Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Review

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The 2020 Summer Olympics are being held in Tokyo and Canon is a gold sponsor for this major world event. Since 1989, Canon EOS-1 cameras have been the first choice for professionals photographing this and other events of similar media importance. The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II replaced the 4-year-old Canon EOS-1D X just prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics and the Mark II reaches 4 years of age prior to the 2020 event. All this adds up to little surprise that a new ultimate, best-ever Canon EOS-1 camera would be announced at this time.

As I said in the predecessor review, when getting the shot is of utmost importance, the most current Canon 1-Series camera should be at the top of your very short shopping list. Canon 1-Series bodies have long represented the pinnacle of camera performance, featuring impressive speed, fast and precise autofocusing, and dependable reliability. Proof of such photographer trust is bolstered by the gear in use at important-to-the-media events. When heavy media coverage is present at events such as the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Cup, etc., Canon 1-Series cameras always have a very high percentage of representation. The most prominent camera choice of those challenged to capture some of the world's most-widely-valued images is obvious.

Like its predecessors at their introductions, the 1D X III promises to be the best sports/action/media/wildlife camera Canon (and arguably, anyone) has ever introduced. While the III retains the excellent, tough, weather-sealed, very mature exterior design of the 1D X II, promising professionals a simple transition, the internals of the 1D X III are vastly brand new and this camera is feature-loaded, including a blazing fast 16/20 fps shooting speed with a new, high-resolution AF system keeping subjects precisely focused and new Smart Controllers to make AF point selection incredibly fast. DIGIC X power and a new imaging sensor featuring an innovative new lowpass filter ensures optimal image quality. Those interested in movie capture should find their eyebrows raising at the in-camera-recorded 5.5k uncropped RAW movie capability.

Before continuing the review, I'll take a short tangent to share how this camera's name is derived: In competition, "1" is usually the spot you want. It is the same in Canon's DSLR lineup: The single digit "1" means top-of-the-line, best available, you're going to love it. For only 1-Series cameras, a "-" goes between EOS and the "1". The "D" means "Digital" (yes, there were 1-Series film SLR cameras). The "X" represents a "crossover" that took place, representing the merging of the 1D (with a 1.3x FOVCF sensor) and the 1Ds (with a 1.0x full-frame sensor) product lines. The "X" also initially represented the Roman numeral 10, representing the 10th generation of Canon pro cameras — starting with the F1 of the 70s. While the latter representation no longer works (the succeeding camera was not called the "XI"), the eXtreme referral still does. The naming approach Canon often gives to a new version of an existing higher-end model line camera is to add a Mark number reference, a "Mark III" in this case.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Front

Summary of Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Features

  • High Image Quality with New 20.1 Megapixel Full-frame CMOS Sensor Combined with Newly Designed low Pass Filter.
  • New DIGIC X Image Processor with an ISO range of 100-102400; Expandable to 50-819200.
  • New 191-point optical viewfinder AF System Capable of Tracking a Subject's Head and Face using Deep Learning.
  • New Smart Controller Built into the AF-On Button for Fast Control of the AF Point Selection
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF for Fast and Accurate Auto Focus in Live View Using up to 3869 Manual AF Positions and up to 525 Automatic Positions Covering 90%x100% of the Image Area at an EV of -6 ~ 18.
  • High-Speed Continuous Shooting of up to 16 fps Using the Viewfinder and up to 20 fps in Live View (with Mechanical or Silent Shutter), both Featuring Full AF/AE Tracking.
  • Achieves a Maximum Burst Rate of 1000 images or more (RAW+JPEG) in Continuous Shooting with Dual CFexpress Card Slots.
  • 12-bit 5.5K RAW Video Internal Recording and Uncropped Oversampling 4K 60p with Canon Log, 10-bit 4:2:2.
  • Enhanced Operating Controls.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS Technology.
  • Faster Speed and Improved User Interface for Networking with Optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E9 or with Built-in Ethernet Port.
  • IPTC Tags can be applied with a Compatible Mobile Device or PC Connection.
  • Impressive Durability including Dust- and Weather- resistance.

Sensor and Image Quality

The 1D X Mark III gets a brand-new Canon CMOS imaging sensor. Interesting is that the 20.1 MP resolution remains essentially the same (the 1D II N was the only previous 1D-Series camera to pause the regular resolution increases) with the same final image pixel dimensions. This relatively low resolution, the lowest among Canon's current DSLR cameras, indicates that those using this camera are more interested in speed and performance than ultra-high resolution. This camera provides imagery that is adequate for full-page and double-page magazine spreads.

ModelFOVCFSensorPixel SizePixels/MegapixelsViewfinderDLA*
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.6µm5472 x 364820.1 .76x100%f/10.6
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.6µm5472 x 364820.2 .76x100%f/10.6
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 5D Mark IV1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm5.36µm6720 x 448030.4 .71x100%f/8.6
Canon EOS 7D Mark II1.6x22.4 x 15.0mm4.1µm5472 x 364820.2 1.0x100%f/6.6
* Learn more about DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture)
View the full Canon EOS-1D X Mark III specifications to compare additional cameras.

One might surmise that the 1D X III's image quality would be equal to that of the 1D X II (on-sensor technology utilization typically accounts for slight differences). However, that is not the case and the 1D X III's image quality is promised to be improved.

According to Canon USA's Rudy Winston, "moiré is reduced to approximately 1/4th the level previously possible." Comparing the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III to the II using the site's resolution tool, we see the 1D X III more cleanly resolving the fine converging lines in the top-most crop.

Some of this improvement is due to a newly developed 16-point lowpass filter that provides optimized point separation in 8 radial directions, increasing the sense of resolution and reducing moiré.

The powerful new DIGIC X processor has also been utilized for improved sharpness, for noise reduction, and for Digital Lens Optimizer processing. Compared to the dual DIGIC 6+ processors used for image processing in the 1D X Mark II, the 1D X III's DIGIC X processor is up to 3.1x faster for image processing and the computational processing performance is up to 380x faster. Note that it is easier to get pixel-sharp images from a low-resolution imaging sensor than it is to get pixel-sharp images from a considerably-higher resolution imaging sensor.

The 1D X III gets a 1-stop increase in its normal ISO range with ISO 102400 now included. An expanded range down to 50 and up to crazy-high 819200 (H3) is also available in full-stop increments. The marketing department is always quick to state a camera's ISO range, but ... the usable settings within that range are what really matter and I immediately dismiss the highest stops as having a too-low SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio).

The Kodak color block test chart is a rather boring subject that I photograph for hours during each camera test. Sensor technology improvements (including onboard circuitry) implemented by sensors seldom show up on a specification chart, but they do show up in pictures of a color block chart.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III ISO Noise Comparison

Important to understand is that the site's "Standard" color block noise test results include no noise reduction – a key factor that may cause the results to appear dissimilar to those seen elsewhere. Since noise reduction can be applied to any images during post-processing, what matters most to me, what differentiates cameras, is how clean the base/RAW images are. While noise reduction can improve an image, noise reduction can be (and usually is) destructive to fine detail. My strategy is to apply light noise reduction only when needed and I do this only during post-processing of RAW images.

When using the comparison feature of the site's camera noise tool, let your eyes tell you the results. The even colors found in these test charts make noise very apparent relative to most real-life subjects as detail in a scene will far better hide noise. If you can't readily pick out the difference in any color block comparison, it is unlikely that you will be able to recognize the difference in real-world results.

The base ISO setting (ISO 100 with the current EOS models) is always my preferred setting for very clean, low noise results. Not all situations accommodate ISO 100; noise increases as ISO settings go up and the 1D X III delivers great image quality at very significantly higher settings.

At ISO 800, noise is becoming just perceptible in smooth colored areas of the frame. By ISO 3200, you are going to notice some noise, though I find ISO 3200 images very usable. Noise levels at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800 become increasingly annoying, but ... these images are still decent with some noise reduction added, especially when viewed at less than 100% resolution. ISO 25600 image noise reaches ugly status, with significant noise reduction and reduced final output size being keys to this setting's usability. Results from settings over ISO 25600 (and there are many) have low usability, aside from the marketing/bragging rights aspect.

ISO 819200? That setting sounds amazing until you look at an image captured at this level:

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III ISO 819200 Noise Example

I need to be convinced of even a fringe use for this image quality. Just because the setting is available doesn't mean that you should use it.

How do the 1D X Mark III's noise levels compare to the 1D X Mark II? The III's noise level seems to be similar to the II but the noise seems to be rendered slightly sharper in the default processing.

A large number of 1D X Mark III noise test results captured using other settings are available. The additional results were either captured in JPG or RAW format and use Canon's default USM (Unsharp Mask) strength setting of "4" (too high) or a lower "2" setting ("S=2"). Examples of a range of NR (Noise Reduction) settings are added into the mix for hours of fun to be had.

Regarding high ISO noise, you can have smooth or you can have detailed. Pick one. While not as black and white as that scenario implies, the amount of noise reduction applied to an image requires consideration of the overall concept. The amount of noise reduction ideally applied to an image is not necessarily directly dependent on the ISO setting alone. You may find that some subjects take noise reduction better than others. As a generalization, I prefer a low amount of noise reduction when higher ISO settings are used.

All of Canon's EOS cameras provide a wide range of noise reduction, sharpness, and other image quality setting adjustments, enabling you to dial the results into perfection. That these settings can be adjusted in-camera is particularly important for those requiring compressed JPG format images right out of the camera (without using the camera's own RAW image conversion capabilities).

Note that this camera does not have Multi-shot Noise Reduction (MSNR).

Provided in the noise tool are many "Exposed * EV" result sets. These images were intentionally over or underexposed at capture and adjusted to the standard brightness during post-processing. These results would be similar to getting the exposure wrong during capture, increasing brightness of shadow detail or recovering highlight details.

In general, underexposing an image results in increased noise in the adjusted image and shadow details may be lost. The risk of overexposing an image is that highlight detail can be lost.

The 1D X III results show that underexposing by 3 stops at ISO 100 results in very little (if any) noise penalty vs. using the correct 3-stop-higher ISO setting for the capture, even at high ISO settings. ISO 819600 underexposed by three stops required 1/8000 sec and 1/3-stop more than the f/32 available with half of the light turned off.

Overexposing an image has a mildly positive effect on noise levels until highlights become clipped and then overall image quality suffers. In the +1 EV ISO 50 results, we see this extended setting's lower dynamic range being exceeded. Most other ISO settings have few negative consequences at +1 EV. At +2 EV, highlights are beginning to be clipped at ISO 100. This performance compares well against the EOS R and against the 5D Mark IV.

The 1D X Mark III supports HDR PQ HEIF 10-bit recording. Your first question is likely "What is HDR PQ?" HDR PQ (Perceptual Quantization) is a new gamma curve based on the characteristics of human eyesight. It supports HDR recording at ITU-R BT.2100 standard (PQ).

Your next question is likely "What is HEIF?" HEIF stands for "High Efficiency Image File Format", a standard created by the MPEG group. As with JPEG, HEIF is a file format used to store image data after the image development process is complete. While JPEG files use an 8-bit YCbCr 4:2:2 lossy compression scheme, HEIF uses a 10-bit YCbCr 4:2:2 HEVC compression algorithm (also lossy), complying with the ITU-R BT.2100 HDR standard. HEIF provides up to 4x more precision in image data gradation and a wider color range than sRGB and Adobe RGB can store. HEIF files are containers, able to store multiple images (typically compressed with a codec such as HEVC (H.265)) along with image derivations (cropping, rotation), media streams (timed text, audio), depth information, image sequences (like a burst of images, supports animation), image data (EXIF), and more. Huge is that, thanks in part to computing power improvements, HEIF files are compressed to a significantly smaller size than JPEG files, about 50% smaller at similar quality levels. Along with all of the other benefits, Apple migrating to HEIF from JPEG means we can expect this standard to take hold in the industry.

Per Canon, "HEIF files are intended to be viewed on HDR-compliant displays and monitors."

The Activate HVEC codec option is available in the DPP help menu and once selected, the Canon HEVC Activator is downloaded (serial number required). Once that app was installed, DPP understood the .HIF file format and the HDR PQ images look remarkably good (including those captured in RAW format). I was not planning to share the results of this testing and the scene is of low photogenic quality with unstable lighting, but ... I thought the camera's performance warranted sharing with you. The following are downsized screen captures (at review time, Photoshop cannot open .HIF files). Look closely at the outdoor brightness while the indoor blacks retain detail (that detail more obvious in the full-size images).

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III HDR PQ

HTP refers to the Highlight Tone Priority feature that has been included in EOS models for a very long time.

An interesting and welcomed new EOS image quality feature arriving with the 1D X Mark III is a clarity slider, adjusting the contrast level in mid-tone areas only. This feature is also now available in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP).

I still love the color Canon EOS cameras produce. Getting proper color balance is one of my personal-biggest post-processing challenges and Canon's color science makes me look good in this regard.

I shoot in RAW format nearly 100% of the time, but for those that do not, having lens corrections available in-camera is a very positive benefit. Lens corrections available in the 1D X III during image capture are peripheral illumination, chromatic aberration, distortion and diffraction along with a DLO (Digital Lens Optimizer) feature.

While I thought the 1D X Mark III may bring us decreased noise and more greatly increased dynamic range (there is slight improvement) over its predecessor, I'm still very happy with the sharp, great-colored images this camera is producing.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Body

Frame Rate, Buffer Depth, Shutter

We have come a long way from the 1989-era EOS-1 professional film camera's 2.5 fps continuous shooting, reaching 5.5 fps with the power booster. We all thought that the 12 frames per second image capture rate capability of the 1D X was incredibly fast and it didn't take long to get used to the extra 2 fps delivered by the 1D X II (the difference was noticeable). The 1D X III does that again with a 2 fps frame rate advantage over the 1D X II, taking in a blazing 16 images per second with full autofocus and autoexposure functionality.

If 16 fps is still not fast enough, open the mirror and shoot at 20 fps in live view, optionally in full silent mode, and still with full autofocus and autoexposure functionality.

Sometimes the difference between an average image and a great one is separated by milliseconds. This camera is all about speed and it is an awesome choice for catching the perfect peak action moment.

ModelFPSMax JPGMax RAWShutter Lag
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III16/20>1000>100029-55ms
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II14/16140/Full/Full59/73/17036-55ms
Canon EOS-1D X12/141803836-55ms
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV10.01212840-55ms
Canon EOS-1D Mark III10.01103040-55ms
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV7.0Full1758ms
Canon EOS 7D Mark II10.01303155ms
View the full Canon EOS-1D X Mark III specifications to compare additional cameras.

When an image is being captured by a DSLR camera, the mirror must be raised. When the mirror is raised, conventional AE and phase-detection AF do not work and the subject is not visible due to viewfinder blackout. With this camera capturing images at such a fast rate, those issues become a greater concern. To this end, Canon has developed a new mirror drive mechanism that reduces the viewfinder blackout and increases the time that AF and AE have to perform their task.

With a 5x larger buffer than the 1D X Mark II, the 1D X III's buffer is difficult to and unlikely to be overrun.

Always beneficial for understanding the speed of a specific frame rate is a visual example. Drag your mouse over the labels under the following image for a visual look at the 16 fps rate.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III 16 fps Frame Rate Example

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16
17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24

Those 24 examples represent 1.5 seconds of image capture. This horse was moving very fast. While the AF system is not challenged by a subject moving across the frame (not changing distances quickly), this subject was quite challenging to keep in the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens frame. Fortunately, the short viewfinder blackout time for each shot was not a hindrance There are certain fast-cantering horse positions that I like better than others (such as #9) and the 16 fps rate makes capture of those favorites easy.

Shutter lag? What shutter lag? When the shutter release is pressed, you expect the camera to capture the picture immediately and the faster immediately is, the more likely you are going to catch the perfect action shot. Canon's 1-Series cameras have consistently provided a very short shutter lag. The 29ms number (with decreased shutter lag enabled) is Canon's fastest ever and the 55ms (disabled) spec is still very fast and the same as the 1D X Mark II. While there technically is a lag, this camera is extremely responsive and that capability is realized audibly

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR Camera Shutter Lag Sample Picture

To prove out this camera's ability to catch an image immediately upon shutter release (or perhaps to save some space on my quickly-filling CFexpress memory card), I shot some of the high jump event in one shot mode. As long as I was paying close attention, it was not hard to catch the peak of the action with a single shutter release press.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Camera Sound

Turn up the volume (unless you are at work). Following are links to MP3 files containing the sounds of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III One Shot Mode

Set the camera to high-speed continuous shooting mode and press the shutter release and this is the awesome, crazy sound you hear until a) you release the shutter button or b) your memory card is full.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Burst Mode

Do the extra two frames per second over the 1D X II make a difference? Your ears will say "Yes!"

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, then Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Live view shooting with the mirror locked up provides quieter options and optional is a completely silent fully-electronic shutter. The ability to shoot in complete silence is a huge value for quiet events such as weddings, media events, and when skittish wildlife are the subjects. Additional benefits include reduced shutter wear and vibration.

With no sound or other haptic feedback, knowing precisely when the image is being captured can be problematic and adding a "beep" is counter to the goal of the silent shutter. Canon handles this issue nicely with a white frame appearing in the perimeter of the LCD the instant the image is being captured.

Anti-flicker shooting is not compatible with the 1D X III's silent shutter.

Other downsides of an electronic shutter are primarily related to the current-technology line-by-line reading of the imaging sensor data. Fast side-to-side subject or camera movement will result in an angular-shifted image with vertically straight lines becoming noticeably slanted (with the camera in horizontal orientation). However, this camera's performance in this regard is quite good from a relative perspective.

Understand that the traditional second curtain of a mechanical shutter chasing the first curtain can produce the same effect. However, the difference between mechanical shutter (with electronic first curtain shutter) and electronic shutter performance in this regard has historically been quite big.

I did not encounter the issue with this camera, but certain light pulsing can influence image results, potentially showing banding. Try different shutter speeds if this problem is encountered. Bokeh may be found to have slightly decreased quality when using the electronic shutter.

The 1D X III matches the 1D X II's 1/8000 max shutter speed and max X-sync of 1/250.

File Size and Media

The following table shows comparative RAW file sizes for a photo of a standard in-studio setup with a moderately-high amount of detail taken with the referenced camera. Note that I did not include the 819600 ISO file size in this table.

Model / File Size in MB @ ISO:(MP)100200400800160032006400128002560051200102400204800409600
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III(20.1)24.725.225.426.026.927.828.930.331.933.735.936.338.4
Canon EOS-1D X III CRAW(20.1)13.914.214.515.015.816.616.516.215.915.816.115.015.4
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II(20.2)24.624.925.326.026.827.929.131.033.436.338.440.844.7
Canon EOS-1D X(18.1)23.723.924.324.825.726.727.929.731.834.537.441.3 
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV(16.1)22.022.222.823.424.325.326.728.530.834.235.9  
Canon EOS-1D Mark III(10.1)13.013.313.814.515.316.417.8      
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III(21.1)25.626.527.429.031.033.4       
Canon EOS 5Ds(50.6)64.765.766.969.272.576.681.688.1     
Canon EOS 5Ds R(50.6)65.266.467.669.873.077.281.988.4     
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV(30.4)38.839.139.640.441.643.545.548.051.455.159.8  
RAW file sizes increase with: 1. Resolution 2. Bit Depth (more is better/larger) 3. Detail (noise adds detail, so high ISO file sizes increase) 4. Lack of compression.

For a Canon ISO 100 non-lossy-compressed RAW image, the file size can be estimated at 1.2MB per megapixel. From a relative perspective, 20.1 MP images do not create large files. However, capturing them at 16 or 20 fps without reaching a buffer full scenario and especially the capture of 5.5K/60p RAW movies places a huge burden on the memory card speed and the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III solves that problem by writing image files to small, durable, pin-less CFexpress memory cards (type B only, XQD not supported), the memory card format positioned to succeed CFast 2.0 and XQD 2.0 as the leading format for high-speed data transfer (theoretically up to 2GB/sec.). CFexpress 1.0 cards have a maximum transfer speed of 1.97 GB/s vs. 600 MB/s for CFast 2.0.

These cards format very quickly, as mentioned, there is practically no buffer delay after capturing a picture, and with the (originally) included USB-C CFexpress memory card reader, image files are imported very fast.

With dual CFexpress card slots provided, files can be written to both cards simultaneously (for redundancy) or sequentially (for increased capacity). Note that the dual card slots support identical memory card formats, a very positive change from the 1D X II (and most other Canon dual memory card cameras). While the photographer no longer has a choice of which card format to use (backward compatibility is not available) and may need to remember which card was in a particular slot, no longer must dual card formats be supported, including the spare cards and the card readers in the kit.

Most photographers are not going to have CFexpress cards (or readers) in their inventory and CFexpress cards are not inexpensive. Increased capabilities brought by new technology sometimes have collateral costs. Fortunately, Canon is (at least initially) including a SanDisk 64 GB CFexpress memory card (formats to an initial 2,787 RAW image capacity) and the mentioned USB-C CFexpress memory card reader.

Introduced with the Canon EOS M50 was the .CR3 RAW format and the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III gets this feature. This RAW file format enables new features including C-RAW, compressed RAW with lossy compression vs. the normally compressed RAW with non-lossy compression. Instead of the not-full-featured small and medium RAW formats Canon formerly offered, C-RAW provides full RAW file support along with an as-tested 44% file size reduction over Canon's already efficient RAW file format size. The math adds up quickly, significantly impacting both memory card and hard disk storage capacity requirements. With the M50 review, what started as a quick evaluation of this new feature turned into a sizable project. Check out the article: Should I Use Canon's C-RAW Image File Format? for more information.

Autofocus

Accurate focusing is an extremely critical component of image capture and those choosing this camera typically have extreme AF performance needs. As you likely expected by now, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, featuring a completely new AF system, raises the AF performance bar.

At the base of this system, the line sensor technology seen in prior models has been replaced by a new high-resolution square pixel AF sensor design based on an image sensor and powered by a DIGIC 8 processor. While the overall spread of the AF points has not increased (that would have been welcomed with mirrorless models and this model in Live View mode having a big point spread advantage), the up to 191 AF points, including up to 155 cross-type AF points and 1 dual cross-type point (varies by lens), provides a significant density increase, permitting the camera to be more aware of what is happening in the scene.

The smaller AF sensor pixels sharpen AF resolution by about 28x, permitting focusing on lower contrast, harder to detect subjects and detecting slighter subject distance changes, improving subject tracking and recognition. This camera seems able to immediately focus on anything I point it at with a single point, more often successfully locking focus where expanded point selection might have been needed in the past. Along with deep learning technology being incorporated (provided to the camera — not AI), face detection has been improved with head detection now included. While this technology is not up to the eye detection feature level of the Live View Dual Pixel CMOS AF, it works very well, locking on a subject's face and tracking it throughout the frame. Surely aided by the AF sensor's pixel density, the camera stays focus-locked on the subject's head when they turn away, even if moving across the frame while doing so (with all AF points active).

Those photographing ice skating, gymnastics, and other events that feature participants that turn frequently will very much appreciate the face and head detection feature. Shot put throwers go into a very fast spin prior to releasing their weighted ball and I thought this would be a good test of the head and face detection feature. With all points active, the face detection usually locked AF onto the thrower's face but most of the throwers ducked low enough that their bodies blocked their faces when spinning. Still, the AF system worked well and a solid number of the throwers were in focus when releasing.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR Camera Shot Put Throw Sample Picture

The fast frame rate was extremely useful here with an image of the shot leaving the thrower's hand captured in most burst sequences.

AF speed is a non-issue with this camera.

Impressively, this camera's entire AF area supports f/8 AF with 65 points retaining cross-type functionality, a capability that especially wildlife photographers are going to appreciate.

AF area settings include Spot AF, Single-point AF, AF point Expansion (4-point surround), AF point Expansion (8-point surround), Zone AF, Large Zone AF (all AF points divided into three large zones), and Automatic AF point selection (all AF points available). Selected AF points and areas are illuminated in red.

A new AI Servo AF algorithm promises improved performance including when shooting through heat haze and when the subject is moving away from the camera. The AF Case settings are back, removing Case 5 and 6 and adding AF Case A (Auto), instructing the camera to analyze the scene and optimize the settings in real-time.

The "AF Point auto switching" case parameter has been removed from the individual cases and replaced by a new AF menu option "Subject Tracking Settings". This new menu option has two sub-menu settings. The first is "AF Priority (People)" and when enabled, the AF system attempts to recognize and focus on faces. The other sub-menu option is "Subject Switching" with three options — Disable, Enable (slow), and Enable. When disabled, the AF points will steadfastly attempt to stay on the initial subject. When Enable (slow) is selected, AF will tend to stay on the initial subject and when Enable is selected, the camera will readily change AF points to the most obvious and closest subject.

The 1D X III significantly expands the AF luminance range to EV -4 - 21 from EV -3 - 18 on the 1D X II. This camera focuses in extremely low light even with an f/2.8 lens mounted. This is a very impressive capability for an optical viewfinder implementation.

We have been seeing excellent live view AF performance from Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS technology and this camera gets a significantly improved DPAF experience, including servo AF. The 1D X III's Live View AF point spread has been increased, now covering 90% (horizontal) x 100% (vertical) of the imaging area, up from 80% x 80% on the 1D X II. The Live View AF methods have also been greatly improved and expanded, now including Face detection + Tracking AF (utilizing 525 AF segments — the EOS R has 143), Spot One-point AF (3,869 selectable points), Area expanded AF (cross/periphery), Zone AF, and Large zone AF. Eye and head (used when the face disappears) detection have been added to face detection for improved performance. I've been loving the EOS R's eye detection AF performance and the 1D X III improves on this technology. Still missing is animal eye AF (though Sony's implementation of this feature seems to be an early technology introduction).

There are many of us anxious to see Canon introduce a professional-grade mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Simply removing the mirror box and replacing the OVF with an EVF would create an impressive professional mirrorless model.

Live View AF supports f/11 max aperture lens combinations. The luminance range supported by Live View AF has been increased to EV -6 - 18 from EV -3 - 18. EV -6 is really dark — about the amount of light provided by a half-moon in a dark sky location.

Awesome new 1D X Mark III AF features are the Smart Controllers built into the AF-ON buttons. Easily thumb accessible, the Smart Controllers optically detect lateral finger movement sliding over them and the selected focus point or area changes accordingly. This feature is an exceptionally valuable one and especially valuable is being able to press the AF-ON button while moving the focus point, a feature that previously required two right thumbs.

When using the optical viewfinder, the Smart Controllers are available and functional while the shutter release is not pressed, is half-pressed or is fully pressed and when the AF-ON button is not pressed or pressed. When shooting action in AI Servo mode and using a continuous frame rate, the right thumb can be adjusting the focus point as the action unfolds. There is some relatively minor acclimation required to use the Smart Controllers. These buttons have enough side-to-side flex to make fine-tuning adjustments slightly more challenging than fast, large adjustments. The flex slightly helps to avoid inadvertent changes when pressing the AF-ON button and the flex is gone when the button is fully pressed. Coarse Smart Controller changes and a higher skill level is needed to make changes during an action sequence. Still, these controllers are awesome. The Smart Controllers still work well with gloves on (tighter gloves are easier to use than loose-fitting gloves). All of my other DSLRs are suddenly lacking an important feature.

Note that the smart controllers work in Live View but only when the AF-ON and shutter release buttons are not being pressed and they are inactive when first entering Live View mode or after a metering timeout. There seem to be some opportunities missed here. The Smart Controllers make panning around a zoomed-in image very easy during playback.

To use the Smart Controller requires the Custom Functions Tab 7 Smart controller menu option to be set to On and the Custom Controls Smart controller option set to Direct AF point selection. While the Smart Controllers have two steps to enable them and both are separate from the AF-ON Custom Controls programming feature, if the AF-ON controls are set to off in the Custom Controls menu option, the Smart Controllers are also turned off (in both places). Those not using back-button AF would appreciate being able to disable the AF-ON functionality while leaving the Smart Controllers enabled. This seems like a simple option to provide – disassociate the OF-ON Custom Control from the Smart Controllers enable/disable function.

When using a compatible lens (currently the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens and Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens), Electronic Full-time Manual Focus can be enabled, making manual focusing always available via the electronic focusing ring.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR Camera Duck Sample Picture

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III arrived mid-afternoon and immediately the battery went on the charger. Setting up the camera came next (didn't wait for a full battery charge) and shooting the noise test followed. Late-night packing ensued and the road trip started the next morning.

The goal of this trip was to give the 1D X III a workout and the Chesapeake Bay winter ducks seemed a good choice.

One of the challenges I frequently encounter when photographing ducks is selecting the correct focus point(s) in time to get an image before the duck changes direction again. Those webbed feet can make almost immediate 180° turns but the 1D X III's new Smart Controller really is a game-changer in DSLR focus point selection.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III American Widgeon Sample Picture

To gain a baseline performance result set, I used Canon's default AF Case 1 Versatile multi-purpose setting and this worked well for the ducks, although Case 3 would have been an even better option, increasing tracking sensitivity and acceleration/deceleration tracking to better keep up with the fast, erratic-movement.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Horse Sample Picture

The cantering/galloping horses always present an AF challenge to the camera. Not only does the subject close distance rapidly but it also bounces up and down. Using Case 1, the 1D X III tracked this subject exceptionally well ... until the bouncing ears began to cover the center-top-most AF point being used. I can't fault the camera for this issue but Case 2 with reduced tracking sensitivity (or customized for even less, 1 vs. 2) would have been the better choice to avoid the obstruction issue. When I did my job well, the camera performed remarkably.

A fast-moving distant subject is not challenging to track, but a fast-moving close subject raises the bar dramatically. Not only is the subject changing relative distance much faster but depth of field becomes much thinner, requiring increased precision.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR Close Cantering Horse Sample Picture

The 1D X III could track focus with the 400mm lens at f/2.8 until the cantering/galloping horse was very close as illustrated above.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Indoor Track Sample Picture

Photographing a 2-day NCAA Division I conference indoor track championship meet pushed my 1D X III's shutter actuation count up by another 2,500 images. The above image of the venue was captured by resting the 1D X III and Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens on an upper level handrail. While in this position, I captured an interesting Live view 20 fps sequence of a hurdles race.

The first camera-related thing I learned on this day was that my Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM Lens front focuses on this specific camera. I initially thought the camera was performing poorly but the AF calibration with this lens proved to be the issue. I know, I should have tested all combinations before arriving on site.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Runner Sample Picture

The 1D X III and 400 f/2.8L IS II combination performed amazingly well in this dark environment, tracking fast 60m sprint and hurdle runners from the beginning of the race through the finish line with all or nearly all images being tack sharp.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III 16 fps Frame Rate Example

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

To add a reference to the ambient light levels, the settings used for this capture were f/2.8, 1/1600, and ISO 8000 with results further brightened by 1/2 stop in post. At 16 fps, all of your favorite positions get captured.

An additional 350 images captured with the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens at a low light indoor banquet seemed to not challenge this camera even slightly.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Mirror Up

Movies

The Canon EOS 1D X Mark III has the best movie shooting performance in EOS history. This camera is feature-loaded.

Does uncropped 5.5K RAW movie recording get your attention? This camera provides in-camera recording of 5.5K movies along with simultaneous recording of MP4 data. Bitrates with 5.5K RAW recording are, as expected, very high with 60p delivering 2600MBs that, when using the originally supplied SanDisk CFexpress card, fills the 1D X III buffer in about 4 seconds, generating a 1GB .CRM file. The 30P generates 1800 MBs, a speed much friendlier to the supplied SanDisk card.

The 1D X Mark III supports uncropped (using the full imaging sensor width) 4K DCI (5K oversampling processed to 4K, 4096 x 2160, 17:1), uncropped 4K UHD (oversampling processed to 4K, 3840 x 2160, 16:9), and cropped (1.3x) 4K DCI (4096 x 2160), all with 60p/50p, NTSC/PAL, ALL-I or IPB, support for Canon Log (low contrast and saturation optimal for grading), and with YCbCr 4:2:2 color sampling, 10-bit in-camera (and via HDMI) recording in the BT.709/BT.2020 color space with 12 stops of dynamic range.

Canon Log supports H.265 HEVC encoding for wide gradation, a vivid color range, and small file size. Canon is touting its oversampling processing used for downward resizing that, along with the improved lowpass filter, promises improved movie image quality.

Normal movie recording outputs MPEG4 H.264 / AVC at 8-bit, 4:2:0 in the BT.709 color space. Audio recording is AAC or Linear PCM using the internal monaural microphone or via the 3.5mm stereo external microphone jack.

FHD shooting at 120p/100p is available (with a 7 minute 29 sec. single movie-length limit vs. 29 min. 59 sec. and no audio is recorded).

Movie Servo AF along with AF speed and Subject tracking character adjustments are provided except for uncropped 4K with frame rates faster than 29.97 and for FHD 120p/100p.

New for the 1-Series is that exposure modes and settings can be set independently for still photos and movies, greatly speeding transition between these two modes. Except when shooting in RAW mode, 5-axis electronic image stabilization is available (a narrower image is recorded).

Frame grab from 4K movies is again supported. Individual frames in 4K movies can be saved as approx. 8.8 megapixels (4096 x 2160 px) or approx. 8.3 megapixels (3840 x 2160 px) JPEG still images. Consider the frame rate this provides for your action scenes and consider that both movies and stills can be captured simultaneously.

This camera's video quality, especially at 4k, is superb. Some rolling shutter/jello effects remain as usual though 4k 60p shows little of this.

Exposure/Metering System

The 1D X III gets a new 216-zone (18 x 12) 400,000-dot RGB+IR Optical Viewfinder (OVF) metering sensor, up from the 1D X II's 370,000-dot variant, and the DIGIC 8 processor is utilized for exposure metering. Live View utilizes 384-zone (24 x 16) metering using the image sensor.

Selectable modes include Evaluative metering (linked to all AF points), Partial metering (Viewfinder/Live View: Approx. 6.2%/5.8% of the screen), Spot metering (center, approx. 1.5% of viewfinder, Live View: Approx. 2.9% of the screen), Center spot metering, AF point-linked spot metering, Multi-spot metering (Optical Viewfinder only), and Center-weighted average metering. The metering range (at 73°F/23°C, ISO 100, with evaluative metering) is EV 0–20 (OVF) and EV -3–20 (Live View, movie recording).

Canon's Anti-flicker mode, a game-changer when photographing under flickering lights, especially when photographing fast action under flickering lights, is again featured.

Viewfinder and LCD

Canon's 1-Series camera optical pentaprism viewfinders are differentiating and awesome — huge and bright with a 100% view and plenty of nose relief, keeping nose prints off of the rear LCD.

As mentioned earlier, the 1D X III illuminates the selected AF points in red. Gridlines and an electronic level along with a host of features can be displayed in this viewfinder LCD overlay. A useful new OVF display element is Time Display, showing the time of day in the shutter speed/aperture area in the viewfinder when the ISO button is pressed during viewfinder shooting standby. Note this as the display format does not scream "I am the time" — make a mental note to look for it.

Canon 1D-Series cameras continue to feature an eyepiece shutter, enabling the viewfinder to be closed with the simple throw of a lever. The diopter adjustment is fully covered by the eyecup, meaning that adjustments are not inadvertently made.

The 1D X III's beautiful high-resolution rear LCD features approx. 2.1M dots, up from 1.62M dots on the 1D X II. This LCD features full touch capabilities, a big upgrade from the 1D X II's very limited touch features. The touch feature is configurable, including a VF shoot safety lock that is enabled by default. Included on this camera is the touch keyboard, greatly facilitating information entry including the entry of copyright information.

Canon specifies Anti-reflection and Solid Structure for this LCD. It also seems to have an anti-smudge coating applied as oily fingerprints easily wipe off.

Tour of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Canon's 1-Series camera bodies are very refined and the 1D X Mark III exterior remains very similar to its predecessor (and that camera's predecessor), practically eliminating the acclimation required for serious usage.

To compare the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with many other camera models, use the site's camera product image comparison tool. For your entertainment, I preloaded the EOS-1D X Mark II comparison in that link. Opening that comparison in a separate tab or window will be helpful for following along with the product tour.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Back

Back of the Camera

If compared very closely, there are a few mostly-minor changes on the back of the 1D X III. The most prominent is the previously discussed Smart Controllers on the enlarged AF-ON buttons. Perhaps next in prominence is the reduced-size memory card door. CFexpress cards, being smaller than CFast cards, likely made that change possible.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Card Slots

Not obvious in the product images are this camera's illuminated setting and playback buttons, making the buttons much easier to find in low light. The other back of the camera changes are minor.

The Menu and Info button once again take up their Canon-standard positions on the top-left. A row of four function buttons line up below the LCD with the right-most button notably able to record voice memos that attach to images. New is that you can annotate while transmitting via Wi-Fi (previously, you had to wait until the transfer was complete). The row of four buttons across the top-right includes the Live View/Video selection lever surrounding the Start/Stop button, AF-ON for back-button AF capability (and providing Smart Controller functionality), Exposure lock, and AF point selection to enable selecting the AF point via the dials. The Smart Controllers are an ideal method for rapidly changing AF points but the two 8-way (as they should be) Multi-Controllers remain available. Unique to the 1-Series is flip-out-and-twist memory card door switch, a design that works fine even with gloves on.

The built-in vertical grip provides great similarity to the standard grip, providing the same buttons and controls in nearly identical positions.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Top

Top of the Camera

Finding changes on the top of this camera is going to be challenging. Except for the small bulge in front of the hot shoe changing shape slightly, the 1D X III and 1D X II look the same.

Most top-accessed camera features utilize a button press followed by a Main Dial roll to change settings. Those primarily familiar with dials on top of their cameras will need to acclimate, but the button press functionality works great. I had not asked this "Why?" question before, so I asked Rudy Winston of Canon USA: "Do you know why Canon uses buttons instead of dials on the top of the 1-Series cameras? For better durability? For better weather sealing? Other reasons?" Rudy's reply:

"While I don’t recall hearing an officially-stated reason, there are a handful of factors which I’m sure enter into this:

  • Durability – in the types of run-and-gun situations many photojournalists find themselves in, a protruding dial is vulnerable to impact (especially from the side)
  • Weather-resistance – it’s probably easier to seal a button than it would be a protruding shaft entering into the camera body, and covered by a dial above it
  • Resistance to inadvertent settings – even if a dial is a locking type (and we’ve seen reliability/wear issues with those, over the years), it’s much harder to inadvertently change a shooting mode by pressing a button and turning the Main Dial than it might be to have those on a conventional Mode Dial.

It’s clear that a traditional Mode Dial has its place... Canon has designed pretty much all DSLR models below the 1-series with a conventional Mode Dial. But for these and no doubt other reasons they haven’t articulated, they’ve felt this was a better way to go on the 1D series."

This camera is designed for photographers at the professional (and serious amateur) level and needless complexity has been removed. There are no creative modes. Brace yourself, "Food mode" has once again been excluded from the 1-Series and there are no creative filters.

While the full-auto A+ mode is missing, the "P" (Program) mode (yes, some like to think of it as "Professional" mode) is there for nearly-mindless photography when needed. Three programmable Custom modes are again provided.

The top LCD provides a significant amount of at-a-glance information that is always available when the camera is on (with low battery drain).

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Left Side

Side of the Camera

The left side of the camera has received some relatively minor changes. Primarily, an increased granularity in port covers, going from 4 to 6, logically allowing fewer ports to be opened at once, potentially improving weather sealing. For example, the PC Port, used for controlling strobe lighting, is not likely being used at the same time as the mic and headphone ports, used for video recording. Those ports shared a cover on the 1D X II but the PC Port now has its own cover. The remote release terminal has returned to this location.

Ports on the left side of the camera, starting at the top-left and proceeding clockwise, are the Extension System Terminal (for the WFT-E9), Ethernet port (Gigabit), USB Terminal (Type-C SuperSpeed Plus USB 3.1 Gen 2), HDMI mini OUT Terminal (Type C), Remote Release Terminal (N3 Type), Headphones, and 3.5mm stereo external microphone jack.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Right Side

Size of the Camera

Canon has spent a huge number of years perfecting their pro camera series and did not opt to change the size in this iteration. Pro DSLR cameras include a built-in vertical grip that makes them the largest DSLR cameras available, though not much different than 5- and 7-Series models with optional grips installed.

ModelBody DimensionsCIPA Weight
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3"(158 x 167.6 x 82.6mm)50.8oz (1440g)
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3"(158 x 167.6 x 82.6mm)54.0 oz (1530g)
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 80mm)55.2 oz (1564g)
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV5.9 x 4.6 x 3.0"(150.7 x 116.4 X 75.9mm)31.4 oz (890g)
Canon EOS 7D Mark II5.9 x 4.4 x 3.1"(148.6 x 112.4 x 78.2mm)32.1 oz (910g)
View the full Canon EOS-1D X Mark III specifications to compare additional cameras.

Despite the huge list of new and improved 1D X III features, this camera drops some weight, slimming to 50.8 oz (1440g) from 54.0 oz (1530g). Still, this is not a small or light camera.

Note that the bottom contour of this camera has changed slightly, becoming slightly flatter, and does not permit my Really Right Stuff B1DX-L L-Plate from my 1D X II to fit on the III.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Bottom

Ergonomics, Build Quality and Durability

One of the reasons I love Canon DSLRs is because of their ergonomics and the 1-series models feel especially great in my hand. I can use them for long periods of time for days on end and not be bothered by the grips. The 1-Series bodies are my favorite in this regard. Though subtle changes have taken place over the years, overall, the 1-Series bodies have changed little in their most recent iterations.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR Camera Magnesium Alloy Frame

Many of those buying this camera are counting on it to deliver under even tough conditions and 1-Series bodies have historically been very reliable. A magnesium alloy frame provides superb impact resistance and durability along with strong electromagnetic shielding. This frame offers high rigidity (these cameras have a great solid feel) while retaining light weight. Joints, buttons, and controls feature O-ring seals and silicone boots for superior weather resistance, a need we can't always foresee and a feature that can save the shoot.

A fast frame rate camera used by professionals, especially those capturing action, will rapidly accumulate a significant number of shutter actuations. Fitting is that this camera raises the EOS shutter durability rating bar to a new height: 500,000 images. At 16 fps, that is 8.68 hours of shutter release button down.

ModelShutter Durability Rating
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III500,000
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II400,000
Canon EOS-1D X400,000
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV300,000
Canon EOS-1D Mark III300,000
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV150,000
Canon EOS 7D Mark II200,000
View the full Canon EOS-1D X Mark III specifications to compare additional cameras.

Canon USA's Rudy Winston shared some interesting related information about the 1D X III:

The mirror drive mechanism of the EOS-1D X Mark III has been totally redesigned, and boasts the following benefits:

  • A much stronger and more robust mirror frame and linkage join both the main and sub-mirrors, compared to the previous independently-controlled structure of the main and sub-mirrors in the EOS-1D X Mark II.
  • Movement of both main and sub-mirror is now joined; both are "braked" into their resting position simultaneously.
  • Both mirrors are now motor-controlled, with sub-mirror movement completely coordinated with the main mirror’s movement, providing greater control of the submirror’s movement during each exposure. Previous EOS-1D series models used spring power for the submirror’s movement, which could not be controlled as precisely as the new motorized system — especially at the top and bottom extremes of both mirror’s movements.
  • Sub-mirror bounce, especially upon return to its viewing position, is substantially reduced by the motorized control system — directly giving the AF system more time to get a stabilized view of light rays directed to the AF sensor. This is a vital concern in any digital SLR’s viewfinder-based AF system, particularly when shooting at high fps rates.
  • Drive speed of the mirror control motor is increased.
  • Mechanical shock from mirror collision forces, at the top and bottom of the main mirror’s travel, and vibrations from the motor are all significantly improved. The results are two-fold: first, an even more stable view, with black-out between frames even further reduced (the main and sub-mirror "up" times, where the viewfinder is blacked-out, are less than any previous Canon EOS SLR camera, according to Canon engineers). And secondly, improvements in drive speed during viewfinder shooting to an outstanding 16 fps, without need to lock the mirror or resort to a fixed, semi-transparent mirror structure.

Canon WFT-E9 Wireless Transmitter

Additional Features

Media photographers frequently find themselves in scenarios where their images need to be delivered immediately and the 1D X Mark III greatly facilitates this. Gigabyte Ethernet (with high speed I/F) is built-in and with the WFT-E9 wireless file transmitter (shown above and below), 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO is supported (improved from 802.11ac 1x1). Note that the older Canon WFT-E6 and WFT-E8 wireless file transmitters are not supported by the 1D X III.

Network settings are now consolidated under a dedicated menu system tab, venue communications settings can be configured both online and offline, enabling the camera to be immediately ready to use upon arrival. Communications and function settings can now be shared by multiple groups. FTP/FTPS/SFTP (with WFT-E9), secured LAN, and HTTPS, including simultaneous use of differing protocols, are supported. IPv6 is supported by FTP and Browser Remote.

In addition to being compatible with the WFT-E9 wireless file transmitter, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III has built-in Wi-Fi, providing easy transfer of images and movies to compatible mobile devices using Canon's free Camera Connect app (iOS | Android). This app provides some remote control of the camera's settings and shutter when shooting still images. Wireless remote printing to a compatible printer is also supported via Wi-Fi. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology makes pairing easy with a quick Wi-Fi connection handover and provides Canon BR-E1 Bluetooth Remote compatibility.

In addition to its wireless capabilities, the 1D X III features a built-in GPS. Images can (optionally) be tagged with the camera's GPS coordinates at the time of capture, a requirement for some media jobs.

IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) metadata can be added/edited via EOS Utility (included software) and Browser Remote, including from a smartphone browser (pending a firmware update).

With the new Factory reset menu option, a factory-configured camera is only 1 step away.

This camera does not feature built-in intervalometer (interval timer) or bulb timer functionality.

This camera's predecessor had a big problem with imaging sensor dust. While I have accumulated some dust on the III's sensor in the 8,000+ images captured using a variety of lenses, the dust issue seems much improved.

While talking about features, I'll mention a couple of features I'm expecting a firmware update to resolve.

The first issue I'm experiencing with my (production) 1D X III is random lock-ups with the camera appearing to be on but unresponsive. This has happened about 8 times in well over 8,000 shutter actuations with a variety of lenses in use and in both continuous shooting + AI servo AF and in one shot + one shot AF mode combinations. A friend shooting next to me also experienced a lock-up on his 1D X III. Cycling the power and removing the battery always resolves the problem.

Another issue is that the Custom Mode auto update settings feature is not working. With Auto update settings enabled for the custom shooting modes, the camera does not retain the setting changes made prior to cycling the power. The biggest problem has been when the camera locks up and I quickly cycle the power, hoping to quickly get back in the game, and later realize that my updated settings were not retained.

Likely both of these issues will be cleaned up with a firmware update in the near future.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Front with WFT-E9

Flash

EOS cameras have long been compatible with Canon's incredible Speedlite flash system including both optical and RF wireless remote control (with a master flash or Speedlite transmitter in the hot shoe). New for Canon's E-TTL II flash metering technology is "Face priority, Eval (FacePrty)". In this mode, the camera determines if a face is present in the scene and provides proper illumination for the detected face. E-TTL balance from external Speedlites can also now be set to Ambience priority, Standard, and Flash priority.

The new RGB + IR metering sensor has greater sensitivity to light and this camera can read low-power pre-flash from E-TTL Speedlites at even greater distances than previous EOS DSLRs.

A new feature located in the External Speedlite control menu is the Continuous flash control option that alternatively permits E-TTL for the first shot only to be used for all others while in continuous shooting mode. When the flash-to-subject distance remains static, this feature typically yields identically exposed images for each set captured.

Also new is that the imaging sensor can now perform metering of E-TTL pre-flash.

Battery

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III uses the same battery as the 1D X Mark II, the substantial, powerful, 2750 mAh Canon LP-E19 battery pack. The older LP-E4N battery pack can be used, but note that the continuous shooting speed is restricted (the 1D X II's max frame rate dropped by 2 fps when using an LP-E4N battery pack). Also note that due to multimedia regulations (IEC62368-1), charging of LP-E4N using LC-E19 battery charger included with the EOS-1D X Mark III camera will be deprecated after December 20, 2020. The even older Battery Pack LP-E4 (no "N" on the end) is not supported by the 1D X III.

In the 1D X III, the LC-E19 is rated for a crazy-high approx. 2850 shots (73°F/23°C), a dramatic increase from the 1D X II's 1,210 shots. In real life shooting, the realized number of shots per charge can often be at least doubled and that makes for an extreme number of shots. After capturing 3,079 shots in a single shoot, the battery was barely depleted. Few will need a second battery for a day's shoot.

Using Live View (and movie recording) drains the battery more rapidly with the shot rating dropping to 610.

A 6-level remaining battery charge icon shows in the viewfinder, on the top LCD panel, and on the LCD screen when shooting info is displayed. The camera's battery menu (in the Setup menu) informs of the remaining % of capacity, the shutter count since last charge, and the battery's recharge performance.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Bottom

Which Lens Should I Get for the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III?

When you buy a Canon DSLR, you are buying into an incredible family of lenses, flashes, and other accessories. The array of available accessories is large enough to cause a pro to select the Canon system for this reason alone. The camera body (or multiple bodies as is more frequently the case today) is the base your system is built on and a lens is the next essential piece of kit. The lens is also a very important part of the kit – important is that it does not become the weakest link in the image capture and quality.

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is not available in a kit that includes a lens. Most will not consider this a beginner's camera and a high percentage of 1D X III bodies will be purchased by photographers who already have a kit of lenses, negating the importance for a lens in a kit. Which lenses do I recommend? Review the Canon general-purpose lens recommendations page to find the most up-to-date list of best lens options, but the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens is an excellent first choice for this camera. Then add, minimally, a telephoto zoom lens and a wide-angle zoom lens to your kit.

Price

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, like the 1-Series cameras before it, lives at the top of the descending-sorted price list. If you want the best performance, there is a price to pay for it and it is not hard to say that price will be the limiting factor for sales of this camera. Also not hard to say is that a solid percentage of professional photographers will find this camera worth the price.

This camera will also be incorporated into a significant number of enthusiast kits. There are a significant number of non-professional photographers with adequate resources to acquire the 1D X Mark III and having enough passion for their images to make the investment. When one looks at all of the time, effort and cost that parenting involves, having a pro-grade camera to capture lasting quality memories can be justified by even "just" parents.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR Camera Canvasback Duck Sample Picture

Wrap Up

Keeping a review of the incredibly-feature-laden 1D X III concise but complete is a difficult balance to find and this review is not a complete description of every 1D X III feature available. Canon has published an intimidatingly-huge owner's manual (a link to the manual is provided with this review) that highlights all of the features found on this camera and explains their use. Read the manual, use the camera, repeat.

Very important for a professional is that owning a Canon product gives you access to Canon support and the support I have been provided by Canon's USA division is excellent, second to none (sorry, I have no experience with the other Canon divisions). When I call for support, I get an intelligent, easy-to-understand person who sincerely wants to help me with whatever my question or problem is (I challenge them sometimes). Canon repair service, though I seldom need it, is fast and reliable. Those residing in the USA with a 1D X III in their kit along with a nice lens or two will qualify Canon professional services membership and the additional support benefits this membership provides. Media professionals will find CPS setting up at their major events, ready to loan or clean/repair equipment on location.

The 1D X III used for this review was ordered online/retail.

Alternatives

Should I buy the EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR camera? Of course! Unless:

  • The 1D X Mark III price is out of reach
  • The 1D X Mark III is too heavy or too large
  • The higher resolution of the EOS R, 5D IV, 5Ds, and 5Ds R is desired

Perhaps most relevant in this discussion is the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III vs. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II comparison. That comparison along with the visual comparison to fully evaluate these cameras. What are the differences between the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III and the Mark II? Here is a summary of the differences:

  • New low pass filter delivers higher quality images
  • High-speed continuous shooting of up to 16 fps using the viewfinder and up to 20 fps in live view (with mechanical or silent shutter), both featuring full AF/AE tracking vs. 14 fps
  • Smart Controllers vs. no
  • DIGIC X vs. Dual DIGIC 6+
  • Dual CFexpress card slots vs. dual CFast card slots
  • AF system capable of tracking the subject's head and face using deep learning
  • 191 AF points vs. 61
  • Max 155 cross-type AF points vs. 41
  • AF working range of EV -4 – 21 vs. EV -3 - 18
  • 400,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor vs. 360,000
  • ISO 102400 vs. ISO 51200, expanded range ISO 819200 vs. 409600
  • Updated viewfinder information
  • 2.1M dot LCD vs. 1.62M dots
  • Touch screen functionality vs. very limited
  • Clarity adjustment
  • Shutter lag of 29-55ms vs. 36-55ms
  • Improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • 12-bit 5.5K (5472 x 2886) RAW Video internal recording and uncropped oversampling 4K 60p with Canon Log, 10-bit 4:2:2 vs. 4K (4096 x 2160)
  • Built-in Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
  • Faster speed and improved user interface for networking with optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E9 or with built-in gigabit ethernet port
  • Battery life of approximately 2850 vs. 1210
  • Shutter durability rating of 500,000 vs. 400,000
  • Illuminated buttons
  • 10-bit HEIF (High-Efficiency Image File) file format available
  • CIPA weight of 50.80 vs. 53.97 oz (1440 vs. 1530g)

Obvious from this list is that the III has a lot going for it.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR Camera

Summary

Meet your dream sports and action camera. The Canon EOS 1D X Mark III is arguably the ultimate professional (and serious amateur) camera for sports, wildlife, media, and other critical events. It is directly targeted at professional use where speed, reliability, and bringing home the best possible images are important. If you fit into that description, this camera has your name on it.

If getting the shot matters, this is the camera I want in my hands. That this camera is so fun to use makes getting that all-important shot a great all-around experience.

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

My Recommended Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Retailers

Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered, and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my purchases. Get your Canon EOS-1D X Mark III now from:

B&H Photo
Adorama
Amazon.com
Canon USA (new)
Check used inventory at MPB
(Using the links on this site to make any purchase provides support for this site)
Rent the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III
Do you need/want the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III for only a short period of time? Or, would you feel more comfortable buying after having a hands-on trial period? Consider renting. Renting is fast and easy. The rental companies I recommend below are excellent to work with. Schedule your rental now:
LensRentals.com
LensProToGo
(Using these links for your rental supports this site)
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