Canon EOS R3 Review: A Sharp Speed Demon

January 13, 2022

By Jacqueline Tobin

Rangefinder is a member of the Technical Image Press Association, which has contracted with Image Engineering for detailed lab tests of cameras. Here, we digest the test results for you in this Canon EOS R3 review.  

If the mirrorless camera market were a poker game, it’s safe to say that Canon’s EOS R3 is the company’s ace-in-the-hole. The full-frame camera is the 1-DX of the full-frame mirrorless R family —a rugged, fast, professional camera. It’s the mirrorless camera many pros have been clamoring for Canon to produce. 

Canon EOS R3 review

The R3 features a 24-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor (the first of its kind designed by Canon) with a native ISO range of 100 to 102,400 (expandable up to 204,800). Like the EOS R5 and R6, the R3 uses the next-generation Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system, which is capable of tracking sensitivities down to EV -7.5 across both human and animal subjects (it can also track some cars and motorcycles). It is capable of an incredible 30 frames per second (fps) burst mode and offers up to eight stops of image stabilization thanks to its in-camera, five- axis stabilizer.  

[Read: Canon EOS R6 for Sports Photography]

The impressive specs continue in video. The R3 can shoot 6K/60p RAW video and 4K/120p video with a 10-bit color depth. It supports the Canon Log 3 profile to help filmmakers preserve highlight details. That’s the overview; here’s how it performed in lab tests: 

Canon EOS R3 Review: Resolution is Sharp 

At ISO 100, the R3 can resolve 101 percent of its sensor’s theoretical maximum resolution and nearly that much at ISO 400. That’s superior to the performance of the Sony Alpha 1, which resolved 96 percent of its sensor’s theoretical maximum at this ISO. It also tops Panasonic’s Lumix S1R and Nikon’s Z 7 II at base ISO. 

At ISO levels of 800 through 6400, the R3’s resolution was found to be very good and consistently so, ranging between 93 and 96 percent of the sensor’s theoretical maximum. Just as with its performance at base ISO, the R3 is outpacing rivals like the Alpha 1, S1R and Z 7II in resolution at higher ISO levels.  

Image Engineering found that the camera applies mild sharpening along high-contrast edges and strong sharpening along low-contrast edges at ISO 100. The R3 will apply less sharpening at ISO 800 to 6400. 

Canon EOS R 3 from the back view

Superior Noise Control 

Canon’s R-series mirrorless cameras have consistently handled noise well, and the R3 seems like it continues this tradition. Like the recently introduced R5, image files from the EOS R3 displayed no visible noise in any viewing condition at ISO 100. When viewing R3 images on a digital display at 100 percent enlargement, you wouldn’t notice noise until ISO 3200, and then just barely. When it comes to noise control, the R3’s performance is comparable to that of the Nikon Z 7II, but better than the Sony Alpha 1 and Lumix S1R.  

[Read: Canon’s New (and Odd) Dual Fisheye EOS R Lensfor 3D VR Capture]

The R3 does an even better job controlling visual noise in prints. There’s no visible noise at any ISO value tested when viewing R3 photos as a postcard-sized or larger print. That tops the S1R, which will show visible noise in prints by ISO 6400, and comparable to the Alpha 1.  

Dynamic Range a Strong Suit 

The R3 delivers outstanding dynamic range performance with 12 f-stops at ISO 100 and over 11 stops at all other ISO values tested. That outperforms many of the camera’s top competitors, including the Alpha 1, Nikon Z 7II and Panasonic’s S1R, at both base ISO and higher ISO values. 

Color reproduction is also quite good, with only six colors deviating strongly from the original color. That’s a tad better than Sony’s A1, which had seven colors deviate strongly from the target, and on par with the performance of both the Nikon Z 7II and Panasonic’s S1R (each had six strong deviations as well). 

According to Image Engineering, the R3’s automatic white balance shows excellent performance through ISO 3200 and very good results at ISO levels above that.  

Color reproduction chart.
The Canon EOS R3’s color reproduction. The top half of the chart compares a reference color (right half of each color patch) with the color reproduced by the camera (left). Below is a table that lists the DeltaE, or degree of variation, of each color patch from its reference target. Red cells indicated strong color deviations, light green cells represent colors with noticeable deviations, and a dark green field represents a moderate deviation. 

Canon EOS R3 Review: Video Performance is Respectable 

Examining a still image extracted from a frame of 4K video reveals the camera capable of resolving 90 percent of its sensor’s theoretical maximum at ISO 100. Resolution drops to 81 percent at ISO 1600. These results don’t measure up to what Image Engineering found on the Alpha 1, which could resolve 107 percent of its sensor’s theoretical maximum at both ISO 100 and 1600.  

As with still images, you can expect to see moderate-to-strong sharpening applied to video. By ISO 1600, sharpening becomes milder. Noise control is also excellent: videos shot at both ISO 100 and ISO 1600 would not show any visual noise in any viewing condition. 

[Read: Is Canon’s Flagship DSLR Its Last? Apparently So]

The good news continues with the camera’s dynamic range performance. Image Engineering measured the R3 at 11.7 and 11.9 f-stops at ISO 100 and 1600, respectively, during video recording. That’s a wider dynamic range than the Alpha 1, Z 7II, and S1R are collectively capable of. The R3’s color reproduction is also good, similar to what you’ll enjoy when shooting stills, however there’s a slightly wider deviation on some colors when you’re in filmmaking mode.  

Now for the bad news: The camera’s white balancing during video was deemed “poor” at ISO 100. In contrast, it becomes very good at ISO 1600.  

Speed Demon 

The R3’s startup time was clocked at .7 seconds, a hair faster than the Alpha 1 and Z 7II. As for continuous shooting, the camera can burst at 11.5 fps in either JPEG or RAW formats with the mechanical shutter until the card is full. With the electronic shutter engaged, the R3 hits hyperspace with 30fps for both RAW and JPEG files until the card is full. Only Sony’s Alpha 1 can achieve these kinds of speeds. The Alpha 1 will start to slow and buffer by 42 frames, however it’s also capturing images at twice the resolution of the R3, so there’s a clear trade off. 

If you’re looking for a speedy autofocusing system, the R3 delivers here as well. At 300lx, it can establish focus and capture an image in just .2 seconds. In lower light (30x), it takes .3 seconds. That’s comparable to the Alpha 1’s autofocusing speed and faster than the Z 7II.  

Price: $5,999