Body & Design

Physically the EOS-1Ds Mark III is superficially identical to its predecessor the EOS-1Ds Mark II, though look a little closer and you'll find plenty of subtle changes. Most of these are round the back, where the considerably larger screen means a lot of the controls have been moved around, more details of which you'll find below. The camera itself if fractionally taller (thanks to the larger prism) and there's a new system expansion terminal (for the Wi-Fi connector) on the right side. Otherwise it's pretty much business as usual - this is a working camera and professionals don't take kindly to having to adapt to major operational changes - and like all its predecessors, the EOS-1Ds is built like a tank with a reassuring solidity and a good level of weatherproofing.

Canon has dropped the 'hold button and turn dial' control system of the old 1D cameras (which gets a big hurray from me) - you can now press the button once then turn the dial to change a setting, which is far, far quicker (though of course does marginally increase the chances of changing something by accident). The large quick control dial on the rear of the camera provides control over LCD functions as well as exposure compensation and aperture selection in Manual exposure mode (as with most controls its operation is customizable).

Side by side: EOS 1DS Mark II and EOS-1DS Mark III

Where the EOS-1Ds Mark II was almost identical to the original EOS-1Ds, the Mark III brings more significant changes, though they're far from radical, and bring the professional '1' line closer in operation to the mid range 40D (Canon is obviously working towards a unified user interface for the EOS range). The main reason is that the screen size has leapt from 2.0 to 3.0 inches, and now takes up far more of the surface area of the back of the camera. To accomodate the new screen Canon's designers have had to move the row of buttons from its left side, and several of the other buttons have been re-assigned (though as we'll see later the 'customizability' has been improved too, so you're not completely stuck with Canon's decisions).

The quick dial has shrunk a little, though you'd never know it in use. More importantly it's also now got a 'SET' button in the middle. This is normally used to activate Live View, but can also be customized to give quick access to a variety of settings including white balance, image size, ISO and image playback. The menu button has moved to the left of the eyepiece (along with a new 'Info' button), there's a new customizable FUNC button (which makes up for the loss of the WB button) and a new AF-ON button (again, customizable). Last but by no means least the new multi-controller makes navigating menus and changing AF points even easier. Taken as a whole I think it's fair to say that the Mark III represents a small but significant step forward in control and ergonomics from what was already a very mature, tried-and-tested system.

Anyone who can use their EOS-1Ds Mark I or II blindfolded will need a few days' shooting to customize the Mark III and get used to the new layout, but I think they'll agree with us that the changes are, without exception, an improvement.

Side by side: Nikon D3

Below you can see the EOS-1Ds Mark III beside Nikon's twelve megapixel flagship pro DSLR, the D3. From a build and finish point of view these two cameras are very similar, the only visible difference perhaps being Canon's cleaner, minimalist approach to design and control layout (Nikon has a slightly more traditional take on camera design). The Nikon is also fractionally larger and a little heavier, though once you've added a few lenses and a couple of ounces isn't going to make any difference; these are not cameras for the weedy armed photographer.

In your hand

Both hand grips are deep and well designed with a distinctive middle finger recess. In your hand the camera feels weighty but well balanced and extremely solid. The depth of the recessed 'lip' at the top of the hand grip provides a vital key for locating the correct grip as well as providing additional grip ability. This is a camera that feels like it's been molded to your hand and feels incredibly secure even with a big heavy lens on the front.

LCD Monitor

The Mark III's new 3.0" TFT LCD is considerably bigger than the Mark II's, but the resolution is still a rather miserly 230,000 pixels and is put to shame by the ultra high resolution display on the Nikon D3.

That said, it's bright and clear, and to be honest you don't really use it for much in everyday shooting beyond the usual chimping.

Top LCD Panel

The top LCD panel provides information related to the cameras photographic settings such as exposure, drive mode, metering, focus mode etc. As shown below this panel has a blue LED backlight which can be turned on by pressing the backlight button. The display is similar to the Mark II (and identical to the 1D Mark III), though it does manage to cram a little more information in - most importantly ISO is now displayed all the time.

1 Shooting Mode
(P, M, Tv, Av)
7 Exposure level / exposure compensation scale
2 ISO Speed
AEB amount
Highlight tone priority display
Dust Delete Data acquisition (----)
8 Drive Mode
(Single, Low speed continuous, High speed continuous, 10 sec self-timer, 2 sec self-timer)
3 Shutter speed
Bulb time (Min/Sec)
FE lock (FEL)
Busy (busy,)
Error (Err)
Sensor cleaning (CLn)
9 Exposure level / exposure compensation scale
10 Mirror lockup
4 Aperture
AEB amount
Dust Delete Data acquisition
11 Auto Exposure Bracketing indicator
5 Shots remaining *1
Self timer countdown
Bulb time (Hours)
Recording media full (Full)
Error code
Remaining images to record
12 Flash Exposure Compensation indicator
13 Battery level indicator (6 levels)
14 Metering mode
(Eval, Partial, Spot, CWA)
15 ISO
6 AF Mode
(One Shot, AI Servo)

Default display is indicated in bold.
Diagram adapted from the EOS-1Ds Mark III manual with permission.

Rear LCD Panel

The rear LCD panel provides information about the digital portion of the camera including current image quality setting, white balance, folder and file number and other associated information. Just like the top LCD this one is backlit by blue LED's which can be turned on by pressing the backlight button on the top of the camera. A complete breakdown of information provided on the Rear LCD Panel is shown below.

1 Compact Flash card selection icon 9 File number
Color temperature value
Custom white balance number
Personal white balance number

Compact Flash card indicator

10 Folder number
Recording media indicator (Full, Err)
3 Secure Digital selection icon 11 Data transfer icon (when connected to PC)
4 Secure Digital card indicator 12 Wireless LAN connection *2
5 External media selection icon 13 Wired LAN connection *2
6 External media connection icon *1 14 Monochrome shooting
7 White balance correction 15 Image size & quality
Large / Medium1 / Medium2 / Small JPEG
8 White balance mode
(Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Manual, Color Temperature)

*1 Only displayed when connected to WFT-E2
*2 Only displayed when connected to WFT-E2 and external media in use

Default display is indicated in bold.
Diagram adapted from the EOS-1Ds Mark III manual with permission.