which is indeed fairly low-resolution for a modern full-frame camera.

RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM: 53mm, F5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 100

The EOS R3, meanwhile, bumps up the resolution slightly to a 24-megapixel full-frame sensor. That resolution is still fairly low-resolution for an expensive, modern full-frame camera. What the R3 offers by sacrificing sheer fine-detail power is excellent low-light performance, extreme speed and performance, as well as lightweight and manageable file sizes (for stills, that is). See, much like the 1D X III, the EOS R3 is heavily focused on its target customer, aimed first and foremost at sports photographers and photojournalists. In these situations, a camera's speed and reliability, as well as the ability to edit and/or transmit lots of images as quickly as possible, are all higher priorities than having insanely high-res images.

RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM: 105mm, F4, 1/400s, ISO 100, +0.7EV
(Image edited in Lightroom. Click to see original.)

But, does the fact that the Canon R3 uses "only" a 24-megapixel sensor mean that it captures only so-so quality images? Quite the opposite, in fact. The images from the R3 are outstanding, at both low and higher ISOs. However, the comparatively limited resolution does put you at some degree of a disadvantage compared to other higher-res cameras depending on the types of subjects you want to photograph, such as birds and other wildlife.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/1250, ISO 800
(Image edited in Lightroom. Click to see original.)

As I've said in previous reviews, wildlife photography is one of my favorite photographic genres, birds in particular. Armed with the EOS R3 and its sophisticated AF with bird-detecting eye-tracking autofocus, I wanted to see how this new high-end camera performed at that task. I'll discuss AF performance later on, but from an image quality standpoint, I knew going in that the R3 was at somewhat of a disadvantage when it comes to birding and wildlife. By having just a 24MP sensor, there's not a ton of room for cropping images after the fact, especially compared to megapixel behemoths like the Sony A1, the A7R IV, the Nikon Z9 or the Canon R5. All of these cameras also feature animal-detecting eye-AF of some fashion, so they are arguably better suited than the R3 for bird photography in many ways. Most critically is that birds -- especially the small songbirds that I encountered -- are often far away, skittish and difficult to approach, and, well, tiny. Armed with an RF 100-500mm lens, I was still coming away with several shots where the subjects were quite small in the frame and could do with a lot of cropping in post. It's in these situations where a higher-resolution sensor can be helpful.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/1600s, ISO 400
Unedited JPEG - Small bird plus far-off distance plus 24MP sensor makes this an all-around tricky shot.

Now, all that being said, can you capture excellent bird photos with the EOS R3? Absolutely! You just might have to be more careful (or have a bit more luck) to get closer to your subjects or be okay with less-cropped compositions. The R3 captures fantastic birding and wildlife photos, with a surprising amount of fine detail, rich yet natural-looking colors and great tonality.

In terms of fine detail, in particular, that's one of my favorite things about birding and wildlife. It's a great test to see how well a camera resolves fine detail, with all the tiny feathers and fur textures, and despite having a modest 24MP sensor, the EOS R3 captures an impressive amount of detail. Looking closely at RAW images from the R3 in Lightroom (without any adjustments beyond LR defaults), even at around 200% magnification, I was very impressed by the amount of fine feather and fur detail I could see from these 24MP images. You might not be able to crop as much as you can with a higher-res camera, but the R3 produces excellent, crisp images.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/1600s, ISO 400
(Image edited in Lightroom. Click to see original.)
100% crop from unedited RAW file

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/500s, ISO 800
(Image edited in Lightroom. Click to see original.)
100% crop from unedited RAW file

Similarly, JPEG images look very nice straight out of the camera, offering excellent detail, vibrant colors, pleasing skin tones when photographing people, and nice dynamic range. Heck, beyond some random exposure adjustments on a few shots here and there (and of course, some cropping), I rarely felt the need to do much retouching or any significant editing on the RAW files from the camera; the JPEGs already look great as-is.

RF 100-500mm: 300mm, F6.3, 1/1250s, ISO 640

RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM: 24mm, F8, 1/320s, ISO 100

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/2000s, ISO 1600

I often found myself shooting out in the middle of the day and during sunny conditions, which offers less-than-ideal lighting and is a recipe for super high-contrast photos. Even in these difficult situations, the Canon R3 produces pleasing images. The dynamic range, even from the JPEGs, looked great in many of the images, offering a good balance of highlights and shadow detail. Some shots, however, were quite contrasty, with deep, heavy shadows. For example, photographing an all-black crow perched in shadow against a bright sky and forested background was just incredibly challenging for the camera. The JPEG, as you can see below, shows the bird nearly completely black and lacking a lot of visible detail. In this situation, it's RAW to the rescue, and fortunately, the EOS R3 raw files offer excellent flexibility with tonal adjustments. I was able to easily lift up the shadows and blacks in the images, revealing a lot of the bird's detail without introducing a lot of image-degrading noise.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/2000s, ISO 1250
(Image edited in Lightroom. Click to see original.)
(Image edited in Lightroom. Click to see original.)
100% crop from edited RAW

High ISO

Despite shooting a lot in the daytime, the forested conditions I was often in, plus shooting at higher shutter speeds and using a lens that dims to F7.1 at 500mm, gave me a nice opportunity to crank up the ISO. Fortunately, and as I expected, the high ISO image performance from the EOS R3 is fantastic. The R3's large full-frame sensor features a backside-illuminated design as well as a comparatively low resolution (and thus large individual pixels), making it an excellent performer when it comes to gathering light in dim situations and generally handling higher ISO sensitivities very well. Modern cameras these days, and especially full-frame cameras, are getting so good that I rarely worry too much about the ISO rising, and the R3 is no exception. I was often in Manual exposure mode or Shutter Priority and left ISO set to "Auto ISO," letting it change as needed.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/1600s, ISO 8000

High ISO JPEG images look really nice straight out of the camera, with in-camera image processing and default ("Standard") noise reduction doing a nice job of removing egregious noise while preserving a lot of fine detail. However, as is typically the case, you can see the noise reduction at work if you look closely at the images, and it is apparent the NR processing is smoothing out and eliminating some detail when you compare the JPEGs to the RAW files. As usual, you can preserve and maintain better fine detail by editing and processing your own RAW files. When looking closely at high ISO raw files, noise looks very well controlled and has a pleasing finely-grained look. At the same time, images retain excellent fine detail, even at ISOs such as 6400-8000, which is about the highest ISOs I found myself needing out in the field.

JPEG crop - Standard In-Camera Noise Reduction
RAW crop - Unedited (other than Adobe Lightroom default settings)

While RAW files do allow for better fine detail control and noise processing, I want to reiterate that the JPEGs straight out of the R3 look really, really good, even at higher ISOs. The EOS R3 is a camera that heavily targets sports photographers, who often don't even shoot with RAW. The focus is on speed and getting images out to wire services and photo editors as quickly as possible. Knowing that your camera delivers sharp, detailed high ISO JPEG images with well-controlled noise straight from the camera is a critical workflow feature, and the R3 certainly doesn't disappoint in this area.

All in all, I am very impressed with the image quality of the Canon R3. Despite "only" having a 24MP sensor, the camera resolves a lot of fine detail, has excellent dynamic range and colors, as well as versatile high ISO performance. If you don't do a lot of heavy cropping on your photos and need or want lightweight, easy-to-manage image file sizes, the EOS R3 is ideal (though with 20-30fps burst performance, the file management situation can veer off into another direction).

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/1000s, ISO 8000

Autofocus: Powerful and sophisticated AF features make the R3 a versatile camera for all sorts of subjects

Besides the camera's speed, one of the R3's hallmark features is its powerful autofocusing system. As with other EOS R-series cameras, the R3 uses on-sensor phase-detection focusing, and the R3's AF system is built upon the faster, higher-performance Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system we saw introduced earlier on the R5 and R6 cameras. The R3's AF coverage spans essentially the entire full-frame image area, offering 1053 Automatic AF zones arranged in a 39 x 27 grid. Servo AF has been tuned for precision and speed, with the camera capable of tracking and servo calculations at up to 60fps when using the electronic shutter. Further, the R3's improved EOS iTR AF X (Intelligent Tracking & Recognition) can now detect subjects just by getting the AF point close to the target. Also, the R3's Subject Tracking AF feature can be utilized in any AF area mode, from Spot AF to Entire Area AF.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/800s, ISO 250

Additionally, much like we saw with the R5 and R6, the R3's AF system also incorporates Deep Learning-based automatic subject-detection capabilities. The Canon R3's AF system can be set to automatically detect and track both human and animal eyes, faces and bodies (for animals, it's listed as just dogs, cats and birds). The R3, unlike the R5/R6, now introduces several varieties of motor vehicle subject detection, as well, including cars and motorcycles. The R3 is the first EOS to include such a feature, thus making it an ideal choice for those photographing racing and other on- or off-road motorsports.

Much like with most other mirrorless cameras with these intelligent subject-detection AF features, you need to manually specify which type of subject you want it to (attempt to) detect. In the case of the R3, you have just People, Animals or Vehicles (or None) in the menus. The camera doesn't offer any finer-grain controls for this; for instance, on the Sony A1 you can specifically set it for Bird for the camera's Face/Eye AF mode separately than Animal. On the R3, it therefore includes birds as part of its overall subset of recognizable animal subjects. Similarly, there's no fine-grained control for the types of vehicles to detect and track; it's just "Vehicles." The camera must therefore be able to distinguish between passenger vehicles, race cars (like Formula 1 cars), motorcycles, etc.

I wasn't able to photograph any high-speed auto racing with the R3, but in some brief tests comparing the three subject-detection settings, the camera was nearly immediate in recognizing an automobile when I switched over to the vehicle setting, which was pretty cool. When I went back to Animal-detection, the AF system didn't recognize or jump back to the car.

RF 100-500mm: 363mm, F6.3, 1/1250s, ISO 1000
(JPEG, cropped slightly)

As mentioned, I was primarily photographing birds and wildlife with the R3, and the Animal/Bird-detection AF indeed works very well, though I did run into an issue at first. Thanks to our friends at Lensrentals, I managed to borrow an RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS lens to use with the R3. Without giving it a second though, I grabbed the lens, mounted it and went out to photograph some birds.

The Canon R3 + RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS lens (Big thanks for Lensrentals for sending us the lens!)

My initial impressions of the camera's performance and focusing speeds were in-line with what I expected from a pro-oriented camera -- fast and nimble. A lot of the birds I came across, however, were not only small but also hopping around quickly and perched amongst trees and bushes with lots of small, intertwined limbs and branches. In other words, there were often lots of objects between me and my subject, and it was hard to get clean, obstruction-free compositions a lot of the time. Despite the generally excellent AF of the R3, these shooting situations proved challenging for the R3, with the AF struggling to focus through all the intersecting and distracting branches and limbs. I often switched over to the Spot AF mode, the smallest AF box/point available, in order to precisely nail the focus. In these situations, I wasn't all that surprised to have some mis-focused images here and there.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/640s, ISO 5000
Despite the small subject, and many obstacles in the way, the R3 often still managed to automatically detect the bird and the subject's head/eye.

In other, more favorable locations and shooting situations with cleaner views of birds, the Animal-detection AF work really well, most of the time. Remember that "issue" I mentioned? Well, while most of the time AF was fast and precise, there were several times where the camera and RF 100-500mm just simply wouldn't focus properly. I had a number of small burst sequences where even though the bird was in clear view and the Animal-Detection system appeared to work properly in detecting the subject -- and Canon's Digital Photo Professional software indicated the focusing point was right over the bird's face/head/eye -- most if not all shots were soft and out of focus.

Screenshot of Canon Digital Photo Professional 4 with AF point display showing series of mis-focused images. (Click to enlarge.)

Now, I don't expect every camera to 100% nail focus every single time; there are numerous factors that can cause you to miss focus on a frame on occasion, but this was a bit too many poorly-focused shots to the point where I suspected something was up. Did I have some AF setting selected incorrectly, or was there something wrong with the camera?

I reached out to Canon for some suggestions and guidance, and fortunately, it was an easy fix: Lens Firmware. Sure enough, the RF100-500mm lens I borrowed had an older version of its firmware installed. I don't believe I've ever needed to update firmware on a Canon EF lens, so it never occurred to me to check for it on this RF lens. A quick version update to the lens later, and I'm happy to report that the focusing issue I experienced is fixed. Lesson learned. Check your lens firmware!

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/800s, ISO 400
(JPEG, cropped)

With that out of the way, the R3's focusing performance proved to be fantastic. The Animal Eye-Detection proved versatile and impressive, with the camera detecting even small birds that were small in the frame and quickly tracking their movement as they moved through the frame. Much like I experienced the Sony A1, the R3's head/eye-detection even managed to find and lock onto the head or eyes of small birds in really challenging situations, such as when the bird is in shadow or heavily backlit.

Eye Control AF: Is Eye Control AF a gimmick or a helpful focusing feature?

One of the unique new features of the EOS R3 is "Eye Control AF," which lets you position the AF point by just looking at where you want it to go when using the viewfinder. I say "new feature," but Canon has actually used a similar Eye Control AF technology back in its EOS film SLR days, such as with the EOS 3 film camera. This early implementation was somewhat hit-or-miss, but it's clear that times have changed, and technology has certainly improved because Eye Control AF works quite well here on the EOS R3.

The Eye Control AF feature does require some initial calibration if you want it to be as accurate and precise as possible; the camera needs to record where and how your eyes move. There is a step-by-step guide in the menus on calibrating Eye Control AF, and the system provides calibration for shooting in both horizontal and vertical camera orientations. Canon states that calibrations can, and perhaps should be done multiple times as well as in different lighting situations (i.e. once outdoors, once indoors, etc), since the R3' Eye Control AF precision improves with additional calibration processes. Users can also have multiple calibration profiles saved in the camera for different situations, such as one for when you're wearing contacts or glasses. The calibration process takes only a few minutes to complete.

RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM: 72mm, F4, 1/800s, ISO 100

Once calibrated, the R3 makes it really simple to enable or disable Eye Control AF while out in the field. By default, the SET button on the back of the camera acts as a simple on/off toggle switch for Eye Control AF. When enabled and you're looking through the EVF, a circular, "secondary" AF indicator appears, one that follows your eye movements as you're looking around the scene. The camera still displays the regular AF point/zone, but when you half-press to lock focus, the focus point immediately jumps to the spot you were looking at. I found Eye Control AF works well and the precision was pretty accurate. More often than not the focus point moved right where I wanted it to go.

I will say that it does take some getting used to. For one thing, it did seem a little distracting at times to have this icon more or less bouncing around the viewfinder. (You never really notice how eyes dart around until you have a device tracking your eye movements!) I also shot with Servo AF most of the time, leaving the AF point in the center while the camera's tracking allowed me to recompose my shot while maintain focus. With Eye Control AF enabled at the same time, this can compete in a sense, with the eye control taking over where the AF box is positioned. Like I said, it takes some time to get accustomed to this focusing behavior -- or you can quickly turn Eye Control AF off when it's not needed by using the SET button. One last quibble is that when the Eye Control AF moves your AF point/box upon half-pressing the shutter button (or AF-ON button), it doesn't return the AF box back to its original position afterwards. It leaves the AF point to where it was moved. I found myself constantly pressing the joystick control to return the AF point back to the center of the frame. I wish there was an option to have the AF point return to its previous location after a shot or if you let up from a half-press.

AF Summary: Outstanding focus speed and tracking capabilities from Canon's highest-end R-series camera yet

Overall, I am so far very impressed with the focusing performance of the R3. Once again, I'm not surprised by this fact. Canon's previous R5 and R6 cameras already offered fantastic AF performance, as do Canon's 1D-series cameras, and the R3 sits right in between these cameras. The focusing performance proved fast and accurate (so long as your lens has updated firmware!), even in challenging lighting and dim environments. The intelligent subject-detection work very well, especially on small birds and other animals. Tracking focus worked very well, too, although I didn't shoot a lot of fast-moving subjects, such as athletes or automobiles.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/1000s, ISO 3200
(JPEG, cropped)

Performance: 24MP sensor and fast processing means super-fast burst shooting, deep buffers and excellent clearing times

The last thing I want to touch on in this hands-on review installment is the camera's overall speed, burst performance and buffer depth. The Canon R3 is essentially tailor-made for speed and performance purposes, such as sports and action. The stacked CMOS sensor design is purpose-built for fast performance, with quicker data readout speeds than your standard CMOS sensor can offer. This helps not only for things like reducing rolling shutter for video and electronic-shutter burst shooting but also allows for insanely-fast continuous shooting rates at up to 30fps, fast AF calculations and more. Further, the use of Canon's latest-generation DIGIC X chip provides fast image processing horsepower, as well as handling AF and image stabilization calculations, among other things. Long story short, the Canon R3 is built from the ground up for high-performance situations, and in the field the camera delivers on its promises.

RF 100-500mm: 400mm, F6.3, 1/2000s, ISO 1250

When it comes to continuous burst rates, the EOS R3, like most cameras, offers a variety of different speeds or drive modes to choose from. And, being a mirrorless camera, the R3 also offers different burst rates for mechanical shutter shooting and electronic shutter shooting. We've seemed to have hit a ceiling for mechanical shutter burst speeds, as the EOS R3's mechanical shutter only offers up to 12fps. That's perfectly fast enough for a wide variety of sports and other fast-moving subjects. However, the real star of the show is the R3's electronic shutter burst rates, which can hit a whopping 30 frames per second, completely silently, with full continuous AF and at full resolution. The max 30fps burst speed will, however, lock auto-exposure, flash exposure and white balance at the first frame. The 30fps burst rate also works perfectly fine whether you're shooting with RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG or really any combination of camera image quality settings and formats. If you want continuous AF and AE, you'll need to drop down to "Continuous High" drive mode, which is still a pleasingly fast 15fps.

Although we've not yet put the R3 into our lab's performance testing procedure, I did run some approximate tests here at home. Based on multiple runs of one-second bursts, the R3 managed to capture at or around 30 frames each and every time when shooting in the fastest Continuous High+ burst mode. This followed for both RAW+JPEG as well as just RAW image quality mode.

In the field, the combination of a completely silent operation and a 30fps burst mode made it much easier to capture fleeting, often hard-to-capture moments of skittish birds and other wildlife that I would likely otherwise not be able to capture.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/1250s, ISO 1000
(JPEG, cropped)

One thing I've mentioned earlier is the R3's manageable, lightweight 24MP file sizes. At this resolution, a full-res JPEG file is only about 7-10MB while a RAW file can vary between 24MB and 40MB depending on the scene. However, with the 30fps burst rate, you run into a file management issue of just the sheer volume of images you come home with after a day in the field. For instance, after only my first day out with the camera, I came home with over 1200 images to sort through! The flip side is that with the small file size, you can fit a ton onto a large capacity memory card; Using a 256GB CFExpress card, you can fit over 4000 RAW+JPEG images onto a single card.

When it comes to buffer depth and buffer clearing time, there are several variables that affect the R3's performance in this area. Using the mechanical shutter at the maximum 12fps burst rate, the R3's buffer is essentially unlimited for JPEGs and HEIF image formats, as well as when shooting RAW, C-RAW and RAW+JPEG with a CFExpress card. Things drop somewhat when using an SD card, though it varies depending on image format and card speed. The C-RAW buffer is again essentially unlimited with a UHS-II card, but limited to around 290 frames with full-quality/uncompressed standard RAW format.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/1000s, ISO 500
(JPEG, cropped)

When using the electronic shutter and the camera's maximum 30fps burst rate, the buffer depth, as you might imagine is quite a bit less than when shooting at just 12fps. Once again, shooting with JPEG or HEIF format images alone offer deeper buffer depths than when shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG/RAW+HEIF. In my at-home testing runs, I opted to test the R3 at its highest image quality settings: uncompressed RAW + full-quality JPEGs. According to Canon's specs sheet, the R3 should capture up to 150 frames before the buffer fills, and I'm pleased to say that in multiple test runs, the camera exceeded that figure. I managed to get around 165-168 RAW+JPEG pairs before the buffer filled and the burst rate slowed.

When it comes to buffer clearing performance, the clear choice for optimal performance is to use a CFExpress Type B card over an SD card. In my testing, during which I used a 265GB Lexar Pro CFExpress Type B card with a stated 1750MB/s speed rating, I observed the camera repeatedly clear a full buffer of about 160+ RAW+JPEG frames in less than six seconds. In another testing run, I continuously found the camera to take at or just under four seconds to finish writing about 115-120 frames to the memory card. When running a similar test series with the fastest SD card I could find, a SanDisk Extreme Pro 300MB/s UHS-II card, the camera cleared the buffer at a significantly slower rate of around 18-19 seconds for a full buffer of approximately 160 RAW+JPEG images. While SD cards still offer nearly if not exactly the same burst shooting performance and buffer capacity, if you care about buffer clearing performance, the (more expensive) CFExpress card is the way to go.

RF 100-500mm: 500mm, F7.1, 1/800s, ISO 500
(JPEG, cropped)

Summary: The Canon R3 might not be a mirrorless 1D-series camera, but it sure does feel like one

So far, I've been extremely impressed with the Canon R3! As a long-time Canon shooter, the R3 was both familiar and comfortable, though I can't imagine an experienced photographer picking up the R3 for the first time would be too much out of their comfort zone. Much like a 1D-series EOS camera, the R3 feels incredibly well-constructed, with fantastic build quality and wonderful ergonomics. This has probably been one of the most comfortable cameras I've used in a long time. The controls, too, are plentiful, offer great operability, and the camera overall has excellent user customization.

From an image quality standpoint, the R3 may not offer a high-res sensor like some of its competitors, but the images out of the R3 are rich in fine detail, colors and have excellent dynamic range. The high ISO performance, too, is excellent, which one would hope to see from a camera largely focused on sports and photojournalism purposes where the situation and lighting conditions are often unpredictable and challenging. The R3's speed and performance, too, are out of this world. The 30fps burst shooting speed works as advertised, and the ability to shoot completely silently at the same time is a fantastic feature for wildlife, sports and press photographers.

From a stills photographer's perspective, the Canon EOS R3 is one of the best Canon cameras on the market. Personally, I would have loved to see a bit more resolution to aid in some wildlife photo cropping performance, but I am still very pleased with the images that this camera can produce.

Up Next

Up next. There's still quite a bit more to explore and test on the R3. I focused on stills with this first hands-on review due to the limited time I had with the RF 100-500mm lens from Lensrentals. Up next, we plan to dive into the video side of things, testing the R3's high-resolution video features, such as 6K RAW as well as 4K video up to 120fps. Additionally, if there is anything else, in particular, you want to know about the camera, leave a comment down below!

 

• • •

 

Canon EOS R3 Preview - Product Overview

by William Brawley
Originally posted: 04/14/2021

At long last, after being teased a couple of times with a pair of development announcements, the full details of Canon's upcoming EOS R3 professional mirrorless camera are here! The upcoming R3 will be Canon's fifth full-frame R-series mirrorless camera and will sit above the EOS R5 as Canon's most high-performance, high-end R-series camera to date. However, despite its high-tier status among Canon's camera lineup, the company states that it's not technically their "flagship" camera. The 1D X Mark III (or the 1D X-series in general) reigns supreme as Canon's top-tier EOS camera for now. The new EOS R3, therefore, sits between the R5 and the 1D X series, but it will still serve as the top-of-the-line R-series camera.

The Canon EOS R3 features an all-new body design for an R-series mirrorless camera -- though despite the 1D X-like design -- the R3 is much lighter than its DSLR sibling. The camera also features an array of new features and technologies, including an all-new 24MP stacked CMOS BSI sensor, impressive 30fps burst shooting, updated Dual Pixel CMOS II AF with more sophisticated subject tracking capabilities, Eye Control AF, internal 6K 60p RAW video recording, IBIS and much more!

Read on for all the details on Canon's news top-of-the-line R-series mirrorless camera!

Canon EOS R3 Key Features & Specs

  • All-new Canon-developed, full-frame 24.1MP stacked BSI CMOS sensor
  • DIGIC X Image Processor
  • ISO 100-102400 (Expandable: Low ISO 50 to High ISO 204800)
  • Up to 30fps burst shooting with electronic shutter; 12fps with mech. shutter
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Deep Learning-based eye- and body-detection AF
  • New recognizable subjects with Subject-detection AF (Vehicle Subject Recognition for cars and motorcycles)
  • Low-light AF down to -7.5EV
  • IBIS with up to 8 stops of combined IS (Optical + IBIS)
  • 6K 60p RAW video, 4K 120p 10-bit with Canon Log 3
  • New body design with integrated vertical grip & 1D X-level weather-sealing
  • New 5.76M-dot OLED EVF with "Eye Control AF" functionality
  • Fully articulated touchscreen LCD
  • Built-in Wired LAN and 5GHz Wi-Fi
  • Flash supported with electronic shutter
  • Dual Memory Cards: 1 CFExpress , 1 UHS-II SD
  • $5999 MSRP

Design & Ergonomics: Canon brings gripped design & 1D-class weather-sealing to mirrorless R-series

As you can see from the product images, the new Canon EOS R3 features a large, one-piece design with an integrated vertical grip, much like Canon's 1D-series DSLRs. This should make the ergonomics much more balanced and comfortable when shooting with longer, heavier lenses and when shooting in portrait orientation. However, despite the larger body design, the EOS R3 manages to be much lighter in weight than a 1DX Mark III, for example, making it much for comfortable and easier to carry and use for long periods of time. A 1DX III with battery tips the scales a bit over three pounds (~1440g), while the new R3 shaves off some weight to come in at about 2.2 pounds (~1015g). The overall size, too, is a bit more svelte than a modern 1D-series camera, with the R3 measuring up at about 5.91 inches (150mm) wide, 5.61 inches (142.6mm) tall and 3.43 inches (87.2mm) deep.

In terms of durability and build quality, the EOS R3 body is constructed from a lightweight, one-piece magnesium alloy chassis and is also said to offer the same robust level of dust- and moisture-resistance as Canon's flagship 1D X-class cameras, despite the significant reduction to overall weight. All ports, doors, buttons and dials, are sealed to the same degree as on a 1D X Mark III, ensuring durability and reliability in adverse weather conditions and the ability to withstand the general wear and tear that a professional photographer's gear may face in the field.

Across the face of the camera, the R3 features several front-facing buttons, similar to what is offered on an EOS 1D-series camera. These buttons, much like most of dials and buttons, can been extensively customized depending on user preference and shooting situations. Further, the vertical grip position offers its own shutter release button and front command dial.

We now finally have a full view of the top deck of the EOS R3. As you can see above, it looks very similar to the EOS R5 in a lot of ways off to the right of the viewfinder, with the R3 featuring a similarly-sized square info display panel, a Mode button in the center of the rear thumb control dial (for changing exposure modes), a front control dial, a customizable M.Fn button and info panel lamp button. Unlike the R5, there is no dedicated video recording button on the top of the camera -- instead, this is located on the back of the camera, much like it is on a 1DX III. Interestingly, the R3 does not feature a trio of quick-access buttons for white balance or ISO, as seen on 1D-series cameras. There is a dedicated Exposure Compensation button, as we're used to seeing. Presumably, the user can customize other buttons on the camera to offer one-touch access to White Balance and ISO settings; or more likely, the R3 behaves like other R-series cameras -- such as the R5 -- with one of the three control sub-dial defaulting to instant ISO adjustment, for example.

On the left of the EVF, we see a difference in buttons compared to the R5/R6 cameras; there's no on/off switch on the top of the R3 like we see on Canon's other R-series models. Similar to a 1D-series camera, the power switch is located on the back of the camera (along with a "lock" setting to prevent any unwanted button or control presses). We have a pair of buttons off to the left of the EVF, which is similar to what we find on a 1D-series body. There is a button to enable Drive Mode settings and AF modes, and another for Flash Exposure Compensation and Metering Mode settings. Pressing these two buttons at the same time will bring up Auto Exposure Bracketing settings.

Moving to the rear of the camera, the R3 features a design and control layout that's not all that dissimilar to that of a 1D-series camera. The R3 does, however, lack the secondary sub-display screen on the back, like EOS 1D-series models traditionally have. There are touch-sensitive Smart Controller buttons (AF-ON) and multi-directional joysticks in both horizontal and vertical orientations. One major design change compared to a 1D-series camera is the addition of an articulated rear LCD. Much like an EOS R5, for example, the EOS R3 features a fully-articulated 3.2-inch LCD touchscreen that swings out to the side and can even face forwards. One notable upgrade to the LCD screen over that of the R5 and 1DX III is a nearly 2x increase in resolution, with the R3 featuring an LCD panel with nearly 4.15-million dots of resolution -- up from the 2.1M-dot screen on the R5 and 1D X III.

The large, bright electronic viewfinder on the R3 is also worth pointing out in detail. Looking just at the specs, the EVF appears to be largely the same as the one from the R5 -- a high-resolution 5.76-million-dot OLED with 60fps and 120fps refresh rates and a 0.76x magnification factor. However, Canon is quick to point out that this is, in fact, a different EVF, newly designed for the R3 and not the same one inside the R5. The OLED panel itself is all-new and is actually designed by Canon themselves. The EVF is designed and built to look like you're looking through a 1DX's optical viewfinder, thanks to its natural field of view and OVF Simulation function. The responsive high-res EVF offers reduced lag time and is said to suppress a decrease in refresh rate even while shooting in continuous mode (compared to the R5). The aforementioned OVF Simulation feature utilizes Canon's HDR technology and the EVF's high brightness to display a more natural view of your scene, with more natural-looking highlight and shadow detail. Using the OVF Simulation view assist mode also turns off the typical live exposure simulation behavior of an EVF, giving you a more familiar experience to using an optical viewfinder.

Ports, Battery and Connectivity

The Canon R3 features a range of networking functionality designed for news media and other professional workflows, including built-in 5GHz Wi-Fi connectivity, browser-based remote control functionality, wired LAN with FTPS/SFTP/HTTPS, voice memo and more. The overall connectivity and networking functionality of the R3 is very similar to that of the 1D X Mark III. However, Canon is also debuting a new mobile app called Mobile File Transmitter alongside the EOS R3. Unlike a 1D X III, the R3 does not feature a connection for a WFT Transmitter accessory; that accessory's wired LAN functionality is now built into the R3 itself and operated via the Mobile File Transmitter app. Using the new mobile app, users can send photos directly to a remote server or cloud service, manage IPTC metadata, add voice memos to files and more. The R3 also supports a direct wired connection to an iPhone, allowing for a stable mobile device connection; the app/phone then provides wireless communication for the camera, such as a 5G/LTE connection. (So far, the iPhone wired connection using a Canon Smartphone Holder K490 optional accessory is supported on the EOS R3 only.0

The camera also sports dual card slots in the form of one CFExpress card slot and one SD. The camera also includes a new hot-shoe, the Multi-Function Shoe, that supports data communication and power, as well as supporting new accessories, including a new digital shotgun microphone. Speedlite functionality will also be possible when using the camera's electronic shutter.

For power, the R3 uses the same LP-E19 battery back as the 1D X Mark III, and features a CIPA-rated battery life of around 620 shots per charge with the viewfinder in Power Saving mode (440 in "Smooth" mode) or around 860 shots/charge with the LCD in Power Saving mode (760 in "Smooth" mode).

Imaging Pipeline: All-new full-frame 24MP Stacked BSI CMOS sensor is designed for speed

From a broad overview, the new EOS R3, much like the 1DX-series, is designed for professionals and advanced amateurs and, in particular, those needing a durable and high-speed camera with fast burst shooting and sophisticated AF performance for photojournalism, sports, wildlife and other action subjects. The EOS R3 is, therefore, centered around an all-new, Canon-developed full-frame sensor, designed for high-speed readout performance and minimal rolling shutter distortion when using the electronic shutter.

Unlike a camera such as the EOS R5, which is more heavily focused on image resolution with its 45MP sensor, the EOS R3, on the other hand, is all about speed and performance over sheer megapixel count. As such, the EOS R3 -- much like the 1DX-series -- features a lower-resolution image sensor. In the case of the R3 specifically, the camera utilizes an all-new Canon-made 24.1-megapixel full-frame sensor. The image sensor is also Canon's first stacked full-frame CMOS sensor with a back-illuminated structure. Despite the slightly lower 24MP resolution, Canon states that the R3 image quality is above the 30MP 5D Mark IV. In other words, Canon states that the R3 can achieve higher resolving power than the technically higher-resolution 5D IV sensor. Canon states that this is possible due to the quality of the sensor itself and the accompanying image processing; it's more than just sheer megapixel count when it comes to actual image resolution performance. (When we were first told of this characteristic, we wondered if perhaps the R3's sensor lacked an optical low-pass filter, unlike the 5D Mark IV's sensor with a fixed OLPF. However, we now see in the specs that the EOS R3 does, in fact, still utilize an optical low-pass filter. It will be interesting to compare side-by-side how the R3's image quality stacks up against the 5D Mark IV, and also other higher-resolution cameras.)

Additionally, the R3's stacked sensor design, in a similar vein to the stacked CMOS chips inside the Sony A9-series and the Sony Alpha 1, allows for faster data readout from the sensor, which in turn helps reduce "rolling shutter" distortion during fast electronic shutter-based still-image shooting as well as offer blackout free behavior during continuous burst shooting. Canon claims very minimal rolling shutter distortion during still-image shooting compared to other Canon cameras' electronic shutters thanks to the sensor's fast readout and the DIGIC X's fast image processing. Furthermore, the R3's high-speed sensor will provide an electronic shutter with continuous burst shooting rates of up to 30fps with continuous AF and auto-exposure, as well as 14-bit RAW recording with the electronic shutter.

In electronic shutter mode, the R3 offers a blackout-free experience in the viewfinder. Images are never interrupted by the "shutter" function, making it easier to continuously track moving subjects. As mentioned, the electronic shutter allows for up to 30fps continuous burst shooting with full-time AF and AE. Switching over to mechanical shutter, the R3 offers up to 12fps continuous shooting -- and, of course, a blackout in the EVF when firing off images.

The back-illuminated design of the new sensor also allows for better light-gathering efficiency compared to traditional front-illuminated sensor designs. Paired with a DIGIC X image processor -- the same processor from the 1D X III and R5/R6 cameras -- the new EOS R3 offers a wide ISO range spanning a native ISO 100-102,400. The ISO sensitivity can be further expanded down to a low ISO 50 equivalent and up to an extended high ISO 204,800.

When using the mechanical shutter, the EOS R3's shutter speed ranges from 30s to a typical 1/8000s. However, switching to electronic shutter mode, the camera is capable of some impressively quick shutter speeds, going all the way to 1/64000 seconds. Note: In electronic shutter mode, shutter speeds of 1/10000 sec. or faster are only available in Tv or M mode (while shutter speeds are capped at up to 1/8000 sec. in Fv, P, or Av modes).

In terms of buffer capacity, the R3 is, as you might expect, pretty beefy. Buffer capacity varies depending on shutter type, as they have different maximum continuous shooting rates, as well as memory card type. With the faster 30fps of the electronic shutter mode, the R3's RAW (and RAW+JPEG or RAW+HEIF) buffer capacity is stated to be about 150 frames, regardless of card type.

Using the slower 12fps mechanical shutter will give you essentially an unlimited buffer capacity with a CFexpress card ("1000 or higher" according to the specs) -- using a UHS-II SD card here, however, is vastly different with a buffer capacity listed as just 290 frames.

Switching to the compressed C-RAW file type or just a JPEG or HEIF image will, as expected, increase the buffer capacity significantly, with most options in the 30fps burst mode going over the 500 frames mark.

The Canon R3 also offers improved auto white balance performance thanks to a deep-learning-based system based on image sensor data. Previously, with Canon EOS DSLRs, the metering sensor was utilized to help distinguish between grass, trees and lawns. However, now, the R3 is the first EOS camera to make use of image sensor data with deep-learning algorithms to better detect these elements within a scene and thus render more natural-looking greenery, such as grass and trees.

Further, the in-camera system for setting a custom white balance has been improved. The camera now lets you quickly and easily manually set a white balance value from a Live View image. Using the "Record and Set WB" option in the custom WB menu, you can then shoot and register a WB value right from Live View.

IBIS: Same in-body image stabilization as the EOS R5 & R6

Much like the EOS R5 and R6, the new EOS R3 features in-body image stabilization, and the camera, in fact, uses the same IBIS mechanism as these earlier EOS R-series cameras. The R3, therefore, offers essentially the same level of stabilization performance, with the 5-axis IBIS system rated for up 8 stops of correction depending on the lens used.

Autofocus: High-speed Dual Pixel CMOS AF II and Eye Control AF technology

Given the emphasis on speed and performance for sports and wildlife, it comes as no surprise that the Canon EOS R3's autofocus system is designed for top-notch performance, both in terms of focus acquisition speed but also precision and subject-tracking performance. Canon states that the R3's AF system is built upon the sophisticated and upgraded Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system we saw in the EOS R5 and EOS R6 cameras. The R3's AF system incorporates Deep Learning for its subject-detection system that will track eyes and bodies as well as birds and certain types of animals.

The EOS R3's autofocus coverage essentially spans the entire surface area of the sensor. While the number of individually selectable AF points wasn't specified, the R3 offers a maximum total of 1053 AF zones (in a 39 x 27 grid) in stills mode, similar to the number of AF zones on the R6. That camera, meanwhile, offers up to 6,072 user-selectable AF points, so we suspect a similar amount here on the R3. (For video, the R3 offers up to 819 AF zones in a 39 x 21 array.) Additionally, the EOS R3's AF system is said to be able to focus in extremely low light conditions, down to -7.5EV (the Canon R5 is rated down to -6EV, by comparison).

One of the significant areas of focus, no pun intended, is the camera's AF speed and tracking performance. The R3 is capable of AF calculations and tracking with up to 60fps when using the electronic shutter. The camera's improved EOS iTR AF X (Intelligent Tracking & Recognition) can now detect and acquire the subjects just by getting the AF point close to the target, and the camera features additional deep-learning-based subjects that the camera's AF system can automatically detect and track.

The EOS R5 featured intelligent subject detection of both human and animal eyes/face/body (animal: dogs, cats and birds). According to Canon, the R3 offers the same level of subject-detection performance as the R5 when it comes to animal AF detection and tracking, while People-detection AF has been improved with updated Body Detection for when subjects are moving quickly and the AF system is unable to detect a face or head. Further, Eye-Detection has been improved for more difficult-to-capture scenarios, such as when a subject is turned to the side (profile), has eye makeup, the eye(s) are in shade, or when the subject is wearing a mask. Head detection has also been tweaked to account for winter sports scenarios where a subject's face is obscured with large goggles and masks while skiing/snowboarding.

Beyond people- and animal-tracking, the R3 now includes -- for the first time in a Canon EOS camera -- motor vehicle subject recognition and tracking, including cars and motorcycles. Designed most specifically for motorsports photography scenarios, the camera's AF system can be set to detect and track several types of fast-moving vehicles, including Formula cars, GT cars, rally cars, as well as on- and off-road motorcycles. When photographic open-cockpit race cars, such as those in Formula 1 as well as motorcyclists, the AF system is capable of detecting the helmet of the driver.

In terms of AF operability, the EOS R3 now offers Subject Tracking AF in any AF Area mode; user can toggle Subject Tracking on or off regardless of what AF point mode they are using. Even the Spot Single Point AF mode can now utilize Subject Tracking. In total, Spot, Single-point, Expand AF area, Expand AF area (Surround), Flexible Zone and "Entire Area AF" (full AF area) modes can all utilize the camera's subject tracking AF. With subject tracking enabled, AF operation will start wherever the user has positioned the AF point(s), and will then continue to tracking the subject across the frame and moving the AF point as required.

Eye Control AF

One very cool new feature that's making its debut (or "re-debut," rather) for the first time in a modern EOS digital camera: Eye Control AF. Incorporated into the R3's EVF, the R3 will let users select the initial AF point or area for AF subject tracking simply by looking at a particular area in the frame. The EVF's Eye Control AF system will track a user's eye as they look through the viewfinder and then quickly move the AF point/area to the spot where they are looking upon half-pressing the shutter button (or AF button). In theory, this should make it much quicker to reposition the AF point in fast-moving scenarios than fiddling with a rear joystick control or directional buttons.

I mentioned "re-debut" as this isn't the first time a Canon camera has had this type of eye-tracking-based AF control. Several Canon EOS film cameras, starting with the EOS A2E in 1992, included an Eye Control AF feature, offering the same general idea as in the R3: move the focus point to where the user's eye is looking. Having never used a Canon film camera with Eye Control AF, I can't comment on how well it worked. However, from this interesting retrospective on the technology from Dale Baskin at DPReview, performance seemed like a bit of a mixed bag depending on which camera you used; the EOS 3 camera with a 45-point AF system appeared to struggle a bit more with picking the precise AF point than the Elan II E did with its modest 3-point AF system.

Canon does state that there are some limitations to the EOS R3's Eye Control AF. Eye input AF might not be available in specific shooting environments or when wearing certain sunglasses, mirror sunglasses, hard contact lenses or bifocal eyeglasses. The Canon film cameras' implementation did allow for some degree of calibration of the Eye Control system to account for eyeglasses or contact lenses, and according to Canon, an Eye Calibration is necessary to properly use Eye Control AF on the R3. The camera includes a step-by-step guide in the menus on calibrating Eye Control AF, and the user can have different calibration profiles depending on the situation (i.e. one calibration profile for no eyeglasses, one with glasses, one with contact lenses, etc.). Canon also states that calibrations can, and perhaps should be done multiple times, as the camera's Eye Control AF precision improves with additional calibration processes.

Additional Shooting & User Features

The EOS R3 offers several new features for flash photography, including support for using flash with both mechanical and electronic shutter -- the first EOS camera to support flash in electronic shutter mode. You can shoot with flash up to 1/180s shutter speed with electronic shutter and at up to 15fps.

The R3 also has some clever anti-flicker features to help capture clean, evenly exposed images under certain lighting conditions. On the R5 and R6, anti-flicker mode was only available in mechanical shutter mode, but with the R3, it's now possible with electronic shutter as well. With normal fluorescent/mercury lamps, the camera can be set to suppress flicker at 100Hz/120Hz frequencies. The R3 can shoot at up to 24fps with electronic shutter in the 120Hz anti-flicker mode. Additionally, the R3 allows for shutter speed fine-tuning for high-frequency flicker seen with faster-flickering LED lighting. The camera offers both an automatic or manual option to bias shutter speeds by the decimal value (i.e. 1/100.1, 100.2, etc). In manual mode, you can use Live View to see the banding or flickering effect and then dial in a more precise shutter speed until the banding or flicker does not appear.

For photojournalists or others working in sound-sensitive environments, the EOS R3 offers a dedicated Silent shooting mode. This is different than just switching to Electronic Shutter mode; in Silent mode, other operational sounds as well as AF assist lights are disabled to make shooting completely quiet and as distraction-free as possible. In normal Electronic Shutter mode, the camera produces a simulated shutter actuation sound; it's possible in Silent Mode to use headphones to hear the shutter sound without disturbing others around you.

Video

While the Canon R3 is arguably a stills-oriented camera, this new high-end mirrorless camera is no slouch when it comes to video recording features. The camera includes internal 6K RAW video recording, 4K up to 120p, Canon Log 3, 10-bit recording and is designed for sustained recording times with no 29:59 recording limits.

With 6K RAW (6000 x 3164), the camera records video at up to 60p as well as 30p/25p/24p/23.98. The R3 also offers 4K at both DCI and UHD resolutions, with framerates up to 120fps. Both 4K video resolutions and all framerates with the exception of 120p are based on oversampling, while 4K 120p is a direct read from the sensor. 4K 60p uses 6K oversampling, while the 4K UHD is based on 5.6K oversampling. In addition to these uncropped 4K format, the R3 supports cropped 4K DCI and UHD, as well, and also at framerates up to 120p. The camera also shoots Full HD 1080p video at up to 60p.

The EOS R3 can also record video with Canon Log 3 in 10-bit 4:2:2, as well as non-Log video in 8-bit 4:2:0. The camera supports HDR PQ video recording as well as HDMI out at up to 4K 60p.

When it comes to sustained recording times, the R3 is not limited by a set 29 minute, 59 second restriction like many previous models. However, recording times vary depending on memory card capacity and/or camera/sensor temperature limits. For example, according to Canon, 4K 30p (6K oversampled) ALL-I video has no heat limitation; here, you are essentially limited by card capacity. For 4K 60p (6K oversampled) ALL-I video, recording time is limited to about 60 minutes or longer, depending on temperature conditions of the camera. The R3 offers an adjustable Auto Power Off Temperature threshold -- either "Standard" or "High." With 4K 120p ALL-I, you can expect around 12 minutes of continuous recording in Standard and High temperature modes. For 6K 60p RAW, you can get around 25 minutes of sustained recording in "Standard" temp mode, or 60 minutes or more with the "High" temperature threshold setting.

Canon R3 sets aim on Sony A1 and Nikon Z9 professional mirrorless cameras

In many ways, the R3 is designed as a direct competitor to several recent and upcoming high-performance mirrorless cameras, most notably the Sony A1 and the upcoming Nikon Z9, in particular. All three of these cameras feature full-frame CMOS sensors that utilize a stacked design for higher performance and fast, low-distortion shooting with electronic shutters. While we don't yet know the maximum burst shooting specs of the upcoming Nikon Z9, the Sony A1 with its 30fps burst shooting looks to go head-to-head with the upcoming EOS R3 when it comes to sheer burst performance. Meanwhile, the Nikon Z9 also features an integrated vertical grip design, much like their flagship DSLRs. While the trend in the past seemed to focus on mirrorless cameras' inherent compactness and lightweight form factors, this new breed of pro-class gripped mirrorless cameras -- along with the gripped Olympus E-M1X -- put a focus on better ergonomics and handling, especially when using longer telephoto lenses.

Pricing & Availability

Canon EOS R3 is scheduled to be available in November 2021 for a suggested retail price of $5999.

 

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