Canon EOS R3 Review

Canon EOS R3

The Canon EOS R3 is the first of a new camera class, slotted between the extreme professional 1-series and the high-performance 5-series. Featuring high reliability, durability, and exception speed, the R3 is designed to meet professional requirements with an emphasis on outstanding results when photographing challenging and fast-moving subjects.

Especially photographers pursuing sports, action, photojournalism, and wildlife should strongly consider adding R3 bodies to their kits.

Canon EOS R3 Front

Summary of Canon EOS R3 Features

  • New high image quality with a back-illuminated stacked 24.1 megapixel full-frame CMOS imaging sensor designed by Canon, featuring high-speed read-out with low distortion
  • DIGIC X image processor with an ISO range of 100-102400; expandable to 204800
  • High-speed continuous shooting of up to 30 fps with electronic (silent) shutter, AF tracking, and continuous AE, up to 12 fps with mechanical shutter
  • Improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF II with 1,053 AF points, featuring brand new vehicle detection as well as Human eye, face, head, body, and animal eye, face, and whole body detection; Deep Learning featured
  • New tracking subject for deep learning technology: motorsports (car/bike)
  • Eye Control AF — A first for EOS digital cameras. Select the initial area for AF tracking by looking at the to-be-focused-on subject during still image capture (only) for fast AF point positioning.
    With Servo AF activated, the camera will focus on and track moving subjects at that location in the frame.
    When Subject Tracking is active, the camera will continue to follow moving subjects around the entire active AF area.
    * not functional in all environments, with all individuals, and with certain glasses or contact lenses
  • AF at EV -7.5 (extremely dark)
  • Speedlite shooting with electronic shutter supported
  • High Frequency Anti-Flicker evaluates the scene and precisely adjusts the shutter speed to avoid banding and flicker, including from LED signage
  • New 5.76M dot, 120 fps, blackout-free, Canon-developed OLED EVF featuring quick response and high dynamic range
  • Vari-Angle Touchscreen 3.2" LCD featuring 4.3M dots
  • High-performance video, including 6k 60P RAW, 4K 120P 10-bit (uncropped), Canon Log3, oversampling 4k, RAW movie internal recording, AF tracking for people, animals, and motorsports
  • Up to 8-stops of shake correction with coordinated control IS with IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) and optical IS (in-lens)
  • Dual memory card slots, featuring CFexpress Type B and UHS-II SD format slots
  • Next-generation multi-function shoe capable of data communication and power delivery supporting new accessories, Speedlite EL-1 synchronization
  • Extensive range of professionally required reliability and network capabilities, including wired LAN and 5GHz (11ac equivalent)
  • Compatible with Mobile File Transmitter (*iOS wired and wireless connection)
  • Appearance and operability from the 1-series and R5 featuring 3-dial operation, Multi-Controllers, and the Smart Controllers first seen in the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III
  • Integrated vertical grip
  • Magnesium alloy body
  • Dust resistance and drip resistance equivalent to EOS-1D X series cameras
  • LP-E19 battery

Canon EOS R3 Body

Sensor and Image Quality

The EOS R3 gets a brand new, designed-by-Canon, back-illuminated, stacked, 24.1 megapixel CMOS full-frame CMOS imaging sensor, with exceptional resolution and high-speed read-out leading to low distortion. While 24 MP overall resolution is no longer high for a full-frame sensor, those opting for this camera are more interested in speed and performance than an ultra-high megapixel count and the large file size that accompanies such. This camera provides imagery that is easily adequate for full-page and double-page magazine spreads.

ModelFOVCFSensorPixel SizePixels/MegapixelsViewfinderDLA*
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.6µm5472 x 364820.1 .76x100%f/10.6
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.6µm5472 x 364820.2 .76x100%f/10.6
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm5.36µm6720 x 448030.4 .71x100%f/8.6
Canon EOS R31.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.00µm6000 x 400024.1 .76x100%f/9.7
Canon EOS R51.0x36.0 x 24.0mm4.39µm8192 x 546445.0 .76x100%f/7.1
Canon EOS R61.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.56µm5472 x 364820.1 .76x100%f/10.6
Sony a11.0x35.9 x 24.0mm4.2µm8640 x 576050.1 .90x100%f/6.7
Sony a9 II1.0x35.6 x 23.8mm5.9µm6000 x 400024.2 .78x100%f/9.6
Sony a91.0x35.6 x 23.8mm5.9µm6000 x 400024.2 .78x100%f/9.6
* Learn more about DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture)
View the full Canon EOS R3 specifications to compare additional cameras.

Image dimensions of up to 6000 x 4000 pixels are available (the additional pixels provide support functionality) in 3:2 (optional 1.6x APS-C crop up to 3744 x 2496), 4:3, 16:9, and 1:1 aspect ratios.

As found in the 1D X Mark III, the powerful DIGIC X processor is again leveraged for improved sharpness, noise reduction, Digital Lens Optimizer processing, and more. Compared to the dual DIGIC 6+ processors used for image processing in the 1D X Mark II, the DIGIC X processor is up to 3.1x faster for image processing, and the computational processing performance is up to 380x faster.

Note that it is easier to get pixel-sharp images from a low-resolution imaging sensor than from a considerably higher resolution imaging sensor (though that difference goes away when images are viewed at the same output size).

For a closer look at the R3's resolution, check out the R3 results in the site's image quality tool.

That link is preloaded with a comparison against the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III. Right, the lenses are different, with the R3 tested behind the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens. However, both lenses produce outstanding image quality (see the R5 comparison of those two lenses) and are essentially distortion-free at the tested focal lengths. In the R3 vs. 1D X III comparison, we see similar image quality with the R3 having slightly more resolution, as expected.

Another interesting comparison is against the EOS R6. What I notice most here are the R3's cleaner details, including less false color (influenced by the Capture One software conversion), at the pixel level.

The quality of each pixel matters, and it is interesting is that Canon indicated that the R3 sensor out resolves the 5D Mark IV at 30.4 MP. In comparison against the EOS 5D Mark IV, the R3 impressively resolves details similar to the considerably higher resolution imaging sensor.

The comparison against the R5 shows the R5's strong resolution advantage.

The R3 has a normal ISO range of 100-102400 in 1/3 and 1/2 stop increments, with extended ISO 50 and 204800 available. The marketing department is always quick to state a camera's ISO range, but ... the usable settings within that range are what really matter, and I immediately dismiss the highest settings as having an unacceptable SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio).

The Kodak color block test chart is a rather boring subject that I photograph for hours during each camera test. Sensor technology improvements (including onboard circuitry) implemented by sensors seldom show up on a specification chart, but they do show up in pictures of a color block chart.

Canon EOS R3 ISO Noise Comparison with the EOS-1D X Mark III

Ctrl-click on the link to open those results in a new tab. A comparison with the EOS-1D X Mark III is preloaded.

The smoothly-colored Kodak color patches test chart subject combined with, unless otherwise specified, no noise reduction processing (a key point) makes noise especially noticeable compared to detailed scenes that better hide noise levels. Noise reduction processing can improve upon the noise level seen in these images, but noise reduction can be applied to images from every camera, reducing its differentiation. So, avoiding noise reduction in the comparison levels the playing field. The Canon RAW-captured noise test images were processed in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) with the Standard Picture Style and Sharpness = "1" (0-10 scale).

When using the comparison feature of the site's camera noise tool, let your eyes discern the results. The even colors found in these test charts make noise very apparent relative to most real-life subjects as detail in a scene will far better hide the noise. If you can't readily pick out the difference in a comparison, it is unlikely that you will recognize the difference in real-world results.

The base ISO setting (ISO 100 with the current EOS models) is always my preferred setting for very clean, low noise results. Not all situations accommodate ISO 100; noise increases as ISO settings go up, and the R3, like the other full-frame EOS models, delivers excellent image quality at significantly higher settings.

As the ISO setting increases from 100 through 1600, noise levels grow slowly. But, they remain very low, showing the impressive capabilities of a modern, high-resolution full-frame imaging sensor. At ISO 3200 through ISO 6400, noise levels become noticeable, though images still look very good at these settings. By ISO 12800, images begin to show noticeable impact from noise, and by ISO 25600, noise is strong. ISO 51200 through 102400 results look bad unless downsized significantly, and ISO 204800 results are terrible, seemingly good enough for only marketing or artistic purposes.

Comparing same-size imaging sensors, the lower the resolution, the larger the photosites. Larger pixel wells can collect photons at a higher rate than smaller ones (like a larger bucket in the rain), generating a higher SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) that results in lower noise levels. Therefore, do not expect pixel-level noise performance from an ultra-high-resolution imaging sensor to match that from a similar generation low-resolution imaging sensor.

That said, the final output size is what matters in the real world. To make a Canon EOS R3 vs. Canon EOS R5 comparison relevant, the R5 image (oversampled in this case) must be reduced to the R3's pixel dimensions. I did not create R5 results at 6000 x 4000 pixels, but do have R6 image dimensions from the R5 in the noise tool. The R3 noise levels appear similar to the R5 noise levels. DPP was used for downsizing the R5 images in that example. The Adobe downsized result is also available for viewing.

A large number of R3 noise test results captured using other settings are available. The additional results were either captured in RAW format or in JPG using Canon's USM (Unsharp Mask) strength setting of "1" (the default of "4" is too high). Examples of a range of NR (Noise Reduction) settings are added into the mix for hours of fun.

Regarding high ISO noise, you can have smooth, or you can have detailed. Pick one. While not as black and white as that statement implies, the amount of noise reduction applied to an image requires consideration of the overall concept. The amount of noise reduction ideally applied to an image is not necessarily directly dependent on the ISO setting alone. You may find that some subjects take noise reduction better than others. As a generalization, I prefer a low amount of noise reduction at higher ISO settings.

Applied properly, noise reduction can significantly increase the tolerable noise level ISO setting. All of Canon's EOS cameras provide a wide range of noise reduction, sharpness, and other image quality setting adjustments, enabling you to dial the results into perfection. That these settings can be adjusted in-camera is particularly important for those requiring compressed JPG format images out of the camera (including when using the camera's own RAW image conversion capabilities).

Multi-shot Noise Reduction (MSNR) is an in-camera option available in many of the latest EOS models, including the R3. MSNR merges information from multiple (four) exposures taken in a full-frame rate burst into a reduced noise image. The concept makes a lot of sense. MSNR generally provides a remarkable one or two stops of noise reduction (my examples show very soft results at USM strength = "1"), but ... I still have not found a compelling use for this feature.

The downsides to Multi-Shot Noise Reduction include: MSNR is currently available only with JPG output (I would like to see this feature added to Canon's Digital Photo Pro software for RAW capture processing – perhaps as another HDR preset). Multi-Shot Noise Reduction is not so useful with moving subjects (or with a moving camera). Long exposure NR, Dust Delete Data, Multiple Exposure, and HDR Mode must be set to off to enable MSNR. The R3 reverts to Standard NR in Auto/Basic zone modes, during video recording, in Bulb mode, and when the camera is powered off. Flash is not supported in MSNR mode.

After the four-shot burst is captured, the camera remains "busy" for a noticeable period (now reduced to approximately 2 seconds with the R3) while processing the merged image. So, while this feature is a nice idea, its limitations make it less useful in real-world applications. I am far more likely to use a low ISO setting with a longer exposure when shooting stationary subjects from a tripod.

MSNR might be a good option when handholding the camera in very low light levels is required.

Provided in the noise tool are many "Exposed * EV" result sets. These images were intentionally over or underexposed at capture and adjusted to the standard brightness during post-processing. These results would be similar to getting the exposure wrong during capture, increasing the brightness of shadow detail, or recovering highlight details.

In general, underexposing an image results in increased noise in the adjusted image, and shadow details may be lost. The risk of overexposing an image is that highlight detail can be lost.

The EOS R3 results show that underexposing by 3 stops results in very little noise penalty vs. using the correct 3-stop-higher ISO setting for the capture, even at high ISO settings.

Overexposing an image can have a positive effect on noise levels until highlights become clipped, and then overall image quality suffers significantly. In the +1 EV ISO 50 results, we see this extended setting's lower dynamic range (exposure latitude) being slightly exceeded in some channels. Most other ISO settings have minor consequences at +1 EV. At +2 EV, ISO 100 highlights are beginning to be clipped.

More is always better in terms of dynamic range, but Canon's imaging sensors have long provided sufficient headroom for most needs. It is interesting to compare the Canon EOS R3 to the Sony Alpha 1 using the +3 EV-captured results.

Like the 1D X Mark III and R5, the R3 supports HDR PQ HEIF 10-bit recording. Often, the first question is likely, "What is HDR PQ?" HDR PQ (Perceptual Quantization) is a new gamma curve based on the characteristics of human eyesight. It supports HDR recording at ITU-R BT.2100 standard (PQ).

Your next question is likely, "What is HEIF?" HEIF stands for "High Efficiency Image File Format," a standard created by the MPEG group. As with JPEG, HEIF is a file format used to store image data after the image development process is complete. While JPEG files use an 8-bit YCbCr 4:2:2 lossy compression scheme, HEIF uses a 10-bit YCbCr 4:2:2 HEVC compression algorithm (also lossy), complying with the ITU-R BT.2100 HDR standard. HEIF provides up to 4x more precision in image data gradation and a wider color range than sRGB and Adobe RGB can store. HEIF files are containers, able to store multiple images (typically compressed with a codec such as HEVC (H.265)) along with image derivations (cropping, rotation), media streams (timed text, audio), depth information, image sequences (like a burst of images, supports animation), image data (EXIF), and more. Huge is that, thanks in part to computing power improvements, HEIF files are compressed to a significantly smaller size than JPEG files, about 50% smaller at similar quality levels. Along with all of the other benefits, Apple migrating to HEIF from JPEG means we can expect this standard to take hold in the industry.

Per Canon, "HEIF files are intended to be viewed on HDR-compliant displays and monitors."

The Activate HEVC codec option is available in the DPP help menu, and once selected, the Canon HEVC Activator is downloaded (serial number required). Once that app was installed, DPP understood the .HIF file format and the HDR PQ images look remarkably good (including those captured in RAW format). I was not planning to share the results of this testing, and the scene is of low photogenic quality with unstable lighting, but ... I thought the camera's performance warranted sharing with you. The following are downsized screen captures (at review time, Photoshop could not open .HIF files). Look closely at the outdoor brightness while the indoor blacks retain detail (that detail is even more obvious in the full-size images) as illustrated by the 1D X III.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III HDR PQ

Overall, the Canon EOS R3 delivers outstanding image quality. If 24 megapixels are adequate for your needs, this camera delivers the image quality you need.

In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS)

Camera shake-caused motion blur is an image quality factor.

The EOS R5 and R6 arrived with Canon's first interchangeable lens camera IBIS, and this 5-axis (pitch/yaw, x/y, roll) system performs spectacularly. The EOS R3 brings us the same system as found in the R5, providing up to eight stops of shake assistance rating. Canon noted that the large image circle provided by RF mount aids in this image stabilization system's capabilities.

For a very long time, a high percentage of Canon lenses have included in-lens optical image stabilization, and Canon had indicated that the in-lens stabilization is superior in performance compared to in-camera correction. That is especially the case at the telephoto end of the focal length spectrum, but on the wide-angle end, in-camera stabilization can be quite effective. Also, in-lens IS cannot account for camera rotation (roll).

What is better than one or the other? Both.

As with the R5 and R6, the R3's in-body image stabilization features coordinated control from the camera and lens. Gyro (angular velocity) and acceleration sensors in the lens and gyro, acceleration, and imaging (movement vector) sensors in the camera communicate via the lens CPU and DIGIC X processor to perfect the optical correction applied. Especially in the normal focal length range, the coordinated control is very effective. This system creates phenomenal performance specs, with many of the RF lenses introduced to date included in the jaw-dropping 8-stop rating category.

Think about the impact that 8-stops or even 6-stops of shake correction can have on your images. The difference can be dramatic, including for both stills and video.

Another image stabilization benefit that should not be overlooked is the aid in AF precision. The camera's AF system can produce better focus precision if it sees a stabilized image.

In-lens and in-body image stabilization are both on or both off. The IS switch on a lens featuring image stabilization controls the IBIS function. When using non-IS lenses, camera settings permit IBIS to be always on, similar to Mode 1 found on all Canon image-stabilized lenses or only on for the shot, similar to Mode 3 found on some Canon lenses. Adapted EF and EF-S lenses are supported, and IBIS adds huge value to non-stabilized lenses in a kit.

Note that the IBIS adds a rattling sound (and slight feel) to the camera when powered off (don't worry about this) and a very slight hum when powered on. I recommend turning IS/IBIS off when tripod-mounting most lenses, primarily due to the framing drifting that can occur. Powering off the camera (or opening the memory card door) parks/resets the IS/IBIS, and the scene framing can change slightly when the camera is powered back on. Mode III IS, when available, avoids the drifting and framing issue.

On a rather shaky day, with the lower-assist-rated non-stabilized Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens mounted, the unsupported R5 (expect the lower resolution R3 to perform well at even longer exposure durations) rendered a majority of 1/4-second images sharp. This performance is dramatically better than I could achieve without IBIS, and the low-light capabilities of this camera are mind-blowing.

With the non-stabilized Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens (not RF, again tested on the R5) set to 50mm on the R5, the results were similar, collecting a few sharp images even at 0.6 and 0.8-seconds.

The extreme capabilities of this IBIS system are game-changing, requiring a new mindset for the photographer.

Canon EOS R3

File Size and Media

The following table shows comparative RAW file sizes for a photo of a standard in-studio setup with a moderately-high amount of detail taken with the referenced camera.

Model / File Size in MB @ ISO:(MP)100200400800160032006400128002560051200102400204800
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III(20.1)24.725.225.426.026.927.828.930.331.933.735.936.3
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV(30.4)38.839.139.640.441.643.545.548.051.455.159.8 
Canon EOS R3(24.1)29.330.330.831.932.733.835.2.36.938.840.944.244.5
Canon EOS R3 CRAW(24.1)16.116.817.218.218.819.719.919.318.918.719.818.2
Canon EOS R5(45.0)51.653.153.655.657.760.163.066.470.575.179.5 
Canon EOS R5 CRAW(45.0)28.129.329.931.533.335.536.235.936.036.937.7 
Canon EOS R6(20.1)24.124.724.925.626.427.328.429.831.433.335.535.9
Canon EOS R6 CRAW(20.1)13.814.214.514.915.616.416.416.015.715.816.114.8
Sony a1 Uncomp(50.1)102.2102.2102.1102.1102.2102.5102.4102.6103.4103.4104.4
Sony a1 Non-Lossy(50.1)64.064.765.767.169.171.674.478.280.896.093.9 
Sony a1 Lossy(50.1)54.454.454.354.254.454.654.554.755.655.656.4 
Sony a9(24.2)47.247.247.147.147.147.147.147.147.247.247.247.3
RAW file sizes increase with 1. Resolution 2. Bit Depth (more is better/larger) 3. Detail (noise adds detail, so high ISO file sizes increase) 4. Lack of compression. Memory and disk are cheap – buy more.

A benefit of lower resolution is smaller file size.

As first seen in the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III and then the R5, the Canon EOS R3 solves data transfer bottlenecks by using small, durable, pin-less CFexpress memory cards (type B only, XQD not supported). This memory card format is succeeding CFast 2.0 and XQD 2.0 as the leading format for high-speed data transfer (theoretically up to 2GB/sec). CFexpress 1.0 cards have a maximum transfer speed of 1.97 GB/s vs. 600 MB/s for CFast 2.0 (utilized in the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II).

With the 1D X III and R5 previously on the market, a growing number of photographers have CFexpress cards (and readers) in their inventory. However, CFexpress cards are not inexpensive at review time. Increased performance and capabilities brought by new technology sometimes have collateral costs.

As with the R5, the Canon EOS R3's second memory card slot is compatible with SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, with support for the fast UHS-II standard included. I did not ask why the different formats were utilized, but I'll share some thoughts on this topic. First, SD memory cards are very small, relatively inexpensive, very popular, abundant in most kits, compatible with a large number of cameras and card readers, and welcomed to this camera by me. Write speed (at least when using a high-speed memory card) is not a problem for many uses. That said, to support the highest video-capture data transmission rate, and to provide an increased RAW buffer depth, the higher speed CFexpress format is required.

With dual card slots available, files can be written to both cards simultaneously (for redundancy, including for separate file or file type formats) or sequentially (for increased capacity). Those requiring the use of both slots will need to manage their workflow using the different memory card formats.

Buy numerous high-capacity cards. Rotate the cards, avoiding re-use until all image files are adequately backed up, including off-site. Replace your old cards to reduce failure rates.

Introduced with the Canon EOS M50 was the .CR3 RAW format, and the EOS R3 gets this feature. This RAW file format enables new features, including C-RAW, compressed RAW with lossy compression vs. the normally compressed RAW with non-lossy compression. Instead of the not-full-featured small and medium RAW formats Canon formerly offered, C-RAW provides full RAW file processing support along with an approximately 40% file size reduction (45% in the above ISO 100 example) over Canon's already efficient RAW file format size. The math adds up quickly, significantly impacting both memory card and hard disk storage capacity requirements as well as data transfer times.

With the M50 review, what started as a quick evaluation of this new feature became a sizable project. Check out the article: Should I Use Canon's C-RAW Image File Format? for more information.

What does Canon Inc. say about the RAW vs. C-RAW image quality difference? After repeatedly asking, Canon shared only that the C-RAW file format may potentially show more noise in shadows when increasing brightness during post-processing. With Canon EOS R3 noise test results fresh on the laptop, I processed the standard RAW and CRAW images with a +3 EV setting, pushing the exposure by three stops. Even at high ISO settings, it is challenging (impossible?) to find a difference in this comparison, and even darker subjects than those shared from the same test images showed no discernable disadvantage to the C-RAW format.

In a very high percentage of uses, you still struggle to see any difference in your C-RAW vs. RAW results. I've asked Canon to provide a C-RAW output option in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP), allowing the photographer to later determine which archive format to select. This option could also permit mass compression of entire archives, saving considerable amounts of disk space.

Frame Rate, Buffer Depth, Shutter

The Canon EOS R3 can record images at an incredible 30 fps rate, a framerate commonly used for movie recording. Also remarkable is that the R3's 30 fps image quality is uncompromised, including full bit depth and a lossless compressed RAW file format.

The AF system is not the only feature that requires scene visibility. Your eyes have the same requirement. Keeping a moving subject (most still subjects do not require a fast frame rate) in the frame is incredibly important, and the R3's fast EVF and ability to shoot blackout-free is remarkable and differentiating (blackouts may occur at the start of shooting, when the in-camera memory capacity is reached, or when the flash batteries are fully discharged).

Daunting is selecting the best images from a shoot involving significant use of the 30 fps capability. A one-minute duration of 30 fps shutter release pressed creates 1,800 images (30 frames x 60 seconds).

I currently have a Sony Alpha 1 with the 30 fps capability. In an under-four-hour duck shoot, starting at 30 fps and soon moving to 20 fps, the a1 collected nearly 9,000 images.

Does everyone need 30 fps? No. However, with the extreme number of images captured today, it is difficult to create imagery that stands above those from the crowd. Using the 30 fps rate may capture that perfect moment of action that makes an image rise above the rest. Bat on ball, ball leaving foot, shot put leaving the thrower's hand, hurdler in perfect jump pose, perfect wing flap pose, peak of a dog's leap, steeplechase crash (illustrated below via a1 capture) are a small number of examples that benefit from the fast frame rate.

Sony Alpha a1 30 fps Sports Sample Picture

The examples below illustrate 30 fps capture:

Canon EOS R3 30 fps Frame Rate Example

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

Those 12 frames represent only 12/30 of a second. Want all four hooves in the air? 30 fps capture can do that.

The more I shoot at 30 fps, the more I find myself wanting to shoot at 30 fps. I have been photographing wildlife using the H speed setting but have the M-Fn button set to C mode programmed for 30 fps capture and a fast shutter speed. As soon as the above buck took off, I pressed M-Fn and held the shutter release down. Eye Control AF (more later) locked on the antlers, and the R3 subject tracked the buck as it raced away.

Mechanical, electronic 1st-curtain, and electronic shutter modes are available.

SettingElecElec 1stMech
H+301212
H1586
L333

Like the R5, the R3's mechanical shutter rate is 12 fps.

The electronic shutter rate gap between H and L, 15 and 3, is rather large. There is room for another setting between, and providing menu-selectable rates would also be helpful. Involving the mechanical shutter fills those gaps.

Here is a comparative look at max frame rates and buffer capacities.

ModelFPSMax JPGMax RAWShutter LagVF Blackout
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III16/20>1000>100029-55msn/a
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II14/16140/Full/Full59/73/17036-55msn/a
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV7.0Full1758ms86ms
Canon EOS R312/3054015020-76ms0ms
Canon EOS R512/2035087/18050msn/a
Canon EOS R612/201,000+240 n/a
Sony a110/3040023820-42ms0ms
Sony a9 II10/2036123920-33ms0ms
Sony a910/2036224120-33ms0ms
View the full Canon EOS R3 specifications to compare additional cameras.

Adding a second image to the RAW capture, either JPG or HEIF, does not reduce the RAW buffer rating. Shooting in C-RAW provides a 420 image buffer rating.

Note that those buffer capacities are full 30 fps shooting. The 12 fps (mechanical shutter) RAW file buffer capacity rating is 1,000 or higher.

Which CFexpress memory card should I buy for my Canon EOS R3? The ProGrade Digital 325GB CFexpress 2.0 Cobalt Memory Card is one of the fastest cards available at review time (very high minimum write speed specification), and there is a great company behind it.

With that referenced card loaded and formatted, the R3 captures about 480 black (lens cap on) RAW images at 30 fps images before reaching a full buffer scenario. That number will be found adequate for nearly all uses, and seldom will a scenario be encountered that warrants waiting to press the shutter solely to avoid the full buffer condition.

Backing up this camera's fast frame rate is the back-illuminated stacked CMOS imaging sensor designed by Canon, featuring high-speed read-out, with greatly reduced rolling shutter.

How about this speed: with the full electronic shutter in use, the R3 features shutter speeds up to an incredible 1/64000 second. The settings from 1/8000 to 1/64000 are available only in full-stop increments and in only Tv or M modes. Also notable is that exposures as long as 30 seconds are available with the full electronic shutter.

With the mechanical shutter involved, either first and second curtain or second curtain only, the shutter speed range is 30-1/8000 in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments.

Flash X-sync speeds are:

Mechanical Shutter: 1/200 sec.
Elec. 1st-curtain: 1/250 sec.
Electronic shutter: 1/180 sec.

With the electronic shutter selected, high-speed continuous shooting speeds of up to 15 fps are supported with flash, including metering between shots, or up to 20 fps with first-shot metering only.

The full electronic shutter comes with both advantages and disadvantages.

A significant advantage is that the electronic shutter is silent, ideal for use during quiet events such as weddings, when photographing skittish wildlife, and any time audio is recording. With no mechanical shutter in use, there are no moving parts, shutter failure is improbable, and there is no shutter vibration.

The downsides of an electronic shutter are primarily related to the line-by-line reading of the imaging sensor. Fast side-to-side subject or camera movement can result in an angular-shifted image with vertically straight lines becoming noticeably slanted (with the camera in horizontal orientation). The second curtain of a mechanical shutter chasing the first curtain can produce the same effect. Still, the difference between mechanical shutter (with electronic first curtain shutter) and electronic shutter performance in this regard has historically been quite big.

Certain light pulsing can influence electronic shutter-captured results, potentially resulting in banding. Also, defocused highlight bokeh circles can become clipped when using an electronic shutter.

With the R3, Canon has significantly reduced the electronic shutter disadvantages, with high-speed read-out from the new image sensor delivering a greatly reduced rolling shutter effect. Even during fast panning with the R3, vertical lines remain nearly vertically straight for remarkable performance.

The R3 features anti-flicker shooting, including with the electronic shutter. Note that this mode can reduce the experienced fps, primarily due to the shutter release being timed for peak light.

Additionally, the R3 features HF (High Frequency) anti-flicker shooting. With the feature enabled, the camera can evaluate the flicker on the scene and adjust the shutter speed to a very precise exposure time. For example, the R3 evaluated a light source to have 341.0 Hz flicker and adjusted the shutter speed to 1/339.3. Alternatively, manually selecting a speed is an option. Tv or M mode is required for HF anti-flicker shooting, and the exposure may require adjustment if M mode with a specific ISO selected (vs. Auto ISO). HF anti-flicker shooting can be a game-changer, especially for eliminating banding on LED signs, including during movie capture.

The reasons to use the mechanical shutter are dwindling — I rarely use it on the R3.

In addition to silent shooting, this mirrorless camera features a complete stealth mode, including dark shooting settings, via the new "Silent shutter function", a menu option.

  • The LCD can be turned off.
  • The electronic shutter sound can be turned off.
  • The shutter does not close when the camera is powered off.
  • No noise reduction processing is performed (this requires a closed shutter).
  • No AF beam is projected.
  • The self-timer and remote control LED remain off.
  • The flash does not fire.

Bulb and interval timers are supported by the R3.

Autofocus

"Astonishing Autofocus and Subject Detection" is what Canon promised in the R5. "The best AF ever put into a camera" is what I recall hearing them say.

Marketing hype, right? No. In the R5, that is what Canon delivered. That camera's AF system performs incredibly well.

The biggest reason motivating my switch to mirrorless cameras was for the EOS R5's outstanding AF performance. Especially with the subject eye detection, getting properly focused images became considerably easier. Here we are about a year later with an EOS model that takes AF to an entirely new level. This technology is mind-blowing, at least for those of us hailing from the film days.

The EOS R3's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system features 1,053 AF Areas (same as R5, 819 zones for movies) covering up to approx. 100% x 100% of the frame with f/22 max aperture lens combination autofocusing capability (at a reduced AF area coverage). Those coming from a DSLR will find the ability to maintain continuous focus with a point in the periphery of the image game-changing. Here is a sample showing that benefit, along with a bit of discussion from the R5 review. Know that the R3 is considerably more advanced – I'll share some of those advancements after this reversion.

Canon EOS R5 Peripheral AF

Notice where the rider's head is positioned within the frame (an R5 capture), and notice where the auto-selected AF point is? If the eye is not in focus, the image will probably be deleted immediately. The eye AF feature of the EOS R5, and subsequently, the R3, works incredibly well, tenaciously keeping eyes in focus with no significant effort on the photographer's part, even when the subject rapidly changes position in the frame — and even through brush or a fence.

Canon EOS R5 Eye AF Through Fence

This feature is incredible. One of my first R3 shoots involved about a hundred active kids at an indoor event. I covered most of the event with the Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens at f/1.2. Despite the shallow depth of field, nearly all images were precisely focused on the subjects' eyes.

I put the R5's eye and face (and helmet) detection AF, the predecessor to the even more capable R3's AF system, to one of the most challenging tests I encounter: a quarterhorse cantering/galloping toward the camera at frame-filling and closer distances with the shallowest depth of field available provided by the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens. This shoot was timed for the warm late-day sunlight, but the forecast changed in the afternoon. Instead of having warm light bathing the subject, late evening heavy cloud cover added to the AF challenge. Camera settings started at ISO 4000, 1/1600, f/4 and ended with ISO 6400, 1/1250 resulting in 1-stop underexposed images (essentially yielding ISO 12800). The near-latest-captured images are shown in the frame rate illustrations earlier in the review.

In addition to having a fast closing speed, the horse rapidly goes up and down — faster than I can adjust the camera to maintain an AF point on the rider's head. As the horse gets closer, its ears begin to bounce up into the selected AF point, causing AF confusion with the closer contrast usually causing the camera to adjust focus to the horse's head, considerably forward of the rider. Focusing on the horse is only fine if it, not the rider, is your subject. When using a DSLR, the top focus point (when shooting in vertical orientation) is not high enough in the frame to enable use of the entire field of view, with the top of the resulting images often requiring cropping for the subject to fill the frame.

With the R5 set to people eye priority and that camera's 20 fps continuous high speed+ mode selected, the AF system accurately tracked the rider's head (when very far away) and eye (when closer) incredibly well as it rapidly bounced up and down, using nearly the entire frame — at distances as close as I could keep the head in the frame.

Canon EOS R5 Eye AF Horse Riding Close

I'm blown away at how easy it is to maintain proper focus in this challenging situation. Especially reassuring is seeing the red AF square rapidly tracking the subject's eye while shooting. The images below are cropped and reduced examples from the R5's 20 fps electronic shutter illustration above (ISO 12800-equivalent), representing under 0.6 seconds.

Canon EOS R5 Eye AF Tracking at 20 fps

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

When the rider turned back for another pass, the R5's head detection showed its prowess, accurately determining that a helmet was in the frame and tracking it.

Canon EOS R5 AF Focusing on Helmet

The primary challenge remains for me to direct the camera for proper subject framing (the EVF at 120 fps works great for this). Additionally challenging was selecting down the keepers from over 1,300 mostly in-focus frames captured in a short time at 20 fps. Some mental retraining is required to delete perfectly good images.

Canon EOS R6 Soccer Sample Picture

Photographing a 4-day soccer camp with the R5 and R6 produced similar results. Again, an extremely high percentage of the over 4,000 action images captured were properly focused. Also impressive was how well this camera could eye-track kids going fast on swings at the playground. Rhe R3's AF system is further refined from the R5 and R6.

I was especially excited by the addition of animal tracking. The R5, and now R3, identifies and steadfastly holds focus on most animals' eyes. In the field, I find animal eye AF as game-changing as people eye AF. One of the biggest challenges of photographing wildlife is keeping the proper AF point selected, such as when a swimming duck instantly changes direction. Now, in many cases, the camera takes care of that challenge for you, and that feature alone is worth the price of the camera.

Canon EOS R5 Eye AF Little Green Heron

The above image is greatly reduced but notice the red AF indicator square precisely on the eye (look closely). Even the eyes of frogs covered in duckweed are readily detected (again, look for the red AF square).

Canon EOS R5 Eye AF Frog

That was EOS R5 experience, but the EOS R3 takes subject tracking capabilities to a new level. Included are people, animal, and vehicle subject detection options.

For people, eye, face, head, and body detection are featured, in that priority order based on detectability, all utilizing deep learning. When more than one eye is in the frame, the camera selects the closest eye and provides an option to switch to the other eye(s) — press the joystick in the other eye's direction, and that eye will be tracked.

The R3's animal priority detection is the same as that of the R5. Dogs, cats, and birds are specifically listed for animal detection, but this feature works exceptionally well for many other species on these cameras. For example, they easily recognize deer eyes.

Canon EOS R3 Buck Sample Picture

While the above target may not seem overly challenging for eye detection, the example below shows one of the game-changing aspects of this feature. Read the Can Your Camera Focus on an Eye Behind Brush? page for more information, but autofocusing on an eye in thick brush is an outstanding capability.

Canon EOS R3 Buck in Brush Sample Picture

Eye, face, and whole body detection is available.

New on the R3 is vehicle priority, adding detection of the other primary in-motion subject. This mode targets motorsports (automobile, motorcycle), formula car, GT car, rally car, and on- and off-road motorcycles, targeting the whole or spot (when no roof is present) subject. Deep learning technology is used, and helmet detection is featured.

The subject-tracking feature in the R5 was available only with the entire available AF area active. In the R5 review, I mentioned that it would be helpful to be able to limit the area that the camera has to select the subject within. The R3 brings us that feature, with all AF area options having tracking capabilities. Tracking can be independently turned on or off.

For example, enable tracking, put a spot AF point near a subject, and half-press the shutter release. The R3 will pick up the subject and track it throughout the frame (in servo AF mode). This is an extremely useful feature.

For much of the kids' event I mentioned, I used servo (continuous focus) mode with a spot AF point selected and tracking enabled. Placing that point near a subject's eye and half-pressing the shutter release maintained the R3's focus while I recomposed for optimal composition. The eye very reliably stays in sharp focus.

In case your friends ask, the R3's AF tracking feature is named EOS iTR (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition) AF X.

With the extreme number of focus points available on this camera, moving between individual focus points can become a challenge, including significant repetitive button pressing or holding. However, this camera has multiple excellent AF area selection options.

The joystick multi-controller, nearly ubiquitous on a pro-grade camera, is an easy and well-understood option provided on the R3. This is Canon's very responsive 8-way type controller, as it should be, that works well, but does not avoid the pressing or holding.

Awesome new 1D X Mark III AF features were the Smart Controllers built into the AF-ON buttons, and the R3 also gets a pair of these Smart Controllers. Easily thumb accessible, the Smart Controllers optically detect lateral finger movement sliding over them, and the selected focus point or area changes accordingly. These controllers are exceptionally useful, and especially valuable is being able to press the AF-ON button while moving the focus point, a feature that previously required two right thumbs. On occasion, I inadvertently move the AF point because my thumb comes into contact with the Smart Controller. That's the only downside I've discovered for the Smart Controllers.

When using the EVF, the Smart Controllers are available and functional while the shutter release is not pressed, is half-pressed, or is fully pressed, and when the AF-ON button is not pressed or pressed with subject tracking disabled. When shooting action in AI Servo mode and using a continuous frame rate, the right thumb can be adjusting the focus point as the action unfolds.

The Smart controllers are very useful, including with gloves on (tighter gloves are easier to use than loose-fitting gloves). When the Smart Controllers arrived, all of my other cameras were suddenly lacking an important feature.

On the 1D X III, the smart controllers work in rear LCD Live View, but only when the AF-ON and shutter release buttons are not being pressed, and they are inactive when first entering Live View mode or after a metering timeout. There seemed to be some opportunities missed here, and fortunately, the R3's Smart Controllers appear full-featured when using the rear LCD.

The Smart Controllers make panning around a zoomed-in image very easy during playback.

Similar to the 1D X III, using the R3's Smart Controllers requires the Custom Functions Tab 5 Smart controller menu option to be set to On and the Custom Functions Menu, Tab 4: Customize buttons: Smart controller option set to Direct AF point selection. While the Smart Controllers have two steps to enable them and both are separate from the AF-ON Custom Controls programming feature, if the AF-ON controls are set to off in the Custom Controls menu option, the Smart Controllers are also turned off (in both places). Those not using back-button AF would appreciate being able to disable the AF-ON functionality while leaving the Smart Controllers enabled. This seems like a simple option to provide – disassociate the AF-ON Custom Control from the Smart Controllers enable/disable function.

Remember the Canon EOS-3 film camera with the eye-controlled AF? That feature is back and dramatically refined. Want the camera to figure out which subject you want it to focus on? Just look at it.

The R3's Eye Control AF allows the photographer to position the AF point or area at the speed of look. Look at the subject, and the AF point is there, with no buttons to press or slide across.

Canon EOS R3 Eye Control AF

Once calibrated, Eye Control AF determines what the photographer's eye is looking at and positions the AF point to that location. Infrared LEDs in the EVF (notice the enlarged viewfinder size surrounding the viewing area) track the eye position without eyeglasses, and a second set of infrared LEDs track eye position with eyeglasses.

Eye Control AF works in conjunction with subject tracking, and very fast-changing between subjects is possible.

As mentioned, Eye Control AF requires calibration for each user's eyes, with and without glasses and contacts, and the more calibration refinements (a quick and easy set of guided calibration steps involving looking at small targets in the EVF while pressing the M-Fn button) performed, the better the camera's Eye Control AF performance will be. Registrations in vertical and horizontal orientation, with different lighting, with different head/eye positions, with or without glasses, contacts, no corrective lenses, etc. Note that some glasses and contacts (strong correction is a detriment) may prevent calibration, and some physiology may prevent calibration.

Up to six named registrations can be saved, and registrations can be saved to and restored from a memory card.

Eye Control AF has significant customization available. By default, pressing the Set button enables or disables Eye Control AF.

My initial experience with Eye Control AF was not stellar, with AF precision not being what I needed even after a significant number of calibration refine attempts. I eventually deleted the calibration profile and started over, with very good accuracy resulting. I was off to photograph the whitetail deer rut in Shenandoah National Park. As detailed in that story, I found R3's Eye Control to be faster and more effective than any AF system I've used before. It is not perfect, but at the end of 5 days, Eye Control was easily the AF method of choice.

A fantastic Canon EOS focus point selection feature originally introduced on the EOS M5 is the tap, touch, and drag AF touchscreen interface. That feature has been included in all EOS mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras since — that is, until the EOS R3. Unfortunately, the Touch and Drag feature did not make the cut to the final R3 implementation, with the Smart Controllers taking up most of the functionality.

This camera provides a plethora of focus area selection options. However, with the subject detection technology performing so well, I don't use manual AF area selection nearly as frequently.

The R3 can AF at -7.5 EV. Especially with a wide aperture lens mounted, this camera autofocuses on reasonable contrast in incredibly dark environments, darker than I've seen successful AF in before. So dark that you will need a flashlight or night vision technology to navigate the scene. That performance is with the AF assist lamp covered.

Located on the right side of the camera is a bright LED focus assist lamp that extends AF capabilities into complete darkness within its very good range. The focus assist lamp typically clears the hands holding the camera, a notable feature because another camera model I reviewed has a left-side AF assist lamp that shines directly into my left hand when using a normal shooting position. A lens hood can partially block this light, and sometimes hood removal may be optimal, depending on the focus point selected and the amount of reflected assist light available for the selected point.

The R3's supported AF areas are changed modestly from previous cameras, including the R5. Featured is Spot AF (Flexible Zone AF 1), 1-point AF (Flexible Zone AF 2), Expand AF Area (Flexible Zone AF 3) (above, below, left and right/around), and Expand AF Area (entire AF area). Note that, when enabled, subject tracking in Servo AF mode will take over the AF point selection once the subject is established. Turn off tracking to lock AF to the selected point or area.

The R3 focuses extremely fast. My perception is that the R3 focuses slightly faster than the already fast EOS R5 during side-by-side testing with the same lens. The R3's advanced AF system is suitable for nearly all pursuits.

For those choosing between Sony and Canon MILCs, note that the Canon does not defocus prior to focusing in One Shot AF mode. Especially because of this design difference, the Canon's One Shot AF lock time is dramatically faster than the current Sony models.

Note that the Canon EOS cameras focus (and determine exposure) with a wide-open aperture vs. stopped down. Also worth noting is that the R3's focus performance is excellent even with a very strongly defocused starting point. Long focus hunts are unusual.

Most review-time-current sensor-based AF systems do not provide cross-sensitive AF point technology, and Canon has not promoted otherwise for the R3. This camera may struggle to focus on only perfectly horizontally oriented lines of contrast. That said, I don't often encounter this issue with any of the R-series cameras. Rolling the camera slightly until focused will often resolve any AF lock-on issues.

With AF calculations being made directly on the imaging sensor (vs. on a separate sensor in a DSLR), AF calibration becomes a greatly reduced issue, and EOS R3 AF accuracy is especially excellent, very reliably focusing precisely shot after shot. With imaging sensor-based AF, this camera can be expected to focus consistently accurately even with third-party lenses. Using the imaging sensor for AF enables the mirrorless advantage features such as the precise eye and subject tracking just discussed.

Canon's AF Case settings are provided. AF tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking, One-Shot AF release priority, and AF point auto switching can be independently adjusted, enabling autofocus performance to be dialed in to your needs. Similar to the 1D X Mark III, the previous Case 5 and 6 are omitted, and AF Case A (Auto) is included, instructing the camera to analyze the scene and optimize the settings in real-time. This AF system performs superbly in the Auto setting for most uses.

Canon EOS R Focus Peaking

Focus Peaking and Focus Guide manual focusing aids are available.

With RF-mount lenses utilizing electronic focus only, a variable adjustment rate manual focus ring can be implemented. Turn the focus ring quickly, and focus distances change very fast. Turn the ring slowly, and very precise focusing becomes available. Implemented properly, the variable rate manual focusing can be advantageous, but often I find the difference in rotation rates to be too similar, and the variable speed becomes a frustration, making rocking the focus ring into precise focus a challenge.

Canon EOS R5 Focus Bracketing

A very useful feature first provided in the Canon EOS RP and then on the R5 was Focus Bracketing. Now found in the R3, this feature has a LOT more details to be understood, and the Canon Focus Bracketing page delves into this topic. Flash remains unsupported with focus bracketing.

Movies

The Canon EOS R3 provides up to 6K 60p RAW (including Canon RAW Lite) movie recording, and Canon Log 3 is available.

4K 120p is directly read from the sensor with very slightly lower image quality, but otherwise, 4k or lower resolution recording is oversampled, with impressive resulting quality and low rolling shutter.

It is interesting is that the Canon EOS R3 will record movies for as long as card capacity remains. The duration limit has finally been removed.

Here are many details:

Canon EOS R3 Movie Recording Information

Canon EOS R3 Movie Recording Information 2

Canon EOS R3 Movie Recording Information 3

Canon EOS R3 Movie Recording Information 4

Canon EOS R3 Maximum Movie Record Times

Note that when the auto power-off temperature is reached, the memory card will be very hot. A 5-minute camera powered off cooldown provides an additional 9 minutes of recording in 6K 60p RAW and 5 minutes of 4K 120p All-I recording.

More to come here.

Exposure/Metering System

Notable is that the R3 is the first EOS camera to utilize the benefits of deep learning technology to improve auto white balance. Greenery such as grass and trees is especially improved (previously, EOS DSLR cameras used a metering sensor to distinguish between grass and trees).

Also, with the R3, a Custom White balance can now be set while viewing the scene, and three custom white balance settings can be registered in the camera for later recall.

The EOS R3's high-performing metering system features 384 zones (24x16), and the metering range specification is excellent: EV -3 – 20 (at 73°F/23°C, ISO 100).

EOS R3's metering modes include Evaluative metering (AF point-linked), Partial metering (approx. 5.9% of the area at the center of the screen), Spot metering (approx. 2.9% of the area at the center of the screen), and Center-weighted average metering. Exposure compensation is +/-3 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments. AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) is also +/-3 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments.

Auto exposure bracketing uses those same numbers with 2, 3, 5, or 7 shots available.

I am ever increasingly impressed by EOS cameras' metering capabilities, and the R3's metering system is very reliable, as good as any I've used. While I still use manual mode 95% of the time, I rely on the camera's metering via Auto ISO an increasing percentage of the time.

Related to metering is Canon's Anti-flicker mode (mentioned before), a feature that has migrated to the EOS R3. This mode is a game-changer when photographing under flickering lights, especially when photographing fast action. On my first for-others shoot with the R3, the FLICKER warning was flashing in the viewfinder. With Anti-flicker shooting enabled, I saw no signs of the light flicker in the results.

Viewfinder and LCD

It is a mirrorless camera and therefore lacks a TTL (Through the Lens) optical viewfinder. The Comparing Electronic Viewfinders to Optical Viewfinders article discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each design, but I need to update that page because things are changing.

The EOS R3's new Canon-designed OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) EVF features an impressive approximately 5.76 million dots and a 120 fps refresh rate (also 60 fps capable). While those specs are similar to the R5's EVF, the R3's EVF has a higher contrast ratio, with HDR capabilities available to produce a natural view, similar to an OVF (Optical Viewfinder). Holding the R5 to one eye and the R3 to the other using the same focal length lens, the viewfinder size and resolution appear similar. However, in a scene containing very bright (direct sunlight) and dark (indoor shade) areas, the HDR difference is readily obvious.

Extremely valuable is the blackout-free performance, permitting fast action, such as the running deer sequence shared earlier in the review, to be tracked even during 30 fps capture.

The large R3 EVF features a 100% view, and it is impressively bright with high contrast and great color. Again, video feed lag, with the 120 fps refresh rate, is a non-issue for most uses.

The EOS R3's EVF has a 0.76x magnification and a 23mm-high eyepoint, with dioptric adjustment facilitating viewfinder use without eyeglasses.

An EVF makes a configurably-vast amount of information available for display (including the focal length) and also makes that information rotatable for when shooting vertically. A quality EVF makes viewing images easy, especially when zooming in for sharpness verification, especially in bright daylight, and especially for eyes that otherwise require corrective optics (if you don't need glasses now, you will need them at some point).

The R3's eyecup is large and flexes easily to aid in blocking light as well as helping to avoid eyebrow bruise. The eyecup is removable, and Canon Eyecup ER-hE is optionally available for increased light blocking.

I was a big fan of optical viewfinders, but Canon's previous best EVF (on the R5) converted me. The R3 EVF is even better.

Canon EOS R3 LCD Open

The EOS R3's rear LCD is a 3.2" (8cm) Clear View LCD II, approx. 4.15M dot (up from the R5's 2.1M dot LCD), Vari-angle Touchscreen LCD. The Vari-angle feature of this LCD permits rotation of nearly 180° horizontally and 270° vertically, making hard-to-get shots and unique perspectives (including selfies) easy to capture. This feature has especially great appeal for vlogging.

Canon EOS R3 LCD Open Front

The image quality of this LCD is excellent, and with an anti-smudge coating applied, it easily wipes clean. Anti-reflection coating has not been applied.

Note that the brightness of the EVF and LCD can be separately adjusted and that the rear LCD will dim after a set length of time. The proximity detector (inside the viewfinder on the left) allows the camera to automatically use the optimal display, but the menu system permits manual selection of a preference.

Canon's touchscreens make changing camera settings easy, including via the always excellent menu structure and the handy "Q" button (showing the Quick Control screen).

In addition to enabling or disabling (ideal when using flash) exposure simulation, DOF (Depth of Field) simulation is selectable.

Tour of the Canon EOS R3

To visually compare the Canon EOS R3 with many other camera models, use the site's camera product image comparison tool.

As we look at the physical design, it is important to understand that a majority of this camera's buttons and controls are highly customizable, able to provide the features you need most in the positions most convenient for you to access to them. See page 937 in the owner's manual for a grid of 14 customizable buttons and the 33 options available for them.

The Canon EOS R3 features a merger of the R5 and 1D X Mark III designs, along with improvements not seen before. Overall, a range of controls suitable for even the most seasoned professional is available on the R3, and those moving from a renowned Canon EOS 1-Series camera or from an EOS R5 or R6 will find the acclimation short.

Canon EOS R3 Back LCD Closed

Back of the Camera

Let's start the back of the camera tour with a comparison image.

Canon EOS R3 Compared to Canon EOS R5 and EOS-1D X Mark III

Shown above are the R5, R3, and 1D X III. Even with the top of its hot shoe slightly cropped (due to that camera increasing in height above the comparison tool's standard), the 1D X Mark III is considerably larger than the R3, and the R3 is considerably larger than the R5. Of course, adding the BG-R10 grip to the R5 grows it to R3-similar dimensions.

A notable addition from the 1D X III are the control dials, one at the top of each grip. Also notable is the R3's vari-angle rear LCD, with adequate finger space above and below to make opening easy. The 1-series second rear LCD has gone missing, and the info button has been relocated to match the R5.

Notable changes from the R5 are the 3-position power switch located below the rear dial and the buttons formerly in this position moving to the now-available space below the rear LCD. The magnify button also joined the playback and erase buttons in this location. I prefer the just-mentioned buttons in their R5 right-side locations where they are convenient for camera grip hand access vs. releasing the grip or involving the left hand.

The movie button is rear-positioned with a still/movie selector switch surrounding it, making changing modes considerably faster, and the Smart Controllers enlarge the AF-ON buttons.

The R3 allows voice memos to be attached to images, supplementing our memories.

The R3's eyecup is considerably larger than the R5's, but much of the additional viewfinder space is for the Eye Control AF feature.

New for the R3 is the rubberized grip surface texture, taking on a modern look and perhaps providing a slight grip enhancement.

Canon EOS R3 Top

Top of the Camera

The top of the R3 shows strong influence from the R5.

Canon EOS R3 Top View Compared to Canon EOS R5 and EOS-1D X Mark III

As discussed above, the R3's movie button moved to the back, and a pair of dual-function buttons on the left provide fast access to the denoted settings.

Compared to the 1D X Mark III, the R3 has a smaller LCD, slightly fewer buttons, and the addition of the mode dial. The R3's viewfinder protrudes farther from the LCD, providing more nose relief from the rear LCD.

Shooting modes provided are Fv, P, Av, Tv, M, Bulb, C1, C2, and C3 (note that C2 and C3 are disabled by default). Missing is the fully automatic A mode, but P ("Program", not "Professional") mode provides a similar experience with the camera determining the needed settings.

Canon EOS R3 Left Side

Side of the Camera

The R3 features the following ports:

  • Hi-Speed USB (USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2)
  • Ethernet (RJ-45)
  • HDMI micro OUT terminal Type D (clean HDMI output, resolution switches automatically, CEC not compatible, images can be simultaneously displayed through the HDMI output and on-screen)
  • 3.5mm microphone input
  • 3.5mm stereo output
  • PC Terminal
  • N3 Type Socket (on the front)

On the right side, the R3 has a slide and flip open style memory card door similar to the R5 design vs. the flip and twist release switch used for the 1D X Mark III door.

Canon EOS R3 Body

Front of the Camera

As just mentioned, the R3, like the R5, has an N3 type remote release socket on the front. This port provides compatibility with the full-featured professional remote releases, including the Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3.

Along with a pair of DOF preview buttons are a pair of M-Fn 2 buttons. Like most other buttons on this camera, the DOF preview buttons can be programmed to other functions, and the M-Fn 2 buttons are expected to be programmed as desired.

Canon EOS R3 Magnesium Alloy Frame and Weather Sealing

Size of the Camera

While retaining the EOS-1D X level magnesium frame robustness and weather sealing, the R3 loses significant weight and size.

ModelBody DimensionsCIPA Weight
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3"(158 x 167.6 x 82.6mm)50.8oz (1440g)
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3"(158 x 167.6 x 82.6mm)54.0 oz (1530g)
Canon EOS-1D X6.2 x 6.4 x 3.3"(158 x 163.6 x 82.7mm)54.0 oz (1530g)
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 157.0 x 80.0mm)48.5 oz (1374g)
Canon EOS R35.91 x 5.61 x 3.43"(150 x 142.6 x 87.2mm)35.8 oz (1015g)
Canon EOS R55.5 x 3.8 x 3.5"(138.0 x 97.5 x 88.0mm)26.0 oz (738g)
Sony a15.1 x 3.9 x 3.3"(128.9 x 96.9 x 80.8mm)23.7 oz (673g)
Sony a9 II5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1"(128.9 x 96.4 x 77.5mm)23.7 oz (673g)
View the full Canon EOS R3 specifications to compare additional cameras.

You will definitely feel the 1-Series vs. R3 fatigue difference after a long shoot. You might even feel it after a short shoot.

Ergonomics, Build Quality and Durability

From an ergonomic and build quality position, the R3 landed at the top of my favorite camera body list. Taking Canon's outstanding 1-series camera ergonomics and putting them into a reduced size format results in an even better camera-in-hand experience.

The R3 feels rock-solid, and the enlarged shelf around the shutter release facilitates secure gripping of the camera with even the largest lenses mounted. The built-in vertical grip is equally solid (remember that accessory battery grips add a slight flex point) and feels similar to the horizontal grip, though the shelf over this grip is a bit shallower.

All buttons, dials, and other functions have the quality feel you would expect from a high-end professional-grade product.

Additional Features

Media photographers frequently find themselves in scenarios where their images need to be delivered immediately, and the R3, featured similarly to the 1D X Mark III, greatly facilitates this. Gigabyte Ethernet (with high-speed I/F) is built-in, and strong WiFi support is provided. IEEE 802.11a/ac/b/g/n is supported with the DS-SS modulation (IEEE 802.11b) or OFDM modulation (IEEE 802.11g/n/a/ac) transmission method. 2.4 GHz (2412 to 2462 MHz, channels 1 to 11) and 5 GHz (5180 to 5825 MHz, channels: 36 to 165) are supported with camera access point mode or infrastructure mode.

The Canon EOS R3's built-in WiFi provides easy transfer of images and movies to compatible mobile devices using Canon's free Camera Connect app (iOS | Android). This app provides some remote control of the camera's settings and shutter when shooting still images. Wireless remote printing to a compatible printer is also supported via WiFi. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology makes pairing easy with a quick WiFi connection handover and provides Canon BR-E1 Bluetooth Remote compatibility.

In addition to its wireless capabilities, the 1D X III features a built-in GPS. Images can (optionally) be tagged with the camera's GPS coordinates at the time of capture, a requirement for some media jobs.

Battery

The Canon EOS R3 uses the same battery as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and III. This is the powerful 2750 mAh Canon LP-E19 battery pack.

The older LP-E4N battery pack can be used (charging with Battery Charger LC-E19 is not recommended due to safety reasons). The even older Battery Pack LP-E4 (no "N" on the end) is not supported by the R3.

In the R3, using the EVF, the LC-E19 is rated for approximately 620 shots (73°F/23°C) in power saving mode and 440 shots in smooth mode. Using the rear LCD, those numbers increase to 960 and 870. Likely, this camera will be most used with the EVF, and a 440 shot number (in smooth mode) will be found limiting. However, in real-life shooting, the realized number of shots per charge with continuous shooting can often be at least doubled and often even more substantially increased.

After a productive day photographing whitetail deer, the Battery Info menu option indicated that 3,253 images had been captured, with 37% battery life remaining. On the second day, 5,765 shots were captured with 5% battery life remaining. With only one battery, I was making provisions to swap cameras on this day. Much of the above use involved capturing short 15 fps bursts.

A 6-level remaining battery charge icon shows in the viewfinder, on the top LCD panel, and on the LCD screen when shooting info is displayed. The camera's battery menu (in the Setup menu) informs of the remaining % of capacity, the shutter count since the last charge, and the battery's recharge performance.

The LP-E19 battery can be charged using the USB Power Adapter PD-E1 while the camera is turned off (powering the camera while using PD-E1 is not supported). The Canon AC Adapter AC-E19 and DC Adapter DR-E19 are available.

Canon EOS R3 Kit

Lenses and Accessories — Which Lens Should I Get for the Canon EOS R3?

The lens matters greatly to the camera's overall performance and resulting image quality, and the growing Canon RF Lens lineup is quite impressive.

The EOS R3 is not available in a with-lens kit. My choice for an R3 standard zoom lens is the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens. This lens offers a great general-purpose focal length range and has a wide aperture, image stabilization, a high-performing AF system, professional-grade build quality, and excellent image quality.

Those often shooting in especially dark environments may find the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens to be their perfect standard zoom lens option. This lens is an ideal choice for weddings and events, but its size and weight may suggest a second, lighter lens to be included in the kit.

Again, the Canon RF Lens lineup is very impressive, featuring many options for varied needs.

Via one of the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS Rs, ranging from relatively low to rather high-priced, Canon EF, TS-E, and MP-E lenses become compatible and perform as-native (with potential added benefits such as IBIS and AF accuracy depending on the adapter model selected).

EF-S lenses are also supported via the adapter, easing the transition from APS-C to full-frame for some. The EOS R3 will automatically use its crop mode when EF-S lenses are in use for a quality experience.

Canon's EF-M lenses are not compatible with the RF mount, even with the adapter, and because of their shorter flange back distance, it is unlikely that we will see a Canon option to support this combination. Note that when using some third-party manual focus lenses on the adapter (Rokinon/Samyang for example), the camera may not take a photo unless "Release shutter without lens" is enabled in the menu.

Next, minimally add a telephoto zoom lens and a wide-angle zoom lens to the kit. The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is an outstanding choice.

Canon EOS R3 with Super-Telephoto Lens

Those looking for the ultimate Canon RF sports and wildlife lenses should consider the RF 400mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, RF 600mm F4 L IS USM Lens, and the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens.

Which CFexpress memory card should I buy for my Canon EOS R3? As mentioned before, the ProGrade Digital 325GB CFexpress 2.0 Cobalt Memory Card is one of the fastest cards available at review time and has a great company behind it.

Which CF Express memory card reader should I buy? With the EOS R3 having both a CFexpress card slot and an SD card slot, the ProGrade Digital CFexpress Type B & UHS-II SDXC Dual-Slot USB 3.2 Gen 2 Card Reader makes perfect sense.

Canon EOS R3 Top Angle

Price

The R3 arrives as the highest-priced Canon EOS R-series camera ever. Fittingly, it is also the highest performing model ever in that lineup. The R3 appears an especially good value when compared to the significantly higher price of the 1D X Mark III.

Wrap Up

Keeping a review of the incredibly feature-laden R3 concise but complete is a difficult balance to find, and this review is not a complete description of every R3 feature available. Canon published a 1,037-page owner's manual (a link to the manual is provided with this review) that highlights all of this camera's features and explains their use. Read the manual, use the camera, repeat.

Very important for a professional is that owning a Canon product gives you access to Canon support and the support I have been provided by Canon's USA division is excellent, second to none (sorry, I have no experience with the other Canon divisions). When I call for support, I get an intelligent, easy-to-understand person who sincerely wants to help me with whatever my question or problem is (I challenge them sometimes). Canon repair service, though I seldom need it, is fast and reliable. Those residing in the USA with an R3 in their kit along with a nice lens or two will qualify for Canon professional services membership and the additional support benefits this membership provides. Media professionals will find CPS setting up at their major events, ready to loan, clean, or repair equipment on location.

The Canon EOS R3 used for this review was on loan from Canon USA.

Alternatives

Is the EOS R3 the right camera for you? Particularly for photographers pursuing sports, action, photojournalism, or wildlife, that answer is likely "Yes!"

For someone considering the EOS R3 purchase, the other current EOS models that should be considered include the EOS-1D X Mark III and EOS R5.

Check out the EOS R3 vs. EOS-1D X Mark III specification comparison, along with the visual comparison of these cameras.

What are the differences between the Canon EOS R3 and the EOS-1D X Mark III? Here is a summary:

  • The R3 has IBIS
  • The R3 has vastly improved AF system, including far superior subject tracking, lower luminance AF (EV -7.5 vs. -4.0)
  • The R3 has significantly faster continuous shooting (30 fps vs. 16 fps using the viewfinder)
  • The R3 has modestly higher resolution
  • The R3 features 6K movie recording with a max duration of 6 hours, while the 1D X III has 5.5k and a 29:59 minute max duration
  • The R3 is considerably smaller and lighter
  • The 1D X III has an optical viewfinder (speed of light responsiveness)
  • The R3 provides far more information in the viewfinder
  • The R3 has no viewfinder blackout
  • The R3 has a Vari-Angle Touchscreen rear LCD with higher resolution (4.15M vs. 2.1M dots)
  • The 1D X III has a longer battery life
  • The R3 can use both RF lenses and EF lenses (via a mount adapter)
  • The R3 supports Speedlite shooting with electronic shutter
  • The R3 has a multi-function shoe
  • The R3 has a lower price

These cameras feature similar build strength and dust and water resistance.

That is an easy decision for me — I'd get the R3.

As I create the Canon EOS R3 review, the Canon EOS R5 is my current camera model. I've used a pair of these bodies a significant amount over the last year (since it has been available), have grown to trust them, and love the image quality they deliver. With advanced performance, the R3 becomes a strong contender to the R5, especially for those pursuing the above-mentioned genres.

Check out the EOS R3 vs. EOS R5 specification comparison, along with the visual comparison of these cameras.

What are the differences between the Canon EOS R3 and the EOS R5? Here is a summary:

  • The R5 has significantly higher resolution (45 MP vs. 24.1 MP), including for video recording (8k vs. 6k)
  • The R3 has a significantly improved AF system, including Eye Control AF, superior subject tracking (an R5 firmware update equalized this at least somewhat), and lower luminance AF (EV -7.5 vs. -6.0)
  • The R3 has significantly faster continuous shooting (30 fps vs. 20 fps with reduced bit depth)
  • The R3 has no viewfinder blackout and significantly faster imaging sensor read-out for reduced rolling shutter
  • The R3 has oversampled 4K movies at up to 60p with no heat restrictions and a max duration of 6 hours, while the R5 has 8k and oversampled 4k with a 29:59 minute max duration
  • The R3 has more controls and a built-in GPS
  • The R3 has increased durability and dust and weather resistance
  • The R3 has a higher resolution rear LCD (4.15M vs. 2.1M dots) and has Optical Viewfinder Simulation available for the EVF
  • The R3 has increased connectivity
  • The R3 supports Speedlite shooting with electronic shutter
  • The R3 has a multi-function shoe
  • The R3's larger, heavier battery has a longer battery life, though the R5 minimally equals this performance with the optional battery grip
  • The R3 has an integrated battery grip that more solid than the R5's accessory grip
  • The R5 is smaller, lighter, and considerably less expensive

These cameras feature the same IBIS system.

Those requiring the ultimate speed and performance will want the R3.

Canon EOS R3 Angle

Summary

The Canon EOS R3 is the ultimate Canon camera choice for photographing sports, action, photojournalism, wildlife, and a host of other subjects. This camera proves itself outstanding when pointed at fast-moving subjects and is ideal for high-end photographers and those interested in being such.

With each new high-end camera iteration, it becomes more difficult to be happy with the newfound annoyances (additional steps or efforts required to get the same job done) of the older models, and the R3 brings out those inadequacies of the other models. The R3 has professional-grade build quality combined with arguably the best AF system ever placed in an interchangeable lens camera. The Eye Control AF, subject detection and tracking performance, Smart Controllers, and a myriad of other features give this camera a review-time advantage over all other models.

The performance of the Canon EOS R3 suggests flagship 1-series membership, and selecting the R3 over the 1D X Mark III is an easy choice. That the R3 is a 3-series model suggests that Canon has an even more impressive (and more expensive) model coming in the future.

While some camera models have a higher pixel count, few compare otherwise.

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