Earlier this year well before the March 2nd announcement of the successor to the Canon 5D line was made, the Internet rumor mills were churning with mindless speculation on pixels and specs that would or would not be. I usually pay no mind to the speculation instead choosing to wait for an official release. A month or so after the official release I noticed that several of my main issues (mainly the autofocus performance and still capture rate) with the previous 5D mark II were addressed in the replacement so decided that I would sell my mark II bodies and upgrade.
Luckily without much effort, both of my older bodies sold fairly quickly and I was able to order 2 mark III kits shortly thereafter. Both the kits and the bodies were and still are very hard to find in stock. I was not able to located a body-only deal in stock anywhere local or online, however I did manage to nab a kit from Adorama in New York and a kit from Unique in New Jersey. The customer service departments of both companies were amazingly helpful. I even get a free 8×8 Adorama photo book via rebate with my order! Both kits pair the 5D mark III body with Canon’s 24-105mm f4L IS lens which is a pretty amazing piece of glass.
I have been using the Canon 5D mark II bodies for nearly 4 years. My first mark II body was one of the first off the production line back around Thanksgiving of 2008. I fell in love with it instantly and eventually traded in my second body, a 1D mark III body for a second 5D mark II and have used the pair ever since.
Ever since breaking the cameras out of the box earlier this week, I have tried to use any free time to familiarize myself with the new features and menu options. After completing my first proper job with the camera I am happier than ever. It took a bit longer since a lot of the buttons and menus have changed, but overall it was a success. I had to download Lightroom 4.1 RC in order to process the RAW files, but after that it was a breeze. Unfortunately I am unable to post the images here due to contractual obligations, but trust me the files are nice! All of the obvious big fixes such as the autofocus, high ISO noise and frame rate performed as advertised.
The next few days and weeks are booked pretty solid, so in anticipation of those opportunities to really unleash this camera’s potential I have compiled the “Top Ten Best Things About The Canon 5D Mark III” list.
Disclaimer: This list (in no particular order) is a fun way to showcase a handful of things that have me excited about the new cameras during my first few days with them. I was fully aware of most of the “big-deal”, advertised upgrades before purchasing so most of these are of the not-so-obvious variety.
1. LOCKING MODE DIAL
The mode dial on the 5D mark III is largely the same as its predecessors; there are the common modes such as manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, 3 fully user customizable modes, and then there’s program, full auto and bulb. If you’re at all like me you only really utilize the first three. The mode dial on the 5D mark III locks! There is a small button in the top of the button that must be pushed down in order for the dial to turn, much like a child-proof medicine bottle. This was not an issue when I used the 1D line, however in recent years, using the 5D line, there were a handful of occasions where my mode dial was knocked out of place for whatever reason. Not so much in a studio setting, but in crowed streets on a travel assignment, it is destined to happen sooner or later…and it did. It was never too much of an issue, however if the dial is inadvertently switched without your knowledge there could be a few moments of confusion before you figure out what went awry and in those moments you could have missed a shot.
2. CUSTOMIZABLE BUTTONS
The 5D mark II allowed this to a certain extent but the mark III allows for so much more and allows you to do so with way more ease. There are 10 buttons and dials that can each be customized to do a variety of different tasks. I always have my shutter button activate metering and NOT autofocus and utilize rear-button focusing, but this was easily done in previous models. What I really like is the ability to customize the depth-of-field preview button. I’m unsure if there is a real use for this in today’s age, but yes, that little button to the right of the lens mount can be re-configured to do something useful and you get to pick what you want it to do! There are 13 options for this button including turning it off completely, but why do that when you can (drumroll please) TURN IT INTO AN ELECTRONIC VIEWFINDER LEVEL!? For shooters that are as particular about lines and perspective as I am, this is a feature that melts my heart. Not only does this camera have an electronic level that is viewable on the rear LCD, but an electronic level that illuminates while looking through the viewfinder. The previously useless DOF preview button has now transformed into an awesome asset. The VF level uses the red autofocus points to indicate tilt, both side to side (roll) and front and back (pitch) and it is largely accurate (believe me I tried). It also makes your viewfinder look like a flight simulator!
3. BUILT IN MULTIPLE EXPOSURE
This is another oft overlooked software feature, however one that I greeted with a smile. A few years back when the Nikon D3 and similar came out, I remember trying out the cameras and loving their built in multiple exposure mode. It was kind of a pain to turn on and off again, however I absolutely loved having control of that creative aspect on the fly. I tend to get crazy in Photoshop on occasion and turn a simple portrait into a more of a graphic piece. It’s nice to have that feature available on my own camera bodies to use whenever I see fit. There are several different mode options for the merging of the different captures, as well as the option to have up to 9 images in one merged frame. I haven’t had too much time to explore this feature but I know it’ll allow me to be that much more creative in the field.
4. “RATE” BUTTON
The first two 5D bodies had the option to “protect” an image, but the mark III takes this feature and runs with it. There is a dedicated button labeled “RATE” to the left of the rear LCD that is used to mark images with 0-5 stars. The “RATE” button can also be programmed to “lock” images which prevents the file from accidental deletion. Rating is especially useful when you review images during a shoot and you KNOW you nailed a shot. In that case you can mark or “rate” that image with a star designation in the camera. Upon ingest the images will be marked with that same star rating in your program of choice. It definitely works in Camera Bits Photo Mechanic as well as Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC. If you are on a deadline and want to be able to locate a particular image or a set of selects from a group of thousands this feature will allow you to do so with ease and you don’t have to delve into a buried menu in order to access the feature.
5. © COPYRIGHT INFO
This is one that is sure to be overlooked but is pretty useful as well. In this day and age copyright and proper metadata are everything to a professional working photographer. The 5D mark III allows the user to customize the author’s name as well as enter other applicable copyright info such as contact info or other details pertaining to the rights of the images. Imaging professionals should be applying thorough and updated IPTC / metadata to every image they produce and this is easily accomplished not only with Canon’s own software but in a lot of third party imaging applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Bridge and Photo Mechanic. Images are going to be misused on the web that’s unfortunately the way of the world, however this little built-in tool allows the photographer to automatically embed their individual copyright info every time the shutter clicks. Of course this is simply the first step. If you are a working professional and want to really understand how to protect your images, check out the American Society of Media Photographers’ (ASMP) copyright tutorial to learn more. http://asmp.org/content/registration-counts
6. DUAL MEDIA SLOTS
Another awesome 1D series feature that finally migrated over is the addition of a second media card slot. I would have actually preferred dual CF card slots like some of the more recent Nikon bodies have featured, however I will happily take the addition of 1 CF card slot and 1 SD card slot. I have a whole wallet full of SD cards ranging from 8GB to 32GB that I really only use with my GoPro camera outfit and I since I only use the GoPro setup occasionally the SD cads usually sit idle. From now on I plan to keep a formatted 32GB SD card in camera so that I will ALWAYS have a backup ready to go in the instance that I make the boneheaded and rare move of forgetting my card wallet. Additionally, If I’m in a pressure situation the camera will automatically start writing data to the backup SD card when my primary CF card fills up, which means no more disrupting the flow of a shoot or missing shots due to a card change. The ability to allocate certain file types i.e.. movie files and RAW files to different slots is certainly useful on its own merit.
7. IMPROVED ZOOMING (CHIMPING)
The 5D mark II allowed you to zoom in incrementally up to 10x which was nice however the mark III allows you to zoom in 100% to truly verify proper focus and sharpness via the rear LCD. You can also program the zoom button to automatically zoom into the focus point 100% which is an invaluable time-saving feature. The settings are way more customizable but the way I have it set at the moment is to display the focus point in red when I hit the playback button. When I hit the magnify button once, the image will zoom into the point of focus and display that point at 100% resolution so that I can check for accurate focus. I can then use the main dial to zoom in and out of the image as well as the multi-directional button to navigate around the image.
8. VIEWFINDER GRID
This one joins #2 on this list in playing on my sensibilities as a photographer and artist. My style, not just in photography, is rooted in very clean, straight lines, so naturally I used the Canon Eg-D Precision Matte Focusing Screen with Grid in both of my 5D mark II’s. I actually realized shortly after selling my first mark II body that I had inadvertently forgot that I had switched out the original focusing screen for the grid screen and forgot to switch the screens back before sending the body off to its new owner. Before I shipped the second body off I replaced the original screen, however my frustration and labor were in vain. It wasn’t until I got my new cameras in that I realized that there was a new feature called “VF grid display” which when enabled displays a 3×3 grid in the viewfinder. So instead of having to purchase the additional $30 grid screen and carefully switching out the screens on your own with the funny Canon tool, this model has a built in (digital) one that is turned on and off with ease! There are also several improved grid options available on the rear LCD during playback.
During the first couple of years of mark II ownership I was working with a documentary film company and using the camera to film scenes in a documentary movie. The camera was revolutionary in the DSLR film world at the time and I loved what I was able to do. When the 7D came out I found myself envious of the 60fps capture option. Although I don’t work in the movie realm as much anymore I occasionally produce multimedia pieces and the ability to be able to capture 60fps and convert to 24fps for a slow-mo shot is definitely a feature I love. I wish I was able to capture 120fps in 1080p, but I’m reaching.
10. IN CAMERA RAW PROCESSING
This is another software feature that some may discount, but it has some awesome functionality. The mark III has the ability to take a RAW file and adjust exposure, white balance, lens distortion, picture style, quality settings and more, IN-camera. After these settings are applied it allows you to save a copy with the applied settings. Sure most studio shooters will have the camera tethered to a computer, however if you are in the field and tethering or reviewing is not an option you can easily view your file with some minor tweaks and get a good idea of the final product right from the comfort of your own camera.
Overall, I am completely and 100% in love with this camera. I have faith that if there are any serious issues software or hardware, Canon will do whatever necessary to get them sorted out, but for the moment I am issue-free and happy with my upgrades. My two previous mark II bodies went to 5 different continents and countless countries and worked flawlessly. I’m excited to see where these guys take me.
PS: All images of the Canon 5D mark III taken by a Canon 5D mark III
PPS: If you have recently bought one of these cameras and have a feature to add, let me know!
PPS: Since I ordered the kits I have not one, but TWO Canon 24-105mm f4L IS USM lenses for sale. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested!