EOS-1DX, EOS-5D Mark III, & EOS-1D Mark IV Thoughts « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

EOS-1DX, EOS-5D Mark III, & EOS-1D Mark IV Thoughts

This breeding plumage Cattle Egret image was created with the the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens, the 2XIII teleconverter, and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at -1/3 stop: 1/800 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode.

Fill flash at -1 stop with my brand new Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT and a Better Beamer. Good news there: the FX-3 fits the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT perfectly.

Manual focus; gasp! For maximum reach with distant subjects I will continue to go to my EOS-1D Mark IV bodies. When preparing this blog post I had thought that this image was made with the 1.4X III TC….

EOS-1DX, EOS-5D Mark III, & EOS-1D Mark IV Thoughts

This post was prompted by a recent e-mail from IPT-veteran Mike Cristina who asked, “Do the quality of the files of the 5D Mark III at 22MP compensate for the extra magnification of the 1DM4 at 16MP? Same question for the 1DX. And what about the fact that neither the 5D Mark III or the 1D Mark IV will autofocus at f/8.

The short answer is that pixel-wise, the math is close with the edge to the 1D Mark IV and that pixel-wise the 1D Mark IV is the clear winner over the long anticipated 1DX. I love the files from my Mark IV bodies and I love the files from my 5D Mark III bodies. I have never created an image with the EOS-1DX. Have never even held one in my hands. The issue of no practical autofocus at f/8 is a fact of life that each of us will have to consider. And once the 500 f/4L IS II and the 600 f/4L IS II are on the scene, the ability of the Mark IV to AF with the 2X III teleconverters will become an even more important issue especially for those who photograph in areas where it is difficult to get close to the birds. That said, there is no way that I can decide if a 5D III or a 1DX is a good camera for you. I can share my thoughts and my strategies and the images that I create but in the end you must do your homework and make the decision for yourself.

These Wood Stork chicks were photographed with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at +1/3 stop: 1/250 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

Central sensor AI Servo/Rear Focus AF and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Here I went to the 800/Mark IV to fill the frame with the subjects with the prime lens alone thanks to the Mark IV’s 1.3 crop factor.

After the rather simple analysis above things become far more complex. For example, the Canon EOS-7D wins the pixels-on-the-subject contest by miles, but most serious photographers far prefer image files from the 1D MIII or MIV bodies or from any of the 5D bodies by a large margin. There is a lot more to a quality file than pixels on the subject. In general larger pixels equal less noise. Some image sensors simply provide cleaner more detailed image files than others no matter the pixel count. The 1DX (18 mp), the clear loser in the pixel count wars to both the 5D III and the 1D IV, has a brand new sensor that offers 16-channel, dual line readout as compared to 8-channel, single line designs in the previous generation of chips. This offers improved low-light capability with a faster capture speeds of 12 fps. And surely improved image quality as well. For a comprehensive overview/preview of the Canon EOS-1DX see the dpreview.com feature here.

So if the pixel advantage goes to the 1D Mark IV that can autofocus down to f/8 what the heck am I doing with a 5D Mark III? As regular readers know I feel that the new autofocus system in the 5D III is the best ever in any Canon camera body. I make a higher percentage of sharp flight images than ever before and I love the various AF Area Selections modes. I appreciate the light weight of the 5D III when it is hanging on my shoulder with the 70-200 f/2.8L IS IS. In addition, in situations where getting close to the birds is not a concern, the full frame 5D III will give me considerably more pixels on the subject by a factor of 22 to 16.

So where does the EOS-1DX fit into the picture? With the new improved sensor and image files, with the same basic AF system as the 5D III, with a blazing 12 frames per second frame rate, and with pro body heft and feel, the new body will surely be a superb flight photography camera. I will be ordering one through the Canon Explorer of Light program as soon as I am able to do so.

Right now I will continue to use my EOS-1D Mark IV when I need the reach, usually with the 800mm f/5.6L IS and often with the 1.4X III TC and I will use the EOS-5D MIII for flight and action photography and when working with easily approachable birds and animals. And I will be eagerly awaiting the release of the EOS-1DX. You can find additional info on my current gear strategy here. If you would like to try to understand the pixels on the subject math see the BPN thread here.

This Cattle Egret flight image was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens, the 2XIII teleconverter (hand held at 335mm), and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version.

If you are a doubter be sure to check out “Is the EOS-5D Mark III–2X III Teleconverter–70-200f/2.8L IS II a Viable Combination?” here.

Question and Questions

Which of the three images above do you like best? Be sure to let us know why. And feel free to post any questions that you might have on any Canon camera bodies.

B&H Double Rebates Include the 5D Mark III

Click here. Select one of four current Canon camera bodies–both the EOS-5D Mark III and the EOS-7D are in the group. Add a lens–there are 30 in the group, a Series III teleconverter, or a Speedlite, and enjoy large double rebates. The lenses include lots of my favorites: the 70-200mm f/4 L IS, the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, the circle lens, the 180 macro, and the 300mm f/4L IS. You can check the specs on all Canon telephoto lenses here. This double rebate offer expires on April 2, 2012.

Shopper’s Guide.

Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.

Below is a list of the gear talked about in this blog post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2XIII teleconverter. I also use it a lot–depending on the situation–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon EF 1.4X III TC. This new TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-5D Mark III. Man, I am in love with this camera body. Both the files and the AF system are superb.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. The very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used.
Speedlite 600EX-RT. Canon’s latest greatest professional flash has more features than I will ever use or need. Learn more about the new flash by scrolling down here.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂 And you will love them in mega-cold weather….
GT3532 LS. This one replaces the GT3530LS Tripod and will last you a lifetime. I’ll be commenting on this new model soon. In short, I like it.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program.

22 comments to EOS-1DX, EOS-5D Mark III, & EOS-1D Mark IV Thoughts

  • For those considering the 500mm or 600mm lens, I understand. I’m fortunate to have both the 500mm and 800mm. But Artie, I absolutely love the 70-200 with 2x combo for flight images. I bought them on your strong recommendation. With the Mark IV 1.3 multiplication factor, it’s pretty sweet! The question is, will the full-frame 1DX AF be worth giving up the reach of the Mark IV. Tough sell for me. Looking forward to your assessment.

  • avatar Juan Carlos Vindas

    If I had the money I would run out now for the Mark IV but for now I want to save and see if I can get a used 500mm or 600mm. The Mark III is doing pretty darn good so far. Thanks in any case Arthur for the info provided.

  • avatar graham hedrick

    I an still loving my Canon 1D mkII after 6+ years. I am not in a hurry to give up speed [fps] and the reach of this venerable work hourse. The reason I move from 30+ years on Nikon for the 1D series! My first real pro camera was a Canon F1 – new series. Well that’s my contribution to this thread. – Graham Hedrick

    I will wait until I can pick up a used 1D mkIV or 1D mkIII.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I applaud you. The camera meets your needs so why screw things up?

      • avatar graham hedrick

        Thanks Art, I am trying to spend my money on a 500mm lens. – Graham Hedrick

        • Same here Graham. I’m still using my 1D Mark II and 1DS Mark II.
          I have everything I need.

          As I view the images on BPN, one of my great joys is to see the
          older cameras still being used. There’s one member still using a
          20D which will always be my personal favorite camera.

          Like I tell people…just because a new model comes out doesn’t mean
          Canon spread some magic dust on what you’re using to make your camera
          useless. If a camera was good enough (or lens for that matter) in year
          whatever, its good enough now. Hope that makes sense 🙂


          • avatar Graham Hedrick

            Way back in the old days, pro film cameras were revered that had brass, dings and scratches. Today people have to have the newest camera body. Even the old cameras I.e. the 1d mkII, has more power than most people know what to do with. Canon’s 1D series are built to last! I wore out my shutter and plan to do this at least one more time before it is retired. I still learn things about my 1d mkII. I would rather spend saved monies on a 500mm lens. – Graham Hedrick

  • avatar David Policansky

    Thanks, Artie. Interesting stuff. I love my Canon 7D but I can never crop a whole lot without losing detail. I don’t know whether that’s because the focus wasn’t quite perfect or there was a tiny amount of motion blur or because of atmospheric conditions, but the bottom line for me is that I never come close to seeing a pixel limit because the IQ always is too degraded long before I get there. In other words, I need to fill the frame or come as close as possible. (Where have I heard that before?) So the 7D’s advantage isn’t cropping for me, it’s reach (pixels on the subject). If I can fill the frame with my 400 mm lens, on a 5D3 I’d need to use the 1.4X converter, and still not quite fill the frame. So it really comes down to money because the 500 and 600 mm lenses are out of my budget. For now, I’m with gary; the 7D still is way better than I am. But I do enjoy dreaming about the 5D3 and the others. Depending on what the 7D2/8D/?? offers, I might bite, but I’m not in a hurry.

  • avatar Ann the beginner

    I will be the minority on this. I love the breeding plumage image because of its vivid color. I also like the photo of the wood stork chicks for sentimental reasons. I had taken similar photos although not nearly as good as yours, of course, Artie! 🙂 However, it was my first time to see baby wood storks so they left a big impression on me.

  • Okay, the AF could sell me. I’ll not be one of the first to switch.

  • avatar Charles Scheffold

    I really love that shot of the cattle egret in flight. It’s what I call a “landing gear down” shot. Wow! 🙂

    As far as the rest of what you wrote about the various camera bodies, I can say that I pretty much agree on all points. I’m planning to continue using my 1D4 with the 800+1.4x as long as I can, or until Canon provides another solution for those of us who spent a small fortune on their super telephotos and teleconverters.

    That said, I will be getting a 1DX when it’s available – hopefully before Bosque in November! The new AF system looks great.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Charles. I had a second frame in the series that had a nicer pose but the sensor was on the chest so the face was not as sharp as I would have liked. I did not pan fast enough with the bird to keep the sensor at least on the neck. I processed the image bout wound up deleting the RAW file. You gotta love operator error. Heck, the 5DIII had perfect focus right where it was supposed to. I wonder what would have happened with that frame had I been using the 61-Point Automatic Selection AF Area Selection Mode… I got to get out more!

  • Yep, I am sitting this one out. Got the money but actually the 7D is doing me a good job. And PS5 and processing in RAW with noise control… ??? Just not interested at all. Am thinking of a used Mark 1V. But really I love the 7D. No need for me only, to even consider those cameras for birding. Nice shots usual, the best actually 🙂

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Gary, I love your attitude: the 7D works for you and you love your images. There is no need for everyone to have the latest/greatest camera.

  • I love the last image, the cattle egret in flight. They always have that mean look, but from this perspective the egret looks like the eyes are focused on something.


  • I suspect it will be a long time before I’m willing to trade the reach of my 800mm and 1.4x on a 1D Mark IV for more pixels. With the latest Adobe software, noise is becoming less of an issue. And who needs more speed? 10fps/12fps – not enough to sell me.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      As I said in the post, either new camera actually gives you fewer (not more) pixels on the subject. It is the new AF system that has me excited.