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I have a lot of camera, as a professional photographer I use 2 bodies regularly and have a few spares which are usually older bodies I never got round to selling. The mk3 was my workhorse camera but now it's no longer holding that position.
It is still a very very good camera, and you can buy them for a little over £1000 these days. For that sort of money (which is about the cost of a 5d2) you get a lot of camera for your money, but also lose out on some potentially important features.
Noticably lacking on the 1d3 is video, this is purely a stills camera (but it does that job wonderfully). Also lacking is super high ISO (it tops out at 6400), this could be a problem if you're finding your competitors are still taking shots when you've decided to pack up and go home, but up to iso 6400 it does a great job and the noise performance is only a half stop to a stop worse than newer cameras. Also lacking is the high megapixel count of the newer cameras- this is a blessing and a curse.
For shooting something like events, where you might come back with 500-1000 images the small file size of the 1d3 files is great for keeping your photo library manageable, those big 5d2 files fill up a drive pretty quickly, and are slow to FTP. Of course you can shoot in sRAW or jpeg and get smaller files, but with this you don't have to set anything- you always make small files! This can be a problem if you want to make a heavy crop, or print very large, but I have printed 40x30" images with this camera with no issues, so make sure you get the crop right in camera and there's no problem.
AF is of course completely perfect and smokes all but the 5d3 and current 1 series cameras- in low light the 5d2 just can't compare, so what's the use of all those megapixels when you're not getting focus, or you're not getting the perfect moment due to a slow FPS. If you need the full frame, or the high megapixels then the 1ds3 or 5d3 is your camera, both are considerably more expensive. For the price of this 1d3 you can get a 1ds2 which is great if you want a cheap full frame with good AF. Avoid the 5d2 for professional use, but for amateur use it's fine.
The 1d3 fills a niche, but it's a very specific niche, don't get one if you don't need the 10fps, there are better options out there.
You won't be able to buy these brand new anymore, it's too old. But don't fear buying one used because this thing is built to last!
For the price of a 7d you get a much better camera for still photography. Of course it does not have video so if you want to shoot video with a 1 series camera you'll need to raise some serious cash for the 1dmk4 or 1dx.
In terms of image quality the 1d3 is modest in megapixels (just 10) but they're very sharp megapixels and although the 5d2 and 1ds3 have twice the megapixels, they don't really have a major increase in resolution.
I have made 30x20" prints with this camera and they are displayed in galleries, if you get the framing right in camera you can print up to 45x30" and still get good images, megapixels are for cropping rather than printing- use the money you save by buying this camera to get better telephoto glass- a 1d3 or even 1d2 with a 400mm 2.8 is going to make better images than a 1dx with a cheap slow lens with the iso cranked up.
The highest ISO is 6400, which isn't as clean as the newer cameras but is certainly usable, 12800 would be nice for really low light but the cameras that go up to 51,000 and higher are just marketing tricks, the image quality is horrible- if it's that dark use flash!
Everyone comments on the build quality, and people often say it can be used as a weapon! They're not kidding, i've heard tales of people dropping them onto concrete from 9ft heights, dropping them in the sea and then fishing them out. They're hardy cameras, the casing can get scratched up with professional use but the camera inside remains untouched by water, dust and abuse.
Unlike a camera with a battery grip there is nowhere for the water to collect, and cameras with a battery grip always feel a little flimsy, not so with the 1 series, it's as if they were carved from rock.
That's the only downside to the 1 series, the size and weight. But this is a camera designed for professional use, and it does that well- the price alone when new should be enough to put off most amateurs.
Despite being a professional camera it is incredibly easy to use, much more so that the newer cameras which are ridiculously complex, the AF system is easy, just put the box on your subject and press the shutter- no 3d tracking, no expanded zone AF, no nonsense- exactly what professional photographers need.
The camera has live view which is pretty important, and allows you to get shots from interesting angles without having to get down in the mud. The massive battery means you can use live view excessively and not notice it, most cameras can do around 600 shots on a change but this does more like 2000, and the batteries charge in 1 hour (the battery charger takes 2 batteries at a time, which makes it quite big but again it shows it's for professional use), there is also an ac adaptor to connect to mains, perfect for tethered shooting and since the cable is moulded to the battery which is locked into place, it won't ever fall out so you're safe to run and jump around without fear the cable will fall out.
The 1 series are incredible cameras, but don't even buy one because you'll be hooked and you'll never be able to use a 5d or 7d as a backup camera.
This review is written from the perspective of someone who has upgraded from a Canon 20D, in case you're thinking of doing the same.
What do I use a camera for?
As an amateur to shoot, landscape, sports, portrait, drama, performance, panoramics, day and night architecture, printing single frames up to 30' X 20'. All shot RAW occasional print/image sales, but mostly for the fun of it.
What previous cameras have I used over the last 30 years?
35mm SLRs>APS>various digital P&S>Sony F828>20D>1DMark III
What Lens do I use?
EF50 F1.4, TS-E24, EF24-70L F2.8, EF70-200L F2.8 IS (Canon 1.4 Extender)
Well I've thoroughly enjoyed my 20D over the last couple of years, I've learnt loads and feel I know the camera and its limitations. Inevitably one discovers some weaknesses / gripes, which for me have been:-
1) AI servo not brilliant on 70-200 f2.8 IS
2) Battery grip works loose, and feels cheap (but isn't)
3) Noise at high ISO, (but still amazing compared to my previous Sony F828)
4) RAW buffer too small.
5) 8.2 MP isn't always enough
6) Small screen
7) The VF surround falls off.
I thought it was time to try something more advanced, I considered a 5D, but 3 FPS and similar build quality to 20D concerned me, if I was going to upgrade I wanted it to be a significant improvement.
The 1D Mark III seemed to resolve all of my concerns, apart from maybe resolution, the only way to really know would be to buy one...
So what are the most noticeable differences? (vaguely in order)
£3,000 is roughly 3 X what I paid for the 20D, If I was earning money with it I wouldn't consider it a issue, but I'm not and we could do with a new bathroom!
As you would expect, the Mark III immediately feels far more solid and better built than the 20D, slight heaver than a 20D with 2 batteries in the grip.
10 FPS is totally insane, feels more like a machine gun than a camera. Buffer capacity seems massive and I've yet to fill it in real use. Nice not to be worried about how many frames your shooting which I did on the 20D.
Early days but I have had some great looking images, generally cleaner, more believable colour especially skin tones. Initially I thought the RAWs were a bit soft, but I have compared them to some 20D RAWs and they seem much the same (but cleaner).
As the Mark III uses a bigger sensor than the 20D, all lenses appear slightly wider.
(A 50mm on a 20D effectively becomes 80mm, on the Mark III it will appear like 65mm, a reduction of 18%)
This hasn't caused me any problems as yet, if anything it seems to make the 70-200 a little more useful as a "people lens".
If you have some poor performing lenses they will probably look worse on the Mark III, I don't have any EFS lenses but be aware they can't be used on the Mark III
High ISO noise...
Much improved from the 20D, makes shooting in available light much more feasible, very good at 3200, but a bit nasty at 6400.
Screen... (Now updated to FW 1.1.0)
Looks huge compared to the 20D, as far as I can tell, when shooting RAW the image on the screen is derived from the embedded JPEG (1936px X 1288px), so it will always be softer than the real image,(not too sure what the image is when shooting JPEG but it looks the same) either way it's clear and sharp enough to check composition and general content, you can certainly tell if a shot is significantly out of focus.
VF brighter and bigger, more info such as ISO
The vertical grip is slightly smaller than the 20D/30D grip, but feels solid.
The mode dial is now a button, not much difference to me
Battery and card door much improved.
Feels like a tool, not a toy
Exposure is generally much better than the 20D, less need to adjust EV.
Great idea and works well if you spend enough time with it. (i.e. set it up wrong = world of pain)
Only use for me has been setting up the AF Micro-Adjustment.
There has been much talk of poor AF performance, from my experience there is no issue. This could be due :-
1) The longest lens I have is "only" 70-200mm 2.8 IS
2) It's not that hot / sunny in the UK
3) The subjects I've been using (cricket / dogs / cars) are not as demanding as "birds in flight"
4) If I had used a Mark II I would know what to expect.
At the end of the day, for me the AF works and I'm a happy bunny.
Auto White Balance...
Not noticed any dramatic difference from the 20D, but I don't use AWB much as I shoot RAW and tweak, occasionally use grey card if it's critical.
Very configurable, so takes a bit of getting use to, similar layout to 20D helped by big screen.
Life seems similar to 20D, just not an issue.
I welcome the better information, I have a spare on order as a back-up.
Will I really take any better photographs with a series 1 body?....
Yes I'm sure I'm getting shots that wouldn't get with the 20D, but I'm also enjoying using a better tool with less frustrations than I had with the 20D. (which seemed perfect when I first got it...)
The 1D Mark III is a huge improvement from the 20D, faster and better built, but it comes at a price..personally I feel it was well worth it, even if I still need a new bathroom!
Update ...July 2008
Send the camera in for the "Sub Mirror fix" and there was an improvement in the AF. Not that I was having any big problem with it anyway. Having had the camera 12+ I'm totally happy, only problem I have is using my 20D as a 2nd body is a bit painful, if I had the money I would buy a second one.
When the Mark IV came out I bought another new Mark III, having two identical bodies is great.