A leading-edge professional camera with high flexibility, ultra-fast response times and superb image quality.Released in the year of the 20th anniversary of the EOS band, the new EOS-1D Mark III is true to its EOS professional heritage. Canon's most ambitions camera to date, it's an amalgam of the best of Canon's technologies and sports a water and dust resistant magnesium alloy body and a shutter that is rated for 300,000 cycles. It's impossible to everything this remarkable camera offers in a single review so we've picked out the key features and new additions that place the EOS-1D Mark III so far in front of the current pack. . . [more]
Released in the year of the 20th anniversary of the EOS brand, the new EOS-1D Mark III is true to its EOS professional heritage. Canon's most ambitions camera to date, it's an amalgam of the best of Canon's technologies and sports a water and dust resistant magnesium alloy body and a shutter that is rated for 300,000 cycles. It's impossible to everything this remarkable camera offers in a single review so we've picked out the key features and new additions that place the EOS-1D Mark III so far in front of the current pack.
The 10-megapixel CMOS imager is totally new and has the wide dynamic range you expect from a professional imager. The Dual DiG!C III processors, which are integrated for dual core processing, deliver 14-bit (16,384 levels) CR2-RAW files and promise smoother tonal gradations and better detail in JPEG files. Eight-channel readout supports continuous shooting speeds of 10 frames/second for up to 110 JPEGs or 30 Raw files per burst. High processing efficiency optimises power consumption and extends battery life as well as making the best use of fast memory cards.
A new small Raw (sRAW) mode records 14-bit Raw images at 1936 x 1288 pixel resolution producing files of around 7.6MB. (CR2-RAW files from the camera average 13MB in size, thanks to lossless data compression.) Such files are designed for printing up to A5 size, whereas the full-sized Raw files go up to A3 and larger. On-chip noise reduction allows the new camera to support ISO settings up to 3200. Noise reduction can be adjusted for all ISO settings via Custom Function II-3. An advanced E-TTL II flash system ensures excellent flash exposures. Flash sync. is at 1/300 second with EX-series Speedlites.
The 1D Mark III also incorporates the EOS Integrated Cleaning System that was launched with the EOS 400D. The system combines dust-suppressing materials used in the mirror box with a vibrating IR filter in front of the low-pass filter that protects the sensor and adds a Dust Delete Function in the bundled software to allow automatic removal of dust spots that remain on the recorded image. Anybody who has used a DSLR without dust reduction will appreciate the difference this can make to post-capture processing times, especially photographers who change lenses frequently, work in dusty environments and/or use the burst mode on a regular basis.
The review camera was supplied with the new EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, which has an 82mm diameter front element that increases its imaging circle plus two additional elements with an optimised coating that reduces ghosting and flare. It's a shame we didn't receive a longer telephoto or tele-zoom lens as this camera is a great device for photographing sports. We were able to make do with our own EF 24-105mm f/4LIS USM lens, which provides a focal length equivalent to 134.4mm at the tele setting but is no substitute for a longer zoom. (We hope to be abel to post a review of the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens on the Photo Review website in the near future.)
Body and Controls
Canon has listened to its customers and incorporated most professional photographers' wants in the new camera, starting with a more straightforward control layout. Shooting with the EOS-1D Mark III gives you a similar 'feel' to shooting with the EOS 5D, although the latter is significantly lighter and less bulky. Both cameras have similar on/off switches and the Quick Control Dial and central set button are carry-overs from the 5D that pro users will welcome. The joystick-style multi-controller is also the same as the 5D's, as are the AE and AF point selector buttons, which double as magnifiers in playback mode.
Although superficially the 1D Mark III's body looks a lot like the EOS-1D Mark II N, which it replaces, the new camera has a larger, 3.0-inch LCD monitor. This display has a wider than average viewing angle and appears to be more colour-accurate than many of the displays we've seen. It also supports highlight indication in full-screen view, not just in the info view as in earlier EOS professional cameras. The new Live View shooting mode (see below) takes advantage of the LCD.
Buttons that were ranged along the left of the monitor on the Mark II N have been relocated, the menu and info buttons to just above the display and the playback button below it. The resolution and white balance buttons below the secondary LCD have been replaced with Function and Protect/sound recording buttons, the latter doubling as a Picture Style selector.
Picture Style settings are the same as those on other recent EOS cameras, with a similar range of refinements. In our tests we found the Neutral setting gave the best colour reproduction for a wide variety of lighting types, with Standard coming in handy when lighting was a little flat. Photographers who already have favourite Picture Styles for certain shooting conditions can use them with confidence in the new camera.
The Function button toggles between image size, white balance and memory card selection. The 1D Mark III has an additional (new) AF-On button just above the thumb rest for engaging autofocus. Right of the Quick Control Dial is the media compartment, which is latched and contains slots for CF and SD cards, the latter being SDHC-compatible. You can record shots on either card or on both cards simultaneously. Alternatively, selecting the Rec. separately mode allows you to set the image size and resolution differently for each card. You can even write different file types to each card! When you're shooting in burst mode, the camera automatically switches from one card to the other when the first card is full to ensure uninterrupted shooting.
The viewfinder is large and bright, with 100% coverage and 0.76x magnification. Overlaid on the standard Laser Matte EC-C IV focusing screen are an oval with a central circle, each indicating the position of the AF sensors. Ranged across the bottom of the screen are indicators showing the metering mode, exposure settings, flash controls, number of shots remaining and ISO speed. Down the right side are an exposure level indicator bar covering available light and flash exposures, the maximum burst shot count and the resolution setting (JPEG and RAW).
Adjusting viewfinder clarity requires you to remove the viewfinder eyecup so you can access the dioptric adjustment wheel. This should be a once-only event, which is just as well as it's a tricky operation that requires you to squeeze in the sides of the eyecup and at the same time slide it upwards. Fortunately, replacing the eyecup leaves the dioptric wheel protected against accidental further adjustments.
The battery slots into the camera base, which is equipped with shutter button, control dial and AF/AE buttons for vertical shooting. The camera is supplied with a LP-E4 lithium-ion battery pack and LC-E4 double battery charger. Located under two rubber covers on the left edge of the front panel (near the lens release button) are four connection sockets covering PC, remote control, video out and a USB 2.0 Hi-Speed digital terminal. A 15-pin extension accessory terminal for wireless data transfer is located behind the USB port and protected by a screw-on cover that is easily removed.
AF and AE Systems
A highlight of the 1D Mark III is its AF system, which is totally new from the sensor through the circuitry to the AF point arrangement and configurations. A new Area AF setting uses 19 high-precision points and 26 assist points to achieve correct focus in challenging conditions and the AF point area can be expanded with manual AF point selection. The 19-point AF setting is ideal for lenses with maximum apertures larger than f/2.8.
Photographers can now set up the system to meet their individual needs via a series of 16 Custom Function menus. It can take a while to toggle through all the options provided but just about every adjustment you could want is there, although it may require a little testing to find out what they all do. A few of the menu screens are shown below.
C.FnIII/3 Auto focus/Drive AI Servo 1st/2nd img priority:
Setting 0 delays capture until the camera acquires focus for all pictures in a sequence.
Setting 1 delays capture until the camera acquires focus for the first picture in a sequence than shoots at the maximum frame rate, regardless of whether focus is achieved.
Setting 2 shoots at the maximum frame rate, regardless of whether focus is achieved.
C.FnIII/7 Auto focus/Drive AF microadjustment
According to the instruction manual, this adjustment is not normally required and may prevent correct focusing. It can be used to offset the point of focus in +/- 20 tiny steps and could be useful for setting precise points of focus for product shots or studio portraits. Because the focus point is adjusted globally for a specific lens, it could be handy for fine tuning the focus of prime lenses or when extender lenses are used. Adjustments for up to 20 lenses can be registered in the camera.
C.FnIII/9 Auto focus/Drive Selectable AF point
Setting 0 uses all 19 points.
Setting 1 restricts AF point selection to the inner ring of nine AF points around (and including) the centre of the array.
Setting 2 uses only the outer ring of nine AF points plus the central point. It's similar to the system used in previous models, which let you choose an AF point then move the pattern across the array with the quick control dial. It's particularly useful for sports photography.
C.FnIII/11 Auto focus/Drive AF point auto selection
You can enable and disable automatic AF point selection. The setting before the slash applies when C-Fn IV-3-1 is set, while the setting after the slash applies when the AF point button is pressed.
C.FnIII/16 Auto focus/Drive Continuous shooting speed
Disable, the default setting, sets continuous shooting speeds at 10 fps (high) or 3 fps (low).
Enable allows the continuous shooting speed to be set with the Register.
Register lets users limit the continuous shooting count to between 2 and 99 frames.
Mirror lock-up is also located in the Auto focus/Drive Custom Function menus as well as being configurable in the My Menu customisation system. The mirror also locks up automatically in the Live View mode.
The 1D Mark III's metering system is also new and uses a sensor with 63 zones linked to 19 cross-type AF points on the AF sensor. This linkage is invaluable for burst shooting as it helps to ensure every shot in a sequence is sharp, regardless of the burst speed. The camera can be set to shift sensitivity automatically to obtain the best exposure.
Although not the only DSLR to offer real-time viewing of subjects on the LCD monitor, the Live View system on the 1D Mark III is by far the smoothest and most colour and tonally accurate we've seen. Because the mirror locks up with this setting, focusing is totally manual and the lens must be set accordingly before Live View is engaged. You can magnify selected parts of the view by 5x or 10x to check focus and a histogram (brightness or RGB) can be superimposed on the view by pressing the Info button.
The brightness of the Live View display can be linked to the exposure settings so you can see how changes will be applied by viewing the displayed image. This facility is also available for studio flash set-ups, where the brightness of the modelling lights is reflected in the display.
The Live View function can also be used when the camera is linked to a computer via a USB 2.0 Hi-Speed cable or through the optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E2/E2A device. A dedicated Remote Live View setting is provided and the bundled EOS Utility 2.0 software provides the necessary computer integration for controlling the camera.
Live View is best used with the camera tripod-mounted, especially for close-up product shots involving small subjects. But it can also be used with a hand-held camera in a studio situation. Canon recommends photographers use flash memory cards for image storage in this mode, rather than microdrives.
The white balance system is another feature that has been re-designed in the new camera. As well as an auto mode and six white balance pre-sets (daylight, shade, cloudy/twilight/sunset, tungsten, white fluorescent and flash), the 1D Mark III has a Custom measurement setting and supports colour temperature-based settings. Up to five custom settings can be registered and stored in the camera and applied when shooting or when selecting images stored on the memory cards. Up to five 'Personal' white balance settings can also be created and registered via the bundled software.
When creating custom settings, the camera displays a small picture that shows the white reference card as it was used to record the setting. You can add a brief caption to remind you of how it is applied via the Edit Caption menu screen. This calls up an alphanumeric 'pad' for inputting the data via the Quick Control Dial and joystick.
White balance correction is also supported via the WB SHIFT/BKT menu. The joystick is used to adjust colours along blue/amber and green/magenta axes. Automated white balance bracketing or +/- three levels on either axis.
Pressing the Info button lets you toggle through four playback modes: single image display, single image display with image size data, histogram display and histogram plus shooting information. You can scroll through recorded shots by turning the Quick Control Dial, which produces a movie-like effect when you do it quickly with a burst sequence. You can also zoom in and magnify part of the shot up to 10x by pressing the AF point selector/magnify button and zoom out again by pressing the AE lock/reduce button beside it.
Highlight alerts and AF points can be set for all modes. You can also call up index views showing four or nine thumbnails and jump in increments of one, 10 or 100 shots as well as by screen, shooting date or folder. Shots can be marked for erasure and then erased as a group. Full-screen views are reasonably sharp, thanks to the high display resolution.
The EOS-1D Mk III can also be connected to a PictBridge-enabled printer for direct printing of shots and photographers can use DPOF tagging to specify images for automatic printing. Images can be trimmed in-camera and photographers can specify the number of copies, paper size and type and layout and select borderless or bordered prints. You can also specify the number of shots to be printed on an index print and whether shooting information and file ID will be printed with the image.
Printing effects include saturation boosting, noise reduction processing, face brightening and red-eye removal. You can also choose from three tones for B&W prints: normal, cool and warm. The strength of some of these adjustments can be adjusted in on-screen menus.
Bundled software includes Canon's EOS Digital Solution Disk V. 14.2. For Windows users it contains Digital Photo Professional 2.0, ZoomBrowserEX5.8, EOS Utility 2.0, Photostitch 3.1, a WIA/TWAIN Driver, Original Data Security Tools 1.0 and WTF Utility 3.0. Macintosh users get Digital Photo Professional 2.0, ImageBrowser 5.8, EOS Utility 2.0, Photostitch 3.1 and WTF Utility 3.0. An electronic copy of the Software manual is provided on a separate disk and a third disk contains Canon's Essential Products and Solutions, a portal to products and solutions in the EOS professional line-up.
Although its user interface is somewhat unintuitive and you need to refer to the software manual to use all its facilities, Digital Photo Professional 2.0 has better-than-average Raw file processing capabilities. We found it produced excellent JPEG and TIFF files from CR2.RAW shots and provided an easy way to transfer converted files to Photoshop for subsequent editing. Interestingly, earlier versions of Digital Photo Professional were unable to 'read' Raw files from the 1D Mk III.
The Digital Photo Professional user interface.
In all respects, the EOS-1D Mark III we have reviewed is the best digital camera we have seen. It's a match for the EOS-1Ds Mark II in every respect save resolution (which is to be expected, given the latter's full-frame image sensor and 16.7-megapixel resolution). This impressive performance is not restricted to Raw file capture; JPEG files from the test camera were clean, detailed and colour accurate. Raw files had all the data photographers need to make superb images.
Imatest showed resolution to be up to (and, at times, beyond) expectations for both JPEG and Raw files. Best resolution was found between f/5.6 and f/16 with only a slight fall off at the f/2.8 and f/22 aperture settings. Resolution also declined slightly at ISO 1600 and above but no evidence of a significant loss of quality was observed in files taken with these settings, which are the best we've seen from any digital camera.
Lateral chromatic aberration was low enough to be negligible, regardless of the lens focal length or aperture setting. Colour accuracy was also shown to be good in Imatest evaluations, although files recorded in the default sRGB colour mode showed slightly elevated saturation in reds. No coloured fringing was observed in outdoor shots and backlighting was handled with aplomb
The only area where performance was below standard was with the auto white balance, which failed to remove the orange cast of incandescent lighting. (We have yet to find a camera that delivers accurate colours in such conditions when the auto setting is used.) However, the manual pre-set and custom measurement delivered close to natural colours, as did the auto setting with fluorescent lights.
Camera response times were particularly impressive and we were able to obtain some great shots with the burst mode, thanks to fast autofocusing and exposure adjustments, which matched the continuous shooting speed exactly. The camera powered up almost instantaneously and we were able to take a shot within 0.1 seconds. Shut-down was also instantaneous.
Capture lag was negligible – with or without pre-focusing – and both burst modes were true to specifications. It took just under 20 seconds to clear the buffer of 20 CR2.RAW+Large Fine JPEG images shot with the high-speed burst mode. These are the fastest processing times we have recorded for any camera we've reviewed to date.
The battery, which claims to support 2,200 shots per charge, still had plenty in reserve at the end of our tests. However, the standard CIPA figures don't apply in our case as the 1D Mark III lacks a built-in flash and CIPA ratings are based on having 50% of shots taken with flash. Power consumption will probably depend more on the lens in use and the extent to which its motor is worked to drive focusing. Shooting conditions will play a major role in this respect. Nevertheless, we were quite impressed with the camera/battery system's performance.
The EOS-1D Mk III is compatible with the full range of Canon's lenses and accessories –with the exception of the EF-S lenses (which were designed for cameras with smaller image sensors). The lens lineup now includes more than 50 models, ranging from 14mm ultra-wide-angle to 600mm super-telephoto. To complement the new camera, Canon has announced three dedicated accessories:
> The EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is an upgrade to the existing The EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM lens and combines enhanced dust- and water-resistance with enhanced peripheral image quality in wide-angle shooting. The new lens features improved lens coatings that minimise flare and ghosting and provide better colour reproduction. It also boasts a circular aperture for beautiful out-of-focus images. Aspherical and UD lens elements optimise contrast and image resolution without colour bleed and minimise chromatic aberration. These optical and mechanical advantages are supported by AF algorithms that enable fast and quiet autofocusing.
> The WFT-E2 is the new lightweight and durable wireless file transmitter for EOS. Supporting three communications modes (FTP, PTP and HTTP) it can also act as a USB host for direct recording to external media and to connect a GPS device to record location. The WFT-E2 weighs only 65g and is dust and water-resistant.
> The Speedlite 580 EX II has improved dust and water-resistant seals and a metal mounting foot for greater connection and communication reliability. Design improvements have reduced flash recycle time by 20%, offering superior flexibility and reliability in flash photography.
Also available to complement the EOS-1D Mk III is the new data verification kit DVK-E3. Photographers can use this software to encrypt and decrypt image data and verify camera files. GPS compatibility enables users to verify the originality of position and time in shot metadata, thereby increasing data credibility and enabling smooth transmission of image files to a base. (GPS data can only be added to images when using the EOS-1D Mark III and WFT-E2/E2A in combination.)
Series 1. JPEG files
Series 2. Raw files converted to TIFF in Digital Photo Professional
A burst of six shots recorded at 10 fps with the 24-105mm lens.
Sample burst shots taken with the 16-35mm lens.
Long exposure (15 seconds) at ISO 3200.
Just before we posted our review of the EOS-1D Mark III, Canadian sports photographer, Rob Galbraith, published an extensive log containing details of his experiences with the camera on his website, reporting inconsistent performance with the camera's autofocusing system. These problems didn't occur during the course of our tests but, since our tests involved only one camera body, we cannot claim the camera to be totally problem-free. One reason we may have avoided autofocusing problems is the lens provided by Canon for our tests. Its short focal length range (16-35mm) would be far less prone to AF errors than lenses with focal lengths of 200mm and higher (which are what Galbraith used). We may also have received an error-free camera (Galbraith found two out of three cameras he used had definable problems).
Readers who wish to see Galbraith's findings should go to http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/content_page.asp?cid=7-8740-9006. We advise all sports photographers who are considering this camera to visit these pages.
Image sensor: 28.1 x 18.7mm high-sensitivity, high-resolution, large single plate CMOS sensor with 10.7 million photosites (10.1 megapixels effective)
Lens mount: Canon EF lenses (except EF-S)
Focal length crop factor: Approximately 1.3x
Image formats: JPEG, RAW (14 bit), simultaneous RAW+JEPG recording; Complies with DCF 2.0 file system
Image Sizes: : Large: 3888 x 2592 pixels (approx. 3.5 MB), Medium1: 3456 x 2304 pixels (2.8 MB); Medium2: 2816 x 1880 pixels (2.1 MB); Small: 1936 x 1288 pixels (1.2 MB); RAW: 3888 x 2592 pixels (13.0 MB); sRAW: 1936 x 1288 pixels (7.6MB)
Image Stabilisation: lens-based only
Dust removal: 3-way dust deletion (automatic/user-activated sensor cleaning plus Dust Delete Data appended to the captured image)
Shutter type: Electronically-controlled, focal plane shutter
Shutter speed range: 1/8000 sec. – 30 sec. (1/3 and ½ stop increments), bulb, X-sync at 1/300 sec.
Exposure Compensation: +/- 3EV in ½ or 1/3 EV increments
Focus system: TTL-AREA-SIR type with a CMOS sensor; 19 high precision, cross type points + 26 Assist AF points; AF-assist beam
Focus modes: Autofocus (One-shot AF, AI Servo AF) and Manual
Exposure metering: 63-zone TTL, full-aperture metering with Evaluative, Partial, Spot (Centre spot, AF point spot, multi-spot), Centre-weighted average metering modes
Exposure control: Program AE (shiftable), shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, manual exposure, E-TTL II autoflash, flash metered manual
Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
Custom functions: 57 plus C Fn registration, Save camera settings and Register basic camera settings options.
ISO range: ISO 100-3200 in 1/3-stop increments; can be expanded to ISO 50 and 6400
White balance: Auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten light, white fluorescent light, flash, custom (total 5 settings), colour temperature setting, and personal white balance (total 5 settings)
Flash (external): E-TTL II Autoflash with EX-series Speedlite
Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 3 stops in ½ or 1/3 stop increments
Drive Modes: Single, high-speed continuous (10 fps), low-speed continuous (3fps); self-timer (10 or 2 seconds delay), silent single shooting
Sequence shooting: 10 fps for up to 110 frames (at JPEG Large); 30 RAW frames
Storage Media: Compact Flash/Microdrive (type I/II), SD (inc SDHC) memory card, external media (via WFTE2)
Viewfinder: SLR-Type eye-level pentaprism viewfinder with -3 to +1 diopter adjustment, magnification 0.76x; built-in eyepiece shutter
Viewfinder Coverage: 100% (vertically and horizontally) with respect to the effective pixels
LCD monitor: 3.0-inch TFT colour liquid-crystal monitor; 230,000 pixels; supports Live View shooting
Data LCD: Yes
Interfaces: Digital Terminal: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed; Video Output Terminal: NTSC / PAL; Remote Control Terminal: N3-type; Extension System Terminal: for WFT-E2
Power supply: One lithium-ion battery pack LP-E4
Dimensions (wxhxd): 156 x 156.6 x 79.9 mm (body only)
Weight: 1155 grams (body only)
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