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Canon EOS R3 Mirrorless Camera Review

John Riley has been putting the high-speed, 30fps Canon EOS R3 through its paces to find out just how quick it really is.

| Canon EOS R3 in Mirrorless Cameras

Canon EOS R3 Mirrorless Camera Review: Canon R3 Body Front Oblique View | 0.3 sec | f/16.0 | 78.0 mm | ISO 100

Quick Verdict

Big, beautiful and ready for any kind of photographic assignment, the Canon EOS R3 is the flagship of Canon's mirrorless range. It looks like a top of the line film camera with built-in motor drive, but is mirrorless all the way and brings the R series fully into the most demanding professional arena. This camera could be expected to tackle any job in any environment, efficiently and reliably. The price is predictably high, but we definitely get what we pay for in terms of handling and in terms of performance.

Heavy, yes. Expensive, yes. Editor's Choice, also yes.

+ Pros

  • Solid, professional build quality
  • Excellent lenses
  • Full feature range
  • Weather sealing
  • IS (Image Stabilisation) up to 8 stops
  • Extensive video capability
  • Vertical grip built-in
  • Superb OLED EVF
  • Fast and responsive
  • Mechanical and electronic shutter options
  • Very intuitive handling

- Cons

  • Bulky and heavy
  • Expensive
  • CFExpress cards expensive
  • Batteries expensive


It's clearly time for the Big Beasts to emerge into the light, and the new Canon EOS R3 mirrorless flagship arrives hot on the heels of Nikon's Z9. Clearly, photographers will have their own preferences, and the new cameras are true to their individual heritages in terms of handling and design. The new Canon EOS R3 is a magnificent looking camera body, albeit it bulky, heavy and expensive, but can it justify its cost with a robust performance in the field and in the technical tests? We find out, coupling the camera with the recently reviewed Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM premium zoom lens.


Canon EOS R3 Features

Canon EOS R3 Mirrorless Camera Review: Canon R3 Body Cross View | 0.3 sec | f/16.0 | 78.0 mm | ISO 100


The camera body is big, no denying that weighing in at 822g but, more realistically, 1015g complete with card and battery. Getting to grips with its design quickly, the on/off switch is still separate from the shutter release, which could be a more ergonomic place for it, but it is now operated by the right thumb rather than needing a second hand to flick the switch on the left of the top plate. This may seem a small point but is arguably important when carrying the camera in the right hand.

There is a choice of grip as the major controls are repeated so that the camera can be held for horizontal or vertical operation and the same hold can be used.

This is only possible with a larger camera body and is quite a convenience. The large grip at the bottom of the body houses a huge Canon Li-ion LP-E19 battery, with its own locking mechanism attached, so there is no need for a battery door on the camera. Despite the huge battery, it is still rated for just 860 shots using the LCD screen or 620 using the OLED EVF. A spare battery will set us back around £190, but the battery charger LC-E19E will take two at once, which is a definite advantage.

The fully articulating vari-angle touch-sensitive 3.2” LCD II screen is clear and crisp, with a resolution of 4.15M dots. The 0.5” OLED EVF has 5.76M dots and a refresh rate of 120 fps and gives a very realistic view of the world, equal to most optical viewfinders and something that could well be preferred by many photographers. Eye Control AF is something else, either a fantastic new feature that offers real convenience or something that is a total pain that is best switched off. This photographer tends to glance around the screen to check on anything intruding into the picture frame, so the eye AF bouncing around with that movement is perhaps definitely better switched off.

The camera is moisture and dust resistant, so venturing out into the worst weather broadens the possibilities. The construction is robust, using a Magnesium alloy body and polycarbonate with glass fibre reinforcement.


Canon EOS R3 Mirrorless Camera Review: Canon R3 Body Oblique View With 24 70mm F2,8L Lens | 0.3 sec | f/16.0 | 53.0 mm | ISO 100

Under the skin, the stacked, back-illuminated CMOS sensor has 24.1MP. Sensor shift plus lens IS gives up to 8 stops advantage, which does mean that for many situations where previously a tripod would have been needed, that inconvenience is no longer necessary. On this day with this photographer, an advantage of around 5.5 stops could be relied on.

The ISO range is from ISO 100-102,400, extendable to ISO 50 and ISO 204,800. Unlike Nikon's choices for the Z9, Canon have opted to retain the mechanical shutter, giving photographers the choice. The mechanical shutter (30-1/8000s) offers a frame rate of up to 12 fps. The electronic shutter (30-1/64000s) offers up to 30fps. AF offers a sensitivity range from -7.5EV to +20EV and can track people, animals (dogs, cats, birds) and vehicles. The metering system operates down to -3EV.

Connectivity is via WiFi and Bluetooth and a variety of sockets for cables, including LAN, HDMI, USB-C, Microphone, Headphones and flash socket. Images are recorded to the one CFExpress slot, or the SD/SDHC/SDXC/UHS-II slot.

Videographers are well catered for, with 6K RAW 60p and 4K 120p as well as Canon Log3. Maximum movie length is 6 hours. In addition, JPEG frame grabs of 8.8MP are possible from 4KDCI and 4KUHD.

There are a multitude of switches and dials on the camera and most of these can be programmed to suit the individual. Once set up, this means the camera can have the ideal functionality for a wide range of different requirements. Some operations can be executed from the lens as well, so for example the lens control ring on the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM adjusts exposure compensation by default. This can be programmed to one of an extensive list of options in the appropriate camera menu.


Key Features

  • 24.1MP stacked, back-illuminated CMOS full-frame sensor
  • Media: CFExpress (Type B) and SD/SDHC/SDXC/UHS-II
  • Shutter speeds 30 seconds to 1/8000s (Mechanical shutter)
  • Shutter speeds 30 seconds to 1/64000s (Electronic shutter)
  • ISO 100-102400 (50-204800 extended)
  • Metering range: -3EV to +20EV
  • IS (up to 8 stops) 12fps mechanical shutter
  • 30fps electronic shutter
  • Eye Detection AF for People, Animals (cats, dogs, birds) and vehicles
  • Standard and vertical grip built in
  • 6K RAW 60p video
  • 4K 120p video
  • Canon Log3
  • Maximum movie length 6 hours
  • OLED 0.5” EVF with 5.76 million dots
  • Viewfinder magnification 0.74x
  • Vari-angle touch screen 3.2” LCD with 4.2 million dots
  • GPS
  • WiFi
  • Wired LAN via RJ-45 connector
  • 1015g incl battery and card
  • Battery capacity 860 shots (using LCD screen)
  • Battery capacity 620 shots (using OLED EVF)
  • Picture Control settings – Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Fine Detail, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome and 3 User Defined

Canon EOS R3 Handling

Canon EOS R3 Mirrorless Camera Review: Canon R3 Body Top View With 24 70mm F2,8L Lens | 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 40.0 mm | ISO 100

Large professional cameras are, inevitably, big, heavy and expensive, but they are geared up to rugged, reliable operation and this comes at a price. The Canon EOS R3 is no exception to this, but it is there to work. As such, the functionality is everything and Canon has produced a superb example of how to design a top of the line camera that delivers the goods efficiently. Notwithstanding my preference for an on/off switch around the shutter button, it can be accepted that the placement of individual controls can be adapted to and will become second nature.

The Canon menu system offers access to personalising just about every button or dial that we have here, and if the trouble is taken to set up thoroughly then it will repay the effort many times over. Not every control is used all the time, so for this photographer, the set-up is ISO to the mode button dial, exposure compensation to the lens control ring, aperture adjustment to the top control wheel and other main functions to the Q menu, which offers quick access to most main parameters. Features such as self-timer are retained if the camera is switched off, which is useful when doing sets of product shots for example.

The camera grip is just about perfect, but of course, this is subject to the individual and some will prefer smaller cameras. The point is that not anyone's camera can be all things to all photographers, but here canon has made a great stab at it by offering so much in the way of customisation.

Finally, one of the joys of photography has always been the incredible SLR viewfinders, the best offering undistorted views of the world in a deep black surround, a perfect compositional tool. The days of finding EVFs lacking are well over though, and this new Canon is just amazing, with its real world view via a magnificent OLED EVF. A great view of the world that is easy on the eye, relaxing to view for long periods without any flicker or fatigue.


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Photographs taken using the Canon EOS R3

Levitating...MistlethrushGreat TitChaffinchGolden EagleNuthatchGolden Eagle in FlightRobinGolden EagleBlue TitGolden Eagle in FlightGoldfinchGolden EagleGolden Eagle in FlightGolden Eagle

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