Opinion: We won't see the Canon EOS R1 until the 2024 Olympics

Canon EOS R1 mockup

The Canon EOS R1 is coming. That much is inevitable, and everybody knows it. However, I don't think it's coming until 2024 – the year of the Summer Olympic Games in Paris, France. 

It's no secret that the Canon EOS R1 is on the way, and that it will be the manufacturer's new flagship camera – not just the flagship of its EOS R mirrorless system, but the flagship across the entire range, "officially" superseding the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III (opens in new tab)

I put "officially" in air quotes because, truth be told, the 1D X Mark III has already been superseded by the Canon EOS R3 (opens in new tab) – though Canon has made clear that it does not consider the R3 to be its flagship camera. That's the preserve of the 1-series, even though the R3 eclipses the specs of the latest 1D X in every respect (except its choice of memory cards, which the R1 will no doubt remedy). 

Still, if a professional sports, news or agency photography today wants to buy a professional-grade mirrorless Canon camera, the R3 is the obvious option. And that, I believe, is exactly why we won't see the Canon EOS R1 appear this year, or even next. So, then… when?

Canon EOS R1 release date

Released in 2021, the R3 is still a cutting-edge product – and one that's very young in its life cycle. So it makes little sense for Canon to launch its new flagship camera any sooner than it has to – or, indeed, any sooner than the four-year Olympic cycle that has long been established for flagship releases. 

Just as the 1D X Mark III was launched in January 2020, in time for the Tokyo Olympics, so I believe the Canon EOS R1 will be launched in January 2024, in time for the Paris Games. 

We may get a development announcement in late 2023, and a Q3 announcement has indeed been rumored, but the camera itself won't actually be seen until the following year. So, what can we expect when it comes?

Canon EOS R1 specs

Recent reports (opens in new tab) have suggested that the Canon EOS R1 will be the "new resolution king", with Cinema EOS-levels of focus on 8K. Which feels as if it ties in with the long-rumored Canon EOS RS – the high-res EOS R camera that would spiritually succeed the Canon EOS 5DS as a resolution-focused body.

I believe that camera is likely no longer going to exist, and instead its sensor technology (rumored to be as high as 100MP, setting a new standard for full frame cameras) will be at the heart of the R1. 

The extra years of development may even enable Canon to work some magic in making an ultra-resolution stacked sensor, to eclipse the readout performance and burst speeds of the 50MP Sony A1 (opens in new tab) and Nikon Z9 (opens in new tab). And while 8K is certainly overkill in 2022, by 2024 it will be a far more widely adopted standard, at least for high-end work, even if it won't exactly be the norm. 

Either way, I see the Canon EOS R1 sitting at the top of the tree as the hyper-performing resolution-oriented professional body, with the R3 providing the sweet spot resolution for professionals who require workflow efficiency over resolution.

Of course, Sony and Nikon may well have flagship updates of their own in 2024… the medal podium is certainly going to be interesting in Paris!

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.