As wrote in the last post on Canon 550D, I moved to Canon 5D3 in the winters of 2012. I was almost two years into being an enthusiastic photographer and was getting all the more excited for being a serious one, albeit still at the hobbyist level. There was also a serious consideration whether to move to Nikon system or stay with Canon and I spent many days visiting the showrooms of Canon and Nikon (and Sony) to try out their latest cameras and figure out which one I was most comfortable with.
Over the course of that two months of research and indecision, I realised what I was always being told – there is nothing like the best camera, there is nothing like the best lens or technology. The camera from one of these top companies is only as good as any of them and there is really no point in trying to get the “best of the best”. Also, thanks to dpreview forum and kenrockwell.com and the-digital-picture.com guys for responding to my queries and I figured out that I will stay with the camera system I am comfortable with – hence Canon, and hence taking the top of the range (and newly launched) Canon 5D Mark III from them.
The technical specs mentioned below, as you can see, were quite impressive for the time:
– 22.3 Megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor with DIGIC 5+ processor – to help take 6fps large raw format pictures.
– 61-point AF with up to 41 cross-type AF points (helps in those macro shots, less used feature for me though)
– ISO 100 to 25,600 as standard
– High Precision 61-point AF System (a big improvement from the 550d for those precise macro shots)
– New Multiple Exposures and HDR (High Dynamic Range) Mode – another improvement from the consumer level lens.
– Full HD Movie shooting (not too keen on this feature as it consumes a lot of memory)
– 100% coverage viewfinder with 0. 71x magnification (not so useful feature although I was happy with 98% viewfinder as well)
– 3.2-inch LCD with anti-reflective structure and coating (an impressive LCD at full brightness which I always keep for post-shot analysis)
– Dual-axis electronic level – very useful when taking landscape pictures
– Dual Card Slots supporting UDMA7 CF Card and SDXC Card (too bad I cannot use the CF and SDXC alternatively if one is processing an HDR file, so not too impressed on how it handled its memory cards yet)
– Rigid Magnesium Alloy Body with enhanced dust, water resistance (feels solid in hands, has good grip positions)
– Inbuilt HDR mode (THE BEST enhanced feature for me and most used (at the risk of over-used actually) one as well.
For full technical review of the lens, dpreview has done one, which I think is close to what my experience has been as well. There are many others you can refer to but I think they would add less incremental value. Digital picture has also done a good job in their review.
Advantages of moving to the Canon 5D3
In photography – you learn one thing and that is actually a true lesson of life – you make compromises and cannot get everything. If you want to have a camera that is very customizable, then the small digital camera / phone camera is not enough; you need a bulkier DSLR. These days, mirrorless cameras are in fashion, but they have some drawbacks – slower response time to keep fast moving objects in focus, for one.
If you want a bigger pixel camera to take those large prints, you need to spend more and if you do not want to spend on filters to get the custom colors, you need to buy software and so on…
I had the big question whether to stay with cropped sensor camera or go for the full frame. There are advantages and disadv of both (see, compromise comes in again). Below are some of them.
- Firstly, full frame sensor means benefits of full 35mm sensor. A full frame sensor provides a broader dynamic range, better low light/high ISO performance etc. This is especially useful given that I like taking evening and night time pictures which are usually not in controlled light environment. Cropped sensor is 35mm/1.6x and hence have a narrower view.
- Full frame have much lower noise as well and I have taken some quite sharp and clear shots at even ISO6400. With the cropped sensor, I could not really go above ISO1600 without the effects showing up even after Lightroom edits.
- Full frame have more megapixels, useful if you need larger prints.
- A full frame camera also has a much smaller depth of field for the same f-stop and zoom of a cropped sensor, which helps throw out of focus composition blur much more and hence help in overall beauty of the image taken.
- In full frame, you can utilize the full wide angle capabilities of the lenses. This is a lesser important aspect to me given that Canon has a very good EF-S 10-22mm lens. That implies 16mm for the cropped sensor, which is very wide already.
- The big drawback is that all of the above advantages come at a cost. Full frame cameras typically start at twice the cropped sensors. Again, it is a compromise question, but it is also a one time investment for many years. So if you are passionate about photography and as you gain more knowledge and technical know-how to utilize all the features a full frame has to offer, I would say it is worth it. It certainly makes your photos speak for themselves.
Canon 5D Mark III feels very sturdy and solid in the hands and a camera that will last long. The camera is built from a light but strong magnesium alloy with rubber grips at the right places. It has weather proofing so some extent but is not rain proof or water proof as well. I have used it in light rain/drizzle though and it has been fine.
It has dropped a couple of times, from small heights as well, but been fine with no scratches at all. Overall, a very sturdy and durable piece.
P.S. I didn’t try to dip it in volcanic lava or steaming geyser water (yet), to test its melting point. In case you do, please do let me know your results.
The button placement is not too different than the 550D although the presence of scroll at the top of the body (visible from top view) is a good addition which can be used quick change of ISO, f-stop or when reviewing pictures. I use it very often, arguably even more than the joypad at the back of the camera.
The scroll at the right end just next to the shutter button is a boon, which is mostly present in full frame cameras although Canon and other makers have started offering it in the latest prosumer cameras as well. It is one of the most used buttons for me, when looking to change aspects run time while taking shots.
I do find Nikon’s delete feature by double pressing the delete button a bit easier to do the job, relative to Canon’s – DELETE, LEFT, OK procedure. But probably that also means I have less chance of accidentally deleting pics in Canon while reviewing them in camera. The LCD is a nice bright screen and my suggestion is to keep it at the full brightness so you can see clearly see all fine details of the photos you take.
Update: in recent firmware upgrade, I can do the same delete delete with Canon as well. But as mentioned above, I will not be using that since I want to rather make it tough to delete pictures when reviewing on camera.
Also note the new rate and creative photo button on the left. These are two new function buttons for better control. The RATE button helps make a rating or protecting image run time after you take a pic and while reviewing it while the Creative Photo button allows access to Picture Style, Multiple Exposure or HDR shooting. I use that button A LOT to quickly go to and come out of HDR mode.
I would have summed up the review by putting some pictures but there is this one feature in 5D Mark III that I cannot not write about. Though HDR can be done by any camera having AE (bracket exposure) mode in it, having it inbuilt into the camera means making HDR is so much, sooo much easier rather than uploading all pictures into computer and doing it.
I was never into HDR before this camera, in fact I didn’t even know what was HDR till a few months before I got this camera. And then too, I sparingly used it since it was quite cumbersome and I didn’t think the results were worth the effort.
All that has changed. Not only is HDR so much easy with it being inbuilt into the 5D3, that ease also got me going into reading and observing more people who take HDR pictures and see how it can best be exploited to get the best shots.
The HDR mode in Canon 5D3 allows you to take four type of pictures – Natural, Vivid, Bold and embossed. Digital Picture in their review well show the difference, but basically the two most used ones would be vivid and natural, at least for me. You can keep just the HDR picture or all of them, in case you want to experiment and compare whether you want to keep the Canon generated HDR image (which is only in JPEG format and not RAW) or keep all raw files to later make HDR, the traditional way.
Below are some of the HDR pictures I took and generally, most of my landscape shots are HDR nowadays.
In the above image, the temple had actually a lot more shadows than what you see here. And this is where HDR comes in really handy. I could actually remove all the shadows at the right places (temple structures) and keep them otherwise in the image (as in the shadow of the tree leaves on the ground in the mid-bottom of the pic) and all this is possible because of HDR. Of course, other than enhancing the vibrancy of the images in itself, thanks for HDR-Vivid mode I used here.
Depth of field is brilliant in a full frame. The above was taken by Canon 5D Mark III with Canon 50mm prime f/1.4
Canon 5D3 has 24mp image which as you can see from the table in this post, is more than enough to take large prints.
The overall image quality with the Canon camera and especially in this range has no reasoning to give, I think where 5D3 scores really high is its low light performance at high ISO. The image below was taken at ISO6400 and still, there is hardly any noise visible. Note that the image is not corrected at Lightroom for the noise, at all. And this is what I mean by having an advantage of a full frame camera is.
Low light performance and image contract / tones
The low light performance also comes in handy when I am taking fast, really fast shutter speed pictures of my restless daughter and light is not great and I do not want to use flash to make her conscious. This is when I rake up the ISO and still I know I will get decent quality pictures with low noise.
The camera’s processor is quite fast and I am happy with the overall 6fps performance which I use a lot especially if I am trying to take hand held shots of fast moving objects or people.
Also, an observation I have for all Canon camera images is their relatively higher contrast and bit ‘warmer” images than those coming out from Fuji, Sony or Nikon. Not that it is worse or better, just different. Since I do not mind having more vibrant colors than what the eyes sees naturally, I do not at all mind the “contrasty” look, but there are those who prefer otherwise.
With this, I will sum up this short review write up and let the following pictures do the talking, albeit limited by my ability to take and edit (mostly in Lightroom) pictures. Happy to read your comments though.