I like food. I like hammers. I like bunnies.

Canon Issues Select Recall on EOS 1D Mark III

without comments


Yesterday, Canon issued a recall on one of their flagship DSLR cameras, the EOS 1D Mark III. One of the problems is related to autofocus issues when not using the center focus point – which I don’t experience because I almost exclusively use the center point. There are a total of 45 autofocus points on the camera viewfinder, with 19 of them being selectable. The remainder are “assist” points.

The autofocus has had knocks on it because under certain conditions it totally freaks out – high temperature heat/haze in the backgrounds, and under low contrast conditions (such as a dancer wearing black against a black background). The EOS 1D Mark IIn, its predecessor, apparently did not have these kinds of issues.

The other problem which is potentially more serious and troubling are ‘ERR99’ messages that occasionally pop up and without real regularity. These cause the camera to become unusable until powered off.

Canon’s biggest problem though is that they are perceived as covering things up.

It’s a lot like when a Windows desktop would crash- you had no idea what happened, and like voodoo in the Microsoft way- with the reboot of the computer, and the waving of a dead chicken, everything would come back just fine. Some users have had to leave their cameras powered off for extended periods of time, while others just remove the battery to reset it, and everything is okay again. I have personally never experienced this problem, so I can’t comment on it.

Canon’s biggest problem though is that they are perceived as covering things up. Having some camera bodies out there that work, and some that can’t focus, and now finally acknowledging some that randomly crash makes this problem worse. In some ways, I wished that ALL of the cameras had failures so that it would be easier to clear the mess away and start over. Then they could issue a credit on current 1D Mark III owners towards the newer model. But I can’t

If you follow the traffic on various Internet forums it would look like the situation has reached Biblical proportions. Everyone from raging drama queens, to unreadable chicken-scratchers, to brand-bashers seem to be coming out of the woodwork as they all smell blood. Others like Markuson@pbase and DPReview can enjoy the sweet taste of vindication as their original complaints were held true.

My hat goes off to people Rob Galbraith at their persistence with trying to find the root cause of the problems.

There has been some misinformation spread about the internal guts of the 1D Mark III in general.

1) The 1D Mark III is NOT does not run DRYOS.

The camera still uses Wind River Software VxWorks. In fact I don’t think any of the SLR cameras use DRYOS as the EDSDK has not been ported or altered to support DRYOS cameras yet. Also, the changes would be significant and Canon would most likely rename EDSDK to something else, as they had done with RCSDK before it.

What this means is that the cameras did not undergo the ‘double bypass’ equivalent of software engineering- having both new code functionality added along with an operating system transplant. With such an undertaking you can bet things could go wrong, and bugs could be introduced. This puts Canon back on the hook for the ERR99 problems that have come up here and there.

2) The autofocus problems now seem to be indeed hardware related.

Rob Galbraith suspected this. Other users with understanding of how passive intensity differential autofocus engines suspected as much too. This puts Canon back on the hook for putting out the impression that all of the issues in the past would be corrected via a firmware update.

What does this all mean? Probably that some engineering errors during testing got put into production, or that the accountants got a bit too chop-happy during the initial production acceptance stages of the camera. Either way, it means this will not be an easy fix, as Canon is now scheduling individual appointments with 1d Mark III users.

Conclusion and what it means to you:

I have mixed feelings about this. I have a camera that seems to be working pretty well, and I am not inclined to f*** around with it. I still really like my camera lot. But then again, I’m not shooting sports like gymnastics or airshows with it on a routine basis.

On the other hand, it would be neat to get a properly working camera up to spec out of the box. I guess I’ll chicken out here and not make ANY conclusions just yet. If you are an owner and feel slighted by Canon, by all means, call them and pester them until you have a camera body that you’re happy with. Just because people like me may be on the sidelines doesn’t mean we don’t support you. Good luck!

06 March UPDATE – Information Regarding Specific Serial Numbers

I called Canon to see what kind of options I had out of curiousity. I spoke with a Canon service engineer, and he did confirm that there were at least three significant revisions of the 1D Mark III. Out of interest in not putting his job in jeopardy, I won’t post his name. But his comments were in line with the contents of this posting here at DPReview. I’ve pasted the contents of his posting here below:


According to CPS representatives in my regions, there are 3 different revisions of the Mk III. These are labelled within the battery compartment. There is a code inside of it. Relevant are the last 2 digits:

01-04 are the first one with defective AF mirror
05-08 are the second one (blue dot)
09-13 are the latest. These are fine and should include the latest AF module.

So probably if your cam belongs to the 09-13 range, the new fix is not necessary.

Best regards

I might be hallucinating, but the Canon rep I spoke with hinted at more than three revisions, but my interpretation was as many as five. This would have been fairly expensive in terms of man-hours to disrupt the assembly line five times with upgrades to manufacturing processes. Of course, he might be pulling my leg as none of the manufacturing is done in the USA and the possibility of support staff knowing everything that’s happening over in Japan is slim and/or next to not useful.

I’m not sure what exactly would have been hardware related to address. No doubt tooling costs, training costs, and hours lost by downtime for staff at manufacturing positions would be significant. Then again, the 1D series cameras are not made in massive volumes where something like this would be that disruptive. At least Canon was trying to fix matters on the assembly line.

As for me, my conclusion is to stick with the camera that I have. Luckily my camera’s manufacture code ends with a 13. It works, and I really like it so far in terms of performance, ergonomics, and such. After all, it’s just a tool to help take photos, and is basically an expensive little box that captures light momentarily.

Well, now that this is all done for the time being, let’s go grab a drink.


Leave a Reply