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When you spend $8000 on a digital camera body, you have high expectations. And my expectations were VERY high for the Canon 1DS MKIII. Here’s my first look at the full sensor, 21.1 megapixel flagship of the Canon line.
The camera is clearly well-built, rugged and ready for business. Among the first things I noticed…
a. New three-inch rear LCD. Though not as bright as the Nikon D3’s LCD, the improvement is noticeable and appreciated.
b. The new battery is much smaller and lighter than the battery in the previous versions of this camera. Also of note, Canon didn’t cheap out here – they provide you with a battery charger that will charge two batteries at once. (Okay they were a little cheap – they only give you one battery.)
c. You no longer have to hold down two buttons at the same time to make menu changes. The overall camera interface is improved.
d. There are now 19 high-precision autofocus crosshairs.
e. The camera has a new quiet mode that makes it easier to take photos undetected.
f. There are TWO DIGIC – III processors and the camera processes data at 14 bits. Most cameras work at 12 bits so this adds more data for smoother tone transitions.
g. The camera is not as noiseless as the D3, but the ISO 1600 is very usable. While there is noise, it does not appear as noise, rather as grain.
h. The viewfinder is bigger and brighter and offers 100% coverage. Looking through my 40D body’s viewfinder is a painful experience now by comparison.
i. The camera is lighter than the 1DSMKII that it replaces.
j. There are TWO memory card slots – one CF slot and one SD slot. You can set them to perform different functions. You can set it so one card simply backs up the other, or both cards work in conjunction to create more storage.
My preliminary areas of concern revolved around how well the 21.1 megapixel image would compare with medium format backs I’ve tried, and wondering how accurate is the autofocus.
Let me start with the image quality. While not quite on par with a $40k Phase One back, it’s still close enough to make me glad I saved the $32k difference. The image quality is simply stunning. It’s very hard to put into words what it’s like. But essentially – I know that if I get something in the frame, too small or not, I probably can crop down to a usable image.
As for the autofocus, I had no trouble quickly acquiring accurate autofocus. I am running the latest firmware update and right out of the box, the camera focuses as good or better than any Canon camera I have ever used.
In day-to-day use, the camera works very well. It does take some time to master the four pages of custom menus, but Canon has added a new feature I already find myself using regularly called MY MENU. It allows you to position your most often-used custom functions in one handy and accessible place.
While Canon claims 5fps performance in RAW, I was able to get slightly better than 4fps. It all depends on things like shutter speed, autofocus, etc.
This is the most expensive camera in its class. It is often compared to the Nikon D3 since it’s Nikon’s current flagship camera. That’s simply not a good comparison. They are two very different cameras, designed to perform different tasks. The Nikon is more of a sports, photojournalism, events, etc. camera. The Canon is designed for portraits, landscapes, product shots, studio work, etc.
The Canon is a memory hog, requiring between 80 and 100 megabytes of data storage PER SECOND when fired in high-burst mode.
So in addition to the high price tag, potential buyers need to consider adding hard disk and memory storage purchases to accommodate the massive files generated by the 1DS MKIII. Likewise, this camera cries out for “L” glass. So if you plan to buy this body, plan to update your lens collection.
My verdict at this point is simple. I am wowed by this camera. While few of us NEED 21.1 megapixels, we also don’t need Mercedes Benz motorcars or Rolex watches, but they sure are nice to have. Moreover, this technology tends to work its way down the line over the years, so people who want to wait will probably be able to access some or all of these features in the future for less money than I spent.
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