Friday, March 23, 2012

Canon 5D Mark III First Thoughts–WOW, Canon is BACK!!!! (REAL WORLD SHOTS)

f/11 @ 115mm, 1/15 sec (handheld), ISO 4000 (70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM)
Click to download the original in-camera JPEG

I’ll admit for the last two generation of cameras, I’ve looked at my Canon gear and then looked at my Nikon’s friends high ISO shots and I’ve been very disappointed that I couldn’t get those results. When I reviewed the Nikon D7000, borrowed a friends D700, and used the D3s at the Olympics, I knew Nikon had the better product. Their ISO performance was impressive and their user controls made the cameras a joy to use. In fact, I often wondered if I should join legions of others and go to the Nikon camp.

5D Mark III ISO 25,600 - f/25 for 1/20sec Sample Imagef/25 for 1/20 sec at ISO 25,600 - 200mm (70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM)
Click to download the original in-camera JPEG

My Nikon D3s envy has been eliminated as I now own the best performing high ISO camera my hands have ever held and my eyes have ever seen. Click on the shot above to see the unmodified in-camera JPEG that shows what ISO 25,600 looks like using camera default settings. HOLY COW!!!!!!!

Now naysayers will pick at that shot, but it is totally usable to me. However, if that doesn’t impress you then behold this at ISO 100 (again using the nasty part of the lens at f/18):

f/18 for 6 sec at ISO 100 - 200mm (70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM)
Click to download the original in-camera JPEG

This camera is astonishing. It’s not just good, it’s incredible and way better than I expected. In fact, it’s so good it makes me wonder how the 1D X is going to be able to top this (beyond the obvious better battery life, different controls and fps). I certainly can’t see how it can be twice as good for twice the price!

100% Crop – Handheld
1/100 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1600 (
100mm macro – original)

Sadly I had a hard day at work today at the day job and didn’t get home until nearly 10:30 PM, but I had some time with it during a short break at work and this evening at home. Here’s my initial thoughts on some key areas:

  • In-Camera HDR – insane awesome – even handheld.
  • Build Quality –1D Mark IV like (this is no toy prosumer camera like the 5D Mark II)
  • Controls – BRILLIANT!!!! From the organization and the tactile feel, to the reprogramabilty of the hard buttons – WOOO-FREAKIN-HOOOO!!!!!!!!! I lust for NOTHING from Nikon here anymore!
  • Mirror Lockup – Accessible via first menu (great), but sadly not programmable to a hard button (I can live with that though)
  • AF performance – OUTSTANDING! This feels like the 1D X AF system that I saw in New York last fall – I can’t believe this camera has this much!!!!
  • Silent Mode – Works well, but doesn’t seem as quiet as the 1D Mark IV
  • Burst Mode – Yeah, only 6FPS but with a good memory card I was able to rattle off 32 shots tracking a car with only short pauses between shots after the first 6. I could totally live with this shooting kids sports.

There’s SOOOOOOOO much more in here than we’ve ever seen in a Canon Camera. Canon has FINALLY listened and picked up some of the goodness from Nikon and added SOOOOOOO much more usability to this camera.

Other than a big battery and faster FPS, I see no reason to keep my 1D Mark IV when I have this. This camera is a 100% pro body with just a smaller battery and an annoying knob instead of the pro buttons on the top.

It feels better built than the 7D in my opinion (and I previously thought that was the best overall consumer Canon body).

Other than EF-S support, I can’t see why Canon would do a 7D Mark II. With this there’s really no need unless they just want a fast FPS 5D Mark III with a crop sensor. However, if they do that then what’s the point of the 1D X? I just don’t see that happening.

I’m only looking through the rear panel LCD (which is very good but feels about the same as the previous gen), but ISO 25600 feels like ISO 6400 on the D7000 I reviewed last year. This is definitely a huge improvement over the 1D Mark IV and 5D Mark II.

I am extremely impressed and am wondering if I should even bother with the 1D X. I’ll still review one, but my need to purchase one just diminished DRASTICALLY!  I’m thinking I may just keep the 1D Mark IV and invest in the new 24-70 II lens.

AutoFocus Performance

Click for original and EXIF

I don’t smoke, but if I did and this camera was a woman I’d need a cigarette after what I experienced today! With the in-camera default settings, and handheld I just walked out the parking lot using my SLOWEST AF LENS EVER – the ORIGINAL 100mm macro and put the camera into Av and AI Servo and fired away. My first thought was “you’ve gotta be shitting me – this is as 5D!!!!!!” I was giggling like a schoolgirl that I just nailed a decent pano on my first try – HANDHELD (no monopod) and nearly all the frames were in focus. I thought this must be a fluke so I walked and instantly raised my camera and fired away at the that was passing immediately in front of me and check this out:

Click for original and EXIF

Yeah, I missed the car (my bad) but this was literally bring the camera up, quick pan and fire. I could only get two shots off but it just nailed it – with a dog slow old macro lens!!!!

I figured I could trip it up so I just pointed at a car and followed it (click here) until my view became obscured (bus drove in front of me). Despite it’s 6fps I was able to fire off 32 frames with no issues with the buffer (shooting RAW+JPEG) and I never had to wait. Sure it slowed down after the initial burst, but as you can see from this series it’s certainly good enough for kids sports, keeping up with toddlers, etc... I literally just pushed the button and tracked – nothing fancy here – still using the slow macro lens. Sure the first image was a touch out of focus, but the rest were pretty decent.

Go to the bottom of this article to see more info from Canon on how this AF system compares to the 1D Mark IV and 1D X.

Wedding, Event and Club Photographers

If you are a low light shooter that needs high ISO performance, this is your camera. However, this camera goes beyond just being usable at ISO 25,600. It also offers pro build quality, a sweet sensor, dual memory card (CF & SD) with redundant support, silent mode, great video, and more. It’s really quite impressive.

What about the RAW’s?

Well I’m sad to report that I don’t have a place to store the RAW’s where you can download them, but others online are sharing their raw’s so you can see more evidence of what I’m saying here. I can also say that Lightroom 4 doesn’t currently support importing them, so I had to use DPP to view the RAW files.

Really Right Stuff Users

I don’t use the L-bracket, but my 5D Mark II base bracket (B5D2 plate) worked fine on my 5D Mark III. I won’t be doing anything new for this camera.

More Sample Files

This Guy Loves the 5D Mark III!

Here’s more sample images:


I’ll do a more in-depth review with photos that don’t suck so bad, but I wanted to share my first impressions for those who are still on the fence. My initial impression is that this is the most enjoyable to use, well laid out, best performing (and easy to use) AF system, best high ISO camera I’ve ever used. It’s built like a pro camera and it is a suitable replacement for those with 1Ds Mark III’s. Personally

Order Yours Now - Special Offer (and IN STOCK!!!!)

Adorama still has units in stock (kit only) and they are even offering a good deal on Lightroom 4 ($50 off) and Eye-Fi ($15 off) if you buy them together.

See my unboxing video here


I paid full-price for this camera (zero discount) and was not paid a penny for this article from anyone. In fact, I’m pissed at Canon for not getting me one to review in advance. I give Adorama props for delivering this unit to me fast (just many others).

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Anonymous said...

Hi Ron,
I did also have a little time with this camera as well.
The high iso is awesome. Blows away my a1d IV Makes me really wonder about canceling my 1dx pre order.
I thought the in camera was a gimmick but have seen some great stuff on the web. Do you know if the 1dx will have this feature?
Dean Pearson

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about how this compares to the 7D for sports.

The high-ISO for indoor or evening/night sports would be absolutely killer. If you can't get more than F2.8, 1/250th, then the other features don't matter because you won't be using them.

However, having said that, a few other thoughts come to mind:

* The lack of reach will be a drawback. If you have a top lens - like a 70-200mm F2.8 IS II - then the density of the 7D will be a big advantage. Assuming you can shoot at an ISO that gives you that full resolution. If you don't have a top lens (say, you have an older 70-200mm F2.8 non-IS), then the 7D outresolves the lens and you don't get any extra reach.
* 8FPS vs 6FPS & smaller buffer. Depends a lot on your sport and how you shoot. I rarely shoot more than 5-6 shots at a time, so I don't think the buffer would bother me, but the lack of FPS is a big deal.
* Price. $3500 vs $1600. said...

March 25th Anonymous,

Where did you see anything that says the 5D Mark III has a smaller buffer than the 7D? It sure doesn't feel that way to me in practice. I wish the 1D Mark IV had a buffer this big!

There's no comparing this to the 7D - the image quality is so outstanding that you can crop the images to get your extra reach (which if you think about it, that's all a cropped sensor is effectively doing anyway) and the resulting cropped image will destroy the 7D image quality.

Even shooting RAW+JPEG (which for this camera means about 45MB per image), I've never run out of buffer. I went 32 frames before I got obstructed, but it was still going strong. In JPEG only the 6FPS never slowed down, so it felt extremely fast. I banged out about 50 shots before I just stopped, but it's a machine gun in JPEG only.

The ONLY reason I can see getting a 7D over this is price. Even it's extra FPS is hard to justfy given the fact that its sensor is so overwealmed with the megapixels its trying to provide that the resultant image isn't very good in my opinion.

Perhaps if you have some scenario like you are shooting people (or horses) head on crossing a finishing line or a moving bullet where every extra frame counts, then it would have advantage. However, for that type of stuff you want a lot more than 8FPS.


Anonymous said...

Great review. Question does the dial on the top of the camera have a locking feature to prevent accidental turning of the dial? I know my Mark II could be fitted with a device from Canon for around $100. I would hope that feature is part of the new Mark III said...

Anonymous, yes the mode dial lock is included. 1D series owners are going to love this camera!

Shot 300 shots of my son at the park today - all 300 perfect focus on his eye (or my intended target). The spot focus is the hidden gem nobody is talking about much, but it is insane good.

I love, love, love this camera! Thank you for listening Canon!!!!!!!!!!