We already know the Canon EOS R3 is an amazing photography camera; it’s what Canon built it to be. But how does it perform as a video camera? We’re going to talk about that and more in this review.
Though Canon designed the EOS R3 as a professional stills camera, this review will focus on the camera’s video capabilities. We’ll go over this camera’s specs and features as well as its strengths and weaknesses. We tested everything: high frame rates, dynamic range, image stabilization, autofocus, low light, RAW and more. All of our tests were designed from a video producer’s perspective, so we’ll get into what videographers and filmmakers can expect in terms of image quality and performance.
Finally, we’ll put the Canon EOS R3 in context with other cameras on the market to help you decide whether or not this is the right camera for you.
What the Canon EOS R3 can do
Let’s dig deeper into the specs to get a better idea of what the Canon EOS R3 is capable of. First off, the EOS R3 features the first stacked back-illuminated sensor in any EOS camera. The 24 MP sensor comes paired with an updated DIGIC X processor. This means the camera can shoot 12-bit RAW at up to 2600 Mbps. That’s in addition to 10-bit 4:2:2 H.265 and 8-bit 4:2:0 H.264.
The EOS R3 can record at a top resolution of 6K at up to 60 frames per second (fps). However, frame rates up to 120fps are possible in DCI 4K. The HDMI out supports 10-bit 4:2:2 DCI 4K video at up to 60 fps.
Pros and cons of the Canon EOS R3
Now that we know a bit more about the EOS R3, let’s look at the best and the worst of what this camera had to offer. In our testing, we noticed two big wins for the camera and two big flaws.
Pro: 6K RAW
Our favorite feature on the EOS R3 is its ability to shoot 6K 12-bit RAW video. This high bit depth format gives you a lot of data coming straight off the sensor — some may even say too much. But while you’ll certainly chew through storage media, the extra preserved information will be worth it in some situations.
Con: Overheating issues
Unfortunately, this perk comes with a debilitating quirk: the EOS R3 overheats — at least sometimes. We experienced this issue once when shooting high frame rates, and we encountered the problem again when shooting in 6K RAW. However, we were only able to reproduce the first instance. Having the camera overheat when shooting 6K may have been a fluke. In any case, this really isn’t much of a gripe, as we’ll explain later.
Pro: Fantastic performance in low light
Historically, Canon has struggled to keep up with other manufacturers when it comes to video shooting in low light. Not anymore. With the EOS R3, Canon introduced a brand new sensor, and it is very sensitive. We love it as filmmakers.
Con: No eye control autofocus in video
Last on our pros and cons list, we have to mention the EOS R3’s eye control autofocus. This is a new technology that uses the position of your pupil to tell the camera where to focus. It’s a great feature for photographers, but we were frustrated to learn it is not available when shooting video. Sorry, videographers.
Ergonomics of the EOS R3
As Canon’s flagship mirrorless camera, the EOS R3 is hefty. In terms of size and weight, it compares most directly to the EOS 1DX III, Canon’s flagship DSLR. The EOS 1DX III weighs in at 3.17 pounds. Skipping the mirror shaves off more than a third of that weight for the EOS R3, which weighs 2.2 pounds.
Similarly, the EOS 1DX III is both taller and wider than its mirrorless counterpart, though the EOS R3 is actually slightly deeper. The lighter weight makes this highly capable camera ideal for capturing weddings and other events.
Monitoring the image
Likewise, the fully-articulating touchscreen allowed us to monitor our shot from any position — great for run-and-gun and solo video production. It’s a big step up from the fixed rear displays found on other Canon cameras, and the screen was even bright enough to use in sunlight. The display is a decent size, though we wouldn’t complain about a larger screen on future iterations.
The settings menu, camera controls and focus can all be controlled through touch. Separate photo and video menus speed up navigation.
To help monitor your shot, the EOS R3 provides several shot assist tools, including zebras, focus peaking, audio meters and histogram. You won’t find false color, waveform or vectorscope offered, however, and the histogram disappears as soon as you start recording — kind of a bummer for video shooters who may be moving in and out of different lighting situations.
The Canon EOS R3 has one CFExpress Type B slot and one SD card slot. Though it can be frustrating to have to deal with two different types of media, this setup means you can record 6K RAW to CFExpress while simultaneously saving proxy files to the SD card. Having those easier-to-edit proxy files ready to go is going to save you tons of time in post-production.
Alternatively, you could store photos to one card and video to another so you don’t have to separate each out later. Just keep in mind that the SD card only supports 4K at 30 fps video recording; you have to send all higher frame rates and resolutions to the CFExpress card. The good news is there is no record time limit for video capture.
Now let’s answer the real question: How does the image look? We performed a series of studio and field tests with the EOS R3 to find out. Here are our conclusions.
To kick off our image quality testing, we set the EOS R3 to record DCI 4K at 120 fps and pointed the lens at our wind-up toy of Frankenstein’s monster. Playing our shots back at 24 frames per second gave us smooth, clear slow-motion footage. Of course, we can always wish for high frame rate options, but in reality, 120 fps is more than enough to give you an impressive, cinematic slow-motion video.
Though the camera doesn’t capture audio at this frame rate, everything else works as normal, including the autofocus. We tested this with slow-motion shots of us running towards the camera. The autofocus kept up well at 120 fps and at 60 fps in both 4K and 6K.
We mentioned earlier that we experienced overheating with the EOS R3. The first time we encountered this issue, we were 8 minutes into a 120 fps UHD 4K clip when the camera overheated. That’s an unusually long slow-motion clip — 40 minutes when played back at 24 fps — so it’s actually not too concerning.
As usual, we pulled out our DSC Labs Xyla21 chart to test the Canon EOS R3’s dynamic range. Using the chart, we determined the camera offers 13 stops of usable dynamic range. We could stretch and say 15 stops are visible in the chart, but we feel the last two stops won’t convey enough detail to be useful.
With the EOS R3, we also get 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization as well as electronic image stabilization. The in-body image stabilization will also work with optical image stabilization from your lens, giving you up to 8 stops of image stabilization. The system worked as expected — not exactly gimbal-like but not bad either.
We already talked about autofocus at high frame rates, but of course, we tested the EOS R3’s Dual Pixel AF II autofocus system at normal frame rates as well. In one test, we ran directly at the camera, which was outfitted with a 35 mm lens set at an aperture of f/2.8. Even with the shallow depth of field from this super-wide aperture, the autofocus was quick and responsive. A second test where we zigzagged across the frame confirmed good autofocus performance.
We did happen to discover one limitation with the autofocus during a music video shoot. One performer wore a mask and heavy eye makeup, which was apparently confusing for the autofocus system. After switching to tap focus, the shoot continued without a hitch.
Again, we were disappointed that the camera’s eye control AF is unavailable when shooting video.
Performance in low light
The Canon EOS R3 surprised and impressed us with its performance in low light. The image it produces is noiseless all the way up to ISO 6400 in 4K and it’s clear all the way to ISO 12800 in 6K. We’d be happy shooting at the top ISO of 25600 in either resolution. This means that the EOS R3 delivers clear, usable footage, even in dim environments.
Battery life, plus more heat issues
Depending on your settings and shooting situation, you can expect between 2 hours to 2 hours and 45 minutes per battery. That means two batteries should be enough for a day of shooting in most cases.
Our battery life tests brought back another issue, however. We discussed our experience with overheating during our high frame-rates tests, but the second time the camera shut down due to overheating, it was 30 minutes into an endurance test shooting 6K raw. During the test, the EOS R3 was recording continuously in a single location. In real-world shooting conditions, overheating was not an issue. Depending on your specific use case, overheating may be more or less of a concern.
The Canon EOS R3 touts plenty of impressive features, but before casting judgment, we need to consider the competition.
First up is the Nikon Z9. This full-body, full-frame camera features a 45.7 megapixel stacked CMOS image sensor capable of shooting up to 10-bit 8K at 30 fps. The Z9 also offers in-body image stabilization, N-Log and ProRes capture, all for just under $5,500.
Let’s also take another look at the Canon 1DX III. For just under $6,500, the full-frame 1DX III shoots in 5.5K RAW and Canon Log with a 20.1 MP sensor paired with a DIGIC X image processor. This camera records to dual CFExpress cards, but it does not feature in-body image stabilization.
So what does this mean? Well, when we compare the Canon EOS R3 to the Canon 1DX III, the EOS R3 is the clear winner — it’s lighter and offers more features. When comparing the EOS R3 to cameras from other brands, the answer is less obvious. Between the Nikon Z9 and the EOS R3, a lot will depend on your existing lens collection and compatible accessories. The Nikon has a few standout features, like 8K video recording, that makes it an attractive choice, especially for anyone who already owns Nikon lenses or is building a lens collection from scratch.
Should you buy the Canon EOS R3?
If you are a pro photographer looking for a really good video camera, the Canon EOS R3 is a fantastic choice. It can handle anything from wildlife photography to weddings and events. However, if you are a filmmaker, a similarly priced cinema camera will likely be a better option. The EOS R3 packs in some amazing video features, but there is no doubt that this is a flagship-worthy photography camera. When it comes down to it, this is a high-performance camera for high-performance shooting.
- Documentary Filmmaking and Journalism
- Corporate and Event Videography
- Marketing Video Production
|Lens mount||Canon RF|
|Sensor resolution||Actual: 26.7 Megapixel, Effective: 24.1 Megapixel|
|Sensor type||36 x 24 mm (Full-frame) CMOS|
|Image stabilization||Sensor-shift, 5-Axis|
|ISO sensitivity||100 to 102,400 (Extended: 50 to 204,800)|
|Internal video capture||Yes|
|RAW recording||RAW 12-bit 6000 x 3164 at 23.98/24.00/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps [720 to 2600 Mb/s]|
|H.265/MP4 4:2:2 10-bit||DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) at 23.98p/24.00p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p [85 to 1880 Mb/s]|
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p [85 to 1880 Mb/s]
Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.98p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p [28 to 470 Mb/s]
|H.264/MP4 4:2:0 8-bit||DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) at 23.98p/24.00p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p|
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p
Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.98p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p
|External video capture||Yes|
|4:2:2 10-bit via HDMI||DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) at 23.98p/24.00p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p|
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p
|Gamma curve||Canon Log 3|
|Media/memory card slot||Slot 1: CFexpress Type B|
Slot 2: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)
|Video I/O||1 x Micro-HDMI output|
|Audio I/O||1 x 3.5 mm TRS stereo headphone output, 1 x 3.5 mm TRS stereo microphone input|
|TRS stereo microphone input|
Resolution: 4,150,000 dots
Display type: articulating touchscreen LCD
|Viewfinder||Type: Built-in electronic (OLED)|
Resolution: 5,760,000 dots
|Autofocus points||Phase detection: 1053|
|Accessory mount||1 x intelligent hot shoe|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||5.9 x 5.6 x 3.4″ / 150 x 142.6 x 87.2 mm|
|Weight||1.8 lb / 822 g (body only), 2.2 lb / 1015 g (body with battery and memory)|