Canon’s latest product announcement has sent heads spinning: a resurrected product name, a breakthrough in Canon’s sensor technology, and features that make it look a lot like a 1D X Mark III — and then some. What can we expect from the forthcoming Canon EOS R3?
More than a few pundits felt their jaws drop when Nokishita leaked details of the new R3 and the official announcement from Canon saw mouths widen even further. After a period of assuming that Canon’s research and development was taking its time, along comes evidence that the company is far more advanced than any of us assumed. Canon has produced its own backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, probably a little earlier than most of us anticipated, and no mean feat given that they had to incorporate Canon’s own dual pixel autofocus technology.
A Handful of Specifications
A quick reminder of what we know so far:
This is a BSI CMOS sensor with “substantially faster read-out speeds” that will capture up to 30 frames per second using the electronic shutter. This will deliver “great emphasis on superb AF performance and speed, with fast-moving subjects” and place the R3 between the existing EOS R5 and 1D X Mark III.
The body features an incorporated vertical grip (giving plenty of space for more juice) and will have the same level of weather-sealing as Canon’s 1D X line of cameras. Interestingly, the R3 will feature eye-controlled autofocus, a throwback to its film predecessor, the EOS 3 released back in 1998.
What we can see from the few images released so far is that along with the vertical grip, it shares a number of design features as the 1D X: like the original EOS 3, there’s no mode dial, instead just a number of inset buttons that makes weather sealing far easier. It also shares the customizable buttons around the lens mount.
Should This Be an R1?
The speed and the design prompt the question: why is this the R3 and not the much-anticipated R1? What does Canon have up its sleeve for its 1D X mirrorless equivalent that means that this resurrected product name is slotting itself in between?
There are a few possibilities, the first of which being that the 1D X Mark III is a little more than a year old. Launched in January 2020, while impressive, its arrival felt a little awkward, though all of that was quickly forgotten when the groundbreaking R5 and R6 were announced shortly afterward, changing the pro mirrorless market significantly. Canon needs to sell those 1D Xs and trying to avoid denting their own products is a game that every manufacturer has to play, constantly complicated by technological evolutions that make more expensive, older products seem outdated and overpriced. In terms of product cycles, a successor to the 1D X Mark III should be earmarked for 2024 — in theory.
In addition, as Tony Northrup suggests, Canon takes an enormous amount of pride in its product names and simply would not risk introducing an R1 until it is confident that the product is fully matured and free of quirks (for example, overheating). The 1D X line is the domain of agencies who buy vast numbers of cameras at a time and expect to see mileage out of those bodies for a significant number of years. An R3 offers an opportunity for Canon to prove the technology and demonstrate that the R1 is worth waiting for and giving Canon a little more time to breathe.
Global Shutter? And How Much?
And that might be another factor: Canon might be intent on bringing out an R1 with a global shutter which then prompts further questions about megapixels. Will the R3 be the mooted 45-50 megapixels to place it on par with the Sony a1, with the R1’s global shutter sensor somewhere around the 20-24 megapixel mark to make it better suited for sports and news?
Tied in with this is the price. $6,500 would put it in the same bracket as the Sony a1, but Canon might choose to keep the resolution of the R3 a little lower in order to justify a price that’s closer to $5-5,500 and carving the R3 its own, even more distinctive position in the market. This would also leave room for the eventual R1 to take that $6,500 price tag for itself, in line with its 1D X Mark III heritage, and hopefully avoid seeing the R1 priced closer to eight grand. Perhaps the only other clue we have for the R3 at this stage is the wording in Canon’s announcement: “emphasis on superb AF performance and speed, with fast-moving subjects.” This suggests speed over resolution, but as proven by the a1, this might not be a division that we see for much longer.
I’m intrigued to see whether the R3 will have a fully articulating screen. Part of me believes that its video capabilities would make it inevitable (8K 30p?); however, if top dials are ditched for greater weather-sealing and rugged reliability, a very much embedded fixed LCD in line with the 1D X might be more likely. A flippy screen may give flexibility, but it makes keeping out water harder and is potentially a point of failure if the camera is being subjected to some harsh treatment.
The speed of the mechanical shutter will also be interesting. Canon has long made Sony’s efforts at a mechanical shutter look pathetic, with the a1 managing a paltry 10 frames per second so the R3 won’t have to work hard to surpass that. My guess is around 12-14 frames per second, protecting the 1D X Mark III’s 20 frames per second (mechanical, but with the mirror locked up — 16 fps when using the optical viewfinder), and leaving space for the eventual R1 to push this even further — though a global shutter might make this figure all but irrelevant.
The texture of the R3 in the handful of images we have available looks spectacular, making everyone wonder why the convention for faux-leather grippy stuff has stuck around for so long. I hope it feels as good as it looks.
Over to You
What do you expect from the R3? How will it be priced and where is Canon headed in its journey to deliver its mirrorless version of the 1D X Mark III? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.