CANON EOS 1D Mark III
The bottom line: The 1Ds Mark III marks another high-end success for Canon, though you’ll need a lot of spare cash if you want to own this ground-breaking camera.
Canon’s 1Ds series body design, with its long, relatively straight grip, seems somewhat blocky compared with the sculpted designs that Nikon and some other manufacturers use. However, that’s partly because the grip itself is longer, with about 3.25 inches of main grip space compared with the Nikon D3, which has about 2.5 inches of main grip space. That means that the Canon might better accommodate people with larger hands.
Both cameras have longer vertical grips. Speaking of which, as in previous models, Canon duplicates the buttons and dials around the shutter button on the vertical grip, though they omit the exposure compensation and ISO buttons. Since you can use the large control wheel on the camera back for exposure compensation, only the lack of the ISO button is annoying, especially if you’ve come to rely on it as much as I have recently. To Canon’s credit, in my field tests I found that the vertical grip’s shutter on the 1Ds Mark III was less prone to accidental pressing than the one on the Nikon D3. Both offer an on/off switch to prevent such accidents when using the main grip.
With its upgrade to a 3-inch LCD screen, from the 1Ds Mark II’s 2-inch screen, Canon was forced to relocate some buttons that used to reside to the left of the LCD. Menu and Info buttons move above the screen, while the playback button drops to below it. The Select button from the Mark II N is now obsolete, thanks to the Mark III’s Set button, which is mounted in the middle of the large scroll wheel, much like the scroll wheels found on the EOS 40D and 5D. Another feature drawn from those siblings is the tiny joystick controller, which is used to navigate between various menus, among other things.
While the Mark II had three two-button combinations of the buttons to the left of the pentaprism, Canon eliminated two of those combos by including the aforementioned dedicated ISO button and putting both AF and Drive under the same button. The small scroll wheel near the shutter controls one while the large back scroll wheel adjusts the other. The only remaining combo controls bracketing. The very observant among you may notice that Canon now hides the diopter wheel behind the viewfinder’s eyecup, so that you now have to remove the eyecup to adjust it. That’s good, since you really shouldn’t need to change it that often and don’t want it to change inadvertently. You might also notice that there’s no clearly marked white balance button. The FUNC button handles that, but it would’ve been nice for Canon to mark it. They also moved the white balance shift to the menu only, so the Mark II’s WB +/- button is replaced by the AF-On button, which triggers the autofocus and can come in handy if you don’t like the standard half-press of the shutter button to activate focus. As you might guess, there are a number of ways you can configure the shutter and AF-On buttons to work together.
Following the current trend, the 1Ds Mark III includes a Live View shooting mode, which lets you frame images with the big 3-inch LCD on the back of the camera instead of the optical viewfinder, should you choose to do so. Once the Live View mode is enabled in the setup menu, all you have to do is press the Set button to enter Live View mode. When you do, the camera locks the mirror up, thereby cutting off the optical viewfinder, and you are restricted to manual focus. If you’re worried about light leaking in through the viewfinder, you can block it with the built-in eyepiece shutter by flipping down the switch in the right side of the viewfinder. Conveniently, you can use the playback zoom controls to zoom in either 5x or 10x on your subject, to aid in manual focusing. Canon doesn’t set any strict limits on how long you can remain in Live View mode, but it does mention that the sensor heats up in Live View mode and that you may encounter a thermometer icon on the LCD once the camera reaches a certain temperature. I never saw this icon when I used Live View mode, but if you typically shoot in very warm environments (studio hot lights, anyone?) you may run into it. As you may guess, shooting at higher ISOs should make the sensor heat up faster than at lower ISOs. Canon also warns that increased temperatures can lead to increased image noise.
Canon has increased the number of cross-type autofocus points from 7 in the Mark II to 19 in the Mark III. Cross-type AF points typically provide a higher level of sensitivity compared to standard horizontal-only points. Those 19 cross sensors are joined by 26 “assist points” for a total of 45 AF points. Careful scrutiny of Canon’s manual shows that the number of active cross-type points decreases drastically if you use a lens with a maximum aperture slower than f/2.8. When you step down to a lens with a maximum aperture of f/4, only the center point functions as a cross-type; the rest function as horizontal only. With a maximum aperture of f/5.6, all AF points become horizontal only and by the time you reach a maximum aperture of f/8 you’re left with only the center point active and it acts as a horizontal-only sensor. This is essentially the same system that is employed in Canon’s 1D Mark III, which still has an ongoing problem with continuous AF under certain conditions, including very hot and bright shooting conditions, according to Rob Galbraith. I saw no such problems in my field tests with the 1Ds Mark III, though I did most of my testing in winter in New York City. Still, there’s no real reason to think that the 1Ds Mark III has any such problem in the first place.
To determine a proper exposure, the camera uses a 63-zone TTL (through the lens) metering system. The system offers full-frame evaluative metering, center-weighted average, and partial and spot metering. According to Canon, the partial option uses the center 8.5 percent of the frame to determine exposure, while the spot setting uses 2.4 percent and can be set to the center or linked to the AF sensor in use, or you can choose up to eight spot readings and let the camera average them. Canon calls this last option “multispot metering.” All you have to do is press the FEL button to add another spot reading while you’re in spot AF mode to begin with. The average of the total number of spots is used, and you can even apply exposure compensation. While it worked well, it took me a little time to figure out that you have to point the active spot at each part of the scene for which you want to add a reading and then recompose before capturing your image. Of course, that makes sense, but the manual probably could’ve communicated that a little more clearly.