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Fstoppers Reviews the Canon EOS 1Dx Mark III: Who Needs a Mirrorless?

I got a chance to review the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III for a few weeks. It is the newest generation of the amazing 1Dx DSLR, made for extreme fast sport and action photography. I took the opportunity to photograph the dogs in the park, to see how it performs.

I have been using a Canon EOS 1 series camera for quite some time. I started out with the Canon EOS 1D mark III, and switched to the Canon EOS 1Dx eventually. These cameras are amazing machines, robust, strong, and they never failed on me. Nevertheless, a few years back I took a difficult decision to make the change to the EOS 5D mark IV. A piece of me still regrets the decision a bit. You can imagine how excited I was when I got the opportunity to review the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III, together with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L III lens. A perfect combination to photograph the dogs in the park.

Photographing the dogs in the park with the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III

The Canon EOS 1Dx mark III isn’t a camera for everyone. It is big, it is heavy, and it isn’t cheap. Although you need to pay $6,499 for the body, I think it is worth the money if your are into sports and action photography, and you need a very reliable, responsive, and fast camera.

Its appearance is similar to the older 1D series, with a build-in vertical grip that houses a nice big battery, and a secondary set of control buttons. The nice LCD screen is touch sensitive, making it possible to use the touch screen for operating the menu and every option during shooting.

A DSLR in a World of Mirrorless Cameras

Yes, it is a DSLR, not a mirrorless camera. But the camera has some nice features that makes it almost a mirrorless camera too. The only thing missing is the electronic viewfinder. It shoots 16 fps with the optical viewfinder, and 20 fps without the optical viewfinder, while using the full autofocus and tracking abilities. It also has an amazing face and body autofocus that sticks to the subject like glue.

The autofocus work exceptionally well. It tracks the running girl without any problem. You can use the optical viewfinder and 16fps, or the mirrorless function with 20fps

The EOS 1Dx mark III has only a 20mp sensor. Although it doesn’t seem much, it is more than enough for most types of photography. Its modest resolution makes it not only possible to continue shooting at these high frame rates, it also allows the autofocus to track subjects more precise according to Canon.

The speed of the camera is breathtaking. It fast sensor readout and large buffer allows a continues 16 fps and 20 fps for at least 500 raw frames without any hesitation. You only need to wait a second for the buffer to clear, before you can shoot again at the highest frame rate. If you shoot in JPEG file format, there is no limit for the amount of photos you can shoot. Well, the only limit is the memory card. The Canon EOS 1Dx mark III uses two CF express cards.

It doesn't matter if you shoot an atlete, or a dog, The autofocus keeps the subject perfect in focus

Designed for Action

The Canon EOS 1Dx mark III is designed for action. There is the high frame rate, of course, but also the option that are available. It has a fully customizable autofocus menu, that can be programmed independently for shooting with the optical viewfinder, or with the mirrorless option.

When shooting with the optical viewfinder you have 191 autofocus points available, distributed across the screen. It includes 155 cross-type and 1 dual cross type autofocus point, which varies by lens. It can track a subjects head and face, using deep learning.

Although there is no animal eye detection, it managed to keep focus on the eyes of James, the basset hound.

If you need a larger autofocus coverage, you can switch over to the mirrorless function of the camera, disabling the optical viewfinder. It allows you to use 3,869 autofocus points covering a field of 90% horizontal, and 100% vertical. You are able to use f/11 lens combinations, and the Dual Pixel CMOS technology allows a very fast and accurate autofocus performance.

A couple of images of the screen, showing the face AF in action. The moment the face disappears, the normal AF takes over.

Using the mirrorless function of the camera requires to hold the camera away from your body, in order to look at the LCD screen. It makes using the camera a bit awkward, and difficult when using the large Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L III lens. But if you use it on a monopod, it might be more convenient.

Shooting with the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III is fun. In mirrorless function it is less convenient due to the weight.

One of the most wonderful new features is the Smart Controller, that is built into the AF-ON buttons. It allows you to move the selected focus point just by sliding the thumb over the button. Although the optical detection area is very small, it works exceptionally well. If you don’t like the use of this option, you can disable both Smart Controllers, or just the vertical one.

This is the thing I found amazing about the camera: the Smart Controller. Every Canon camera should have one.

The autofocus works very accurate. It was able to track the fast moving dogs across the field. Unfortunately the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III does not incorporate animal eye autofocus, but it performed very well nevertheless. With the 16 fps, it captured a lot of great moments.

Making Movies With the Canon EOS 1Dx Mark III

Although I am a photographer, I tried to shoot a movie of the dogs in the park. The Canon EOS 1Dx mark III has an amazing movie shooting performance, including an uncropped 5.5K raw movie recording, together with MP4 data.

Besides this movie recording option, it incorporates a lot of different movie formats in 4K and full HD with support for Canon LOG. If you choose full HD, there is also the possibility to shoot in 120 fps with audio disabled. The camera offers a digital image stabilization as well, but it is no IBIS.

Filming with the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III. It is a bit heavy for the gimbal, but it works. (photo by Sylvia)

The film menu of the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III feels a bit confusing. There are a lot of film format options to choose from, so you may get lost configuring the camera. Some options may not be available, and it is a difficult task to find out which is the most suitable one. Perhaps it is also due to the lack of my own experience with filming.

The short film I made is shot in full HD 50fps, and 100fps, with the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L II IS fitted on a Zhiyun Crane 2 gimbal.

My Thoughts About the Canon EOS 1Dx Mark III

My opinion is perhaps biased. Since the first day I used a Canon EOS 1D body, I fell in love with it. It fits so perfect in my hands, the weight and size does not matter anymore. The Canon EOS 1Dx mark III has the same feeling, perhaps even better.

The button layout of the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III is very traditional. No surprised there.
Customizing the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III auto focus menu.
Besides the auto focus, you can customize everything about the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III

The third version of the 1Dx works exceptionally well. It is fast, accurate, and it keeps on shooting frame after frame, without a real risk of filling the buffer. But the most wonderful new option must be the Smart Controller on the AF-ON button. I wish Canon would incorporate this in every camera.

There are a few things I don’t like about the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III. It lacks a tilted screen, which would be awesome when using the mirrorless function. It has no bulb timer or time-lapse function. And the film menu is a bit confusing due to the many option there are. But that’s about it.

The film menu can be a bit confusing. There are a lot of options to choose from,, of which some disable certain options elsewere in the menu.

Besides these few things, I believe Canon has made an amazing camera. Too bad I don’t shoot sports or action. Otherwise I would buy this amazing camera.

Things I Like

  • Optical viewfinder
  • Design
  • Fully customizable
  • Fully functional touchscreen
  • Smart Controller is amazing
  • Low noise lever with high ISO
  • Very fast and accurate autofocus
  • Head and face autofocus
  • 16 frames per second and 20 frames per second in mirrorless mode with full autofocus and tracking abilities
  • 5.5K/60fps movie in raw format
  • 4K/60fp among other film format options
  • Full HD 120 prs slow motion
  • Electronic stabilization for movies
  • Amazing buffer capacity, you can keep on shooting in raw and JPEG
  • 10 bit HEIF file format available
  • GPS and WiFi build in
  • Mirrorless function with Dual Pixel AF covering 90%/100% of the screen

Things I Didn’t Like

  • No bulb timer
  • No time-lapse function
  • No titled screen
  • No IBIS (although there is a digital image stabilization)
  • Mirrorless shooting only by viewing the LCD screen
  • Auto-ISO does not take focal length into account.
  • Confusing film menu
SEM running towards the camera. The smaller the dog, the faster they seem.
In this case the absence of animal eye autofocus doesn't matter.
Kay catching a ball. With 16 or 20 frames per seconds it isn't hard to catch the right moment.
Lola running at maximum speed. The Canon EOS 1Dx mark III has no problem keeping focus on the dog.
Lola catching a ball. For the photographer it can be very challenging following the dog. Any image out of focus is probably caused by the photographer
Bruc running through the water. A very challenging task for the autofocus, keeping focus on the dog behind the water curtain.
With 16 frames per second it is possible to capture amazing moments. With the large buffer and writing speeds you can keep on shooting without the risk of a full buffer.
Lucy running into the frame. These small dogs are so small and fast, but the autofocus grabs hold of them very fast as long as you can keep them in the frame
Sem and Isa playing in the park. It is fun photographing these dogs. The Canon EOS 1Dx mark III makes it even more fun.
Just waiting for the ball to arrive to Earth. The Canon EOS 1Dx mark III is ready for any action to occur.

More images can be found in my blog, featuring the dogs of the park.

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