Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III review
Features and Design
This is a big camera with a big feature set. The magnesium alloy body alone weighs 1,210g without a lens and battery. Within that body lies a pair of DIGIC III processors, required to transform the large files that are generated by the hefty 36x24mm full-frame sensor.
That sensor is a newly designed CMOS type with 21.1 million effective pixels with an additional 800,000 pixels making up the black masking border used for calibration. Each photosite of the CMOS sensor features its own noise-reduction circuitry, along with individual amplifiers to speed up the transfer process of the signal from the sensor to the processors. Canon claims that this system results in faster image transfers, lower noise and reduced power consumption.
But what exactly does a 21-megapixel sensor offer that a lower-resolution one doesn’t? The obvious answer is larger images, but apart from the fact that few of us print at 18x13 inches at 300dpi, or larger at a lower print resolution, what does this matter? Well, if you print smaller then your images will be sharper.
And who exactly needs 21-megpixels anyway? The answer here is that the EOS 1Ds is aimed mainly at studio photographers, who do need larger images for ad campaigns, double page magazine spreads (with cropping) and large fine art prints. In short, more pixels have significant commercial advantages. For the studio-based pro too, the chance to achieve high resolution images from a DSLR body as opposed to images from often-unwieldy medium format cameras coupled with digital backs can free up their camera from tripods and increase shooting speed, to name just a couple of plus points.
The sensor doesn’t just offer high resolution, though. Along with other new Canon cameras, the EOS 1Ds Mk III has built-in dust reduction courtesy of the EOS Integrated Cleaning System. This works as a three-way attack on dust. First, an anti-static filter covers the sensor, reducing the chances of dust adhering to the sensor in the first place. Second, a supersonic signal is generated at the sensor during start-up to dislodge any dust that does manage to make its way to the surface, before a software-based dust-removal system checks the images as they are downloaded and effectively automatically clones out any dust that is found on the image or across a range of images, thus completing the process.
DIGIC III Processor
We mentioned that the camera has twin DIGIC III processors, compared with other cameras with single chips. The EOS 1Ds Mk III produces big files so it needs to quickly process and then push those files through the workflow pipeline as fast as possible. With a frame rate of 5fps it’s not the fastest, but it’s still fast and doubling the processing power at least keeps the camera’s speed at a working level, and is comparable to the majority of lower-resolution cameras. It’s not designed for sport and reportage, so isn’t a competitor of the Nikon D3, and besides the EOS 1D Mk III is better suited to fast, prolonged shooting with its 10fps burst rate working up to 110 JPEGs.
Canon hasn’t given details regarding the camera’s buffer size but it’ll need to be fairly substantial to deal with images of this size. This is the memory that holds and transfers images between processor and memory card. If you have a slow transfer card write speed, the buffer holds the images that have been shot rather like an air traffic holding pattern that keeps planes in the air until a slot on the runway is free.
As a professional camera, there are no scene modes, but within the menu are Canon’s Picture Styles that are standard on all current EOS models. These offer a variety of image flavours, setting parameters to make the most from subjects such as portraits and landscapes, as well as varying colour tones with standard, monochrome, neutral and faithful options. There are also three user-defined settings, which can all be adjusted to suit your own preference.
As for other photographic controls, the camera is equipped with the standard PASM modes, while a choice of drive modes offers 5fps shooting with single and continuous AF.
Shutter speeds ranging from 30sec to 1/8000sec and Bulb add to the professional spec, as does the comprehensive white balance settings including WB compensation. The sensitivity of the sensor covers a respectable ISO 100-1600 in normal use, with a Low and High mode of ISO 50 and 3200 respectively. While this doesn’t compare to the Nikon D3, it suits most needs, especially in the studio.
As for the camera’s focus system, the 1DS Mk III retains the same 45-point system of the Mk II, but now includes 19 cross-type points instead of the seven on the older model. Similarly, the new model has an improved metering system upping the evaluative stakes with 45 zones, over the previous 21, all linked to the AF system.
Finally, Canon has added live view to the 3in monitor, allowing live viewing of the subject to be shot directly on the monitor. Disappointingly, this feature works only in manual focus mode, though a 10x zoom view is available for critical focus checks.
There’s nothing especially unique about the layout of the camera which keeps almost the same interface as other Canon digital SLR cameras. Even if you’ve only used an entry-level EOS model before, the 1Ds Mk III will be immediately familiar. Of course, there is the question of size, and this is a much larger camera than any other in the range, other than the 1D Mk III.
Part of the size increase comes from the rugged build and incorporation of the large sensor, but also the added size of the powerful battery and built-in vertical grip. In vertical shooting the camera offers much the same controls around the shutter release button as its top-plate partner, including AF controls, AF/AE lock and a front command dial for changing shutter or aperture (depending on what exposure mode you’re using).