Not to be outgunned by Nikon, which announced its top-tier DSLR was in development in September 2019, Canon has officially revealed to us that its top-end model, the 1D X Mark III, is also in development.
Only it's a little more than that. Here we are in mid October, sat in a room in a private studio London, where a Canon rep whips out a functional 1D X Mk3 body. But there are rules: we can't touch the camera, switch it on, or delve deeper beyond the information to which we're privy as delivered through a structured presentation.
Still, that presented the opportunity to shoot the camera from each and every angle, so here we can present it to you with everything we know about the specs and features so far. Drum roll for the Canon 1D X Mark III, Canon's bid to engage the pros to buy ahead of the Olympics 2020 in Japan.
- Magnesium alloy body, illuminated buttons
- Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Ethernet transfer is twice as fast as Mark II
- Accepts CFexpress cards
- No tiltable LCD
To look at the Mark III isn't that different to its predecessor. The texture of the grips look a little less visually extreme, but otherwise you're not going to spot a great deal of difference between Mk2 and Mk3. There's the new badge, of course, but that's a given.
We're told that "illuminated buttons" are present this time, which we believe will be the AF-On buttons. Look closely and the centres of each of those appears to have a light.
As for the core spec elsewhere, it's unclear just how different things will be. We had hoped the LCD screen would be on a bracket system so it could be pulled away from the camera, but this isn't the case. The ongoing argument is that a flat built-in one is tougher and more durable over time. But with improvements to live view use via the screen, we think it's a missed opportunity.
One thing you can't see is that the Mark III accepts CFexpress cards - something that Canon began to support with its higher-end video cameras, and which is a useful feature here for ultra-high transfer speeds when shooting in bursts or capturing 4K video at top quality.
There's also built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth - a first for the 1D X series, despite Canon offering it in almost all its other cameras - along with an improved Ethernet connection that's double the speed of the outgoing Mark II model.
- Autofocus algorithm with deep learning, evolves as it learns your shooting and subject behaviour
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF in live view - same AF algorithm as in viewfinder for similar experience
- Burst shooting: 16fps (AF & AE) via viewfinder / 20fps in live view
- New AF point selection control, 525 selectable AF areas
- "Improved battery life" - uses same LP-E19 as Mark II
The real take-away of the Mark III is how its features will be enhanced beyond the Mark II. And let's face it: the outgoing model is no slouch when it comes to super-fast performance.
Canon is keen to point out that the Mark III will "always be ready to perform", presumably meaning always-on and/or ultra-fast start-up. We'd expect no less, but always good to know.
Interestingly, the autofocus system has been enhanced in a number of ways. There are no 525 areas - although we can't define if Canon means this is just for the live view setup - beyond the 61 points of the earlier model. Perhaps a bigger deal than this, however, is the focus algorithm can now learn; it uses deep learning to evolve its accuracy based on your use and subject movement over time. Rinse and repeat and the 1D X MkIII will, supposedly, continue to improve.
That focus system is said to now be similar whether you're shooting through the viewfinder or via the rear LCD screen, to give greater parity to shooting methods. We've always said that Canon's live view - despite Dual Pixel CMOS AF being capable - is a little too ‘compact camera-like' in its approach. Supposedly that won't be the case from here on in.
Speed is up too, with up to 20 frames per second possible in live view, or 16fps when shooting through the viewfinder. That's whether using an electronic or mechanical shutter - the choice is yours.
Battery life is also said to be improved, despite using the same battery in both Mark III and Mark II models. Good for upgraders wanting to carry yet another spare battery when upgrading.
Image and Video Quality
- New full-frame CMOS sensor - resolution unspecified
- Supports 10-bit HEIF (high efficiency image format)
- "Better high ISO performance" than Mark II
- New Digic processor - Digic 9 presumed
- Internal raw video recording to 4K60p
It's in the image quality department that Canon is being most tight-lipped. Traditionally the 1D X series has always been lower-resolution that Canon's top-tier models to give the largest possible on-sensor photo diodes for the best quality, whilst ensuring that fast-moving subjects will be captured at their sharpest possible.
So how high-resolution will the Mark III go? We don't know how to call this one. The Mark II was 20.2MP. Canon's current crop of sensors sit at around the 30MP mark, but in keeping with traditions perhaps the Mark III will reside around the 24MP mark. All we can do is speculate - as Canon is saying nothing beyond the fact it'll be a "new sensor".
What we do know is that there's a new Digic processor, presumably Digic 9, "better high ISO performance" and the ability to shoot the HEIF format if you want.
On the video front expect some considerable capabilities too. There's 4K capture at up to 60fps, including internal raw video capture at 10-bit, which is a benefit of the CFexpress card format being so fast.
As we've seen a functional 1D X Mark III in the flesh, we assume it can't be too far away. After all, 2020 is an Olympics year, which always means a new top-end DSLR.
Compared to the Mark II, expect the Mark III to deliver more resolution, faster burst rate, better connectivity, more advanced and adaptive autofocus, illumination buttons, and 4K60p video capture. That's a rather formidable specification - and that's before we know every finite detail.
We'll update this feature when we learn more about the 1D X Mark III, including the resolution, price and release date. For now, feast your eyes on the images in the scrollable gallery up top...