The Canon EOS R1 Is Going to Be a Crazy Camera

The Canon EOS R1 Is Going to Be a Crazy Camera

Canon's EOS R5 showed us they were finally taking mirrorless seriously. And now, the EOS R3 has shown us that they are swinging for the fences. And yet, there is still the EOS R1 to come. It is going to be one crazy camera. 

If you saw the specs for the Canon EOS R3 that have been released so far (30 fps burst rate, more advanced autofocus than the already spectacular EOS R5, a newly developed stacked CMOS sensor with a back-illuminated design, eye-controlled autofocus, and more) and you assumed that this was Canon's mirrorless flagship making its first public appearance, you would be making a totally reasonable assumption. You would be wrong, though.

Canon has used the "1" designator for flagship bodies for decades now, and they have given us plenty of hints that that remains the case with the R line of mirrorless cameras. The two most obvious hints are the fact that the EOS R5 and EOS R6 are direct analogs to the 5D and 6D series DSLRs and that the company says the EOS R3 "will usher in a new category to the EOS R system, positioned squarely between the EOS R5 and EOS-1D X Mark III cameras," indicating that there is still room to grow. But where do you grow from here?

2021 Canon Is Not 2015 Canon

I have discussed before how Canon seems to have made a paradigm shift in camera design philosophy. Years ago, Canon was known for producing reliable professional workhorses, but for perhaps artificially handicapping feature sets to distinguish camera bodies from each other and for failing to push the technological envelope. Their lenses have always been spectacular, but even as they pushed into full frame mirrorless, their cameras felt overly measured, restrained. This feeling was doubled when one looked at Sony blazing ahead. But the 1D X Mark III and EOS R5 pointed toward a brighter future — not just a quickening of the R&D curve, but a fundamental paradigm shift. Whether it was the likes of Sony and Fuji pushing the company into such a design philosophy shift or something else, it does not really matter; things have changed, and Canon is plowing ahead at a breakneck pace.

Will It Be the Sensor?

Every new camera Canon releases tell us more about the eventual EOS R1, because it sets bars that a flagship must clear to maintain its status at the top of the line model. Traditionally, flagship models have had lower resolutions (normally around 20 megapixels) to enable sports photographers and photojournalists, who are less concerned about high resolution and more about speed, to have the efficiency they need. There were high-resolution bodies, and there were speedy bodies. It was not until the Sony a7R III that we saw a high-resolution full frame camera hit 10 fps. 

But with recent mirrorless cameras, like the Sony a1, we have seen technology shift toward speed and resolution together as the norm. So, will we see Canon's next 1 series camera shift toward a 40- or 50-megapixel sensor? Maybe. Canon has said the company has developed a stacked CMOS sensor with a back-illuminated design with vastly higher readout speeds. Canon knows electronic shutters are becoming the future: they mean fewer moving parts to break, less mechanical complexity, silent shooting, and more. Their main drawback is that without a fast readout speed, issues with rolling shutters emerge. Sony showed us with the a9 (and has continued to refine with the a1) that with a fast enough readout speed, most action can be captured with an electronic shutter without issue. But the holy grail, for both stills and video, is a global shutter, and this new sensor indicates attention being paid toward readout times.

Another benefit of the new sensor design is low-light performance, the place where Canon has generally lagged behind other manufacturers. They have made major strides in recent years, and this design could about pull them even, or at least make the differences negligible to all but the most ferocious specs readers. 

Recently, Canon's design philosophy seems to be dropping a groundbreaking feature into every new and major announcement — a la Steve Jobs' "one more thing." With their first foray into professional mirrorless, it was the 28-70mm f/2L, the first full frame standard zoom lens with an f/2 maximum aperture. With the EOS R5, it was 8K raw video. With the EOS R3, it seems to be their fastest burst rate ever (and eye-controlled autofocus). So, what will the "one more thing" be with the EOS R1? For a 1 series model, it will have to be a feature that turns the heads of demanding working professionals, not just a "gee-whiz" sort of thing (not that the aforementioned things aren't fantastic). A global shutter could be that thing. 

But back to the resolution argument. If it isn't a global shutter, I wouldn't be surprised to see that 40- or 50-megapixel sensor. If it is, though, I would expect it to be lower, particularly since this would be a first — perhaps 25-30 megapixels. Given current card write speeds, that would also allow it to set the burst rate even higher. 40 fps? Maybe. It sounds insane. But then again, even just two years ago, in 2019, cameras like the Sony a1 and EOS R5 sounded insane too. After all, Canon's new philosophy seems to be bludgeoning the competition with raw specs, and so, why not bludgeon the Sony a1's 30 fps burst rate? It would also help distinguish the R1 from the R3, which already sits at 30 fps. 

Or perhaps if the R1 does not have a global shutter, it will also sit at 30 fps, but with a faster mechanical shutter than the EOS R3 and EOS R5. The EOS R5 has a mechanical shutter that maxes out at 12 fps. The EOS R3 might also sit at 12 fps, with the EOS R1 getting the 1D X Mark III's 20 fps mechanical shutter, maybe nudged up to 22 fps. 

Or Will It Be Something Else?

Maybe it won't be the global shutter. But the EOS R3 has set another benchmark a notch above the EOS R5, which sets the bar the EOS R1 has to clear even higher. What will the R1's "one more thing" be? 

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30 Comments

Indy Thomas's picture

No doubt a stunning camera is coming up.

However, I think there will be a certain letdown after a while when users stop wheezing and squeaking about the fps and AF to realize their pictures still look pretty much the same.

Lawrence S's picture

That's the exact moment they go to photo websites or fora and start flexing/fighting about equipment.

Juan Isaias Perez's picture

Using my brand new crystal ball (which came without instructions):
R5/R6 - top of the line half bodies with traditional CMOS sensors
R3/R4 - full bodies with BSI sensors. One build for speed the other for resolution
R1/R2 - full bodies with BSI sensors + global shutters. One build for speed the other for resolution

If this doesn’t come to be...blame the crystal ball and not me!

Tony Filson's picture

For professional sports, we don't need 30fps. Nor do we need or want eye focus. We want more resolution. It's insulting that Canon or anyone claims that sports photographers don't want or need more resolution. And... we know how to change the file size when we shoot! Amazing that us "stupid" sports photographers could figure out how to change the file size on our 1DX 1DXII and 1DXIII. How insulting Canon is. We do banners, large indoor and outdoor displays and electronic billborads. And we even crop our pictures!!! WOW!!!

For me to buy a new kit is upwards of $80K and then you're asking me to move from an OVF to EVF.

To leave my 1DXMKIII's , I'll need 3 R1 bodies. Two on-location with two different lenses mounted and always a backup. I'll need a f/4 200-400, f/4 600mm, 2.8 400mm, 2.8 300mm, 2.8 100mm; 2.8 70-200, f/1.2 85mm, f/1.2 50mm, 2.8 24-70, 35mm and a 11-24, Add it up!

Will the R1 compel me to replace my entire kit and accessories and give up an OVF? I'm looking at 4-5 different things in my lens while I'm shooting fast-action sports.

I've not seen an EVF that can stand bright tropical sun shooting over water that equals an EVF yet.

I've been hit 3 times shooting pro sports and almost killed once. I need a TANK. Lost 2 1DXMKIII's once to getting hit on the water and almost drowning and another time hit by a 300lb athlete on the sidlines.

I want 50MP+
15fps RAW
I want two media cards that are the same - One for me one for the client
I want Fuji and or Hasselblad level color rendition
I want the "Cases" cleaned up, there is too much redundancy
The camera should have increased water sealing and better grade stainless steel. I shoot water sports on the ocean and the corroding of Canon's SS parts is upsetting when I'm paying $10 or $14K for a lens
I'd like auto MA within tolerances
I'd like auto multi-point AWB for mixed lighting in sports arenas
I'd like more distance between our camera strap holders and the camera. Tired of twisted, wet and bent straps
Those of us who work for agencies, teams, media and leagues who have the budget to spend 80 to 100K are getting older and we want more than +3 on our diopter. Make it easy to change or modify, PLEASE.

If I get the first 6... I'd say most of us would be willing to pay $8,000 to $10,000 per body.

Only trouble is..... What to do about the OVF vs EVF - Canon will have to prove efficacy before anyone who shoots pro sports will make the plunge.....

g coll's picture

Honest question: do you really need all of these lenses for sports? - f/4 200-400, f/4 600mm, 2.8 400mm, 2.8 300mm, 2.8 100mm; 2.8 70-200, f/1.2 85mm, f/1.2 50mm, 2.8 24-70, 35mm and a 11-24

For example why do you specifically need a 300 2.8 and a 400 4.8 when you have the 200-400 f4. I guess I would like to know which specific situation requires the 2.8 over the f4 for those focal lengths? Genuine question as I am not a sports photographer. Also the 100mm 2.8? Thanks!

Matt Williams's picture

I'll be honest... I'm not a sports photographer but I do *some* wildlife... and I can't imagine using long primes for either situation. Both often have subjects moving quickly toward/away from you and I don't know how people compensate for that without a zoom.

Like I said, I'm not a sports photographer nor a professional wildlife photographer, so I'm interested in why those lenses are so popular - other than the extra light benefit, which seems outweighed by the insane price, massive size, and lack of versatility in framing,

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Reasons most likely: bokeh, extra stop of light, fast AF, generally better IQ.

Noah Stephens's picture

Which sports do you shoot professionally, Tony?

taluno taleni's picture

My biggest doubt, I could only test for minutes the R5, is that I'm not sure that looking at the viewfinder for the 1hour and half of a match your eyes will get tired, and what this will cause at a long term

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

But, will you be looking through the viewfinder continuously for 1.5 hours straight? I can't think of any sports/match where your eyes would need to be glued to the viewfinder literally the entire time.

Eric Robinson's picture

It’s really interesting to read the actual requirements and wants of a pro sports shooter. It would be interesting to find out how big that particular market is and does Cannon or any other manufacturer take heed of those very specific requirements?
If Cannon broke down it’s sales of its pro flagship cameras how big would be the rank amateur portion be vs it’s actual real pro users. I don’t know the answers to any of these question but just how much does cannon rely on its amateur customers to support its pro flagship cameras?

Matt Williams's picture

As someone who is blind without glasses, I really wish all diopters went +/- 5 and not 3.

My favorite diopter design I've seen was on the Leica S2 (and now S3), which is a dial around the viewfinder that you can just turn clockwise/counterclockwise. So much nicer than those fiddly pop-out adjusters.

Jay Galvan's picture

I fixed this for you:

For professional sports, I don't need 30fps. Nor do I need or want eye focus. I want more resolution. It's insulting that Canon or anyone claims that sports photographers don't want or need more resolution. And... I know how to change the file size when I shoot! Amazing that us "stupid" sports photographers could figure out how to change the file size on our 1DX 1DXII and 1DXIII. How insulting Canon is. I do banners, large indoor and outdoor displays and electronic billborads. And I even crop our pictures!!! WOW!!!

For me to buy a new kit is upwards of $80K and then you're asking me to move from an OVF to EVF.

To leave my 1DXMKIII's , I'll need 3 R1 bodies. Two on-location with two different lenses mounted and always a backup. I'll need a f/4 200-400, f/4 600mm, 2.8 400mm, 2.8 300mm, 2.8 100mm; 2.8 70-200, f/1.2 85mm, f/1.2 50mm, 2.8 24-70, 35mm and a 11-24, Add it up!

Will the R1 compel me to replace my entire kit and accessories and give up an OVF? I'm looking at 4-5 different things in my lens while I'm shooting fast-action sports.

I've not seen an EVF that can stand bright tropical sun shooting over water that equals an EVF yet.

I've been hit 3 times shooting pro sports and almost killed once. I need a TANK. Lost 2 1DXMKIII's once to getting hit on the water and almost drowning and another time hit by a 300lb athlete on the sidelines.

I want 50MP+
15fps RAW
I want two media cards that are the same - One for me one for the client
I want Fuji and or Hasselblad level color rendition
I want the "Cases" cleaned up, there is too much redundancy
The camera should have increased water sealing and better grade stainless steel. I shoot water sports on the ocean and the corroding of Canon's SS parts is upsetting when I'm paying $10 or $14K for a lens
I'd like auto MA within tolerances
I'd like auto multi-point AWB for mixed lighting in sports arenas
I'd like more distance betIen our camera strap holders and the camera. Tired of twisted, It and bent straps
Those of us who work for agencies, teams, media and leagues who have the budget to spend 80 to 100K are getting older and I want more than +3 on our diopter. Make it easy to change or modify, PLEASE.

If I get the first 6... I'd say most of us would be willing to pay $8,000 to $10,000 per body.

Only trouble is..... What to do about the OVF vs EVF - Canon will have to prove efficacy before anyone who shoots pro sports will make the plunge.....

Matthew Wood's picture

I agree with youn100% Tony. We need cameras that will stand up to the athletes we shoot and mine just happen to be 1400 lb horses with riders in the equine ring. We need speed and resolution because that is what the client wants. The AWB idea I really like for shooting indoors during the winter show season, to give us a fighting chance with all the different light levels. Thank you for putting all these ideas out into the community and maybe just maybe one of the big 3 will do something about it and give us what we want not what they think we need.

Sorry to hear about your accidents my body feels exactly what you said. Being hit, booted and run over by a horse is not a fun experience I would wish anyone to feel especially during the recovery period. Oh and the big boys and girls stepping on glass and bodies I think hurts more than physical pain.

Good luck and stay safe out shooting.

Matt Williams's picture

Actually the 1DX III can remarkably shoot 20 fps with the mechanical shutter in live view. So they already have the tech to go that fast.

Alex Cooke's picture

Ah, excellent catch! Thanks for correcting me; I'll fix that.

Sourov Deb's picture

Will it walk with me? Or fly to another country automatically?

Tammie Lam's picture

It will just print money for you. Canon also make great printers.

El Dooderino's picture

"It will just print money for you"

Oh I wish!

Sourov Deb's picture

Stop spreading fake news. Canon printers don't print money. Usually money comes from the sky like a rain. Lol.

g coll's picture

The R1 will mainly be about robustness wont it? Built like a tank and aimed at the working sports photog - i.e. Olympics, NFL etc.

Pavlos Honderich's picture

Alex, the R3 will not be the first Canon camera to have eye control AF. My old film based Elan 7e had eye control granted with a very small number of autofocus points. I will say that I never had much success with it, but it was an interesting feature nonetheless.

Also, above you have the comment about global shutter being good for both stills and photos. I think you mean stills and video ;-)

Alex Cooke's picture

Thanks for the stills catch!

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I haven't switched to mirrorless yet and really don't have a rush, but if the R3 isn't medium format sensor, then Fuji will be my new brand.

Rhonald Rose's picture

We will know at 2023 or 2024. I think this was the supposed to be R1 which canon changed to R3 after the A1 release. One or two years will give enough time to pack R1 with something new.

Jan Onderwater's picture

Swans singing and all that, repost
The classic camera manufacturers have already lost huge sales to smartphones. The market for compact and point-and-shoot cameras is virtually non-existent. There is one main reason for this: smartphones now take very good pictures.
I still like to use my Canon 5D MII, a very good camera, but more and more my iPhone 12 pro max.
An example: product photos for sale on the internet? I use the iPhone exclusively, computational photography is simply superior here. Taking photos with an app that can be used directly, cropping, the app can do that better than many Photoshop experts. And above all, much, much faster.
Camera manufacturers are far too slow in introducing computational photography.
And yes, full-frame cameras have better image quality, (so don't come on with pixelpeeping) but that's not enough. If Canon comes out tomorrow with a FF camera that offers the same Computational Photography functionality as my iPhone, I will buy it immediately. Until then, I don't need a new camera, mirrorless or not.
If the Pentaxes, Sonys Canons, Nikons etc of this world don't come up with it soon, they are over, history.

Glenn Schultes's picture

I would like to see SSD's used for storage instead of Flash cards. They are many times faster than most Flash memory formats and high capacity options are cheap by comparison too.

kuroneko akira's picture

I still prefer Lens Reflex. Why? I trust the real photons more than any viewfinder.

The mirrorless meme is the reduction of a crucial feature, and people are even cheering it on. Try use a 400mm f2.8 with a mirror and notice how much more real it looks compared to a viewfinder. I don't care how dense the pixels are packed, even if they made a 16000ppi viewfinder, it still feels like I'm watching an lcd. I want to see the actual photons, not a representation of it. Ask any professional binocular user, there is a reason why they prefer the actual photons reaching their eyes.

Lawrence S's picture

But you're taking photos, not enjoying a view like using binoculars. If that view is an exact representation of the photos you will take and save on your memory card, surely you can see a benefit here?

Add full screen AF points and the possibility to see in the dark. It's a win for me. And I was anti EVF, but that was during first gen EVF's. Which were awful.

Michael Hickey's picture

You've all got two more years to ponder as the "1" is not coming until the 1Dx III cycle is thru which is always four years.