Hands-on with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

10 Jan

Hands on with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Although we’ve known it’s been coming for some time, Canon has now released all the details about its new EOS-1D X Mark III. A big, double-grip DSLR, the 1D X Mark III sits at the top of Canon’s lineup as its fastest, toughest and in many ways, most advanced camera yet. You’d be forgiven at first glance for mistaking it for the previous Mark II (or a much older 1D camera), but small refinements on the outside bely some big advances within.

Autofocus, shutter, sensor and processor

Let’s start with some of those big internal advances. First off, the EOS-1D X Mark III has an all-new autofocus system for use with the optical viewfinder. It offers the same coverage as the Mark II, but with 191 points, of which 155 are cross-type. For the first time, this secondary sensor uses conventional square pixels, rather than dedicated ‘strip’ detectors.

The camera will focus through the viewfinder with telephoto-lens-and-teleconverter combinations down to F8. The overall system has been enhanced with machine learning for body and head detection, yet simplified, with fewer customizable autofocus ‘cases’ and a new ‘Case Auto’ mode that automatically adjusts parameters on the fly without any input needed from the user.

The shutter mechanism has been redesigned, with the goal of giving users less blackout while shooting bursts than the previous model, even while shooting at a faster burst speed. It’s still rated to 500k shots, so should be plenty durable. There’s a menu option to enable an electronic front-curtain shutter if you’re concerned about shutter shock, but we haven’t found any sign of this yet in our limited time with the camera.

Though there’s the same ~20MP of resolution we’ve seen before, the sensor has been updated and offers faster readout speeds. So if you want to take advantage of the silent, fully electronic shutter, you’ll find that rolling shutter artifacts are pretty well controlled. The new Digic X processor is many, many times faster than the dual Digic 6+ units in the previous camera. Together, the sensor and processor combine to unlock 20fps burst shooting with AF / AE in live view (16fps through the viewfinder), as well as some pretty impressive video specs…


The EOS-1D X Mark III makes for an excellent (if hefty) hybrid stills-and-video camera. The toggle switch shown here lets users quickly switch between the two mediums, and the camera now remembers your shooting mode and exposure settings as you move back and forth. This is really great for, as an example, a sports shooter freezing motion at 1/1000 sec shutter speed for stills, but then wanting to quickly capture some 4K/24p video, where they’re more likely to want around 1/50 sec shutter speed.

Impressively, the 1D X Mark III can capture Raw, 5.5K/60p video internally. Just be aware that shooting in this mode means you’ll fill up a 128GB card in under six minutes. You can also capture smooth and detailed 4K/60p video with All-I or IPB compression and 4:2:2 10-bit Log capture if needed, though you need to drop to 4K/30p or lower, or engage the ‘Super 35’ crop mode if you want access to the camera’s excellent Dual Pixel AF system while recording.

There are both headphone and microphone jacks for audio, and though there’s no sensor-shift stabilization, you can enable up to two degree of electronic stabilization, with the more modest setting having minimal impact on detail retention.

But perhaps you’ve noticed that the AF-ON button looks a bit different than before…

AF Smart Controller

The AF-ON button can now function as a sort of trackpad for your thumb. Once enabled in the menus, you can drag your thumb across its surface to control the AF point placement in both the optical viewfinder and when using the rear screen in Live View. You can fine-tune the sensitivity, and because it’s based on optical technology, it even works with gloves if you find yourself in chilly conditions.

In our experience on a pre-production camera, we’ve found that it works well, but different users have different sensitivity preferences. And, quite frankly, some of us have had a hard time re-programming our muscle memory to avoid just reaching for the AF joystick by default.

We suspect that, with a little practice, it’ll be one of the standout features that users will remember this camera for in a few year’s time.

Other ergonomic updates

The rest of the rear of the camera is pretty consistent with what we’ve seen before, though Canon has added backlighting to most of the buttons on the rear plate, so it’s easier to work in dim conditions. The touchscreen also has some updated functions; in addition to controlling the autofocus area and interacting with menus, users can now double-tap with two fingers to zoom in on the menu interface for easier reading.

You’ll also see the built-in microphone and speaker in the rear of the camera for leaving voice memos attached to certain files, an invaluable tool for the full-time sports shooter needing to record crucial information about a particular series of images out of many thousands.

Top plate

There’s not much in the way of surprises on the top plate either, though the ‘illumination’ button that lights up the top-plate LCD is also how you light up the rear controls. The information display gives you almost all you need to know about the camera and your settings at a quick glance, and existing EOS-1D users should be able to find their way around without much fuss.

You may notice an outline of a cover plate just in front of the flash hot-shoe. This is the only portion of the exterior chassis that isn’t metal; the camera’s built-in GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas are housed here.

Hello, CFexpress

The 1D X Mark III ditches the previous camera’s mis-matched CFast and CF card slots in favor of two matching CFexpress slots. These cards are fast and very expensive, but it’s the speed of these CFexpress cards that allow the camera to capture that Raw 5.5K video we covered earlier, internally, and they’re also responsible for a near limitless buffer during continuous shooting.

Fun fact: if you set the camera to 16fps and mash the shutter button, you’ll reach the shutter’s 500,000-shot rating in a touch under nine hours.

A familiar battery

Good news for current 1D-series users and photo agencies: The 1D X Mark III uses the same LP-E19 battery as the older model. But this doesn’t mean you don’t get a capacity upgrade. Thanks to more efficient processing throughout, the battery life has leapt from a CIPA rating of 1210 shots with the viewfinder on the Mark II to a whopping 2850 shots on the Mark III. Likewise, Live View shooting climbs from 260 shots to 610. As always, users are likely to get many more shots per charge in real world shooting.

Ports and networking

Lastly, what sort of sports camera would this be without an ethernet port? Yes, the EOS-1D X Mark III supports gigabit ethernet connections, and is being released alongside a new, professional WFT-E9 wireless transmitter for users that need to get photos off the camera and out into the world quickly.

There’s also a remote port, a USB type C connector, HDMI out and a flash sync port. Canon has incorporated some pretty neat networking updates, including the ability for the 1D X III to use multiple network protocols simultaneously. So, as an example, you can remote-control the camera with the EOS Utility and its built-in Wi-Fi connection while the camera is set up to upload files to an FTP server with the WFT-E9 adapter.

Hands on with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

We have a lot more in-depth coverage in our EOS-1D X Mark III initial review, so head on over there for sample images, a video reel, and a more in-depth look at its all-new autofocus system.

What do you think of Canon’s latest flagship? Should it have been a mirrorless camera with the RF mount? Is it going to be the ‘last great DSLR?’ Is this a sign that DSLRs are going to be relevant for years and years to come? Let us know in the comments.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (

Comments Off on Hands-on with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Posted in Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.