Canon R3 vs Nikon Z9 - Head-to-head Comparison
The Nikon Z9 was announced on March 10th 2021 as a new flagship 35mm full-frame mirrorless camera intended to be a rival to the Sony Alpha 1.
Now Canon have joined the party with the launch of the EOS R3, which is clearly a direct challenger to the Nikon Z9 and the A1.
We still don't know everything about the Z9 camera yet, but they do actually share quite a lot of similarities when it comes to their core specifications and features, so which one should you pick?
We're bringing you this in-depth Canon R3 vs Nikon Z9 head-to-head comparison to help you choose between these two flagship full-frame mirrorless cameras.
You can also read our detailed Canon EOS R3 review and Nikon Z9 review to find out exactly what we think of each one.
We know that the Canon R3 and Nikon Z9 will both have a stacked CMOS sensor, a design that the Sony A1 also uses.
This should improve the image quality with higher pixel numbers compared to a conventional CMOS sensor, increase the imaging speed for faster burst shooting, and increase the low-light-imaging capability.
On the Sony Alpha 1, this translates into being able to shoot 50 megapixel images at an incredible 30fps.
The EOS R3 also uses a stacked BSI sensor, just like the one on the Sony A1, but it has a much more modest 24 megapixel resolution.
The ISO range of the Canon R3 is ISO 100 to ISO 102,400, which can be expanded to ISO 50 to ISO 204,800, so slightly greater than the Alpha 1.
The ISO range of the Nikon Z9 hasn't been disclosed yet.
We do know that the Z9 sensor's megapixel count will be in excess of 35.6 million effective pixels, as that's the minimum required for 8K video, which Nikon have publicly committed to delivering on the Z9.
The Canon EOS R3 "only" offers 6K/60p recording due to the 24 megapixel sensor that it uses, in addition to 4K video at up to 120p.
Canon are promising that the R3 can record up to six hours of regular video or 1.5 hours at high 119.88/100p frame rates.
The new Canon R3 has the most advanced version of Dual Pixel CMOS AF that the company has ever produced, along with a brand new vehicle tracking mode, which allows you to expertly track motorbikes, open cockpit Formula cars as well as GT and rally cars, and even has the ability to prioritise the vehicle or the driver’s helmet!
The R3 also sees the surprising return of Eye-control AF mode from the EOS 3 / 5 / 50 film SLR cameras (remember those?) which will allow you to select and move the AF point just with the look of your eye using the electronic viewfinder.
Nikon haven't yet revealed any details at all about the Z9's autofocus system.
Fast Burst Shooting
The Canon R3 offers class-leading 30fps shooting with the electronic shutter with full AF/AE tracking and "minimal image distortion", matching the fastest 30fps mode that the Sony Alpha 1 provides.
Nikon haven't disclosed the burst shooting rates that the Z9 will offer yet, but the stacked sensor design suggests that it will be capable of at least 20fps with the electronic shutter, if not the same 30fps as the R3 and A1.
Body and Design
Both the Canon R3 and Nikon Z9 are taking a markedly different approach to the Sony A1 by featuring an integrated grip with duplicated vertical controls, as found on the EOS-1D and D6 series cameras respectively.
They will likely largely mimic their DSLR counterparts in a bid to be instantly familiar to users switching over to mirrorless.
Both the R3 and the Z9 will therefore be significantly larger than both the R5 and the Z7 II models which sit below them in the range, and also the Sony A1 - all three of those cameras can be used with an optional battery grip instead of having one integrated into the body.
The Canon R3 will offer the same professional level of durability and dust and moisture weather-proofing as the EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR camera.
There's no official word yet on the Z9, but we wouldn't expect anything less then the same level of resistance to inclement conditions as the D6 offers.
The Canon R5 has a pretty incredible stabilisation system. It features a 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) that provides up to 8-stops of IS when using the camera with certain compatible RF-mount lenses.
The new R3 offers the same IBIS system as the R5 - its 5-axis In-Body Image Stabilizer can combine with the optical Image Stabilizer in selected RF lenses to offer industry-leading performance worth up to 8-stops.
Can the Nikon Z9 match or even beat the R3? We'll have to wait to find out.
The Canon R3 has an impressive but not class-leading 5.76M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 0.76x magnification and a fast 120fps refresh rate, the same as the one in the EOS R5.
Perhaps surprisingly for such a high-end camera, the EOS R3 has a very versatile 4.1-million dot, vari-angle touch screen which provides greater flexibility of shooting angles thanks to its ability to tilt and rotate into a range of positions, unlike the fixed screen on the EOS-1D X III DSLR camera.
The Canon R3 has one UHS-II SD card slot and one ultra-high speed CFexpress slot, so it doesn't follow the lead of the EOS-1D X Mark III which has two CFexpress slots.
The EOS R3 uses the LP-E19 series battery from the EOS-1D X III rather than the LP-E6NH series that the EOS R5 uses, which provides up to 620 shots when using the viewfinder and 860 shots when using the LCD monitor.
Nikon still haven't officially set a release date for the new Z9 yet, whereas the Canon EOS R3 will be in store in November 2021.
The price of the Nikon Z9 has not yet been revealed, but the equivalent D6 DSLR camera costs £6,300 / $6,500.
The Canon EOS R3 is priced at £5,879.99 / €6,689.99, so it's commendably cheaper than both the Sony Alpha 1 and the EOS-1D X Mark III at launch.
We now know much more about the Canon R3 than the Nikon Z9, but it's still pretty clear that both are shaping up to be the mirrorless equivalent of each company's flagship DSLR cameras and therefore real challengers to the Sony Alpha 1.
So what do you think? Based on what we know so far, would you choose the new Canon R3 or the Nikon Z9, and why? Leave a comment below!