It Might Not Be Possible for the Canon EOS R1 to Overcome Its Expectations

A canon eos r1 camera floating in front of a vibrant cosmic background with hues of purple, orange, and yellow, highlighted by a lens flare and celestial ambiance.

There have been murmurs of an “EOS R1” camera for more than three years now — since before Canon announced the EOS R3. The camera has been in development for at least five years and a lot has changed in that time.

Typically, the length of a camera development cycle is about three years. PetaPixel sources heard whispers of an R1 back in 2021 with an intended initial target of a 2022 launch, meaning that it had been on Canon’s radar for at least three years prior to that — let’s say 2019. Given that the R series and RF mount was announced just the year prior, it’s actually more likely that the R1 was part of Canon’s roadmap for its mirrorless series from the start, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here.

Now we are rapidly approaching the halfway point of 2024 and the R1 remains a myth. Today’s news cycle brought with it a rumor that the camera has been delayed again (this time due to a buffer clearing issue), and while we don’t give rumors much credence and typically don’t report on them, this story is about expectations and with another delay — perceived or real — the R1’s burden of expectation grows ever heavier.

It’s hard to imagine that the camera Canon started with back in 2019 is the same camera it is working on now. PetaPixel sources told it last year that the main reason for the delay from 2022 to 2024 was that Canon was struggling with the sensor it wanted to put in the R1 — we didn’t get any more information than that, which means any number of things could have gone wrong.

Maybe the sensor was not clearing data fast enough, maybe it wasn’t high enough resolution, or maybe — and this is where I think the truth lies — Canon decided it could go with a global shutter or something close enough to it that it was, from a performance perspective, indistinguishable from a global shutter. Last year, separate PetaPixel sources mentioned that there was some distinct disappointment when the Sony a9 III was announced because it beat Canon to the global shutter punch, lending credence to previous sources.

Given that the latest rumor is that Canon had to delay the R1 again due to an issue with the buffer, it would make sense that changing the sensor midway through development resulted in other unforeseen issues with tangential hardware.

This entire development cycle has been nothing but hell for Canon, and while this is purely speculative, I think it’s because the company’s product development team continues to move the goalposts for this camera. That, mixed with the high expectations of the “1-series” name has made Canon constantly iterate on its design to assure it doesn’t disappoint like the R3, largely, did.

Canon is living in the complete shadow of a product it has never acknowledged it’s even working on. It can’t even start to hype something without the conversation immediately turning to, “Is it the R1?” Last week, it published a tweet that it eventually took down (which is another level of odd) and that got the rumor mill spun up on the R1 again even though the context of the tweet and the attached image wouldn’t make a ton of sense for it to have been.

A young boy excitedly holds a camera, focusing intently in a room decorated with blue balloons and banners, while a man in the background looks on at an event booth marked "team canon.
via Asobinet

All this is to say that the R1 is now trapped and completely overshadowed by its own expectations. There has never been a digital camera that has been in development this long that it was able to build up like this either. At this point, it might be entirely possible that Canon just kills the project because it knows that nothing it does will live up to this hope.

Other camera companies were referring to the R1 by name in conversations over a year ago — none of us can recall a time where competitors were referring to an unreleased, unannounced product before like this.

It’s a really tough situation to be in, and I’m afraid that no matter how good the R1 may end up being — if it ever does get announced — all Canon is going to hear is disappointment.

Image credits: Elements of header photo licensed via Depositphotos.