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|| News Item: Posted 2008-01-29

Photographers Toy Box: EOS 1Ds Mark III
By Patrick Murphy-Racey

Photo by Patrick Murphy-Racey

Photo by Patrick Murphy-Racey

These images show the detail that a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III can record (see shoes at bottom). This picture was shot with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and a 400mm lens at 1/250 @ 5.6.
(One in an occasional series on new or cool equipment of interest to photographers.)

The New EOS 1Ds Mark III: Here is a layman's review of this new camera from our friends at Canon. I'm no Ron Galbraith, I'm just a working stiff like most of you, so if you're looking for the "gigawatt draw from the flux capacitor," I'm not your guy.

A few years ago, I opened a box containing the then new 1Ds. I put a battery in it, and loaded up my truck to shoot my first job with it. I also double shot on film with my Fuji GX680 camera. Once I got back to the office and saw the results on screen, I began to sell all of my medium format gear. I never even ran the E-6 and tossed the exposed rolls into the trash. The images that I saw told me that, at least for me, and my clients, medium format no longer offered quality that was vastly superior to 35mm digital.

I have owned each of three versions of the 1Ds since that first camera, and so my jpegs have gone from 34, to 47.5, to now 60 megs each. The new camera is nothing short of amazing. But the megapixels are just a part of the story…

For a long time, talking megapixels has been like talking about the arms race, the bigger, the better. All the while, the way images are processed internally after they are captured on the chip has been how pro cameras have continued to separate themselves from the masses of point and shoots that boast the same file sizes through interpolation and fuzzy logic.

My decision to go ahead and purchase the new body was more about wanting a full frame 14-bit capture than it was picking up an extra 4.4 megapixels from my Mark II body. The rest of the story is in the magic in how those images are processed and filtered before getting jammed into your CF/SD card in the body. Each generation gets better and better in this regard. While the 1D Mark III probably came to the market too quickly in terms of getting all the bugs out, no one could argue with the lack of noise even at 6400 ISO.

The images I shot this high school football season look more Disney-like than the raw, nasty, and grainy low light football stuff we're used to. So once I began to look at my 30 meg files coming out of my two 1D mark III bodies, I knew I'd have to have the new 1Ds.

I have not been disappointed. Canon has once again raised the bar and very high indeed. The files I'm getting are simply stunning, and that's coming from a guy well accustomed to looking at the files from the 1Ds Mark II. I can now read the model numbers of the cameras at the opposite end of the basketball court and even see names on credentials at half court.

I'm very excited to be shooting a full-frame pro body that can auto-focus fast enough to keep up with my beloved Vols, ranked #3 in the country! The 1Ds Mark III has not missed a shot yet that wasn't my fault for not reacting fast enough to get on the action. It does a fantastic job, so much so, that I'm going to hit up CPS next year and borrow another one to shoot a whole football game with --- so if you're reading this, Joe, be forewarned!

I may have to get a hard drive just for that game, but that's cool. At 5 fps, it's plenty fast to shoot football and a lot of other sports too. But the rest of the story is the expansion of the dynamic range coming from the 14-bit chip. The new chip is incredible and gives detail in shadow and highlights never possible with the older 12-bit CMOS chips.

(Patrick Murphy-Racey is a recovering newspaper photographer, deep in denial, working his 12-step program to avoid bad deals, low day rates, and editors that like to hire him and put him in a box. Pat's member page:

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