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Mike French: EOS-1Ds Mark III<br class="br_visual" /> (Pt. 2)

Mike French: EOS-1Ds Mark III
(Pt. 2)

October 2008

Wedding and portrait photographer Mike French has been a long-time user of the EOS-1Ds Mark II and the EOS-1D Mark III cameras and, over the past few months, has been shooting many of his assignments with the 21-megapixel EOS-1Ds Mark III.

Following on from the first part of his road test on the EOS-1Ds Mark III, Mike French has been using the camera for his regular wedding work and examining some of the key specifications of an SLR that he finds keeps revealing more and more benefits to photographers in his line of work.

© Mike French/Meonshore Studios Ltd

Increased megapixel resolution

Mike explains: “Most of my wedding output is printed to around 10x8inch, with some 16x20inch prints when requested. Theoretically, I don’t need the resolution of the EOS-1Ds Mark III, in fact, my EOS-1D Mark III bodies are more than capable of fulfilling this need. However, despite not using all the pixels in the final prints, the files from the EOS-1Ds Mark III images just look better. I’m not sure clients could spot the difference, but to me, even at a 10x8inch print size, I can tell the difference between the files from the EOS-1D Mark III and those from the EOS-1Ds Mark III.”

He adds: “I also find the extra resolution actually makes retouching easier – there’s more pixels to work with so more scope for adjustment in finer detail, meaning retouched files look better at the end as well.”

Mike concludes: “When it comes to the few large prints I do, there is no competition. The EOS-1Ds Mark III images look fantastic. As I said before, I rarely do very big prints, but the EOS-1Ds Mark III gives me that option and provides the potential for even greater revenue from larger print sales. It has changed the way I work – I don’t need the big files for the weddings, but for pre-wedding shoots and 'trash-the-dress' shoots I can now offer really large print sizes, which do sell.”

14-bit colour depth

Mike comments: “The 14-bit colour depth is fantastic. I never thought it would make so much difference, but it does. I get better skin tones and smoother tonal gradation. As a wedding and portrait photographer, this is important to me and these are the best I’ve yet seen. The colours seem more natural as well, especially in greens and reds though this could be subjective, it definitely seems more natural to my eyes. From a post-production point of view, the extra data helps push and pull images around a bit more before they start breaking up.”

© Mike French/Meonshore Studios Ltd

He adds: “I’ve been having a look at the Highlight Tone Priority function too, but for my uses, I just can’t see a need for it. I’m always careful with my exposures and maybe it’s just the way I’ve got used to working, but I do find the lower limit of ISO 200 to be an issue. On one shoot, I was photographing the bride outside in bright sunlight with a fast prime lens, and with the lens at a nice wide aperture, I couldn’t get a shutter speed that would work – even 1/8000sec was not fast enough. I could have stopped down the aperture but then there would have been too much depth-of-field in the image, ruining the shot. Since then, I’ve not really used it that much, preferring to stick to my own experience and knowledge of exposure.”

Sensor cleaning

Another bonus in the camera for Mike is the sensor cleaning system which actually helps to deliver some post-production solutions.

He says: “It’s the same as the one in the EOS-1D Mark III and they both work brilliantly. I’ve not had to clean any one of my three cameras since this feature was put in. It really is unbelievable, and it’s making a massive difference when I’m producing prints. Just recently I had an order for a reprint of an album with images taken on a Mark II camera and I had to retouch all the images. With the images from the Mark III cameras, I’ve not seen any dust. This is saving a huge amount of time in post-production and since time is money, this is a commercial boon.”

5fps shooting speed

Mike admits: “The frame rate is one area I had misgivings about. Was 5fps quick enough? The answer is yes. Although I was worried about missing shots especially when the confetti is thrown, I’ve changed the way I shoot and I don’t feel that I’ve missed a shot yet due to the frame rate. In reality it is plenty fast enough for almost all needs. The AF system keeps up too. It is accurate and fast and has done all I ask of it. Since the latest firmware update, with the ability to change the AF point using the multi-controller, I’ve had no complaints about it all. Well, I’d still like the AF points on the left and right between the two rings back, but I guess I’ll just have to keep waiting for that.”

As someone who might greatly benefit from silent shooting mode, Mike reveals: “The silent shooting mode is another area that has been pitched at wedding photographers. However, in my experience, I’m either allowed to shoot in a church or I’m not. If the vicar says I can’t shoot inside the church, and there are some who won’t even let you in the church with a camera, then I won’t shoot, even with silent shooting enabled. It’s just not worth it from a business point of view.”

© Mike French/Meonshore Studios Ltd

Canon software

Mike says: “Currently, I use Adobe LightRoom 2 and love it. Partly it’s the fact that my retoucher uses LightRoom, and is a LightRoom evangelist, so it made sense to stick with it. I have used EOS Utility though – to synchronise the date and time across cameras to ensure I can put images in the right chronological order when I’m editing. I’ve also used it for remote Live View Mode shooting in the studio. Since I shoot RAW and use LightRoom, I’ve had no real call to go near Digital Photo Professional or Picture Style Editor.”

Other key features

So, what else is of benefit to Mike on the EOS-1Ds Mark III? “The camera has so many features that are great, it’s hard to know where to start. One that stands out though is the dual card slots. Many people complain that it’s an SD card and a CF card rather than two CF cards. But for me, it makes more sense – and having two slots is so useful. I use the CF card as a live file and set the camera to save all images to both cards. This way the SD card becomes a backup in case the worst happens. And it has happened. Just occasionally memory cards fail or a file gets corrupted, but in my experience, it’s unlikely to happen on both cards. Saving each image to both gives me an extra layer of security that as a working photographer you need to have.”

Summing up Mike says: “It is really difficult to fault this camera. If I was being really picky, I’d like to see a better screen but that’s only ‘screen envy’ because there are better ones available, and is nothing against the one on the EOS-1Ds Mark III. Although this feedback is mainly based on me shooting as a wedding photographer, I’d have no qualms using it for commercial, architectural, product, portrait, landscape, natural history and stock photography. It is almost a one camera fits all. The only thing it’s not suited to is fast sport – and that’s simply a frame rate issue.”

© Mike French/Meonshore Studios Ltd

Mike suggests: “If there were ever to be an EOS-1Ds Mark IV, all I’d want is an improved screen and the interim focus point back. And if it could be made 16-bit rather than 14-bit then maybe that too… although that’s more data than anyone really needs!”

Biographie: Mike French

Mike French

Mike French is a UK-based wedding, commercial and portrait photographer. His stunning images have received multiple nominations for prizes at the SWPP and Fuji Envisage awards, and regularly feature on the pages of the leading UK wedding magazines.