The Canon EOS R3 is finally out of the garage where it had been hiding for six months – and specs confirm that it is the powerful and fast F1 car of mirrorless cameras.
But this brilliant showcase of Canon’s latest camera technology, impressive as it is, also shows that Canon is still catching up with its main rival in the Manufacturers’ Championship: Sony.
Sony engineers have been tinkering with mirrorless gaming for much longer than Canon. And that experience, combined with its vast R&D power, means that in key business areas – sensors, EVF, video, even next-gen clogs – its cameras have already been at the forefront of most technology. seen in the EOS R3.
What Sony’s cameras haven’t done yet is squeeze all that goodness into a DSLR-style body that pro sportsmen and wildlife shooters will pick up to love Lewis Hamilton on a Go Kart – et cetera. This is where the Canon EOS R3 really shines.
It doesn’t just sit between the Canon EOS R5 and the Canon 1D X Mark III – it combines the best of both cameras in what is arguably one of the best professional cameras around. But while features like a new stacked sensor make it a tech pioneer in the Canon stable, it’s still a game of catching up rather than a spectacular overtaking maneuver.
In many ways, the Canon EOS R3 is the most advanced camera ever designed for professional sports and wildlife photographers.
It’s blazingly fast (as fast as the Sony A1, on paper, thanks to that 30fps raw burst shooting mode) and comes in a form factor that was forged in an era when the mount Sony’s E still had its L-plates.
But its advantages over cameras like the Sony A1 and Sony A9 II stem more from its heritage than from its pioneering camera technology. The big tech story is that the EOS R3 is the first Canon camera to feature a stacked full frame sensor, which delivers the read speeds necessary to pull off ridiculous feats like that raw 30fps burst mode.
Still, it was Sony that pioneered here and it has been perfecting its stacked full frame sensors for over two years. That’s why it was able to come out of nowhere, along with one of the best-kept secrets in all of consumer tech, with the Sony A1 in January of this year.
This camera is the kind of uncompromising all-rounder we’ve never seen before, although this approach ironically leads to compromises on a practical level (like its price, for example). But it was undoubtedly an asset that stole some of the thunder from the Canon EOS R3.
Sony hasn’t just established a technological lead in sensors, either. An interesting feature of the Canon EOS R3 is that it has the same electronic viewfinder (EVF) specifications as the versatile Canon EOS R5. At first glance, that’s okay, because the EOS R5’s EVF is a great 5.76 million dot OLED deal with a 120 fps refresh rate, which our review could “barely distinguish it from real optical sights found in traditional digital SLRs “.
Still, the Sony A1 took professional EVFs to the next level already in January with an incredible 9.44 million pixel viewfinder with a refresh rate of 240 fps. This refresh rate is especially important for sports and wildlife shooting, as it affects the smoothness of movement in the viewfinder.
Interestingly, a teardown of the Canon EOS R5 last year appeared to reveal that its viewfinder – the same as that of the Canon EOS R3 – is a module made by Sony. Does that explain why Canon was unable to match the Sony A1’s EVF on its professional mirrorless sports camera? Maybe, but in any case, the viewfinder is a crucial feature for sports photographers, especially those switching from DSLRs. And like the sensors, Sony is ahead here, at least on paper.
As Canon told us in January 2020, when it comes to viewfinders, mirrorless cameras “can never be as fast as a digital SLR” because the optical viewfinder of a digital SLR works at the speed light. Canon has added an “OVF simulation” mode to the EOS R3, which lets you see out of the frame to anticipate the action, to ease the transition for DSLR users. But there’s no question that Sony still holds the bar high when it comes to mirrorless EVFs.
Of course, being the first with new technology doesn’t always translate into better cameras, and Canon certainly isn’t catching up on all fronts with the EOS R3.
No camera in history has given you more control over your autofocus. The EOS R3 combines a touchscreen, traditional knurled AF joysticks, the 1D X Mark III’s fast intelligent controller (think of a computer mouse upside down) and Canon’s new incarnation of its AF Eye Control system.
The latter is unique to Canon and follows the movement of your eye to move the autofocus point to where you are looking. This certainly provides practical benefits for acquiring focus, but there are also quite a few calibration circles to go through (both for your eye and the local lighting conditions) and it might also not. not work as well for those who wear glasses or contact lenses.
Canon has also largely caught up with Sony when it comes to tracking autofocus technology, with the EOS R3 refining the algorithms for its People and Animal AF and adding a new one for vehicles as well. While we’ve seen the latter on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X before, the EOS R3’s mode is incredibly advanced, even letting you choose to prioritize the driver’s helmet (in open-top vehicles like F1 cars) or the vehicle itself to focus.
The EOS R3 is also arguably the mirrorless leader in weatherproofing. While the Sony A1 claims to offer an “improved” weatherproof seal over its other mirrorless cameras, the EOS R3 matches the waterproofness of the rugged 1D X Mark III DSLR. Canon is also at the forefront when it comes to in-body image stabilization, which comes in handy for preserving the quality of handheld image and video. With compatible lenses, you’ll get up to eight stops of stabilization on the EOS R3, which is best in class on paper.
But despite the Canon EOS R3’s impressive list of features, Sony arguably remains the technology leader in really key areas. The EOS R3 breaks free from traditional Canon video recording limitations (claiming to be able to continue shooting at standard frame rates for six hours) and its ability to shoot raw 6K video internally is impressive.
Yet with cameras like the Sony A1 and Sony A7S III (not to mention the Sony Airpeak drone), its rival continues to set the standard for professional video shooters – and new competition is on the way with the Nikon Z9 from. 8K shooting. Considering the EOS R5’s early overheating issues, we’re also excited to see how the EOS R3 performs in this department.
Sony’s advance in mirrorless cameras also continues to give it a slight edge over lenses, depending on what you like to shoot. Canon’s RF system is now incredibly mature, although only half of them are currently available for purchase – and today’s announcement of the Canon RF 100-400mm f / 5.6-8 IS USM and The Canon RF 16mm f / 2.8 STM served as a few of the affordable options for non-professionals.
Sony’s five-year lead in making mirrorless camera lenses, however, with its broad third-party support from Sigma, Tamron, and Zeiss, has given its E-mount system an unmatched amount. variety at all price points, as well as compelling specialist options such as the Sony FE 135mm f / 1.8 G Master lens and other “G Master” lenses.
None of this means that the Canon EOS R3 isn’t an incredible camera – it delivers a unique combination of retro DSLR-style handling and astounding mirrorless power. And we can still see a Canon EOS R1 make an unexpected leap forward in the same vein as the Sony A1.
But the EOS R3 also shows that Sony continues to be one step ahead in the most important areas of full-frame technology, including stacked sensors, burst shooting, viewfinders, multi-function shoes and more. (to a lesser extent) the choice of objective. .
What’s good for camera fans is that Canon has just shown that it is perfectly capable of sticking with its main rival. Like an F1 car in camera form (and also one whose autofocus can track F1 cars), the Canon EOS R3 is the fastest of the fast followers, and the ultimate winners will be photographers and filmmakers.
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