Canon EOS R3 on a white background.
Canon,  News

Is the Canon EOS R3 sensor really 24MP?

With the Olympics underway in Tokyo we’ve started to see some images taken with the upcoming Canon EOS R3 (prototype or more likely a pre-production model), which isn’t really surprising as the camera has been in the hands of a few select photojournalists for a few months now. Equally unsurprising is that a few images from one photographer have been found with the camera EXIF data intact.

While they could have deleted it quite easily, even with the pressured environment of the games, it’s unlikely a working photographer is going to remove it. More importantly, Canon would know that and know that people would try looking for it.

A few sites have stated the resolution based on the EXIF data as fact, but it’s still far certain.

While the EXIF viewer used is a bit unusual in that it shows the image width and height (6000 x 4000 pixels, or 24 MP) before being resized to 900 x 628px, that’s not proof of the native resolution. What’s misleading people is the viewer is displaying the image size (900 x 628px) that the website has resized the 6000 x 4000px image to. That’s not what the image was resized to by the photographer.

While it’s quite possible the native resolution of the Canon EOS R3 is 24MP (6000 x 4000px), especially given the dual-pixel arrangement for the AF means there’s twice the number of pixel sites and twice the data to process, I find it hard to believe.

With dust still settling following the disruption of the Canon EOS R5, it’s unlikely Canon would introduce a camera with a 24MP ‘stacked’ BSI CMOS after Sony has introduced the A1 with a similar spec’ed sensor sporting 50MP. Canon would want to keep the momentum up and not lose face.

Consider also the forthcoming Nikon Z9 which is similarily being tested at the Olympics, though that looks more like a prototype rather than a next step pre-production model. Nikon has officially mentioned 8K video which would mean a 45+MP sensor at the least (for DCI 8K). As a manufacturer it would be brave to introduce a 24MP pro-oriented camera knowing the Nikon Z9 is going to follow shortly afterwards.

It’s not much of a stretch to imagine Canon requesting the photographers using the EOS R3 at the Olympics, and elsewhere, not to use RAW. I know some photojournalists do but smaller JPEG file sizes out of the camera mean a quicker workflow. And anyway, it would be tricky without the support from Canon’s DPP software, though it’s possible the photographers could have access to a late build. On balance though I would say that’s unlikely. You could also easily imagine Canon asking them not to use the Large JPEG setting either, which would of course reveal the native resolution.

However, what’s far more likely is that photographers using the EOS R3 don’t actually know the native resolution of the camera they’re using (and that goes for the photographers with the Nikon Z9 prototypes).

Firmware updates allow the manufacturer to add (or remove) features easily.

I’ve worked with prototypes and pre-production models myself and manufacturers update firmware in cameras on a daily basis, in their facilities anyway, and it requires a lot of organising just to keep all of the cameras in sync with the same firmware. However, manufacturers have been known to run various cameras on different versions out ‘in the field’, and the Olympics, with the CPS facilities, would be an ideal test bed for running a complex arrangement like that.

It wouldn’t be difficult for Canon to simply disable or remove those two file options from the camera’s menu. Not only would it would it remove the need to resize every image or check every file submitted has had the EXIF data erased, it totally avoids any mistakes made by photographers in the first place.

So if that’s the case, and Canon has removed the RAW and Large JPEG files options, what do have you left? Medium JPEG. Files are small and easily transferrable, and if the camera is around 45-50MP it could easily be 6000 x 4000px.