Not to be outgunned by Nikon, which announced its top-tier DSLR was in development in September 2019, Canon officially revealed that its top-end DSLR, the 1D X Mark III, was coming, thanks to a teaser back in October 2019. Now we’re in 2020 and it’s official.
So here’s everything we know about the specs and features. Drum roll for the Canon 1D X Mark III, Canon’s bid to engage the pros to buy ahead of the Olympics 2020 in its Japan homeland.
- Magnesium alloy body, illuminated buttons
- Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Ethernet transfer is twice as fast as Mark II
- Accepts CFexpress cards
- No tiltable LCD
To look at the Mark III isn’t that different to its predecessor. The texture of the grips look a little less visually extreme, but otherwise you’re not going to spot a great deal of difference between Mk2 and Mk3. There’s the new badge, of course, but that’s a given.
We’re told that a number of illuminated buttons are present this time, which will light-up when pressing the display light button. Handy for seeing those details in low-light conditions as and when needed.
We had hoped the LCD screen would be on a bracket system so it could be pulled away from the camera, but this isn’t the case. The ongoing argument is that a flat built-in one is tougher and more durable over time. But with improvements to live view use via the screen, we think it’s a missed opportunity.
One thing you can’t see is that the Mark III accepts CFexpress cards – something that Canon began to support with its higher-end video cameras, and which is a useful feature here for ultra-high transfer speeds when shooting in bursts or capturing 4K video at top quality.
There’s also built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – a first for the 1D X series, despite Canon offering it in almost all its other cameras – along with an improved Ethernet connection that’s double the speed of the outgoing Mark II model.
- Autofocus algorithm with deep learning, evolves as it learns your shooting and subject behaviour
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF in live view – same AF algorithm as in viewfinder for similar experience
- Burst shooting: 16fps (AF & AE) via viewfinder / 20fps in live view
- New AF point selection control, 525 selectable AF areas
- “Improved battery life” – uses same LP-E19 as Mark II
The real take-away of the Mark III is how its features will be enhanced beyond the Mark II. And let’s face it: the outgoing model is no slouch when it comes to super-fast performance.
Canon is keen to point out that the Mark III will “always be ready to perform”, meaning ultra-fast start-up. Interestingly, the autofocus system has been enhanced in a number of ways. There are now 525 areas – although we can’t define if Canon means this is just for the live view setup – beyond the 61 points of the earlier model.
Perhaps a bigger deal than this, however, is the focus algorithm can now learn; it uses deep learning to evolve its accuracy based on your use and subject movement over time. Rinse and repeat and the 1D X MkIII will, theoretically, continue to improve. In particular its learning targets human subjects in sporting conditions, including facial recognition (even for faces with caps, goggles and such like).
That focus system is considerably improved to its centre, too, sporting 28 times the centre resolution of its predecessor, making for ultra accurate shooting when it matters.
Whether you’re shooting through the viewfinder or via the rear LCD screen, this will also give greater parity to shooting methods. We’ve always said that Canon’s live view – despite Dual Pixel CMOS AF being capable – is a little too ‘compact camera-like’ in its approach, but that won’t be the case from here on in.
Speed is up too, with up to 20 frames per second possible in live view, or 16fps when shooting through the viewfinder. That’s whether using an electronic or mechanical shutter – the choice is yours.
Battery life is also said to be improved, despite using the same LP-E19 battery in both Mark III and Mark II models. Good for upgraders wanting to carry yet another spare battery when upgrading. But with up to 2,850 shots per charge, the latest 1D X delivers strong innings.
Image and Video Quality
- New 20.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, new Digic X processor
- Supports 10-bit HEIF (high efficiency image format)
- “Better high ISO performance” than Mark II
- 5.5K 12-bit RAW video internal recording (to 4K60)
It’s in the image quality department that Canon has taken an interesting move: the Mark III is actually 0.1-megapixels lower resolution than the Mark II model. Delivering 20.1-megapixels, the sensor is all-new, offering Canon’s wodest ISO sensitivity range to date (ISO 50 to ISO 819,200), plus claims of improved high ISO performance.
The 1D X III is also the first camera to use a ‘High Detail Low-Pass Filter’, which samples the light point over a greater number of points to achieve sharper and higher-resolution images, while preventing moiré.
There’s also a new Digic processor, Digic X (obviously using numerals, as is trendy this year), and the ability to shoot the HEIF format, which enables images with 10-bits of data to be saved in a file the equivalent size as a JPEG while suffering fewer compression artefacts.
On the video front expect some considerable capabilities too. There’s 4K capture at up to 60fps, including internal raw video capture at 12-bit, which is a benefit of the CFexpress card format being so fast.
It is the first non-cinema Canon camera to feature Raw recording. It’s also the first non-cinema camera to record 12-bit CRM files at 5.5K (5472 x 2886), allowing very detailed oversampled 4K footage. The camera can also record using Canon Log Gamma, captured as a 10-bit HEVC/H.265 file, giving professionals multiple editing possibilities.
Given that 2020 is an Olympics year, it was always a given that Canon would launch the 1D X Mark III. And what a tasty bit of kit it will be for pro shooters thanks to that faster speed and enhanced autofocus.
We’re a little surprised that the resolution is more-or-less the same as its predecessor, though, but if that’s what works for the pro market then that’s what works. The boost this new sensor offers to low-light photography and video improvements makes it sound well worth it.
This article was originally published 24 October 2019 and has been updated with additional information following the official product announcement.