Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III Review

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III Review
Note: The Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III has been replaced by the Canon EOS 1D X.

It is always exciting to hear that your most-used piece of photography kit is being replaced with a new and improved model - as was the case for me with the announcement of the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. The 1Ds III is Canon's ultra-high-end DSLR, delivering top-of-the-line image quality from a top-of-the-line shooting system matched to a top-of-the-line physical structure.

If you read the 1D Mark III Review (Canon's other current-at-this-time 1-Series DSLR), you are going to think that much of the 1Ds III review sounds familiar. And for a good reason. These two redesigned-from-the-ground-up cameras are mostly identical with the exception of a few significant differences - including the sensor size/resolution (and associated parts including the viewfinder) and the max frame rate/buffer depth. Here is how they and the other current Canon DSLRs compare in these and other regards ...

ModelFOVCFSensorPixel SizePixels/MegapixelsViewfinderDLA*
Canon PowerShot G1 X1.9x18.7 x 14.0mm4.3µm4352 x 326414.3  f/6.9
Canon PowerShot G124.7x7.4 x 5.6mm2.7µm3648 x 204810.0  f/4.3
Canon PowerShot G94.7x7.6 x 5.7mm2.5µm4000 x 300012.1  f/4.0
Canon EOS M1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0  f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .87x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .85x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .85x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .85x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .87x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.7µm4752 x 316815.1 .87x95%f/7.5
Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .80x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D1.6x22.2 x 14.7mm5.2µm4272 x 284812.0 .80x95%f/8.3
Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D1.6x22.2 x 14.8mm5.2µm4272 x 284812.2 .87x95%f/8.3
Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D1.6x22.2 x 14.8mm5.7µm3888 x 259210.1 .81x95%f/9.1
Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D1.6x22.2 x 14.8mm5.7µm3888 x 259210.1 .80x95%f/9.1
Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D1.6x22.2 x 14.8mm6.4µm3456 x 23048.0 .80x95%f/10.2
Canon EOS 300D Digital Rebel1.6x22.7 x 15.1mm7.4µm3088 x 20566.3 .80x95%f/11.8
Canon EOS 70D1.6x22.5 x 15.0mm4.1µm5472 x 364820.2 .95x98%f/6.6
Canon EOS 60D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .95x96%f/6.9
Canon EOS 50D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.7µm4752 x 316815.1 .95x95%f/7.5
Canon EOS 40D1.6x22.2 x 14.8mm5.7µm3888 x 259210.1 .95x95%f/9.1
Canon EOS 30D1.6x22.5 x 15.0mm6.4µm3504 x 23368.2 .90x95%f/10.2
Canon EOS 20D1.6x22.5 x 15.0mm6.4µm3504 x 23368.2 .90x95%f/10.2
Canon EOS 10D1.6x22.7 x 15.1mm7.4µm3088 x 20566.3 .88x95%f/11.8
Canon EOS 7D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 1.0x100%f/6.9
Canon EOS 6D1.0x35.8 x 23.9mm6.54µm5472 x 364820.2 .71x97%f/10.5
Canon EOS 5D Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.25µm5760 x 384022.3 .71x100%f/10.1
Canon EOS 5D Mark II1.0x35.8 x 23.9mm6.4µm5616 x 374421.1 .71x98%f/10.2
Canon EOS 5D1.0x35.8 x 23.9mm8.2µm4368 x 291212.8 .71x96%f/13.2
Canon EOS 1D X1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.9µm5184 x 345618.1 .76x100%f/11.0
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV1.3x27.9 x 18.6mm5.7µm4896 x 326416.1 .76x100%f/9.1
Canon EOS 1D Mark III1.3x28.1 x 18.7mm7.2µm3888 x 259210.1 .76x100%f/11.5
Canon EOS 1D Mark II N1.3x28.7 x 19.1mm8.2µm3520 x 23368.2 .72x100%f/13.2
Canon EOS 1D Mark II1.3x28.7 x 19.1mm8.2µm3520 x 23368.2 .72x100%f/13.2
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.4µm5616 x 374421.1 .76x100%f/10.2
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm7.2µm4992 x 332816.6 .70x100%f/11.5
* Learn more about DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture)

ModelFPSMax JPGMax RAWShutter LagVF Blackout
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D4.028/11407/875ms 
Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700D5.022/306/675ms 
Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D5.030675ms 
Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D3.734690ms130ms
Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D3.734690ms130ms
Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D3.4170990ms130ms
Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200D3.0696  
Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D3 / 28305110ms150ms
Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D3.553690ms130ms
Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D3 / 1.5n/a590ms
Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D3.02710100ms170ms
Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D3.0144100ms170ms
Canon EOS 70D7.040/6515/1665ms97ms
Canon EOS 60D5.3581659ms100ms
Canon EOS 50D6.3901659ms100ms
Canon EOS 40D6.5751759ms100ms
Canon EOS 30D5.0301165ms110ms
Canon EOS 20D5.023665ms115ms
Canon EOS 7D8.0110/13023/2559ms100ms
Canon EOS 6D4.573/125014/17<60ms 
Canon EOS 5D Mark III6.065/16k13/1859ms125ms
Canon EOS 5D Mark II3.978/31013/1473ms145ms
Canon EOS 5D3.0601775ms145ms
Canon EOS 1D X12/141803836-55ms60ms
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV10.01212840-55ms80ms
Canon EOS 1D Mark III10.01103040-55ms80ms
Canon EOS 1D Mark II N8.5482240-55ms87ms
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III5.0561240-55ms80ms
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II4.0321140-55ms87ms

 
Each of Canon's 1Ds bodies to date have been introduced with a new sensor having the highest resolution available at that time (the prior-model 1Ds Mark II is still the second highest resolution DSLR). And as usual, the new sensor gets a significant amount of the fanfare in this latest 1Ds iteration. No review-time-current DSLR compares to the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III in regards to its ultra high 21.1 megapixel full frame resolution.

Going from the 1Ds II's 16.6 MP to the 1Ds III's 21.1 MP sensor is not a huge resolution jump, but it makes a nice difference - more than I expected. I think the ISO 12233 resolution chart tool shows this difference the best. Here you can use the mouseover feature to compare the 1Ds III resolution with the ...

1Ds Mark II and the 5D using a Canon EF 200mm f/2.8 L II Lens *

* What you need to know about the above comparisons (aside from how to use the tool's mouse-over feature) ... Canon specifies the 1Ds III viewfinder as having an "approx." 100 percent horizontal and vertical view. In reality - and like the 1D Mark III, it is somewhat less than 100% (maybe 98%?) - this makes precisely framing a test chart hard as I must rely completely on the zoomed LCD review. But, the LCD does not show a 100% view of the final image - cutting about 5 pixels off each side. For most real world uses, these are non-issues for this camera, but for these comparisons, the 1Ds III has an approximately .4% disadvantage to the 1Ds Mark II and the 5D (which also doesn't mean much in the real world). Full disclosure finished.

Another resolution comparison - use the mouseover feature on the links below the following image to compare the 1Ds III to the 1Ds II and 5D.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III Resolution Comparison

 
These 100% sample crops were shot in the Neutral Picture Style (0 contrast) with sharpness set to 2.

Expect the additional resolution to help most with the tiny details in your pictures - and with large prints or 100% zoom computer viewing. More headroom is available for cropping as well. If your subject does not have small details in it, the difference from 16.6 MP will not be as apparent.

Noise is a DSLR image attribute that gets a lot of attention. As pixel density on the sensor is increased and individual pixel size is decreased to accommodate this, there is less light reaching each pixel well. The result we often see with increased pixel density is increased high ISO noise in our images. In other words, without a technology improvement, the 1Ds III should produce noisier images than the 1Ds II. Thanks at least in part to an improved sensor design, increased noise is not the case in this comparison.

I shot a lot of comparisons between these two bodies (and the 5D with its much less-pixel-dense sensor). In the end, I could show you examples to make either of the two 1-series bodies appear to be slightly better than the other. If you plan for the 1Ds III and 1Ds II to have a similar amount of noise, you will not be disappointed. Up to and including ISO 400, they are about the same. Above ISO 400, the 1Ds III more frequently begins taking a very slight lead (less noise) and this lead increases to slight at ISO 3200. Of course, uprezzing the 1Ds II to the 1Ds III's pixel dimensions gives it a slightly increased disadvantage. Canon has always given us excellent low noise performance in their cameras - and unlike in the 1D II N to 1D III upgrade decision, noise performance is not a good reason alone to upgrade from the 1Ds II to the 1Ds III.

I mentioned that I compared the 1Ds III to the 5D, Canon's other current full frame DSLR, as well. With its larger individual pixel wells able to capture more light, it is expected that the 5D would be able to deliver better high ISO performance. Even with the disadvantage of being introduced over two years ago - a lifetime in digital SLR years - the 5D still turns in slightly better low noise performance at ISO 1600 and even slightly better performance at ISO 3200. Of course, as you can see with your own eyes in the above comparison links, the 5D does not come close to the 1Ds III in resolution. Uprezzing the 5D image to the pixel dimensions of the 1Ds III results in a softer image with similar amounts of noise.

Noise reduction anywhere in the imaging process can be used to virtually eliminate any amount of noise, but image detail is sacrificed in this process. I did all my testing with noise reduction off - you can turn it on in-camera or add it during post-processing for noise-reduce to your personal taste. I would rather have this option than to have the camera over-reduce noise and destroy image detail in the process.

Below, you can compare the 1Ds III ISO noise at full stop settings from ISO 100 through 3200 by moving your mouse over the ISO labels. This composition shows several smooth color tones/shades including those that show noise most readily. These images were taken from a long distance (slight atmospheric distortion is visible) and sharpening was set to 1 (very low). Increasing the sharpness setting increases the visible noise in the higher ISO shots. Notice how the small rivets in the door remain very identifiable even at ISO 3200.

1Ds III ISO Comparison

 
At identical camera settings (shutter, aperture and ISO) at and above ISO 400, the 1Ds III exposes .25 stops darker on average than the 1Ds II and .15 stops darker than the 5D. Canon reportedly is bringing their sensitivities in line with the industry standard - we have seen this on several of their recent models.

I like the colors produced by the 1Ds III better than those from the 1Ds II. The 1Ds III colors are slightly more vibrant with richer midtones. I have still not shot a good comparison to show the improvement in gradation from the 14-bit images.

The last generation of Canon Digital SLR Cameras has brought us improved (reduced) vignetting, but in this case, the 1Ds III performs similarly to the 1Ds II in my tests.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III top view

Max frame rate and buffer depth are among the very few features the 1Ds III does not rank best in class in. Its half-the-cost 1D Mark III sibling shoots twice as fast for 2.5x as many RAW frames. But, 5 fps is a nice increase from the 4 fps found in the Canon EOS 1DS Mark II. The spec'd RAW buffer depth is only increased by 1 over the 1Ds II, but considering that the 1Ds III is moving 14 bit, 21.1 MP files at this rate is impressive. A 1Ds III RAW file is about 10 MB larger than the equivalent 1Ds II RAW file - about 26 MB vs. 16 MB. A 16 GB CompactFlash card formats to a 618 shot RAW capacity on the 1Ds III compared to 891 on the 1Ds II. These larger files require more processing time on a computer and your hard drive(s) will be gasping for breath before long. But, the images are definitely worth this price to me.

Back to the frame rate and buffer depth - these numbers are dependent on the camera settings. Obviously, if you are shooting with a shutter speed of 1/2 sec, you are not going to get 5 frames per second from the camera. Other factors including high ISO settings, in-camera noise reduction, ... are going to reduce the number of shots in full burst mode.

At ISO 100 with a fast shutter speed and wide aperture, the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III regularly delivers 15 frames at 5 fps. Using an Extreme III 16GB CF card, another 2 shots were fired at about 1.3 seconds later and then an addition pair of shots were fired every 3 or 4 seconds. As this camera is compatible with UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access) for high-speed writing to the CF card, you could expect even better performance from a card such as the SanDisk Extreme IV CF Card. These cards do not make the camera buffer any larger, but they can empty it up to 2x faster. I don't have an Extreme IV yet, but probably will jump when a 16GB or larger model becomes available. The 1Ds III can transfer data 3x faster than the 1Ds II and 2x faster than the 1D III.

To hear the frame rate difference, listen to a burst comparison between the 1Ds III, 1Ds II and 5D below. I'll also include some of the other drive modes including the new "Silent Mode" (these are MP3 files) as well ...

1Ds Mark III --> 1Ds Mark II --> 5D Burst Comparison
1Ds Mark III 5fps Burst
1D Mark III Single Shot
1Ds Mark III Silent Mode

In the comparison audio above, a difference in shutter sounds is apparent. I'm always surprised at how greatly the sound varies between models. The 1Ds III has a solid, tight, deep sound while the 1Ds II has a higher pitch and the 5D sounds klunky.

While not fastest in its class in frame rate, the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III is fastest (or nearly so) in many other categories including shutter lag and viewfinder blackout time. These attributes make the camera very responsive - allowing the capture of a precise moment in time. Comparisons with other models can be made in the chart above.

The 1Ds III autofocuses extremely fast - noticeably faster than the 1Ds II and similar to the 1D III. One shot focus mode is very accurate. In light of the 1D III's initial AI Servo issues (in certain conditions), everyone was holding their breath to hear how the 1Ds III would perform in this mode. These two bodies share AF sensors, but their AI Servo AF algorithms are optimized to their respective continuous shooting speeds. It takes a lot of use under a wide variety of conditions to become completely familiar with a camera's AI Servo AF performance - and as I write this, the sun hasn't been out very much here in the last 8 weeks or so and summer heat levels are not coming soon to this location. But thus far, my 1Ds III is outperforming my 1Ds II by a nice margin - delivering a 10-15% or so improved keeper rate under tough AI Servo action situations.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III AF Points

The 1Ds Mark III retains the standard 45 focus point layout of the 1Ds II, but much has changed. You now can manually select only 19 of these AF points (as seen above), but they are all high-precision, cross-type points (both horizontal and vertical line sensitive) and spread out across the entire AF area. The AF area size is not changed from the 1Ds II, though I wish it were larger. I would like to be able to shoot a person vertically and have the top AF point at eye level. As it is, a small amount of re-framing (or cropping if tracking in AI Servo mode) is necessary.

Prior to having one of the Mark III 1-Series cameras, I typically used only the most-sensitive center AF point for tracking sports action. However, this method could be problematic - if the person was leaning too far forward or their arms got in the way, the athlete's eyes would not be in focus. This new design allows tracking with a cross-sensitive focus point located closer to where an athlete's head would be framed in a vertical orientation. The new selectable points are proving well-located for my other uses as well. I'll gladly trade my 45 selectable points for the more-sensitive 19 (the older 45 point AF clustered its cross-type focus points around the center point).

The center AF point is cross-type sensitive with an f/4 or wider lens while the other 18 manually-selectable AF points are cross-type sensitive when used with an f/2.8 or wider lens. The balance of the points (26) are horizontal line-sensitive (to f/5.6) assist AF points - able to be used in conjunction with the selectable points or when all points are active.

The 1Ds III's AF system is highly customizable through Custom Functions - you can tune AF to your liking within the many parameters given. For autofocusing in lowlight, the EOS-1Ds Mark III is twice as sensitive as the EOS-1Ds Mark II.

For even more precise autofocusing, the 1Ds III allows AF Microadjustment as we first saw in the 1D III. This is an excellent feature that lets you perfectly focus-calibrate either the camera or your lenses to the camera. If a camera or lens is significantly miscalibrated, it should be sent in for servicing, but for the rest, I suggest running the lenses through the easy focus calibration procedure.

1Ds III Focus Microadjustment Example

 
The example above shows the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II Lens at f/1.2 being run through the focus microadjustment process in increments of 5 (use the mouseover links below the image).

There are many methods to focus calibrate a lens to the 1Ds III, but they all have the same goal - find the sharpest setting for the combo. Under good light, setup a flat focus target with obvious, contrasting lines/patterns (a newspaper, print, poster or similar printed item will work fine). Lock your camera onto a good tripod at the distance you would be most likely to use the lens at (optimally) and aimed directly at the flat focus target. Get your exposure setting correct at the lens' widest aperture (makes evaluating the test pictures easier). I select center-point-only for my focus point and use the 2-sec self-timer drive mode (optimally with mirror lockup engaged). Then, go into the menu to C.Fn III-7 AF Microadjustment (Custom Function Menu III, function 7). Select "2:Adjust by lens". Then shoot a test shot from a -20 setting to a +20 setting using increments of 5 between each shot. Load the pics into a computer (or review at 100% on the LCD) and determine which 2 settings were sharpest at the location the focus point was placed. Now shoot the test again using the 6 settings between and including these two settings - adjust by 1 between each shot. You may want to shoot multiple test shots at each setting with the lens defocused to be ultra precise. Determine which setting was optimal and make it the final setting for the lens. Repeat the focus adjustment process for the rest of your lenses.

There are a few limitations to the AF Microadjustment feature. First, a maximum of 20 lenses can be calibrated to a camera. The 1Ds III recognizes a lens by the model (a lens + extender is counted as a separate lens). So, if you have two Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS Lenses that you use on the same body, you need to pick a calibration setting that is the best compromise between the two lenses. The AF Microadjustment feature does differentiate between the original, II and subsequent versions of all EF lenses. Since you can only select one calibration setting per lens, you are forced to select the focal length to calibrate to on a zoom lens (Canon suggests the longest focal length as this is the most focus-critical).

The EOS 1Ds Mark III incorporates a newly-developed, 63-zone metering sensor linked to the 19 AF points. Each iteration of Canon's metering systems makes life a little better. The 1Ds II worked very in this regard, but all improvements are welcomed (I'm not seeing any dramatic changes here).

The 1D III's Dynamic range is similar or very slightly wider than the 1Ds II. However, the 1D III holds highlights much better if the new Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) custom function is enabled (C.Fn II-3). To use HTP, an ISO setting of at least 200 must be selected (which is displayed as 2oo when HTP is enabled). The manual describes the HTP feature in this way: "The dynamic range is expanded from the standard 18% gray to bright highlights. The gradation between the grays and highlights becomes smoother." The feature works.

These images are crops from DPP (Digital Photo Pro - included software) screen captures. They are RAW images sized at 50% with DPP's highlight feature enabled - blown highlights are shown in red. The image was again reduced to 75% in Photoshop. The initial image below was taken at a barely highlight-holding exposure. If dark areas of the photo were being blocked at these camera settings, increasing the exposure by 1 stop would let in more light to accommodate the darks. Blown highlights are the obvious result. Enabling Highlight Tone Priority saves these highlights.

1Ds III Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) Comparison

 
It becomes much harder to blow the whites (solid 255,255,255 RGB values) with HTP enabled. However, it reduces the brightness of all highlights slightly - reducing the overall contrast. The other downside is that slightly more shadow noise is visible as can be seen below.

Once again, hovering your mouse over the links in this paragraph will change the image below to the one described in the link. These are 100% crops of a very dark OOF (Out Of Focus) area from the same images shown above - these are processed from RAW images through DPP. What you see is the worse-case for the HTP increase in shadow noise. Compare a barely highlight-holding exposure, increasing the exposure by 1 stop, Enabling Highlight Tone Priority and increasing the original exposure by 1 stop in DPP (results in more noise than with HTP enabled). These differences are subtle - you are going to need to look close to see them.

1Ds III Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) Shadow Noise Comparison

 
If you can hold the highlights with HTP set off, you will get crisper images, but for those tough situations, expect about 1 stop of highlight-holding performance at ISO 200. Highlight Tone Priority will especially appeal to some photographers and circumstances - for example, at weddings where highly reflective white wedding gowns show up next to black tuxes with great regularity.

Sometimes it takes a while to incorporate a new camera feature into a regular routine. HTP is one I am growing more and more fond of. Now that it is on my primary body, I'm sure I'll be utilizing it my shooting much more frequently.

Safety Shift is another new feature designed to keep exposures correct. ISO speed safety shift is provided via C.Fn I 8-2. If the correct exposure cannot be obtained within P, Tv, or Av mode, the ISO speed is automatically shifted within ISO 100 - 1600 to obtain the correct exposure. For me, this feature would be extremely useful in a new auto-ISO mode. Let me set the shutter speed and aperture and have the computer - I mean camera - determine the ISO for proper AE (Auto Exposure).

I love Canon's 1-Series bodies. They are solid and feel great in my hand. Let's take a look at the physical changes ... Use the mouseover feature on the links below the following image to compare the 1Ds III to the 1Ds II.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III Rear View Comparison

 
The above product pictures were not intended for a mouseover comparison, so the comparison is not technically perfect, but it is very close - close enough to see the differences. Of course, adding a portrait grip to the 5D changes everything.

The largest feature on the back of the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III (as seen above) is the new 3.0" TFT LCD display. It is 1.4x larger than the 2.5" LCD displays on some of Canon's latest digital SLRs (and MUCH larger than the 2" 1Ds II LCD). Unfortunately, the number of pixels remains the same as the 2.5" LCDs - 230,000. Still, the LCD image quality is excellent - and it is usable at an angle (140° both vertically and horizontally) and even in bright sunlight. The new display will make it easier to sell pictures right from the camera - or share the results with a client.

I rely heavily on my histogram when shooting. Unfortunately - and you've probably heard me complain about this before, I can't see the edges of the luminosity histogram in bright sunshine. I can see the shape of the histogram, but I can't tell where I am within the graph boundaries. The fix for this problem seems very simple - illuminate the boundary edges (maybe in red) or the background of the graph. Hopefully a firmware update will attend to this issue. A nice feature is that both luminous and RGB histograms can be displayed simultaneously. Something I don't like is that the 1Ds III does not remember separate last-used settings for after-shot image review and image playback. I like the image review to show me the histogram and the image playback to show me the full screen image - like my 1Ds II is capable of. The 1Ds III only remembers a single setting.

The Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III now has the ease of use of the 1D Mark III, 5D, 40D and many other Canon DSLRs. No longer do you have to hold a button down while making setting changes, navigating the menu, reviewing images ... When you press a button, its function remains active for 6 seconds - allowing you to make a setting change. This is a much more intuitive design in my opinion. As you can see above, the 1Ds III now sports a set button in the middle of the rear control dial - but no select button beside the LCD (as the 1Ds II has). Also obvious is that the large LCD forced the location change of the rest of the side buttons.

Replacing the Quick Control Dial (QCD) on/off switch is a Multi-Controller (joystick). The Multi-Controller is utilized for AF point selection (pressing toggles between center point only and all points active/automatic selection) and is the exclusive method of panning around a zoomed image. I find it faster to use the Main and Quick Control Dials for image panning, but the change isn't a major issue to me - seems it wouldn't be hard to make both methods work. Reaching the Multi-Controller while holding the camera in portrait orientation is a bit of a stretch for my medium-sized hand, but this becomes easier with use. The switch below the QCD is still a 3-position switch, but the previous AF-beep position feature is now in the menu and the QCD on/off setting replaces it. Also new on the back is the AF-On button for "autofocus with your thumb" or "back button focus".

1Ds Mark III and 1Ds Mark II comparison - Top View

The big button change on top is the addition of a dedicated ISO button. One-handed ISO setting changes are now easy. The top LCD now has a Mirror Lockup enabled indicator.

Like in the 1D Mark III, the 1Ds III's menu has been completely revamped. There are nine menu tabs that cover approximately 40 items - not including the 57 Custom Functions divided into four groups/menu options. After pressing (and releasing) the Menu button, use the Main Dial (on top) to select the tab, use the Quick Control Dial to select the option and then press Set (all without holding a button down).

One of the new tabs is entitled "My Menu". This menu allows you to place the menu options you use most under one tab. I love it - and use it far more than the rest of the tabs combined. Included on my "My Menu" are options such as Mirror Lockup, Format, Battery Info (more later) and Sensor Clean (more later).

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III Digital SLR Camera - Shot Info Display

Shown above are two of the image review/information screens available that make good use of the Mark III's new LCD real estate.

Also like in the 1D Mark III, Live View is available on the 1Ds III through a C-Fn. This feature is similar to what is available on point and shoot digital cameras - you see the 100% image preview on your LCD - before you take the picture. Usefulness is somewhat limited by Live View's MF-only (Manual Focus) restriction, but it is a great feature.

With Live View enabled and engaged (simply press the set button), frame your pre-focused shot without the camera at your eye - hold the 1Ds III overhead, over a fence, on the ground ... The LCD will show you 100% of the image to assist with proper framing. Press the DOF Preview button and you will see your DOF and a simulated exposure previewed on the LCD. Using Live View with the camera mounted on a tripod is where this feature gets really useful. Zoom the LCD to 5x or 10x and pan (using the Multi-Controller) to your desired point of focus. Then manually focus the lens to perfection. The LCD applies some sharpening to the 10x image preview, making it capable of very accurate/precise focusing (sharpening halos become slightly apparent on the LCD when perfect focus is obtained).

More Live View ... Attach a TV to the camera and preview your shot on the big screen. Attach a computer to the 1Ds III via the USB 2.0 port and load the included EOS Utility software. Now you see the Live View display on your monitor and have complete control - including exposure and firing - of the camera via the software. Pan to your desired in-focus points using the mouse and adjust the lens focus using the coarse and fine control buttons available - with no camera movement (Be sure the AF switch is in the "ON" position for this function).

1Ds III with EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L Lens and wireless tranmitter

Better yet, get the new WFT-E2A Dedicated Wireless File Transmitter (shown installed above) and control the camera wirelessly. "With the WFT-E2A wireless transmitter, USB 2.0 Hi-Speed external recording media can also be used." Supported media includes USB thumb drives and external hard drives.

One of the great features of a full frame DSLR is the large viewfinder. The viewfinder on Canon's 1Ds line has always been really nice. The 1Ds III goes one step better by increasing the VF size and magnification of the image seen in it (from .70x to .76x). It is big, bright and beautiful. The 1Ds III viewfinder is a significant and complicated part of the camera as can be seen in Canon's illustration below.

1Ds III Viewfinder - Exploded

The white paper linked below describes the new viewfinder in more detail. Also described is the additional shooting information presented in the viewfinder.

Another change noticeable in the top-view comparison picture above is the new flash hot shoe. This one should not show paint wear after lots of use - but more importantly, it matches up with the weather sealing of the Canon 580EX II Speedlite Flash and Canon Off-Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3. The 1Ds III now has the ability to control a compatible flash (580EX II at this time) from its own menu.

Like the 1-Series bodies that have gone before it, the 1Ds III is weather sealed - with or without a weather-sealed flash attached. Full sealing of course requires a water-resistant EF lens is attached to the camera, the entire camera-and-lens outfit will be water-resistant.

The Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III also inherits the pro-grade build quality of its predecessors. The chassis, mirror box, and exterior covers are now constructed of magnesium alloy - lighter than aluminum but still rugged. When you spend a lot of time with a camera, the quality build is especially appreciated - for both reliability and pleasure-of-use reasons. Like the 1D III, the 1Ds III is rated for a 50% longer shutter life than its predecessor.

ModelShutter Durability Rating
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D100,000
Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D100,000
Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D100,000
Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D50,000
Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D50,000
Canon EOS 70D100,000
Canon EOS 60D100,000
Canon EOS 50D100,000
Canon EOS 40D100,000
Canon EOS 30D100,000
Canon EOS 20D50,000
Canon EOS 7D150,000
Canon EOS 6D100,000
Canon EOS 5D Mark III150,000
Canon EOS 5D Mark II150,000
Canon EOS 5D100,000
Canon EOS 1D X400,000
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV300,000
Canon EOS 1D Mark III300,000
Canon EOS 1D Mark II N200,000
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III300,000
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II200,000

 

1Ds III and 1Ds II comparison - Front View

As you can see in the size comparison photos above, the body dimensions have not changed much from the 1Ds II - or from the other 1D-Series bodies. Weight is also similar.

ModelBody DimensionsCIPA Weight
Canon PowerShot G1 X4.6 x 3.2 x 2.6"(116.7 x 80.5 x 64.7mm)18.8 oz (534g)
Canon PowerShot G124.4 x 3.0 x 1.9"(112.1 x 76.2 x 48.3mm)13.7 oz (389g)
Canon PowerShot G94.2 x 2.8 x 1.7"(106.4 x 71.9 x 42.5mm)12.9 oz (365g)
Canon EOS M4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3"(108.6 x 66.5 x 32.3mm)10.5 oz (298g)
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D4.6 x 3.6 x 2.7"(116.8 x 90.7 x 69.4mm)14.4 oz (407g)
Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700D5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1"(133.1 x 99.8 x 78.8mm)20.5 oz (580g)
Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1"(133.1 x 99.8 x 78.8mm)20.3 oz (575g)
Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1"(133.1 x 99.5 x 79.7mm)20.1 oz (570g)
Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4"(128.8 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)18.7 oz (530g)
Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4"(128.8 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)18.6 oz (527g)
Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200D5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1"(129.6 x 99.7 x 77.9 mm)16.9 oz (480g)
Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1"(129.9 x 99.7 x 77.9mm)17.5 oz (495g)
Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4"(128.8 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)18.4 oz (522g)
Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4"(126.1 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)17.5 oz (497g)
Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6"(127 x 94 x 65mm)19.9 oz (564g)
Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6"(127 x 94 x 64mm)19.0 oz (539g)
Canon EOS 70D5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1"(139.0 x 104.3 x 78.5mm)26.7 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 60D5.7 x 4.2 x 3.1"(144.5 x 105.8 x 78.6mm)26.6 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 50D5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9"(145.5 x 107.8 x 73.5mm)29.1 oz (826g)
Canon EOS 40D5.7 x 4.4 x 2.9"(145.5 x 112 x 73.5mm)29.5 oz (836g)
Canon EOS 30D5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9"(144 x 105.5 x 73.5mm)28.1 oz (796g)
Canon EOS 20D5.6 x 4.2 x 2.8"(144 x 106 x 72mm)27.5 oz (781g)
Canon EOS 7D5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9"(148.2 x 110.7 x 73.5mm)32.2 oz (914g)
Canon EOS 6D5.7 x 4.4 x 2.8"(144.5 x 110.5 x 71.2mm)26.6 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 5D Mark III6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0"(152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm)33.5 oz (950g)
Canon EOS 5D Mark II6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0"(152 x 113.5 x 75mm)31.9 oz (904g)
Canon EOS 5D6.0 x 4.4 x 3.0"(152 x 113 x 75mm)32.0 oz (906g)
Canon EOS 1D X6.2 x 6.4 x 3.3"(158 x 163.6 x 82.7mm)54.0 oz (1530g)
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 157 x 80mm)48.5 oz (1374g)
Canon EOS 1D Mark III6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 157 x 80mm)47.6 oz (1349g)
Canon EOS 1D Mark II N6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 158 x 80 mm)55.5 oz (1574g)
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III6.1 x 6.3 x 3.1"(156 x 159.6 x 79.9mm)49.5 oz (1404g)
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 158 x 80 mm)55.2 oz (1564g)

 
Picking up the camera, there is an improved feel over my 1Ds II. After analyzing it, the physical change in grip is minor. I think the biggest difference is in the tacky-ness of the rubber grip - which Canon indicates remains essentially unchanged since the original 1D. I guess my 1Ds II grip needs a good cleaning.

The Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III incorporates an advanced self-cleaning sensor system similar to the one first delivered in the 1D Mark III. Ironic it was that Canon's newest and most advanced camera arrived with a VERY dirty sensor. And I spent a maddening 4 hours over 2 days getting this sensor to a condition that would normally call for a cleaning by my standards - and consumed over $40 in supplies doing it.

The problem was that oil was getting on my sensor brush as I attempted to remove the dirt. Of course, the oil then smeared across the sensor requiring a wet cleaning. The wet cleaning (I was evaluating Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs) left its own particles on the sensor. The SensorKlear couldn't get everything from the corners, so I needed the brush. Of course, the brush was contaminated and had to be cleaned and dried before each use. Even a thorough chamber cleaning (using a Visible Dust Chamber Clean Solution Kit) did not completely stop the oil from getting on the sensor brush - even when I used great care to not touch anything but the sensor when using it. I quit after a dry Sensor Swab gave me passable results at one point. It wasn't long until another cleaning was necessary.

I generally find that sensors only need periodic cleanings if you are careful - after you get past the initial cleanings. And a self-cleaning sensor should stay clean even longer. But delivering a camera in this condition is a great way to irritate your customers. One again, I have the "Sensor Clean" menu option on my "My Menu".

The automatic sensor cleaning is configurable in the menu, but the default 3.5 sec cleaning (indicated on the LCD) at startup can fool your mind into thinking the camera is slow to start up. In reality, it is ready to go in a fraction of a second - you just need to press a button to bypass the cleaning (all Canon DSLRs are shot-priority).

Canon LP-E4 and NP-E3 Battery Comparison

Batteries in general are not very exciting, but this one is exceptional. The new Li-ion Canon LP-E4 (above right) is a huge improvement over the prior NiCad 1-Series camera power pack, the Canon NP-E3 (above left). The most obvious improvement is the smaller size (40% less volume) - which comes with a lighter weight (46% lighter - 6.3 oz/180 g vs. 11.8 oz./335 g). My ready-for-action 1Ds III weighs 5.6 oz (162g) less than my 1Ds II - the difference is nice. This is great, but there is much more to this feature.

Even from a very abusive use of the first charge, the LP-E4 battery delivered 1817 shots from the 1Ds Mark III with 12% battery life remaining on the first charge. I say abusive as I spent many hours cleaning the sensor, used Live View, shot in the cold, did lots of chimping, shot with IS lenses, did lots of AI Servo focusing ... Canon (using the CIPA standard) rates the battery life at approximately 1800 at 23°C/73°F and 1400 at 0°C/ 32°F. So, we get a much longer battery life in a smaller and lighter package.

This battery is also intelligent. The Battery Info menu option gives you detailed battery information including remaining capacity (as 6-level icon and in 1% numeric increments), shutter count, and recharge performance (3 levels).

Also new is that a button press is no longer needed to remove the battery from the camera.

It is always a good idea to have a backup battery, but you won't need many spare LP-E4s. Two battery packs can be charged in succession (not simulatenously) the included (and large) LC-E4 charger. It takes about 120 min. to recharge a single battery pack.

Need to remember something about a particular shot - such as the names of the people in it? Record an up-to-30 second voice memo using the built-in microphone. The WAV format sound clip will be attached to the image file.

There are so many other features that I could talk about, but I'll let you read the very informative 1Ds III white paper and owner's manual linked in the "More Reviews & Information" section at the end of this review for the rest of the information.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III with a EF 50mm f/1.2 L Lens mounted- front view

Price (nearly 2x) is the other difference between the 1Ds III and the 1D III - the price tag will be the biggest obstacle for most people considering the purchase of this camera. However, as we saw with the 1D Mark III, demand is high enough that the camera remains unavailable for purchase at this time - 6 weeks after initial shipments were made. Get on a list if you want one anytime soon.

I've been anxiously awaiting this camera body since the Canon EOS 1D Mark III was released. The 1D Mark III made my 1Ds Mark II seem somewhat antiquated - due for an update, but I continued to use it as my primary body because of the full frame sensor and significantly higher resolution. And it is still a great camera. But, the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III now gives me the best of everything (well, 10 fps would be nice) - and I'm lovin it.

Bringing you this site is my full time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

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