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Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III — low light shooting

My Nikon D3 is in for service, so I used my 2nd choice today: the 21MP Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. First, let’s keep things in perspective: the images that the 21MP Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III makes at ISO 1600 are so much better than film ever managed—we’ve come a long way indeed.

But in reviewing the images I shot today in the interior of a victorian-style house in San Francisco, I was struck by the marked inferiority of the 1DsM3’s images to those I’m used to seeing from the Nikon D3 (the “poor man’s medium format back”). The amount of chroma (color) noise and its subjective appearance really grabs my attention compared to the Nikon D3 results, not to mention the muddy tones and color of the 1DsM3. Even the midtones suffer from ugly chroma noise—yuck! This kind of stuff shows up in the clarity and depth of the overall image, making it look muddy; it’s not about the actual pixels view but about the overall visual impact.

Excessive chroma noise and a hot pixel as a “bonus”
Canon EOS 1DsM3 @ ISO 1600

You can read all the “objective” reviews you like with their comparison patches and the dithering claims of “a stop or so” advantage with the Nikon D3. Yet my emotional response to the 1DsM3 images is one of disappointment; the images lack the life and realism of the D3 images, and the chroma noise jumps out in even the medium tones. We all see differently, so your conclusions could differ, but that’s my take on it and I have no axe to grind here since I own both brands (and shoot the same Zeiss ZF Lenses on both). To be fair, the 21MP images require less enlargement than the Nikon D3 images (for the same size print), but I don’t think that overcomes the nuances, and the hot pixel is unacceptable for a US $8000 camera.
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