A Real-World Review of the Canon 1D X Mark III

As many of you know, I have been lucky enough to have a Canon EOS 1D X Mark III in my possession for more than a month now. People have been asking me to review this new top-of-the-line camera, but I really wanted to put it through its paces in order to do a fair review.

There are lots of photographers or tech reviewers who write reviews of a new product, basically looking at the spec sheets, or holding it in their hands for a couple of minutes. But in my mind, there is no better way to review a product than to use it as my primary camera for a while and really get to know it in detail.

Now that I have become pretty familiar with the ins and outs of this camera, it is time to share my findings with all of you.

So… on to the testing.

I took the camera out of the box and was happy to see that the body is very similar to the previous models, with buttons and joysticks right where I expect them. I was also happy to see a familiar battery and charger that is basically the same as the previous model.

The one big difference is that the new camera has two CFExpress card slots, which as many of you know, I was really hoping for. I like this for two reasons:

1. I like having the two extremely fast cards instead of one fast card and one legacy card format which slows everything down. This is really important because I always shoot RAW images to both cards for redundancy.

2. I like having 2 card slots using the same card format. I always found it frustrating to have a CFast slot and a CompactFlash slot in the same camera.

The first photos taken with the Canon 1D X Mark III were taken in my backyard. I like to use a new camera for non-client shoots for a while to build trust and familiarity with the camera and memory cards. The last thing I would do is use this camera on a paying job before I knew how to control it. I need to know that the images will be captured correctly in the camera and stored correctly on the memory cards before using it in a real-world situation.

This was also a time for me to try out the new CFExpress cards from ProGrade Digital. I had inserted a 512GB card in slot 1 and a 1TB card in slot 2, so capacity was not a problem!

The first couple of photos were of my dog, Cooper, who was nice enough to pose for me. It was my first time holding the camera and trying to the new smart controller for moving the focus point (more on that in a little bit). No fast action here, but it gave me a chance to inspect the image quality of the camera, which looked really great.

We were dog-sitting for a friend and our dog Cooper decided to play with Milo and give me some action shots. This was the first time trying the fast burst shooting of 16fps. The first thing I noticed with the 1D X Mark III was that it felt totally familiar in my hands.

Having used a 1D X and a 1D X Mark II in the past, I felt right at home shooting with the new body. The one big difference is that the new model has a touch screen LCD. I have gotten used to this on my Canon 5D Mark IV and find it very useful when shooting in the field.

Shooting at the fast burst rate enabled me to catch this shot of Cooper with all four paws off the ground. (Cooper forgets that he is 8 years old and still thinks he is a puppy).

This was my first chance to play around with the new smart controller. What is the smart controller? Canon took the back button focus button and added a new twist. This button now acts as a virtual joystick, so that if I move my thumb along the back of the button, the focus point will move accordingly. This can be incredibly handy, but also takes some getting used to.

There were a couple of times when I pushed the back button to focus and inadvertently moved the focus point to a location I did not want. But, with time, I have gotten used to this and really appreciate the feature a lot. What I have found is that the smart controller is optimum when shooting portraits, but I still prefer a locked single point of focus for sports.

My last trip, before all this COVID-19 craziness, was to Las Vegas for the WPPI show. I was not planning on bringing my 1D X Mark III to Las Vegas, but right before leaving, I had the offer to meet up with my buddy Drew, Canon USA’s top tech guy, who offered to help me customize the settings to get the most out of the new features of the camera. That turned out to be awesome, and I will tell you more about that in a minute.

While at the show, there was a rain booth set up for people to photograph models dancing in water. I saw this as a perfect time to try out these new settings.

I used the new 1D X Mark III at it’s full speed at 16 frames per second, with a Canon 24-105mm lens to capture the dancers. The super-fast frame rate of the camera allowed me to capture them at the peak of action.

The newer focus system also did a very good job of locking in on the dancers as they moved around at a fairly quick pace.

As I mentioned, Drew sat down with me to give me pointers on the new camera. And there is a lot to learn on this new piece of hardware. The Canon 1D X Mark III looks a lot like the Canon 1D X Mark II, but looks can be deceiving. What is under the magnesium alloy body is very different from the previous model.

One of the biggest differences of the 1D X Mark III is the new face and head detection. I was shown how to tweak the camera to take advantage of the face and head detection covering most of the frame. This means that once I locked in on a person, it would follow them even if they moved off-center from the lens.

I got credentials to shoot the San Jose Earthquakes game and put the camera to a test. I mounted the Canon 200-400mm lens to the 1D X Mark III and found the focusing system to be noticeably faster and more accurate than the 1D X Mark II.

I would lock focus on a particular athlete and then let the camera follow them from that point. As long as I kept the athlete in the frame, the tracking stayed on them, even if someone briefly ran in between them and me. This allowed me to capture images like this, where the Earthquake player is in perfect focus even though he is not in the center of the image.

The camera is capable of shooting 16 frames per second (fps) when using the shutter and 20 fps when in live view mode. This is great except that I can not imagine shooting a sporting event in live view and trying to follow fast action using the screen on the back of the camera. But, needless to say, 16 fps is plenty fast and allowed me to easily capture the peak of action during the game.

Even though I was shooting in RAW mode using the ProGrade Digital CFExpress memory cards, I never once filled the buffer of the camera. These cards can transfer 1600MB/s per second, which is nothing short of amazing.

I kept the camera in Auto White Balance for the entire afternoon and found it to be very accurate in the representation of the colors.

Note: Some of you may be wondering about the video capabilities of the new camera. But since I am primarily a still photographer, I will leave the video review to the experts who know that side of the business way more than I do.

My next test of the camera was in a completely different environment. My niece and her husband asked if we could take portraits of their one-year-old son. This time I was using the camera at higher ISOs indoors and going outside with different lenses.

Patrick did not move at the speed of a soccer player, but he definitely moved faster than a year ago, when I took his baby photos. Once again, the 1D X Mark III (this time combined with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens) was tack sharp on his eyes.

After taking a bunch of portraits of the little guy on the grass and standing, they asked if I could get some photos of him in the swing. As soon as I started photographing him, I realized that this was a perfect test of the new focus system.

The following images really help tell the story of this new face and head tracking.

Using back button focus, I locked focus on Patrick and then hammered the shutter at the full speed of 16 fps. Even though his head was moving off-center of the frame, the focus stayed perfectly on him. You can scroll through the following images to see how accurate this was!

I figured that the black swing would interfere with the focusing of his face, but that was not the case.

This sequence is a perfect example of how I set up the shot. In this image (above) I locked focus on Patrick when he was dead center and the focus point was right on this face.

Then, as he was going back and forth, I just held down the back button and the focus points moved with him.

You can see here that his face is well off the center of the image, but the focus is still perfect. If I were to try this with the previous Canon models, I would have had to move the camera and lens to keep the focus point on his face. This would have been very difficult to do and would have yielded a lot less useable images.

The Canon 1D X Mark III has a newly designed 20.1-megapixel CMOS sensor which is ample for most of my photography. Do I wish for a little more resolution? Maybe. I do like the file sizes of the Canon 5D Mark IV which captures at 30.4MP, but having clean images at higher ISOs is still the most important thing to me. And I know that cramming more megapixels onto a sensor can degrade the high ISO sensitivity.

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing a portrait shoot for a young lady who was about to have her bat mitzvah. Well…until it was postponed due to the Covid-19 virus outbreak. For this shoot, I used the Canon 1D X Mark III with a Canon 600EX-RT flash mounted on the hot shoe of the camera.

Canon has designed a new low pass filter for better lens sharpness, and the image quality of the camera is exceptional, with the colors, skin tones and clarity being everything I was expecting from a pro camera. I don’t fully understand how the new DIGIC X image processor works, but I can tell you that everything in this camera is fast. From focusing speed, the processing of the image, to data transfer to the card.

There was one anomaly though. When I take portraits, I almost always do so in a slow burst mode. There is no need to shoot at 16 fps, and yet I never have my cameras set to a single-shot mode. I don’t like the single-shot mode since I always want to be prepared to shoot multiple images when if a perfect moment arises.

With every other Canon DSLR I have used, the slow burst mode is a predictable sequence of shots. I hit the button and I get “click….click….click”. Weirdly enough, when I had my flash on the camera and I was shooting outdoors, the frame rate was a bit erratic. I expected “click…click…click” at a predictable pace and instead I got “click..click…click.click.click” or “click…click.click…..click”. I am hoping that this is something that Canon will fix in a future firmware update.

After using the new camera for numerous shoots, I felt comfortable using it to create images at a client’s bar mitzvah. For their portraits, I loved using the smart controller to easily move the focus point out of the center and taking full advantage of the 191 focus points.

While spending time with Canon in Las Vegas, I was also shown how to use the 1D X Mark III in mirrorless mode. Since the mirror is locked out of place, this allows me to shoot with absolutely no shutter noise at all. Combining this silent mode with the face tracking autofocus is a real game-changer.

For this bar mitzvah, I was using the Canon 200-400mm lens on the 1D X Mark III, mounted on a Gitzo gimbal fluid head and tripod. It was awesome to lock focus on the boy’s face and let the camera track his movements while I silently took photos.

While shooting this way, I came across another weird anomaly. As I mentioned earlier, I like to shoot in a slow burst most of the time. When taking these photos, I had the camera in Live View mode (essentially shooting mirrorless) and also had the camera set to slow burst. But when I hit the shutter release I saw that the camera was capturing at the fastest burst rate of 20 fps.

This is complete overkill for an event like this. I sent a text to the Canon expert from the back of the Temple and he replied back and told me that when in Live View, the camera will capture either a single shot or full speed. There is currently no in-between. This is something else that I hope is changed in a future firmware release.

When I photograph events, it is quite common for me to shoot full RAW for the service and then switch to a smaller file size for the party. In the past, that meant that I would switch my files from RAW to MRAW. On the Canon 5D Mark IV, that meant that I was switching from a file size of 30MP to 17MP and a resolution of 6720×4480 down to 5040×3360.

So you can imagine my surprise when I got to the party and went to change the 1D X Mark III to MRAW and it wasn’t there. All I saw was RAW and something called CRAW, but both were listed at the same resolution of 5472×3648. It was time for another text message to my Canon contact asking for urgent help.

He explained to me that MRAW has been replaced with CRAW (in the new CR3 files) and that even though they are the same resolution, the CRAW file is more compressed. I recently tested this and found that an image taken in RAW was 25.8MB and the same exact image at CRAW was 14.3MB in size. When zooming in at 400%, I could see how the increased compression decreased the quality a bit, but it was only a slight difference.

I love the idea of having the same resolution with higher compression than a smaller resolution.

There are certain key moments during a bar mitzvah celebration, and the family members being lifted in the chair is one of them. For the last 6 years, I have relied on the Canon 1D cameras to capture this moment. Why? Because the focus system is more accurate than the Canon 5D and the camera can write to two cards faster than the less expensive cameras.

The Canon 1D X Mark III definitely proved that it could lock focus even in low light, and wrote to the two CFExpress cards faster than my flash units could keep up.

With all of this said, there are still features of the Canon 1D X Mark III that I have yet to explore, and I look forward to doing so in the near future. As many of you now know, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo has been postponed. This postponement is a major disappointment for the organizers, the athletes, the public, and me. I was so excited to use this new camera at the Games. But I guess that will have to wait for a while longer before I get that chance.

Looking on the positive side, it gives me that much more time to get familiar with the new camera before the big event.


P.S. For more of my reviews and photos, you can follow my personal blog.


About the author: Jeff Cable is a photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

First Impressions: The Lumix S Pro 70-200mm f/2.8 OIS is a Solid Performer

Though it might seem less preferred than various other systems(probably due to advertising ), the L Mount Alliance is generating a few of the very best full-frame lenses currently available. In this instance, Panasonic Lumix worked in tandem with their pals at Leica to release their 2nd 70-200mm lens for full-frame systems: the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 70-200mm f/2.8 OIS.

Panasonic introduced its S system last year with the 70-200mm f/4 lens (among others), professional photographers like myself were waiting for the f/2.8 version that would offer us more versatility in low light, as well as of program a lot more noticeable subject splitting up broad open.

I’ve just been able to make use of the 70-200mm f/2.8 a pair of times given that getting it, I’m certain sufficient to share a few preliminary impacts need to you be intrigued in choosing one up for yourself.

Before we get going, this lens is categorized as a Lumix S Pro lens, which means it is Leica certified. Other Leica licensed S Pro lenses consist of the 50mm f/1.4 and the 24-70mm f/2.8. Both of those lenses are stunning, so my expectations were high for this most recent optic.

Big, Heavy, and Beautiful Let’s get one thing out of the means: this lens is hefty and also huge. Like, actually huge and heavy. The specifications on Adorama say 55.38 ounces, however my at home scale has it considering in at significantly more: 67.2 ounces or 4.2 pounds. Maybe the spec weight does not consist of the lens as well as the collar cap; I’m not exactly sure.

Compare this to the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L III, whose specs say it comes in at 3.26 pounds, Nikon’s 70-200mm f2.8 E, which evaluates in at 3.15 pounds, or Sigma’s 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, at 3.97 extra pounds, and you get a suggestion of exactly how much larger the Lumix is than the various other styles.

When affixed to either an S1 or S1R, the weight is really noticeable. None of the Panasonic Lumix S cams were choosing lightweight or small with their design, and it’s clear that additionally had not been of extreme importance to the manufacturers of this lens either. That said, if you’re a fan of the Lumix S video cameras, you’re likely already used to carrying around a system that equals the weight of a fully-loaded DSLR.

As heavy and also big as it is, the layout of this lens is truly fairly beautiful. The matte steel surface feels terrific in hand, and also everything concerning the lens really feels durable and also tough. The focus rings have simply the best degree of resistance to them, as well as the interior zooming methods I never ever as soon as needed to assume about balance modifications whiles working. The emphasis ring additionally has a hand-operated emphasis clutch, which I truly like and seems ending up being a criterion for the S Pro lenses from Panasonic.

As well as this is going to appear actually trivial to some of you, however my favorite feature concerning this lens from a construct viewpoint is really the collar, because it has an integrated Arca Swiss plate.

I recognize this isn’t the very first time something such as this has been straight constructed onto an electronic camera or lens, but it’s still really uncommon to find as well as exceptionally practical

when you do. I evaluated the lens on a variety of Arca Swiss heads varying from Really Right Stuff to Peak Design’s Travel Tripod, and also it functioned flawlessly with all of them. Despite the disadvantage that this point evaluates greater than a few of my other lenses incorporated, I have to give the designers credit scores for consisting of a really excellent feature right here.

Well worth the Weight?

If a lens is going to evaluate more than any of its competitors, it better make wonderful images? Thankfully, it does.

Photo by Jaron Schneider Topics are crisp as well as perfectly sharp, contrast factors are lacking aberration, and also overall I am exceedingly pleased with the visual top quality, also wide open. I’ve done some shots with the lens totally folded also, and though I can not reveal those right now as a result of NDA, I can claim that I was extremely

satisfied with just how sharp images were, also taking diffraction right into consideration. As for intensity goes, I would claim it’s not as “cuttingly “sharp as a premium Sony lens, however I really like that. Some brand-new lenses on the marketplace are so sharp, so perfect, that photos I make with them look nearly unbelievable. Sometimes you want a little level of smoothness, fewer severe edges, and also this lens strikes that sweet spot: sharp sufficient that pictures pop, however not so sharp that it makes my eyes injured.

Photo by Jaron Schneider This is of course, subjective. I prefer this, however others may like their lenses to produce lancinating pictures. To every his own. Though I would likely be perfectly satisfied with simply the in-body image stabilization in the S1, the 70-200mm f/2.8 likewise consists of optical picture stablizing (OIS). I did some tests handheld with the OIS energetic and not active, as well as though it did make a favorable difference, I would not say that it was incredibly visible. This is most likely due to the fact that it was a regulated situation with

no stress. I assume where it will certainly be most useful is in dynamic, moving scenarios or as soon as your hands are a little bit put on out from holding the lens for long periods of time. The IBIS incorporated with the OIS makes for an excellent stablizing combo that all but guarantees undesirable blur avoids of your pictures, also when shooting portable at 200mm.

Photo by Jaron Schneider The 70-200mm f/2.8 has a really quiet and rapid focusing electric motor, however I need to be honest: it’s tough to examine this feature on the Lumix’s contrast-based system.

While, yes, it had the ability to track and also follow my topics quite easily, there were numerous times when the autofocus algorithm obtained perplexed as well as missed focus. Things is, when the emphasis misses out on, it misses by a mile; when a shot was lost I recognized immediately, which is its very own unusual sort of benefit. It’s more effective to capturing and also obtaining images that are just slightly out of focus, since you only notice those when you return to your editing station.

Photo by Jaron Schneider During my shoot, I maintained OIS on, as well as every among the images that I believed must have been sharp, was. Browsing the viewfinder, I was watching these focus missteps happen in real-time, and can tell that it wasn’t the lens that was the trouble, it was the cam. When my subjects weren’t proactively leaving or towards the electronic camera, I had no focus concerns. It’s moving subjects that Panasonic, and the entire L Mount Alliance honestly, needs to at some point address with future equipment.

Photo by Jaron Schneider The last point I intend to talk about is the defocused locations, or bokeh. In current short articles, I’ve chatted regarding the difference in between sterile-yet-perfect photo recreation versus images that may be practically flawed, however more fascinating. The Lumix 70-200mm f/2.8 falls someplace in between those factors, while leaning slightly closer to the sterile-yet-perfect side of points.

It’s sharp and also has no major aberration problems that have actually taken place to me in screening.

Furthermore, I was talking with PetaPixel Editor in Chief DL Cade regarding what he believed of the bokeh, and I think he put it best: “It’s pleasant, yet lacks any distinct character. The most effective means to define it, in my opinion, is virtually ‘‘ undetectable.’ It doesn’t draw interest to itself by any means, favorable or negative.”

Photo by Jaron Schneider To my eye, it has even more personality than something like a new Sony lens, but not so much that it ends up being component of what you discover when considering the photos. In some pictures, like the one below, it can almost look a little swirly,

a hallmark of a few of Leica’s the majority of sought-after lenses.… In others, it’s kind of just … there, with a Gaussian blur-like defocused area.

Photo by Jaron Schneider I’ll allow you as viewers eventually choose if you like the bokeh on this lens. For me, I assume it’s wonderful, and in the video clips I’ve fired with it, I really like it. The Big Picture Checking out all the 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses on the market, the Lumix is most absolutely one of the extra costly currently around. When you separate DSLR and Mirrorless, it starts to look a little bit much better. While it is extra pricey than all the DSLR 70-200mm lenses, it actually competes pretty well versus the mirrorless options. Canon’s RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM is really over $100 much more costly, and also Sony’s is the same price as Panasonic’s. While the sticker label rate of $2,600 may appear really high if you haven’t purchased a 70-200mm f/2.8 in a while, it’s actually solidly competitive with the current market.

Photo by Jaron Schneider Having actually shot with both of Panasonic Lumix’s 70-200mm lenses, I believe I choose this over the f/4 version simply because the bokeh is extra eye-catching for my picture as well as video job. The f/4 version is absolutely a far better option if it’s mosting likely to be a landscape or aerial lens, or if you intend to try and also maintain the weight of your package as low as possible, however, for pure photo top quality with no concessions, I would certainly choose this new f/2.8 variation whenever.

Generally, I’m really pleased with the top quality of the lens, and also find really little to in fact complain concerning next to the size as well as weight of it. If you’re firing in the L-Mount Alliance, this appears like it’s going to be an excellent lens to include in your kit.


This write-up originally showed up on Rangefinder, where Jaron is the Senior Tech Editor.