Hands-On: Canon EOS R3 Review (In Depth)

Hands-On: Canon EOS R3 Review (In Depth)

Hands-On: Canon EOS R3 Review (In Depth)

945 508 Avinash Sharma

The Canon EOS R3 is a high-end mirrorless camera aimed at pro sports and news photographers who demand the fastest speed and toughest body. Teased in April 2021, and officially launched six months later, it’s Canon’s most powerful mirrorless camera to date, and while it outperforms the 1Dx Mark III in most respects, it’s officially positioned between it and the EOS R5, implying a 1-series mirrorless may come in the future.

The R3 features Canon’s first stacked backside-illuminated full-frame sensor, and I confirmed it’s designed and manufactured by Canon. To balance resolution speed and noise, Canon’s opted for 24.1 Megapixels, coincidentally the same Sony chose for their first stacked full-frame sensor in the A9, three years previously. But Canon’s sensor shoots 50% faster than the A9, supporting electronic bursts up to 30fps with autofocus and auto-exposure. So the R3 matches the top speed of the Sony Alpha 1 albeit capturing half the total pixels per frame.

Now let’s have a look at the specifications of Canon’s best mirrorless camera

Some key Spacifications of Canon EOS R3

Sensor 24.1MP stacked CMOS
Image processor Digic X
AF points 4,779 stills / 3,969 movies
ISO range 100-102,400 (expandable to 50-204,800)
Stabilization In-body (up to 8 stops with compatible lenses)
Weather sealing Yes (equivalent to Canon EOS-1D X Mark III)
Max image size 6,000 x 4,000px
Video 6K up to 60p, 4K up to 120p, 1080p up to 60p
Viewfinder Electronic 0.5-inch, 5.76m dots, 120Hz, 100% coverage, 0.76x magnification
Memory card 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC, 1x CFexpress Type B
LCD 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 4.15 million dots
Max burst 30fps electronic (540 JPEG / 150 RAW), 12fps mechanical (1,000+ JPEG / 1,000 RAW)
Connectivity USB-C 3.2, HDMI mini, headphone jack, microphone/line-in jack, N3 terminal, 5GHz & 2.4GHz WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, Ethernet, GPS / GNSS
Size 150 x 142.6 x 87.2mm
Weight 822g body only (1,015g with battery and memory card)


Canon EOS R3 is clearly the mirrorless equivalent of its Canon EOS 1D X Mark III sports DSLR. This means it’s larger than the Sony A1 (which doesn’t have a built-in grip) but smaller than its DSLR cousins. 

So now let’s first talk about the weight of this beast.


In the hand, the EOS R3 is considerably lighter than the 1D X Mark III, weighing 822g (or just over 1kg with a card and battery). That’s a huge weight saving of over 400g, which will please the spines of sports snappers. The size difference is less noticeable, with the EOS R3 being not quite as tall or wide as the 1D X Mark III, but slightly deeper.

On that note, let’s talk about the biggest updates for sports or wildlife photographers.

Built-in battery grip:

What really marks out the EOS R3 as a professional sports camera, compared to smaller models like the Canon EOS R5, is its build quality and built-in battery grip. It has a magnesium alloy body that makes it the toughest mirrorless camera Canon has made so far.


The EOS R3 has the same level of weather-proofing as the 1D X Mark III, but it isn’t built to withstand the same extremes of temperature as Canon’s bomb-proof DSLR; this is predominantly a sports camera, after all, as shown by that built-in portrait grip.

Buttons and Battery:

Canon has clearly attempted to make the EOS R3 as comfortably familiar as possible for those coming from its pro DSLRs. There’s no room for the 1D X Mark III’s mini display on the back, but the majority of its rear buttons are in the same place as on that camera – and it also has the Smart Controller that debuted on that DSLR in 2020.

This touch-sensitive AF-On button is a bit like an upside-down computer mouse, letting you quickly move your autofocus point around the frame. While it split opinion among photographers, Canon clearly had enough good feedback from its pro snappers to keep it on the EOS R3 – and there’s an extra Smart Controller button for when you’re shooting in portrait, too. Those who aren’t a fan of this modified AF-On button can also use the traditional, knurled AF joysticks.

It also uses the same LP-E19 battery as the EOS-1D X Mark III, which has a capacity about a third higher than that of the Canon EOS R5’s LP-E6NH battery.


Because the Canon EOS R3 is a mirrorless camera, there are naturally some differences between it and the company’s sports DSLRs. The two most obvious ones are its viewfinder and rear screen. Canon has confirmed that the EOS R3 has the same electronic viewfinder (EVF) as the Canon EOS R5, which means it’s a 5.67 million-dot affair with a 120fps refresh rate. 

Canon claims this “rivals an optical viewfinder”, which is crucial for pro sports photographers. It’s also added an ‘OVF simulation View Assist’ mode, which lets you see the action that’s going on outside the frame. We haven’t been able to give this a test drive yet, but the EOS R3’s large eyecup certainly felt comfortable when held up to our face.

Touch Screen:

A more unexpected inclusion is the vari-angle touchscreen, which has a super-crisp 4.1 million-dot resolution. This completely blows the Sony A1’s 1.44 million-dot, tilt-only rear screen out of the water, and its full articulation will be particularly handy for video shooters. It’s a big change from the Canon EOS 1 DX Mark III’s completely fixed rear screen, which was designed purely for sports snappers.

The EOS R3’s top plate also has more in common with the EOS R5, with a square display in the top-right displaying your current settings. As on the R5, this is a handy way to keep the rear screen switched off between shots to help preserve battery life. Over on the left side, though, the EOS R3 apes the 1D X Mark III’s approach, with dedicated buttons for the Drive, metering, and AF modes.

Multi-Function Shoe:

One new feature that we haven’t seen on any other Canon camera so far is the new Multi-Function Shoe in the middle. This is interesting because, like Sony’s Multi-Interface Shoe, it allows for high-speed, two-way data transfer between the camera and any compatible accessories that you mount on top of it. 

Canon has announced a new Directional Stereo Microphone (DM-E1D) and Speedlite Transmitter (ST-E10) that are both fully compatible with the new shoe – which means they can draw power from the camera. The hot-shoe is the same size as Canon’s standard hot-shoe, so you can use all your old accessories with it, but one downside is that it doesn’t create a weather-proof seal – if you want full weather-proofing, you’ll need an optional accessory.


Like the Canon EOS R5, it has the Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system, but there are a few differences this time. Firstly, Canon claims the EOS R3 is “the fastest EOS R series camera yet” in terms of focusing, trumping the R5 with its ability to focus in 0.03 seconds, compared to 0.05 seconds. Such minuscule differences mean very little in real-world shooting, but we’re looking forward to seeing if the R3 lives up to that billing.

The EOS R3 is also the first Canon camera to have a ‘vehicle tracking’ autofocus mode. We haven’t yet been able to test this AF tracking out, but it appears to offer slightly more granular control than the Olympus system – you can, for example, prioritize either the vehicle or driver’s helmet for your focus point. If this works anywhere near as well as Canon’s Animal Eye AF, which is class-leading, then it should be a useful tool for sports photographers. Naturally, the EOS R3 has all the other AF tracking modes for humans, dogs, cats, and birds, that we saw on the EOS R5. 

Low-light performance:

The final AF performance improvement over the Canon EOS R5 is slightly better low-light performance. Canon says the EOS R3 can focus in lighting conditions as low as -7.5 EV (think a night-time scene with minimal moonlight), which is an improvement on the EOS R5’s quoted low of -6EV. Bear in mind that both of these figures are based on shooting with an f/1.2 lens at ISO100, making it more of a theoretical focusing limit – we’ll need to do some tests with more typical camera settings to see how the camera fares in real-world scenarios.

Eye Control AF:

Canon EOS R3’s autofocus skills aren’t all about tracking the beads of sweat on a racing car driver’s forehead – the camera also brings with it a new method of controlling your AF point, called Eye Control AF. Despite sounding pretty futuristic, this is actually a new version of the ‘eye-controlled autofocus’ system we saw back on the Canon EOS 3 SLR in the late 90s.

In short, it allows the camera to detect where you’re looking in the viewfinder and move the autofocus to that point in the frame. The idea is that, in fast-moving scenarios, this will be quicker than using manual controls, and will let you concentrate on adjusting your exposure and/or composition. Canon says the system has been adapted from technology used in the company’s medical division and uses eight low-powered LEDs in the viewfinder to track your eye and overlay that information on the sensor.


Canon was relatively quiet about the EOS R3’s video powers in the run-up to its full launch, but they’re far from a footnote. It’s a powerful hybrid camera that can unusually shoot raw video internally (at 6K/60p, using the full width of the sensor) along with oversampled 4K/60p video.

The benefit of oversampled video is that it tends to have more detail and less noise, so we’re looking forward to seeing how it performs during a full test. In theory, the EOS R3’s video should also have a very little rolling shutter, thanks to that new stacked sensor.

When shooting in 6K raw, you can opt to shoot in the CRM (Cinema Raw Light) format, which should produce relatively manageable file sizes without coming at the expense of dynamic range. Color graders will also be pleased to see support for the C-Log 3 format for malleable 10-bit files, while the overheating issues that dogged the Canon EOS R5 before its firmware fixes are less likely to be an issue with the EOS R3.

This is partly because there’s more room in the R3’s body to spread its components out, and also because of its lower-resolution sensor. Canon claims you’ll be able to shoot for six hours at a time (assuming you have enough juice) when shooting standard frame-rates, and for up to 1.5 hours in the high 120p mode.

Handily, you can record video to both the CFexpress and UHS-II slots simultaneously to create a backup, and the EOS R3’s video credentials are further bolstered by that new Multi-Function Shoe, which can power accessories like the new Directional Stereo Microphone DM-E1D.

We haven’t yet had the chance to test out any of these promising video powers, but the Canon EOS R3 is certainly shaping up to be a powerful mirrorless video tool – and probably an even more practical one than the Canon EOS R5.

Specs and performance

The Canon EOS R3’s most significant feature is its new 24.1MP sensor. This has been both designed and manufactured by Canon, despite earlier rumors that it would be made by Sony. This is noteworthy in the context of the great Canon vs Sony mirrorless battle, but more importantly, this is also Canon’s first ‘stacked’ sensor.

Sony has pioneered stacked full-frame sensors, the layered structure of which allows more complex circuitry to be built behind the photosites. The result is higher data read-out speeds, which brings benefits like faster burst-shooting speeds and reduced ‘rolling shutter’ in video. And that certainly seems to be the case in the EOS R3.

In a world where the Sony A1 is capable of shooting 50MP photos at 30fps, the EOS R3’s 24.1MP resolution might sound disappointing. But unless you regularly crop into your photos a lot, that’s more than enough for most photographers – and the professionals who’ve been pinning their livelihoods on the 20.1MP Canon EOS 1 DX Mark III certainly haven’t complained.

This means the Canon EOS R3 is more of a rival to the Sony A9 II, which has a 24.2MP stacked full-frame sensor, than the A1. And in a few specs battles, the EOS R3 comes out on top. In very specific conditions, it can hit continuous shooting speeds of 30fps with AE/AF tracking when using the electronic shutter and maintain that for 540 JPEGs or 150 raws (in other words, 18 seconds or five seconds of shooting respectively).

This is something we’ll need to test, though, as burst speeds can be affected by a lot of factors – for example, those maximum 30fps speeds are when using a CFexpress card with particular lenses and exposure settings in favorable conditions. Still, the EOS R3 will still likely offer faster burst shooting than the Canon EOS R5, or the same performance – 12fps – when using the mechanical shutter. Interestingly, that 12fps figure is slower than the 20fps that’s possible with the 1D X Mark III’s mechanical shutter, which shows that electronic shutters are fast becoming the default.

One of the main reasons for this is the ability of modern mirrorless cameras to eliminate ‘rolling shutter’, which is a warping effect that’s noticeable during fast panning movements. We saw minimal evidence of this on the Canon EOS R5, and Canon claims its new sensor “almost entirely eliminates rolling shutter distortion” in the R3. Again, that’s something we’ll have to test more rigorously, but it’s certainly promising for anyone who fancies using the R3’s silent electronic shutter for wildlife or weddings.

Beyond the ability to hit staggering shutter speeds of 1/64000th of a second, the electronic shutter can also be synced with external flashes (up to 1/250th of a second), something that was previously only possible with mechanical shutters. Like Sony, Canon has also added Flicker detection and High-Frequency anti-flicker shooting modes to help detect and correct flickering indoor light sources.

Another big benefit for handheld shooting over the Canon 1D X Mark III is the inclusion of in-body image stabilization. When you use the EOS R3 with compatible RF lenses, you’ll get a shake reduction of up to eight stops. This will allow you to preserve still image quality and, if it works as well as in the Canon EOS R5, get the reasonably smooth video without a gimbal.

Because the Canon EOS R3 is designed very much for pro sports photographers, it also goes big on connectivity. Alongside Bluetooth 5.0 and 5Ghz Wi-Fi, you also get a Gigabit Ethernet port for firing images via FTP servers. Pro snappers will also be able to use Canon’s Mobile File Transfer (MFT) app to transfer images to remote servers via their smartphone or tablet. 

This will combine nicely with a new accessory, the Smartphone Link AD-P1, which will let you mount your iOS or Android phone on the optional Multi-Function Shoe Adapter. While most of this will be overkill for the average photographer, full-time agency photographers will definitely enjoy bathing in the EOS R3’s generous connectivity.

Final Words

Although Canon has not officially announced Canon EOS R3 the flagship mirrorless camera. but it’s certainly qualified for the job. It showcases the camera giant’s latest technology for sports and wildlife shooters in a traditional, DSLR-style body.

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