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Canon EOS R3 will have AF tracking for racing cars and motorbikes

Canon EOS R3
(Image credit: Canon)

The Canon EOS R3 has taken a step closer to a full launch thanks to the release of some more official specs – including details about its world-first autofocus skills.

The professional full-frame sports camera, which is effectively a mirrorless version of the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III, was given a 'development announcement' in April. But the new specs suggest an official launch could be approaching faster than a Dodge Tomahawk.

Talking of which, one of the most intriguing new Canon EOS R3 specs is that its autofocus will be able to track racing cars and motorbikes. Previous Canon cameras, like the 1D X Mark III, have offered impressive subject-tracking powers, but the EOS R3's new skills promise to help it automatically recognize motorsports vehicles and lock focus onto them.

While Canon stopped short of revealing the Canon EOS R3's megapixel count, it did reveal some details that show what we can expect from its new back-illuminated stacked CMOS sensor. 

Like the Sony A1, the EOS R3 will be able to shoot raw photos at 30fps will full AF/AE tracking. We don't yet know the camera's buffer size, so it's not yet clear how long it'll be able to manage to keep shooting at that top speed. But the EOS R3 will hopefully at least match the Sony A1's ability to go for at least five seconds at 30fps.

Another feature that the EOS R3 will have in common with the Sony A1 is the ability to offer flash sync when you use its electronic shutter. Traditionally, only mechanical camera shutters have been able to sync with external flashes, but this new option will give studio photographers the option of silent shooting and faster burst speeds when using the electronic shutter.

Canon EOS R3

(Image credit: Canon)

Bonus specs

Canon has also revealed three other key details about the EOS R3. On the filmmaking front, it will shoot oversampled 4K video and record raw video internally. This suggests that rumors of a 45MP sensor that can shoot 8K/30p video are off the mark, which isn't too surprising for a pro sports camera that's predominantly focused on still photos. 

Still, internal raw video recording and the inclusion of the Canon Log 3 format, which is ideal for color graders, should make it a powerful 4K-shooting machine. Canon has also confirmed that video shooters will get all of the same autofocus tracking skills, including those motorsports AF skills. 

Secondly, we now know that the EOS R3 will use the same LP-E19 batteries as the EOS 1D X Mark III, which means pros will be able to swap batteries between them. And finally, Canon has confirmed that the EOS R3's magnesium-alloy body will offer "dust and water resistance to the same level" as the EOS 1D X series, and that its dual SD card slots will support both SD and CFexpress cards.

All of this supports the theory that the Canon EOS R3 will indeed be a mirrorless replacement for the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III – and that the EOS R3 could mark the end of Canon DSLRs.

Analysis: Canon tempts sports snappers to the mirrorless side

There's still a lot we don't know, officially, about the Canon EOS R3. Canon hasn't yet confirmed the camera's megapixel count, full video specs, touchscreen style, viewfinder resolution, price tag or launch date – but we now know enough to get a good sense of what kind of camera it is.

The confirmation that it'll shoot oversampled 4K video, with no mention of 8K, suggests the EOS R3 won't be the megapixel monster that earlier rumors had hinted at – that will likely be the role fulfilled by the rumored Canon EOS R1.

Instead, the Canon EOS R3 will aim to tempt pro sports photographers from DSLRs like the 1D X Mark III to its new RF mount. The R3 will have the same weather resistance, the same batteries and, if the recent leaked image below from Nokishita is to be believed, almost identical rear controls to the 1D X Mark III, including the optical Smart Controller button for quickly moving autofocus points.

Canon EOS R3

While official EOS R3 images have only shown the front of the camera, this leaked image from Nokishita reveals its possible rear controls.  (Image credit: Nokishita)

But there are also signs that the EOS R3 will aim to have broader appeal than Canon's more niche sports DSLRs. The inclusion of motorsports AF tracking and eye-controlled autofocus, while impressive technical achievements, are unlikely to be used by professional sports photographers.

This means the Canon EOS R3 is also a showcase camera for Canon's latest sports photography tech, which will hopefully filter down to more affordable cameras like the Canon EOS R5 and Canon EOS R6. With the latest rumors predicting a price tag of around $5,999 (about £4,215 / AU$7,725) for the EOS R3, those impressive sports shooting talents certainly won't come cheap.

Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson is the Cameras Editor for TechRadar at Future. He writes and oversees reviews of the latest camera gear on TechRadar and looks after all the photography tutorials. Mark was previously Digital Editor (Cameras) at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine.