Canon’s Mirrorless R3 Could Spell Doom For DSLRs

Who needs mirrors anyway?

Key Takeaways

  • The Canon R3 is a full-frame mirrorless “professional and enthusiast camera.”
  • Canon has not yet announced a price or a launch date.
  • Mirrorless cameras will eventually replace workhorse DSLR cameras for most people.
A closeup of a photographer holding a camera up to their eye.

Ailbhe Flynn / Unsplash

Canon’s new high-end EOS R3 mirrorless camera may finally spell the end for DSLRs. 

Mirrorless cameras are the new standard for demanding professional photographers. That’s the message from Canon, with its new EOS R3. Even Nikon, which was slow to catch on to the wonders of mirrorless, announced its Z9 last month.

Until now, the most capable and flexible cameras have been DSLRs. But with the arrival of these top-end mirrorless machines, the end of the SLR is near. 

"With the EOS R3 they set to convince everyone, even sports and nature photographers, that mirrorless cameras are up to par with DSLRs for any use," photographer and camera reviewer Andrea Nepori told Lifewire via direct message.

"One could say the R3 is the lid on the Canon DSLR line-up coffin, and the R1 will be the nail that seals it for good."

What Is a Pro Camera?

Different photographers need different things, but the DSLR, successor to the film SLR, has proved to be the laptop computer of cameras. It can be used for pretty much anything and excels at most of what it does. If you want to get a job done, a DSLR will probably do it 90% of the time. 

A Canon film SLR camera with a detached lens sitting behind it.

Prateek Katyal / Unsplash

A DSLR lets you change lenses and add battery grips for better balance or battery life. It can be the center of a flash-based studio setup or sit on a tripod through a cold dawn, snapping landscape shots.

The main advantage of a DSLR is that you see through the lens—via a flip-up mirror—instead of having a separate viewfinder.

Historically, this meant that a DSLR body was as easy to use behind a telescope-like telephoto lens as it was behind a super-wide fisheye. What you saw was always what you got. Almost.

Mirrorless Advantage

By removing the mirror that reflects the image into the viewfinder, mirrorless cameras could be much smaller and lighter than DSLRs. This mirror was essential on film cameras. How else would you get the image from the lens up into the viewfinder?

Someone taking pictures with the image being captured shown on the back LCD screen of the camera.

Jamie Street / Unsplash

A digital camera can just send the live image from the sensor to the viewfinder. This has another significant advantage. With mirrorless, you can see the actual photo as it will appear, complete with your exposure settings, before you press the shutter. 

Canon Doesn’t Dwell On The Past

Canon’s new R3 brings all its pro-level features to its mirrorless R line. Going by Canon’s historical model numbering system, it will almost certainly be joined by an R1 flagship model at some point. The R3 looks much like Canon’s current top-of-the-line DSLR, the EOS-1D X Mark III, only slightly smaller. 

The Canon R3 Mirrorless Digital Camera (body only).


When Canon introduced autofocus cameras in the 1980s, it ditched its old lens mount entirely. None of its legacy lenses could be used on the new cameras. That served it well. Canon was at the front of the autofocus game for years. It seems that Canon is now similarly all-in on mirrorless. It may see DSLRs as the legacy design they are, a holdover from the limitations of film-camera design.

There is one difference this time around. You can bring your old lenses with you. Canon even sells an adapter that will give your old lenses full functionality on the new bodies. 

The R3

The R3, itself, is impressive. It could hardly be considered a small camera, but compared to DSLRs, it’s not bad. And you certainly get a lot of camera for your money.

"With the EOS R3 they set to convince everyone, even sports and nature photographers, that mirrorless cameras are up to par with DSLRs for any use."

Without that pesky flipping mirror, it can shoot at up to 30 frames-per-second. Autofocus uses AI to track subjects, and Canon brought back an old fan favorite: eye control. This tracks the photographer’s eye and focuses on whatever they look at. It is every bit the pro-level camera and will be more than enough for most photographers.

"[Canon] could still update the 1DX with a Mark IV in a couple of years for the last remaining big customers still relying on the system," says Nepori, "but that won’t be as relevant. The EOS R3 is the first clear sign that Canon’s professional DSLR line-up and the EF system are close to retirement."

The R3 doesn’t yet have a price or a launch date, and Canon isn’t ditching its DSLRs just yet. But the future is clearly mirrorless. And that’s great news.

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