Since Canon announced their new flagship 10.1 megapixel high-speed professional DSLR, the Canon EOS 1D Mark III (street: $4500) back in March, we've been itching to put it through our battery of lab tests. Photojournalists, sports photographers and hardcore enthusiasts, among others, have been chattering about this camera online, eagerly awaiting delivery of a promised unit, or complaining about being stuck in back-order hell.
Perhaps you've already heard about the feature set of this camera: ISO 50-6400, 1.3x conversion factor, 10 frames per second with a JPEG burst of up to 110 full-resolution shots (or 22 RAW plus JPEG), Dual Digic III processors, 14-bit analog-to-digital conversion, live preview shooting on the 230,000 pixel 3 inch LCD, sensor-shake dust removal, and a host of other upgrades big and small.
Canon traded megapixels for speed with this model. The Nikon D2Xs, another camera in the pro class, captures 12.4 megapixels on a 1.5x crop factor sensor at full resolution at 5 fps, and drops resolution to 6.8 megapixels (and a 2x crop factor) for a high-speed burst of up to 35 JPEGs at 8 fps. The Mark III's full-frame stablemates, the 12.8 megapixel Canon EOS 5D and the 16.6MP Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, capture images at a more leisurely pace: 3 fps for 60 JPEGs and 4 fps for 32 JPEGs, respectively.
As our testing analyst Matthew Fitzgerald quipped, the Canon 1D Mark III is "a rocket ship." The camera took 0.1 second to start up and capture its first JPEG, then took 0.4 second between shots when capturing subsequent JPEGs. When shooting raw, the camera took 0.5 second between shots. Shutter lag measured 0.4 second in our high-contrast test, which mimics bright shooting conditions, and 1.1 seconds in our low-contrast test, replicating dim shooting conditions. Our lab tests were performed with Canon's EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens.
Images shot with the Canon EOS 1D Mark III can be absolutely stunning. Colors look extremely accurate, and the automatic white balance does an excellent job of neutralizing colors under a variety of lighting situations. The only times it became confused was in situations in which there was mixed lighting, and even then it produced pleasing, if not absolutely spot-on results. If paired with a sharp lens, the 1D Mark III can produce images with a vast amount of fine detail.
However, where this camera really shines is its ultralow noise. Even at its highest sensitivity setting of ISO 6,400, we were able to make pleasing prints. On a monitor you'll see a covering of fine, multicolored grain, but there's still an impressive amount of shadow detail and finer detail, especially for such an extreme setting. At lower sensitivities, images are extremely clean, and noise doesn't even begin to show up significantly on monitors until you reach ISO 800
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