So I picked up the 5DMKIII a few weeks back and I thought I would post a brief review for all of you who are still on the fence with upgrading or jumping into a new system.
Just to clarify I had been shooting with a 5DMKII for the last few years as one of my main camera bodies.
Initially I was hesitant to upgrade, as the preliminary reviews I read indicated that image quality wise there wasn’t much of a difference. In fact the 5DMKII appeared a tad sharper at low ISOs when shooting RAW (I’ll get to this in a bit).
However, since my will power is very weak when it comes to new Canon equipment, I tossed logic aside and sold off my 5DMKII for it’s replacement.
First thing I did was compare image quality, as this was my biggest concern since my 5DMKII was primarily used for landscapes. The reviews that I had read seemed to hold true, the 5DMKII was indeed a hair sharper at lower ISOs when shooting RAW. In turn the 5DMKIII was going to require a bit more sharpening.
To be clear on this, we’re talking a very minimal amount and as some reports suggested, it’s the result of a more aggressive anti-aliasing filter in the 5DMKIII. Whether this is true or not I do not know. One thing is for sure though, sensors these days seem to be tied together more closely with post processing and benefit to a higher degree than in the past. Things looked really nice after a bit more of sharpening in post, so this whole issue really fizzled after some real-world shooting. Also I was pixel peeping like crazy as well.
That aside, the camera is a blast to shoot with. The new auto focus system (which is really the high point) is amazing, ergonomics are well designed,lots of news bells and whistles, and overall, just a very well rounded camera.
Here are a few pros:
Viewfinder: Big improvement over the 5DMKII, it’s color and increased size are stellar. Not to mention they finally put a glass cover on it, similar to the 1DMKIV and 7D.
FPS: The increase from 3.9 to 6 frames per second is definitely welcome and necessary with the new auto focus system.
Menu System: I really like the new layout of the menu system (same as 1dX). It’s well organized and easy to navigate with some things like Mirror Lockup no longer buried in Custom Functions (although, it still would be nice to have a dedicated button on the outside). Definitely a step up from previous systems.
Build Quality & Ergonomics: The build and design on this camera is excellent. One thing that stands out is the handling. Like the 7D, the back has a contoured grip which really feels nice and comfortable in your hand. Button layout is great (except the new zoom placement) and everything is well thought out. In addition it has improved weather sealing over the MKII and of course a magnesium alloy body. Also the smaller size over the 1D series makes this a great choice for those wanting to travel lighter.
Odds & Ends: Exposure compensation has now gone from 2 to 3 stops on the top LCD screen, Silent Shutter, Multi Exposure Mode, In Camera HDR, Mode Dial Lock, Depth of Field Preview Button relocation, and Dual Card Slots are all new welcome features.
Sensor: As I said the new sensor has some differences when compared to the 5DMKII. It’s also been upped from 21mp to 22mp. The ISO performance has been improved as well. Canon claims 2 stops, but from what I’ve seen this is only as it relates to shooting JPEGS. In RAW I can really only see a 2/3 stop improvement past ISO 800. Not much, but welcome. Now I haven’t done any scientific comparisons, but things like color, white balance and dynamic range seem to have been improved. Considering these characteristics, I have been more impressed with these files than with the 5DMKII. Very nice indeed. Sensor size remains full frame and forces wildlife photographers to lose the crop sensors. Not a huge deal to me, but may be for some.
Autofocus: Last but not least is the Auto Focus. All I can say is Wow! I was expecting a decent system after reading early reviews, but this system is in a league of it’s own.
Now my 5DMKII had been used primarily for landscapes, so I didn’t use it’s servo modes much or put it through many difficult shooting situations. But I have used Canon’s 1D series and the 7D auto focus systems for wildlife, so I’m well aware of difficult situations and the limitations imposed by certain systems.
My hope was to start using the 5DMKIII for wildlife as well as landscapes, so I was eagerly waiting to test this new auto focus out. All I can say is, it’s by far the best system that I’ve ever used and has allowed me some new creativity in difficult shooting situations.
For example, a couple weeks back I was photographing Blacktail fawns in Olympic National Park. The fawns were running and playing with each other in the rainforest on a rainy Washington day. I was shooting in very low light at ISO 6400 and the camera was nailing it. Every shot. Pretty amazing and I was very happy with the results. A very difficult situation with low light and fast subjects.
In addition, the new auto focus system comes with six different “Case” modes to choose from that depict particular shooting situations. At first this seems a little daunting as there are 3 different sliders in each “Case” that can be adjusted, but after spending some time scouring the Internet and messing around a bit, they become a bit easier to figure out.Gary Luhm also has a great tutorial on his website for choosing and modifying the different “Case” modes that I found as a good starting point.
Now the Cons:
Price: This seems to be the big gripe that is all over the photo forums and I think it’s rightly so. Canon’s aggressive pricing lately has left many scratching their heads and keeping their wallets in their pockets. Whatever the reason for the increases, they seem to be drawing a new line in the sand that a lot of photographers aren’t willing to cross. With this camera, as great as it is, I feel that it should be priced closer to $3000 than the MSRP of $3500. It may get there over time, but I think it has kept a lot of folks sitting and waiting and less sales for Canon.
Zoom Button: Say it isn’t so! Who knew I would miss the placement of the zoom preview button. Canon’s image preview zoom button has been in the same location for as long as I can remember. Now it has moved to the button array on the left side of the camera and you have to use the upper dial near the shutter button to zoom in and out when previewing your images. You can, however, reprogram it so the “Set” button in the middle of the back rotating dial acts as the zoom button and also program it to start out at a higher zoom magnification so moving the upper dial back and forth isn’t necessary, but’s it’s still awkward and a pain to get used to.
Card Speeds: Now I haven’t tested this, but it has been confirmed that when using a secondary SD card that the camera defaults to the read/write speeds of the slower SD card. Not a huge deal for stills, but I can see it being a bit of a pain for fast action.
Auto Focus at F8: For those that are using a 2X converter on F4 lenses, the ability to auto focus at F8 is disabled on this camera as well as the newly released 1DX. I don’t really have an opinion on this, as I don’t use 2X converters, but I can see how this would be a problem for those who regularly use them. Not sure if a firmware can ever fix this, but I know a lot of wildlife shooters are waiting to see.
Quality Control: Now this may not reflect the camera as a whole as it’s just my experience, but I did have to send the first one back as it had a bunch of dust and fibers behind the optical lens of the eyepiece, enough so that it looked like I had recently returned from a trip to the Sahara. The second camera had a big piece of who-knows-what stuck to the sensor which required a wet clean right out of the box. So hopefully it was just me with bad luck that week, but needless to say, when dropping over 3k on a camera body, these sorts of random oversights during assembly are a bit of a concern. Also as a disclaimer, I’m completely anal.
So that’s it, my likes/dislikes. Overall a superb camera that really establishes itself as a “Do it all camera”. The quality is fantastic for landscapes, like it’s predecessor. Auto focus puts it into new uses for wildlife photographers, photojournalists, wedding photographers, etc.
Some wildlife guys and gals may have reservations about switching from a crop to full frame sensor, but in my experience it can force you to improve your skills as a photographer. This, coupled with the improved quality, makes it an easy switch.
So if you want a camera that’s going to do it all, and you want something lighter and easier to pack around than a 1D series, I would highly recommend!