Canon EOS 1DX MK3 Auto Focus Results in Winter Blizzard

Late yesterday I wrapped up my 2020 expedition to photograph Arctic Fox in the Hornstrandir Nature reserve in the north-west of Iceland. This year we had an absolute abundance of snow and some fantastic conditions (full trip report coming soon) with strong winds that created a really dramatic environment for photography. The conditions this year were in fact the best I can recall in recent years. Next years expedition is a couple of weeks earlier than this year which should promise similar conditions with deep, soft snow that makes for superb backgrounds for this tenacious little predator.

This years expedition was also the first chance for me to truly test the Canon EOS 1DX MK3’s auto focus system in the field (in winter). Conditions were absolutely ideal for testing this past week with strong wind and blizzard conditions that were perfect for torture testing the cameras autofocus. Visibility was often near zero and the air was literally full of blowing snow. During our shooting sessions we had to frequently clean the front lens elements from blowing snow. With temperatures hovering around -6º Celsius the cameras were frequently covered in snow and frozen. Despite the difficult conditions the 1DX MK3 auto focus proved truly superb. I was consistently and reliably able to obtain focus lock and tracking in white out blizzard conditions where focus would previously have been all but impossible (or at best extremely unreliable). The new tracking system (when set to Case 2 for these type of conditions) provided an extremely high keeper rate; even in the heaviest blowing snow blizzard conditions. I doubt there could have been more difficult conditions for any camera to auto focus and in comparisons between my own findings and those shooting Sony A9 MKII cameras we found the results comparable in terms of the cameras ability to lock and track focus. If there are any differences between either cameras ability to lock and track focus in these sort of conditions they are a quibble. The differences however between the 1DX MK3 and other DSLR cameras ability to lock and track focus are huge. The 1DX MK3 represents nothing short a significant quantum leap in auto focus capability for DSLR cameras. Of course, you can also lock up the mirror on the 1DX MK3 and expand the focus points further and add eye tracking on top of head tracking for even better performance. The video below gives you some idea of the conditions I was testing the cameras autofocus.

Iceberg in Antarctica

Yellowstone in Winter 2021 Workshop Sold Out!

My 2021 Winter workshop to Yellowstone in Winter next year is now Sold Out. It is hard to believe it was 2015 (Read the Trip Report) when I was last in Yellowstone in Winter. Ever since I left this magical place just over five years ago I have been itching to return to photograph the wildlife and landscape in winters icy clutches. My last visit back in 2015 was a very low snow year and temperatures were quite mild. I have high hopes for real sub zero temps and great snow next year.

Speaking of snow; I arrived in Iceland late yesterday afternoon for my Arctic Fox expedition and have found winter is well and truly in full swing. Unlike recent yers there is good snow cover around Reykjavik and I am told the snow cover up in the north west fjords is fantastic. Looking forward this morning to the short flight north and then the boat trip out to the nature reserve.

Departing for Arctic Winter Expeditions with Canon EOS 1DX MK3 Cameras

My brief time at home in Australia has come and gone and in a few minutes I am heading back to the airport to start the trek back north to north-western Iceland for my sold out Winter Arctic Fox workshop and subsequent sold Polar Bears and Musk Ox expeditions to the East Coast of Greenland in Winter. If you are interested in photographing Arctic Fox in a beautiful winter setting drop me an email for further details on the 2021 expedition – flyer below. The north-west of Iceland is the definitive place to photograph Arctic Fox in a beautiful, quiet and secluded setting.

My equipment for these expeditions will be quite familiar to those of you who regularly follow my blog with the exception that I have now sold  both my Canon EOS 1DX MK2 cameras and have purchased two new Canon EOS 1DX MK3 bodies. Although I have previously tested the new 1DX MK3 cameras autofocus system (HERE) and its noise performance (HERE), I am really looking forward to putting these cameras through real world use in the Arctic winter.  There really is no substitute for being out in the field with a camera to test real world performance. I am packing the 400mm f2.8 specifically for the Arctic Foxes and the 600mm f4 specifically for the Polar Bears on the East Coast of Greenland. I had toyed with also packing my Canon Mirrorless R, but in the end decided I just was very unlikely to even pick it up with two 1DX MK3’s always at the ready.

2 x Canon EOS 1DX MK3 Bodies w/ 2 spare batteries

1 x Canon 16-35mm F4L IS

1 x Canon 24-70mm F4L IS

1 x Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS MK3

1 x Canon 400mm F2.8L IS MK3

1 x Canon 600mm F4L IS MK3

1 x Canon 1.4 TC MK3

All of the above fits in my Gura Gear camera backpack with the exception of the 400mm f2.8 which fits nicely in my Gura Gear Chobe laptop bag. See you in Iceland!

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 RAW File Noise Tests 2020

Early today I picked up two brand new Canon EOS 1DX MK3 camera bodies from Sun studios in Melbourne (Thanks Rob!). A few weeks ago I beta tested a pre-production firmware version for Auto Focus and wrote my initial impressions online HERE. I was seriously impressed by what I saw and have been super keen to get production cameras in my hands. I have now had a chance to shoot some images and test the new cameras high ISO capabilities with full production firmware. You can download the RAW files HERE. A few notes below:

I did not bother to test 1/3rd stops since these are either push or pull in camera from the standard full ISO stops – 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12,800, 25,600, 51,200 and 102,400.  I did not test Highlight Tone Priority.

I did not underexpose the images by four or more stops and then push them since this approach does not represent real world application (at least in my world). Instead, each image is exposed correctly in camera. I still suggest you ‘normalise’ the exposures and match white balance once you import into Adobe Lightroom.

You must have the latest version of Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Camera RAW or DPP to open the files. I do not use Capture One so did not test this software. Incidentally, Canon EOS 1DX MK3 files are noticeably sharper out of camera than MK2 files. Canon’s brand new AA sensor is the best I have seen in this regard. It is remarkable.

Conclusions: ISO 100-3200 are essentially noiseless in real world use and require no noise reduction. ISO 6400 is still totally ok out of camera without any noise reduction of any kind. ISO 12,800 and 25,600 are exceptional by industry standards and can be made to look as good as ISO 3200 with moderate noise reduction. ISO 51,200 and 102,400 are as expected quite grainy, but still usable with more judicious noise reduction.  This is remarkable performance that represents at least a 2-stop advantage over the MK2 and sets a very high benchmark for other cameras.

The images you are looking at below are JPEG’s that are direct unaltered conversions from the Canon CR3 RAW file in Adobe Lightroom. No noise reduction has been applied to them other than the default Adobe setting. Note that the images are scaled down (which has the effect of lowering noise) so I strongly suggest you download the RAW files linked above and view them at 100%.

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 100

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 200

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 400

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 800

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 1600

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 3200

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 6400

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 12800

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 25,600

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 51,200

Canon EOS 1DX MK3 – ISO 102,400


New Canon Photo Culling AI Software Coming Soon 2020

It barely made Photo news headlines, but some weeks ago Canon announced a brand new plug-in for Adobe Lightroom Classic that could potentially be a huge time saver for photographers such as myself who shoot tens of thousands of photographs a year. The software is designed to help you save time during post-processing by intelligently selecting the best shots for you out of a large set of photos.

The plugin is powered by the Canon Computer Vision AI engine and uses technical models to select photos based on a number of criteria: sharpness, noise, exposure, contrast, closed eyes, and red eyes. These “technical models” have customisable settings to give you some ability to control the process. How well this works in the real world remains to be seen, but the potential is there for it to be game changing in terms of time saved. I don’t believe software such as this will ever be able to make the final edit decisions, but if it can help narrow the choice and save time in the process then it is most welcome in my workflow.

Canon says the Photo Culling Plugin will be available sometime before the end of March 2020 through the Adobe Exchange App marketplace. Unfortunately, the plugin won’t be offered with a one-time payment and perpetual license — just like when hiring a human photo assistant, you’ll need to pay a monthly fee (pricing has yet to be announced) for the AI’s services. Such is life these days.