A pleasant surprise

Started Jul 15, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Michael Thomas Mitchell
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A pleasant surprise
Jul 15, 2014

Recently, I was wanting to do more photography for personal pleasure and less for career. A bit of selfishness after nearly 20 years trying to please others. And, purely for pleasure shooting, I wanted to feel a 1D-series body in my hands again. I relied on them professionally for a few years, using 1D, 1DII, 1DsII, and 1DIIN models for hundreds of jobs.

I absolutely loved the Mark II models, and likely would have been happy returning to a good 1DsII or 1DIIN. Both offer image quality I appreciate, with plenty of pixels and a good feature set. But they are only going to become more difficult to service, clean models are harder to find, and I've admittedly become spoiled with some of the modern features on my 6D bodies such as flash control, sensor cleaning, Live View, and more. But, since this is just pleasure, I didn't want to break the bank. When the Mark II series would suffice, I couldn't pay a premium just for luxuries. And so I looked towards the Mark III series.

I knew the Mark III featured a newer battery design and was more up to date and consistent with Canon's current GUI. The next decision involved the full-frame 1Ds version of the APS-H standard. Cost was one factor, with the "s" model easily fetching twice the price for similar condition. But I am also one of the few who truly like the APS-H format, finding it the ideal compromise between full-frame and 1.6x. Finally, reviews suggested that the "s" had a little more difficulty at higher ISOs. High ISO noise performance was not exactly a huge concern, for the 6D is a clear favorite in that regard. But, given the choice, and considering the others factors, the 10.8MP 1D III seemed like it might be right for me.

When my purchased copy arrived -- a near-pristine, post-AF-problem model with documentation from Canon showing fewer than 9K shutter clicks -- everything looked pretty familiar. Canon has always kept their 1D models consistent, and this one showed little change other than a slightly larger screen from my old 1DII N models. Popping on a 70-200 f2.8 IS L lens, I took it outside to see what it could do. It was great having a "1" in my hands again. With a 6'1" frame and muscular build, the combination fits comfortably in my hands. (Though my wife won't touch it!) For those who have never shot with a "1", there's nothing else in the Canon line like it. The shutter is both punchy and elegant, firing instantly and seemingly without effort. With its dual processors, AF is virtually instant. And despite it being a more complex camera, I've always been able to shoot more simply and fuss-free with them.

This post is entitled "A Pleasant Surprise", and that is, indeed, what I found when I opened the images. By now, I am accustomed to the superb quality produced by the 6D in virtually any type of lighting. It produces photographs by which ones from all of my other cameras are compared. In a word, I am "spoiled" and I know it! And so it was that I was expecting a significant drop in IQ with this older APS-H camera build primarily for speed.

But I didn't. Images are practically noiseless up to 800. At 1600, it is merely detectable. At 3200, there is a slight loss of detail, but still surprisingly little noise. And 6400, which I had previously assumed would be unusable on this camera, was clearly not only merely usable, but downright practical. Color is consistent with the 40D, though ultimately I would judge it about 1.5 stops superior at high ISOs. There is absolutely no question in my mind that IQ is better in every respect compared to the APS-C 18MP 60D. Clearly, Canon was very, very wise to restrain the number of pixels on the 1DIII's sensor.

In all other respects, the camera seemed markedly improved, much more so than between the original 1D and the 1DII models. Finally, it seemed like a "modern" camera, and not merely a fast one. The updated battery and GUI are terrific. The AF and shutter response seems faster than its predecessors. It simply feels like a camera without compromise.

It's a shame that this model experienced so much bad press over its AF system's bugs so early on. Clearly, even though Canon ultimately rectified the problem, it doomed the reputation of this model forever. Looking past that, however, there is truly a marvelous camera here, with image quality that, even accustomed to the much newer and lauded 6D, simply blew away my expectations.

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