From basketball to blacksmithing

I'm not a professional sports photographer, but the EOS-1D X Mark III helped me get tons of keepers from a local Seattle University basketball game. Out-of-camera JPEG.
Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8L II @ 70mm | ISO 12800 | 1/1000 sec | F2.8

There are relatively few people that will reach the limits of a camera like this.

I probably wouldn't, personally. Along with the Sony a9 / II and Nikon D5, the EOS-1D X Mark III is tailor-made for those most-demanding of photographers (exploratoriaries of luminescence, or some other would-be fancy what-have-you title) that simply must get the shot, in nighttime or daytime, in dusty or drenched environs, without reliable or necessary access to a dependable power grid. They lead a rough life.

Nevertheless, those people are an audience for this camera. They also aren't, for a variety of reasons, the type of folks that base their buying decisions on camera reviews - or spend a much time reading camera reviews at all. But you, dear reader, are spending time reading a camera review.

Although the EOS-1D X III's autofocus system is arguably more dependable in Live View mode, I spent the vast majority of my time shooting with the optical viewfinder and getting great results. Out-of-camera JPEG.
Sigma 105mm F1.4 Art | ISO 5000 | 1/400 sec | F1.4

So what is it really like to use a camera that costs more than many people's main mode of transportation? What is it like to use a camera that doesn't use frame-averaging, that demands user input much more than the latest computationally capable smartphones, that will literally weigh its user down in comparison with whats already in his or her pockets?

In a word, fantastic.

A true hybrid

Clack.

The mirror flew upwards as a I moved from capturing a still image to a video clip.

Clack.

The mirror flew back downwards once I decided I was ready to move back to capturing still images.

Download a high-quality MP4 file here.

I was at Lawless Forge, a blacksmith shop in south Seattle that specializes in teaching groups of friends, families and colleagues how to fashion things like a bottle opener from a rod of steel, or a knife from a horseshoe. I had a hunch that a group of people pounding glowing-hot metal might make for some neat photographic opportunities. I also had no idea that the lighting would be so abysmal.

But hey, that's the sort of gig this camera is made for. So I set up my tripod, conducted a quick video interview, and documented a class of students for three hours, alternately shooting 4K video and stills to get a taste for how this camera works for the hybrid shooter.

Out-of-camera JPEG.
Canon EF 85mm F1.4L IS USM | ISO 1000 | 1/200 sec | F1.4

In short, this is the best 'hybrid' camera I've ever used, even taking into account the not-so-video-friendly form factor. There have been times on shoots like this where I've only managed to get either a video clip or a still image of a particular moment. I didn't have this problem as often with the 1D X III because the camera remembers my exposure settings from one mode to the other, and it's basically an instantaneous switch.

High ISO performance is excellent for both stills and video, the ability to capture really great 4K/60p video alongside 24p gave me a ton of variety in my footage and the generous grip made handling it for long periods a bit easier. I could comfortably rely on autofocus in both stills and video (24p only, that is), which freed up my mind to focus on capturing my surroundings. Really, the Dual Pixel autofocus in video capture is something you have to experience to believe.

Out-of-camera JPEG.
Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS II USM | ISO 8000 | 1/200 sec | F4

Lastly, being able to capture 10-bit log footage at up to 4K/60p was a godsend when it came to editing the video clips together, correcting for color casts (which you can see a bit in the above image) and maintaining a good amount of dynamic range.

Time marches on

Of course, there are a handful of (somewhat obvious) ways the 1D X III could be improved for this sort of work. An articulating screen, a lighter-weight body, and an EVF would all have helped immensely. And to be honest, I think we'll see something along those lines in the not-too-distant future from Canon, only with an RF mount.

When photographing people at very wide apertures, I found myself relying on the 1D X Mark III's excellent eye-detection in Live View. Out-of-camera JPEG.
Rokinon / Samyang AF 85mm F1.4 EF | ISO 100 | 1/1250 sec | F1.4

After all, we're in a time wherein physical mirror mechanisms are beginning to seem quaint and old-fashioned. With major manufacturers embracing mirrorless technology in 2019, it's become apparent that DSLRs may as well be dust for anyone but doesn't shoot the most demanding peak action sports. They had served their purpose and helped usher most of us enthusiasts into a new age of cameras and imaging technology. But with the EOS-1D X Mark III's incredibly fleshed-out pro lens lineup ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, it makes sense for Canon to continue on with this form factor - for now.

Make no mistake: this looks like an EOS-1D camera, handles likes an EOS-1D camera, and performs like an EOS-1D camera. It's a world-class DSLR with fast burst speeds and advanced autofocus to please old-school shooters. But, it's clear that Canon is using this camera as a platform to communicate to those users that, someday, there will be a future in which they're holding a camera without a clack-clack-clacking mirror that can still accomplish what's needed in the field.

In fact, if you simply removed the 1D X III's mirror box and threw in an EVF, I think you could argue that we're at that point today.


Special thanks to Lawless Forge, Seattle University Athletics, and ProudDad band for allowing me photo and video access for this review.