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Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review

The EOS 1Ds MkIII is the flagship of Canon's fleet. Matt Grayson takes a look at this illustrious Professional DSLR.

| Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII in Digital SLRs
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III

Stock photographers will be excited to know that the file sizes that the MkIII produces are accepted by agencies without need for resizing.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Specifications

  • Resolution: 21.1Mp
  • Resolution: 5616x3744
  • Sensor type: CMOS
  • Focus points: 19 cross type plus 26 assist
  • Crop factor: 1.0x
  • Lens mount: Canon EF
  • Metering system: 63-zone TTL
  • Frames per second: 5 max
  • ISO min: 100
  • ISO max: 1600
  • Screen size: 3in
  • Battery model: LP-E4
  • Weight: 1210g
  • Size: 156x159x80mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Sensor size: 36x24mm
  • Autofocus system: TTL
  • Exposure modes: PSAM
  • Screen resolution: 230,000 dots (76,000 pixels)
  • Card format: Compactflash, Secure digital, SDHC
  • File formats: RAW, sRAW, JPG
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Flash type: Hotshoe
  • Flash metering: E-TTL II
  • Flash sync speed: 1/250
  • Image stabilisation: No
  • Integrated cleaning: Yes
  • Live view: Yes
  • Buffer depth: 12 (RAW)

Announced 3 days before the Nikon D3, the Canon EOS 1DS MkIII has a resolution nearly double that of it's rival. However, this is not the be all and end all in photography and after some rave reviews of the Nikon, the Canon will have to be pretty special.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Modes and features
As the direct upgraded model to the MkII, the aptly titled MkIII has the same size full frame sensor as its predecessor. Now, though, it stuffs 21.1Mp onto its surface and, to make full use of everyone of those pixels, has an image cleaning system which uses a similar sensor shaker as other manufacturers to keep that pesky dust off the chip.

Once the image has passed through the sensor, the massive amount of information has two third generation Digic processors to feed through and benefits from a higher 14-bit per channel A/D converter which gives better tonal transitions and more natural gradations.

Taking pictures is through the traditional optical viewfinder, although Live view is possible with the MkIII. This is done by enabling the live view in the menu system and pressing Set. Manual focus is the only focusing mode available in Live view mode. A thirds grid can be enabled on the screen at this time and a magnification of 10x to ensure sharpness on the 230,000 dot 3in LCD screen.

The AF has been improved upon. The same 45 point focus points have been employed, but the MkIII has 19 cross-type sensors for compatibility instead of the 7 cross-type sensors on the MkII.

Basic functions have been rearranged from the Canon EOS 1Ds MkII to make them more manageable for the user. For instance, the Drive had to be adjusted by holding down two buttons and thumbing a wheel at the same time. Now, it is amalgamated with the AF mode button with one wheel adjusting the AF and the other wheel adjusting the Drive.

ISO has been moved over to the other side of the top plate and has its own dedicated button. Only Bracketing now has a need for pressing two buttons.

Moving onto the back of the camera and it's easy to see a lot of changes have been made mainly due to the screen which is an inch larger. Gone are the 5 Menu buttons down the left of the screen. Instead, the Menu button sits atop the screen with the Info rotate button next to it. This button scrolls through the file number and size, Histogram which also brings up the ISO rating, Mode, Metering setting, file size in Mb and the Date & time the shot was took.

Pressing the button again moves the histogram to the bottom of the screen, removes all the other information and replaces it with three Histograms for RGB information. The file name, shutter speed and aperture are always on display in a small letterbox area above the image.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Below the main screen is the Playback button and the information LCD display. Delete retains its place bottom left, but the Quality button has been replaced with a Function button which now scrolls through the Image quality or White balance.

Image protect and Voice record are located in the spare third button which was previously dedicated to White balance.

The Power switch has been modified and now switches on the camera with a third flick switching on the rear thumb wheel instead of the separate switch on the 1Ds MkII which has now been replaced with a navigation joystick to move independently through zoomed in images or the Menu system.

The Menu has five factions split down over ten tabs. The first two are for Recording options, followed by two for Playback, three for Set-up, one for Custom settings and one for Preferences.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Build and handling
Along with the cosmetic differences of the Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII, it's also slightly less weighty 1210g, compared to the MkII's 1215g. However, when the MkIII's battery is added at a weight of 180g a total of 1390g pales in insignificance next to the portly total weight of the MkII. That comes in at a roly poly 1550g thanks to the excessively weighted 335g battery.

Everything works smoothly as you would expect after lightening your bank account so considerably. The shutter is lovely and smooth, if not a little slow before the mirror is back down. That's only at regular speeds, though. When at high speed in the continuous shooting mode, the camera works efficiently.

I noticed that the Set button on the rear thumb wheel ratated round. Thinking this could be a bit of shoddy workmanship, I contacted Canon's PR dept who confirmed that it's meant to spin around, saying: "Yes it is meant to rotate. It is designed like this to help with the weather sealing."

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Performance
The burst capability of the Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII has been upped from 4fps, on the MkII, to 5fps. Not a massive boost, however, the buffer memory has been increased to hold 56 JPEG or 12 RAW files.

This means that in the long run, theoretically, the MkIII will shoot 50 images at JPEG in ten seconds, but the MkII should only manage to shoot for eight seconds before needing to download.

The EOS 1Ds MkIII managed to shoot 41 images at Continuous Hi-speed in ten seconds then needed a further 15 seconds to download them images. Continuous Lo-speed managed a result of 30 images in ten seconds with a further five seconds to download.

This result gives a fps rating of 4.1. Just under a second slower than the technical specification from Canon says. However, it is possible to get the camera to perform as it says it will by setting the camera to 1/250th second.

The colourchart image shows good colour rendition which is to be expected with a camera like this. As with all JPEGs, the primary colours are boosted, especially the warmer colours such as reds, oranges and yellows.

The landscape images are a mixed bag. The Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII has an option in the Menu to change the style of the picture. If you're taking landscapes, you can select the Landscape Picture style. This will boost Blue and Green to help with landscape work. Portrait mode gives balanced skin tones. There are six options in total as well as three user defined settings.

The Landscape mode shot has a lessened saturation of the sky compared to Aperture priority, but the settings of Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness and Colour tone can be adjusted which may have been done by a previous reviewer.

Chromatic aberration is present, but not badly. I would like to see a lessened CA from a camera of this calibre. Especially seeing as a camera such as the Nikon Coolpix P5100 has a much better result of fringing.

I took the Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII to a few different places throughout the test. One of those places was the local Greyhound racing stadium to get the action of the dogs running. I wanted to test the shutter speed and the focus tracking ability of the AI Servo. The images were shot in RAW and have been converted, but not boosted.

The weather was once again against me and the camera I was testing. A dull day meant I had to crank up the ISO to reduce the blurring of the dogs. The tracking wasn't fast enough to cope with the greyhounds with that lens. It was always slightly behind them, to the point that I had to flick it into manual focus and pre-set the area I wanted to shoot. The problem with this is getting the dogs in the right place. On the first shot, one of the dogs is in focus, but it's the one behind Number 4 (Black jacket) and only the corner of his face can be seen.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII All this despite an aperture of f/7.1 which I hoped would throw a little more into focus. What I am pleased with is the detail of all the sand being flicked by the dogs running.

The second focus tracking shot works brilliantly. I positioned myself on the first bend and caught the dogs running up to me. This happened slower than the previous turn, so the focus kept up easier. The first four dogs were in a line, so using a shallower aperture of f/4, the last two places were thrown out of focus keeping the emphasis on the race leaders. The camera has thrown the sand of the track, in front and behind, out of focus which keeps the attention on the action.

I also took the camera to a Butterfly house which provides a hide for school children to watch birds. The Dove was a lucky shot and is slightly out of focus but shows how the fast shutter speed is useful for capturing birds in flight as birds beat their wings faster to take off.

The small Sparrow and Blue Tits were competing for domination of the nut basket. The Blue Tit in flight is maybe a couple of inches nearer the camera, but is thrown out of focus by the f/4.5 aperture which also works the background to a blur marvellously.

Please bear in mind, the images are large size to try and retain as much quality as possible. Please be patient when downloading.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The 14bit A/D converter is used for better colours and gradation. The red box is an indication of the original colour chart.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
To freeze the action a shutter speed of 1/2000th was necessary on this shot because of the shade and naturally dull weather on the day.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
This is the shot where the focus tracking has worked, but got the wrong dog. The one in third place is in focus just behind Number 4 with the black jacket.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
Sitting on the first bend helped the focus tracking a lot as perpective made the dogs move slower. The shallow aperture threw the foreground and background nicely out.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The portrait taken in Aperture Priority at f/8. The colours are balanced, but the dull day meant I had to crank the ISO to 400.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1DS MkIII
The same image taken in the closest thing the 1Ds has to a portrait mode. Note the slower shutter speed despite still being in Aperture priority.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
A lucky shot which is why it's slightly out of focus. 1/1600th second freezes the action of the flapping wings as this dove takes to the air.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The Sparrow is sharp whilst the more distant Blue Tit is out due to a narrow DoF of f/4.5. Both bird images have been processed in Photoshop
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
Taken with the Picture style set to Landscape. Chromatic aberration is evident in high contrast ares, but is greatly reduced.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
Taken in Aperture Priority with the camera set to f/16. The sky is more saturated and the whole image is in focus thanks to the f/16 aperture.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
Program mode shows a sharper image than the Aperture priority mode in the middle distance, but the f/9 aperture throws the winch out..

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Noise test
The Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII has fourteen different ISO settings.

Mild sharpening starts to appear at full size on the ISO400 shot, but it is very mild. It's not until ISO1600 that noise starts to definitely appear, which is an excellent result.

Even then, the noise on the grey area is not all that bad. There are definitely some artefacts in the shadow areas, though only mild. The ISO3200 equivalent setting has more definite noise in shadows and green colours are starting to appear on the grey area.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The ISO100 test.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The ISO200 test.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The ISO400 test.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The ISO800 test.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The ISO1600 test.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The ISO Hi test. (ISO3200 equivalent)

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Verdict
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: It's difficult to know what to say about such a camera. The power beneath your fingers is obvious and my only real complaint is that the screen is not as bright as others. When I first started using it, I thought I was underexposing, but later looking at the images on the computer, I discovered I wasn't.

One thing I should warn about, but is common sense really, is the amount of memory this camera uses. Shooting RAW, I managed to fill an 8Gb Compactflash card. It's easy to under estimate quite how much memory this camera takes up.

The people who are going to buy this camera know who they are. The file sizes this camera produces are big enough for stock agancies to accept which means no more interpolating in post.

I put the high resolution as a plus because of the afore mentioned reason. I'm not one to endorse the pixel race, in fact I can't wait for it to end.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Plus points
Full frame
High resolution
Dual processors
New layout works better
Excellent ISO results
Not as heavy as MkII

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Minus points
Massive memory requirements
Screen not as bright as expected

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Digital SLR Review: FEATURES




The Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII costs around £4799 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.

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Photographs taken using the Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII

Morning DueMystiqueHighland SerenityThe Approach"Jadran"Centre SpreadFly ByContentIsland RetreatA Close Shave.HARVEST MOUSE

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glsammy Avatar
glsammy 17 209 1 United Kingdom
Those ISO test shots are shockingly bad. Which lens was used for this test? Surely something was wrong, as you hinted they look hopelessly out of focus.
MattGrayson Avatar
MattGrayson 16 622 3 England
I used the 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens. Not a shoddy one. Sad
I know what you mean, the daylight wasn't good enough, so I used studio lighting. Set it to the highest level on a manfrotto 055 Pro tripod.
As I say in the review, I took them twice because I thought I'd done something wrong...

Nb, I think I might do them one more time just to make double sure. I had no focus beep, but it was turned off at the time. However, the red focus point did light up.
MattGrayson Avatar
MattGrayson 16 622 3 England

I have redone the noise images as we got a burst of bright sunlight and it appears more than likely that it was user errorSad . On the final images above, I had to use the self timer to get the images sharp which is an action not normally necessary.
Smile Smile Smile
glsammy Avatar
glsammy 17 209 1 United Kingdom
That's better! Smile
I had thought for a minute the horrors of a certain 1d focusing problem may have reared its ugly head again!Grin

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