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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Canon EOS 5D MK III vs. Canon EOS 1Ds MK III Comparison

I have been using the Canon EOS 1 series bodies since it was first introduced in 1989 and have upgraded to all the new models ever since. When the Canon EOS 5D was first introduced in 2005, I bought it because I needed a backup camera with semi professional capabilities. The 5D impressed me a lot with its great 12.9 MP sensor and excellent built and adequate features. It lacked the sophisticated AF functions of the Canon 1Ds MK II but considering it was priced at less than half the price, it was indeed a great value. 

The latest EOS 5D model, now called the MK III, has a new AF system and advanced HD video capabilities. The first thing I noticed when I started using the 5D MK III was its gorgeous LCD screen compared to the 1Ds MK III. It was like watching a program on HDTV vs. regular TV.  When the 1Ds MK III was first introduced, its 45-points TTL, 19 cross-type points and 26 assist points AF system set the standard but the 5D MK III's new 61-points AF with 41 cross-type points have finally surpassed the former champ. Although Auto Focusing depends on a lot of factors, including the subject, shooting conditions and the preference of the photographer, I find the new AF system on the 5D MK III to be superior. Below are the specs for both cameras.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IIICanon EOS 1Ds Mark III
36 x 24 mm CMOS sensor36 x 24 mm CMOS sensor
DIGIC 5+ processor -14 bitDual DIGIC III processors - 14 bit
3.2-inch LCD, 1,000,000 pixels3-inch LCD, 230,000 pixels
• RAW (.CR2; 14-bit)
• JPEG (EXIF 2.21) - Fine / Normal
• RAW + JPEG (separate files)
• sRAW1, sRAW2
• RAW (.CR2; 14-bit)
• JPEG (EXIF 2.21) - Fine / Normal
• RAW + JPEG (separate files)
100 – 25600 ISO100-3200 ISO
30 - 1/8000th of a second shutter speeds30 - 1/8000th of a second shutter speeds
• 5760 x 3840 (L: 22.3 MP)
• 3840 x 2560 (M: 9.8 MP)
• 2880 x 1920 (S: 5.5 MP)
• 5616 x 3744 (L: 21.0 MP)
• 4992 x 3328 (M1: 16.6 MP)
• 4080 x 2720 (M2: 11.0 MP)
• 2784 x 1856 (S: 5.2 MP)
• Single
• Continuous: 6 fps *
• Self-timer: 2 or 10 sec (2 sec with mirror lock-up)
Movie recording-
• 1920 x 1080 (16:9) up to 12 mins (Quicktime H.264; 38.6 Mbits/sec)
• 640 x 480 (4:3) up to 24 mins (Quicktime H.264; 17.3 Mbits/sec)
• Max file size 4 GB
• Quicktime MOV format (H.264 video, PCM sound)
• 30 fps
• Single
• Silent (single frame) *
• High-speed continuous: 5 fps * (adjustable 5 - 2 fps)
• Low-speed continuous: 3 fps * (adjustable 4 - 1 fps)
• Self-timer: 2 or 10 sec (3 sec with mirror lock-up)
6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0 inches6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 inches
1.9 lb unloaded
2.7 lb unloaded

The 1Ds MK III's ergonomically contoured and weather sealed body does feel superior to the 5D MK III but I would add the BG-E11 battery grip to the 5D to give it just as good a feel and the seals on the body should suffice for most weather conditions.

Both cameras performed well in the metering functions but the 5D MK III appears to have a slight edge over the 1Ds MK III on the high ISO settings, especially above ISO 3200. I am not a chart and graph person so no controlled, studio tests were used and I took both cameras out on photo shoots. The image quality of the photos produced by the two cameras are excellent and so similar it would amount to a difference without a distinction. I am not a fan of shooting movies but the 5D MK III does have an impressive HD video capability and using a tripod would really help in getting high quality short films.

Since I own the Canon 1Ds MK III and 5D cameras, there is no point in buying the new 5D MK III so I borrowed one from Canon Professional Service for the test. The 1Ds MK III now lists for $7,000 and the 5D MK III lists for $3,500, including the Canon grip, the price will still be less than $4,000. My conclusion is rather easy to arrive at, the 5D MK III is the best value in professional, full frame cameras today, in my opinion.  What is not clear to me is why is Canon pricing the EOS 5D MK III so aggressively 'low' and include their flagship 61 point AF system?  When I bought the EOS 1Ds MK III a few years ago, the price was $8,000. Now anyone can buy a camera that can do more for about half the price.  Is this any way to instill confidence in people buying their top of the line camera bodies?  Unlike the big Series I L lenses, they hold their value and the Series II L lenses are more expensive than the previous models. Apparently Canon will be discontinuing the 1Ds line and replacing it with the 1D-X and 1D-C bodies, etc. I am expecting my EOS 1D-X to arrive soon and will be doing a comparison of the new camera to my current favorite, the Canon 1D MK IV. Please subscribe to my blog if you want to stay informed and visit my website  to see many more photos taken with both Canon bodies and follow my travels on Facebook .

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