Canon 1D X Mark III: The Best Wildlife Camera Available?

A few months ago, rumors were swirling around about a new flagship camera from Canon. The release date was rumored to be January, but as months passed, no official announcement or release was made. 

Well, Canon finally made a splash and announced the big news just after the New Year. The 1D X Mark III is here or will be here at least. Judging from specs, it will be an absolute beast. It will be the best sports/wildlife DSLR available. Of course, that tag comes at a price, but from everything we have seen, the 1D X Mark III is an incredible camera. 

After lagging behind with camera development, Canon has redeemed itself with this release. Interestingly, most rumors surrounding the 1D X Mark III suggested that the new model would be a slight upgrade over the Mark II, with many features staying the same. Canon surprised everyone with their announcement on January 6th, 2020, as the new 1D X Mark III is a completely revamped camera. In my opinion, this is the best DSLR available for wildlife photography and serious Canon shooters should definitely consider the upgrade.  This camera is Canon’s flagship camera and marks an exciting release for Canon. 

 

Canon 1D X Mark III – $6,499
Key Features

  • 20.1 million-pixel CMOS image sensor, full-frame
  • EOS iTR AF X 191-Point AF System, 525 selectable areas
  • New DIGIC X Image Processor with an ISO range of 100-102400; Expandable to 50-819200
  • High-Speed Continuous Shooting of up to 16 fps and up to 20 fps in Live View with AF/AE Tracking
  • 4K 60p with Canon Log, 10-bit 4:2:2 and 5.5K RAW Video Internal Recording
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS Technology
  • IPTC Tags can be applied with a Compatible Mobile Device or PC Connection
  • Magnesium alloy body design is dust- and weather-resistant for working in inclement conditions.
  • 3.2″ 2.1m-dot LCD touchscreen
  • Dual CFexpress memory card slots 

New 20.1 Megapixel Full-frame CMOS Sensor
The image sensor is completely new and features a 20.1 million-pixel CMOS image sensor. Canon innovatively altered the low-pass filter by introducing 16-point separation, industry-standard had been four. The low-pass filter and new DIGIX X processor combine to produce incredible detail while minimizing false colors and moiré patterns. The sensor looks to be a fantastic step forward for the camera and makes this camera very enticing for those seeking the best possible image quality. It also features the widest ISO range in a Canon EOS camera, with base ISOs of 100-102,400, expandable to ISO 50-819,200. That’s impressive. I am interested to see some files from this camera, as Canon is claiming a step forward in noise handling at high ISOs, something Canon has had trouble with compared to Sony and Nikon. Dynamic range is improved and there is an option for HEIF image files as well, one of the first non-smart phone cameras to offer the file type. HEIF can store much greater image data than JPG, at a smaller size too. They also can capture depth data, which programs like Lightroom and Photoshop can integrate while processing.  

It’s not simply a list of new components, it’s what they bring to the professional photographer. Sharper, more detailed imaging from the newly designed, 20.1 million-pixel CMOS image sensor. A new concept in Low-pass filters with 16-point separation (instead of the conventional four), combined with remarkable sharpness processing from the new DIGIC X processor, to maximize detail yet further minimize the risk of false colors and moiré patterns. The widest ISO range yet in an EOS camera (ISO 100–102,400, expandable to ISO 50–819,200 equivalent), and even better high-ISO image quality than the previous version. Broad tonal range, and the option for HDR HEIF images, with even more highlight detail when displayed on HDR-compliant monitors and printers. And a new, in-camera Clarity control, for adjusting contrast in mid-tones.

Superior Autofocus
The autofocus system is totally new as well, with separate systems for the viewfinder and live view shooting. While looking through the viewfinder, it features a 191-point AF system, with AF tracking, face detection, and heat detection. All exciting things for sports and wildlife photographers. The AF technology is supported by Canon’s Deep Learning technology, which allows the reading of subject shape and color, Canon says it is by far the best focusing system ever offered in an EOS DSLR.  In Live View, the camera leverages the CMOS sensor with 525 AF zones and Eye Detect AF. Servo AF is also added for moving subjects, and it is maintained even at 20 FPS. 

Speed Machine
Wildlife photographers currently shooting Canon are going to have a hard time dismissing this camera. The 1D X Mark III is hitting insane burst and buffer metrics. It can shoot up to 16 FPS, with AI Servo AF, while shooting via the viewfinder. Shoot in Live View, and photographers will get up to 20 FPS, with Servo AF, for moving subjects. All shutter modes (mechanical shutter, electronic shutter, or silent shutter) can achieve up to 20 fps. CFexpress cards just burst onto the scene and are the best storage device available for cameras (extremely fast read and write speeds). The 1D X Mark II has dual CFexpress card slots, which is huge for burst rate. Leverage the CFexpress cards, this camera can shoot over 1,000 RAW or RAW + JPEG images, at the fastest speeds, in a continuous burst, without slowing down. There is still minimal lag time like previous models and black-out has been improved. The burst rate literally blows the rates from the previous model out of the water. Image processing speeds are 3x faster, and continuous processing is 380x times faster thanks to the new processor and CFexpress compatibility. 

Canon’s Best DSLR for Video
With the help of the new image sensor, the EOS-1D X Mark III features some powerful video capabilities that will impress videographers and hobbyists. RAW video at 5.5K (12-bit) can be recorded right onto the CFexpress card, or to external recorders via HDMI, at up to 60p. DCI-formatted 4K or broadcast/web-ready UHD 4K video can be recorded at 24p, 30p, or 60p. There is also a cropped DCI 4K video option, and Full HD (including High Frame Rate recording, at 120p). Canon Log can be applied to any, broadening 4K/Full HD recording to 10-bit, 4:2:2, and enhancing options for color grading in post-production. Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF (including Eye Detect AF), brings some of the great AF features to video as well. 

Battery and Durability
The EOS-1D X Mark III is driven by the same rechargeable Canon Battery Pack LP-E19 as the previous model. Performance is not the same though. Battery life is now capable of 2,850 shots (viewfinder) or 610 shots (live view).  For video recording, users can expect approximately 2 hours of recording time for RAW and 4K recording, and roughly 4 hours for Full HD recording. Battery life is still a benefit of DSLRs over mirrorless, with battery life approximate 4x longer. 

The build features an all-metal, magnesium-alloy body, backed up by an all-metal mirror box structure. Dust- and moisture-resistant gaskets and seals abound, make the camera weather resistant to the extreme. The shutter is also rated to 500,000, the highest rating awarded to a Canon DSLR. 

EOS 1D X Mark III vs. EOS 1 D X Mark II

Comparison
Chart
EOS-1D X MARK III EOS-1D X MARK II
Image Sensor Full-frame CMOS Full-frame CMOS
Megapixels 20.1 20.2
Image Processor DIGIC X Dual DIGIC 6+
ISO (Extended) 100-102,400 (819,200) 100-51,200 (409,600)
Max. Frame Rate (VF/Live View) 16 fps/20 fps 14 fps/16 fps
AF points 191 (155 cross-type) 61 (41 cross-type)
Image File Format JPEG, HEIF, RAW JPEG, RAW
Memory Card Dual CFexpress CompactFlash + CFast
Video Resolution 1080p @ 120p, 4K @ 60p, 5.5K RAW @ 60p, 10-bit 4:2:2 with Canon Log 4K @ 60fps
LCD 3.2″, 2.1 million dots 3.2″, 1.6 million dots
Buffer 1000+ in RAW 170+ in RAW
Metering Sensor 400,000 pixel RGB+IR 360,000 pixel RGB+IR
Wi-Fi Yes No
GPS Yes Yes
Weight 1,440g 1,550g

 

Matt Meisenheimer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin. His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special.  Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image. Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world. As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals. You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com

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