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Canon says new firmware improves 1D Mark III autofocus

New firmware for the high-end camera fixes one autofocus problem--but a prominent reviewer of the camera says the main autofocus problem still exists.

Canon will release new firmware for its high-end EOS-1D Mark III digital SLR by the end of the month, including a fix to an autofocus problem, but a prominent camera tester said the update didn't fix the problems he's been having.

Canon's EOS-1D Mark III
Canon's EOS-1D Mark III Canon

The new firmware improves images viewed on the 3-inch LCD by applying a stronger sharpness setting; corrects a "rare" problem in which a selection dial wouldn't respond; fixes Italian and Chinese menu errors; and most prominently, "improves the consistency" of autofocus in some conditions.

Specifically, version 1.0.9 of the firmware "reduces the tendency of the camera to autofocus on high-contrast backgrounds when shooting in conditions where autofocus detection is difficult, such as when the main subject is not completely covered by the autofocus frames or if the main subject's contrast is low," Canon said Friday.

However, photographer, consultant and early 1D Mark III tester Rob Galbraith said Friday that the new firmware doesn't fix autofocus problems he's seen with multiple 1D Mark III cameras when shooting under hot, bright conditions. The camera's predecessor, the EOS-1D Mark II N, still fares better when the camera is set to automatically change focus to track moving subjects, he said in a Friday update after testing the new firmware on two cameras.

"We've now shot and analyzed about 3,400 track, soccer and test frames taken over two days with v1.0.9 cameras, under the bright, warm conditions that trip up v1.0.8, and the results are effectively the same as before: lots of out-of-focus frames that should be crisply focused," Galbraith said. "And, as before, simply putting the EOS-1D Mark II N onto the same lens and shooting the same stuff produces a high percentage of in-focus photos."

The new firmware is a "minor improvement" but one worth installing, Galbraith said. "We continue to hope that Canon is working on a complete and successful fix to those serious problems."

The new firmware will be available for download by the end of the month, Canon said, but antsy customers in the United States or Puerto Rico can send their cameras at their own expense to a Canon factory service center for the update.