Canon EOS R3 First Shots: Canon’s high-end, high-speed mirrorless camera arrives in our testing lab
posted Wednesday, November 24, 2021 at 11:00 AM EST
Click here to browse our Canon EOS R3 First Shots
It's finally here! After several teasers throughout the year and then a final, full product unveiling back in September, we're finally getting our hands on the Canon EOS R3, Canon's most high-performance, most high-end full-frame mirrorless camera yet. With a lightweight yet full-sized body design with integrated vertical grip, the R3 is as close as we've come to a 1D-styled EOS R-series mirrorless camera. However, despite the R3's design -- and its impressive specs list -- Canon is is quick to point out that the R3 is not their "flagship" camera; the crown still stays with the 1D X Mark III. However, when you look at the specs of the R3 (and its price), the camera sure seems like a flagship camera. From its sensor, its AF system, its video features, its viewfinder, its controls and its build quality, the EOS R3 is nonetheless designed and built to be a high-performance, professionally-oriented camera through and through.
Under the hood, the Canon EOS R3 sports an all-new, Canon-designed sensor, their first stacked full-frame sensor, in fact. The new full-frame stacked BSI CMOS sensor has a fairly modest 24-megapixel resolution, making the R3 a versatile camera for a wide variety of subjects, though not one focused purely on high-resolution subjects, such as landscape or portraiture, for instance. The primary target user of the R3, on the other hand, which includes photojournalists, sports and wildlife photographers, often prioritize speed and the ability to transmit images as fas as possible -- this is easier to accomplish with lower-resolution images. The large sensor area combined with a lower resolution allows excellent low-light and high ISO performance, as well. The R3 offers a wide ISO range, spanning 100 up to ISO 102,400 for its native ISO range, with expandable ISOs down to ISO 50 and up to ISO 204,800.
Further, despite the 24MP resolution, the R3's sensor is still designed for excellent resolving power, with Canon going so far as to state that the R3 can out-resolve the 30MP 5D Mark IV, thanks to the new sensor design and newer image processing. In addition to the new sensor design, perhaps Canon has also incorporated newer demosaicing techniques for the R3 compared to the earlier 5D Mark IV? Or perhaps the R3 utilizes a lower-strength low-pass filter? The R3 still uses a fixed optical low-filter on the sensor. We, of course, are curious about this claim, and below you can see a couple of ISO 100 crop comparisons of the R3 versus a 5D IV sample image re-sized to a 24MP resolution. Both images look fantastic at the base ISO 100, with lots of fine detail from both cameras. The often-tricky red and pink fabrics in our test scene appear a bit more detailed from the R3, but it's difficult to make a judgment call yet on whether or not there's better fine detail resolving power overall from the R3. We'll need to have a closer look and take some more comparison shots. (Be sure to use our Comparometer tool to see and compare more sample images of the R3 side-by-side with other cameras!)
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, also allows for faster data readout from the sensor. The R3 can shoot at up to 30fps at full resolution and with full continuous AF and AE functionality. The stacked design also helps reduce "rolling shutter" distortion with electronic shutter-based still-image shooting as well as offer blackout-free behavior during continuous burst shooting. Canon claims very minimally rolling shutter distortion during still-image shooting compared to other Canon cameras' electronic shutters thanks to the sensor's fast readout and the new DIGIC X's fast image processing.
We have lots more to test and try with the new Canon EOS R3, so stay tuned for more from our R3 review! For now, if you're curious to see how the image quality performs across the camera's full ISO range, head over to our Canon R3 Samples Page for our classic First Shots series of lab sample images.