Canon Creates the Ultimate EOS: 1D X Mark III DSLR

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Every four years we get to see what type of flagship camera the big camera makers can create, and, right on schedule, we have Canon and its EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR. Previewed a few months back, "The Ultimate EOS," as it is dubbed by Canon, offers an impressive array of specifications and features that obviously put it at the top of the pile for professional photographers.

A Focus on Image Quality

Normally the image sensor is a key part of the groundbreaking tech in new flagship releases, so it may be surprising to see the 20.1MP spec of the 1D X Mark III's full-frame CMOS sensor. This matches its predecessor in resolution. However, Canon has redesigned the chip with higher sensitivity and speed in mind, giving it native settings of ISO 100–102400 and an extended range of ISO 50–819200. An optimized low-pass filter is used as well to minimize artifacts while retaining sharpness. In addition to raw and JPEG, a new HEIF format is available that will help deliver higher-quality images at smaller file sizes and with support for HDR metadata.

Backing this new sensor is the DIGIC X Image Processor (pronounced "X", not "10"… we asked). It provides a new image-processing engine and improved power efficiency. The added efficiency is a huge benefit, as it allows the Mark III to use the same LP-E19 battery as its predecessor and still benefit from improved battery life. This processor can also work at speeds of up to 16 fps when using the optical viewfinder or 20 fps in live view. The buffer received a huge expansion to 1000 raw images, thanks in part to two ultra-fast CFexpress card slots. It's an impressive bit of speed that should satisfy sports and wildlife photographers.

All this speed is worthless if you can't get your subject in focus, so a revamped AF system that uses a dedicated DIGIC 8 processor will help keep everything tack sharp. The conventional system features 191 points, 155 of which are cross-type for improved accuracy. The system even includes head and face detection for locking onto any people in your images and a new AI Servo AF system with four customizable use cases. Switching to live view is now a seamless experience and will use a new Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. Dual Pixel has an advanced 525-area setup that very quickly finds and locks onto your subject. Live view will also be able to use Eye AF.

All these come together to make this a highly capable camera that will easily track and capture action in exceedingly difficult conditions.

Cinema EOS for DSLRs

Raw 5.5K (5472 x 2886) video at 60 fps on a DSLR? And all internal? Canon actually did it with the 1D X Mark III. That alone would be more than enough to make this camera a standout in the DSLR field. Luckily, it has all the other features one may want from a video-capable DSLR. 5.5K raw is very flashy, but many people working quickly will want more conventional modes, and the 1D X Mark III provides an excellent standard feature set. This includes up to DCI 4K at 60 fps, both cropped and uncropped, and Full HD at up to 120 fps. The internal recording can be set to reach 10-bit 4:2:2 for maximizing flexibility in post, and Canon Log is available for capturing a wide dynamic range.

This is an outstanding camera for video, and there are plenty of options to dial in the camera for your needs. Users will have both All-I and IPB compression options and the ability to autofocus when shooting at up to 5.5K raw at 30 fps or cropped DCI 4K at 60 fps. When using the full-frame area, 4K autofocus is limited to 30 fps. Other movie-specific functions include Movie Digital IS, peaking, and a focus guide. This is a very exciting hybrid camera for individuals looking for a stills camera that can also serve as their video camera. We can't wait to see what it can do.

Tough Construction and Advanced Controls

One standard feature of the 1D series that is loved by photographers is its durability. These cameras are built to be used in the most trying conditions and still perform at the highest level. The 1D X Mark III is weather sealed, has a built-in vertical grip for increased control, has a shutter rated to 500,000 actuations, and has all the dials and buttons one could want. There is some new stuff to look at, too. The most intriguing is a new Smart Controller. This is a touch-sensitive button on the back that will make it even easier to shift focus points while shooting. It is a nice innovation to go alongside the standard joystick.

Other changes are an optical viewfinder with minimized blackout and a new mirror drive mechanism to keep any impact on your images to an absolute minimum. The other method of composing images or reviewing settings is the rear display, now upgraded to a 3.2" 2.1m-dot touchscreen with a lot more menu control. The camera is just as customizable and tough as you would expect. There are plenty of ports as well, including a mini HDMI for video output, headphone and microphone jacks, USB Type-C, remote control port, Ethernet, and a little more.

For wireless, the 1D X Mark III can offer maximum capabilities with the addition of the optional new WFT-E9A Wireless File Transmitter. It has wireless LAN support and compatibility with 2.4 and 5GHz frequencies for fast, secure transfer. It will even allow for transferring raw files, HDR content, and 4K video. It is a great addition to make an already-stellar camera even better.

If you want to see the camera for yourself, Canon's first stop is CES 2020 in Las Vegas from January 7 to 10, 2020. Also, if you order the camera early, Canon is offering it in a bundle with a CFexpress card and reader, so you can start shooting with the new media format.

23 Comments

How will the new af button on the rear affect those of us who use back button focussing? 

Hi George,

I don't think it'll affect you at all. The AF-On button is still there, it just now has an extra function via the touchpad. However, I wonder if certain individuals may find they move the point too much and have to deactivate the setting.

Well thanks, Shawn, that's exactly the scenario that concerns me, I might just fit in to your "certain individuals" category.I assume it can be deactivated, although it seems a pity as it's one of the main selling points it seems. I'm beginning to struggle a bit to justify the upgrade as I already have 2x mkII bodies, the af would have to be a big improvement as the mk II is already pretty good. BBF is really necessary for me for wildlife, and I don't use the video feature.

The AF-On button would not only activate the autofocus, but also allow you to quickly move the AF points across the frame. 

Yes Kirk but see my original question and Shawn's answer...and I need to know that it CAN be deactivated!

It will have no effect to your regular usage for back-button focusing.  I was able to briefly view a pre-production version of the Canon EOS 1DX Mark III.  It appears the Smart Controller touch feature is disabled/deactivated by default.  Upon first use, you must first press the AF point selection button on the top-right hand corner of the back of the camera before you may use/activate the Smart Controller button.  Otherwise, the AF-ON button will work as any other AF-ON button on previous Canon DSLR cameras for back-button autofocus usage needs.  You may have to use the camera menu to activate the Smart Controller feature to respond to touch movements, and you would be able to adjust the sensitivity of the Smart Controller feature in the camera menu to either increase the sensitivity to make it more responsive to finger movement, or decrease the sensitivity to reduce accidental shifts of your chosen focus point from your finger touching the controller.

Thanks for that, now I have to decide if it's worth the upgrade and that's a bit of a "Hmmmmmmm"!

I might get some flak but frankly I am disappointed but as Andrew K. said, maybe this is the preview for the EOS R II.. I wonder who sat in their lofty office and brainstormed this being the "Ultimate"?? Other camera companies are putting in work while Canon sits and pretend everything is okay but when sales doesn't show up, complains that cameras aren't selling anymore...Have they wondered why?? I don't hear Sony complaining. It's like having the "Ultimate" weapon but keep shooting themselves...
Dear Canon, "Start listening to those who actually buy and use your gear".. sincerely A Valid Customer...

WHO WILL BUY 20.1MP CAMERA FOR $6500 WE WERE HOPING FOR AT LEAST 25 OR 30MP.

SONY WILL DESTROY THIS CANON COMPANY IN SALES SOON!!! A9 , A9 MK2 OR A7R4

Video

Recording Modes
Raw12-Bit
5.5K (5472 x 2886) at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p [1800 to 2600 Mb/s] 

How could be posible to record internal if the Sony 512GB CFexpress Type B TOUGH Memory Card is not fast enough ?

1 byte (B) = 8 bits (b)

2600 Mb/s = 325 MB/s

SD cards are not fast enough to handle that bitrate. But any CFexpress card should work just fine.

Sony 512GB CFexpress Type B TOUGH Memory Card max write speed is 1480 MB/s or 11840 Mb/s, so writing speed shouldn't be a problem.

Thanks Francis

Thank you Francis for doing the math. The new CFexpress cards should have no problem with this data rate, though it will fill up your cards extremely quickly.

fast -> swift

Why is it only 20.1  MP

20MP is what Canon has determined to be the best option to provide shooters with just enough resolution while maximizing speed of the system overall. This is important for a camera that is heavily used for sports and photojournalism.

I think we're seeing a tech preview of what a pro Canon RF body will have in it.  Expect to see a lot of these features in the next Canon mirrorless bodies.

If it didn't have the 29:59 video recording time limit, I would buy two of these in a heartbeat. Is there any way to pay a little extra to have this limitation removed?

As of the date/time of this reply, Canon has not listed any information about offering a new version of the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III DSLR camera without the traditional 29:59 minute time limit for video DSLR recording, nor have they mentioned an option to pay to remove the video recording time limitation.

Order now! lol. 4 years later and $1000 higher launch price. I think this debut should make the 1DX2 fly off the shelves right about now. I'm a 1DX2 owner, love it still, and don't see anything worthy of an upgrade justifying $6500 plus tax price tag. This should have debuted at $4499. The Camera to watch now in my opinion is the EOS R mark ii. I think many will go for that now seeing this hefty debut price and lack of real upgrades. This is a bit of a let down I think personally. 

1DX2 debuted at $6,000 and the original 1DX debuted at $6,700. Maybe it's not worth it for you since you have version 2, but for people not already in the 1DX system, this is a huge leap from the other full-frame DSLRs especially in video specs.

The fact that the 1DX2's 8-bit, 4K was good enough for so many is a testament to Canon's color science and the robustness of that codec, but 10-bit/4:4:2 option is optimum and the 2020 industry standard. It's worth the extra scratch for 4K at 60 fps uncropped, and internal 5.5K RAW is the cherry on top. It may not be enough of an improvement for 1DX2 users to upgrade, but for other video shooters it's a no brainer.          

Now if only Sony would see that GPS is STILL important built-in, with no need for a Bluetooth smartphone and post linkage to the photo files! Good news for those considering a switch away from the mini hands mirrorless crowd (of Sony)

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