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

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

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 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

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.

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.

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.

Shooting with the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III is fun. In mirrorless function it is less convenient due to the weight. A monopod would help a lot. (Photos by Hetwie, www.hetwie.nl)

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.

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)

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.

The button layout of the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III is very traditional. No surprises there.

Customizing the Canon EOS 1Dx mark III auto focus menu.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Brody is 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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49 Comments

Robert K Baggs's picture

The 1DX III isn't for me. I'm just here for the dogs.

Nando Harmsen's picture

In that case, another one for you :D

Pradip Kumarpaswan's picture

Please let me know ,eos m6 Mark 2suitable for bird photography.with ef lances

David Blacker's picture

Only if you get the EVF with it.

Ján Žitniak's picture

The best answer you could give ... :)

Edo Photo's picture

Har har nice

Malcolm Wright's picture

It looks increasing like 20mp resolution sensors are a sweet spot for cameras. The 1Dx iii, the 7D ii and now the R5. Big enough resolution for stunning pictures, small enough resolution for fast processing and almost endless continuous fast picture capture.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Indeed. It is a nice resolution indeed. Also 24mp is a resolution we see a lot.

Jess Aggeboe's picture

No, it's only at Canon it's 20 megapixels, for the rest (Nikon, Sony and Panasonic) )it's 24 megapixels!

Jan Holler's picture

Jess, the Nikon D4/D4s have 16MP, the D5/D6 20.8MP. The pro level cameras of either Nikon or Canon do have around 20MP.
Nando, great report and even greater images. Thanks!

Nando Harmsen's picture

Ah yes, indeed.

William Salopek's picture

Huh? The R5 is 45 megapixels...

Nando Harmsen's picture

I think he meant the R6 :)

Malcolm Wright's picture

Well spotted I did mean the stills oriented R6

Wolfgang Post's picture

R5: half the size, half the weight, 30% lower (list) price, fully articulated screen, basically similar sensor performance. 1Dx3 might have its benefits for some, but not for me.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I am looking forward to next week, when I am receiving the R5 for a review. Nevertheless, the buffer of the R5 has a buffer of 175 in 12fps, and 104 in 20fps, when writing to both cards. The R6 performs better with 12 fps, but not with 20fps.
In that case the 1Dx mark III is performing better.
But to be honest; I think almost no one will shoot over 5 or 10 seconds when it comes down to action photography.
I cannot wait to put the R5 to the test :)

Luigi L's picture

Thanks for the great article...this body has been everything I wanted and needed for my workflow. Sure it was a bit...costly to completely abandon my old Nikon D4S kit but...on to bigger and better things.

Dave Morris's picture

"A perfect combination to photograph the dogs in the park" - I absolute love it :-D Great review Nando!

Nando Harmsen's picture

Thanks Dave

Rayann Elzein's picture

Nando I appreciate your work as a photographer, but I don't think it's doing Canon any good to review such a body on dogs in the park neither does this comment "Too bad I don’t shoot sports or action.". So why doesn't Canon send review units to people who... actually have a use for those.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I understand your comment, Perhaps it is because I have experience with these cameras and they find my opinion also important?
I gues you would be the one that should have used it? Or are you not an action photographer?

Rayann Elzein's picture

No, I'm quite a nobody for Canon haha :-) Besides I already have my own 1DX3... so no need to send me one for review! Don't get me wrong, your opinion is good to have too and this isn't a bad article! But as a user myself of the camera, I would have liked to read something about how the camera is pushed to the maximum of its possibilities.

Nando Harmsen's picture

hahaha
I understand. That would need a very serious testing environment, which I cannot provice. That is why I always review equipment from a users point of view.
But for extensive background information and more serious testing that involves boundry limits, I always take a close look at https://www.the-digital-picture.com/ and https://www.dpreview.com/ of course. :)

Deleted Account's picture

Back in the film days you loaded your Canine camera with CujoChrome and cued up some Paul Simon to take dog photos!
Good article and outstanding photos!!

Nando Harmsen's picture

Thank you

Sridhar Chilimuri's picture

I love your dogs! I would never buy this camera in the first place - Too heavy and I do not need its speed for hobbyist. But I am curious to find out if this camera is superior to the Sony a9 II. I know that is a mirror less camera. But it seems to do everything that this camera does and it is not that heavy nor as expensive.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I did a review of the Sony A9 (not the second version) and compared it to the Canon EOS 1Dx (also first version). Although I find the small size and format of the Sony terrible, especially with the 100-400 lens I used, the Sony was a clear winner.
I don't know about the buffer, the writing speed, and the behaviour while emptying the buffer of the Sony A9 II, but if it is the same as the first version, the EOS 1Dx Mark III is a clear winner.

Nando Harmsen's picture

It is clear you never used this kind of camera. :)

Nando Harmsen's picture

No that is not what I mean. Clearly your opinion is biassed

D R's picture

I agree. I shot as a pro for 12 years with the 1D Mark 3, and then got myself a 5D Mark 4.

Compared to the 1D, the 5D felt like a toy. And compared to the 5D, most of the Sony/Fuji mirrorless bodies feel like toys.

These mirrorless bodies are fine, and much more stealthy, but the 1D series feel like a true power tool compared to the tiny mirrorless bodies. Also, I could shoot 10,000 photos on a single charge with my 1D3, even with the original battery that was over a decade old!

Is it worth the extra $? For somebody who needs THE most reliable camera in the world it is. It's sort of like comparing a $15,000 cinema camera to a mirrorless (even the R5 or A7SIII). The cinema cameras are just in a class of their own.

With all this said, I will be getting an R5 to go fully mirrorless and I also need 40+ MP. For me 20 MP doesn't cut it. But the 1DX3 is still a beast.

Rayann Elzein's picture

I just got the 1DX3, despite that I would "need" more pixels. Of course, it would be nicer to be able to crop in on a far away bird... But if it's not already tightly enough in the frame does it really matter if I have 20 or 45 MP? For the build quality, this was a nobrainer to me. I need the most reliable camera when in the field, and I was afraid the R5 wouldn't cut it.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I must say, the R5 has some amazing specs. But the buffer of the 1Dx3 is really incredible. I have never used a camera that can continu shooting in that way. It is something that many action photographers will appreciate.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Well spoken. Thank you
I have ordered a R5 also, which I will be using next to my other 5D4. It suits my kind of photography better nowadays.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Have you even ever used a 1D-series camera? Probably not in view of your comment. Until Canon releases a "R1", the 1DX Mark III will remain far superior in the field than the R5. Sure, it doesn't have 45 MP and doesn't do 8K... but it fits so well in the hand, balances super well with big tele lenses, and can take a wave or 2 in a storm without failing right away.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Do you "hear" yourself? This "an oversized and outmoded anachronism struggling for one last breathe in a new mirrorless future", really? Have you ever held a 1D series in your hands? Yes, sure, I wish it had more than 20 MP, but have you seen how well it handles high ISO noise? I had to shoot @ 840mm handheld the other day, bumped up to 12,800 ISO, it looks as neat as what we had 2 generations ago at 3200 ISO... And sorry, but I prefer an OVF... At least what I see is live, and that's really important to more than a handful of us.

Jan Holler's picture

"When you get down to it a camera is only as good as it's sensor." "When you get down to it a camera is only as good as it's sensor." Frankly said, you have no idea and I doubt you ever got a pro level camera before your eyes.

Jess Aggeboe's picture

Who Needs a Mirrorless? The answer is quite simple, the smart ones do!

Nando Harmsen's picture

Why is using a mirrorless a smart thing to do? Can you explain?

Tom Weis's picture

• "Low noise lever with high ISO" < *level*
• "Full HD 120 prs slow motion < *fps*
• "GPS and WiFi build in" < *built*
Maybe Fstoppers can hire me to edit...

Jensen Chua's picture

There is a Bulb mode. It even shows the time elapsed in the top screen.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Every Canon EOS I have used (and I used a lot of different ones already) shows the time elapsed in bulb mode

Nando Harmsen's picture

Yes, that is possible.
But that is my choice. :p

Momchil Yordanov's picture

The little clip of the dogs - you can achieve the same result with a new model mid level smartphone and a €60 gimbal for it. The photos of the dogs are really impressive, though. They look every bit pro.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I wonder if you can. But who am I to tell. I am just a amateur filmer in this regard. I believe the quality of smartphones regarding filming can be quite good, but the posibilities with this kind of camera is so much more compared to a smartphone.

Matt McMuscles's picture

If you're a photography buff then this camera will fit all of your needs. Canon EOS 1Dx Mark III can just about do it all. There is a learning curve for all the features, but the picture and video quality is outstanding.