FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS: CANON 5D MARK III REVIEW
MY THOUGHTS AND FEEDBACK AFTER A WEEK OF SHOOTING
Hello Photo Friends! Sooo…because I’ve been asked for it many times in the past week…I’m going to do a quick (kidding…not quick) and dirty review of the 5DMark III! I won’t include too many images because those are coming on my full blog post of my first wedding with the Mark III, so stay tuned.
It’s fair to say (just ask the guys at Roberts) that I’ve been WAITING for this camera for years. Why? Because until now, Canon simply didn’t have the type of focusing system that I believed was required in a professional camera system. They HAVE mastered that art of beautiful image files, lovely color, the ability to capture light in a way that turns it into melted butter….it’s just that yummy, the lens selection that everyone wants, etc. In a nutshell, Canon has it ALL….but NONE of that matters if the focus isn’t reliable. Now, don’t get me wrong, Canon cameras can focus beautifully, just not 100% of the time on a reliable basis…and certainly NOT on the various focus points across the viewfinder.
Interestingly, in my studio & business, I had the luxury of comparing Canon and Nikon directly because (until last week! welcome to the DARK SIDE, Erika!!) I had a business divided with my lovely studio manager and full time second photographer, Erika, shooting NIKON and myself shooting CANON. So, I was able to really SEE the differences side by side and in my opinion, Canon WINS. Why? Because the image files are far superior in appearance, tone, color, dynamic range and contrast. I like to shoot in slightly challenging light situations, typically…what you are really taught NOT to do….like shooting directly into the sun, shooting in BRIGHT sunlight, heavily backlighting people, shooting with tons of light flare, intentionally overexposing things a bit, ETC, so with that considered, Canon simply does it better. Nikon just can’t capture the light like I want it to be captured. So, in all honestly, I resorted to overshooting a bit to compensate for the focus issue, but in order to have the scenes and light captured as I wanted it.
So, for me, a RELIABLE focusing system 100% of the time, combined with all of the other qualities I mentioned about would be THE PERFECT CAMERA, hence what the Mark III claimed to be. It would be the first time that Canon had completely overhauled the entire focusing system…and THAT was what I had been waiting for. Not another claim of improvement, but a complete and total change. Of course, other things are very important to me, such as a full frame sensor, high ISO abilities with low noise, a locking shooting mode dial, silent shooting mode for some of the more sensitive shoots that I photograph, high FPS option, improved chromatic abberation, and much more….and those were ADDED benefits of the new camera system that were the icing on the cake. My priority though, as I’ve clearly stated, was the FOCUSING.
I went into Roberts, smiling from ear to ear, and went out with the highest expectations I’ve EVER had of a camera since I walked into that same camera store YEARS ago to pick up my Mamiya 645 AF medium film camera that had the 6×4.5 film plane with the convenience of auto exposure and auto focus for the first time in a medium format camera. So, I shot personal things with it for several days before using it on a wedding, which I did this past weekend.
In a nutshell, I’m VERY PLEASED with the results and I LOVE the camera. While I hate to soo quickly turn negative….is it the perfection I was expecting, NO. It is a VAST improvement over the 5D and 5DMarkII. Although, for the kind of shooter that maxes out the ability of a camera due to the volume of shooting that I do and the permanent calluses in all of the places where I hold my camera to show for it, I just MIGHT be more picky than most.
I will say that there are MORE improvements and positive things than downfalls…and I don’t think I’ve been able to say that about a camera upgrade in the past. Yes, the cameras are always getting BETTER, but NOT in the areas that are most important to most photographers who are high volume shooters and depend on reliability where it matters.
The 5D II was a major improvement over the 5D (which was also great and a nice improvement over the 20D and 10D) but for the mark II, the priority went to video…which is amazing in it’s own right, but simply didn’t address the major issues of the bread and butter of the Canon pro industry in their midline of cameras, which are wedding photographers. I appreciate that both photographers and videographers are getting equal improvements on this new camera.
For the Mark III, the focusing is DRAMATICALLY better. It still misses at times, but at a fraction of the rate that it did with the previous models. In my opinion, the mark II had a 50% success rate and the mark III has about an 85% success rate. Also, what might be considered to be the BIGGEST improvement is that you can actually USE the outer focusing points, which was simply not an option in the past on a regular use basis. The new focusing system is actually something that takes a little time to learn and streamline to your own sweet spot, there are many more options than in the past so playing with those options is something I’m still in the midst of. The camera focuses well, despite the different choices, though. I might even go so far to say that soo many minor focus adjustment options on such a tiny selected area of focus are a bit of overkill.
1. The focusing points still don’t stretch the entire width of the viewable range, like a Nikon does, they are only within the inner 50% of the frame. That was a bummer for me. I like to hug the corners of the frame in a lot of my shooting and shoot in the far 1/3rds of the frame, so I would much prefer the option to go further out into the viewable area for a focus selection point…but it’s not there yet.
2. My dream feature wasn’t added. I’ve long been hoping that Canon would incorporate it’s FACE DETECTION TECHNOLOGY available on it’s point and shoot cameras into it’s pro line of cameras. I know it may sound silly, but have you ever USED that feature on the point and shoots? As much as I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it, it’s MORE reliable than manually putting the focus point on the face on a pro Canon camera. So, I have always thought that, if they could advance that technology a bit and adapt that into a professional camera, it would be amazing. I was hoping this camera would have it, but it doesn’t. I think it would be amazing to have the CHOICE to do the work manually with the focusing OR choose my focusing point when I want something specific OR tell it to find the faces everytime when that is the priority….and have ALL of those options provide consistent, reliable focus. The NEXT camera that I will be this excited for is the one when they OFFER THAT!
3. It is also still slower than I would like on the ability to “grab” the focusing point, get it focused accurately and SHOOT. Nikon has that one in the bag….it can grab it and shoot it perfectly before I can even get a subject looking at me….but Canon still has room to grow on that. What I DO like is that now, I have the CHOICE of shooting HIGH FPS. So, it’s faster when that option is chosen and while that is great, I wish it would just grab the focus faster too.
4. One specific thing that I did notice and I’m working on figuring out now is the ability to SEE where the focusing point is when you are shooting. This may not really be a downfall if I can figure out a way to improve it. Now that I can MOVE the focusing point, I’m taking advantage of that but I’ve noticed that I have a really hard time seeing where the focusing point is, sometimes. Especially if it’s over something dark, such a a TUXEDO! I’ve chosen the option to illuminate the focusing point, but that doesn’t seem to help. That’s my biggest complaint about the focusing at this time….because the images that I’ve found that were out of focus where times when the focus was in the wrong spot, but I could TELL that it was because I could see that area where it was selected.
5. Minor stuff….I am not a huge fan of the change on the zoom button and the menu button, my mind is kind of refusing to adjust. I also feel like it takes longer to get the the format card function within the menus.
1. The outer focusing points are nearly 100% improved….it’s fantastic to have the option to USE those and trust that I’m going to get good results. I’m not forced to focus and recompose…and when shooting nearly wide open, have the increased chance of missing the plan of focus that is already very narrow, in my force to use the focus and recompose method. Kudos, Canon….nicely done on that.
2. The image files are really beautiful. The SOOC files are fantastic. Lovely color, great dynamic range, balanced tone, true whites and blacks…nearly everything you could ask for. The improved dual layer metering system is evident.
3. The high ISO abilities are really amazing. I can actually shoot at 6400, not that I will, but I CAN…and it looks GOOD….and that’s kind of amazing. Below, I have posted an SOOC shot at 25,600. That room was nearly BLACK and that image, in my opinion, looks great for being shot at that exposure.
4. Improved chromatic abberation. Due to the fact that I like shooting into light, I get the natural “halo” of chromatic abberation a LOT and so I fight it…and having an improvement on that is great. It’s not 100% improved, but it’s better…and I will take better!
5. High FPS, as mentioned above….for candids , first dances, sequence images…that is priceless.
6. Silent shooting mode. I photograph situations where I wish the loud sound of my shutter wasn’t the only thing breaking the silence…and I like that I can finally change that.
7. FINALLY, we can lock the shoot mode dial. That should have been done on the very first camera ever released, so thanks for waking up and realizing it was 2012 Canon.
8. The ability to RATE images. In cases where photographers do same day edits (I do not), that would be SOO valuable. When you shoot something you know you love, just quickly rate it in camera and pull only your rated image for your slideshows. Super helpful.
9. Ability to change focusing screen grid digitally instead of having to actually purchase a different one.
And there are more…
There are LOTS of features that I haven’t even touched yet…such as multiple exposure, HDR shooting (not that I do any of that), raw processing in camera(not sure I understand the point of that!?), auto lighting optimizer (which was useless in the mark II, IMHO), auto scene intelligence mode, AF config. tool for shooting fast moving subjects(looks cool!), so I bet I will have more to love once I have the chance to play a bit more.
Funny side notes: It SOUNDS different. The ON switch is in a different spot, but there is a new lock button where the ON/OFF was at, so I think I’ve locked and unlocked the camera a LOT.
The one thing that I didn’t even really think about prior to the camera purchase was the POST PROCESSING LIMITATION. I knew it, but with the fact that years pass between camera models, I just forget. A friend reminded me that Lightroom couldn’t read the Mark III RAW files yet and that you have to use Adobe Camera Raw to convert them to DNG files and then they would be able to be read by Lightroom.
You can view instructions/downloads on how to do that here:
Overall, the camera is fantastic….the best 5D yet, without a shadow of a doubt. And if a previous Nikon shooter is happier than I’ve ever seen her shooting a wedding (ERIKA!) because she has moved to Canon and is holding a new 5D Mark III, I think that speaks volumes.
EXAMPLE IMAGES: All STRAIGHT OUT OF CAMERA, NO POST PROCESSING AT ALL. THE WEB IS ACTUALLY MAKING THEM LOOK ALMOST A 1/2 STOP DARKEN THEN THEY TRULY ARE AND SLIGHTLY MORE MUDDY. EXIF INFO INCLUDED.
Lovely tonal balance, metering balance, white rendition and outer focus point ability. Eyes are brighter in actual image. LENS: 85mm 1.2 L | ISO 400 | f/2.2 | 1/2500
Incredible ISO ability (25,600!!!), shot in a nearly BLACK room and outer focus point used in super low light! Yes, the color needs corrected, but just an example of the ISO ability. LENS: 50mm 1.2 L | ISO 25,600 | f/2.2 | 1/160
Lovely color and tonal balance, metering balance when purposefully overexposed to enhance softness/brightness and outer focus point ability. LENS: 35mm 1.4 L | ISO 100 | f/2.2 | 1/100
Chromatic abberation improvement when shooting into light and focus ability with backlit subject. LENS: 50mm 1.2 L | ISO 8000 | f/2.2 | 1/160