Canon confirms EOS R1 flagship on the way (eventually)
While Canon seems to have abandoned plans for an EOS R5 Mark II – at least for now – it hasn’t forgotten about creating a new flagship. Rumours about a hypothetical Canon EOS R1 have been around for years. While many thought the EOS R3 would become the new Canon flagship mirrorless camera, Canon has denied that this is the case. But we are still waiting for Canon to announce the EOS R1.
In an interview with Phototrend at CP+ 2023, though, Canon has said they haven’t forgotten about the EOS R1. Although there’s been no solid release date – or even a vague release date – Canon says it’s in development and will be coming… eventually. I suspect we may not hear even a hint of an announcement until either the very end of this year or early next year in anticipation of the 2024 Olympics.
Canon EOS R1 flagship on the way
Despite having previously said that the EOS R3 is not a flagship mirrorless camera, Go Tokura, General Manager of Canon’s Imaging Division, said that it could be considered as such – even though it still officially isn’t:
If you look at our portfolio, obviously our highest-end case is the EOS R3. I think we can say that it is our flagship product. But if you look at the EOS-1D, and compare it to the EOS R3, you know it’s worthy of the ‘flagship’ designation because it’s equivalent in terms of Canon’s advanced features.
So, of course, the EOS R3 could already claim the flagship title, but there’s a reason we named it ‘3’…
And you can expect there to be a ‘1’, which is currently being worked on and will be our most premium model. So that’s the kind of interpretation you can do (laughs). I had never mentioned it so clearly before, so that’s probably how you can interpret it!
So, the EOS R3 is and isn’t a flagship – Schrödinger’s camera, if you will – but a higher-end model is still coming, and it will be the EOS R1. It’s currently being worked on, but with no news of a release date. The current rumours put the expected announcement towards the end of 2023, which is kind of an obvious given next year’s Paris Olympics. All previous 1DX models were released in time for the Summer Olympics in previous years, so it makes sense that Canon would continue to follow suit with an EOS R1.
Here are the release dates for the previous Canon EOS 1DX series flagship DSLRs.
- March 2012 – Canon EOS 1DX (London 2012)
- April 2016 – Canon EOS 1DX Mark II (Rio 2016)
- January 2020 – Canon EOS 1DX Mark III (Tokyo 2020 – albeit delayed)
Given the obvious demand for an EOS R1 flagship, an announcement at the tail end of 2023 is possible, although I expect the beginning of 2024 may be more likely. With the Paris 2024 Olympics starting near the end of July, there’s plenty of time for people to get used to the new camera in preparation for the event, even with a 2024 announcement.
Canon addresses 3rd party lenses
The interview also touches on Canon’s apparent unwillingness to work with 3rd party lens manufacturers. With the blowback Canon received from the camera-buying community over this decision, Canon may be starting to change its mind about the whole idea. Mr Tokura, along with Tetsui Kiyomi, Director of ICB Product Division at Canon, had this to say:
Question: Many photographers are eagerly awaiting the opening of the RF mount. At present, Canon is the only brand to maintain the exclusivity of its frame. Will we see RF optics from other manufacturers in the near future?
Tetsuji Kiyomi: It is true that we are approached by many third-party manufacturers. We hear their demands. However, we have no direction or policy as such on this subject.
Naturally, I cannot share more details with you, but what I can say is that if this aligns with our strategy, we will take the necessary action on a case-by-case basis. I can’t tell you more.
Go Tokura: An example of this is the launch of RF optics by Cosina [the Voigtlander 50mm f/1 is the first “third-party” lens to be able to communicate with the body via the RF mount]: we are in the process discussion with other lens manufacturers. This is the situation at present.
So, it seems that while Canon perhaps isn’t completely opening up the doors for 3rd parties to make RF mount lenses, they appear to be taking an approach similar to that of Nikon. Essentially, they’re taking things on a case-by-case basis to ensure it doesn’t compete with their products first. Even if that’s not the exact wording they used, that’s how it comes across.
It will be interesting to see if, now that the cat’s out of the bag, Canon will start to tease us with features months in advance of a release announcement. After all, it’s what they did with the Canon EOS R5. They were teasing features for months before the camera was actually announced in July 2020.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.