I wrote a post awhile back about my first impressions with the canon 5dmkiii after only a few days with the camera, but after spending nearly three weeks traveling and shooting several thousand photos I definitely have a better feel for this camera. There are definitely benefits to 100% crops, ISO noise comparisons and similar semi-scientific tests, but the rest of the internet has that covered so I’m going to focus on my impressions as a professional – and comparisons to the 5d mk ii which I’ve used for the last 3 1/2 years… (has it been that long already?) Here are the photos from the trip – after which I wrote this post - https://www.dnkphotography.com/blog/2012/05/05/sw-2012-canon-5dmkiii-landscape-photos/

Auto Exposure Metering: With the 5dmkii I shot almost exclusively in manual exposure. The metering varied so much from shot to shot, and AE adjustment was ALWAYS getting moved around with the little spinny wheel. The technical improvements in the metering system definitely transfer into real world improvements. I shot much of this trip on aperture mode and my exposures were much more accurate than I would have hoped for. Also, both of the wheels on the 5dmkiii have a locking mechanism so you will no longer accidentally change your shooting mode OR your exposure balance when shooting with an auto metering setup.

LCD: The screen on the 5dmkii wasn’t bad, but this one is better! The auto brightness works quite well (as long as you don’t put your hand over the sensor) and it is easy to see colors and detail in your shots.

Weather Sealing: I essentially ruined my 5dmkii with sand last spring on Matagorda Island so I was a little wary taking my new camera near sand since It is unlikely I would be able to get my hands on a new one before wedding season. However, I did not need to fear! My desire for getting my shots overcame the fear of ruining my camera and I ended up exposing the camera to more blowing sand than I would have liked. When I got back to camp and opened up all the little doors, not a grain had snuck in. The 5dmkii allowed sand into the memory card and battery compartment a little too easily, but the 5dmkiii’s improved sealing kept all the compartments perfectly clean.

ISO noise: I didn’t do any side by side testing with the old camera, and what I used for my raw editing was the adobe camera raw 6.7 Release Candidate, so it is possible that the raw engine from adobe will improve over time.  Here is my gut impression. The noise level below 1600 ISO is the same or slightly higher than with the old camera. 3200 iso is slightly better, 6400 is at least a full stop better if not 1 1/2 stops better. 12800 is about as noisy as 6400 iso on the 5dmkii, BUT the quality of the grain is much much better with this camera. There is much less banding, and their aren’t really any ugly grain patterns like their was with the old camera. I would definitely feel comfortable using 12800 iso on a wedding day if need be, and I am very happy with the improvements in the quality of the grain/ noise.

Auto Focus: For my take on the much improved AI servo modes you can see my first impression and auto focus tests for the 5d mkiii The long and the short of it is that this camera actually focuses where you point it! My troublesome prime lenses (24 1.4 and 50 1.2) finally focus accurately, and the focusing speed on the 24mm is especially noticeable. There is a lot to be said for the new focusing system. It makes the 5dmkii focus system look about 20 years old, and is a big step up over the 7d system as well. Canon actually decided to put a professional level auto focus system in this camera!

Fit/Feel/Usability: In general, this camera feels more solid than the old one. I’m not positive if that is because it is new (compared to my very tired 5dmkii) or if it is because it is actually built better. There are a handful of new buttons (which are customizable) and TONS of new features. A lot of the features are things that I didn’t know I needed, but are welcome improvements that will make my life better.  One big one that I have been using is the dual card slots. I bought my self a wireless SD card made by eye-fi and have been enjoying shooting directly to my android phone and to our ipad. I am still trying to figure out if I would use this in a professional capacity or just for fun. You have the option to shoot continuously from one memory card to the next, have the cards mirror one another, shoot separate image types to each card, or copy individual files from one card to the next.  Overall Canon did a great job of keeping what was right about the 5dmkii and improving what was wrong. It’s a new camera, but it won’t feel strange if you’re used to the mkii.  Most of the buttons are customizable, and most people will be able to change this camera to have all the same button layouts of the old one.  One thing that changed that I’ll just have to deal with is that they added a dedicated zoom button, and allow you to access zoom through the “set” button, but zooming in and out is done with the top scroll wheel rather than the through + – button on the upper right of the mkii. Just a little thing, but I’m sure others will find something that they were used to being moved or changed.
A couple features that are new that I have enjoyed using – a leveling system (viewfinder and lcd), in camera raw processing, ability to rank/ star images, ability to auto zoom to 100% on to the autofocus point during playback, auto HDR, ability to overlay multiple exposures, a dedicated movie button and a silent shooting mode (live view and traditional shooting mode).

Overall – There are improvements for just about everyone in this camera: better weather sealing for the outdoorsey types, better autofocus for action and event photographers. There is better ISO performance for indoor sports, weddings and events, and better video (for fun or professionals). For all those photographers who scoff at making videos: you should try it out. The quality from these cameras is ridiculous, and video is just a different way to tell a story. Overall, I’m very happy with all the improvements. For those of us who make a living with our cameras it is sometimes hard to decide if a new camera will pay for itself VS hanging on to an older camera. I guess the answer to that would depend on the way you shoot now. If you’re pushing the limits in terms of autofocus (action or shooting wide open primes) and high ISO performance on your mkii , and those are the types of shots your customers want from you than it’s probably worth upgrading from the 5dmkii; the improvements in autofocus and high ISO noise alone make this a worthwhile purchase for me.  If you’re looking to buy your first full frame camera (and money means anything to you) You’ll probably be thrilled to pick up a lightly used 5dmkii for $1500-$2000  less than the new mkiii and be much better off saving your $$ for new lenses or hardrives to hold all the huge raw files you’ll start collecting.

Check out this post for photos from this years south west road trip – all were taken with the new Canon 5d mkIII and edited with adobe camera raw. The editing on these files was really minimal – basic color correction and some sharpening.


Canon 5d MKIII – review and impressions was last modified: May 5th, 2012 by DnK Photography