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Canon Unveils the EOS 1D Mark III
A High-Speed Shooter with Feisty Files
by Allan Weitz
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Most announcements concerning the new DSLRs are often centered on pixel counts, burst-rates, along with new bells and whistles, most of which we can usually live without. As with its predecessor, the Canon 1Dn Mark II, the new Mark III contains an APS-H-sized sensor (28.1x18.7mm) and a magnification factor of 1.3x. But what a difference a generation makes.

The new Canon 1D Mark III, which is due to ship in April or May, does in fact contain more pixels (10.1 effective megapixels), is faster (up to 10 frames-per-second with a burst-rate of 110 large JPEGs or 30 RAW), and does cost about the same as it's predecessor, but there’s far more ‘news’ behind the new badge than a 20% increase in speed and pixel-count.

From an image-quality perspective, Canon's engineers were able to increase the pixel count of the new APS-H sensor without sacrificing the 'fill factor' - or the light gathering efficiency - of each pixel. In fact, by redesigning the architecture, they were actually able to increase each pixels' light-gathering efficiency, resulting in greater tonal gradations, brighter color, and less noise, without altering its physical dimensions.

Noise suppression, as compared to Canon's Mark II-series DSLRs, has been further reduced by about 50% thanks to dual (!) DIGIC III Image Processors. The new processors work in parallel resulting in faster image processing times, suppressed shadow noise, and better image detail in the highlights, most noticeably at higher ISO ratings. On the subject of ISO ratings, the new EOS 1D Mark III can be set as low as ISO 50 or up to ISO 6400. It’s also worth noting image files shot at 6400 actually look good… make that very good.

Image quality has been greatly enhanced by upping the color depth of captured images to 14-bit color, which translates into 16,384 levels of tonality as compared to 4,096 levels of tonality typically captured by 12-bit color processors. Even when taken down to 8-bits, the volume of tone and enhanced image quality is quite appreciable.

Live Video is another neat feature on the EOS 1D Mark III. You can now compose your images in real-time while viewing the Mark III's 3" LCD screen. If you hardwire your Mark III to a computer, or transmit the image wirelessly to your CPU using Canon's new WFT-E2 Wireless Transmitter and updated EOS Utility 2.0 software, you can adjust the focus and exposure settings, as well as trigger the shutter from a remote location. If you find yourself shooting in sound-sensitive environments you can also set the shutter to silent mode (single-mode only). For wireless data backup, the WFT-E2 Wireless Transmitter is set up for USB hosting, which enables you to transmit and store images to remote hard drives.

Depending on your needs, image files can be captured in 4 levels of JPEG compression, RAW, and sRAW, a new compressed RAW format that offers the benefits of RAW files while enabling you to squeeze more images onto your memory cards. Both RAW and sRAW can be combined with any JPEG mode for a total of 10 capture options. As with the Mark II-series cameras, the EOS 1D Mark III records image files to CompactFlash, SD, and SDHD cards in tandem, individually, or simultaneously for instant back-up.

Dust is another issue that has been addressed in the Mark III in the form of 3.5-second bursts of ultrasonic vibrations across the front infrared absorption glass each time the camera powers up and powers down. The cleaning process can also be manually triggered as needed. Strips of absorbent material are strategically located within the mirror box to capture loose particles and prevent them from causing further problems. If this procedure fails to remove the intruder, a Dust Delete Data program located in Canon's Digital Photo Professional 3.0 can map the location of the intruder on the camera's sensor and electronically remove it from your images files using Canon's proprietary imaging software.

A particularly interesting feature found on the new Canon is AF Micro-Adjustment, which allows you to manually tweak the accuracy of the camera's AF system, specifically errant back-focus or front-focus issues. This is a procedure that previously required a round-trip to your local Canon Service Center. If wide aperture shooting with fast glass is your forte, this is a very useful feature.

Other improvements include a newly configured Area AF sensor that contains 19 high-precision cross-type AF points that cover most all points within the frame and 26 assist AF points. The process of selecting and isolating specific AF points has also been streamlined for faster selective focus.

Last but not least, the new lithium-ion Battery Pack LP-E4 is smaller and 8oz. lighter than earlier Mark-series batteries and delivers up to 2200 exposures per charge.


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