Canon Announces Development of the EOS R1: The R System’s First Flagship

A high-resolution image of the Canon EOS R1 camera, showcasing its black body with the lens mount exposed. The camera features a textured grip, various buttons, and dials. The Canon logo and "EOS R1" are visible on the top right front of the camera. The background is white.

Canon published an official development announcement for the EOS R1 and while not a lot has been revealed, it is the company’s first public acknowledgment of what will be its top-end camera.

As PetaPixel predicted, Canon’s development announcement comes ahead of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics which now allows the company to openly test it with select photographers in the kinds of environments where it will likely be most used — sports and action.

Also expected is how little Canon is saying about the camera other than the fact that it does indeed exist, which is similar to the tactic it took when it announced the EOS R3 in 2021. The announcement isn’t without some detail, though.

For example, the company says that the camera will bring together Canon’s “cutting-edge technology” and combine “top-class performance” with the durability and reliability of a flagship model. Canon also says that it will dramatically improve the performance of both still images and video capture to “meet the high requirements of professionals on the frontlines of a wide range of fields including sports, news reporting, and video production.”

It will also use a newly developed image processor called the DIGIC Accelerator in addition to the currently existing DIGIC X.

“The new image processing system, composed of these processors and a new CMOS sensor, enables large volumes of data to be processed at high speeds and delivers never-before-seen advancements in Auto Focus (AF) and other functions,” Canon says.

“By combining the new image processing system and deep learning technology to an advanced degree, Canon has achieved high-speed and high-accuracy subject recognition. For example, subject tracking accuracy has been improved so that in team sporting events where multiple subjects intersect, the target subject can continually be tracked even if another player passes directly in front of them. In addition, the AF “Action Priority” function recognizes subject movement by rapidly analyzing the subject’s status. In moments during a sports game when it is difficult to predict what will happen next, this function automatically determines the player performing a certain action, such as shooting a ball, as the main subject and instantly shifts the AF frame, thereby helping to capture decisive moments of gameplay.”

Canon also says the combination of a new image processing system and deep learning will improve image quality.

Front view of a black Canon EOS R1 camera with a large lens. The camera has a textured grip, various buttons, and the Canon logo on the top. The lens attached is a Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, with markings visible on the lens barrel.

“Canon implements the image noise reduction function, which has been previously developed and improved as part of the software for PCs, as a camera function to further improve image quality and contribute to user creativity.”

If Canon’s production timeline remains in line with previous announcements, expect the R1 to be fully revealed by this fall — September or October are likely candidates. The EOS R3, for example, was announced as in development in April and was fully announced by the following September. That said, it didn’t hit the market until November.

Of note, Canon refers to the R1 as its “first flagship” in the R system, meaning the R3 and R5 are, as expected, not examples of Canon’s most impressive technology.

The Long Journey is Finally Ending

The EOS R1 is one of the most, if not the most, beleaguered cameras in the digital era. It has been at least three years — likely more — since sources indicated that the camera was being developed. After multiple adjustments, including what PetaPixel sources say was an issue with the sensor back in 2022, Canon has finally crested the hill and the EOS R1 will likely be in the hands of photographers this year.

Canon confirms that it is already working on field tests for the R1, hinting at its use for “capturing definitive and impactful moments at international sporting events.”

A lot has changed in the photography market since 2019. Sony and Nikon have both released heavy-hitter cameras that combine resolution with high frame rate — a dynamic duo of photographic capabilities that Canon has, at least to this point, been unable to replicate. While details of the R1 are still unknown, it now has to contend with multiple factors to appeal to high-end photographers. It needs to be fast, it needs to be accurate, and it needs to bring both higher resolution and better dynamic range to the table, lest it always live in the shadow of the Sony a1 and a9 III as well as the Nikon Z8 and Z9.

Canon will also have to be flexible on price. While the EOS R3 is a great camera, its $6,000 price did not land well especially considering the price Nikon launched the Z9 for $500 less just a month after the R3 was announced.

The EOS R1 is burdened by extreme expectations and very likely by later this year, it will be seen whether or not it can overcome them.

Image credits: Canon