Three New Canon Cameras
Canon has announced today three new cameras. Rumoured for a while, the 40D replaces the 30D, but is a much improved model. While the 30D was simply a modest cosmetic facelift over the now three year old 20D, the 40D is almost a brand new camera.
Its main features include a 10.1MP sensor with similar low noise characteristics to the recently introduced 1D MKIII. It has a large 3" rear LCD, 9 cross-type sensor autofocus, 14 bit capture, Digic III, Live View, sensor dust shake, and a remarkable 6.5 FPS for up to 75 frames in Large Fine JPG mode (17 frames in raw). In many ways it would not be unfair to call the 40D a 1D MKIII Light. No, it doesn't have the rugged construction and waterproof seals of the MKIII, but in terms of image quality and high frame rate it is the highest performing Prosumer Canon DSLR yet. The camera will be available with a new kit 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM zoom.
Price will be the same as that of the 30D, and availability is just a few weeks off, in early September.
Canon 1Ds MKIII
The second new camera is the 1Ds MKIII. The headlines are as follows; 21.1MP, 5 FPS for up to 45 frames in fine JPG and 15 frames in raw, 14 bit capture mode, and otherwise just about every other feature that we have seen in the recently introduced 1D MKIII, including ultra-low noise. The price holds at the same level, about US $8,000, and availability is expected in November.
A question that some will ask is whether the new camera addresses the autofocus problems which some reviewers and users claim to see in the 1D MKIII. Clearly Canon is aware of the issue and must certainly be trying to determine its nature and corrections needed. If past history is any guide I fully expect that some time between now and the launch of the 1Ds MKIII Canon will announce a firmware upgrade for the new 1D series headlined as adding Serbo-Croatian as a new menu language choice, (and oh yes, we've also tweaked the autofocus).
The 1Ds MKIII's introduction at this time is in some ways not much of a surprise. Back in May I predicted almost exactly what the new camera would be like when I reviewed the 1D MKIII. It didn't take much of a prophet to figure this out, at least once the 1D MKIII came out. The only question was, when would the other shoe drop? Now we know.
I along with numerous other reviewers have criticized Canon for not including raw mode in its recent digicams. Indeed the entire industry needs to be chastised for this. Last year I was very favourably impressed with the Canon G7, but felt that it failed to capture the needs of the serious photographer, who it otherwise seemed to be aimed at, because of its lack of raw mode.
Well, Canon seems to have heard us, because the new G9 replacement does indeed have raw mode. It also has a 12.1MP sensor and an improved screen. My guess is that the camera was originally supposed to have raw mode, but that without the Digic III chip wouldn't have been fast enough. We'll also have to see whether the increased pixel count is a blessing or a curse, and what the raw shooting speed actually is like. This could well end up being the point-and-shoot of choice for the serious photographer.
Both new DSLRs are quite exciting, especially the 40D. The new "s" is almost a foregone conclusion, but very welcome nonetheless. The jump from 16MP to 21MP isn't that big. Similar to going from 8MP to 10MP, the way the 40D does over the 30D. But it is pushing into what used to be medium format territory, which over the past couple of years has moved into the 30 - 40MP range, and therefore under no direct threat.
My main concern is that the 16MP 1Ds MKII was in many cases lens limited. Only the best lenses, and these mostly "L" lenses in the telephoto range, were up to the task. Though the jump from 16MP to 21MP is modest, and certainly worthwhile, it concerns me that the new MKIIIs is going to be even more lens-limited than the previous generation.
Here are some additional random observations about these new cameras. Firstly, with the 40D Canon has a camera with which it can finally compete with the Nikon D200. That camera has really put pressure on Canon in the mid-range marketplace for the past year – the most lucrative segment of the market. It will also be interesting to see what the 40D's impact will be on the 1D MKIII. With similar image quality and resolution, and a much lower price and smaller size and weight, it could well cannibalize some 1D MKIII sales. That camera still has a higher frame rate (10FPS vs. 6.5FPS, due to the use of dual DIGIC IIII chips), and of course more rugged construction and weather sealing, but still...
It is expected that Nikon will announce its almost-full frame D3 some time before the end of August. I won't speculate on its features, but it is bound to be highly competitive – though lower resolution than the 1Ds MKIII; more of a 1D MKIII competitor. And for a laugh, while we wait, have a look at this posting.
With the kudos out of the way, it's time for some criticism, in particular of Canon's naming conventions. Would someone at Canon Europe or Canon US please wrest naming control away from the head office in Japan? We have recent Canon cameras with identical model numbers but some with the number before the letter and some with the number after the letter (D30 / 30D). We now have a camera from Canon with the almost the same model number as a current camera from Nikon (40D / D40). And now we have 1Ds MKIII's continuing the awkward naming convention of this series. May I humbly suggest a bit more creativity in product naming?
Additional details are available from the usual camera review web sites. I expect to be able to provide field reports on all three cameras once production units become available.