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Canon 5D MkIII First Impressions Review

by Philip Greenspun, April 2012 (updated May 2012)


This article is designed to assist Canon EOS system users decide whether or not to purchase a 5D Mark III and to help new 5D Mark III owners make the best use of the camera. Due to my lack of familiarity with the Nikon system and lack of access to a Nikon D800, this is not intended to address the “is it better than the D800?” question.

As any modern digital SLR gives fantastic results when used as a laboratory instrument, i.e., in manual exposure mode, on a tripod, manually focused. I tested the 5D Mark III with as much automation enabled as possible: Program autoexposure, JPEG capture, Auto ISO, autofocus, etc. Note that I set the camera to record RAW in parallel, but all examples below are from in-camera JPEGs.

I purchased the body in March 2012 from Adorama.

What it won’t do

The most serious impediment to idiot-proof photography in the 5D Mark III is the lack of face/eye recognition. Especially when using professional lenses near their maximum aperture, the challenge is to achieve sharp focus over the subject’s eye. Everything else can be a little soft. There are 61 autofocus points in the 5D Mark III but the probability that the camera chooses the one that corresponds to your subject’s eye is very small (about 1 in 61!). The $3500 camera actually has face-detection capability, just like a $100 camera or cameraphone, but it is only available in the video mode. This is presumably because the sensor doesn’t see the image until the mirror flips up, but in any case it is not really a wonderful thing to have a picture of a child with a perfectly focused elbow and an out of focus face. The image below shows my beloved cousin, out of focus, and a tack-sharp rendering of her $4.99 mobile phone case. Zoom lens set to 90 mm, ISO 1250, f/5.6 and 1/320th of a second.

Despite the massive battery pack and massive processing power, the 5D Mark III does not include a Wi-Fi transceiver and cannot trickle JPEGs up to a server or Internet photo sharing service. Folks accustomed to the convenience of sharing photos taken with smartphones may reasonably ask why not.

The big open question was to what extent Canon had addressed the main image quality weakness of the 5D Mark II: limited dynamic range. Given the amazing resolution of digital cameras, when people say “I like the look of film” what they are really saying is that they like the way that film handles the range of highlight and shadow tones in real-world scenes, many of which have a larger range of tones than film or a sensor can record. The 5D Mark II was able to record a dynamic range of just 11.9 Evs (f-stops), according to DxO, which is one reason why the sensor rated a middling overall score of 79. For comparison, this is a step up from the original Canon 5D’s 11.1 Evs. The Sony NEX-7 mirrorless camera came through with 13.4 Evs. The Nikon D800 was able to record 14.4 Evs of dynamic range, i.e., 2.5 f-stops of additional range over the 5D Mark II, and that helped it earn an overall score of 95, the highest DxOMark ever at the time of the test. How did the Mark III fare in the DxO Labs test? A dynamic range of 11.7, actually a bit worse than the Mark II.

I haven’t done a full side-by-side test of dynamic range yet, but so far the anecdotal results are consistent with the DxO Labs test. I visited a friend who is a neuroscience professor specializing in the visual system and also an experienced Canon EOS system user and 5D Mark II owner. We took some pictures of his kids. He copied the JPEGs off the CF card and commented “that Mark III really sucks. Same lame dynamic range with highlights blown out and poor quality reds (look at the red flowers in a few of your shots)” (he wrote that email before DxO published its results, so he was not influenced by anything other than his own inspection of the images).

Autoexposure

My 5D Mark II was seemingly designed to humble the amateur photographer. In flat light or pointed at a gray card, the camera delivered perfect exposure suggestions. In contrasty scenes lit by direct overhead sun, exposure was wildly inconsistent, often off by 2-3 f-stops. Precise at those times when a family was most likely to be out taking pictures in Disneyland, the 5D Mark II would deliver autoexposure performance inferior to a film camera from the 1970s.

For me, the 5D Mark III justified its purchase price the moment that I took an outdoor photo in bright sunlight. The camera can be tricked by backlit scenes, but otherwise autoexposure performs admirably and predictably.

Canon has confirmed that there is a path via which light can reach the exposure meter via the top LCD panel. If the scene is “extremely dark”, the backlight for the top deck LCD therefore can trick the camera into underexposure. This seems like precisely the kind of situation in which one would likely be using manual exposure and evaluating the result as previews on the rear LCD, so I don’t see the problem as serious. Note that the “light leak” does not reach the image-forming sensor and does not affect the final image, only the camera’s suggested exposure.

Autofocus

There are now so many possible ways to use the 61 autofocus sensors that the camera’s behavior can no longer be controlled with an “AF point selection” button and the two control wheels. Canon has added a “M-Fn” button next to the shutter release. This is supposedly a “multifunction” button, but in fact seems to have just two functions, entirely unrelated: (1) select among the six possible autofocus area selection modes, (2) lock flash exposure. Of course, this is not to be confused with the “multi-controller” joystick on the back of the camera! Nor are the six AF Area Selection modes to be confused with the six autofocus “cases”, helpfully designated Case 1, Case 2, Case 3, Case 4, Case 5, and Case 6, that serve to “easily fine-tune AI Servo AF to suit a particular subject or scene”.

The AF Area Selection Modes include one called “Single-point Spot AF” that is “for pinpoint focusing” and another one called “Single-point AF” that lets the photographer “Select one AF point to focus.” A useful mode that can be chosen only by pressing first the AF point selection button on the rear of the camera and then the M-Fn button on the front is the “61-point automatic selection AF” mode, in which “All the AF points are used to focus”.

The AI Servo “cases” adjust the way that the camera tracks moving subjects. Case 5 is for “erratic subjects moving quickly in any direction” and Case 6 is for “subjects that change speed and move erratically”. Canon suggests that Case 5 is for figure skaters and Case 6 is for rhythm gymnastics. On the other hand, Case 1 is for “any moving subject”. What’s the best mode for chasing a child around the lawn? Your guess is as good as mine.

As noted above, the main problem with this technological tour de force is that it does not even attempt the same task as a human photographer taking a picture of another human or an animal, i.e., focusing on the subject’s eye. The 5D Mark III’s autofocus system performs incredibly well at solving the problem of “getting at least something in focus underneath one of the 61 sensors”, but that isn’t typically the problem that a photographer wants solved. Of course, for photographing sports with a reasonable depth of field, the system may perform adequately, but that is mostly a matter of luck.

Bizarrely, although I left the camera in autofocus mode the entire time, I ended up with some images that have absolutely nothing in focus.

My favorite page of the 400-page owner’s manual is devoted to Manual Focusing: (1) set the lens focus mode switch to [MF]; (2) Focus by turning the lens focusing ring until the subject looks sharp in the viewfinder.

Controls and Menus

The depth of field (DOF) preview is now conveniently located on the opposite side of the lens mount from the lens mount release. It is very easy to find this button during one-handed operation and overall it seems like an ideal location for the DOF preview. (For those new to single-lens reflex cameras: the lens of an SLR is normally set wide open (e.g., f/2.8) so that the maximum amount of light can reach the viewfinder. Just before the shutter is opened, the lens diaphragm is stopped down to the set aperture (e.g., f/8). This has the effect of bringing many more objects into sharp focus. The DOF preview button stops down the lens to the set aperture so that the photographer can evaluate the scene to be captured in the viewfinder.)

Reflecting the emphasis on videography, Canon has placed a big “video/still” switch on the back of the camera.

The remainder of the controls and menus are slightly different than on the 5D Mark II and generally complex and bewildering. For any given picture-taking project, the camera can be set up in an ideal manner. If you don’t use the camera every day, and study the owner’s manual carefully, your actual chance of having the camera set up ideally is minuscule. If photographing a variety of subjects throughout the day, it seems unlikely that the typical owner would have the energy to make constant adjustments to autofocus, control, autoexposure, etc. behavior.

Neither the manual nor the camera body distinguishes clearly between those controls that affect the RAW image and those that affect only JPEGs. If you are capturing only RAWs, it would be nice if the camera would gray out those controls that don’t have any effect on RAWs. For example, Page 158 in the manual is devoted to the question of whether to set sRGB or Adobe RGB as the color space. Does that make a difference for RAW images? Canon doesn’t say.

Storage

This is the first 5D that allows the use of an SD card in addition to the standard CF card. Photographers who capture RAW images will sorely regret the purchase of an SD card as the camera needs so much time to write data to the card that a quick review becomes impossible. Performance with an SD card is adequate when capturing JPEGs.

Glitches

Out of the first 1000 pictures, one image, both in its JPEG and RAW versions, was ruined by a software glitch. It came out almost entirely red. Photos of the same scene, taken immediately before and after, came out perfect. One of my best street photo opportunities was lost because the camera locked up as soon as I hit the shutter release, with the red “card active” light stuck on. After a minute I managed to restore the camera to life by turning the power switch Off and then back On. I am assuming that these problems will be fixed by a firmware upgrade.

Software

I used Adobe Lightroom 4.1 Release Candidate to process a handful of RAW images and select from among the JPEGs. Adobe Photoshop CS6 was just recently announced and presumably it will have full support for the 5D Mark III RAW format. Among the free software tools for processing Canon RAW images, I have found Google’s Picasa to be the easiest to use.

Examples and Discussion

This Great Blue Heron, taken with a first-generation 600/4 lens, is wrecked due to the dark water fooling the camera’s meter into overexposing by roughly 2/3rds of an f-stop. ISO 640 and bright sunshine enabled the lens to be used more or less handheld at 1/640th and f/6.3.

The heron again, this time at ISO 400, 1/2000th of a second, and f/5.6. An unhappy catfish is plainly visible in the heron’s mouth.

A crop of the same image.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, ISO 3200, 1/80th at f/8.

Part of the new Islamic galleries at the Metropolitan Museum. ISO 12800, 1/30th and f/4. This is a remarkably usable image considering the dark wood and the contrast between the wood and the white walls.

Art Nouveau room within the Metropolitan. ISO 12800, 1/25th and f/4. Handheld with the image-stabilized Canon 24-105/4L lens, a remarkable example of the camera’s utility in terribly dark lighting.

American Wing Courtyard at the Met, a tough mixed lighting situation at ISO 3200.

Armenian Cathedral in Manhattan, ISO 100. This is the kind of high contrast situation that often led my 5D Mark II’s meter astray. Here the exposure seems just about perfect..

A firmware bug led to this park scene being rendered mostly in red.

Same location as above but without red.

This running 6-year-old should not have been too hard to track, but the 5D Mark III lost focus tracking on 2 out of 11 images.

Continuous AF did pretty well with this boy leaping from bench to bench, though the 24mm focal length and f/9 aperture setting provided enough depth of field that it didn’t need to work precisely. Shutter-priority autoexposure, 1/400th and ISO 1600 in afternoon shadow on the High Line.

These photos show that one needs to start with one’s moving subject more or less dead-center. The autofocus system here does a great job of tracking… the people sitting behind the leaping boy.

See above.

Focus is not the main problem here, at 32mm and f/13, though it looks as though the AF system latched onto the girl in purple in the background. The main issue is that the autoexposure system was fooled by the bright sky into at least one f-stop of underexposure.

A too-cool baby on the High Line. The camera was set for AI Servo continuous autofocus but somehow it failed to lock onto the baby’s face. It looks as though some of the fabric on the left side of the image is sharp.

I like the idea of taking a picture of a person taking a picture using a tablet computer. This scene is a challenge because the photographer is dressed in black and standing in shadow whereas the background is white/beige and washed in bright sunlight. A good demonstration that it is better to fix the lighting than to invest $3500 in a new camera.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral at ISO 3200, 24mm, image stabilization on, 1/30th of a second and f/4. Proof that one can record a trip to Europe without taking along a tripod.

Photographing flowers with a 100mm macro lens seemed to require much more frequent use of exposure compensation than with typical scenes. This pansy was captured at ISO 800 with +2/3 stops.

Bee on muscari. 100mm macro lens, ISO 200, 1/640th at f/6.3.

Budding farmer driving a tractor. ISO 100. This image seems a little overexposed to me, but on the other hand the young driver’s face is about right.

Midnight the pony, a tough subject for any exposure meter. ISO 3200 with no exposure compensation.

Border collie luxuriates in bed. ISO 1250. 50mm lens, 1/80th at f/3.5.

The camera slightly overexposes the water in the foreground, which means that the skyline is completely blown out.

Kid on the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture in Boston’s Public Garden. A challenging high-contrast scene, but the 5D Mark III makes the perfect exposure choice.

The tulips here are in shadow while the pond behind remains lit by the setting sun. The autoexposure system functioned beautifully.

The red Corvette in the Nantucket Daffodil Festival antique car parade convinces the meter that 1/250th is the correct shutter speed for f/8.

The same scene, but with a different vehicle. Now the meter chooses 1/800th for the shutter speed. Changing the foreground car has thus resulted in a 1.67 f-stop exposure change, despite the fact that the scene lighting and background illumination has not changed.

The white dog and woman’s shaded face provide a good test for the camera’s ability to represent a high contrast scene in a standard JPEG. ISO 200, f/7.1 at 1/1000th. Nantucket Daffodil Festival dog parade.

At least 2/3rds of a stop underexposure, the meter fooled by the pale skin and white shirt. Pronounced blue cast due to the failure of the automatic white balance system to compensate for the open shade.

the same scene, captured with an iPhone 4S mobile telephone. Note that the phone gets the exposure and white balance more or less correct.

An impressive demonstration of the camera’s capabilities at ISO 12,800, inside a dimly lit museum. Auto-everything. Without exposure compensation, the camera seems to have done a great job, settling on f/4 and 1/30th.

Listening to bird calls at the National Museum of the American Indian. ISO 6400, +2/3rds f-stop exposure compensation. The autoexposure system failed to recognize this as a backlit scene and, without exposure compensation, rendered the child’s face a dark shadow. Note the green cast to the face, indicating the limits of the 5D Mark III’s automatic white balance system.

A success for the autoexposure system, showing the world’s youngest Airline Transport Pilot certificate holder letting her first officer compute the weight, balance, and speeds prior to departure. Airplane cockpits are so much darker than the objects visible through the window that this is always a great test for a camera’s high contrast scene capabilities.

Conclusion

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers very similar image quality to the 5D Mark II, introduced in 2008. The camera has a more capable autofocus system and, at least compared to my personal 5D Mark II, a much more predictable autoexposure system. Neither the autofocus nor the autoexposure system are idiot-proof, however, and the photographer needs all of the same skills that were required with the early multipoint autofocus film bodies of the 1990s, e.g., the 1992 Canon A2/EOS 5. As a picture-taking tool, the 5D Mark III would be much more useful if it had additional dynamic range, the option for a simplified publishing workflow via automatic uploading over WiFi, and a primary autofocus system with face- and eye-recognition capability.

I think that my percentage of correctly exposed and correctly focused images was about the same as it was with the original Canon 5D (“Mark I”).

Where to Buy

When you are ready to buy, please help to support Photo.net by purchasing through one of our retail partners.

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Canon 5D Mk III Body & 24-105/4 lens kit, (compare prices) (review). From the Canon website: Canon is proud to present the highly anticipated EOS 5D Mark III. With supercharged EOS performance and stunning full frame, high-resolution image capture, the EOS 5D Mark III is designed to perform. Special optical technologies like the 61-Point High Density Reticular AF and an extended ISO range of 100-25600 (expandable to 50 (L), 51200 (H1) and 102400 (H2) make the EOS 5D Mark III ideal for shooting weddings in the studio or out in the field, and great for still photography.


Text and photos © 2012 Philip Greenspun.

Article revised May 2012.

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



stepan kana , May 08, 2012; 05:48 P.M.

What do you expect for $10,000 ($3,500 for the camera and the rest for the lenses)? That is not counting what you have ploughed into Canon's previous two iterations of the same camera! 

David Manzi , May 08, 2012; 07:46 P.M.

Ah, yes. Despite some tremendous advances in technology, the photographer is still important, and must know the limits of his/her tools. Multi-point AF isn't the answer when you want to focus on an eye, but the tried and true "focus, frame, and shoot" method is. Meters are still, despite all the advances, imperfect and can be fooled by a world that isn't 18% grey. And shooting raw files with proper post processing is still the best method for extracting maximum quality out of most DSLRs. I will be moving to this camera, but not for a while. My 5D II is still more than I need.

Kryn Sporry , May 08, 2012; 11:33 P.M.

Interesting... the conclusion I draw from this revew is that the only things that were an actual improvement, were AE and AF, both of which still need some photography skills to get right regardless of the improvements.

So for all intents and purposes, this is a rebadged 5Dmk2 with a >50% price increase. That's an expensive rebadge...

Ed Avis , May 09, 2012; 07:44 A.M.

A good review, and asking some of the right questions rather than drooling over test charts.  I would have liked to find out about the optical viewfinder - I guess you still used that for most of the shots, rather than Live View.  I share your frustration that the manual doesn't answer simple questions about colour space and other RAW vs JPEG settings.  Canon's manuals have never been much good on this.

 

Possibly, with an SD card slot you'd be able to use a relatively inexpensive Eye-fi card to upload wirelessly.

 

DxOMark haven't tested the 1DX so we don't know if the extra cash buys you some more dynamic range.

 

Perhaps a future camera will have exposure bracketing at the software level when the JPEG file is written out, or some other means to quickly adjust exposure without the clunkiness of shooting RAW and firing up an image editor.  I'd love to take a photograph and then review it on the camera's touchscreen, highlighting with my finger the area of interest.  For example where the girl's face was underexposed, you'd review the shot, touch on the screen where her face is, and the exposure and contrast would be adjusted automatically to bring out detail and dynamic range in that area of the photo.

 

David Manzi , May 09, 2012; 09:48 A.M.

Honestly, while I think the price is high and will come down when supplies ease, this is more than a simple upgrade to the II. The AF and metering are improved, especially the AF. Noise is down by about a stop (it appears from raw files). Weather sealing is improved. There are dual card slots, something that pros will love for the redundancy and peace of mind. The "electronic" viewfinder is nice, as well. Still expensive, but lots more than a rebadged II (IMO). I also think Canon did the right thing staying at 22MP. I've read more than a few comments from pro wedding shooters who think the D800 files are more than they can handle, give the number of exposures they turn annually.

Marcus Ian , May 09, 2012; 03:20 P.M.

I find it extremely interesting that writing to the SD card slows down the buffer that much.  As a pro, I often meet and exceed the limitations of the buffer when shooting rapidly.  Purchases of UDMA6 CF cards have eased the 'pain' of this somewhat w/ my mk2 , but I had thought that the addition of an SD card for back up would be an improvement... guess I was wrong.

Charles Wood , May 09, 2012; 06:59 P.M.

I found Fred Miranda's comparison test on his website to be more revealing. He provided a number of actual photos illustrating differences between the two bodies, using the same Zeiss 21mm lens on each.  The shadow noise test is the most revealing and re-confirms why I sold my 5DII to move on to the Pentax 645D. The Nikon 800, and the 645D, are incredibly better performers in that respect and for landscape photographers, it is important. Sadly, the 5DIII did not live up to my expectations. I was hoping for dramatically improved dynamic range and shadow noise improvements and it simply isn't there.

Hubert Figuiere , May 09, 2012; 07:09 P.M.

Simply put, as a 5DMkII owner, I don't feel enticed to upgrade to the Mark3. Even more since the price tag is $1000 more.

Anurag Agnihotri , May 10, 2012; 02:05 P.M.

Sharp write-up. Very useful.

Mike Walker , May 10, 2012; 05:43 P.M.

Very useful review.  I am now quite convinced that keeping my 5DII and $3500 is the right decision for me.

Landrum Kelly , May 10, 2012; 07:20 P.M.

I can't remember any particular exposure problems with my 5D II.  Aufo-focus was not all that it could have been, admittedly, but I always thought that the exposures per se came out pretty good.

 

Still, it was a good analysis, even if my favorite part was the shot where the 5D III was bested by an iPhone 4S.

 

--Lannie

Steven MJ , May 10, 2012; 09:05 P.M.

I have read enough reviews like this lately, about more than one Canon DSLR, that I am beginning to despair of having invested so much in EOS lenses.  There were so many positive reviews of the 5D MkII that I thought Canon was becoming the vanguard of digital photographic excellence, and could hardly wait for the 5D MkIII to come out.  I have the original 5D, which takes nice images but lacks video and many other modern features.  I have the 7D, which takes nice videos and stills, but does have a noise problem at high ISOs, and is not full frame.  On paper, the 5D MkIII seems to be all that we have waited for, but the reviews are so disappointing.  It sounds like Nikon, and the new rising stars like Sony and Pentax, are leaving Canon behind, and us with them.  I do not like the feeling.

Mike Mathews , May 10, 2012; 10:10 P.M.

I don't need no stinking eye finding auto focus. Does anyone?

Museeb Jasim , May 11, 2012; 07:45 A.M.

I don’t know if it is a good place to write this or not, but anyhow I have the desire.

I would like through this article to welcome and thanks Mr. Philip Greenspun a man who made me see the image differently since 2004,  through his articles and his wonderful images accompanying it in photo net. Also, I must convey my greetings to another generous person http://www.danheller.com, from where at that time also I got a good information and saw a wonderful pictures.

 

Robin Smith , May 11, 2012; 10:32 A.M.

Philip has written a most original and amusing review. Concentrating on the things the camera cannot do is certainly an unusual approach. I am not sure it is very helpful to all those who are genuinely interested in finding out about the camera, but makes those of us who are weary of the usual pixel-peeping/dynamic range fetishistic reviews prick up our ears. We are at a stage now that a camera at this price level is so good that I don't think it makes any practical difference as to which one you pick if you know what you are doing.

Jeremy Villa , May 11, 2012; 01:39 P.M.

I am intrigued to hear of a Pro who has used the original 5D for so long & apparently so successfully. Clearly, this is a demonstration of Ms. Claire's prowess as a photographer. It's also fascinating to read her comment about color rendition using a 5D & 50mm lens; it would have been nice to see some full res. images that illustrate this.

A. Davis , May 11, 2012; 03:27 P.M.

Great, now I hate my MarkIII, and it's not even arriving until Monday :) 

In all honesty, this is a very refreshing review after seeing all the marketing spin and hyperbole of other reviews about how such and such new camera is incredible and flawless and will make everyone who uses it into an amazing photographer. It's all about knowing your equipment's strengths and weaknesses and how to work with them. 

Scott Donald , May 13, 2012; 02:30 P.M.

II've had 5d3 about 5 weeks, and I'm beginning to appreciate the above comments.

Now for one of my own

I do a lot of HDR, and my general settings for that mode on those cameras which don't have it, is to set the camera for aperture priority and take exposures of different exposures using different time exposures.

The 5D3 HDR uses the EV (Electron volt setting). Who uses that with any regularity? (The EV is a measurement of the energy of an electron. It is that amount of energy the electron gains "falling" through a difference of potential of one volt.) I suspect that in photography it is a combination of the aperture and time setting, but I can find no straight answer on the web to “the equivalence of EV to f stop and exposure time". There is nothing I can find in the manual, either, explaining it usage.

All that said I know, why bother? Excellent question. Because the new camera only changes a few things. It does seem the change the time setting by a factor of 2 when set for 1 EV. Ok, why the *&^%$" Canon use EV measurement instead of looking at the dial setting for aperture, time, or manual and present the option for the other setting(s) so the busy photographer will see what variable(s) is being (or may be) changed?

And why doesn't PHOTONET have a spell checker or allow the user's machine spell checker to operate as many orher web pages do?

Anyone help with this question?

I'm not going to buy the 5d4 or any other Canon EOS camera in the future!

Scott

Stephan Wunsch , May 14, 2012; 02:04 A.M.

You'll get a lot of bashing from the Canonians for this review *g*

Robin Smith , May 14, 2012; 11:40 A.M.

EV (Electron volt setting

No, its "exposure value". "Electron volts" are a way of expressing the energy of fundamental particles in nuclear physics. Back to the drawing board...EVs have been used forever in photography.

Salman Akhtar , May 15, 2012; 01:08 A.M.

As a long time Canon user, the review was very useful. I have the 5D Mark II that I love and agree the AF and metering were quite primitive. The image quality of the Mark II is superb, though for an update 4 years later I would have expected two things; better dynamic range and ~2 stop better noise performance. The issues of which control affects what (RAW vs JPEG) are also valid.

After leading the way in digital pro and semi-pro cameras for many years, Canon seems to have gone astray and is being left behind. Nikon is now leap-frogging it with its sensors, and all the innovation is coming from other brands. I bought the Sony A77 recently and am very happy with it. The metering, AF performance, control flexibility and overall design (both button placement and software menus) are light-years ahead of anything Canon makes.

After plunking thousands of $$$ in the EOS system, I don't see a Mark III in my future. 

jared charney , May 17, 2012; 06:46 A.M.

I got the 5d 3 yesterday and used it to shoot a rehearsal in a dimly lit temple. Although I think the camera should be $500 cheaper, have better dynamic range, and some sort of leap in sensor technology I am happy to report that I love the camera. I shoot a lot of university work as well and the quiet shutter alone is exceptional -- I was never happy w/the equivalent on my 1d III. The autofocus and overall feel to the camera is lovely. I am really looking forward to working with the camera for upcoming weddings and several editorial pieces I'm currently working on. 

 

One quick update: I used LR 4.1 RC to process the RAW files and it's HORRIBLE, I literally thought something was wrong with my camera. I then used Canon's software and the same images were amazing. 3200 for a theater shoot came out crisp, no noise, really happy. Hopefully LR will figure out what's going on. 

David Lisowski , May 18, 2012; 05:24 P.M.

I got my 5D MK 3 the other day and despite the fact this review "took the wind out of my sails" I think it is a good update for me from the 5D MK I. I leave it others to debate the update from Mark II. For one I wanted the extended ISO capabilities. I did not like being told to fold up my tripod in the Pantheon in Rome they are not allowed nor that hassle of carrying it around on trips like that. There are times you want the long exposure but not if its just for exposure considerations.

The AF on the MK I has been a weak spot, especially in dark environments where I have been forced to switch to manual or struggle to find a contrasty area to focus lock onto. Its the same AF as the 20D, MK I and MK II! Yesterday I was shooting in near night conditions on some difficult targets and the MK III locked on where MK I and I guess MK II would not - hopefully it locks on the right thing.

I shot some test shots in high contrast conditions - forested area shooting into the sun with shadows and yes it struggles to contain both. Time for ACR fill light. I would not mind comparing it to similar to a Nikons but I have not shot Nikon since film days. I sort of wish they had the spot meter control my old Olympus had where I could average up several spot readings between highlight and shade for those situations. Of course there is always manual. I like the fact they put a lock on the mode switch since I've blown plenty of shots when it moved by itself.

Of course the files are much larger than the MK I as I noticed when I ingested my first card. This is an inconvenience but I guess I can check out SRAW. I do intend to explore the video but I am not primarily a video shooter.

Harry Joseph , May 25, 2012; 03:32 P.M.

Is Canon the 'new' Kodak ? 

j david ellis , May 26, 2012; 01:11 A.M.

I want to thank Mr. Greenspun for his candid and remarkably thorough review of EOS5D3 weaknesses. His review has kept me from wasting $3500. A long time user of the EOS5D, I hope Canon gets its act together with the EOS5D4. I'd like to upgrade. --David Ellis

 

Christian Pedersen , June 02, 2012; 04:52 A.M.

Thanks a lot for your review. It really put words on my thoughts and doubts about the 5D mkIII.

I often use fast lenses, and needs the eyes tack sharp.

On all my EOS bodies (300D - 20D - 50D - 7D - 5DII - 1Ds III) I have always ended up using only the center focus point in order to achieve focus on the spot I want. When I read about how great the autofocus was on my camera, I always thought that perhaps I was using the system the wrong way, because of my preference for the center point.

61 focus points are great for locking on a bird in the sky, but what are they good for when they lock on to the elbow instead of the eye? . The unsharp photo of the baby with the sunglasses just illustrates my issues so well... A somehow pathetic performance from a brand new 3500$ camera.

I love my 5 year old 1Ds mk III for its picture quality, and its free of banding. On the other hand it is heavy and does not have video. I planned to replace my 1Ds mkIII with the 5D mkIII, but if you can do without the high ISO, I think its a step back.

I had ordered a 5d mk III to arrive in the end of next week, but I  have cancelled that order. I am truly very disappointed with the 5D mkIII Sensor. I have a great collection of Canon lenses, but they will have to work with my 1Ds III for another season.

Helge Brandal , June 10, 2012; 05:13 A.M.

This first impressions review seems to me like its talking only to owners of Canon 5D MkII. Maby it is not a big improvment for them but for anybody else this camera is a fantastic new tool that will give you almost every thing you need.

This is truly a allround camera wich give the quality every serious photographer needs and deserves.

Regards

HelgeB

Jon Austin , June 13, 2012; 10:30 A.M.

This is nothing if not a bluntly honest review by a very experienced photographer who evaluates equipment on the simple basis of "how easily does it allow me to get the job done well?"

I've owned a 5D for 5 years now, and have been eagerly awaiting the release of the 5D3, since the 5D2 offered me nothing but more MP than I need and video that I wouldn't use. I'm relieved that the resolution of the 5D3 sensor isn't significantly higher than that of the 5D2, but I do wish that its M-RAW setting was a little higher resolution (i.e., the ~ 12MP of the 5D) (and that I could find some authoritative information on how Canon processes M- and S-RAW images in the body).

Like others here, I believe that Canon has lost its leadership position in the dSLR market, and appears to have fallen into a pattern of releasing cameras with technological advancements that don't matter that much to most users and that do little to improve the quality of the images or the user-friendliness of the shooting process.

So for now, I'm content to put my cash back in my wallet, continue to shoot with my 5D, and evaluate the cost / benefit aspects of switching to another system.

Jeff Warner , June 28, 2012; 11:43 A.M.

Wow, what a review. I've not been in the habit of making excuses since the 1D MkIII debacle, but a camera review should at least approach it from the perspective of a somewhat-knowledgable user. Mr. Greenspun acts as if he's migrating to a 5D MkIII from a point-and-shoot. Case in point: most know that when you allow the camera's AF system to choose a focus point, it focuses on the nearest part of the subject in the frame. Of course it focused on the elbow! DSLRs don't know an eye from an elbow (though P&S cams can discriminate a face from an elbow, unlike this review). Criticizing the AF system of the 5D MkIII simply demonstrates a lack of understanding or experience with the camera on the part of the reviewer; ample anecdotal evidence suggests it may be the best-focusing system Canon has produced to date. Perhaps the review was intended to be some sort of Rockwell-esque diatribe, intended only to rile the masses, I don't know. I do know that a previous commenter pointing to Fred Miranda's more balanced, technically correct review was welcomed.

I certainly don't disagree about the sensor being functionally similar to that in the MkII; Canon appears to have given us the precise reverse of what the 5D MkII was to the 5D: we now get a complete technology overhaul with the same sensor. At least they listened, despite the fact that they didn't appear to realize we might expect some improvements in IQ.

One of these days Canon may figure it out, but I'm not holding my breath.

Landrum Kelly , September 01, 2012; 03:11 A.M.

The 5D3 HDR uses the EV (Electron volt setting). Who uses that with any regularity? (The EV is a measurement of the energy of an electron. It is that amount of energy the electron gains "falling" through a difference of potential of one volt.) I suspect that in photography it is a combination of the aperture and time setting, but I can find no straight answer on the web to “the equivalence of EV to f stop and exposure time". There is nothing I can find in the manual, either, explaining it usage.  --Scott Donald

 eV electron volt

EV exposure value

 TOTALLY different concepts. . .

"Anyone help with this question?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_value

 --Lannie

Javier Diaz , November 21, 2012; 09:57 A.M.

I've owned a 350D, a 400D, a 5D Mk I, a 5D MkII ans now a 5D MkIII.

I'm very disturbed after reading this review: my 5D MkIII  «most serious impediment is the lack of face/eye recognition.» But OF COURSE:  one buys a $3,300 body-only semi-pro camera to shoot "idiot-proof" pictures. If one wants the challenge of manual focus, manual settings and the good thrills of photography, one has to get a Powershot G12 or a G15. Right, I get the message.

Also I'm clear I bought this camera to use it in fully autmatic, A+ mode and since that works very bad, I wasted my money. I wonder why Canon took the trouble of porting the $7,000 1Dx AF system to the 5DMkIII. What a waste of time and resources! The 5DMkIII is, as everyone knows, a great POINT and SHOOT device. Clearly the 61 AF is useless. The 9 points of the 5DMk 1 were enough. Heck, the Central Focus Spot Point and recomposing is enough. Now, WHO do we think we are, fullfledged photographers?


And yes, the JPEGs controls are confusing, and this is a serious drawback since buyers of a $3,300 body-only camera don't waste time shooting RAW, we want Jpegs, lots of Jpegs. BTW, what is RAW?


And recording on the SD card takes forever? Hmmm, that's serious. There are NO high capacity, fast CF Cards, that's a dying media. SD is the way of the future and the 5DMKIII cannot handle them well. Oh, the SD cards are meant mainly as backup? Mmmhhh.

 

The "red glitch" has me confused. I find NO WAY of replicating it. I wanted to see how it feels to have «ONE of my best  photo opportunities (out of average 200-300 shots per trip) lost because the camera locked up as soon as I hit the shutter release, with the red “card active” light stuck on.» Besides, HOW will I know it's one of my best, if I cannot see it because it's ruined? Please advise.

 

In all, I found this review to be ABSURD and POINTLESS. Grow up.

Sincerely.

 

 

Pete Kusnick , December 04, 2012; 08:55 P.M.

Unless this already complicated scheme is to be made more perfect for difficult situations by creating an enormously complex interface one has to make due with its frequent missteps. If users ask for speed, and color and points of focus and so forth but they don't say I always want a dark suit to be brightened and white sky to be blackened than the software won't behave as such. It is metered according to light absorption and color is captured by reflection. 

I

Andrew Chen , May 03, 2013; 11:38 P.M.

It is surprising how Canon has managed to hang on to its customer base for so long, at least for photographers who are not into videos. Having been a long time Canon user, I ended up with my Canon 5D waiting for Canon to up its performance in low light performance especially to the level of Nikon's landmark D700.  I finally gave up years ago and got that D700 figuring Canon would take forever... indeed it's only with the 5D Mark III that it gets similar low light performance as the D700 (never mind the D800, D4 or D3s who are a stop or two ahead).

Regarding dynamic range, the Mark III is still lagging behind that old D700 (never mind the more recent Nikon bodies). This is based on DxO's very well regarded scientific evaluations at  http://tinyurl.com/Canon-Nikon-ISO

So unless you are into videos, there is no reason really to stay with the Canon bodies. Unless I am missing something big. Choice of lenses? Not really true anymore, what with the excellent new choices, either from Nikon, Sigma, Tokina, Zeiss, or Tamron.. 

PS. Why would high ISO performance count? It lets you shoot fast in low light, of course, just like in the old times you couldn't do much with ASA 64 film or even ASA 400 ..  Here's one example shot at ASA3200  1/125  f/2.8  http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycandre/6573782395/in/set-72157605710211478/

 

Pete Kusnick , July 21, 2013; 09:47 A.M.

It would be more useful if not already available for Canon to offer in DPP a tab for AF adjustments for the 5D3/IDX. Once the raw values are recorded one should be able to select any of the six cases and see how changes in the slider options affect it.

The same for color, contrast, sharpness etc. Of course these options are available to the user in LR or DPP but not as they directly relate to the camera mode.

Photographers make such a big deal about DOF and bokeh it makes it all such a hopelessly subjective criteria with little to no satisfaction. How is it that the AF can be so good under some circumstances while loss of detail from the metering sys makes the shots useless? Far too much time is spent on post editing that these cameras while popular today are facing strong headwinds from the vast buying public. It would enhance the positions of the manufacturers if they took a role in blogs and left the mindless tinkering of gear heads to their lofty sites on FB hidden from the view of the discerning public.

Andy F , September 13, 2013; 10:38 A.M.

Move along here, there isn't anything to see apart from a really bad review from someone who doesn't know how to use the camera. I've looked at a number of these images and interrogated them with DPP to look at the AF points used and also the EXIF.


All I can say is "GOOD GRIEF!" What do you expect? All the images I looked at  the camera was allowed to select the AF point.  You do realise that if you allow the camera to pick AF points it's likely to select the nearest thing to you don't you?

"OMG, My cousin isn't in focus!!" Try telling the camera WHAT YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON! Not letting it guess....

"My favorite page of the 400-page owner’s manual is devoted to Manual Focusing: (1) set the lens focus mode switch to [MF]; (2) Focus by turning the lens focusing ring until the subject looks sharp in the viewfinder". Well what did you expect it to say?

The baby with the sunglasses with the camera in servo mode isn't in focus? Well the camera isn't in servo mode for starters....

St patrick's cathedral- you could have gone down to ISO1600 for that one, easily. Even 800...

Also it seems that a lot of pictures were taken in program mode..... why?

As for the kid with the hoses in his ears. "The camera didn't recognise it as a backlit scene...". Why the hell should it? It was in evaluative metering mode! "The auto WB is off" What do you expect, it's trying to auto wb the majority of the scene, not the kid.


I could go on but I've had enough. If you want the camera to act like a P+S then buy a P+S or a rebel. If you want the camera to act like a pro camera then TELL IT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO! You should be in control of the camera, not the other way around.

Andy F , September 13, 2013; 05:54 P.M.

Pete Kusnick, I'm sorry but you really don't seem to understand the focus cases. They are merely adjusting algorithms that affect the autofocus system and how fast it responds to the subjects movement. It has nothing to do with the raw file and there is no way you can merely press a button to see how a different focus case would appear.


After reading a lot of other comments ion this page it appears that a lot of people "have all the gear and no idea".


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