Canon's 1Ds series of cameras exists in a class of its own. With pixel counts well above anything else offered in a 35mm-format digital SLR, an attention to detail that addresses the needs of high-end professionals and a price tag that's thousands of pounds more than the nearest competition, it continues to push the limits of digital photography. The 1Ds Mark III, the latest in the series, brings the megapixel count to a whopping 21 and is every bit a precision instrument.
It offers a high level of control over all aspects of your images, a body design that gives you fast access to these controls and can be customised to tailor certain buttons and functions to your shooting style. It's been over three years since its predecessor was announced, so there are a fair number of new features in the Mark III, which bring it up to date with the latest trends in dSLRs.
With this latest, £5,000 model, Canon has stepped up to a pixel count that, up till now, was solely the realm of medium format digital backs, while maintaining an edge in terms of physical size and sharpness of available lenses.
Canon's 1Ds series body design, with its long, relatively straight grip, seems somewhat blocky compared with the sculpted designs that Nikon and some other manufacturers use. However, that's partly because the grip itself is longer, with about 83mm of main grip space compared with the Nikon D3, which has about 64mm of main grip space. That means that the Canon might better accommodate people with larger hands.
Both cameras have longer vertical grips. Speaking of which, as in previous models, Canon duplicates the buttons and dials around the shutter button on the vertical grip, though they omit the exposure compensation and ISO buttons.
Since you can use the large control wheel on the camera back for exposure compensation, only the lack of the ISO button is annoying, especially if you've come to rely on it as much as we have recently. To Canon's credit, in our tests, we found that the vertical grip's shutter on the 1Ds Mark III was less prone to accidental pressing than the one on the Nikon D3. Both offer an on/off switch to prevent such accidents when using the main grip.
With its upgrade to a 76mm (3-inch) LCD screen, from the 1Ds Mark II's 51mm (2-inch) screen, Canon was forced to relocate some buttons that used to reside to the left of the LCD. 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.
While the Mark II had three two-button combinations of the buttons to the left of the pentaprism, Canon eliminated two of those combos by including the aforementioned dedicated ISO button and putting both AF and Drive under the same button. The small scroll wheel near the shutter controls one while the large back scroll wheel adjusts the other. The only remaining combo controls bracketing.
The very observant among you may notice that Canon now hides the diopter wheel behind the viewfinder's eyecup, so that you now have to remove the eyecup to adjust it. That's good, since you really shouldn't need to change it that often and don't want it to change inadvertently.
You might also notice that there's no clearly marked white balance button. The FUNC button handles that, but it would've been nice for Canon to mark it. They also moved the white balance shift to the menu only, so the Mark II's WB +/- button is replaced by the AF-On button, which triggers the autofocus and can come in handy if you don't like the standard half-press of the shutter button to activate focus. As you might guess, there are a number of ways you can configure the shutter and AF-On buttons to work together.