On the Canon EOS 1D Mark III Focus Problem

I was fortunate, back in late May, to receive one of the very first Canon EOS 1D Mark III’s. (For the love of God Canon, do something about your naming scheme…) It arrived, thanks to the fine folks at Badger Graphics, one week prior to a three week photo trip to Iceland. I bought it specifically for the Iceland trip and with the intention of selling it sometime after I returned.

Six months later I still own and use it. It is hard to imagine not owning and using it. I would only trade it for the full-frame goodness of the EOS 1Ds Mark III. (Really, Canon, huddle up and come up with a better name for your pro line…)

The 1D3 has had a fair amount of bad press, along with the usual forum centered righteous indignation, in regards to it’s occasionally sub-par AI focus. Rob Galbraith was the first to quantify this and by throughly documenting the exact conditions under which the focus problem occurs, helped to convince Canon that the problem was real.

With the problem identified, Canon has begun a program to repair a defective part. They have also recently posted a firmware fix that seems to take square aim at the problem.

Any day now, Galbraith will post his evaluation of the mechanical fix by Canon along with the firmware upgrades and pass judgement on what may yet be called the Canon EOS 1D Mark III Blue Dot. As I type this, I have no idea what his testing will show.

But here is what I do know. I have never seen the problem. Several thousand frames shot in all sorts of conditions and it just isn’t there. I haven’t seen the problem because likely I haven’t shot in the specific conditions where the problem occurs. The full explanation is here. Remember, the problem is specific to what Canon calls AI foucus. I use AI focus less than one-half the time. Follows is the executive summary:

It means that when the light is especially bright and the temperature is warm, the camera’s autofocus performance drops like a stone. Yes, you read that correctly. On sunny, warm, beautiful days – the sort of conditions in which autofocus usually thrives – the EOS-1D Mark III’s ability to make in-focus pictures of still or moving subjects is greatly reduced.

But it is 2007 and the world is full of opinions and opinions, thanks to the constant din of the web, turn into facts. A specific defect in an otherwise very capable camera has turned into a wholesale focus defect in a sub-par steaming pile of a camera.

What Galbriath has to say about the fixes Canon has in place will be interesting. Just as interesting, especially if the specific autofocus issues are fixed, will be the response by the indignant ones.