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Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III

by Shawn Barnett, Dave Etchells, and Siegfried Weidelich
Preview Date: 08/20/07

The full-frame digital SLR megapixel race has a new champion: the 21.1-megapixel Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. In this case, the only other contender in the race is Canon's own 16.7-megapixel 1Ds Mark II. While most serious photographers don't need more than 8 to 12 megapixels, there is a set of pro photographers who need every last bit of detail a camera can give them.

Long hailed by many as a rival to medium-format digital cameras for less money, the 1Ds is extremely popular in the professional portrait and fashion photography world. With the addition of nearly all the advancements and interfaces improvements of its higher-speed brother, the 1D Mark III, the 1Ds Mark III is likely to be even more popular with high-end pro photographers.

New sensor. 35mm full-frame sensor, designed and manufactured by Canon.

Its new 36x24mm sensor records images that measure 5,632 x 3,750 pixels, with a pitch of 6.4 microns. That's a smaller pixel pitch than in the 1Ds Mark III, whose pixels were 7.2 microns, but Canon says they've once again reduced the spacing of the microlens grid, making for more active light gathering over each pixel.

Next to its higher resolution, the other significant feature in the 1Ds Mark III is its faster five frames per second, up from four on the 1Ds Mark II. The 1Ds Mark III can shoot up to 56 large/fine JPEG images or 12 RAW images before the buffer fills. When used with a UDMA memory card, the EOS 1Ds Mark III is purported to be able to write a 21.1-megapixel file in the same time that the 10.1-megapixel 1D Mark III records an image.

Dual DIGIC III processors keep the sensor's 8 channels of data moving along in parallel, enabling the blazing speeds at the highest resolution the company has produced.

The 1Ds Mark III also has most of what was introduced on the 1D Mark III, including the body, button, and menu layout; the 45-point Autofocus system with 19 precision cross-type points; a 3-inch LCD; Live View mode, with some of the same enhancements now offered on the EOS 40D; and compatibility with the existing WFT-E2A 802.11b/g Wireless File Transmitter.

The Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III is slated to ship in November at a selling price of $7,999.

History. Canon's EOS SLR system is the oldest and still the largest lens line where the focus motor is built into the lens itself, with no mechanical coupling between the lens and camera body. Other lines, like Nikon, Pentax, and Minolta/Sony, have a mixture of "screw-drive" lenses and electronically coupled lenses. Dating back to 1987, the EOS (Electro-Optical System) line has a huge and growing selection of lenses, some of which Canon has recently updated to meet the greater demands of digital imaging technology.

As the first major manufacturer to use large CMOS sensors in their SLRs, Canon was an early leader in delivering amazing image quality from its sensors even at high ISO. Canon was also the first to deliver a digital SLR with a full-frame sensor, and they delivered it years before anyone else in the form of the 11.4-megapixel EOS-1Ds, which shipped in 2003 (see our preview of the latest in this line, the 1Ds Mark III, announced simultaneously with the EOS 40D). As of this writing, Canon is the only SLR manufacturer to ship a full-frame (35mm-sized) digital SLR.

And Canon was the first SLR manufacturer to introduce a digital SLR priced under $1,000, the EOS Digital Rebel (300D). That revolutionary SLR was also introduced on August 20, back in 2003.


High forehead. A minor change to make room for the larger pentaprism.

Look and feel. The 1Ds Mark III is largely similar to the 1D Mark III, save for a slight protrusion on the top of its pentaprism housing, to make room for the larger pentaprism. It is the key frontal cosmetic detail difference that will convey the higher resolution and price of the 1Ds Mark III, certainly eclipsing the gold Ds badge.

The back of the new 1Ds is really identical to the new 1D, with the same large LCD and familiar control placement. Again, the only major visible difference is the raised pentaprism housing. It adds up to a height difference of 0.12 inches (3mm) in height between the two cameras. The 1Ds Mark III is also 1.9 ounces (50g) heavier than the 1D Mark III. It is actually lighter overall than its predecessor, the 1Ds Mark II.

Body. Like the new 1D, the 1Ds is also built a little more rugged, with better sealing overall. That includes the new hot shoe seal for the external flash, first introduced with the 1D Mark III. (This special seal requires use of a 580EX II flash.) Judging from my experience shooting with the 1D Mark III, the 1Ds will make Canon's highest resolution digital SLR more accessible than the last offering. Though it's still too big and heavy for most shooters, it's much easier to use.

LCD. The big LCD on the back is 3.0 inches, with 230,000 pixels; and like the EOS 40D, its angle of view is restricted to 140 degrees, whereas past models have offered 170 degree viewing angle. Canon claims that you get a brighter view in daylight using this method, directing more of the light in a tighter cone than the wider design. It remains to be seen how this will affect the utility of the LCD in Live View mode.

Highlight tone priority. The new DIGIC III processors also allow the 1Ds Mark III the same Highlight tone priority mode first seen in the 1D Mark III, introduced earlier this year. See our Hands-on Preview of the 1D Mark III for a preliminary analysis of this mode here, designed to keep highlights from blowing in brightly lit scenes, a common problem with digital cameras.

Dust cleaning. All new Canon SLRs from the XTi on include the EOS Integrated Cleaning System, and the top-of-the-line 1Ds Mark III is no exception. Not only does the system shake dust from the low-pass filter, but the camera has been designed to shed less dust from its internal parts, so that the camera's creating less dust of its own. You can also clean the sensor yourself (as you'll inevitably need to do regardless of any built-in anti-dust system); but if you've found dust in your images and have no time to do a full manual cleaning, you can map the dust for later removal on a computer with Canon's Digital Photo Professional software, bundled with the camera.

Software. Both the 40D and 1Ds Mark III benefit from several new and improved items in the software bundle. The main new item is Canon's Picture Style Editor 1.0, an application that allows photographers to create their own processing parameters. Settings like style, color, and tone curves can be programmed to suit a given photographic situation and then be distributed among several cameras. The EOS 40D will be shipping earlier than the 1Ds Mark III, so it will include Digital Photo Professional 3.1 and EOS Utility 2.1, which are necessary for Remote Live View mode and the Dust Delete Data function. The 1Ds Mark III will ship with DPP 3.2 and EOS Utility 2.2. These later versions are designed to speed up workflow, but will also offer improved image processing capability. A new Lens Aberration Correction Function can compensate for chromatic aberration, vignetting, color blur, and distorition. This version will initially be compatible with 11 other cameras and 29 EF and EF-S lenses.

New/upgraded features on the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III:

NOT changed:


Stay tuned as we write up what promises to be an interesting professional digital SLR.


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