Twenty-one megapixels. Think about it. Once the exclusive domain of those Tiffany-priced
medium format digital backs, that same kind of high-end resolution is now possible
with a D-SLR, albeit an expensive one. While it has the same $7999 price as
its 16.7-megapixel predecessor, Canon's 21-megapixel EOS-1Ds Mark III
could hardly be called inexpensive, but to pros who need the image quality,
it could be, in Visa TV commercial terms, "priceless." Wearing the
same clean sheet of paper design skin as its sibling, the 1D Mark III, Canon's
1Ds Mark III goes where no other D-SLR has gone before.
Mark Three Take Two
Built on the same rugged magnesium-alloy chassis as the 1D Mark III, the 1Ds
Mark III has a 5 frame per second (fps) shooting rate with bursts possible of
up to 56 Large JPEG or 12 raw image files. The camera's new 36x24mm CMOS
image sensor offers 21.1 million effective pixels (5632x3750) at a pitch of
6.4 microns. You can select any one of six capturing resolutions, from 21.0
megapixels in Large JPEG or raw format, 16.6 or 11.0 megapixels in two medium
JPEG sizes, or 5.2 megapixels in small JPEG or the sRAW, a.k.a. small raw format
that I'm still trying to figure out. In JPEG mode, you can set one of
10 compression rates while sRAW image file format cuts the file size in half
"retaining all of the flexibility and creative possibilities" associated
with BIG files. Got it? I don't.
latest versions of Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom read raw files
from the EOS-1Ds Mark III but Canon always suggests (and I believe
them) that the maximum quality images can only be extracted from
.CR2 files using their own Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software
that's bundled with the camera. DPP also lets you assign the
standard or downloadable Picture Styles (there are now seven online)
to any raw file and the processed image can be directly handed off
All Photos © 2007, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved
Canon incorporates two DIGIC III imaging engines into the camera that, much
like a dual processor desktop computer, results in faster, parallel signal processing.
The CMOS sensor simultaneously reads out to both DIGIC III processors in eight
channels and is responsible for fine detail and Canon's trademark natural
colors, as well as the virtual absence of noise even at the highest ISO settings.
The camera's 14-bit Analog-to-Digital (A/D) conversion process produces
16,384 colors per channel, which is four times the number of colors recognized
by the 1Ds Mark II. Given the significantly larger image file sizes--28MB
in raw--created by the 1Ds Mark III, the camera offers compatibility with
Ultra Direct Memory Access (UDMA) CompactFlash memory cards. I've done
some testing of Lexar's (www.lexar.com) 300x cards and their UDMA FireWire
800 Reader and found a 70 percent reduction in transfer and download times over
standard CompactFlash cards using a FireWire connection. Big files plus faster
transfers equals a good thing. Think about it.
favorite place to test for image noise is my train room where I
make photographs at a high ISO setting using only the miniature
lights on the layout. This O-scale replica of the "Best Friend
of Charleston" locomotive was shot at ISO 1600 and when looking
at it on screen I had to double-check the EXIF date to be sure it
was not made at ISO 200. A higher ISO setting of 3200 is possible
with Custom Function gymnastics. The exposure (1/6 sec at f/5.6)
is a classic high noise situation but no noise is visible. That's
right, no noise.
The 1Ds Mark III autofocus system uses the same 45 AF points with 19 high-precision
cross-type points and 26 Assist AF points as the 1D Mark III, and I'm
not sure that's good news or bad news. I never had any AF problem with
either camera during the time that I had them for testing. (More on this factoid
later.) During manual AF point selection, the AF point area is expandable in
two stages via a Custom Function control that I found really handy when photographing
under snowy winter conditions.
cold weather testing of the EOS-1Ds Mark III included making photographs
at single digit temperatures. This frosty scene was captured in
my front yard when the thermometer read 6° Fahrenheit. I was
cold but the camera didn't seem to mind and I made 60 similar
frosty images in my neighborhood. This one was captured with my
EF 28-135mm IS lens at 1/250 sec and f/10 and ISO 200. A +1/3 stop
exposure compensation was added to make the snow white.
What Else Is New?
In addition to a viewfinder with 100 percent picture coverage and a magnification
factor of .75x, the 1Ds Mark III offers Live View shooting mode, providing a
shooting option beyond traditional through-the-lens viewing. Far from being
a gimmick, I think Live View will be a standard feature on all D-SLRs in the
future and while Canon's acting like it invented the whole deal, let's
not forget who introduced it first--Olympus. This is one place where the
contrast between Big Oly's top-of-the line E-3 and the 1Ds Mark III becomes
most obvious. To active Live View on the Olympus E-3 you push a button on the
camera's back. On the 1Ds Mark III you must:
· Set the lens to manual focus.
· Select Live View function settings from the second "wrench"
· Select Live View shoot from the submenu.
· Select Enable and you're ready to go.
EOS-1Ds Mark III performed admirably in my Mickey Mouse basement
studio. When the model scheduled for the shoot failed to show up--tear
sheets aren't enough for some models, they want cash--I
drafted Mary for the job and made this image using the mondo cool
Flash Waves (www.boothphoto.com) Wireless Sync transmitter mounted
in the Mark III's hot shoe to trip the equally mousy monolights
I was using. Exposure with my beloved EF 135mm f/2.8 SF lens was
1/60 sec at f/11 and ISO 100 in Manual mode.
Did I mention that you only have to push one button on the Olympus E-3? OK,
so there's a big difference between the two approaches because the E-3
enables autofocus and actual capture can be, to put it politely, leisurely,
but it works amazingly well for some subjects. That last tidbit is also true
for the 1Ds Mark III because when Live View is enabled, it becomes a kind of
digital view camera. Combine the 1Ds Mark III with a Horseman (www.horsemanusa.com)
LD View Camera with SLR Adapter ($1999) and you have a combination that used
to require a view camera and a $25,000 digital back, and you get similar results.