Canon’s EOS 1D X Mark III is the Japanese imaging giant’s flagship DSLR camera, aimed at sports and wildlife photographers who want both speed and quality.
It replaces the four-year-old EOS 1D X Mark II. The four-year upgrade cycle means its arrival coincides with this year’s Summer Olympics, which hopefully will happen.
Canon has stuffed an all-new 20.1-megapixel full-frame image sensor with a low-pass filter – said to reduce moire effects and offer greater sharpness – in the Mark III.
It also features the latest Digic X image processor, said to have 3.1 times faster image-processing speed and 380 times faster computing performance than what the Mark II’s dual Digic 6+ image processors offer. This allows the Mark III’s shooting speed in Live View mode to go up to 20 frames per second (fps), compared with the Mark II’s 16fps.
With the Mark III, users can also now shoot in the Heif format – introduced in iPhones in 2017 – which allows for higher dynamic range and smaller file sizes.
The Mark III has two CFexpress card slots, unlike the Mark II’s scheme of a CF card slot and a CFast card slot. CFexpress cards have transfer speeds as fast as 1,700MB/s, which is about three times faster than CFast cards.
The only issues are the high prices of CFexpress cards (starting at around $300 for a 64GB card) and the lack of CFexpress card readers in the local market now.
The Mark III uses a new 191-point autofocusing (AF) system, an upgrade from the 61-point AF system of the Mark II, as well as a 400,000-pixel RGB/IR metering sensor for better subject tracking. Plus, Canon claims the camera will use machine learning for face and body recognition during AF.
Weather-sealed and dust- resistant, the Mark III retains the rugged and solid magnesium-alloy body material of the 1D X series. However, it is said to be structurally stronger as well as lighter – by 100g – than the Mark II, making it great for wildlife photographers or those working in harsh environments.
As huge as the camera is, its handling is second to none. I like its two ergonomic grips that allow me to comfortably hold the camera in both the portrait and landscape orientations. I also like that each grip has its own mini-joystick and AF-On button.
Button layout is almost identical to that of the other EOS 1D models and the Mark II. So, if you have used those cameras before, you will be in your element.
The new addition is the smart controller – a mini touchpad – on the AF-On button. You can use this controller to quickly move the AF point to where you want. While you can still use the mini-joystick to do the same, using the smart controller is much faster.
On the downside, the 3.2-inch touchscreen display is still fixed and cannot be flipped or rotated.
By default, the image sensor’s cleaning mechanism is enabled during powering up and shutting down. This causes a delay of around 2 seconds for both operations. But if you disable this, powering up and shutting down operations are almost instantaneous. Shutter lag is negligible.
Shooting in the RAW format using a CFexpress card with a writing speed rated at 1,400MB/s, I am able to get 1,646 shots in 105.3 seconds.
And I stop there not because its buffer has run out, but because my index finger is tired after pressing the shutter release for so long.
I think this camera can go on shooting as long as the memory card’s storage allows. In my 15 years of reviewing cameras, this is the first time I have seen a camera that has an almost-infinite shutter buffer. It is just mind-blowing.
For this review, I use a Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens for most situations, a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for photographing stray cats and a 400mm f/2.8 lens for wildlife photography.
In terms of AF speed, the camera locks onto a focus immediately in bright sunlight. Even in dim lighting conditions, it can secure a focus in around one second.
The continuous AF tracking is pretty impressive, with the camera able to lock onto a sharp focus with almost every frame when I photograph a stray cat running towards me.
Image quality is superb, with sharp captures and crisp details. I can see each strand of the fur on the cats and otters I photograph.
If you shoot in the Heif format, you will find the highlights and mids better retained, along with more details, compared with shooting in Jpeg. But the photos will look a tad dark as a result.
However, you cannot shoot in both Jpeg and Heif – you can choose only one.
Image noise performance is stellar. I can hardly see any grain at ISO 6,400. Noise artefacts start to appear only at ISO 12,800, while images shot at ISO 25,600 are still usable for the Web. But at ISO 51,200 and above, the graininess due to noise and detail loss make the images unusable.
Battery life is rated at a superb 2,850 still images on a full charge – more than double that of its predecessor. After shooting for a week and capturing more than 5,000 still images, there is still 54 per cent of battery left.
At $9,768 (body only), the 1D X Mark III is expensive – nearly $1,500 more expensive than its predecessor. However, for those who need this level of performance – and given the new and upgraded features of this camera – it is great value for money.
• Superb image quality
• Fantastic handling
• Smart controller on AF-On button
• Almost-infinite shutter buffer
• Offers the Heif format
• High prices of CFexpress cards
• Fixed display
PRICE: $9,768 (body only)
IMAGE SENSOR: 20.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS
DISPLAY: 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD with 2,100,000 dots; optical viewfinder
SENSITIVITY: ISO 50 to 819,200
SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 16 frames per second (Optical viewfinder); 20 frames per second (Live View)
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB-C
WEIGHT: 1.44kg (body with battery and memory card)
BATTERY LIFE: 5/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5