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Canon EOS Ra for astrophotography due later this year?

Canon EOS Ra for astrophotography due later this year?

UPDATE: The Canon EOS Ra (opens in new tab) has now been leaked, by none other than Canon itself. The full story is here (opens in new tab)

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ORIGINAL STORY: When it comes to space tech, what's old is new. Star Trek: Picard is bringing Patrick Stewart back to the bridge, Star Wars Episode IX is bringing back the Skywalker legacy, and now Canon is bringing back a dedicated astrophotography camera.

Rumors started swirling last week that the company would release a new version of the EOS R this year – but not a pro model, or a hi-res model, or even a more amateur model. 

"It is a 'head scratcher', and not at all what anyone is expecting," wrote Canon Rumors (opens in new tab). "What sort of niche market could benefit the EOS R?"

As it turns out, it's a niche market that Canon has catered to before; yesterday we started hearing reports that the company is planning to release a Canon EOS R (opens in new tab) dedicated to astrophotography. 

The Canon EOS Ra could use the Moon Shooting Mode that Canon has just patented

The Canon EOS Ra could use the Moon Shooting Mode (opens in new tab) that Canon has just patented

Which might seem bizarre, but it seems no small coincidence that the news comes so close after the recent patent for Canon Moon Shooting Mode (opens in new tab) to enable easier shooting of celestial bodies. 

All of this is actually familiar territory for the manufacturer; the Canon EOS 20Da was its first ever dedicated astro camera, released back in 2005, and its most recent stargazer was 2010's Canon EOS 60Da – neither of which were full-frame systems.

• Read more: How to shoot astrophotography (opens in new tab)

The purported Canon EOS Ra, then, would be the company's first full-frame astrophotography camera – and its first mirrorless one, too. 

Like the EOS 60Da before it, the EOS Ra will likely be almost identical to its non-astro counterpart; the key difference will be in the sensor. 

The company's last astrophotography camera was the Canon EOS 60Da, back in 2010

The company's last astrophotography camera was the Canon EOS 60Da, back in 2010

The IR cut filter in the 60Da was recalibrated to achieve a hydrogen-alpha light transparency that's three times higher than the standard 60D, enabling "much clearer images of diffuse nebulae which exhibit a reddish tone when viewed without filtration" according to B&H (opens in new tab)

With the photography community – or at least its vocal online contingent – baying for a professional EOS R, it does seem curious for Canon to release such a niche product instead. 

Then again, a product with the same chassis and only a slightly modified (rather than completely redesigned) sensor seems like a canny use of inventory – especially if, as the two previous models suggest, there's a market appetite for an astro camera.

Read more:

Canon EOS Ra (opens in new tab) leak: Canon accidentally confirms its mirrorless astro camera
Canon patents "Moon Shooting Mode" for astrophotography (opens in new tab)
Sir Patrick Stewart photographed as classic van Dyck painting (opens in new tab)
Astrophotography tools: the best camera, lenses and gear (opens in new tab)
The best CCD cameras for astrophotography (opens in new tab)
Best head torch (opens in new tab)

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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.