After using the Canon 5d Mark III for nearly two weeks, I can safely say that this latest model is the best digital SLR I’ve used to date. Canon has fine-tuned and improved on the features of the 5d series to such an extent that taking photos with the camera is truly a joyful experience.
The 5d Mark II was a great camera. However, its autofocus system, ergonomics and certain aspects of the image quality left something to be desired. For example, only the center focus point on the Mark II would reliably focus with precision and AI Servo mode had a hard time tracking moving subjects, i.e. kids, sports, etc. Also, trying to push images from the Mark II, even by a stop, caused artificial looking pattern noise to appear in the shadow regions, which was bothersome. It looks like the Mark III addresses these issues and then some.
Back in the film days, Canon produced some wonderful camera bodies such as the Canon 1N and 1V series. The camera bodies just felt great in your hand, were solidly built and made to last. It took Canon over 10 years, since introducing the D30 model, but we finally now have a Canon digital camera that is comparable to the professional film bodies.
The Mark III also allows you to personalize most cameras buttons to suit your needs. One of the first things I did was to modify the “SET” button to automatically zoom into an image at the focus point. I also programed the joystick on the back to let me select focus points manually by default.
+Build quality and weather sealing now at Canon 1N levels
+Customizable menus and buttons
Low ISO Image Quality
The Canon 5d Mark III seems to have slightly higher resolution and sharpness than the Mark II at low ISO settings (ISO 50-400). My comparison is based on RAW files processed using both Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) and Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC with all sharpness and lens correction parameters set to zero.
I shot a full frame image using a Canon 24-105mm f4 L lens @ f8 focused manually using Live View on the cereal box label (left-side of image) below.
Here is an example comparison using the “High Speed” DPP setting shot at ISO 100 (click on images to see actual size):
Adobe just released an update of Lightroom, which can handle Mark III RAW files. Here is a comparison of the RAW files using Lightroom 4.1’s processing engine:
It’s clear that the Adobe RAW converter is pulling in more details from the Mark III RAW file than Canon’s own software. I’m curious to see what improvements future upgrades to processing software will bring, although I’m quite happy with these current results.
Another quick experiment was to increase “Brightness adjustment” by +2 within DPP to see how the new sensor on the Mark III improves on its predecessor in terms of pattern noise at low ISO. The shadow areas on the Mark III are smoother with almost film like noise distribution, while the Mark II noise appears to be more artificially generated.
Here is a more practical example of how dynamic range and film-like grain can be useful in the field. I accidently underexposed the image below by a stop or so and had to fix it later in Lightroom 4.1. With the 5d Mark III, I was able to lift the shadows and get a good quality photo without artificial looking pattern noise showing on the subjects face.
Note: The Canon 5d Mark III comes with a software program to process RAW files called the Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP). In order to get the highest quality output from Mark III RAW files, I suggest you choose the “High speed” option in DPP versus “High Quality.” The current version 126.96.36.199 that ships with the Canon Mark III seems to have a software bug that effects the quality of the Mark III RAW files adversely compared to the Mark II.
+Image resolution, color and clarity noticeably better over the Mark II in RAW mode. Color gradients appear smoother and per pixel sharpness is higher.
+Dynamic range and pattern noise significantly improved from the Mark II as well. You can now afford to underexpose an image a stop or two without a headache.
+Grain structure is much more film-like than with the Mark II. B&W photos at high ISOs look great in particular now.
-HDR mode is fairly basic and didn’t find it super useful. Would be nice to have simulated graduated filter effects built in.
Here is a sampling of photos taken with the 5d Mark III during the first two weeks of ownership. It has been the most fun I’ve had using a camera body and produced the highest percentage of sharp / in focus photos of any digital body I’ve used to date.
Canon 70-300L @ 124mm, ISO 250, f/5.0, 1/320sec
Canon 16-35mm mark II @ 28mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/125 sec
Canon 16-35mm mark II @ 22mm, ISO f/5.6, 1/250 sec
Canon 70-300 @ 229mm, ISO 160, f/5.6, 1/250 sec
Canon 200mm 2.8L @ 2.8, ISO 2500, 1/250sec
Canon 85mm L mark II @ f/1.2, ISO 100, 1/1000 sec