Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III


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    Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

      In summary

      A sophisticated and versatile 'full frame' DSLR with the highest resolution available in this format thus far.Canon's EOS-1Ds Mark III is the most sophisticated professional camera yet to emerge from the company's stable. Replacing the EOS-1Ds Mark II, which was released towards the end of 2004, it is the fourth in the line that began in 2002 with the EOS-1Ds and includes the EOS 5D. Compared with the camera it replaces, some significant improvements have taken place as a result of three years of development. . . [more]

      Full review


      Canon's EOS-1Ds Mark III is the most sophisticated professional camera yet to emerge from the company's stable. Replacing the EOS-1Ds Mark II, which was released towards the end of 2004, it is the fourth in the line that began in 2002 with the EOS-1Ds and includes the EOS 5D. Compared with the camera it replaces, some significant improvements have taken place as a result of three years of development. (Click here to access a PDF table listing the key differences between the two cameras.)

      The new model is targeted at professional photographers who require high quality images and first-rate performance for the studio or on location. It boasts a magnesium alloy body with more than 70 dust and moisture resistant seals and a shutter mechanism that's rated for 300,000 cycles. Canon's EOS Integrated Cleaning System for dust removal, which was pioneered on the EOS 400D, has been upgraded to cope with the higher demands of the larger sensor, where it works as well as on cameras with smaller imagers.

      Just about every other feature of its predecessor has been improved upon and the new model adds the latest live viewing and dust removal technologies to keep it right up-to-date with photographers' demands. Many of the new features are carried over from the EOS-1D Mark III, which was released early in 2007.

      Accordingly, we find Dual DiG!C III Image Processors, 14-bit Analogue-to-Digital conversion, a 45-point AF system (including 19 cross-type AF points and 26 assist AF points), 63-area ambient light metering and E-TTL II flash metering in the feature set of the new model. It also offers JPEG, CR2.RAW and sRAW file format options. Like its predecessor, the 1Ds Mark III has dual card slots for CF and SD cards, with support for the latest high-speed cards. However, unlike the 1Ds Mark II, the new model will switch automatically to an alternative card when the first card is full. It also allows photographers to set the image size separately for each card.

      The camera's fast, five frame/second continuous shooting rate for bursts of up to 56 Large/Fine (21-megapixel) JPEGS or 12 CR2.RAW images will suit fashion photographers and photographers who cover certain sports. The Kelvin white balance settings now start at 2500K, instead of 2800K, to improve colour accuracy in poorly-lit interiors with incandescent lighting.


      Front, rear and top views of the EOS-1Ds Mark III.

      The viewfinder on the new model is also larger and brighter than its predecessor's and a 3-inch LCD with seven levels of adjustment replaces the 2-inch display on the Mark II model. This makes a huge improvement to the readability of menus and improves image playback (although it's no match for the higher-resolution screen on Nikon's D3). Eleven interchangeable focusing screens are available.


      Improvements have been made to the viewfinder display, including a redesigned AF sensor. (Source: Canon.)
      Operational improvements include some refinements to button placement and control design. A notable addition is the mini-joystick, which appeared earlier on the 5D and 40D models and makes navigating through menus and played-back images faster and easier. The ISO button is also more conveniently positioned and the ability to check ISO settings in the viewfinder will be welcomed by many photographers.

      Flash support has been extended with E-TTL metering and bracketing settable with both camera and accessory flash. Zoom and wireless functions have been added. Two synch terminals are available, one for Canon Speedlites and another for non-Canon flash units. When a compatible EX-Speedlite is fitted to the camera, most flash controls are adjustable via the Custom Function menu, which has been expanded to include 57 functions. (A comprehensive outline of the Custom Functions can be found at

      The batteries for the new model are smaller and lighter but support higher shooting capacities. Only one battery is supplied with the camera, although the charger can accommodate two at a time. A new latch makes inserting and removing batteries quicker and easier. The new model also supports GPS data logging and image encryption (OSK-E3) and backup images to external media via the optional WFT-E2/E2A transmitter. A USB 2.0 Hi Speed interface replaces the Firewire interface on the previous model.

      Sensor and Image Processing
      A Canon-developed, 21.1-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor gives the 1-Ds Mark III the highest sensor resolution of any '35mm-sized' camera to date. Measuring 36 x 24 mm, it produces image files with a top resolution of 5616 x 3744 pixels. The surface area of individual photosites is, therefore, approximately 6.4 microns. This is a little larger than the EOS 40D's photosites but somewhat smaller than the 8.19 micron photosites on the EOS 5D.

      The new imager records image data in 14-bit colour and works in tandem with Canon's Dual DiG!C III image processors to provide 14-bit analogue/digital conversion. Higher bit-depth at this stage gives the camera more data to work with, thereby allowing it to produce richly-detailed images with accurate colour reproduction. Supported ISO speeds range from 100-1600 with expansion to ISO 50 and ISO 3200 available.

      Canon's Picture Styles have been introduced to the 1-Ds Mark III, with six pre-sets available and facilities for registering up to three user-defined Picture Styles. Picture Style Editor software is supplied with the camera, allowing photographers to create and save their own Picture Styles. The table below outlines the characteristics of the pre-loaded Picture Style set.





      Standard (default setting)

      Vivid, sharp images; usable in a wide variety of conditions; optimal for direct printing without post-processing


      slightly high


      Warmer skin tones, with slight increases in contrast and sharpening.

      slightly high

      slightly low


      Extremely bright, saturated and sharpened images, with emphasis on blue and green colour saturation.

      high green-blue



      Low sharpening, contrast and saturation: the ideal starting point for image-editing in the computer.




      Accurate reproduction of the subject's colours based on colorimetric data; assumes 5500K light source




      Black & White images; adjustable contrast, sharpening, as well as colour toning and effects of traditional colour filters.

      none (monochrome)

      slightly high

      The new image processors are more power-efficient and support roughly 60% more shooting capability than the earlier model. A new battery check icon on the data display provides updates on remaining capacity, while the settings menu lets users check on recharge performance and shutter count (the number of shots taken with the current battery).

      The dual Dual DiG!C III processors also improve camera response times. Canon claims a shutter release lag time of only 55ms and a viewfinder blackout time of 80ms for the 1-Ds Mark III. The top continuous shooting speed of five frames/second is remarkable when you consider the size of the image files (see below). The buffer memory will hold up to 56 JPEGs or 12 CR2.RAW files (or 10 RAW+JPEG shots).

      Shooting and Image File Options
      Only four shooting modes are provided: Program AE, Aperture-priority AE, Shutter-priority AE and Manual. All support a wide range of adjustments, with program shift enabled in the P mode. Photographers can disable modes they don't want to use via the sub-menu in C.Fn I-9.

      Two raw file formats are supported: CR2.RAW (14-bit) and sRAW. As with other Canon DSLRs, raw files are losslessly compressed. Four JPEG sizes are provided, each offering 10 levels of JPEG compression, with the default level at 8. All JPEG settings are supported in RAW+JPEG and sRAW+JPEG modes.

      Raw file sizes ranged between 20.8MB and 36.2MB in our tests, depending on the amount of detail in the shot. Canon lists an average file size of 25MB in its published data and we have used this value as an average. Typical file sizes and buffer capacities are laid out in the table below with JPEG figures based on the default compression level of 8.

      Image quality

      Image size


      file size

      Buffer capacity *

      High speed

      Low speed


      CR2.RAW (14-bit)

      5616 x 3744


      12 shots

      14 shots


      5616 x 3744+5616 x 3744


      10 shots

      10 shots


      5616 x 3744+4992 x 3328


      10 shots

      10 shots


      5616 x 3744+4080 x 2720


      12 shots

      12 shots


      5616 x 3744+2784 x 1856


      12 shots

      12 shots


      2784 x 1856


      18 shots

      24 shots


      2784 x 1856+5616 x 3744


      12 shots

      14 shots


      2784 x 1856+4992 x 3328


      12 shots

      14 shots


      2784 x 1856+4080 x 2720


      12 shots

      18 shots


      2784 x 1856+2784 x 1856


      18 shots

      24 shots


      5616 x 3744


      56 shots

      83 shots


      4992 x 3328


      73 shots

      140 shots


      4080 x 2720


      110 shots

      300 shots


      2784 x 1856



      890 shots

      *Note: the buffer capacities listed above are for standard speed cards. Faster UDMA cards provide significantly higher buffer capacities for JPEG files - but not for raw files.

      Metering and Autofocusing
      The 1-Ds Mark III's metering system is another area in which improvements have been applied, with new metering algorithms and a more sophisticated 63-zone metering sensor, which is linked to 19 cross-type AF points. Four metering modes are supported: evaluative, partial (covering 8.5% of the viewfinder area), 2.4% spot metering and centre-weighted average metering.

      Custom Function I-8-2 allows photographers to set the camera so it will automatically shift the ISO speed setting to achieve the proper exposure in situations in which the correct exposure for the shot lies outside the selected range. Highlight alerts can be displayed in playback mode to warn photographers of over-exposed highlight areas. A new Highlight tone priority Custom Function (C.Fn II-3) lets the camera expand the tonal range in highlights to ensure detail is reproduced.

      The autofocusing system has been totally redesigned for increased sensitivity, easier navigation and improved performance in the field. Nineteen precision cross-type AF points and a surrounding oval of 26 Assist AF points cover the centre of the field of view. The user-selectable cross-type AF points are now distributed evenly across the entire sensor area and the selection pattern can be set to cover the inner or outer nine AF points. Individual Assist AF points are not selectable.

      With Custom Function III-8 you can expand the manual AF point selection range to include either adjacent points on each side of the selected point or surrounding points. Canon has also incorporated a sensor to detect the different spectral characteristics of differing light sources and compensate for potential focusing errors than may result from variations in spectral emissions.

      Other Custom Functions provide adjustments for the AI Servo settings. C.Fn III-3 lets you choose between focus and shutter release priority; C.Fn III-4 allows you to select an autofocus tracking method (main focus point priority or continuous AF track priority) and C.Fn III-7 lets you adjust the point of focus for up to 20 lenses.

      Live Viewing
      The Live View shooting function is similar to those in other Canon DSLRs. It provides a 100% field of view plus the ability to check exposure and colour settings on the spot by pressing the depth-of-field preview button without having to make an exposure. Canon recommends the camera be tripod-mounted when this mode is used. A grid overlay is available for photographers who need to ensure shots are level.

      Live View is engaged by pressing the button in the centre of the Quick Control Dial and, as with other cameras, using it delays shutter release times by just under one second. The system requires manual focusing and metering, which is set by default to evaluative. However, you can magnify parts of the image on the scrren by 5x or 10x for focus checking before taking the shot.

      One special feature of this mode that will appeal to studio photographers is Remote Live View shooting, which allows the camera to be connected to a computer and triggered by USB or via the optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E2/E2A. Shooting in Live View mode cuts the capacity of a fully-charged battery from around 1800 shots/charge to approximately 300 shots. Shooting capacity is further reduced when the camera is used in freezing conditions.
      Playback facilities are as comprehensive as you would expect from a professional DSLR and include single image display or indexes of four or nine shots. Pressing the Info button lets you toggle through four single-shot display options showing the image alone, image with image quality and size overlaid, reduced-size image with RGB and brightness histograms plus image size and shooting information or reduced-size image with brightness histogram and all metadata, including GPS information (if recorded).

      Playback zoom is supported across a magnification range of 1.5x to 10x in 15 steps. Fast deletion of images is also available and users can choose between deleting individual shots, batches of images or all images on the selected card.

      The software bundle consists of three CDs, the first being version 16.0 of the EOS Digital Solution disk that is supplied with all Canon DSLRs. It contains EOS Utility v. 2.2, Digital Photo Professional v.3.2, Picture Style Editor v.1.1 and PhotoStitch v. 3.2 for Windows and Mac plus Image Browser 6.0 for Mac and ZoomBrowser EX 6.0 for Windows. The Windows software offers improved compatibility with the Windows Vista OS but, otherwise the software is pretty standard.

      The Picture Style editor includes adjustments for colour and tone curves, as well as dynamic-range. There is also a new lens aberration correction function that minimises aberrations by taking account of the optical data for the lens, focal length and other information. For JPEG and TIFF images, editing options include color tone, brightness, contrast, hue and saturation settings.

      The second disk contains the Software Instruction Manual in five languages, while the third disk, titled Canon Essential Products and Solutions, links to a Canon website that provides details of accessory products for four DSLR cameras: the EOS-1Ds Mark III, EOS-1D Mark III, EOS 5D and EOS 40D.

      Canon's Dust Delete Data function, which is used to automatically remove residual dust from images when they are edited, requires Digital Photo Professional. So does GPS tagging. Digital Photo Professional also supports a wider range of colour space settings than the camera, adding Wide Gamut RGB to the photographer's tool kit. Precisely-controllable noise reduction can also be applied to individual image files before they are converted to TIFF or JPEG format. ICC profiles are fully supported.

      Not unexpectedly, image quality from the test camera was excellent. However, whenever our shooting technique wasn't spot-on, the camera showed up every tiny flaw in our shots, be it in focusing, exposure or colour balance. Consequently, capturing test shots for assessment proved quite a challenge.

      In the initial stages of our testing, we had some concerns about an apparent flatness and lack of sharpness in some of our test shots when we used the Neutral Picture Style setting. We also found slight motion blurring in action shots became more visible because of the very high pixel count in the image files. Fortunately, both problems could be totally eliminated when converting the raw images into TIFF or JPEG format.

      We also found that different conversion software produced quite different results. For our Imatest evaluations we compared JPEG files with CR2.RAW files that were processed in Digital Photo Professional and Adobe's Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop. The highest resolutions were obtained with raw files converted with Digital Photo Professional, while JPEGs produced the lowest resolutions. (See Imatest Graphs below.) However, lateral chromatic aberration was generally low or insignificant with JPEGs and both raw conversions.

      Imatest evaluation showed the test camera's performance to be in line with our expectations. Resolution was generally high and colour accuracy was very good. The test camera's auto white balance produced accurate colours under fluorescent lighting but failed to totally remove the inherent colour cast of incandescent lighting. However, a simple auto levels adjustment in Photoshop removed residual colour casts. Both manual pre-sets delivered natural colours and it was easy to tune out colour casts with the in-camera controls before taking shots.

      We were also impressed by the quality we could obtain from raw files from the test camera and the degree of adjustments we could apply to a wide range of image parameters when raw files were processed. Skin tones were particularly well rendered in a variety of lighting conditions. Interestingly, we found we could apply higher levels of sharpening than average to shots from the test camera before sharpening artefacts became visible than with lower-resolution DSLRs we've reviewed.

      Performance at high ISO settings was also outstanding, with minimal loss of resolution at the highest settings. Image noise was barely visible in test shots taken at ISO settings up to 800 without noise reduction and 1600 with noise reduction applied. Image colours and sharpness remained natural-looking with long exposures. The graph below plots the results from our Imatest resolution tests in line widths per pixel height against the ISO settings used for the test shots.


      Camera response times were generally fast and the AF system was quick to lock on to subjects, even in dim lighting (although it had a few problems after dark unless there was an area of contrast to focus upon). No hunting was observed in our tests with the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens used for some of our test shots. Focusing was spot on for more than 95% of the shots we took, regardless of the drive mode selected.

      The camera powered-up ready for shooting in just over 3.5 seconds, the delay being largely caused by the sensor cleaning, which is set to activate when the camera is switched on. Photographers who wish to avoid this delay can switch the auto sensor cleaning system off. We measured an average capture lag of 0.2 seconds, which disappeared with pre-focusing.

      Shot-to-shot times were too brief to measure accurately when an UDMA card was used. Continuous shooting times were close to specifications. With the high-speed burst mode we recorded 20 large JPEGs in 3.8 seconds; eleven CR2.RAW files in 1.9 seconds and ten RAW+JPEG in 1.9 seconds in sequential bursts. The low speed mode recorded at three frames/second.

      Large, heavy and complex to operate, Canon's EOS-1Ds Mark III is not the ideal camera for everybody. It's certainly not for novice users and photographers who prefer to set and forget their cameras are unlikely to extract the greatest benefits from this camera. In fact, for most serious enthusiasts - and many professionals - eight to 12 megapixel resolution is more than adequate.

      However, for photographers who require a combination of very high resolution, extensive adjustability and excellent imaging performance, it is a very impressive imaging tool. In versatility, usability and performance, it represents a genuine rival for most medium-format digital cameras, which are significantly more expensive. High-end fashion, wedding and portrait photographers - and photographers who require a versatile tool for studio photography - should be impressed.

      We have a few minor gripes with the new model. For starters, we would have preferred two CF card slots to a CF and an SD slot. Not only does CF offer higher capacities, the cards aren't as easy to mislay as the smaller SD cards. It's also more convenient to carry only one card type when you're out on a job. We'd also like to be able to select all of the AF points individually - even if it's only offered as a custom function.

      Easy mirror lock-up is another feature that should have been included, ideally via a dedicated button. Having to fiddle around with custom functions when you have the camera on a tripod is a pain. C.Fn III-15 lets you lock the mirror up by pressing the shutter button - and then release it by pressing the shutter button again. Alternatively you can assign the Set button to drop the mirror. But it's not a perfect situation in a camera that's ideal for studio use.

      These issues aside, for its target market, the EOS-1Ds Mark III in a pretty impressive camera.



      Sample Imatest resolution graph from a CR2.RAW file converted with Digital Photo Professional.


      The same file as above converted with Adobe Camera Raw.


      Results for a JPEG file captured simultaneously with the raw file above.



      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      Long exposure at ISO 1600.




      Skin tones in subdued, low-contrast lighting.


      Skin tones in bright sunlight.


      Action shot from a burst (see below).


      A sequence from a burst of shots recorded with the high-speed setting.

      (For more sample images, check out the reviews of the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM and EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lenses, which will be posted on this website shortly.)




      Image sensor: Approx. 36 x 24 mm RGBCMOS sensor with 21.9 million photosites (21.1 megapixels effective); RGB primary colour filter
      Lens mount: Canon EF (incompatible with EF-S lenses)
      Focal length crop factor: 1.0x
      Image formats: CR2.RAW (14-bit), sRAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG
      Image Sizes: JPEG: 5616 x 3744, 4992 x 3328, 4080 x 2720, 2784 x 1856; RAW: 5616 x 3744, 2784 x 1856
      Image Stabilisation: Lens-based only
      Dust removal: EOS Integrated Cleaning System (sensor vibration plus Dust Delete Data recording/deletion)
      Shutter speed range: 1/8000 to 30 sec. (1/3- and 1/2-stop increments), bulb, X-sync at 1/250 sec.
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 3 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps (can be combined with AEB)
      Self-timer: 10 or 2 second delay
      Focus system: TTL-AREA-SIR with a CMOS sensor; 19 cross type AF points plus 26 Assist AF points
      Focus modes: One-Shot AF, AI Servo AF, Manual focusing (MF)
      Exposure metering: 63-zone TTL full-aperture metering; Evaluative metering (linkable to any AF point); Partial metering (approx 8.5% of viewfinder at centre); Spot metering (2.4% at centre, AF point linked, multi-spot); Centre-weighted average metering
      Shooting modes: Program AE (shiftable), Shutter-priority AE, Aperture-priority AE, Manual, E-TTL II autoflash, flash metered manual
      Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Def. 1 - 3
      Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
      Custom functions: Total 57; My Menu registration provided
      ISO range: ISO 100-1600; expandable to ISO 50 and ISO 3200
      White balance: Auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, flash, custom (5 settings), colour temperature setting, personal setting (5 settings); ±9 stops correction (blue/amber direction or magenta/green) in full-stop increments; ±3 stops WB bracketing
      Flash: E-TTL II autoflash support with EX-series Speedlites; PC terminal and hot shoe provided
      Flash exposure adjustment: ±3 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments
      Sequence shooting: High speed: 5 fps; Low speed: 3 fps; buffer capacity 12 RAW files; approx. 56 Large/Fine JPEGs
      Storage Media: Dual slots for CF Type I, II and SD/SDHC; external media via WFT-E2 Wireless File Transmitter; Image copying between media enabled; Auto switch media, separate recording at specified image size/quality to each card; record same image to both cards.
      Viewfinder: Eye-level pentaprism; 100% frame coverage, approx 0.76x magnification; 20mm eyepoint; diopter adjustment of -3 to +1 dpt; interchangeable focusing screens (11 types available)
      Viewfinder information: AF information (AF points, focus confirmation light), metering and exposure information (metering mode, spot metering circle, shutter speed, aperture, manual exposure, AE lock, ISO speed, exposure level, exposure warning), flash information (flash ready, FP flash, FE lock, flash exposure level), white balance correction, JPEG/RAW recording, maximum burst, number of shots remaining, battery check, recording media information
      LCD monitor: 3.0-inch TFT colour LCD; 230,000 pixels
      Live View modes: 1) Live View shooting; 2) Remote Live View (PC-connected); supports auto/manual focus, evaluative metering, magnification by 5x or 10x at AF point, grid display, exposure simulation
      Data LCD: Yes; displays full photographic and digital settings
      Playback functions: Single image, Single image + Image-recording quality, shooting information, histogram, 4- or 9-image index, magnified view (approx. 1.5x - 10x), rotated image, image jump (by 1/10/100 images, 1 screen, or shooting date); highlight alert (blinking) provided
      Interface terminals: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, Video OUT (PAL/NTSC); WFT-E2/E2A
      Power supply: LP-E4 battery pack (approx 1800 shots/charge)
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 156 x 159.6 x 79.9 mm
      Weight: Approx. 1210 grams (body only)





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