Canon’s EOS R3 mirrorless camera brings back Canon’s Eye Control Autofocus system

Apr 14, 2021

John Aldred

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.

Canon’s EOS R3 mirrorless camera brings back Canon’s Eye Control Autofocus system

Apr 14, 2021

John Aldred

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.

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Well, that didn’t take long. After yesterday’s leaked photo of the upcoming Canon EOS R3 mirrorless camera, Canon has today officially announced its development. The EOS R3 isn’t the EOS 1DX Mark III replacement, though. According to Canon, it sits somewhere between the EOS R5 and the EOS 1DX Mark III, which means there’s still going to be an EOS R1 on the way at some point.

The new camera is no slouch, though, offering an all-new Canon-developed full-frame stacked BSI CMOS sensor. Canon says this provides “substantially faster read-out speeds during still-image recording” allowing for an impressive 30fps continuous shooting. Oh, and it’s also getting Eye AF back. No, not that one, the one that focuses wherever your eyeball is looking.

YouTube video

The Eye Controlled Autofocus system was originally released years ago and contained within the Canon EOS 5 (the A2/A2E in the USA). The idea was that you look at a point in your frame and the camera looked at your eyeball and determined the point it should focus. It wasn’t that great for me, although others had great success with it. It was also in the EOS 3, but then it just disappeared, with no word from Canon on if or when it might be coming back. For a refresher, here you go…

YouTube video

Now, the EOS R3 reintroduces this technology (or a new iteration of it) with “Eye Control AF2”. Canon says that like the EOS R5 and EOS R6, the EOS R3 AF system Deep Learning tech to help better understand what you’re trying to focus on and I’ve no doubt that Eye Control AF2 will be much improved and way more advanced than its ~30-year-old predecessor.

The Electronic Viewfinder of the EOS R3 will offer photographers the ability to select the initial area for AF tracking by simply looking directly at the viewfinder location where they want to begin AF. With Eye Control AF2 and Servo AF activated, the camera will focus on and track moving subjects at that location in the frame. When Face Detect + Tracking is active, the camera will continue to follow moving subjects around the entire active AF area.

A first, for Canon, is the sensor. It’s a Canon-developed full-frame stacked BSI CMOS sensor of a completely new design, they say. This allows for less rolling shutter during electronic shutter and offers a continuous electronic shutter continuous shooting up to 30 frames per second with both dual pixel autofocus and auto-exposure. There’s no word yet on the shooting speed with the mechanical shutter.

That is, assuming it has a mechanical shutter. It may not. There’s no mention of one on Canon’s website, although they specifically highlight the electronic shutter. Could this be an electronic shutter only body like the Sigma fp L?

Also new is the design of the body – at least for full-frame mirrorless cameras – with a one-piece design sporting a built-in vertical grip. Canon says it has the weather and dust resistance equivalent to that of the 1D series bodies, which is essential for wildlife and sports photographers as well as photojournalists often working in extreme environments.

This was an unexpected announcement, really, but it seems that Canon really does want to flesh out its mirrorless line completely. There hasn’t been a 3-series body in a long time, with the last one sitting in between the EOS 5 mentioned above, and the EOS 1 35mm body. I’m sure the numbering in the EOS R3 is no coincidence.

There’s obviously no word on a price as this is really just a development announcement, but I expect that the cost will be somewhere between that of the EOS R5 ($3,899) and your typical $6,500 flagship body price tag we can expect for the eventual EOS R1. It’ll possibly be around $4,500 to compete with the Sony A9 II.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

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.

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