Canon EOS 1D Mark III Is Sweet, But How About A Canon EOS 5D Mark II?

Canon EOS 1D Mark III

The Canon EOS 1D Mark III vs. the Canon EOS 5D

While teaching a private digital photography lesson I was able to get my hands on and familiarize myself with the recently released and industry rocking new Canon EOS 1D Mark III. I haven't had enough time to get to know all the finer details and nuances of this camera, but at first look I would have to say that it does live up to the hype it has received and certainly sets a new level of function and performance in the high-end DSLR world. However, the most important question on my mind is, "as a landscape, architecture and travel photographer does the Canon EOS 1D Mark III have what it takes to get me to pony up $4000 and switch over from my current much loved Canon EOS 5D, 12.7 megapixel, full frame camera?"
1D Mark III Basic Specifications
Resolution: 10.10 Megapixels
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
LCD Size: 3.0 inch
ISO: 50-6400
Shutter: 30-1/8000
Max Aperture: n/a
Mem Type: CF1 / CF2 / SDHC / SD
Battery: Custom LiIon
Dimensions: 6.1x6.2x3.1in
Weight: 40.4 oz
(1,155 g)
MSRP: $4,000
Availability: On The market
About a year and a half ago I purchased my 5D and have been very pleased with it ever since. The small size and weight, superior resolution, ease of use, price and full frame sensor form a pretty solid base of features important to the types of photography that I do. The $8000 price tag of the respected full frame EOS 1Ds Mark II along with its notoriously complex operation and large, heavy body all made it impractical for hauling into the wilderness, shooting in the dark and operating it in abusive conditions. The 1D Mark II N was geared more towards sports and journalistic photography and didn't have the resolution I wanted, not to mention that the smaller APS sized sensor cut into my wide angle capability. Upon first reading about the 1D Mark III I thought that it might just have the right combination of advanced technology and features to persuade me to make the jump.As stated by Dave Etchells and Shawn Barnett on, "the big story with the Canon EOS 1D Mark III is that it's a better, more universally appealing professional camera for more types of professional photographers. A lot of intermediate photographers may want to make the jump as well, given its more friendly interface and astonishing high ISO performance. And, the Canon EOS 1D Mark III isn't just for sports anymore. It's a more universal camera for the vast majority of pro photographers. With the multiple improvements in the new camera, photographers will no longer need to trade off resolution, image quality, and speed against each other. The 1D Mark III now has enough of all three to satisfy a huge slice of the market in a single camera body."
While the 1D Mark III's 10 frames per second burst rate, the fastest in the world, is impressive it really isn't an important consideration for photographers who photograph low motion subjects like landscapes. Below I have listed the features of the 1D Mark III that really caught my eye as a landscape and architecture photographer that might challenge my preference for the 5D.

  • Three inch LCD monitor with live view capability for on screen compositions - handy for creative and difficult compositions.
  • Dual DIGIC III Image Processors for fine detail, natural color reproduction and high-speed performance - I'm all about better color reproduction and fine detail. High speed is an added bonus.
  • Professional EOS Integrated Cleaning System with Self-Cleaning Sensor Unit - dust spots on the sensor may be my single biggest gripe with digital SLRs.
  • Dust Delete Data acquisition - for those times when the self-cleaning sensor misses some specks.
  • More intuitive menus and controls similar to the 5D - my 5D fits like a glove and is almost as easy to use.
  • Expanded ISO range with less noise in images shot at a higher ISO - I often shoot on a tripod, but expanding my handheld shooting ability while still producing low noise images is very tempting.
  • 14-bit A/D conversion for fine color/tonal gradation - again, any technology that allows for better, more accurate color reproduction is high on my list of priorities.
  • New 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, improved microlens array and pixel fill factor plus optimized photodiode structure to increase light-reception efficiency - the improved sensor design and resolution along with the other image quality enhancements would most likely give me plenty of detail for 20 x 30 art prints or larger (as with my 5D), but I'm not excited about the smaller than full frame sensor size. I really need to be able to access the entire wide angle view of my 16 mm lens.
  • Increased shutter durability of approximately 300,000 cycles - it just keeps going and going.
  • 50% less shadow noise for all images - shadow noise is something that I'm constantly trying to avoid in my landscape photography.
  • High-capacity, lightweight and compact lithium-ion battery with estimated battery life display - lithium-ion is the way to go and I like that Canon has finally figured out a way to let you know how much more time you have left on your battery.
  • Strong magnesium alloy body construction sealed to resist dust and water - I take my gear to some pretty harsh environments. The fact that the 5D is not as well sealed as the 1D series cameras is one of its serious drawbacks for abusive professional photographers.

Based on the image comparisons I have been able to make between the 1D Mark III and the 5D, along with viewing many sample images taken by independent reviewers on the web, I would have to say that the Mark III certainly does produce remarkably detailed high resolution images with extremely accurate colors. When used with a sharp lens, the 1D Mark III can produce images with a vast amount of fine detail. I would say that the image quality and resolution at low ISO settings rivals that of the 12 megapixel 5D. In some situations, such as along high contrast edges, in shadow detail and in tricky lighting, I would say that the Mark III even outperforms the 5D.
However, this camera really shows its stuff with its low noise levels when shooting at higher ISO settings. Even at its highest setting of ISO 6,400, the images are cleaner than those shot at ISO 1600 and perhaps even 800 on the 5D. There is digital noise, but there's still an amazing amount of shadow detail and finer detail for such a sensitive ISO setting. At lower sensitivities, images are extremely clean, and noise doesn't even begin to show up significantly on monitors until you reach ISO 800.

The 1D Mark III certainly sets new standards on many fronts. The ease of use, sensor cleaning technology, color accuracy, detailed resolution and low noise are features that really excite me, and there are many more that are pretty cool, although not essential, to the landscape photographer. Impressive as it is, would it tempt me away from my 5D? It is close, but the answer is, Nope.

The main factor that would keep me away is the APS-H sized sensor which applies a magnification factor of 1.3x to the focal length of the lens. Being able to get full use out my wide-angle lenses with the 5D is just too important to give up. To a lesser degree I am also deterred by the size and weight of the camera.

So what would the camera that would get me to hand over the keys to my 5D look like? We'll my guess is it would be called the EOS 5D Mark II and it would have the follwing features:

  • A compact, lightweight body like the current 5D
  • Magnesium alloy body construction sealed against dust and moisture to the same standards as the EOS 1D cameras
  • The same dual DIGIC III processors, firmware and sensor improvements found in the 1D Mark III
  • The same high sensitivity/low noise ability of the 1D Mark III
  • 14 bit color
  • Live view LCD screen
  • Self-Cleaning Sensor Unit
  • The same intuitive menu and control system found on the 5D and 1D Mark III
  • Battery life display
  • Shutter rated to 300,000 shots
  • And most importantly...a FULL FRAME sensor in the 13-16 megapixel range

What is the chance that such a camera is on the horizon? The consensus among the big dogs seems to be that Canon will put this technology to use at the top end first by coming out with a 1Ds Mark III. It would include all the improvements made to the 1D but it is anticipated that the new 1Ds will feature a 22 megapixel full frame sensor as well. This is sure to be an amazing camera, but the body size and likely $7000 to $9000 price tag will not place it high on my wish list. Hopefully, soon after that, a new 5D will hit the market. I'm holding out for that day.

  • Jamison Dinnen

    The 5d classic has the best colour reproduction, i even think its as good as the mark 2.

  • Lu Aste

    I love canon, I still get so much use out of my 1d classic