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Canon EOS R3 is a super-fast mirrorless camera you can focus with your eyes

Canon EOS R3
(Image credit: Canon)

Canon has dropped a major surprise in the form of the EOS R3, a full-frame mirrorless camera that focuses by tracking your eyes and shoots at an astonishing 30 fps.

The R3 is still in development mode, but Canon has already revealed a few juicy details about it ahead of its full launch. And from what we know so far, it looks like it'll be pitched squarely against the new Sony A1 and forthcoming Nikon Z9 in a battle for the hearts and wallets of pro-level sports photographers. 

The Canon EOS R3 looks like being a seriously speedy snapper: it can handle burst shooting at a phenomenal 30 fps when using the electronic shutter, but still allows for full autofocus in all modes.

That makes it way faster than any previous Canon camera while matching the performance of the Sony Alpha 1.

This speed is made possible by the R3's new back-illuminated stacked CMOS image sensor, a first for Canon, which allows for faster read-out speeds and lower "rolling shutter" distortion — a problem which has traditionally plagued electronic shutters. 

Autofocus is the other area where the Canon R3 looks like really shining: Canon says it uses Deep Learning technology to offer enhanced autofocus and tracking of subjects.

What's more, you'll be able use your eyes to set the focus points in the viewfinder simply by looking at it. This "Eye Control Function" will only work with still images and with the electronic shutter, but it promises incredibly quick focus changes. The feature will allow you to look at a specific person or object and have the camera instantly snap on to it. 

Canon has used a similar system before, though presumably a far less technologically advanced one given that it featured on the EOS-5 and EOS-3 in the 1990s. It's interesting to see it resurrected here and it offers the R3 something that no other mirrorless camera has.

Elsewhere, we also know that the R3 will have a rugged, weather-resistant body that Canon says will equal the pros' favorite 1D X Mark III for durability.

Obviously there's still a lot for Canon to reveal about the R3, not least its price and release date. In terms of the former, you'd better start saving up now — because this thing will be expensive. The Sony Alpha 1, for instance, costs $6500, and the R3 is unlikely to be much cheaper. 

On the latter point, getting the R3 in shops in time for July's Tokyo Olympics would have made sense, but that seems impossible given that Canon says it's still being developed. At the same time, it seems unlikely that Canon would have revealed the R3 in this much detail if its release was too far off, so we're guessing it will arrive in the second half of 2021. 

Marc McLaren

As U.K. Editor in Chief on Tom’s Guide, Marc is responsible for the site’s U.K.-focused output as well as overseeing all gaming, streaming, audio, TV, entertainment and cameras coverage. He previously edited the tech website Stuff and also spent years on a music magazine, where his duties mainly involved spoiling other people’s fun. An avid photographer, Marc likes nothing better than taking pictures of very small things (bugs, his daughters) or very big things (distant galaxies).