Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Canon EOS 1D Mk. III Experience Report

A review diary by Uwe Steinmueller @Digital Outback Photo

Also photos by Bettina Steinmueller


Diary Index


Note on image processing:

As usual we work only with raw files and use this time Camera Raw 4.1.

All images are also sharpened using EasyS Plus Sharpening Toolkit.

6/9/2007 Diary Start

As always a new Canon 1D series camera is a major event and these cameras marked milestones in the top end of digital SLRs:

  • 2001 Canon 1D: First true digital sports SLR with 8 f/s (4 MP CCD sensor)
  • 2002 Canon 1Ds: First full frame digital SLR (11 MP CMOS sensor)
  • 2004 Canon 1D Mk II: First digital sports SLR with 8 f/s and 8 MP CMOS sensor
  • 2004 Canon 1Ds Mk II: improved on the 1Ds with 16 MP CMOS sensor
  • 2007 Canon 1D Mk III: 10 f/s with a 10 MP CMOS sensor and many new features
  • 2007/8 Canon 1Ds Mk III: Open question ???

Canon celebrates 10 years EOS system in 2007 and the 1D Mk III is one of the birthday presents. There are quite a list of new features packed into this new camera. We list the most important ones and will try to feature some of them in more detail later.

  • New body with new battery system (looks very much like the Nikon battery, same supplier?). The new battery reduces weight. Still not really a light camera and it cannot be light to balance large tele lenses.
  • Huge 3" LCD
  • Live View for focusing directly on the LCD with mirror up (more about this in future postings)
  • Dust cleaning feature
  • 10 frames per second at 10MP bursts
  • 14 bit A/D converter
  • Improved ISO performance (allows ISO 6400)
  • Improved auto focus system

The histogram

Histogram shows now all 3 channels and the luminance histogram at the same time. So far so good. Unfortunately it is hard to see whether the data clip because the background of the histogram is dark gray and the rest on the LCD is black. It would be much easier to check the histogram if there would be a clear visible line around the histogram area.

Los Gatos test shots


Ristorante @ISO 100

Crop @100% magnification

We used for this test our top EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM zoom. The resulting image is is excellent. The colors are excellent. Like most digital SLRs (the Fuji S5 is an exception) a contrast range like this is a challenge. We did not mention this in the past but got spoiled by the dynamic range of the Fuji S5.

We think the next real frontier for digital SLRs is to improve the single shot dynamic range and Fuji leads the way here.

You can download the original RAW from here (>16MB).

Note: Remember that the service we provide is financed by selling our ebooks and PS tools. Also direct donations are welcome.

Antique store @ ISO 400

@ 100% magnification

Shadow noise at ISO 400 is hardly existing.


ISO Test

We converted with Camera Raw 4.1 (luminance noise removal to zero) and then sharpened with the same level in ACR 4.1 and EasyS Plus (actually very minor).

Note: Because of the bright blossoms of this tree the scene had a very high contrast.Our goal is not to judge the full scene but the window crop.

Bear Coffee Shop

Canon EOS 1D Mk. III

ISO 100
ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400


Remember all these shots are with all luminance noise removal off in camera and raw converter. Up to ISO 400 very smooth with virtually no noise. ISO 800 is still excellent. At 1600 some fine grain but still pretty good and if you need 3200 this camera delivers. Even in some situation ISO 6400 may save your day. For images at 3200-6400 we would try some noise removal tools and would not sharpen the shadow parts. Clearly the best high ISO performance we have ever seen.

For the first time we also have the ISO 800-6400 shots as original RAWs available for download.

First conclusion

Clearly the new Canon EOS 1D Mk. III seems to deliver on its promises. Some users may have issues with the size and weight. On the other side I think a sports camera to be used with lenses from 300-600mm needs the weight to be rugged and also to counter balance these long lenses. Important is also that this technology will likely be used in the next generation of 1Ds and 5D bodies.

We played also a bit with Live View and think that this is really a great feature (more in future postings).

This camera with 10 MP image size, excellent noise characteristics and 10 f/s gets close to the one size fits all camera. 10 MP pictures with this level of quality per pixel will allow 16x20" prints for all but the ultimate detail fans. Remember that the Canon 1Ds (Mark I) was the camera of choice for many demaning photographers. It had only 1 MP more pixels and showed quite a bit more noise.

So far we only dislike the display of the histograms (hard to see the boundaries of the histogram area in sunlight). Overall we are at a very good start.

6/13/2007 1D Mk III and HDR photography

Even for us sometimes speed of the camera matters. You can set the 1D Mk III to shoot a -2, 0, +2 EV bracketed sequence in about 1/3 of a second (10fps). The camera stops after the third shot if you are in auto bracketing mode. What does this mean?

  • You like won't move the camera that much in 1/3 of a second. Still use auto alignment to combine the shots
  • But more importantly slow moving objects may not not show up blurred (called ghosting) if you shoot that fast
  • In some situation you can now easily shoot HDR sequences freehand

Here is a sample:

Shot at 111mm, 1/100s (IS), f/11


  • Selected in Bridge 2
  • Merged in CS3 (using Camera Raw 4.1 under the hood)
  • Auto aligned in CS3
  • Tonemapping using Photomatix Tonemapping plugin

Here are some crops to show the quality of alignment:

Even the bird was sitting still enough for 1/3 of a second

Detail and capturing subtle highlights in HDR

We have to explore this technique some more. In some way we get very interesting results using HDR for our images.

What to watch for:

  • No fast moving objects (e.g. leaves and fine branches in wind, walking people)

In this case we may have also gotten the same result from one shot. Bracketing allows us to pick the best exposure and also opens the option to go the HDR route.

6/15/2007 1D Mk III Gallery #1

We publish today our first gallery produced with the Canon 1D Mk III. What is special with this gallery is that all images are based on HDR produced with Photomatix (using the technique described in the previous note).

The Photos were taken in:

  • San Juan Bautista
  • San Francisco (most in China Town)

Gallery #1

6/16/2007 1D Mk III Gallery #2

This is part II of our gallery (see above)

Gallery #2

6/16/2007 Battery Life

After 570 shots on the first battery charge the battery still showed 68% full. We used fast bursts and checked exposure on the LCD often. Looks like the new battery system is what we waited for.

6/20/2007 Note on "AF Issues"

Sorry, but we may not help to look closer into the "AF issues". Most of the time we photograph very static scenes and find edges to let the AF lock in. We very much respect what Rob Galbraith writes and his notes may help to find possible issues. We always use cameras for our style of work and report what we find. Action shots are rarely part of our work.

Even if we would try to photograph birds we hardly would know what is the fault of the camera or operator error. Why? Because action shots are not our main domain. We are happy in these situations if we get lucky :-).

7/2/2007 1D Mk III Gallery #3

We added a few new pictures. This time we used a new Lightroom Web Gallery from "The Turning Gate". If you follow the instruction on that site creating a new gallery is very simple. Right now we already find many new third party Lightroom Web Gallery layouts.

Gallery #3

7/17/2007 Highlight Priority mode

We have now all the time "Highlight Priority" mode enabled. It helps us also with our new technique "High Speed HDR" (read also here) where we shoot freehand 2-3 frame brackets at highest frame rate because it captures the highlights in the under or even middle exposed frames. In our experience we can recover overexposures of about 1.5 f-stops. This is only bettered by the Fuji S5 (we would say about 2.5 f-stops) but the Fuji does have overall lower resolution. We compared the highlights to normal shots with the Canon 5D and the 1D Mark III can really capture more highlight gradation in "Highlight Priority" mode. There maybe slightly more shadow noise but it does not bother us much.

8/7/2007 Canon 1D Mark III and Dust?

We shot now with the Canon 1D Mark III over 2900 frames and the sensor is still clean.

Here is a shot of the blue sky (not optimal) taken after 2900 erxposures on this camera without any manual cleaning. We only activated cleaning on start and power down of the camera.

Dust shot (full size JPEG).

Most cameras we used had already lots of dust before even getting 200 exposures. We maybe lucky but on the other side it sometimes was very dusty on Maui.

8/9/2007 A 30 Minute Snapshot Gallery

We scouted an area in San Francisco in preparation of our new workshop concept under the working title:

Capturing more Light
Pragmatic use of HDR Capture and Tonemapping for real world photos

We plan to announce this exciting workshop hopefully the next two weeks.

We wanted to check whether our workshop attendees can create in a short time period some nice photos. We just walked an area of 2x2 blocks for about 30 minutes and came up with this snapshot portfolio:

Gallery: 30 Minutes


Note on Snapshots: If we talk about "snapshots" we mean it in a very positive sense and don't want to to have the word a negative connotation.






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