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Canon 5D Mark III: A quick review

An update: After five weddings
After photographing five weddings on the Canon 5D III I have some more comments and some in-the-field photos to add.  Although I mentioned in the article below there is no real need for the high ISOs as we bring our own lighting gear and don’t usually shoot above ISO 1600/3200 anyway. Well, we were wrong! The high ISO ability allows us to pull colour and texture from the sky at even midnight.

Above are some photos taken at recent weddings using the Canon 5D III. The photo on the left was taken 25 minutes after sunset.

The photo on the right was taken 5 hours after sunset (camera settings were ISO 25,600, 1/15 sec, f2.8, light from an iPhone) This shot definitely wouldn’t have been possible without our Canon 5D3 as we only had a few minutes to take the photo so no time to set up anything more complicated such as tripods and multiple exposures! Must admit the full moon and amazing clouds circling it did help though.

Whilst I’m updating you, I might as well mention that the 5D3s 61 autofocus points are over-rated. Since we frequently shoot on prime lenses with a tiny depth of field, there’s nothing we can trust more to lock onto our subjects eye that the single centre focus point, locked focus, and recomposing. The camera was, for some reason on 61 point autofocus mode this morning. I gave it a try, and hated it! Unless my subjects are moving towards me, I don’t think anything beats single point focus. Well not yet anyway…

Initial  field test and review
Yay!!! I picked up our pre-ordered Canon 5D Mark III today. A whole day earlier than it is even meant to be released anywhere in the world, so boy were we excited!

Although, as wedding photographers we probably don’t need the upgraded version, since we recently bought another Canon 5DII, and we also use a Canon 7D which are more than amazing enough. But the fact that this camera merges the best features of both of our existing camera (the full frame of the Canon 5DII and the ability to take 6 or so frames per second on the 7D) plus displays low levels of noise when using high ISOs up to 12,800 was too hard to resist! To give you an idea, the highest ISO we are happy with on the 5DII or 7D is 3200 at a pinch. So that’s at least 2 stops better (or the ability to take photos where it is 4+ times darker) compared to the 5DII/7D. Plus Richard likes new toys!

Tonight we took out our new baby on a test around Perths CBD, and honestly had to look hard for an alley dark enough to actually need the use the maximum native resolution of ISO 25,600, and that was whilst using a lense that only had a maximum aperture of f2.8.

The focusing locked on as well, if not better than our Canon 7D. The only time we had trouble was when it was almost to dark to see and there was no contrasty area to focus on. We did a test using f1.4, 1/400 shutter, ISO 12800 whilst photographing me walking directly towards the camera in low ambient light in AI focus mode. The success rate of sharp photos was about 80%, better than we would expect from even the 7D. The success rate of the 5DII in this situation would be about 0%!

The 3.2 inch screen, slightly larger than the already huge 3 inch 5DII made everything look beautiful and clear.

A new feature of the 5DIII is the silent (well pretty quiet) shutter mode, which will come in handy when photographing a wedding ceremony in a church, where every little sound echoes.

The 5DIII battery is the same as the Canon 7D and the 5DII which makes me happy,(and is convenient) and there’s a dual axis electronic level (by pressing the info button twice), there’s no more excuses for crooked horizons :).

I had a play with the built in HDR feature, although not great for on people photography, it may have some use for landscapes and architecture photography. This is a new feature that does not exist in the 5DII or 7D. I was surprised the photo created in camera is only saved as a jpg, however the raw images used to create it are also saved in the default mode. Whilst the processor is meant to be much faster than the 5DII, the camera did take a little while to process the HDR as well, probably slower than the iPhone with the ProHDR app. :( And in general wedding shooting conditions I have never maxed out the buffer on the Canon 5DII anyway.

If any advanced amateur photographers are reading this trying to decide between the 5DII and the 5DIII I would recommend the 5DII and to use their savings to buy better lenses, as good glass makes more of a difference to the photo than what camera is used. The main benefit of the 5DIII compared to the 5DII is the ability to focus in really low light, and also to take photos at very high ISOs. To be honest, unless you are photographing something as fast paced as a wedding you can just use a torch to help with focusing in the dark, and a tripod or bounced flash to reduce your need to high ISOs.

At the end of the day, it’s just another tool, although a very sexy, fast, intelligent one! To quote one of my photography idols, Jerry Ghionis “a better microphone doesn’t make you a better singer, and in the same sense a better camera doesn’t magically create better photos”. But if anyone ever holds their wedding in a dark alley at midnight, where flash photography is not allowed, they can be reassured that we will still be able to take a decent photo! :) And as a wedding photographer, being prepared for anything is what it’s all about!

 

 

New Canon 5D mk III 

Test shot: 1/80, f2.8, iso 12800  (hires)

Test shot: 1/40, f5.0, iso 12800  (hires)
Canon 5D mk III ISO test

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