It’s official. After two years of shooting exclusively with Nikon, I’ve purchased Canon’s flagship 1-series body, the EOS-1D Mark III. Much like the Nikon D3 (announced this week), the 1D3 is a professional grade SLR built for speed and versatility while maintaining superb image quality.

With an ISO range from 50 to 6400, 19 area AF system, light-weight lithium battery good for over 3,000 shots and a shooting speed of 10 FPS, the 1D3 is the best available tool for action photography. The 14bit processing of the 1D3 is particularly promising for the high contrast lighting present in concert photography. Even thought the jump from 12bit to 14bit doesn’t sound like much, it increases the maximum number of tonal steps from 4,096 to a whopping 16,384.

Despite the long list of industry leading specifications, the release of the 1D3 has not gone smoothly. Like the Nikon D200, Canon 5D, and the Leica M8 before it, the 1D3 is rumored to have a few early-production bugs; the foremost being that the AI-SERVO is easily fooled in bright situations when the contrast of the background is greater than the contrast of the subjected being tracked by the Auto-Focus. Initially, I suspected that this would present a huge problem for concert photography where contrast levels can vary drastically from one second to the next. So far my fears appear to be unfounded.

Though I’ve only had the camera for 8 days, I’ve already logged several thousand shutter actuations under a diverse set of shooting scenarios. With the new firmware installed, I haven’t noticed any problem with the AF system. Though I am sure that problems do exist, I suspect that they are limited to very specific situations. Let’s just say that I won’t be photographing any high school track meets on sunny afternoons until Canon gets things sorted.

Problems aside, I’m delighted to say that the image quality at ISO 6400 is fantastic. A quick pass of Noise Ninja produces a file with no visible chroma noise and a level of fine detail retention that will make anyone owning a D2X want to cry.

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