1Ds Mark III - initial impressions, Part 1

Started Nov 30, 2007 | Discussions thread
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Stuart Nixon Regular Member • Posts: 134
1Ds Mark III - initial impressions, Part 1

[Part 1 - I've had to break this into several messages]

These are my initial impressions on the 1Ds III, having got mine a few days ago. This comparison is with the cameras I am familiar with, being the D1X, 1Ds and the 1Ds Mark II. Also some notes compared to the D3, which I've played with. However, as my D3 is still a few weeks away, this will mostly focus on comparing the Mk III with the Mk II.

Overall, a big usability improvement and good quality improvement over the 1Ds Mk II. It still has some small and not so small annoyances, but frankly, the quality and output is remarkable.

The bottom line is the camera is great, so when you read my complaints, please keep them in context - I'd like a few things to be improved, but as for results - you gotta love it.

Image quality:

In a word: great. To my eye, it is one and maybe two ISO ranges better quality than the 1Ds Mark II. So I'd be quite happy shooting ISO 400 where I would have shot ISO 200. The increase in resolution is nice too of course. At the high ISO end, quality is remarkable and usable, although if really low light conditions were a constant part of your work I'd probably take a close look at the D3, which is better (as you would expect given the larger cell size).

The raw data from the sensor looks great, nice and linear, with very little high end blooming. Just like the 1Ds Mark II in other words, but yet again less noise.

I'm not going to comment on the colour accuracy etc because frankly it is a waste of time comparing these things - all you are really doing is comparing different raw converters. I've never understood why web sites spent so much time "measuring" and publishing results, such as noise or colour accuracy, from JPG files. Especially when they could offer the RAW files for download so people could do their own testing. But that is another story. Suffice to say that I'm not having any problems building colour profiles for my raw converter for the Mark III, and DPP continues to generate great results if you use Canon's own raw converter.

Handling and layout

Better than the Mark II. Well, much better. Things are a lot more one-handed. Canon has removed a plethora of buttons, and generally cleaned things up. A Nikon user would be far more comfortable swapping to the 1Ds Mark III - but would still find things frustrating. You still can't change common things one handed, without looking at it, or while looking through the view finder. So in this respect it is still not as good as the Nikon cameras - but it is a huge improvement over earlier 1Ds cameras.

A few good and bad things really jump out. First a note: I find that I need to fiddle with some menu or custom function on Canon cameras more than on Nikon cameras. So in that respect, the handling is more important simply because you have to interact with the camera more.

I turn off photo preview off when taking photos, as I find it distracting. So the whole photo display side of things is not as important to me as it is perhaps to some people.


+ Canon spent some time getting serious cleaning up the usability of the camera. It is a major step forward.
+ one hand for most things, and a lot less buttons.
+ Display zoom is easier (just hold the zoom button down)
+ Huge display, with large menus to boot. Display is well calibrated, too

+ Menus simplified and clean. Very few menus scroll, so you almost always get the whole lot on the one page. The actual menu layout is not as good as the D3, but the D3 does have scrolling menus, so I'd call it even on menus between the D3 and the 1Ds Mark III.

+ A "SET" button in the middle of the scroll wheel, which you can assign a function to. So FINALY we get mirror lockup without having to through all those menus. Yay

+ Major cleanup of menus. In particular, Custom Functions are usable now, which is important, given how many you have to fiddle with to get a Canon camera tuned to be usable.

+ It "hangs" better than the 1Ds Mark II from your hand when just walking around with the camera. Not as good as the D1X or D3, but heaps better than the 1Ds Mark II. But of course, it still has the Canon problem of being unable to put lens hoods reversed on the lens without the hood biting you on the fingers when dangling the camera.

+ Sensor cleaning. Dust is an issue with these large sensors with small cells, so I'm delighted to see sensor cleaning. Too early to see how good it is, but great to see on the camera.

+ Zoom can be set up (with - sigh - yet another custom function) to zoom into the AF point used. This is actually a pretty neat idea.
+ Lighter and smaller Lithium batteries.


  • Totally weird M (manual) setting. You have to go to "ON 2" (the white line) to get the back scroll wheel to change aperture. But "ON 2" starts doing funky things with the scroll wheel in other modes (TV or A modes for example), so you have to remember to swap to "ON 2" if in M mode, but use "ON" for other modes. Why they did this, I just don't know.

  • The Mode button, to toggle between M, TV, A etc, is now "press to turn mode on and then press again to turn mode off". You can't just release the button and have it swap back to normal mode. Very frustrating, and easy to screw up if you swap between using any other camera.

  • Each time the camera is turned on or off, it flashes a "Cleaning Sensor" logo on the LCD. Distracting, and no real point, other than for marketing. I mean, it would be like saying "Reading CF card" each time the camera turns on. Who cares? Clean the sensor, fine, but don't bother me with the marketing blurb while doing so.

  • In menus, it would have been nice if the top scroll wheel could be used to back out a menu level. You have to press Menu to do that, so yet another button, making menus still very much a two-handed process, again not as good as Nikon.

[Continued in Part 2]

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