1Ds Mark III - initial impressions, Part 1

Started Nov 30, 2007 | Discussions thread
OP Stuart Nixon Regular Member • Posts: 134
1Ds Mark III - initial impressions, Part 2

[Part 2 - I've had to break this into several messages]

I have a couple of issues that probably don't bother most people: there is still no release priority mode in AF-S mode (e.g. take the shot, even if out of focus), and there still do not appear to be sub-second timestamps on photos (although I'm still rummaging through the RAW files, so it might be there and I've just missed it). Nikon has had both these capabilities for ages, and I need them.

Different:

  • The shutter is much crisper sounding than the Mark II, and a bit louder. It seems to have less blank-out time - feeling more like the 1D style cameras than a 1Ds. I like it.

  • When you put a CF card in the camera, even when turned off, the camera accesses the card. No big deal, just a bit unnerving when you first see it, because you think you have left the camera turned on.

  • A new highlight mode has been added. First, a bit of background:

Essentially, Canon and Nikon have always taken different approaches to recovery of blown out highlights (where data has been clipped and is beyond the range of the sensor). Typically, only one or two channels are blown, and the other channel(s) are still valid. This allows some level of prediction of the "correct" response. Canon has in the past tended towards de-saturating overblown highlights. The more overblown (e.g. the more clipped), the more they tune the saturation towards white. So in effect, Canon gets intensity "right" but gets colour "wrong" by de-tuning it. Nikon, on the other hand, tries to preserve colour, so gets intensity "wrong" and often gets colour "right". But Nikon's approach can also go spectacularly wrong, with reds turning to yellows and the like.

Note that this is about the processing done by firmware (for on-camera JPEGs) or RAW converters - it has nothing to do with the sensor itself.

Neither approach is "right" - they are just biased towards different environments. I prefer Canon's approach for landscape photography, but Nikon's approach for artificial bright light environments like neon-lights.

Anyway, it looks like Canon is giving you more options on how to handle highlights, which is nice.

Auto focus differences and issues

I'd stuck this in a different section, because I noticed major AF differences between the Mark II and the Mark III.

First, the Mark III has a much larger AF area. I used to think you could never have too large an AF area. Now I'm not too sure. I find that most cameras will focus on whatever seems right to you. With the Mark III, I often find it focusing on something outside my area of interest. This is not necessary a negative - it might just be that it needs getting used to. And you can always reduce the AF area down (at least, I think you can, in some custom function).

For some uses, the larger AF area would be great. I'm looking forward to trying it for bird photography.

So the larger AF is different, takes getting used to, and might be better or might be worse depending on what you shoot. But you can configure it, so.. shrug.

The 2nd difference is more of an issue, and something I don't like at all. Because the Mark III has a larger and finer AF area, it is much more likely to pick up on some foreground item (perhaps a branch or a cable) than the major item you are interested in.

I ran into a very nasty "continual focus attempt and fail" problem with a number of shots. This happened to me with telephoto lenses. The camera can see something in the foreground, tries and focus on it but fails, so goes to the background and focuses as expected - but then sees something in the foreground, so tries to focus on the foreground and fails... and repeats this continually. Very strange, and very different to every other camera I've used. I tried the same photo with a Mark II and Mark III and got very different results - the Mark II would lock on to what I was expecting, the Mark III would keep hunting. I suspect this behavior would go away when you swap to a smaller AF area, and there is even a Custom Function to stop continual focus attempts. But not something I particularly like.

Summary:

Another great camera from Canon. Stunning quality, with no other D-SLR (yet) coming close to the quality. Usability greatly improved - still not up there with Nikon, but much better.

If you are a Canon user, you are going to love this camera. Really love it. If you are 1Ds user, this is the camera you have been waiting for. The upgrade from a Mark II to a Mark III is a tougher call. The quality improvement is not as great as from say the 1Ds to the 1Ds Mark II due to the small increment in resolution, but the reduced noise is significant if that is important for your work, and the usability is vastly better.

If you are a Nikon user, I'd have a very serious look at the D3. ISO quality at the high end is better than the Mark III, and usability is better. And if/when Nikon comes out with a D3X, we are going to be spoiled for choices

If you are a Medium Format user (film or digital), then have a look at the 1Ds Mark III. Photo quality is better than drum scanned 6x7 film (really!) and it comes very close indeed to much more expensive MF digital backs.

Stuart

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