If you've ever looked at the sideline of a major sporting event and seen a gaggle of huge white lenses, then you've witnessed Canon's dominance in the sports shooting world. Part of the reason for Canon's edge is its 1D series of SLR bodies, which, in the form of the new EOS-1D Mark III, will no doubt continue the Japanese camera company's pre-eminence among the paparazzi, sports shooters, news photographers and anyone else who has to shoot fast bursts of high-megapixel images.
This new £2,900 SLR feels like a machine gun when set to its Continuous Shooting mode, with which we were able to capture 10-megapixel JPEGs at an average of 9.9 frames per second. Add to that this camera's amazingly low noise, high-end build quality and vast custom-function menu, and you've got one of the hottest cameras to hit the market this year.
At first glance, the 1D Mark III doesn't look all that different from its predecessor, the EOS-1D Mark II N. It still has a built-in vertical grip, with duplicate shutter and control buttons, so you don't lose functionality when changing grips. Turn the Mark III around, though, and you'll see that things have changed quite a bit, largely due to the addition of a 76mm (3-inch) LCD.
This has forced Canon to move some buttons around to make up for the fact that the LCD now extends to the left edge of the camera. Menu and Info buttons move above the screen, while the playback button drops to below it. The Select button from the Mark II N is now obsolete, thanks to the Mark III's Set button, which is mounted in the middle of the large scroll wheel, much like the scroll wheels found on the EOS and . Another feature drawn from those siblings is the tiny joystick controller, which is used to navigate between various menus, among other things.
One of the only problems with Canon's 1D and 1Ds series bodies is that they're big and heavy. Some photographers simply don't want to deal with the weight -- about 1.2kg without a lens -- while those with very small hands often complain that some controls are out of reach. After a long day of shooting, our right arm definitely did feel the awesome weight of this camera, but we didn't have trouble reaching any important buttons, even though our hands are on the small side.
Canon does place the exposure compensation button a little too far to the left, but since the large scroll wheel doubles as exposure compensation in aperture- and shutter-priority modes, it wasn't a problem for us. In case you're worrying about accidental exposure compensation, know that you can disable the large wheel with the three-way off/on/on-with-scroll-wheel switch, which is easy to manipulate with your thumb. Our biggest control complaint is that Canon didn't clearly mark a hard button for white balance. The Func button does let you change white balance when in shooting mode, but it easily could have been labelled as such. We had to consult the manual to find that out.
While the Mark II N used button combinations for bracketing, drive mode and ISO, the only combo that remains in the Mark III is for bracketing. ISO moves to its own button just behind the shutter button, which we found extremely useful and convenient compared to the old configuration. Drive mode gets doubled up with the AF button, with the two split between the small scroll wheel behind the shutter and the large wheel on the camera's back. Metering and flash compensation get the same treatment, as they did on the Mark II N.
Canon also has added a new viewfinder, which the company says ups the magnification to 0.76x from 0.72x and the viewing angle to 30 degrees, from 28.2, while maintaining the same 20mm eye point and the same claimed 100 per cent coverage. Suffice to say the viewfinder is nice and bright, and a pleasure to use for manual focus. If you're the type that likes to change your focusing screen, you'll like the fact that Canon offers 11 different kinds of optional focusing screens for the 1D Mark III.
Like its predecessor and big sister 1Ds Mark II, the Mark III includes numerous rubber gaskets to keep dust and moisture out of the camera. New to this model is a redesigned hot shoe that's surrounded by raised plastic and made to mate with a rubber gasket on the new 580 EX II Speedlite, to effectively seal one of the few places that wasn't already sealed on the 1D Mark II N.
At the heart of this camera you'll find a newly developed 10.1-megapixel Canon CMOS sensor. Like all other 1D cameras to date, the sensor is APS-H-size (28.1x18.7mm), which gives the Mark III a 1.3x focal-length multiplier. That means that a 50mm lens will give you a field of view that is similar to that of a 65mm lens.