Best camera for Wedding Photographers for 2022
After releasing the EOS R5 and R6 mirrorless cameras in 2020, many Canon shooters (myself included) were looking forward to what Canon might put into their flagship mirrorless product. While a little information has been leaking out, we now have an official development announcement and the first look at this new top-tier RF-mount camera – the Canon EOS R3.
The name: why EOS R3, why not R1?
While Canon hasn’t revealed very much in the way of specs, we now know that Canon will be releasing a full-size mirrorless camera called the EOS R3. While some were expecting a 1-series mirrorless, an R3 actually makes a lot of sense. It’s a nod to a category that existed in the film days while leaving room for a true flagship to replace DSLRs completely in the next year or two.
Canon has used the 1-series moniker going back to their F-1 in the early 1970s and the A-1 in 1978. The EOS-1 in 1989 introduced the EF lens mount and autofocus with a single, central AF point. (I know!). The EOS-1 was available with a Power Drive Booster and that shape was carried through to the release of the original 1-D digital SLR in late 2001.
The EOS 3
In the late 1990s, Canon sold a really interesting camera called the EOS R3. While incorporating many of the capabilities from the EOS-1N, like the 45-point AF system, it introduced a unique feature called “Eye Control Focus.” I remember a friend owning one in college. When I thought I was hot stuff for my new digital SLR (the Canon D60) and it’s three AF points, I remember being very jealous of this feature in his film camera.
|5D MARK IV – $2499
|Sensor/Resolution: 30.4MP (6720 × 4480)
|ISO Range: 100-32000 (expands to 50-102400)
|Frame Rate: 7 FPS (~3.9 FPS in live view)
|Buffer Size: 17 images w/ dual cards
|Rear Screen: 3.2” fixed (1.62 million dots)
|Viewfinder: optical only
|Dual Pixel AF: Version 1 (face-detection)
|Low Light AF: -3EV optical, -4EV in LV
|Storage: Compact Flash + SD (UHS-I)
|Battery Life: 300 shots in LV, 900 optical
|Shutter Life Rating: 150,000 frames
|Weight: 890g (1.96 lbs)
|EOS R5 – $3899
|Sensor/Resolution: 44.7MP (8192 × 5464)
|ISO Range: 100-51200 (expands to 50-102400)
|Frame Rate: 12 FPS (20 FPS electronic shutter)
|Buffer Size: 87 images w/ dual cards
|Rear Screen: 3.2” vari-angle (1.62 million dots)
|Viewfinder: electronic (5.76 million dots)
|Dual Pixel AF: V2 (face & eye-detection)
|Low Light AF: -6EV
|Storage: CFExpress + SD (UHS-II)
|Battery Life: 490 shots LCD, 320 EVF
|Shutter Life Rating: 500,000 frames
|Weight: 738g (1.63 lbs)
A New Product Category
Canon says that when it arrives, the R3 will be positioned between the current mirrorless R5 and the 1Dx Mark III DSLR. So what will that mean?
Given this positioning, we should expect the EOS R3 to be priced more than the $3,900 R5 and less than the $6,500 price of the 1Dx Mark III. Personally, I’d be surprised if the EOS R3 isn’t priced at least near $6,000. I think Canon will stretch the 1-series flagship mirrorless back to the $8,000 price point that we saw for the 1Ds high megapixel bodies before the 1D and 1Ds lines merged. That would spread out the line nicely with the R6 at $2,500, the R5 at $4,000, the R3 at ~$6,000 and the R1 eventually at $7,500+.
Eye Control AF
For the first time since the EOS 3 and for the first time ever in a digital camera, Eye Control AF returns. As I mentioned earlier, I have some experience with this feature using a friend’s EOS 3 during my college years. It didn’t work for everyone – in fact, I had more luck with it than my friend did. He called it a gimmick and stuck to using the traditional buttons.
Canon says that this feature will be used to “set the initial point” for tracking moving subjects, so it’s hard to know how similar this version of Eye Control AF will be in practice. They also note that the feature may not be available in certain conditions and may not work for users “wearing bifocal eyeglasses, certain types of sunglasses…or certain hard contact lenses.”
Personally, I still use the camera away from my eye a lot (I’m still re-learning I can use the viewfinder again after using the Mark IV essentially in Live View exclusively). So I’m more interested to see if we get the awesome Smart Controller AF-ON button from the 1Dx Mark III.
30 FPS Frame Rate
Until Canon announced it, I would have expected an R3 to favor resolution rather than high speed burst shooting. Generally, the 1-series is the high speed camera and trades off sensor resolution in an effort to maximize the frame rate.
Electronic Shutter – 30fps
Sony’s A1 and its 30fps frame rate are squarely the target here. With electronic shutters, the engineering isn’t about moving a physical set of curtains but rather a limitation of processing power, buffer and card speed. Canon says continuous shooting up to 30 fps will be available. For how long before the buffer fills remains a question.
Mechanical Shutter – unknown
How fast the mechanical shutter (if it even has one?) is also unknown. It should be at least the 12 fps from the R5, but could it be as high as the 20 fps available in the 1Dx Mark III in live view? We’ll have to wait to see as well.
Stacked CMOS Sensor
One looming issue with mirrorless cameras – especially for the market this camera is aimed at (sports shooters) – is ‘rolling shutter’ distortion. Because electronic shutters generally record the frame rolling across the frame, fast-moving subjects can distort unnaturally. This is especially noticeable when a round baseball renders like an oval, or the shaft of a golf club bends much farther than reality.
What is a stacked sensor?
Without getting too far into the technical fabrication process, stacked sensors allow more complex circuitry behind the pixels. This lets manufacturers do things like integrating RAM directly into the sensor. The effect is a much faster readout of the sensor data. Ultimately this results in three critical performance benefits:
1) Improved maximum shooting rate
The 20 fps frame rate of the R5 and 1Dx Mark III were impressive achievements. But increasing that, especially as megapixels increase becomes very difficult. Without a mirror in the way, sensor readout speed is the bottleneck for frame rate.
2) Improved autofocus speed and accuracy
The faster the camera can read data from the sensor, the faster it can process changes to the scene for autofocus. Removing the mirror and focusing using Live View and sensor data is game changer compared to DSLR focusing. Stacked sensors greatly increase the ability to push autofocus performance.
3) Improved rolling shutter performance
Sony’s A1 has shown that it’s possible to effectively limit the negative consequences of electronic shutters. Stacked sensor technology will be critical to allowing fully electronic shutters to work in flickering lighting conditions, for high-speed objects and with a range of flash products. If Canon’s stacked sensor can solve those three related issues, there will be no argument left for a mechanical shutter.
Deep Learning Autofocus
The EOS R3 will expand the autofocus performance of the R5. Enhancing the tracking ability with “even better face-, eye-, head- and body-detection.” They also tease an additional type of subject recognition for its AF system.
The one-piece design is unlike any other mirrorless camera currently shipping. So far, only Nikon has announced an upcoming camera with a battery grip built in. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see that they are listening to the feedback from real professionals and won’t be forcing us to use the tiny playstation controllers that Sony is selling. Canon says the weather and dust-resistance will be equivalent to their 1-series class cameras.
Canon didn’t give us a lot of information with this development announcement, but they did list a few other specifics. We can also tell a few things from the official product photo(s) that have been released. Let’s take a closer look.
Backlit Illuminated Buttons?
Canon didn’t officially put this in their press release, but it appears they may have slipped this in during press briefings. Adorama listed this little nugget in their official announcement and I found it in at least one other article.
No mode dial
Without officially saying it, the photos confirm that the top button system of current 1-series camera will carry to the R3. This is a mixed bag for me. Obviously, the dial is subject to abuse and failure. However, it makes switching between modes very fast. For example, I’ll switch between C1 and C2 constantly if I’m shooting a scenario with two drastically different exposure settings (on lights/ambient or front-lit/backlit). The 1-series set up also requires two hands for some operations, by holding a button down with the left hand and changing a dial with the right.
Additional DOF preview buttons
For me, the only thing the R5 stepped backward compared to the 5D Mark IV was the placement of the DOF preview button. I won’t know until I’m holding it, but the R3 adds a second button so I’m optimistic the placement will be more useful than the R5.
With the vertical battery grip, Canon will be using a different shaped battery compared to the LP-E6 type batteries from the smaller bodies. Hopefully they maintain compatibility with the 1-series (LP-E19) batteries). It would be great if they offered a tray that could accept two of the LP-E6 batteries, but that may not be possible. In any case, 1-series batteries offer about 30% more capacity than 5-series batteries. Unfortunately they’re double the price.
Bringing back the 3-series is a smart move, and certainly no coincidence. There’s long been speculation whether Eye Control AF would return in a digital camera, my only hope is that there are no compromises to other modes of AF point selection. After using the R5 for the past eight months, it’s hard to believe there’s much that can be improved. If the R5 was the first mirrorless body that didn’t look like a toy, the EOS R3 is the first mirrorless that looks like a real camera. (Okay, Nikon shooters…I’ll give you the Z9, but it’s not yet shipping either)
Stills first priority
Curiously missing from Canon’s announcement is any mention of video features. They do indicate that Eye AF will be a stills-only feature, so there’s no reason to think the EOS R3 won’t still record video. But it appears they’re not pushing video as hard as they did on the R5 and R6. The camera would need to be at least 45 megapixels to handle 8K. Even with a stacked sensor, 1.35 gigapixels per second seems optimistic. Sony’s A1 does 50 megapixels at 30 fps, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented. Just as long as it doesn’t overheat while shooting stills, I’m good!
When will it arrive?
The announcement didn’t give any kind of time table. Last year, Canon announced the R5 development on February 13. They later held a livestream virtual press conference to share more of the details on April 20. The camera was officially announced July 9, with a ship date of July 30. If we take that kind of timeline we could expect more details by early summer and see the camera shipping by this fall. I’m actually expecting things to move sooner with the R3. I’d be very surprised if this isn’t already in real-world testing. I’m sure Canon wants this to be in hands for the Olympics this summer.