CANON EOS R3 SPECS
|Dimensions||5.6 by 5.9 by 3.4 inches|
|Sensor Resolution||24 MP|
|Sensor Type||Stacked CMOS|
|Lens Mount||Canon RF|
|Memory Card Slots||2|
|Memory Card Format||SDXC (UHS-II), CFexpress (Type B)|
|Battery Type||Canon LP-E19|
|Display Size||3.2 inches|
|Display Resolution||4 million dots|
|EVF Resolution||5.8 million dots|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, USB-C, Wi-Fi, micro HDMI, Microphone (3.5mm), Headphone (3.5mm), PC Sync, Remote (Canon N3), Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)|
|Maximum Waterproof Depth||0 feet|
|HDMI Output||4:2:2 10-bit|
The Canon EOS R3 is a serious full-frame camera designed for the most demanding genres of photography, such as professional sports, exotic wildlife, reportage, and events ($5,999 body only). Its 24MP stacked image sensor focuses faster than traditional chips, making it excellent for capturing short action scenes. Its most notable feature, a focusing mechanism that you can control by moving your eyes, isn’t quite magical, but it does the job. Most significantly, the R3 is a delight to drive and is tough enough to withstand any situation. It receives our TechX award for its innovative HDR viewfinder, which simulates an optical viewfinder, as well as our Editors’ Choice award for its outstanding performance.
The Advantages of a Stacked Sensor
The EOS R3 is one of only a few full-frame cameras with stacked image sensors on the market today. Memory and sensor are combined in these chips for faster reading. It’s what enables the R3 to focus and shoot at 30 frames per second with a fully electronic shutter (about twice as fast as the fastest mechanical shutter versions) without any viewfinder interruption.
Mechanical shutters are used to freeze fast-moving action in cameras with more typical BSI CMOS sensors, such as the Canon EOS R6 and R5. With a fully electronic, silent capture approach, the R3‘s faster readout can freeze images in motion, so you don’t have to worry about rolling shutter distortion whether capturing sports, birds in flight, or other fast-moving subjects. The Canon R3 also has a mechanical focal plane shutter—so far, the Nikon Z 9 is the only stacked model that doesn’t have one.
Stacked sensors aren’t a new concept; the Sony a9, which was released in 2017, was the first camera to utilize them, and its successor, the a9 II, does as well. The sensor of the EOS R3 is Canon’s first attempt at a stacked chip, and it matches the a9 lineup’s 24MP resolution. One distinction is that the R3’s sensor is based on Canon’s Dual Pixel AF phase detection technique, which is different from Sony’s masked focus pixel approach.
Despite the differences in approach, neither underlying technology offers a real-world advantage—both techniques have resulted in cameras with world-class focus systems. The R3‘s autofocus, on the other hand, is a little more advanced than the a9 II‘s. It can identify a wider range of animals, including birds, as well as various motorsport cars. These characteristics are included in Sony’s newest stacked sensor camera, the 50MP a1, and Nikon’s first stacked sensor camera, the 45MP Z 9, also contains smart topic detection.
If you need more than 24MP, look at the EOS R5, or wait for Canon to create a high-resolution stacking model. It hasn’t stated any plans to do so, but we believe it is only a matter of time before it does.
Get a Handle on It
Canon’s R3 is the company’s first mirrorless body with a built-in vertical grip. Its profile is evocative of a Canon 1D SLR, with the same smooth curving lines that distinguish Canon cameras from Sony’s a9 and a1 series, which have more angular designs.
However, despite its resemblance to the 1D, the R3 isn’t quite as heavy. The optical viewfinder can be replaced by an EVF, which is lower in size. The R3 measures 5.6 by 5.9 by 3.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.2 pounds with the battery and memory card, which is a whole pound less than Canon’s most recent flagship SLR, the 1D X Mark III.
The R3‘s light-for-its-form design did a lot to win over this photographer. I’ve never been a fan of vertical grip bodies—they’re always more camera than I want to carry—but the R3 feels just as good in my hands as the R5 and balances a little better with the large lenses I use for birding. The Nikon Z 9 is also more in keeping with the size of traditional SLRs if you like a larger camera.
Also, don’t mistake a more practical form for poor building quality. With weather proofing and a magnesium alloy chassis, the EOS R3 is as tough as a 1D. It’s a camera you can count on when working in challenging settings.
Controls and Handling
The R3 includes a plethora of tactile controls, including buttons, knobs, and even touch-sensitive surfaces. Many buttons can be customized, and the body performs multiple roles, allowing you to accomplish the same action in multiple ways. If you don’t enjoy using the touch-sensitive AF-ON button to adjust the area of interest for focus, you may switch to an eight-way controller or enable eye-controlled focus and simply gaze at your subject—more on that later.
The Mode button should be familiar to photographers who have used a 1D X Mark III or EOS R5 (or perhaps a first-generation EOS R). On the top plate, there are two control dials, a monochrome information display, and the M-Fn control button. The shutter release is positioned slightly ahead of the handgrip, at a comfortable angle.
When you hold the camera in portrait mode, the shutter release, M-Fn button, and forward control dial are all mirrored at the bottom of the grip, so they’re right at your fingers. Both locations have the equivalent rear controls—AF-ON, the eight-way focus control stick, exposure lock, and the focus area selector button.
They’re joined by an On/Off switch, a flat rear command dial with a centered Set button, and the Q button, which opens the quick-access on-screen menu. You’ll also find the usual play, erase, and menu access buttons. The R3 has a button for quickly assigning star ratings to images, which is useful for tagging your finest shot in a sequence, as well as a voice memo function for attaching notes to a photo, which is very useful for photojournalists transferring work to editors for publication.
Backlighting is used for the playback and rating controls, as well as the top information display. When you switch to playback mode, the light turns on automatically, or you can manually toggle the lights using a button on the top plate.
The on-screen Q menu works in conjunction with the tactile controls and can be navigated by touch on the back display. The LCD has a variable-angle design, meaning it may be viewed from a high, low, or selfie angle. The screen itself is of excellent quality, measuring 3.2 inches in diameter and with a resolution of over four million dots. On sunny days, you can turn up the brightness, and if direct sun glare is a concern, you can easily tilt it.
Although Canon hasn’t advanced as much as rival Nikon in terms of screen design, we’re excited to sample the Z 9’s dual-hinge screen and its more unusual articulation. When the R3‘s swing-out screen is out to the side, it’s a little exposed. We like that the R3‘s display screen can be tucked inside the body during use for added protection, which the Z 9 and Sony a9 II don’t have.
The electronic viewfinder of the EOS R3 is one of the camera’s best features. EVFs aren’t technically new, and they’ve come a long way in the past decade or so of mirrorless system development, but the improvements have been mostly incremental. The most recent major advancement was the switch to OLED technology from LCD viewfinders, which can be problematic.
Because of faster refresh rates, OLED EVFs have gotten bigger, clearer, and smoother, but they haven’t made a significant jump forward. This is where the R3 comes in. It has an OLED viewfinder, but it also has High Dynamic Range (HDR) color reproduction for a more natural vision of the world.
Canon makes use of the HDR display in two different ways. You may use the R3 just like any other mirrorless camera to see a preview of your photo, including any color filters or effects you activate. This is how I prefer to work on days when I’m in a monochrome mood and require immediate visual feedback on my exposure. This approach will undoubtedly be alien to SLR aficionados. Even if your camera is set to black-and-white mode, you will always see the world in true color with an optical viewfinder (OVF) camera, as your vision, not a digital display panel, restricts sharpness and dynamic range.
An OVF simulation mode on the R3 reframes this. By lowering contrast and turning off exposure preview, it gets closer to the sensation of using an optical finder. Even if you’ve set your exposure to make silhouettes, you see a brilliant view of the world. In the regular scene preview mode, details in shadows and highlights are crunched and cut. A lower contrast preview, combined with neutral color balancing, reveals details in shadows and highlights that are crunched and clipped in the standard scene preview mode.
It’s also very simple to switch between the two modes—I remapped the M-Fn button to do so, which came in handy when capturing a few birds fishing for a morning meal against a brightly backlit sun. It’s a difficult image to expose, but with the help of an exposure preview, I was able to dial in my exposure and then switch to the OVF simulation view to better track the fast-moving birds in low light. With a typical EVF preview, I’d have a tougher difficulty finding the subject, and the scenario itself is difficult to capture with an optical viewfinder camera—shots into the sun aren’t easy on the eyes when looking through a pentaprism.
Because of its 5.8-million-dot resolution and 0.76x magnification, the screen displays lifelike detail; its size makes it appear just as huge to your eye as the OVF in the EOS-1D X Mark III. You may set it to 120Hz to capture fluid motion, which is ideal for sports action and other fast-moving subjects, or utilize the 60Hz power-saving option for less demanding settings.
Because of its HDR viewfinder and OVF simulation mode, the EOS R3 receives our TechX award. Rishi Sanyal’s extensive technical dive at DPReview is a good place to start if you want to learn more about how the viewfinder works.
Connectivity and Power
Canon makes good use of the available space and includes a large battery in the R3, the same LP-E19 found in the 1D X series. You can charge your camera in-camera via the USB-C port, but Canon cameras are picky about which adapters work with them. Only the Canon USB Power Adapter PD-E1 is officially supported by the R3; other adapters are hit-or-miss.
I couldn’t charge the battery with my Apple MacBook Pro charger, which works with almost every other mirrorless camera brand without a hitch. If your current charger doesn’t work with the camera, spend an additional $139 on a PD-E1 or use the included dual-battery external charger.
Because the EOS R3 is a power hog, its extra-large battery doesn’t last as long as you’d anticipate. In its default power-saving mode, CIPA rates it for roughly 620 shots. The 120Hz Smooth viewfinder option reduces this to around 440 pictures, a 30% reduction. The latter score is comparable to the Sony a9 II and Nikon Z 9. The CIPA ratings don’t account for continuous driving, so if you rely extensively on the 12fps mechanical or 30fps electronic shutter modes, you should be able to get thousands of images.
There are numerous wired and wireless connectivity options available with the camera. On the front, between the lens mount and the vertical grip, there is a 3-pin cable remote connection. The remaining ports, including 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, mini HDMI output, PC sync flash, and USB-C, are located on the left panel.
There’s also Bluetooth 5.0 LE and dual-band Wi-Fi. The Canon CameraConnect app, which is available for Android and iOS smartphones, is compatible with the R3. The software allows you to use your phone as a remote viewfinder with tap-to-focus and exposure controls, as well as for file transfers. The support for mobile editing is as expected—tagging your five-star images from a sequence and sending Raw files to an iPad Pro to edit in Lightroom Mobile is a breeze.
With network support, the R3 takes a step farther than basic full-frame models. It allows FTP transfer through Ethernet or Wi-Fi, which is essential for photographers who cover live events and need to submit photographs to an editor.
External flashes can be used with the EOS R3 via its hot shoe or PC sync connector; in-body lights aren’t usually included with cameras of this sort. When using the full electronic shutter, the R3 syncs in as little as 1/180 second, and 1/250 second when using the mechanical shutter. Even with wireless third-party solutions like the Flashpoint Xplor 300 TTL with which I tried it, it performs as expected.
Choosing a Lens
Canon’s EF SLR lens range is well-known among Canon system owners. With the use of an adapter, the EOS R3 can use EF lenses. The EF-EOS R, which I used to mount the EF 400mm F4 DO II IS USM, is one of several adapters available from Canon. You can bring your lenses over if you’re switching from a Canon SLR.
Canon is also developing a new lens family specifically for the EOS R system. Although the RF lens series is new, it already has a full range of professional-grade zooms that cover broad angles to extreme telephoto, as well as two high-end telephoto primes, the RF 400mm F2.8 and RF 600mm F4.
Is it true that Eye Control Focus is the real deal?
One of Canon’s early ideas, eye-controlled autofocus, makes a comeback with the EOS R3. During the film period, it appeared in consumer bodies such as the EOS A2E (from 1992) and professional bodies such as the EOS 3. The first attempts were crude and unreliable. I attempted to employ eye control with the EOS Elan 7ne from 2004, but it simply did not work for me.
The EOS R3‘s eye-control implementation is far superior to Canon’s initial efforts. The R3’s viewfinder shines infrared light into your eye and can tell where you’re looking by scanning the reflections. To get it to operate, you’ll need to go through a calibration sequence, which is very painless—the R3 will ask you to look directly at a place in the viewfinder while tapping the M-Fn button.
The process is repeated numerous times, with the point traveling around the frame. For the best results, calibrate the camera many times in varied lighting conditions and while holding it in both landscape and portrait position. The R3 includes memory for six user profiles, which you may export to a memory card and transfer from camera to camera.
When Eye Control is used, a yellow dot moves around the frame, following your eye movements. When you use autofocus, the camera searches for a subject that is close to the focus point and locks on to it. The R3‘s excellent subject recognition helps a little—get the focus point near to your subject, and the autofocus mechanism will take care of the rest.
How well does it function? It is debatable. Photographers with excellent vision are more likely to succeed than those with impaired vision. My dominant eye is very astigmatic, and I found that unless I held the camera tightly against my spectacles, the system struggled to track my vision when I tried to stare at the upper third of the frame. Even after many calibrations, the focus dot seems a touch wobbly in general.
It’s also important to consider the working environment. When I was working in the early morning hours, the sun was directly over my shoulder, which caused me troubles. Bright sunlight striking the viewfinder, as well as wearing colored contact lenses, bifocals, or sunglasses, will cause the system to malfunction, according to Canon. If your eye is too close or too far away from the viewfinder, you may experience problems. You get the picture: Eye Control focus is a feature with some limitations.
However, you could find it to be a suitable fit for your job. It can be used by race photographers to switch focus between cars as they speed down a track, and it should work well in sports where the field isn’t too crowded—baseball and soccer spring to mind. I discovered that it got in the way of my subjects, birds in branches and flight, more frequently than not, so I turned it off.
Canon’s Autofocus is the best it’s ever been.
Canon, on the other hand, hasn’t made the error of designing the R3 around Eye Control. It’s just one of various methods for focusing on a specific region of interest, all of which are enhanced by superior subject recognition and tracking. The camera’s AF-ON button also has a touch surface that acts like a touchpad to shift the active autofocus region around the frame; an eight-way joystick performs the same thing.
Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system for the R3 expands on the EOS R5 and R6‘s class-leading subject recognition and tracking. Its AI Servo continuous drive mode accurately recognizes and tracks subjects, with specialized modes for photography people, wildlife, and racing. In its human mode, the R3 uses face and eye detection; in its animal mode, it locks on to the eyes of birds and mammals; and in its vehicle mode, it detects race cars, motorcycles, and driver’s helmets.
The case-based preset focus modes from Canon’s 1D and 7D SLR series have been carried over. Photographers can fine-tune the R3’s focus reaction to stick with erratically moving subjects, give priority to subjects entering the frame, or react to subjects that suddenly change pace. In the menu, you can specify a specific use case or have the R3 swap focus settings for you.
The autofocus coverage is extensive, covering virtually the whole image sensor. With corner-to-corner focus, you don’t have to worry about putting your subject in the center of the frame, giving you more creative license when it comes to composition. Photographers who have already switched from a Canon SLR to an EOS R system will find it to be a refreshing change, but anyone switching from a 1D will find it to be a breath of new air.
In terms of speed, the R3 is one of the fastest-firing cameras available. The fully electronic shutter fires off Raw, JPG, or HEIF photographs at a blistering 30 frames per second, with each photo’s exposure and focus verified. The readout is fast enough to freeze motion, and it enables unusual shutter speeds to assist avoid flickering caused by digital signage, which is ubiquitous in professional sports venues.
When you utilize the fully electronic shutter, there’s no interruption in the view when taking images, thanks to the layered sensor. When the shutter fires, a slight white outline flashes around the edges of the display.
When you use the mechanical shutter for bursts, the view isn’t as smooth. When operating at the fastest 12fps capture rate (Hi+), the viewfinder stutters a little, and when working at 8fps (Hi) or 3fps (Low), you see a tiny bit of black during each exposure. The continuous drive experience here is more in line with that of other mirrorless cameras, which use on mechanical shutters to freeze moving things.
The length of time the R3 can run depends on the memory card and file format you use. For the fastest writing speeds, get a decent CFExpress (Type B) memory card. I used a SanDisk CFe card with a write speed of 1,400MBps. Before the R3‘s capture buffer fills, it can take roughly 130 Raw, 190 C Raw, or 230 JPG shots, however with a CFe card, the clear time is very quick (a couple of seconds).
To test performance with that format, I switched to a Sony Tough SDXC UHS-II memory card with a write speed of 299MBps. The R3 continued to take images for about the same amount of time, but buffer clears took much longer—45 seconds for Raw, 35 seconds for C Raw, and 25 seconds for JPGs.
Full-Frame Stabilized Sensor
The EOS R3 is based on Canon’s Dual Pixel AF focus technology and features the company’s first in-house stacked sensor, a 24MP full-frame chip. The sensor is attached to a five-axis stabilization mechanism that works in tandem with the lens-based image stabilization found in many RF telephoto lenses. It’s a standard feature in a full-frame mirrorless camera, but it gives the EOS 1D X series another advantage.
The sensor has a wide ISO range, with conventional settings ranging from ISO 100 to 51200 and an extended range of ISO 204800. The stacking construction allows for faster readout than previous-generation BSI sensors while maintaining the same high ISO performance. Images can be saved as 14-bit Raw, compressed C Raw, JPG, or HEIF. For the most part, I tested with C Raw+JPG and the totally electronic shutter.
Through ISO 12800, JPGs contain sharp clarity, vibrant color, and minimal noise. At ISO 25600 and 51200, fine detail suffers and precise lines exhibit slight smearing, but the photographs are still passable. Details are soft, and photographs in the extended range include a lot of noise. The high ISO output is a stop ahead of the Sony a9 II’s 24MP output and on par with the 20MP EOS-1D X Mark III’s.
Switching to Raw capture mode reduces in-camera noise reduction (allowing you to get a little more detail out of high ISO photographs) and allows you to alter color and exposure using a software editing suite—we use Adobe Lightroom Classic for all of our camera tests.
Through ISO 400, 14-bit Raw images display little noticeable noise. At ISO 800, a very fine grain pattern appears, adding texture to photographs without detracting from detail, and this effect lasts until ISO 12800. Grain becomes thicker and coarser as ISO 51200 approaches, and while it’s extremely thick at ISO 102,400, detail is still visible. I’d consider ISO 204800 to be a last-resort setting for really low light—image quality suffers noticeably at the highest setting, but most photographers won’t need to use it very often.
There are a few of in-camera HDR choices if you’re interested in HDR imaging. The R3 offers a single-shot HDR JPG capture option, but it takes a few seconds for a photo to be processed after you push the shutter. Switch from JPG to HEIF capture for faster results. When you do, the R3 switches to an HDR color space and takes photographs that aren’t too dissimilar from the OVF simulation mode. The EOS R3 has some creative features in common with earlier R cameras, such as in-camera multiple exposures and macro focus bracketing, both of which were first introduced in the EOS RP.
A Powerful Video Toolkit
When it comes to video, the EOS R3 is no slouch. It can record compressed 4K footage at up to 60fps with sound or 120fps for slow-motion playback, and it supports internal 12-bit Raw recording at 6K quality. If you choose to utilize an Atomos Ninja V or similar recording gear, the micro HDMI connector provides a clear 10-bit signal.
There are a few other compression settings for MP4 recording, including the Canon-recommended All-I codec for easier editing—it produces the largest file sizes but isn’t as taxing on Final Cut Pro. IPB and IPB Light alternatives are provided for smaller file sizes. For basic editing and ready-to-share 8-bit 4:2:0 clips, record in a normal color profile, or switch to Canon’s flat Log3 profile for gradable 10-bit 4:2:2 sampling.
The R3‘s video quality is excellent—details are sharp, and the stacked sensor effectively suppresses the rolling shutter effect’s unattractive motion distortions. Stabilization is also effective. I used an 800mm telephoto lens to try for some slow-motion film and got some usable results, however I’d recommend using a tripod or video monopod when working with longer lenses for the best results.
The EOS R3 is better suited to long-form recording than the EOS R5—overheating isn’t a concern with this camera, so you won’t have to worry about it while shooting. The R3 shut down after around 10 minutes of slow-motion filming at the highest quality in a room temperature test, with the exception of 4K120.
Compare with similar items
|Canon EOS R3||Canon EOS R3 (Renewed)||Canon EOS 5D Mark IV||Canon EOS 5D Mark IV (Renewed)||Canon EOS 6D Mark II|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||30 frames_per_second||30.0 frames_per_second||7 frames_per_second||7 frames_per_second||4000 frames_per_second|
|Screen Size||3.2 inches||3.20 inches||3.2 inches||3.2 inches||3 inches|
|Focus Type||Auto Focus, Manual Focus||—||manual-and-auto||Auto Focus||—|
|ISO Range||100-102400||100-102400||32000 ISO||32000 ISO||40000 ISO|
|Item Dimensions||3.43 x 5.91 x 5.61 inches||5.6 x 3.4 x 5.9 inches||3 x 5.9 x 4.6 inches||3 x 5.9 x 4.6 inches||2.9 x 5.7 x 4.4 inches|
|Item Weight||3.40 lbs||3.40 lbs||1.76 lbs||1.80 lbs||3.45 lbs|
|Max Resolution||24.1 megapixels||24.1 megapixels||30.4 megapixels||30.4 megapixels||26.2 megapixels|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||24.1 megapixels||24.1 megapixels||30.4 megapixels||—||20.2 megapixels|
|Photo Sensor Size||Full Frame (35mm)||Full Frame (35mm)||Full Frame (35mm)||APS-C||Full Frame (35mm)|
|Video Capture Resolution||1280p||1280p||2160p||2160p||1080p|
|Wireless Communication Technology||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi, NFC||BuiltIn; 802.11b/g/n + NFC + Bluetooth|
The R3 ties everything together.
For the greater part of a decade, the photo industry has been slowly moving away from SLR technology. Mirrorless cameras used to be second-class citizens in terms of viewfinder quality, focusing, and handling, but after years of development and refining, they are no longer second-class people. When it comes to autofocus, today’s hobbyist and professional mirrorless cameras outperform SLRs, and most offer better video capabilities.
The Canon EOS R3 goes above and beyond the competition in terms of pushing mirrorless ahead. It shines in terms of speed as Canon’s first stacked sensor mirrorless camera, and its autofocus technology is exceptional—subject recognition and tracking are second to none. The HDR viewfinder is more advanced than others, and it’s a compelling reason for SLR skeptics to switch to the 1D X.
Professionals who have worked with Canon for a long time should have little issue making the transition. Canon’s design language is consistent, and many functions are located in the same locations as on an SLR. As a result, the camera stays out of the way while you shoot photographs for the most part.
Both pros who make a living photographing quick action and dedicated hobbyists will benefit from the EOS R3. Its $6,000 price tag is on the higher end of the full-frame market, but it’s exactly in the center of the pack among cameras with similar capabilities. Although its 24MP sensor isn’t as large as some—the 45MP Nikon Z 9 and 50MP Sony a1 are better options if you want high speed and resolution—not everyone needs to file large photographs or crop aggressively. As a result, the EOS R3 is a more competitive option than the Sony a9 II ($4,500). The R3 is more expensive than the a9 II, but it comes with a better focusing system, slow-motion 4K, and excellent ergonomics, earning it our Editors’ Choice award.
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