Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Price: AU$3,500 body only
Key spec: 22.3Mp full-frame format CMOS sensor, 1080p video, 61 AF points (41 cross-type including 5 dual cross type), max shooting rate 6fps, 3.2-inch 1,040,000-dot LCD
It's nearly a decade since the original 5D brought full-frame digital photography to the masses. The latest Mk III edition brings a wealth of upgrades, fully justifying its position as a professional camera. Notable enhancements over the Mark II include a step up from 9-point autofocus to a 61-point AF system with 41 cross-type points and five dual-cross points, just like in the 1D X.
There's also a DIGIC 5+ image processor and a more generous sensitivity range that stretches to ISO 25600 instead of ISO 6400 in standard trim. Like in the 6D, you can extend this to ISO 102400 in expanded mode. The maximum drive rate beats that of the 6D's 4.5fps and, compared with the 5D Mk II, speed is boosted from 3.9fps to 6fps.
HDR shooting modes are becoming more prevalent in Canon cameras but they're particularly well implemented in the 5D Mk III. A key advantage is that all the source shots (including raw files) are saved as well as the merged JPEG image.
Direct access controls are more wide-ranging than in the 6D and, whereas the 6D only has a single SD/HC/XC memory card slot, the 5D Mark III has dual slots with one taking SD/HC/XC cards and the other CompactFlash media. This is particularly handy when shooting in raw and JPEG files simultaneously, as you can save different file types to separate cards.
Another option is to create a backup duplicate of images as you shoot. The 5D Mk III is also better built than the 6D, with a completely magnesium alloy body that feels more rugged. Even so, size and weight are very manageable, especially for a pro spec camera.
There's no denying that the 5D Mk III is an expensive camera but it offers many of the same attractions of the 1D X, at less than half the price. Overall, it's a superb piece of kit that's very good value for money.
Excellent build quality and handling, superb 61-point autofocus, spectacular image quality.
Lacks the built-in vertical grip of the 1D X but you can add one as an optional extra.
Canon EOS-1D X
Price: AU$6,887 body only
Key spec: 18.1Mp full-frame format CMOS sensor, 1080p video, 61 AF points (41 cross-type including 5 dual cross type), max shooting rate 12fps, 3.2-inch 1,040,000-dot LCD
Proving that increased image resolution isn't necessarily the prime concern, Canon's range-topping 1D X professional body is limited to 18.1Mp. That's slightly lower than in both the 6D and 5D Mk III full-frame cameras. This helps to ensure fast continuous drive rates and immaculate image quality, even at very high ISO settings.
Performance also gets a boost from the fitment of two DIGIC 5+ image processors, whereas the 6D and 5D Mk III only have one. The end result is an ultra-fast 12fps burst rate, which you can boost further still to 14fps if you can live without autofocus and metering after the first shot in a rapid-fire sequence. The 1D X is also a sensitivity winner, with a whopping ISO 51200 available in its standard range, and an incredible ISO 204800 in expanded mode.
The 1D X really feels like it's built to take the knocks of a hard-working professional life, complete with magnesium alloy shell and plentiful weather seals. And unlike the 5D Mk III which mixes CompactFlash and SecureDigital memory slots, the 1D X has dual CF slots.
Other finery includes the same 61-point autofocus system as the Canon 5D Mark III, which copes really well with tracking fast-moving objects. For continuous shooting, the increased buffer size can accommodate 38 raw files rather than the 5D Mark III's 18 files, which helps make the most of the blistering drive rate.
Despite being a relatively big and heavy camera, handling is superb. Not only does the 1D X have an integrated vertical grip, but it's brilliantly well implemented. Duplicated shooting controls, along with dual multi-controllers and a centralised quick control dial are thoughtfully positioned so that the 1D X feels equally natural in both landscape and portrait orientation shooting. Image quality is stunning, even in very low lighting conditions when using extremely high sensitivity settings.
Supreme handling, ultra-fast continuous shooting, epic build and image quality.
Expensive to buy, especially if you don't need the built-in vertical grip.