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Is the Canon EOS R1 Going To Be a Technological Leap Forward?

Is the Canon EOS R1 Going To Be a Technological Leap Forward?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about the mirrorless successor to the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III, rumored to be called the Canon EOS R1. Some might even say outlandish or silly rumors.

The R1's rumored specifications of 85 megapixels at 20 frames per second, 21 megapixels at 40 frames per second, Quad Pixel Autofocus (QPAF), and a global shutter seem to be a photographer's dream. Are these specifications just wishful thinking, or are we about to see a giant leap in camera technology? 

The Case Against 85 Megapixels

Consider the history of the Canon 1D in the following chart as compared with the Canon 5D line, which already has its mirrorless successor to the Canon 5D Mark IV.

I just do not see how the rumored Canon EOS R1 could make such a leap.
The history of the Canon 1D just doesn't lend itself to an 85-megapixel sensor. A jump in resolution like this would be highly out of the ordinary for Canon. The 1D line has been hovering around the 20-megapixel area for around 13 years now. A jump of over four times the resolution has never happened before. The 1D and 5D lines have never even doubled their resolution in one generation, let alone made an astronomical leap like this rumor purports.

This resolution seems a bit far-fetched because the photographers' market that this camera is aimed at doesn't need and often doesn't want such a high resolution. On the other hand, the quad pixel AF and the ability to output 21-megapixel images at 40 frames per second most certainly would.

Some argue that such a significant change in sensor technology coming all at one time is a bit hard to believe. What is the possibility of a global shutter, stacked sensor, 85-megapixel resolution, 5-axis IBIS, and full sensor Quad Pixel autofocus all coming on the scene in Canon's flagship product? 

The rumors just seem too good to be true. I don't buy them. Personally, I think it will be in the area of a 45-megapixel sensor, possibly including a pixel shift feature which would fill in that 85-megapixel spot in the rumor. 

Such a leap in specifications would also limit Canon's future product line. Anyone buying a camera with such capability would not need to upgrade for quite some time, something that could affect future sales. On the other hand, such a camera would undoubtedly put Canon in the lead in the competitive market.

The Case For 85 Megapixels

Although I don't believe the rumor is accurate, a quad pixel autofocus and global shutter certainly lend some believability to this rumor in the area of technological capability. 85 megapixels is just about at the extreme end of the dual DIGIC X processor's ability for throughput.

Canon has ultra-high resolution sensors (250-megapixels) in the APS-H format, so it's not an extreme leap to imagine that they are capable of creating such a sensor. I still have my doubts that Canon is going to throw down such a gauntlet.

What do you think? Will Canon actually pull this off, or is this rumor just a bunch of wishful thinking? Let me know in the comments.

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28 Comments

Andrew Eaton's picture

As a 1x/1x mk2 user i think the R1 will need some serious spec's to keep the flagship bodies selling. I think a 80/20 mpix sensor with a simple swap would be a good thing. I was very underwhelmed with the 1x mk3 and was in no hurry to upgrade for little gain. Keeping the ergonomics and the battery life is really important. I normally upgrade my older body every 4 years to maintain reliability, but im in no hurry with the current economics..

Tony Filson's picture

Hi Andrew, As a professional sports photographer, I agree with you. I would like the option to choose the resolution I want to shoot in. This is what I do for a living.

To me the transition from the 1DXMKII to the 1DXMKIII was also underwhelming.

I would hope that the R1 would exceed the A1 in resolution.

I'd also like to see some Fuji or Hasselblad level color rendition.

The "Big Lie" that sports photographers don't want the option to determine their resolution or we're married to low resolution cameras without the intelligence to determine our own file sizes is ridiculous. And it's an insult.

Any child knows how to change file size when you're shooting. To those who don't know the menu sytem on the 1DX 1DXII and 1DXIII it could not be more easy.

If Canon opts to start treating sports photographers with the same resolution as in their low cost and mid-range cameras it would show us the respect we deserve. We know how to adjust our cameras for our needs.

Every sports photog I know that shoots pro, extreme and olympic sports would welcome the option to increase or decrease their resolution as "our needs dictate". Shooting above 15fps in RAW is a waste of time, in my opinion. Some might use JPEG as a benchmark but it should be RAW as it's more demanding. If the R5 can do it, please tell me why Canon opts to cripple my ability to determine the file size I want and need?

The other thing is we want our media to be the same. Two CF Express would be ideal. One card for the client, one card for us both on the same media. We like to load two 512K or 1TB and it it's more than enough for each day's shooting.

As much as we're married to our OVF's based on efficacy, we are open to Canon showing us a EVF system that equals our OVF's for fast action sports where you have to shoot handheld because the action is so fast. Shooting over water in tropical sun is challenging at times and so far we've not seen an EVF that offers the efficacy.

Canon MUST realize that many of us "stupid" professional sports photographers who don't know how to change file size when we shoot.... Have a HUGE investment in bodies and glass.

Many of us have 3-4 1DXII and 1DXIII bodies. Plus 2,8 big whites from 200 to 400. f/4 600's
and 200-400's and the regular 2.8 24-70 70-200, 135, 85, 35, 50, and many other lenses in out kits. Now add 4 Canon 600 series flashes, cards, batteries.... Close to $100K investment.

What compelling reason is there for us to spend another 100K? or Even just say 80K?

If canon can't make the R1 equal to or better then the AI or R5, I'm not interested.

I know how to change my file size when I shoot. Canon, stop treating sports photographers as if it's 1980.

You'll have to give me a reason why I should spend about $80K to switch from the 1DXMKIII to the R1 beyond a robust marketing campaign. After the 1DXMKII to MKIII transition..... We ain't going for it!!!

Brian Simon's picture

There's not a need for more megapixels for most use case and cameras these days are as fast as most people need them to be. I think ease of use and adding more customizability is more of a selling point to me than better specs. Vastly improved dynamic range would be really nice, but I highly doubt Canon will deliver.

Dan Jefferies's picture

So true. The R5 and R6 aren't even really "customizable". True, they offer a lot of options but that's it. They are only options and not even really the options I want.

Robert Nurse's picture

I'd have to disagree somewhat. The R5 offers me the ability to customize buttons so I can have Face/Eye tracking AF and regular point AF configured to separate buttons. For me this is huge. Both types of AF are available without having to go into the menu to activate/deactivate them. There are a host of other configuration options that can be linked to buttons.

Richard Mayer's picture

For most use cases. The 1 series dslr's aren't for common use cases though. It could be a 20 to 30mp sensor that canndo 80+ using pixel shift?

Andrew Eaton's picture

Pixel shift is pretty a much useless gimmick and only useful for macro... and even then its not great

David Moore's picture

It'll probably be a camera and do camera things. Like other cameras.

Richard Mayer's picture

Canon released a ~50mp sensor 5 series dslr 6 years ago. 85mp might be a stretch but not much of one. The r5 is a hell of a statement, maybe they are going for a $10k halo camera that can shoot 85mp at 15 to 20fps? Cooling would probably be the biggest barrier but not insurmountable.

Greg Wilson's picture

It seems like even the 10 y.o. Canon cameras are already excellent for the most of the photographic jobs. They are joy to use, produce excellent colors and their AF is fast and accurate enough for a skilled photographer to fully concentrate on the subject and composition.

So to me all the latest innovations look more of a push from the supplier side rather than a strong demand for certain features and specs.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Most of us know what we want which is more a need than want. Not sure if Canon is going off track chasing the mirrorless market to no end, but last year, their lens sales vs number of camera sales looked proportional to past despite the push from D to R.

Rick Pappas's picture

I'm still so happy with my 5D3 after 9 years! I love the ergonomics and feel and the IQ is still competitive. If it died tomorrow, I wouldn't go for more pixels. I make 24X36 inch prints as the norm and they are beautiful. I'd go for the R6 before the R5.

Just an aside...I've been playing around with Adobe's Super Resolution for the past few days. This AI tech is only going to get better and as it does, it is going to lessen the need, for more pixels.

Rayann Elzein's picture

What the hell does this thumbnail have to do with the article?

Mike Dixon's picture

I give a thumbs down to the 85mp rumor.

Pavlos Honderich's picture

My guess was that he was rejecting the rumor of 85 mp which he confirmed.

Doriano Ciardo's picture

For now, it's just speculation about a few advertising data. But if the technical data are confirmed, for sure since the R1 incorporates the new technology, I believe that the 20 mpx of the old flagships will marry perfectly with the x4 multiplication of the new quad pixel. Here is the new value at 85 mpx. There is little wonder. In fact, you could also shoot at 21 mpx with increased gusts. I consider it a genius to please sportsmen and other branches of professional photography.

Pavlos Honderich's picture

What is with these new full page ads that wrap around the entire border of the screen you guys are hosting? They pop in randonly and overlap text making near impossible to read... Yesterday they weren't as bad, but just now I was literally getting them to render every 3 to 5 seconds sometimes slowing to 10 seconds. They just started yesterday and there are multiple products advertised. Way too agressive.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I've seen them since earlier this month. Very unattractive. If they show up and I was not sure I wanted to see the article in the first place, I'm out right away.

Vesa Lindgren's picture

S-versions were higher megapixel versions, not for sports, but for studio.
Here are correct numbers for scale...
1d - 4.15 megapixels
1d II - 8.2 megapixels
1d III - 10.1 megapixels

David Pavlich's picture

Imagine the stories we'd see here if Canon followed their trend and made the R1 with a (tiny) 24MP sensor. The long knives would be shined up and pulled from their sheaths. It wouldn't matter if it shot 40 fps mechanical, 60 fps electronic, had 17 stops of DR, and so strongly built that it could be used for a 777 wheel chock. The headlines would be about the 'small' sensor. It's the way of things.

Stanley Westfall's picture

It's all about using the tools you have at the time and not waiting for the perfect camera because there will never be the perfect camera with the way technology is advancing. I personally only shoot still images. As such, all the video tech in today's cameras does nothing but raise the price of my still camera!

Don S's picture

I don’t think 85Mp will be the selling point of this camera but the global shutter, quad pixel autofocus (if it turns out to be a better autofocus system) will be the main draw. Remember - Canon’s top of the line is still a DSLR - so pro’s who want to get a mirrorless will like the R1. Also the rumours are speculating on much better image stabilization. A point that some have missed is that this camera may have monster video capabilities also with the quality that huge over sampling will offer.

Khushi Gaur's picture

Mike Dixon Amazing how some people will say the rumour only Canon R1 will beat the released Sony A1. The Sony A1 performs in accordance with its published specs, which is more than what can be said about the Canon R5, which does not. I shoot both Canon and Sony and Sony FF mirrorless is ahead, by a large margin. How the mighty have fallen, Canon users now live on rumours while Canon plays catch up. If you want to see where Canon is going, just look at the Sony releases. That is what happens when Canon plays catch up with the real FF mirrorless innovator. Example, the sensor readout on the A1 is FIFTEEN times faster than the R5 meaning almost no rolling shutter on the A1 (R5 has terrible rolling shutter), zero shutter blackout on A1, faster flash sync speed on the A1 including electronic shutter flash sync, usable 8K and the list goes on and on.

I will share this article to my friend sushant gupta defsys.

David Pavlich's picture

A1-Flagship. R5-not a flagship. A1-fifth generation. R5-second generation. But, if this comparison makes you happy, then that's a good thing. Subjective, but until Sony comes up with a body that doesn't feel so miserable in hand, I'll stick with Canon.

Christina Hancock's picture

Khushi Gaur You overlooked the 5Ds/R part of the 5D arrangement. Ordinance shows it can absolutely do high megapixel sensors. I would all the more moderately place the R1 in the 60mp territory than 85mp. my friend sachin dev duggal entrepreneur loved it.

Robert Hold's picture

You ignored the 5Ds/R branch of the 5D series. Canon does show it can certainly do high megapixel sensors. I would more conservatively place the R1 in the 60mp range than 85mp.

Doriano Ciardo's picture

The only important thing about Sony years ago is that by copying extensively from the Leica experience, which it still teaches everyone, it had a lot of time to test mirrorless cameras (also applies to Fuji). The fact that Sony has invested millions in research denotes a fair spirit of research and innovation, but other brands such as Canon have remained to watch only for a matter of market, and already the first time with R and RP was successful. We don't compare who is faster because the electronics of one are completely different from the other, and we've already seen the flaws of some brands' AF. I want to see those running at 30fps on 50mpx at the next Olympics, how much trouble they will have to broadcast and post-produce in real time. The R1 will be able to do it on 21 mpx at 40 fps, the 85 mpx will be used for other types of shots, as long as they manage to put it on the market in time or that some canon ambassador tries it live. They still haven't figured out the difference in pixels between a Canon Flagships and a Pro body. As to whether Sony continues to have questionable bodies and menus, many of us think so, and it's the ones who actually work there, not keyboard teachers, who without having the tool in hand launch themselves on rash and useless judgments on a global level. The user experience is as important as the final quality of the work. End users who have mainly bought Canon since October last year have already eliminated the guesswork from many blog posts, failed engineers and small influencers who don't know the difference between Canon Flagships and Pro Body and know nothing about photography. Sony had to speed up projects a lot just to sell more and be present at the Olympics.

David Luttmann's picture

Not that I think the camera will be 85 mp...but there are a couple of issues with the write up. One, you didn’t use a logarithmic chart. The difference between 10 and 20 isn’t the same as between 50 and 60. Second, you missed the leap to the 50mp 5dsr from 21 mp prior. Thus, going from 50 to 85 is now perfectly reasonable