Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

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LCD, VIEWFINDER

LCD screen is the same unit from flagship 1DX model. It has a diagonal of 3.2 inches, and lavish 1,040,000 pixels. It’s really a joy to look at it, colors and details are as good as it currently gets.

One thing though I still do not understand. There is no tilt option. Why would I pay 3000 Euros and still had to lie in mud or dust to be able to frame an image from the ground point of view, when I can do it with a tilt-LCD on cheap 650D wearing black suit with bowtie. Is crawling through the mud an unavoidable part of being professional photographer?

Optical viewfinder is great though. It is large and bright, and uses a very nice trick to display virtual horizon with lit-up focus points.

SENSOR AND PROCESSOR

Mark III uses the latest DIGIC V processor and a brand new sensor. When camera specifications were announced, probably everyone released a relief sigh; it still had 22 megapixels. In reality, this is enough for almost everyone. Nikon may have 36 MP in D800, but it’s questionable who can make use of such resolution.

More importantly, Mark III (just like Mark II) still has “mRAW” and “sRAW” options – the ability to shoot RAW format in two lower resolutions. When you know high resolutions won’t be needed, it is a great way to keep file size down but still maintain all the precious data of RAW format.  Nikon D800 doesn’t have that option, so you are stuck with humongous 36MP photographs.

Instead resolution, Canon claims main development focus was at extended ISO range and better noise reduction. Native ISO value goes now from 100 to 25,600 (Mk II 100 – 6400), and can be extended down to 50 or up to 102,400 ASA.

MEMORY AND BATTERY

5D Mark III has dual memory card slots. It can use both CF and SD card format simultaneously. There are several options how to use them; one at a time, both at the same time (backup mode) or they can be assigned to record different file format on each card (e.g. RAW on CF and JPEG on SD card).

Li-ion battery is good for around 1000 shots according to specifications and everyone who bought the camera. I did somehow manage to drain it after only 500-600 shots each time. The very same thing happened to me two years ago when reviewing Mark II model. I’m not really sure what might be the cause, but I must have over abused the battery experimenting with every single function 5D has. Batteries can be registered in memory and monitored for shutter count and recharge performance.

AUTOFOCUS

Mark III main selling point might just be the new auto focus system. It is almost the same as the one in 1DX model (except for lack of dedicated DIGIC IV processor used for subject tracking in 1DX). Mark III has 61 AF points, which can be used in many configurations, and has detailed ways of personalising and choosing AF tracking scenarios. Now the old 9-point AF in mark II looks really outdated.

There is a strange bug though – it is impossible to choose AF point if light metering is off (it shuts itself off after several seconds since last photo was taken or shutter half pressed).

OUT IN THE STREET

Dynamic range is very big. Unfortunately, so is with most of modern APS-C sensors. I didn’t have the camera long enough to make direct comparisons, but DXO measurements can be taken as a objective guide.

Six frames per second should be enough for most users except maybe sports photographers. For the shot of the girl above, it was even to much; some images were left out for a final image.

Street photography is a situation in which 5D doesn’t work well; it is too big not to atract attention and ruin a spontaneus moment. Even though, in this case my subject was turned with her back to camera so she didn’t mind. :) From another point of view, having a big camera is almost essential. People often judge photographers by the size of their equipment… It is as wrong as it gets, but it makes a difference when you’re a wedding photographer and trying to get as many customers as you can.

Next two photos was taken at 51,200 and 102,400 ASA -  highest ISO settings available (both non-native) and as you can see they are quite usable in small formats. Noise is apparent, but for certain applications such as photojournalism possibility to get sharp shots is a life (photo) saver.

Light metering proved to be reliable, but conservative; when in doubt, underexpose. So I found myself rather regularly using exposure compensation on the plus side in order to get “expose to the right” histogram.

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One thought on “Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

  1. Pingback: Nikon D800E review | Camerahoarders.com

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