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Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII vs. Nikon D3 Digital SLR Review

You would have to sell your soul to the Devil to get hold of the Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII and Nikon D3 at the same time. Matt Grayson prepares for an eternity of pain.

|  Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Nikon D3 in Digital SLRs
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In August 2007, Canon unveiled the EOS 1Ds MkIII Pro DSLR. Three days later, Nikon squared up to them with the D3. Fight!

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Specification

  • 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)

Nikon D3 Nikon D3 Specification

  • Resolution: 12.1
  • Sensor type: CMOS
  • Autofocus points: 51
  • Crop factor: 1.0x
  • Lens mount: Nikon F
  • Metering system: 3D Matrix II
  • Frames per second: 9
  • ISO min: 200 (ISO100 equivalent)
  • ISO max: 6400 ( ISO25,600 equivalent)
  • Screen size: 3in TFT LCD
  • Card format: Dual Compact Flash
  • Battery model: EN-EL4a
  • Weight: 1240g
  • Size: 159.5x157x87.5mm
  • Resolution: 4256x2832
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Sensor size: 36x23.9mm
  • Autofocus system: Multi-CAM 3500 FX
  • Exposure modes: P, S, A, M
  • Screen resolution: 920,000 dots (307,000 pixels)
  • File formats: RAW, JPG, TIFF
  • Flash type: Hotshoe
  • Flash metering: i-TTL
  • Flash sync speed: 1/250
  • Image stabilisation: No
  • Integrated cleaning:Yes
  • Live view: Yes
  • Buffer depth (RAW): 17 images
  • Buffer depth (JPEG): 64 images
  • Shutter speed max: 1/8000th second
  • Shutter speed min: 30 seconds
  • VF coverage: 100%
  • Vertical grip: In-built

Although the Canon EOS 1D MkIII is more closely matched in specification to the Nikon D3, the cameras in battle here are the flagships of the brands.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII vs. Nikon D3 Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Overview
Positive thoughts from the recent review of the 1Ds MkIII include the rearranged buttons to make the camera more user friendly, it's lighter than its predecessor by 160g along with the use of a 14bit A/D converter and two, count them, two Digic III processors.

The 21.1Mp resolution will allow just 236 images to be taken on my 8Gb card in RAW format with each image storing at 22.7Mb. Two card slots are present on the camera, one for CF, the other for SD/SDHC. I'm unimpressed with this feature as I think that the users of this type of camera are more likely to have a stock of only CF cards. My only reasoning for this design is if a back up camera is a prosumer such as the Canon Powershot G9. However, I think that if you had a 1Ds MkIII, your back up camera would probably be more like an EOS 5D, which is also CF.

The ISO ranges from ISO100 to ISO1600, but has an ISO Hi setting which gives an ISO3200 equivalent. Results from this setting are pleasing, despite not being a true ISO rating, although some red artefacts and and green blobs on the grey area.

Usability of the camera has been improved with less options needing two buttons to be pressed simultaneously. This was a problem with previous models of the 1 series because as the buttons were pressed, you had to balance the camera to manipulate the modes on and off using the wheel.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII vs. Nikon D3 Nikon D3 Overview
The Nikon prime model is the first step into full frame technology and judging by consequent reviews, they will be making themselves comfortable. Surprisingly, the Nikon D3 only has a 12Mp resolution, but then does it need any higher? That was the question on everyone's lips and it seems they were answered with a firm "No".

What the camera lacks in resolution, it has gained in other areas. The EXPEED processor included in the magnesium alloy body ensures better results of noise at higher ISO levels. To give an indication of the performance to the uninitiated, an ISO1600 has the same quality as a previous ISO400 image.

On the subject of the ISO, the excellent quality means the camera can go higher than any other models and Nikon have taken advantage of that giving the D3 an ISO capability of ISO25,600. This is only an equivalent, the same as the Canon's ISO3200. The main drawback with the D3 is the ISO100 is also an equivalent, not a true ISO100.

The lower resolution means the buffer can hold more images when in continuous shooting and can also handle a faster fps rate. The Nikon runs at 9fps and, to put it simply, sounds stunning.

ePHOTOzine says
Both are awesome cameras and have their own pros and cons. The Canon wipes the floor with the Nikon in the resolution stakes, but is that all it needs? The lower resolution of the Nikon means quicker download times, faster fps rate and more space on your card. The D3 produces better results at higher ISO levels.

The Nikon D3 has the advantage of the EXPEED processor, but the Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII uses two Digic III processors.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII vs. Nikon D3 Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Performance
At the Greyhound stadium, I tested the cameras as the Greyhounds emerged from the traps. This is the time when the dogs are at their fastest with all the pent up energy and eagerness for the hare.

The shot was taken at ISO1600, 1/2000th second at f/7.1 and despite the noise, the image is nice and sharp. A boost to the colours has given it a warmer tone that suits the actual colours of the day more.

At the butterfly house, I found a lovely Orchid. I handheld the camera and got a shot of 1/400th second at f/4. I gave the shot more light and contrast in photoshop, as well as saturating the colours a little.

The flower got an interesting result. The white leaves towards the top have suffered badly from chromatic aberration. I have included a detail of the leaf shown at full size. This is a disappointing result for Canon's flagship.

The good news is that they all came out brilliantly with simple processing needed, so if processing isn't your forte, you don't have to worry too much.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
ISO1600, 1/2000th sec, f/7.1 ensured a frozen action shot as the dogs leapt out of the traps.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
Processed using an ND grad, polariser and contrast filters.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The colours of the Orchid have been recorded nicely at 1/400th sec f/4.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
However, I feel a little boost helps the photograph more adding light and contrast.
canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The shot of the butterfly has been cropped significantly because they scare easily, I couldn't get too close. The high resolution has still ensured a large file size.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
After sharpening, contrast and lightness being added, the image looks good enough to submit onto the ruthless ePz Gallery.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
Along with the Orchid, I've shot this flower to compare against the D3.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
After a boost to the Greens and contrast adding, the image looks nice.
Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII
The chromatic aberration on the leaf is quite nasty.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII vs. Nikon D3 Nikon D3 Performance
The D3 had a bit of a handicap in the form of the lens used. The only FX lens that was provided was the 14-24mm which wasn't long enough for the Greyhound stadium. The only other lens I had was sent with the D300 which is a DX camera. Luckily,the D3 has a crop facility to work with DX lenses.

The Greyhound image was taken on the same settings as the Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII. Noise has broken the image up a bit and the sand is bordering on a bland grey colour. The overcast day shows little depth in the clouds and has muted everything.

Something happened when I got the D3 out to take pictures of the butterflies. All I could find was one feeding on a banana, which is not as exciting as one in flight or resting on a pretty flower. The butterfly is sharp, but still benefits from sharpening in Photoshop. The f/4 aperture has thrown the background out of focus nicely.

The flower image shows no sign of fringing which is a distinct advantage for Nikon. A little saturation and sharpening, coupled with lightening and contrast has given definition to the veins and made the whites that bit whiter.

Nikon D3
Taken on the same settings as the Canon. The sand is greyer than the 1Ds MkIII, but seems to have more contrast. Noise at this stage is roughly the same as the Canon.
Nikon D3
The processed image has given colour to the sand and definition to the clouds whilst warming the overall shot up.
Nikon D3
This is a realistic result of the day. This Orchid is in the tropical house, so is enclosed, thus dull.
Nikon D3
However, like the Canon, the photograph can benefit from a boost to sharpness, brightness and contrast.
Nikon D3
The shot is sharp, but muted and has a boring background. I will have to crop, but will a mere 12Mp cope with such an extravagant and controversial approach?
Nikon D3
Processed, the shot is cropped, sharpened and has contrast added. 12Mp has coped admirably.
Nikon D3
Not much processing was needed to this shot. It has good colours and the aperture makes it stand out.
Nikon D3
A little contrast and lightening has made the white punchier to a more desirable result.
Nikon D3
No fringing is present on the leaf shot on the D3. This is where the sensor and processor come into their own.

ePHOTOzine says
The Canon has produced better results on the action shots in terms of colour definition, but the noise results are the same. I'm appalled that the Canon can produce such horrible fringing shown on the leaf of the flower.

It goes to show that both cameras have pros and cons.

Being such radically different price brackets throws difficulty on the decision. The Canon is easier to use, their's no way of changing that fact. The buttons are not as difficult to use and the menu is simpler to understand. The Canon also wins on colour rendition with the Greyhound shot and the resolution helps with cropping.

It doesn't help that the massive file sizes take up a lot of space on a card. The chromatic aberration is terrible for such a top of the range model.

The Nikon has better noise options and chromatic aberration is non-existant. The menu also offers in camera processing.

I'm still annoyed at the resolution of the Canon's screen. The Nikon is much brighter and sharper.

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Plus points
High resolution
Dual processors for speedy downloads
Easier usability

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Minus points
Dull screen
More expensive

Nikon D3 Plus points
Bright screen
New processor is excellent
High ISO performance

Nikon D3 Minus points
ISO100 is an equivalent
Lost true colours on race track

Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII


Nikon D3



Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII vs. Nikon D3The verdict shows that each camera excels in parts over the other making a clear winner impossible.

However, Nikon can see this as a victory as the Canon should, technically, be a much better camera as it's a higher spec and more expensive.





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

The Nikon D3 costs £3089 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.


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Photographs taken using the Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII Nikon D3

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stuwhitt 16 1.4k United Kingdom
Surely the Chromatic Aberration issue is more to do with the lens used than the camera
In theory, yes. The purple band is more common place with lens CA, but not exclusive. I used the 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens and, for the shots with CA, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens. This lens, according to the Canon site, is designed to reduce CA.
Wikipedia says that CA can also be attributed to "receptors for different colours having differing dynamic range or sensitivity". This then preserves colours in one or two channels whilst losing it in the other(s).
The microlenses used to collect light for the pixels can also sometimes be put to blame for this problem, but is more of an issue on CCD's.
I will conduct more tests, whilst I have the camera, but I don't think I can get hold of a better quality lens... Smile
vagabond 14 39 1 Wales
You could try a high contrast edge of a building etc with the 400 DO. The DO lenses, whether you rate them or not are said to have very low levels of CA. I would imagine the sheer resolution of the 1Ds mk3 will bring out the worst in any lens. It would probably be fairer to use one of Canons best primes to check this out. A 135 f2 would be good.
The obvious question is whether chromatic aberration is as big a problem on the ten meg
1D Mk III as it is on the 21meg 1Ds?
I think Canon themselves would claim the former is the more logical rival to the D3.
But this still is a facinating review none the less.
Yes, the low res screen is appalling, and surprising, coming from Canon.
Perhaps Canon has been caught between screen technologies, as it may be transitioning to OLED displays, and divesting out of LCDs?
Being side-tracked by the now still-born SED display technology probably didn't help Canon's cause either...

Quote:the ten meg
1D Mk III as it is on the 21meg 1Ds?
I think Canon themselves would claim the former is the more logical rival to the D3.

I agree and mention it in the review. However, this is a battle of the flagships. Smile
IanA 17 3.0k 12 England

Quote:However, this is a battle of the flagships

Therefore you need a level playing field at least!
Get Pete to break out his piggy bank and go buy a pair of 50mm f/1.8 lenses, one Canon and one Nikon, the pair should set you back less than 150!!

Use them for testing cameras from those two manufacturers and you'll get a reasonably good comparision. That is what I have done.

Comparing a 24mp camera with a prime lens against a 12mp in crop mode(5mp) with a zoom is hardly fair on either manufacturer and completely useless to the consumer!

Using 50mm primes, which, due to there long development cycle (i.e. since 1934) are superb lenses with no CA or distortion, gives you a baseline to comment on other lenses or to comment on the camera's abilities which, from this comparison, you cannot do.

ZakBlack 13 105 14 England
I agree with characterboats
I'm sick of reading reviews that compare cameras without using equal lenses. This is the only way to do a test. Its the same with Canon crop cameras, every review seems to have the standard kit lense as part of the test, the 50mm 1.8 is an inexpensive way to show what each camera is capable of. So yet again another pointless review.
Thanks for your input, though I think it's a little hurtful to say it's a pointless review. Sad
I will put in a request to Pete about the lenses, but sometimes we have to make do with what we have.
The FX lens I had, the 14-24mm, simply didn't have the variety I needed to test the camera. Although loathe to use the cropped DX lens (I did mention it as a handicap in the review), I had no choice at this time.
I don't think I did badly at all. Wink
So whats the argument here? Using the best possible quality prime lens you could theoretically reduce, or possibly ameliorate, the horrible chromatic aberration problems the 1Ds MK III is exihibiting?
Perhaps Canon knew all along there was a problem, which would explain the 1.3X crop factor on the 1D MKIII; it is Canon's attempt at tuning this phenomenon out from its full-frame CMOS sensors.
Therefore, it proves that Nikon's EXPEED processor is working better with the Sony built full-frame CMOS than what Canon can currently achieve.
When and if Canon comes out with some firmware updates to address the problem you Canon fans out there will just have to wear it.
If the argument is about CA, then my reply to stu pretty much covers it, I think that characterboats and treebridge are saying is that it wasn't a fair fight as Nikon had a lesser lens to the Canon.
Although I think it's a great result for Nikon that the camera still won the fight despite being handicapped. Smile
IanA 17 3.0k 12 England

Quote:Although I think it's a great result for Nikon that the camera still won the fight despite being handicapped

That is very true Matt, but by how much? No way of even taking a qualified guess from the results posted.

Quote:I think it's a little hurtful to say it's a pointless review.

Not meant as hurtful, although I didn't say it was pointless. It was meant to be helpful!! Wink

No, you didn't say that. Smile
The D3 does NOT have integrated sensor cleaning - a big minus I feel
ZakBlack 13 105 14 England
Okay, 'pointless' was maybe a bit harsh but i am fed up of seeing reviews of cameras with inferior lenses. We need a 'standard '.
I want to know what is the best possible performance i can get.
Point taken.
I've discussed it with pete and we're looking at getting 50mm's for comparison tests of quality. Things like fps can be done on any lens.
According to 'Popular Photo' magazine, tested with the 50mm F/1.4 Canon EF USM lens, the 1DS MkIII puts out 2830 lines of resolution compared to:
2600 lines - 1DS MKII; 2320 lines - D3; 2200 lines 1D MkIII.
And that the D3 12meg output is more than enough for 14x21 inch enlargments.
Pretty boring stats I think. I would be far more interested in the pure colour that the four megapixels worth of Foveon sensor output can produce, if only it could be found in a DX or EOS type body.

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