EOS-5D Mark III or EOS-1D X? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

EOS-5D Mark III or EOS-1D X?

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This King Penguin was photographed emerging from the surf at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia on a great Cheesemans trip with the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering + 1/3 stop in cloudy bright conditions: 1/1250 sec. at f/5 in Manual mode.

By any standard, the 5D III is a great camera for bird photography.

EOS-5D Mark III or EOS-1D X?

An e-mail exchange with blog subscriber Perry Elder

am: Hi Perry, Thanks for getting in touch.


pe: I am a big fan of the blog and hopefully one day I can attend a BAA IPT.

am: Good plan.

pe: The question I have is about a camera upgrade for me. I currently have a Canon 7D and 5D Mark II. I am still getting good results with the 300 and 1.4X TC. My problems are with the EF 600/7D combo. I bought the 600mm about a year ago and I feel that it is showing the limitations of the 7D, especially in the auto focus speed area.

am: Agree. My understanding is that the main reason for that has something to do with the difference in the batteries in the two bodies. There is not enough juice in a 7D battery to drive the AF system as quickly as a 1D X can. These problems are exacerbated when either teleconverter is added. In addition, the AF systems in the 1D X and the 5D III blow away the AF systems in the 7D and the 5D II.

pe: If money is not an object, do I upgrade to the 1Dx or the 5D Mark III?

am: If birds are your primary subjects, you want a 1D X for its faster frame rate and faster initial focusing acquisition, again due to the more powerful battery, especially with the 1.4 X or 2X TCs. The 1D X frame rate is so fast that I often capture behaviors that are routinely missed by the human eye. If you like landscape, flower, wildlife, general nature, street and Urbex photography and do birds occasionally then the 5D Mark III is likely best for you. It’s larger files and in-camera HDR features are big pluses.

The 1D X is surely more rugged and surely better able to stand up to foul weather. The 1D X balances better with big super-telephoto lenses than the 5D Mark III. The latter advantage is eliminated for folks who add the Canon BG-E11 Battery Grip for 5D Mark III and an extra Canon LP-E6 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery (7.2V, 1800mAh). The battery grip adds a vertical shutter release and several other convenient vertical format buttons. While the second battery allows for longer shooting sessions especially in cold weather my understanding is that the AF drive speed is not improved. Let’s not forget, however, that you can buy 2 5D Mark III bodies for the price of a single 1D X….

pe: The reviews I have read say that the major differences are that the 1Dx has better autofocus/shutter speed/construction and most everything else pretty else equal.

am: Shutter speed is a no-issue; each camera offers the same range of shutter speeds. Otherwise see my comments above. Because I love birds my first choice would be the 1D X. The fast frame rate is amazing and lets you capture stuff that you cannot see! And the rugged feel fits my hand a bit better than the 5D III does.

pe: I would keep the 7D and use it with the EF 300 F2.8/1.4 TC combo with which I have had good results.

am: That is surely a workable plan. Better would be a 1D X and a 5D III with the 1D X on the 600 and the 5D III on the 300 f/2.8L. Most folks simply do not realize that the 5D III is a great camera for bird photography with a killer AF system and large gorgeous files. Image quality with the 5D III slays image quality from the 7D. And with the Canon BG-E11 Battery Grip for 5D Mark III and an extra Canon LP-E6 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery (7.2V, 1800mAh) the 5D III has a pro body feel.


This Sandhill Crane was photographed at Bosque del Apache NWR with the Gitzo 3532 LS carbon fiber tripod, the Mongoose M3.6 head, the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Autofocus lens and the Canon EOS-1D X digital SLR . ISO 1600. Evaluative metering + 1 1/3 stops off the light sky: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode.

Affiliate Links

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Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR Camera (Body Only)

If you prefer to use Amazon please use these:

For the 1D X:

Canon EOS-1D X 18.1MP Full Frame CMOS Digital SLR Camera

or for the 5D III:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS with 1080p Full-HD Video Mode Digital SLR Camera (Body)

thanks and later and love, artie

DPP RAW Conversions

To learn why I switched from ACR to DPP for my RAW conversions see our DPP RAW Conversion Guide here.

The San Diego Short-Notice Small Group IPT. January 15-17, 3-Full Days: $1049. Meet and Greet after dinner on your own at 7:30pm on Tuesday, January 14, 2014. Limit 6/Openings: 1.

There is now a single opening due to a late cancellation.
Please call or e-mail for late registration discount information.

We will get to photograph the California race of Brown Pelican in flight, resting, preening, cleaning their bill pouches, and talking to their neighbors by tossing their bills high in the air. The afternoon sessions will feature Marbled Godwits, several gull species, and Wood and Ring-necked Ducks. If we have a cloudy morning we will get to photograph Harbor Seals. You will learn to get the right exposure every time, to see the best situation, to think like a pro, to create sharp, pleasing images, and to understand the joint effects of light and wind on the birds. All in a small group with tons of individual attention.

A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. Your balance will be due no later than January 7, 2014. The balance is alo non-refundable. If the trip fills, we will be glad to apply a credit applicable to a future IPT for the full amount less a $100 processing fee. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance.

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Last Year’s Grand Prize winning image by Lou Coetzer


Important Contest News

Contest Deadlines Extended!
BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition
New Entry Deadline: January 31, 2014; see additional details below

With so many folks signing up at the last minute and with so many folks having trouble uploading their images due to server overload the deadline for entering the contest (registering and paying) has been extended until January 31, 2014 and the deadline for uploading images has been extended until midnight Eastern time on February 10, 2014. Take advantage of this extension to have a crack at the great prizes.

Learn more and enter the BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition here. Twenty-five great prizes including the $1000 Grand Prize and intense competition. Bring your best.

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IPT Info

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14 comments to EOS-5D Mark III or EOS-1D X?

  • avatar Chong

    Which camera is better for movies 1dx or 5d mark111. If 1dx than why and if5d mark111 why?thank you

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Chong, Honestly, I do not know. I have shot video with both and they both looked great… But I do very little video, thus, I am not the best one to ask. Here’s a guess: 5D Mark III.

  • Hi Artie,

    I found your post comparing the 1DX to the 5D MKIII so helpful that I used your Amazon link to order a new 5D MKIII. I currently have a 5D MKII and a 7D. I anticipate the increased frame rate of the MKIII over the MKII to be an improvement with both bird and youth sports photography in low light. Not sure if I will keep the 7D, although I like to pair it with my 70-200mm f4L or 400mm f5.6L for a nice lightweight combo. I have some other gear questions, but I will put them in an email. Thanks!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Julie, I will assume that you are not Downtown Julie Brown though I am sure that you have heard that one before. Many thanks for using the link. You will love the camera. It will be great for high ISO sports. Once you see the image quality you will likely not be using the 7D very much… Got your e-mail and will get to it now. artie

  • avatar Fain Zimmerman

    To Andrea – I always keep a back up camera and take it on important trips. Right now that is a 7D for my 1DmkIV. I have been on trips to Tanzania when other folks on the trip have had an accident or camera failure. To spend that much time and money on a great trip – maybe a once in a lifetime trip – and be left without a camera is unthinkable.

  • avatar Jon

    I tested a 5D Mk111 for a week when they first came out. I loved the image quality, I was hoping the AF would prove better than my 7D with the 500mm f4 with or without 1.4TC for flight photography of short eared owls. The area I photograph them is long grasses so there is not much contrast between the bird and background so the conditions are difficult. I found no benefit at all with the 5D Mk111, if the conditions are difficult then they are difficult and the contrast or lack of it makes life tough for most AF systems. In more favourable lighting conditions I did find a slight improvement in the ability of the focusing system to stay in focus on the subject but I have to say I was not blown away with an obvious improvement and I would have been very disappointed had I actually bought one. This does not mean I am decrying the camera, I think it is excellent, but for my purposes the 7D is more practicable and considerably cheaper. It’s my guess there will be a 7D Mk 11 by September 2014, I think that will be pretty darned good when or indeed if it arrives.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Jon, I am afraid that I have to disagree. From where I sit the AF system on the 5D III is light years better than the AF system of the 7D. And pretty much everyone whom I know would agree… In the meantime if you are making great images with the 7D please continue to do so.

  • avatar Andrea Boyle

    A great comparison, Artie. Thanks a bunch. I’m glad I made the right 7D upgrade choice for me (the 5d Mk3.) It would be nice to own the 1DX and the Mk 3, but I maintain an eclectic portfolio so it makes sense to me to buy the Mk3 as an upgrade from the 7D. Although I’d love to hang onto my 7D, I just don’t think I will be using it from this time forward, as I’ve noticed an unbelievable improvement in the quality of my photos, especially when enlarged. I may use your suggestion down the road and buy a second Mk3 if I decide I need a second body.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Just remember that accidents do happen and that digital cameras do fail. If you are on a good photo trip and something happens you will be up the creek without a body…. artie

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    I just wanted to say the King penguin image is fantastic!! Thanks again for all you do, you add so much interest to peoples lives!!

  • avatar Fain Zimmerman

    Thank you very much for the comparison of the 1DX and the 5DIII. I have also been considering the 5DIII mainly for the HDR in camera feature and full frame sensor for landscape photography. But my primary photography is birds and wildlife, so I appreciate the accuracy and speed of the 1DIV I now have. Is there any really big reason to upgrade it to a 1DX? Or should I make my next purchase the 5DIII? Thank you so much for all the information you provide! I also hope one day to take part in one of your IPTs.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Fain, YAW. Pretty much every serious bird photographer whom I know who had tried a 1D X has bought one. The 1D IV is a great camera but there is really no comparison to the 1D X as far as AF, frame rate, image quality, and higher ISO noise. That said, Denise Ippolito is still making fine bird photos with her 1D IV. And she too loves her 5D III.

      You will need to decide 🙂 Whichever way you go, I hope of course that you will use one of our affiliate links. It would be great to meet you on an IPT. artie

      ps: if you have any gear questions, please feel free to e-mail me at samandmayasgrandpa@att.net