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Canon 1Ds Mark III High ISO Image Quality

The Canon 1Ds Mark III offers only two high-ISO noise-reduction settings, On and Off. Newer high-end Canon SLRs offer four settings. See for yourself how the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III performs at higher ISOs compared to other full-frame SLRs. Click on any of the crops below to see the corresponding full-sized image.

 

Canon 1Ds Mark III vs Nikon D3X
High ISO NR
Simulated Daylight
Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D3X
High ISO Noise Reduction Setting
HINR=Off
HINR=On
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
I
S
O

8
0
0
Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D3X
HINR=Off
HINR=On
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
Canon 1Ds Mark III
Nikon D3X
HINR=Off
HINR=On
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
I
S
O

3
2
0
0

It's clear that both cameras are absolutely top performers. The crops above also show subtly different approaches to noise reduction and detail handling. Even with its High ISO NR disabled, the Canon 1Ds Mark III is still applying a fair bit of luminance noise reduction, which generates cleaner-looking images, but at some cost to fine detail in areas of subtle contrast. (It still does very well with higher-contrast detail, as in the circular scale shown in the last set of crops at each ISO setting.) With High ISO NR off, the 1Ds Mark III also shows a bit more chroma noise than does the Nikon D3X at the same setting. Increasing the NR setting to "Normal" for both cameras reduces both chrominance and luminance noise in both. Nikon leaves a bit more (very fine-grained) luminance noise in the D3X's images, but also preserves subtle detail a bit better (as seen in the fabric swatches).

See the crops below for a comparison with the Sony Alpha A900 at equal ISO settings.

Canon 1Ds Mark III vs Sony A900
High ISO NR
Simulated Daylight
Canon 1Ds Mark III
Sony A900
High ISO Noise Reduction Setting
HINR=Off
HINR=On
HINR=Off
HINR=On
I
S
O

8
0
0
N/A
- No High ISO NR applied
N/A
- No High ISO NR applied
N/A
- No High ISO NR applied
Canon 1Ds Mark III
Sony A900
HINR=Off
HINR=On
HINR=Off
HINR=On
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
Canon 1Ds Mark III
Sony A900
HINR=Off
HINR=On
HINR=Off
HINR=On
I
S
O

3
2
0
0

The Canon is clearly less noisy at high ISOs (note though that the Sony offers ISO 6,400, which the Canon 1Ds Mark III does not).

Even though they are not in the same price-class, lots of folks no doubt wonder how the Canon 1Ds Mark III compares to the Canon 5D Mark II. See the comparison below.

Canon 1Ds Mark III vs Canon 5D Mark II
High ISO NR
Simulated Daylight
Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 5D Mark II
High ISO Noise Reduction Setting
HINR=Off
HINR=On
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
I
S
O

8
0
0
Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 5D Mark II
HINR=Off
HINR=On
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 5D Mark II
HINR=Off
HINR=On
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
I
S
O

3
2
0
0

The crops above compare the Canon 1Ds Mark III (ISO 800 through 3,200) to that of the Canon 5D Mark II, a much more affordable alternative. Not surprisngly, the performance is very similar, though we think the 5D Mark II has a slight edge, though it's "Normal" noise reduction is more agressive than the 1Ds Mark III's "On" setting.