Review: Canon EOS 1D-X Mark III

Professional photographers have significantly different requirements for cameras than consumers and that means Canon's top-of-the-line EOS 1D X Mark III is a camera with a staggering list of features...

Professional photographers have significantly different requirements for cameras than consumers and that means Canon’s top-of-the-line EOS 1D X Mark III is a camera with a staggering list of features to get the perfect photo. There are a number of cameras that excel at capturing photos in specific scenarios, but at this price point, you need to be an all-rounder and get no free passes for being so adaptable.

Make no mistake about it, people who buy this camera will do so as part of their career, which places a certain level of responsibility on the manufacturer to provide the right configuration to perform in virtually any situation.

I’ve shot on a range of cameras over the years but have spent the most time with Canon and pickup of the hefty 1DX Mach III certainly felt familiar, but I’ve spent the last couple of weeks, getting familiar with the camera (and lenses). I don’t mind admitting that this camera is far better hardware than I am a photographer, but understanding the camera now, I appreciate what a special body this really is.

As good as the body is, you also need the glass to go with it, so Canon provided a EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM and EF 100 – 400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM to showcase the camera. I happened to have a 50mm EF laying around to play with as well.

As good as this camera is at photos, it should also not be forgotten that you can shoot 4K video at 60fps, plus the options of capturing RAW video or 10-bit video.

So with that, let’s get into a big review of this big camera.

DESIGN

A serious body for a serious shoot

From the second you unbox the EOS 1D X Mach III, you’ll understand just how large this body is. The large chassis reminded me a lot of my 650D + battery grip, which works out to be a similar size. What is very different is the weight of this thing, it’s heavy, a healthy 1.44 kg once you add the battery and memory card. This may not sound like much but does add to the overall weight of the camera.

Once you bolt-on a decent lens, and shoot for half an hour, you’ll understand how significant hat weight is. It is important to remember that most of the time this camera will be used with a tripod, if not for the body, for the lens. Not only does this help with the stability of your photos or video, but would also help your arms.

After you get your head around the feel of the camera, you’ll turn your mind to the staggering number of buttons, dials and I/O ports on this body. There are more than 34 buttons, 3 displays adding to the viewfinder and you need to learn this camera, understand when to use each of these to get the most out of it. Once you come to terms with these options, including the menus within menus on the display, you’ll earn that pro title and start landing the best photos possible.

What is noteworthy about the design is what’s missing. The rear LCD display is fixed, so if you’re used to fold out screens from different models, you’re out of luck. There’s no integrated flash, so if you need illumination, you’re out of luck.

Of course, the answer to these functions is to leverage accessories. There’s a familiar hotshoe in the top of the camera that can be used to mount lights, displays, microphones etc. If you’re using the 1DX for a stationary shoot, like shooting a video clip, TV show or movie, then you could leverage the HDMI out port to connect the camera to an external display, which then means the display can be as large as your space and budget allows.

When it comes to the batteries, this camera uses LP-E19 battery, a 2750mAh lithium-ion pack that also communicates with the camera so you can check the remaining charge, shutter count, and recharge performance in the camera’s power source info screen. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to add multiple batteries to the body, as it is with other models. For those engaging in extended shoots, you have a choice of switching out batteries (takes seconds), or grabbing the optional AC external power charger to keep the camera on all day.

PERFORMANCE

How does it perform ?

There’s a few ways to measure the performance of a camera, one is the technical specs, regarding how many frames per second the camera can shoot, the speed of autofocus etc, but the ultimate performance test is the content the camera creates. From photos to videos, the 1D X Mark III offers simply stunning quality but achieving the camera hardware can only get you so far, you’ll need to ensure your skills as a photographer are also up to the task.

It is definitely still possible to take blurry photos, and compared to your smartphone, things feel very manual. This manual control certainly gives you fine-grained control, but this can mean it’s harder to get to that amazing photo, with the vast array of combinations possible. Unlike a modern smartphone, there’s no AI magic that’s helping you achieve the perfect exposure, focus, and colour settings.

While more challenging, this can also be more rewarding, and definitely feels like the approach is more art than science. What you capture in the camera is really just the start (although should be the best possible), after you’ve snapped your photos, you’ll then move through the process of transferring those photos to your computer for post-processing in something like Adobe Lightroom.

Something that blew me away when I first started shooting with the EOS-1D X Mark III is the shutter speed. You can read the figure of 16fps on the spec sheet, but until you hold it and fire that shutter, you don’t get an appreciation of just how amazing this is. Firing shots this rapidly is most useful when capturing fast-moving subjects like wildlife, cars or sports. This speed allows you to freeze time and pause what otherwise would be a blur of motion.

Just take a second to consider the amount of data that’s being captured with 20Megpixel photos, and up to 16 frames every second. This creates a challenge to write this data to storage and Canon uses ProGrade Compact Flash cards to cope with this task. To experience this, the review camera cam with a 235GB CF card capable of 1600MB/s read speeds and 1400MB/s writes which are stunning speeds that allow you to capture what you want and never be waiting for the camera to write the data. These cards currently go for around $599 on Amazon, but it is possible to find alternates of up to 2TB in size, for around double that price.

When shooting with the EOS 1D-X Mark III, you’re likely to be capturing events that occur once, which means you’d really want some insurance from any possible data corruption. This is why we find dual CF card slots in the back of the camera, enabling you to write to both simultaneously, or simply have more storage available to you.

Full Specifications

FeatureDetails
Megapixels20.1 (up to 5472 x 3648 resolution)
Continuous fire rateUp to 16fps
Sensor / ProcessorFull-frame CMOS / Digic X
AutofocusAutomatic selection: 191 point AF 
Video formatsMPEG-4, H.264, H.265
Video quality4K/60p
Lens MountCanon EF mount
Shutter speed1/8000 seconds > 30 seconds
I/O portsMini HDMI, USB-C (USB 3.2 / 10GBit/s), mic, headphone,
SensorsOrientation (vertical/horizontal), GPS (location)
Remote controlWired (via USB + software), Wireless (via smartphone over BT)
StorageDual CFexpress type B
Battery typeLP-E19 lithium-ion battery (comes with dual charger)
Weight1440 g (inc battery+storage)
Dimensions158 x 168 x 83 mm (6.22 x 6.61 x 3.27″)

Sample Photos

FEATURES

Stand out features of this camera.

When it comes to features, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III has almost everything professional photographers could want. Servicing these desires starts with what’s inside the camera, but is really completed by the vast options for external expansion.

Silent shooting

Often when shooting events, noise levels are low, so firing off your camera’s shutter 16 times per second could be annoying at best and highly distracting, and inappropriate at worst.

To address this, Canon has included a shooting mode that reduces the noise of the camera firing shots, to what I’d describe as close to silent. This does have some limitations but is a great asset to the camera’s functionality.

Connectivity

There is a range of connectivity options available with the Mark III and these allow you to connect and control your camera remotely. If you’re in a photoshoot, you are likely to have the camera connected to a laptop to show a quick preview of your work to the clients. You can also get a better read on colour, exposure, focus and other aspects of your work, to understand if it’s safe to move on.

Canon enables this connectivity via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C or the very pro feature of an Ethernet port in the side of the body. These options also enable you to transfer files from the camera to your computer for editing. Given the size of the data will likely be many Gigabytes in size, having fast transfer connectivity is not just a nice-to-have, but essential to a productive workflow.

High durability shutter

The body of a DLSR essentially comes with an embedded lifespan. Every time you fire the shutter, the mirror mechanism launches into action. With any moving parts, there is a level of wear and tear that happens and this is part of the reason many photographers are moving to mirrorless cameras.

With a flagship camera and significant investment like the EOS-1D X Mark III, you are likely to expect years of use from the body. Canon understands this and has put their shutter through a high-durability test, running some 500,000 cycles on an endurance test. This should give an photographer confidence that the body will withstand even daily use for many, many years to come.

Eye Detection Autofocus

When you’re attempting to set focus on a subject, it’s typical to go after their eyes as sharp as possible and given the rest of their face is at a similar depth from you, this usually places the whole face in focus. Canon offers an Eye Detection Autofocus feature with this camera that can be set during Servo AF in live view mode (stills & movies). This is impressive as it manages to lock on to your subject’s eyes, even when they move around the frame.

Webcam

For those who stream online, or want to use the 1D-X Mark III for broadcasting live events, it’s incredibly easy to use the camera as a webcam source, as the camera is supported by Canon’s EOS Webcam Utility. There’s a growing list of cameras that can be used with this software and this is one of them and after testing it out, can confirm setup is easy and the results are stunning.

If you want to use it on your desk, you will need to choose your lens wisely, given the proximity to you, but having real depth of field from a camera like this, rather than the simulated depth of field in Microsoft Teams or Zoon, really is night and day. If you plan on using the camera every other day, or once a week, this could help you extract more value from the purchase.

ISSUES

Not everything’s perfect

It’s really hard to fault the EOS 1D X Mach III when it comes to image and video quality, or features, it’s all good there, but one area of improvement in future iterations should definitely be a rationalisation of the buttons on this camera. I feel like Canon’s attempt to cater to every possible photographer has made this needlessly complex.

There’s good justification for some of these, like the replication of buttons for snapping photos in vertical orientation for example. I’d love to see more features moved to the touchscreen and then giving photographers the capability to customise the buttons. It’s also not clear to me why there’s a real need for 3 displays, I feel a larger, more capable single touchscreen display should service all the necessary data required and again, the information displayed should be configurable.

Other than the quantity of buttons, I’d also like to point out the vast array of different input techniques. There are of course buttons, there are dials, like the photo/video selection, as well as the On/Lock/Off selection, but then we have joysticks to navigate some menus, a scroll wheel to move through photos, the touchscreen has its own gestures and finally, we have the weird physical cover latch that has to be opened before being rotated to open the storage compartment.

Understandably you may want some physical barrier to opening the storage cover, so you take a second to think before simply ripping out the CF card that’s still being written to. I expect there’s a better way to resolve this, possibly a digital release that only actions once the write has been completed. I understand that it may be annoying to have to turn on your camera to open this, but that seems like a mild downside, for a better experience and simplified interface.

While hardcore professional photographers have adapted to this, new photographers have new expectations and that’s a rethink of interfaces that asks why there’s not a more consistent approach to interacting with the camera. Of course, there should always be a physical shutter button and a suite (maybe 10 programmable buttons), I also think exposure dials also work well for rapid adjustment, but other options could really be moved to the touchscreen.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

How much and when can you get one ?

You should not be surprised that you’ll need to pay up to add a body like this to your camera bag. This professional camera is Canon’s flagship, so naturally, it doesn’t come cheap.

The Canon EOS 1DX Mark III (body only) costs A$10,999. By comparison, this is close to double the full-frame mirrorless EOS R5 at $5,599.

With a feature list this long, the camera is incredibly capable and given it’ll be used by professionals to capture sport, weddings, wildlife, music videos, and more, the price of the body is likely to be paid back in no time.

Is it worth the dollars, that’s a really difficult question. It’s almost like asking if the latest GoPro is worth the price of admission. In many ways, that’s up to you to justify in the work you plan to do with it.

It’s a safe bet that those considering the 1DX have owned many Canon cameras before and are missing functionality that is only offered by this flagship.

For more information and to buy the Canon EOS 1D-X Mark III, head to Canon.com.au.

 

OVERALL

Final thoughts

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is a monster of a camera. Not only due to its size, but also thanks to its functionality and capabilities at the hands of a professional who knows how to extract the best from it.

I reflect on my time with the 1D-X like this. I see many parallels between this professional camera and what you get from a professional race car – gone are all the creature comforts like a stereo or driver assists like ABS and traction control. Instead, these are replaced by an experience that requires drivers to be great at driving, without help, despite those technologies existing in the world.

After using the best from Canon for a couple of weeks, I’m left thinking wow, what a camera, the potential to capture stunning photos and video is there, the i/o available enables you to build insane workflows and adapt it to a broad range of use cases.

Despite all that capability, technology does exist to help photographers take the best photo, more of the time. This technology is included in many smartphones worth 1/5th the price of this camera and I’d love to see Canon offer the best AI in photography with their flagship camera, as making photographer’s jobs easier, is definitely something people would pay up for.

This technology has the ability to take the guesswork out of things like exposure levels, it can detect subjects in a scene and offer the photographer the ability to always keep them in focus. It should be possible to use the touchscreen to drag a selection around an item in the scene and have the Autofocus lock on to that object, regardless of how far you move from or towards that subject, much like the way DJI offers this track with their drones.

Some of these ideas will certainly be sacrilegious to the hardcore photographers that have spent decades crafting their skills, but honestly, where technology and AI can make a task easier, it should be deployed, and that immediately makes it more accessible to more people. Having the camera hardware and software work in harmony to assist you, leaves much more of your mental energy to be creative with your shot selection, cinematography and positioning of your subjects in the scene.

At the end of the day, this camera is fantastic in what it offers. While prosumers and photography enthusiasts may look at the EOS-1D X with desire, the price tag really means it’s really only going to appeal to professionals who can leverage it for regular paid work.

There’s one thing for sure, if you turn up to a job with a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, you’ll make others very, very jealous of what you’re holding as the quality available out of this camera is nothing short of amazing.

 

9.4
Review: Canon EOS 1D-X Mark III
The Good
  • Image quality
  • Video quality
  • Volume of settings
The Bad
  • Too many buttons
  • Design
    8.5
  • Features
    9.5
  • Performance
    9.9
  • Value
    9.5
Categories
HardwareReviews

Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021
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