Canon EOS-1D Mark III

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The III also sports a new Raw option, dubbed sRAW, which is 2.5 megapixels in size and half the file size of "regular" Raw images. The advantage, claims Canon, is that sRAW images can be processed just like any Raw image but stored in at a smaller size. This is perfect, they say, for wedding candid photographers who want Raw post-exposure processing control without the larger memory demands on their cards. Now that Lightroom and other programs allows for Raw-like processing on JPEG files as well, of course without the advantage of non-destructive editing, this feature might not be as much of a bonus as it first appears.

Perhaps the most striking addition to this camera is Canon's Live View system, available on the Mark III's large 3-inch LCD or remotely, with a wire from the camera to the computer or wirelessly with the new WFT-E2A Wireless File Transmitter. The included EOS Utlility 2.0 software handles real-time viewing, focusing, exposure and shutter release.

When in Live View you can only focus manually. An advantage is that you can choose a focusing point using the Multi-Controller and then press the Magnify button to enlarge by 5X or 10X, which you then fine focus using the LCD. In addition, in this scenario, additional sharpness is applied to the view, not to the image when exposed. Plus, you can use the DOF preview button to fully control focus effects. You also have some impressive exposure controls with Live View. For example, using Custom Function IV-16 (called Live View exposure simulation) the LCD displays the image based on subject brightness, or how the picture will look at the setting you've chosen. However, if the brightness is "outside the displayable range" (very bright or quite dim) or when working with flash or bulb exposures, you may not get the right "look" at the exposure. By the way, you can also set this up simply by engaging the DOF preview button.

In all, quite a nice package that takes Live View to a whole new level. There are some caveats, due to the fact that the sensor actually generates heat during Live View mode. This can occur under direct sunlight or when shooting near what Canon dubs "hot studio lights." If you get a thermometer icon and keep shooting you might cause the Live View mode to terminate--it will do so before any real damage is done, though you could get "degraded" image quality. There's a special warning for those who might be using a MicroDrive memory card as the card might become damaged as well. And once Live View shuts down it won't come back on until the conditions that caused the overheating abate.

Another nice touch is what Canon dubs their "integrated cleaning system." This includes construction elements, such as the shutter and body cap generating less dust and the low pass filter's anti-static charge; a self-cleaning sensor (ultrasonic vibration of the infrared absorption glass); and something called "Dust Delete Data", which appends the image file with the dust "information" that can then be used to clean the image of the spots with Canon's Digital Photo Professional software. The last in the list is perhaps the least desirable for users, especially those who choose to go right into another Raw converter or image editing software with their images. The self-cleaning sensor comes on as default for about 3.5 sec when you turn the camera on and off; you can also turn this off or clean whenever you want, via a menu command. The best bet is to do everything you can to prevent the dreaded dust spots, but this backup system should take care of most contingencies.

Everyone who shoots digital knows the difficulties of exposure latitude in the highlight range. The new Hilight Tone Priority feature is said to expand the range of highlights by about a stop. This works in the ISO 200-3200 range and, according to Canon, might increase noise in the shadow areas. This is something we are most eager to test and look forward to Joe's take on this.

Metering modes are the standard with an additional "partial" setup, which means you can control where light is read quite accurately. There is a new evaluative metering "algorithm" that Canon has chosen to share, which relies on 63-zone readings. This setup assumes: 1) metering will be weighted to the linked AF point; 2) a very bright subject in the meter will cause an exposure increase; 3) backlighting will cause an increase in exposure; and 4) dark backgrounds will cause an exposure reduction. We find it interesting that Canon would state their evaluative assumptions, valuable information that is usually not made available by manufacturers. There is also an optional (user selectable) "Safety Shift", which will change aperture, shutter speed or ISO when the exposure system deems it beneficial.

Autofocus operation has also been refined with the Mark III. It is claimed that the new AF setup is twice as sensitive in low light as the Mark II. In addition, AI Servo can track a moving subject at 10 fps, and can be set up to incorporate any subject that "comes in from the side" and latch focus onto that subject or ignore it, treating it as a temporary obstruction. And during low-speed continuous, where a moving subject might cover greater distances between shots, a compensating factor comes into play that drives the system to acquire focus more rapidly. You can also set up the system in numerous focusing modes, from closet subject priority to automatic expansion of any focusing point you select. There are 19 high precision cross-type points among the total of 45 Assist points, with auto and manual modes, the latter also offering inner and outer point selection.

One feature we always liked on the Mark II is the two memory card slots, here upgraded to one CF and one SDHC card slot. You can record simultaneously on both, or split recording formats between them. You can also set the camera up to automatically switch from one to the other when one card fills up. Or, you can copy, in the field, select images from one to the other card.

Naturally, a pro camera of this caliber requires a strong build. The Mark II features a magnesium alloy body and chassis with numerous (76 by Canon's count) water and dust resistant barriers. There are O-rings on the memory card slot (always protect the take!) with silicon rubber around the top and rear covers and buttons. The shutter has been tested to 300,000 cycles, which, by the way, has "silent" running mode.

This tech backgrounder was not based on testing, but on our first impressions of the camera and researching the extensive features the camera affords. Joe Farace's full test will be appear this fall in an issue of Shutterbug. Stay tuned.

Canon has created an interesting web page for the camera. Visit:
http://web.canon.jp/imaging/eos1dm3/html/top.html?

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