Professional photographers need a camera that can easily capture their subjects without any hitch. At work, things can happen quickly, giving you little time to react—and only one chance to capture those magical moments.
This need for speed and precision makes Canon’s new flagship EOS R3 camera body an excellent contender for capturing fast-paced action. But what’s the big deal when most people have a phone in their pocket that can record videos at 240 FPS (frames per second)? Thanks to a firmware update, the R3 can continuously shoot 195 fps up to 50 high-quality RAW images at a resolution equivalent to 6K. These files also offer a much wider dynamic range than your iPhone, giving you more room to adjust exposure in post-production.
Motorsport photographer Larry Chen—who captures racing events and car culture around the world—is familiar with his fast-turning shots, and he’ll tell you about his stunts. danger and other remarkable moments he captures from behind the lens. “When I was about to shoot big stunts with Ken Block or Travis Pastrana, which would only happen once, I needed to be able to freeze the action,” said Chen. “There’s a lot that can happen in more than half a second.” (Full disclosure: Chen is a Canon-sponsored photographer but has shot with the brand’s cameras for most of his career.)
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One such example involves Chen filming behind the scenes of Hoonigan’s Gymkhana films. This includes everything from death-defying stunts, like Ken Block’s harrowing encounter with “Evo Corner” at Pikes Peak, to gliding very close to the edge of a fishing jetty. Sure, Chen captured these moments with a professional DSLR, but the high-speed capabilities of the R3 mirrorless camera will make the process much easier with more photos to process— and increase the ability to freeze the action.
Travis Pastrana recently replaced Ken Block, taking on driving duties for Gymkhana 2020—jumping some distance down the road in rural Maryland at nearly 165 mph. In an attempt to capture the moment, Chen mounted a camera on a nearby stop sign so he could remotely trigger it to capture the action. However, there is still a fair amount of motion blur due to the vehicle and its wheels moving at such high speeds. Canon’s flagship DSLR of the time (1DX Mark III) could only achieve a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 second—which simply wasn’t fast enough to knock Pastrana’s Subaru out of the way. perfectly in the air. To provide some perspective, this is eight times slower than the R3’s maximum shutter speed.
Along with 195-FPS shooting, the R3’s mirrorless design (and its electronic shutter) allows for much faster shutter speeds to give photographers more shooting angles to capture those moments. high speed engraving. The R3 can achieve a maximum shutter speed of up to 1/64,000 sec. The reason for this? None of the mirrors needed to be rotated before shooting, which previously limited the shutter speeds of professional-grade DSLRs.
The secret to achieving such high frame rates and image quality involves a stacked CMOS sensor that works with an electronic shutter. On a camera, the sensor captures the light that passes through the lens. These photons are then assigned digital values that convert to a specific color. Many DSLRs have these electronics stacked on top of one another on a circuit board, but the R3 has a “stacked” sensor that divides them into two bases. The standard design works for the relatively pure needs of a DSLR, but simply can’t compete with the amount of data when shooting at 195 FPS or extended bursts of 30 FPS.
“With conventional sensor designs, it is difficult to achieve significant improvements in processing speed, as there is limited space to fit the light receiving (pixels) and signal processing (circuit) areas. ) onto the same base,” Canon’s Visual Communications Division told Executive Team. Separating the two into a “stacked” design allows them more room to optimize the high-performance functionality of both systems, resulting in significantly faster data processing. This helps maintain speed while maintaining amazing dynamic range—no broken shadows or flared highlights.
The faster readout also eliminates the rolling shutter effect that previously interfered with high-speed shooting with the electronic shutter—making subjects appear stretched and distorted. To be sure, Canon’s electronic shutter design has remained largely unchanged. However, it is now further optimized for action sports photography.
Chen mentioned the 195-FPS mode would be ideal for slow motion video. After firing off a series of frames, he’ll be able to stitch them together in post-production to create dynamic footage. It will also facilitate capturing moments like a super fuel rickshaw jumping off the starting line or even just an action sports hero performing a stunt.
So 195 FPS is huge for sports and wildlife photographers. However, the technology is still in its infancy, as the maximum frame rate limits you to only 50 shots at a time—at 195 FPS, the R3 records these 50 images in just a quarter of a second. It is also not easy to take such a series of photos because focus and exposure are locked. After continuous shooting is complete, the camera will also lock for nine seconds while all those images are recorded to the memory card. The biggest limiting response to Canon’s current stratospheric shooting speed is the lack of autofocus, which makes it difficult to capture anything moving towards you.
The new 195-FPS technology is innovative and exciting. However, that does not mean that the existing capabilities of R3. It can shoot at 30fps with the electronic shutter—while maintaining autofocus tracking. This was more than enough as I gave the camera proper practice at a recent pro motor race at Budds Creek in Mechanicsville, Maryland. Such a high continuous shooting speed combined with Canon’s media-recognition autofocus system meant I was able to capture images in focus nearly every time; This is invaluable, as racers rush around the track at near-highway speeds, moving through the frame in a split second.
With such a high chance of focusing on the subject, I was able to use more mental bandwidth to frame my photos. Motorsport photographer Matt Marcu said: “There are no longer any restrictions on my creativity with the R3. “It allows me to take any type of image that I have in mind.” And that’s the point: Set the camera up properly and you can capture any image you want.
After speaking with Marcu, it became clear that this new and exciting camera technology is meant to expand creative freedom. It doesn’t turn photography into a walk in the park, but allows the photographer more ability to focus on capturing these important moments. While the R3’s $5,999 price tag might scare off casual and hobbyist photographers, the camera’s stacked sensor technology is sure to drop to more affordable models. High-speed shooting will continue to exist and will only continue to expand opportunities for photographers to seamlessly capture and deliver great photos.
Techniques for speed
Given the R3’s existing capabilities, Canon says achieving a burst rate of 195-FPS isn’t a big deal. The biggest changes involve optimizing the sensor’s data processing speed and fine-tuning the control system that links the image sensor and image processor—transforming data from the sensor into an image. image. Simply put, more pictures taken in a shorter amount of time requires the ability to process larger amounts of data at a much faster rate. To test ourselves to see if the Canon was successful, we fired a shot as it was leaving the barrel of Test Editor Brad Ford’s homemade potato cannon. One thing you’ll notice is that everything is largely in the same focal plane and the subject is stationary—this is due to autofocus locking when shooting at maximum FPS. Setting my shutter speed to 1/500 of a second revealed just the right amount of motion blur to detect bullets flying out of the barrel into the trees in the background. However, with 50 shots taken in such a limited amount of time, I really had to predict when the cannon would explode to get the potato into the frame. This shot would be much harder to do with a DSLR like the Canon 1DXMark II—16 times harder, in fact, since that camera only captures 12 FPS shots on the fastest setting.
Matt Crisara is an Austinite native who has an unbridled passion for motorsports, both at home and abroad, and is Automotive Editor for Popular mechanics, he writes most of his auto news digitally and in print. He was previously a contributing writer for Motor1 after interning at the F1 Circuit Of The Americas and Speed City, an Austin radio station focused on the racing world. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where he raced with the College Club Team. When not working, he enjoys sim racing, FPV drones and the great outdoors.