Going off-road with the Canon EOS R3

"It absolutely outperforms anything I've worked with in the past!" Motorsports photographer Vladimir Rys tries out the Canon EOS R3 on his first electric rally car shoot.
A red rally car fills the frame, dust and dirt from the road billowing up behind it.

Motorsports photographer Vladimir Rys spent three days photographing off-road racer Christine Giampaoli Zonca putting an electric rally car through its paces in Austria. It was his first experience of shooting rallying – and also his first time using the high-speed Canon EOS R3. Taken on a Canon EOS R3 with a Canon RF 400mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 1/32000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO400. © Vladimir Rys

Motorsport never used to be Vladimir Rys' passion, until he received an assignment to cover a Formula 1 race in 2005.

"I was bitten by the bug straight away," the Canon Ambassador says. "Motorsports is amazing for a photographer. You can do portraits, you can do action, you can even take a landscape photography approach if you want. It gives you the freedom to be creative."

One motorsport Vladimir had never tackled was rally driving. But this all changed when he was asked to photograph rally and off-road racer Christine Giampaoli Zonca, alias Christine GZ.

It was also Vladimir's first opportunity to put the Canon EOS R3 through its paces. "After using the camera for three days on the rally shoot, I can say that it absolutely outperforms anything I've worked with in the past," he says.

"I wanted to test the EOS R3's super-fast frame rate and high shutter speed capabilities to capture close-ups of the driver passing by, with the car wheels spinning, mud and stones being kicked up, and clouds of dust. Technically, that's a difficult shot to get, but I just kept firing and capturing everything frozen in the air. It was amazing to see the outcome."

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Blistering 30fps bursts with the Canon EOS R3

Vladimir had a couple of shots in mind that he wanted to capture, but he spent the first day looking around the location – Austria's Erzberg mine – to work out the best angles. "Christine was really good fun to work with. In the beginning I didn't know her abilities, but we asked her to do some crazy stuff with the STARD C3 ERX electric rally car, and you could see straight away that she's a really good driver."

To keep up with such a high-performance car, Vladimir took full advantage of the Canon EOS R3's breakneck shooting speed of 30 frames per second.

"Looking through the sequences of pictures I'd taken was like watching a movie," he says. "In situations where there's no time to think, such as a crash, being able to use 30fps is fantastic. And the Canon EOS R3 can maintain that speed for RAW files as well as JPEGs. When you think about what's having to happen inside the camera in order to capture so many RAW images in so little time, it's just incredible."

An electric rally car speeds through rocky terrain, throwing up mud and dust as it races along.

To achieve action-stopping shutter speeds, Vladimir sometimes had to push the sensitivity to ISO1000 or higher. "The quality was amazing," he says. "Even at this high ISO, the grain was unnoticeable, which was a real surprise and another impressive aspect of the EOS R3." Taken on a Canon EOS R3 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/32000 sec, f/1.2 and ISO1250. © Vladimir Rys

A man wearing shorts and a dark jacket photographs an electric rally car speeding through rocky terrain.

Although Vladimir usually uses a combination of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III and Canon EOS R5 for his work, he found that the EOS R3 combined the best of both for shooting high-speed action. "The EOS R5 is great, but for sports photography I prefer the big handgrip of the EOS-1D X Mark III and how it sits in your hand. Once I picked up the EOS R3, though, I was amazed."

Shooting at 30fps does mean you can end up filling memory cards at a more rapid rate than before. "I shot something like 5,000 images over the three-day rally car shoot, whereas I'd normally take about 3,000 images during the four days of a Formula 1 Grand Prix," say Vladimir. "You certainly give yourself a lot of data to pick from afterwards, but it's fantastic. The Canon EOS R3 supports CFexpress and USB-C, so everything downloaded really fast."

Despite powering through more frames than he normally would on a job like this, Vladimir says that the battery of the Canon EOS R3 showed no sign of slowing him down. "The camera uses the same LP-E19 battery pack as the EOS-1D X Mark III, and I think you could easily do two, maybe three days on one charge," says Vladimir.

A man takes pictures of a red rally car as it swerves around a corner, kicking up dust from its tyres.

Vladimir was aware of the large, open-pit Erzberg mine from pictures he'd seen taken at previous events but he says that you can never be quite sure what you will achieve on the day because you have to adapt to the circumstances and see what the driver thinks is possible.

Freezing rally car action at 1/64000 sec

As well as breaking new ground in shooting speed, the Canon EOS R3 is also a record breaker when it comes to shutter speed. So, what does the ability to freeze action at 1/64000 sec enable Vladimir to capture that he couldn't before?

"In motorsports, you often hear the car before you see it, so you just have to guess when to shoot and hope for the best. With the speed of the EOS R3, you get another level of freedom."

The Canon EOS R3 is able to achieve its impressive 1/64000 sec shutter speed when the electronic shutter is engaged. "With my Canon EOS R5, I tend to use the mechanical shutter because of the inherent rolling shutter effect that you get with almost all electronic shutters," says Vladimir. "But I didn't notice any rolling shutter effect with the EOS R3. Normally, I would expect to see some distortion, as if the cars have been stretched. I couldn't see that in any of my pictures."

A man stands on a raised platform above a sandy racetrack holding a Canon EOS R3 with a super-telephoto lens attached.

Get up to speed with the RF 400mm F2.8L and 600mm F4L

Find out how motorsports photographer Vladimir Rys got on when he took Canon's L-Series super-telephotos for a spin on a rally car shoot.
A menu screen on the back of a Canon EOS R3 camera showing the Vehicle Tracking option.

As well as body tracking for animals and people, the Canon EOS R3 offers a vehicle tracking option which is ideal for motorsports.

A man crouches down to photograph a rally car as it rounds a corner shrouded in a cloud of dust.

The Canon EOS R3's superior tracking abilities enabled Vladimir to keep the car in focus even when it was surrounded by clouds of dust.

Vehicle detection for motorsports

Of course, there's little benefit in shooting rapid-fire sequences if all the frames are blurred. But with Eye Control AF, low-light focusing down to -7.5 EV and a vehicle detection mode, autofocus is another area of performance where the Canon EOS R3 leads the way.

"The vehicle tracking capabilities meant that as soon as the car entered the viewfinder, the camera would pick it up and follow it," explains Vladimir. "You just need to point the lens in the right direction and everything else is done for you.

"Even photographing the rally car in clouds of dust, the camera had no trouble in tracking it and keeping it sharp. In fact, the shape of the car seemed much easier for the system to follow."

In addition to the intelligent vehicle detection, the Canon EOS R3 gains extra precision via a new Spot detection option. Once this is enabled, the EOS R3 will automatically focus on the driver in an open cockpit car or rider rather than the vehicle," Vladimir says.

A close-up of the rear wheel of a red rally car as it kicks up plumes of dust and dirt from the road.

One of the shots that Vladimir set out to achieve was a close-up of the dirt and dust being kicked up by the car as it thundered past him. Shooting at 30fps provided extended sequences that gave plenty of choice in the edit. Taken on a Canon EOS R3 with a Canon RF 400mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 1/16000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO250. © Vladimir Rys

The electronic viewfinder

Vladimir found the vehicle tracking on the Canon EOS R3 to be so fast and reliable that he kept it activated for most of the shoot – although he did also find time to test out the camera's Eye Control AF function. "It takes just 10 to 15 seconds to calibrate for your eye," he says. "Then, when you move your eyeball, the camera follows the focus. Again, it was very impressive."

In fact, the large electronic viewfinder on the EOS R3 was one of the standout highlights for Vladimir. "The colour transmission and the detail you can see in the viewfinder are very impressive. It was a bit like looking at a home cinema. The screen is massive. I usually use an eyecup with my EOS-1D X Mark III so that I don't get irritated by side lighting. But as the Canon EOS R3's EVF is pretty deep and quite protected from stray light, I didn't need one on this shoot. I also didn't notice any lag when shooting the fast-moving car, so it was literally easy on the eye."

So, was Vladimir happy with the shots he managed to commit to memory card? Before he arrived at the location, he says, he had two shots in mind: "one that captured all of the dust and the mud while the car is coming through a corner, and another that showed the car with the landscape of the mine in the background, both of which we achieved. Many other shots were beautiful as well, so I was more than satisfied with the Canon EOS R3's performance at the end of the day."

Marcus Hawkins

Vladimir Rys' kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Vladimir Rys' kitbag containing Canon cameras and lenses.


Canon EOS R3

The Canon EOS R3 is a high-performance, high-speed full frame mirrorless camera that marks a new era for sports, wildlife and news photography. "It absolutely outperforms anything I've worked with in the past," says Vladimir.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The ultimate creative toolkit with superb low-light performance, deep learning AF and 5.5K RAW video. "This camera is an extension of my hand but also my eyes," Vladimir says. "I use it almost subconsciously, which allows me to focus only on my subject. I love the handling of Canon; when you get a new camera, you feel like you've had it before because it's just so familiar and easy to use."


Canon RF 14-35mm F4L IS USM

Widen your world, from landscapes to architecture and capture edge-to-edge detail that's sharp and clear with a compact wide-angle zoom lens, blending performance with practicality. Vladimir says: "The sharpness across the frame, all the way into the corners, is just stunning.”

Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

The RF 50mm F1.2L USM delivers a new kind of optical performance in full-frame photography. Outstanding clarity and sharpness mean you'll see noticeably more detail, even right at the edges of the frame.

Canon RF 600mm F4L IS USM

This professional super-telephoto lens delivers stunning results, with ultra-fast focusing, up to 5.5 stops of image stabilisation and sensational image quality. "The lens is so light that it's perfectly possible to do handheld shots with it," Vladimir says.

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