This will be the shortest review I have ever done for a camera as the 1Ds MK3 is basically an upgrade to the 1D MK3. My main interest was to test the performance of the camera in the field, check the image quality and to try to ascertain whether the autofocus system had been improved over the problematic one in the 1D MK3. Everything else is much the same except of course that the penalty for having such a large file is reduced performance. The fps falls to 5 and the buffer size for RAW is 9. Please remember when you read this review that even though I have used Canon cameras for years I am not paid by Canon nor biased towards them and I receive no favours whatsoever from them. I am as impartial with this review as I have been with all others. In fact as you will see I have been very honest...
The 1DS MK3 produces a whopping 21 MP image with a sensor size of 5616 x 3744. In terms of the output file this yields an 8-bit 60MB file, which is 13MB greater than the 1DS MK2. According to the literature Canon has targeted this camera at medium format users and those photographers that need a larger physical image size. Notice that I say larger physical size because this camera produces just that, it does not produce a better quality image but a larger one. From my viewpoint the larger sensor size means that I can crop my images by as much as 20% and still be within my agency guidelines, it is almost like having a 1.4x teleconverter built in for me (think about it). Because of this I have been excited about testing the 1Ds MK3 as I loved its predecessor, the 1Ds MK2, so much.
I expected the 1Ds MK3 to produce an image that was similar to the 1D MK3 and was surprised that it didn’t. The resulting images are quite warm and vibrant, rather like Velvia film used to be, and are certainly razor sharp:
BUT it is my opinion that the ISO performance is a little lacking when compared to the excellent 1D MK3. I have shot with the 1D all over the world in the past few months and at varying ISO settings; I find it produces great images at all ISO settings but like the Nikon D3 it excels at high ISO. So I naturally expected the 1DS MK3 to do the same but it doesn’t. At ISO 100 and 200 it is punchy and sharp but at ISO 400 I began to see noise in diffuse backgrounds and that is something that I don’t want to see until the ISO is much higher. Still the overall image quality makes up for this but it is something that I wanted to point out as I suspect that it gets worse at higher ISO settings.
Unfortunately I only had the camera for a day and had few chances to challenge the AF system. For the usual relatively static subjects it was as accurate as I would expect it to be but when trying to photograph waders feeding using AI Servo, a large percentage of the images were not in focus. The camera locked on very quickly and certainly they looked in focus, but when looking at 100% in LightRoom a large proportion were just off. Of course this is hardly a fair test and I am sure that others will test this a lot more thoroughly and come to some better conclusions but to be honest I am not convinced that the AF system is fixed.
As an owner of every previous Canon 1D DSLR I would have expected to buy the 1DS MK3 like I have bought all of my other test 1D models. Instead it is in the box and being returned. I can see that if you are a studio photographer or someone with relatively static subjects then having the extra Megapixels will be attractive. I do suspect however that if you fall into this bracket you will already have a medium format with a digital back and are unlikely to choose the MK3 over this system. So I am struggling to find out who the target audience are for this camera and can only think that it is the commercial sector that needs a larger physical image. For everyone else I would stick to the 40D, 1DS MK2 or the 1D MK3 as between them they will provide everything that you need.
This review is the copyright of Andy Rouse Wildlife Photography Ltd and Wex Photographic Ltd. Not part of this review may be emailed, quoted or in any other way reproduced without the written permission of Andy Rouse. All opinions expressed are those of Andy Rouse and no third party has been consulted.