Camera preview: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III DSLR

On the same day that it released information about the upcoming EOS 40D DSLR, Canon dropped a bombshell. The much-expected 1Ds Mark III is ready, and will begin shipping in November. We all knew it was coming, but what we didn’t expect was the medium format-like resolution: a whopping 21.1 megapixels!

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III (front)

Here are the specs where the 1Ds Mark III differs from the 1Ds Mark II:

  • Resolution: 21.1 megapixels vs. 16.7 megapixels
  • Processing engine: DIGIC III vs. DIGIC II
  • AF: re-designed 45-point vs. previous-generation 45-point AF (there were some issues with this new AF system in the 1D Mark III, and I hope they’ve been addressed by now)
  • Color depth: 14-bit vs. 12-bit
  • Live View
  • Integrated sensor cleaning
  • WB: 12 vs. 10 settings
  • Viewfinder magnification: 0.76x vs. 0.70x
  • Exposure control: 63-zone vs. 21-zone metering
  • Drive speed: 5 fps vs. 4 fps
  • LCD monitor: 3 inches vs. 2 inches
  • Shutter durability: 300,000 cycles vs. 100,000 cycles
  • Battery: lithium-ion (LP-E4) vs. Ni-MH (NP-E3)
  • Battery life: better, but no data provided vs. 800-1200 shots/battery/charge with the 1Ds Mark II
  • Weight, body only: 1,205 grams vs. 1215 grams

As Canon themselves point out, they wanted to venture into the realm of high-fashion and commercial studio photography with the new 1Ds. Traditionally, medium-format cameras dominated those markets. Besides the wonderful resolution, the 1Ds would bring two other things: portability and affordability. Medium-format cameras are more expensive, and they’re usually heavier. Let’s not forget the 1Ds also goes up to 1,600 ISO, which is unheard of in medium format cameras with digital backs. The ISO range there is usually 100-400, with the occasional 800 seen in some models. The additional ISO range should provide those photographers with more creative uses of light and more flexibility in various conditions.

The camera uses the new DIGIC III image processor introduced with the 1D Mark III earlier this year. But it uses two of them, working in parallel. There’s a lot of data crunching to be done when the resolution is 21.1 megapixels and the frame rate is 5 fps! The CMOS sensor reads out to both processors through eight channels, ensuring fast signal transfers.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III (back)

The 1Ds also features a new 14-bit analog-to-digital conversion process, which means that it can recognize 16,384 colors per channel — four times the number of colors recognized by 12-bit cameras like the 1Ds Mark II or the 5D.

In addition to using CF type-I and II cards, the camera is also compatible with the UDMA specification, which doubles the data transfer speed of a normal CF card when used with UDMA-compliant cards.

The sensitivity of the new AF system’s sensor has been doubled to EV-1, for greater accuracy in low light. The AF point of focus can also be micro-adjusted based on the type of lens used, and the focus-tracking sensitivity can also be finely adjusted.

Another really nice feature is Live View, which works in much the same way as on the 40D — see my review of it for those details. The Live View function also works with the EOS Utility software, which means you can see just what the camera sees through your computer’s monitor, and control it remotely for studio sessions.

The EOS Integrated Cleaning System shakes off dust from the low-pass plate installed in front of the sensor with ultrasonic vibrations when the camera is turned on or off. A special adhesive collar installed around the sensor collects the dust and holds it there.

Finally, comprehensive weatherproofing is present at 76 locations on the camera, providing protection and allowing the use of the camera in demanding conditions.

The camera will start shipping in November and retail for $7,999. I expect the street price to stick pretty close to that for at least a few months after the launch.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III (side)

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