Home Health Canon EOS R3, road test of the racing mirrorless

Canon EOS R3, road test of the racing mirrorless

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The data confirm this without risk of denial: mirrorless cameras have conquered the professional photography market. While in 2018, when Canon unveiled the EOS R system, pentaprism-free cameras accounted for only 30.7% of the machines sold during the year, today we have gone to 61.7% (GfK data), against 18.8% of reflex cameras. In other words, fewer and fewer photographers still resist the lure of full-frame mirrorless cameras. It’s a group of mostly sports, wildlife or agency photography professionals, for whom the benefits of a viewfinder camera continue to outweigh those of a mirrorless.

With the new EOS R3, Canon tries to wipe out any doubts even for these subgroups of professionals with a product that brings flagship features to a mirrorless. Endangering the primacy that, even at Canon, is held today by a pentaprism camera: the EOS 1DX Mark III. To properly test the EOS R3 we needed the right conditions: Canon provided them to us by organizing an ad hoc experience in the Arese racetrack, where we had the opportunity to point the car on racing cars that were speeding at more than 150 km / h.

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Surprisingly light
The first impressions confirmed the idea we had already made of the Canon EOS R3 during the presentation of the product. First of all the weight: the Japanese company has managed to find the perfect balance between solidity and lightness. The EOS R3 recalls the EOS 1DX Mark III in shape and size: a large body, with integrated battery grip, made for a wide grip. At the same time, the 428 grams less than the reflex are felt. These are cameras that professionals hold in their hands, move around and keep in their bags for long periods – half a kg less makes all the difference.

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Even the protection from atmospheric agents is the same as the EOS 1DX: the magnesium alloy body, as well as all the professional lenses of the EOS R system, is tropicalized and resists water and dust. The sometimes torrential rain under which we shot for a few hours with the EOS R3 helped us to verify this aspect too: a test that was largely passed.

Racing cars
With the machines on the track, we were able to experience first-hand the advanced features that Canon has equipped the EOS R3, and we are were at times astonished. It seems like an exaggeration, but what this camera can do for sports photography has never been seen before, even on the highest level professional SLRs. First of all, the autofocus: Canon has trained the algorithm of the machine to recognize not only faces, eyes, people and animals, but also vehicles (and riders on motorcycles or bicycles). The result is remarkable: when you frame the running car, the focus rectangle follows it without ever losing sight of it, up to the edge of the frame.

The EOS R3 is a real lightning bolt: the burst reaches 30 frames per second, all in 14-bit RAW and with an electronic viewfinder always active. The maximum shutter speed is 1 / 64,000 second with continuous focus and tracking that never lose the subject. The result is an ease of shooting in extreme conditions that, in no uncertain terms, has never been possible before with this camera. The result, touched by hand in post-production, is a subversion of the natural process of selecting sports photos: if from a burst of 10 shots taken with a reflex like the 1DX it is normal to save maybe a couple of them (as long as the photographer is good), from the bursts taken with the R3 it is first of all to discard the two or 3 photos that come out less well than the others.

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Everything on the EOS R3 is optimized for shooting speed and photo processing. The sensor (stacked, backlit and specially adapted for this machine) has a 24 megapixel resolution, the right middle point for print quality and lightweight files that can be quickly transferred to distribution agencies. The final quality is not affected in any way: the machine produces very rich RAWs, but prepared for ultra-fast processing as befits the workflow of a sports photographer.

The conditions of the experience and the tight deadlines did not allow us to try the Eye Control AF of the EOS R3, that is the system that allows you to select the subject to be traced and keep in focus with the movements of the eye observing the viewfinder. There remains the curiosity for a unique functionality of its kind, but which (touching the product with your hand) is at best the icing on an already excellent cake, with out-of-scale performance.

The shooting setup of some of the images in our gallery: EOS R3 with RF 400mm f2.8L IS USM lens

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A revolutionary camera
We approached this test of the EOS R3 knowing that we would have in our hands a product with enormous potential. After spending a few hours there, we believe that using the adjective “revolutionary” to define this camera is not an excess, but an objective consideration.

The technological evolution that Canon has managed to realize within 3 years, from the presentation of the first EOS R to the launch of this R3, passing through EOS R5 and R6, is noteworthy in itself. But if R5 and R6 are excellent professional cameras that can replace the EOS 6D and EOS 5D reflex cameras, the new R3 is in a class of its own.

At the target of professionals to which it is dedicated, it has no counterpart in the reflex world. The only two features the 1DX Mark III can still surpass it for are the battery life and the burst at 20 fps with mechanical shutter (on R3 it reaches 12 fps, but it has no reason to be compared to the 30 fps of the electronic shutter). They are small when compared to all the other features such as focus speed, tracking of sports subjects, IS stabilization up to 8 stops, autofocus up to -7.5 EV.

The only drawback that you can really find with this camera is that it is too perfect and, given an adequate photographic experience, far too easy to use. It is difficult to dirty a photo to look for the creative mistake and the selection at the entrance is made by the price (6289 euros for the camera body only) more than the photographic experience. Matters for a select few, though: there are legions of sports photographers and naturalists, outspoken to pragmatic, for whom this camera will simplify and lighten the work, allowing you to take a huge amount of salable shots in less time and more effectively.

For all these professionals, the EOS R3 represents, at a cost more than adequate for use, the first, a real opportunity to completely abandon the reflex, now that the future of professional photography has finally become the present.

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