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 don’t know everything about either 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.

Stacked Sensor

We don’t know how many megapixels either camera will have yet, but we do 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 – hopefully the R3 and Z9 will both offer similar performance.

8K Video

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.

Canon have not confirmed either the megapixel count or the video specs for the R3 yet, but we’d be very surprised if it didn’t have 8K video and therefore 35+ megapixels.

Advanced Autofocus

The new Canon R3 will offer the most advanced version of Dual Pixel CMOS AF ever, along with a brand new AF tracking mode which we suspect will be Bird-eye AF.

The R3 will also see 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 will offer 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.

Weather Resistance

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.

Release Date

Nikon haven’t officially set a release date for the new Z9 yet and Canon are being similarly tight-lipped about the R3, but with the Tokyo Olympic Games on the near horizon, we’d anticipate that these new flagship sports and video cameras will make their official debut before July 2021.


The price of the Nikon Z9 has not yet been revealed, but the equivalent D6 DSLR camera costs £6,300 / $6,500.

Similarly, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR retails for £6,4999 / $6,499.

As the Sony Alpha 1 retails for around £6,500 / $6,500, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if both the R3 and the Z9 are priced at £$6.5K.


We know a little more about the Canon R3 than the Nikon Z9, but it’s 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!

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