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Monday, September 1, 2008

Does Your Camera Have An Evil Twin?


What’s in a camera’s DNA? We’ll show you the features and technologies that have trickled down from the top-end models to the popular sweet-spot cameras.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III & EOS 40D
Landscape shooters love Canon’s top-of-the-line EOS-1Ds Mark III, with its 21.1-megapixel full-frame Canon CMOS sensor and superb image quality. And it can shoot those big images at 5 fps and uses the same AF system as the Canon EOS-1D Mark III action camera, so it’s very good for wildlife action, too. But it costs nearly $8,000 and weighs a ton (actually, 42.5 ounces without battery, but if you carry it all day in the field, it starts to get heavy).

The Canon EOS 40D costs $6,950 less, yet shares many of the Mark III’s features. A DIGIC III image processor (the Mark III has two of those onboard) and 14-bit A/D conversion optimize image quality at all ISOs, while high-ISO noise reduction produces very good quality even at ISO 3200. The DIGIC III also speeds up camera operation: the EOS 40D actually starts up a little faster than the Mark III (0.15 seconds vs. 0.2 seconds) and can shoot faster (6.5 fps vs. 5 fps). The 3.0-inch LCD monitor features Live-View capability, so you can see the image live at angles of up to 140 degrees for easier high- and low-angle shooting. You even can send the live image to a laptop computer using supplied software and control the camera from the computer. An effective self-cleaning sensor assembly takes the worry out of changing lenses in the field. Highlight Tone Priority improves tones from middle gray through highlights, while Picture Styles let you choose a “look” and fine-tune such parameters as sharpening, contrast and saturation, while 24 custom functions with 62 settings let you tailor the camera to your shooting style.

Of course, the Mark III has its advantages. As a “1”-series Canon pro SLR, it features the most rugged construction, the best weather- and dust-resistance, and a shutter tested to 300,000 cycles (vs. 100,000 for the 40D). And it has that 21.1-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor, while the 40D has an APS-C-sized, 10.1-megapixel sensor. The 40D sensor’s 1.6x focal-length factor would seem to give it an advantage for wildlife shooting, but you can crop in on the middle 10.1 megapixels of a Mark III image and get about the same subject framing, with even better image quality, due in part to the Mark III’s larger pixels.

evil twin
The Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III is the resolution king. At 21 megapixels, no other 35mm-type D-SLR comes close. The camera is also a marvel of imaging technology and professionally oriented features. The Canon EOS 40D is equipped with a smaller APS-C image sensor and lower resolution, but it shares the same processing engine and several key features.

Bottom Line: The EOS-1Ds Mark III is a superb camera for the landscape, close-up and wildlife photographer who can afford it. The EOS 40D can handle the same subjects very well at far less cost—and is much easier to carry around in the field.

Resources
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Canon EOS 40D
Sensor: 21.1-megapixel CMOS
10.1-megapixel CMOS
Sensor Size: 36.0x24.0mm (full-frame)
22.2x14.8mm (1.6x)
Processor: Dual DIGIC III
DIGIC III
A/D Conversion: 14-bit
14-bit
Sensor Cleaning: Yes
Yes
AF Points: 45
9
Metering: 63-zone, 8.5%, 2.4%, CW
35-zone, 9%, 3.8%, CW
ISO Range: 100-1600, plus 50, 3200
100-1600, plus 3200
Shutter Speeds: 30 to 1⁄8000 sec., plus B
30 to 1⁄8000 sec., plus B
Max. Advance Rate: 5 fps, 12 RAW/56 JPEG
6.5 fps, 17 RAW/75 JPEG
Dimensions: 6.1x6.3x3.1 in.
5.7x4.2x2.9 in.
Weight: 42.7 oz.
26.1 oz.
Estimated Street Price: $7,999
$1,049



Canon EOS-1D Mark III
Most of the technology and features found in the EOS-1Ds Mark III and EOS 40D made their debut in the EOS-1D Mark III about six months earlier, including the dual DIGIC III processors, 14-bit A/D conversion, self-cleaning sensor assembly, Live-View 3.0-inch LCD monitor, extensive noise reduction and Highlight Tone Priority for extended detail in midtones through light tones. The EOS-1D Mark III’s “wow” feature is its ability to shoot its 10.1-megapixel images at 10 per second in bursts of up to 30 RAW or 110 full-res JPEG images. Image quality is superb—better than the EOS 40D’s with the same pixel count, due mainly to the pro model’s much larger pixel size (its sensor is 60% larger than the 40D’s and has a 1.3x focal-length factor). The image quality alone makes the EOS-1D Mark III a great all-around camera, but its forte is wildlife action—many pro bird photographers use it.


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