Canon EOS-1D Mark III (Prototype) Imaging Characteristics

NOTE: All crops shown here are from a prototype camera, however thumbnails and full resolution images have been updated from a production model.

As mentioned elsewhere in this review, one of the more important improvements the Canon engineers made in the EOS-1D Mark III was in the area of light sensitivity and image noise relative to the earlier EOS-1D Mark II N. To our eye, they've managed almost a full f-stop of noise improvement, meaning that ISO 3200 images from the Mark III look about like ISO 1600 ones from the Mark II, and the Mark III's amazing ISO 6400 shots look only slightly noisier than the ISO 3200 ones from the Mark II. The crops below compare critical detail areas from our Still Life test target shot with the two cameras under identical conditions.(Click on the thumbnails at the top of each table to see and download the full-resolution files. See the Thumbnail index page of this review for a broader range of sample shots, at a variety of ISO settings.)

As usual, the red-on-red fabric swatches seem to be the real torture test for noise-suppression systems, but both cameras do very well with them. The brighter leaf pattern shows a bit less subtle detail on the Mark III than on the Mark II, revealing a slight tradeoff of subject detail for lower noise on the Mark III. That said though, the difference is small, and the Mark III is clearly the overall leader in the high-ISO derby, among all competitors.

A note on lenses used: Several readers have asked about the lenses used in these shots. All studio shots were taken with the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, stopped down to f/8. This is a very sharp lens, and gets even better at f/8. Shawn's walking-around shots were captured with the Canon 50mm f/1.8, again for the most part stopped down. Despite its low price and inexpensive construction, the 50/1.8 is a surprisingly good lens, and its sharpness in the range of f/5.6-f/8 is nearly indistinguishable from that of many very expensive lenses. Its chromatic aberration, shading, and distortion are all very low as well. (For reference, you can examine the following lens test results on SLRgear: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, and (for reference only, as an example of a very high-end lens; we didn't have this one on hand when testing the Mark III) Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM. We very deliberately avoided zooms for these shots, as the two primes used are as good or better optically than any zoom available.

A note on exposure mode: All the images here were shot in the Mark III's default exposure mode. We'll have some samples showing the impact of the camera's Highlight Tone Priority mode later.

ISO 1600 Tone-on-Tone Noise/Detail Comparison
Canon EOS-1D Mark III Prototype Canon EOS-1D Mark II N


ISO 3200 Tone-on-Tone Noise/Detail Comparison
Canon EOS-1D Mark III Prototype Canon EOS-1D Mark II N


ISO 6400 vs ISO 3200 Tone-on-Tone Noise/Detail Comparison
Canon EOS-1D Mark III Prototype Canon EOS-1D Mark II N


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