The Canon 1D X Mark III: Remove the Mirror, Add an EVF, and You Have the Perfect Camera

The Canon 1D X Mark III: Remove the Mirror, Add an EVF, and You Have the Perfect Camera

Canon’s announcement of the 1D X Mark III has inevitably set the camera world chattering, confirming some rumors (raw video) and debunking others (there is no new battery with a secret new feature). Among the specifications, it’s interesting to see what’s been left out and how this compares to Nikon’s own “announcement” last month, not to mention the Sony a9 II.

Canon has revealed some truly impressive features on its forthcoming sports and wildlife flagship: 16 frames per second with autofocus tracking with the mirror, 20 frames per second with autofocus tracking with the mechanical shutter in Live View (i.e., no mirror), dual CFexpress cards, a rather remarkable internal 4K 10 bit 4:2:2 video with C-Log, and internal raw video as well. 

Ominous Omissions?

What’s notable, however, is what has been omitted: there’s a brand new sensor, but no mention of how many megapixels it will feature. Only a few years ago, this would have been one of the headlines; today, by contrast, it’s a detail that’s seems lost among frame rates and video specifications. If Canon isn’t shouting about the number of megapixels at this early stage, it seems reasonable to assume that there will be little or no increase over the 20.2 megapixels of the 1D X Mark II, especially when Canon made a lot of noise in 2016 about the two-megapixel increase that camera brought over its predecessor. Furthermore, the rumor sites felt confident that the Mark III would offer a “significant jump” in resolution, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

In fairness, more megapixels is not an aspect clamored for by prospective buyers. Press, sports, and wildlife shooters are typically looking for speed, not resolution, and while it may not quite match the 24.2 megapixels of the recently announced Sony a9 II, it's probably not a major concern. 

The new video specifications are impressive and pretty much in line with what was expected, although for all of the chatter over the last couple of months, uncropped 6K is not listed. Some other headline features touted by the rumor sites are markedly absent from this announcement: Canon has not mentioned IBIS, an omission that would seem like an odd choice given the 4K 10 bit 4:2:2 and raw recording capabilities. Surely, there is space within this huge body to add stabilization, and given that Canon is wedging in such impressive video specifications in a camera that's engineered first and foremost as a machine for stills, it seems incongruous. If you've any insights as to why Canon may have chosen to leave it out, leave a comment below.

Remove the Mirror?

As expected, this is a DSLR that is trying to take as much from mirrorless cameras as possible. Stepping back from the detail of this announcement and looking more broadly, the technology is at a strange juncture where, arguably, this camera would be improved by simply removing the mirror completely and adding an EVF. If the Live View outperforms the optical, what is that mirror for other than to keep users trapped with an outdated optical viewfinder? As it stands, if you want the best performance from this camera, you have to hold it at arm's length and stare at the rear LCD. Is this not a little bit absurd?

Of course, it's not that simple, but you have to wonder if we will look back in 10 years and see the last of the DSLR flagships as being these weird hybrids of different eras of technology. Canon is doing its best to navigate the transition towards mirrorless, but you do have to wonder what this mirror is for other than to hold this camera back. Would a hybrid viewfinder have been a solution here? Is there enough demand to warrant the research and development involved?

Technological Titillation

Canon is being seductively cryptic with the news over its new autofocus button that is touted to have entirely new features. What will that be? As revealed in BHPhoto’s video (see 0:34), the button is a slightly different design. One suggestion was that it might function as a joystick that combines the AF point selection, but this seems unlikely given the presence of a joystick just below it, so I’m wondering if it might be a two-stage button that allows some sort of triggering of the new “deep learning” that Canon has teased us with in this announcement. Your thoughts in the comments, please.

Canon 1D X Mark III rear

So, is Canon being deliberately selective with the information that it’s putting out because some of the specifications are not what was expected, or are some of the groundbreaking features being kept under wraps to create some more headlines a bit nearer the time? It wouldn't be surprising if Canon decided to make a deliberately partial announcement following the news of the Sony a9 II and Nikon’s “announcement” of the D6 back in September. Nikon declared that its new flagship would be its “most advanced DSLR to date,” but bizarrely, kept all of the specifications secret, perhaps slightly concerned that Sony was about to make its flagship camera feel somewhat underwhelming.

Whatever the outcome, it feels that while Sony has led the way in frame rates and autofocus performance, Canon is still offering good reasons for agencies and those pros heavily invested in Canon glass to stick with them for the foreseeable future. If you shoot under pulsing lights, the Canon makes the most sense given that its mechanical shutter now flies around at 20 frames per second. Mechanically, that is ridiculous, and while Sony — who can only make shutters move at 10 frames per second — should be respected for its innovations in sensor technology, Canon should be given some serious kudos for making this possible. To a degree, the ball is now back in Sony’s court for the creation of a global shutter to make that mechanical shutter completely obsolete, but until that happens, good old analog technology still holds an edge over its digital counterpart.

If you have any thoughts on what Canon might be up to in terms of the specifications revealed and those that are potentially being kept secret, be sure to leave a comment below.

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Gabriele Zanon's picture

Please Canon a BIG jump in DR and I'll never go away ❤️ Don't care about megapixels anymore!

Wonder Woman's picture

Cry more.

Just me's picture

Seeing what Canon did with 90D and it's little brother M6 mk2,
Your dream camera may be around the corner...

Jerad Williams's picture

Why in 2019 is the 1DX whatever model not coming with wifi. As a photojournalist it pains me to have to buy a wireless transmitter. Why am I paying $$$ for a camera that doesn't have it built in when the entry camera does? Even if canon just allowed transfers to a mobile device just for quick uploading, it would make life so much easier. I guess it's the Apple technique, "if you want a feature we will allow you do buy something extra to perform the task".

Daris Fox's picture

Because of the regional differences and legal restrictions of the WiFi spectrum, you can buy an adaptor or you can send your camera back to comply. It's something most people don't realise, is that BlueTooth, WiFi and other radio transmitters have to comply the myriad of rule and regulations worldwide that can be surprising.

Clay Wegrzynowicz's picture

The 1DX iii does actually feature built in wifi, here's a quote from the release "For professionals, content delivery is just as important as image capture – the EOS-1D X Mark III will make it easy, featuring built-in Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth® low-energy connectivity in addition to GPS technology." Something to definitely be happy about in today's instant viewership culture.

Mark Alameel's picture

I read this and trying to figure out why there are two wifi options when one is built in. Is the external more powerful? Does it add new features? I'd love to find a comparison of the two wifi options.

Clay Wegrzynowicz's picture

Yeah it looks like the external unit is ac wifi, the internal is probably just abgn

Daniel Lee's picture

I may be wrong but I believe that WiFi isn't possible with the 1D bodies due to their very solid build which has issues sending the WiFi signal out. It may work but not as consistent as the external module. IIRC I read that with bodies like the 5DIV/6DII they had to make the top of the body from a different material to allow the signals out.

Ryan Davis's picture

This is likely going to cost about 6000 euros and have lower resolution than my 5d mk II, a camera that was announced 11 years ago? Is there any way to put bold font in these comments? Because I'd really like to draw attention to that last bit: 11. Years. Ago. Almost a quarter of my life, and I ain't exactly young.

Faster frame rates are nice, and I'm sure low light performance, but that's more than offset by the fact that the EF mount on this thing is likely headed towards the ash bin of history.

I guess Canon doesn't care about landscape or art photography shooters- which makes sense really when you consider what an insignificant share of the market they are. And I'm sure they'll buy this new camera anyway, despite the fact that you can get 2.5 times the resolution from a Fuji GFX medium format camera for 1000 euros less.

Anybody interested in a 5d mk II with a whole panoply of L glass? Because I'm putting mine up on e-bay this coming saturday. After 20 years, I'm done with these morons.

Lee Christiansen's picture

44-45 years old...?
Heck I can't even remember being 45
Yeah... you're young... :)

Spy Black's picture

Don't kid yourself. It's all over at 40...

Daniel Lee's picture

I got 9 more years to enjoy life then lol

Rayann Elzein's picture

"I guess Canon doesn't care about landscape or art photography shooters". Sorry but that's not why you buy a 1D series. Go get yourself a 5D Mk IV if you want higher resolution. I'm perfectly fine with lower resolution, easier editing and quicker files transfer of the 1D series and I think a lot of wildlife shooters, photojournalists, sports shooters, etc do agree with this.

Ryan Davis's picture

It's coming up on 4 years since they released the 5D mk iv, which isn't even close to 3000 euros better than the mark ii (which is why I'm still shooting the mark ii)- in fact they haven't come up with anything really much better than the mark ii in over a decade other than the 5Ds, which had terrible ISO capabilities- for landscape and fine art shooters, which is the market I'm in. And resolution matters if you want to make huge prints.

It's not that I'm pissed off about some particular element of the 1Dx mk III, I'm pissed off that they've done nothing truly interesting for people like me in over a decade. I can see why wildlife shooters, photojournalists, sports shooters, etc would want to buy it if it can pay for itself in the medium term. Long term, I don't think they'll ever bring out a major new DSLR that isn't already in the pipeline. And it's clear that there is no 5Ds mk II or 5D mk iv in the pipeline.

Where are their priorities? They don't have a decent almost-pro camera out there (the EOS R doesn't qualify) and haven't made any tremendous steps in this direction since the mark ii came out. I can't see any reason why landscape and fine art shooters shouldn't sell their EF gear, if that's what they have, while it still has some value.

Jonathan Verman's picture

I am really confused at your comment? You are basing the potential resolution of the 1d mkiii off of the 1d mkii specs?? for all you know it could have a big bump in resolution. However I doubt it as that is not what the 1d series is aimed at. The sensor in this new camera will be far better than a 5d mkii. Im confused as to why this announcement makes you want to sell you kit? why don't you upgrade to the 5d mk4 if you want higher res? Im not sure you understand what the intended use of this camera is at all. Also i use my 1d mkii for weddings and travel including landscapes and never had a problem with the resolution, the same way I am sure youve never had a problem with the resolution of your 5d mkii. Too many people focus on resolution but nobody complained about film?? A good photographer is a good photographer and can create beautiful images with a 5dmki, now that is a beautiful camera :)

Ryan Davis's picture

I understand the intended use of the camera. I also understand that it isn't that useful for me, and it's very unlikely that Canon will ever release a new camera that is useful to me, and isn't within striking distance of the price range of some new medium format cameras.

Jonathan Verman's picture

If you dont have a big budget or make any money from your photos why do you need to upgrade? The 5dmkii is still a good camera. Im still confused at your comments earlier about selling all your gear because they didnt market the 1D towards landscape photographers. Also how big are you wanting to print?? Have you ever seen how big they blew up 35mm film? a 20mp full frame sensor can also creat pretty massive prints. I mean when the 5dmkii was the revolutionary camera thats what people were doing with it.

Ryan Davis's picture

Because the camera is 11 years old, and it recently took a 2 meter dive onto concrete. It still works, for now. But that can't last.

Ted Mercede's picture

I think you just gave two great reasons to stay with Canon.
* Your still shooting with a camera that 11 years old.
* Your 11 year old camera just took a hit into concrete from 2 meters and still works.

I think those two right there speaks volumes on why I have no problem shooting Canon, though I am not a person that fights the brand wars. I could care less what people shoot or defending brands, they are tools for a purpose that fit individuals.

Ryan Davis's picture

I am really annoyed at Canon, but you can really only get super annoyed at the ones you love.

Edit: the battery grip sacrificed itself for the greater good. I had no idea how many pieces those things were made of, or how far they could scatter.

Ted Mercede's picture

Lol.. nice comment, sorry to chuckle at the image of this!

Rhonald Rose's picture

This camera and gfx are both different aimed at different set of users and application.

Gfx users are not necessarily the ones to buy this camera unless they are also sports/action shooters.

Fritz Asuro's picture

Why are you complaining about the megapixel count? It's actually perfect for who the camera is marketed for. If you increase the resolution, it will take a toll on file size, buffer, and most especially - low light performance.

If you need higher MP, the 5D Mk IV or the 5DsR is available.

Ryan Davis's picture

Neither of those cameras is enough of an improvement on the mark ii, in my opinion, to justify the marginal cost. Obviously that opinion is subjective.

Jonathan Verman's picture

Just out of curiosity have you actually used either the mk4 or 5dsr in real world use? I think you would find the sensor and focus etc etc are a big improvement over the 5dmkii.

Ryan Davis's picture

The 5Dsr I've never used. The spec sheet, and people talking about it, have led me to believe that it's performance isn't terribly different from the Mark II. I could be wrong about that. The Mark IV I have played with, and it is a really nice camera.

The question I'm always faced with is, "in what way would spending this pile of 3000 euros in front of me best improve the quality of the prints I make." There are a lot of answers to that question; workshops, trips to places to actually take photos, a 100-400 L lens, a tremendous mountain of cocaine, and so on. "The 5D mk IV" has never been the answer to that question. The improved focus is cool, but honestly I find the autofocus on the 5D mk ii to be fine- with the type of photography I do, I don't find myself missing shots due to autofocus problems. At least, not often enough to drop three large to address it.

But I'm almost certainly going to be in a position where I have to get a new body soon. I'm actually suprised that my mk ii didn't crap out years ago- I've subjected it to unbelievable abuse. God bless magnesium alloy, I guess.

The question I'm asking myself is, do I want to continue with my commitment to Canon EF mount? I'm not sure that commitment is reciprocated. Frankly I'm not sure EF will even be around in 10 years.

Fritz Asuro's picture

I beg to differ. The 5D Mark II is way inferior to the Mark IV. Plus, finally, Canon improved their dynamic range on the Mark IV.

But seriously, I don't get what you really want. Are you basically asking a high fps, low light king, megapixel monster of a camera in one package?

Ryan Davis's picture

I don't really care about the fps. I want a 5ds mk ii, with the dynamic range of the mk iv.

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