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Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

D. Krishnan December 26 | Updated on December 24, 2012

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Test shot from EOS 5D Mark III

Test shot from EOS 5D Mark III

Test shot from EOS 5D Mark III

Canon’s latest full frame camera EOS 5D Mark III has to follow the footsteps of its illustrious predecessor. Is it a worthy upgrade and does it offer enough to please the serious professional’s thirst for more, while rewarding him with some arm-chair features? Our test review has the answers.

Features overview

The review unit was delivered to our test bench with a 24-105 mm F4 IS USM lens. The EOS 5D Mark III is a 22.3 mega pixels full frame 35mm camera. Unlike the predecessor’s 3.9 fps, the Mark III offers a shooting speed of 6 frames per second, and loads up 61 Auto focus points and a 63 zone metering system. The camera’s shutter life is 150,000 cycles.

Canon has reworked almost every bit of the software and there are many hardware additions too in the 5D Mark III. It is almost a complete overhaul of the 5D Mark II which it replaces.

The new camera has many novel features, like HDR capture , HD movie capture, multi exposure mode, 100 per cent viewfinder, touch-response rear dials for video controls and a new 'rating' button which makes image/video selection on the go possible, to name a few.

Lightweight but hardy, the 5D Mark III manages to combine what would seem to be opposite ends of the spectrum of users. It expands the level of manual intervention and settings tweaks possible and yet offers in camera HDR, more video recording capability, dual card slots (SD and CF capability) and suppressed shutter noise levels.

The 5D Mark III is capable of 1080p HD video, with 24, 25 or 30 frames per second. But, of course, what interested me more was its ISO capability of 25,600 expandable to 102,400.

Performance

One of the key parameters that most photographers look out for is low noise at high ISOs. This is an absolute necessity for sports photography, and for getting good results indoors and outdoors at night.

I set the ISO at 12,800 and photographed my jet black great Dane with a white snout against a cream toned wall lit only by a single tube light in the room. The white balance was set to Auto. The result as seen on the camera’s 3.2-inch LCD screen was excellent, the blacks and whites reproduced faithfully without a tinge of a colour cast. After checking the result on my iMac, I found the noise levels to be within acceptable levels.

After stepping up the ISO to 25,600, I took the camera to the beach near by. The auto white balance couldn’t correct the colours taken under the street light and the auto focus couldn’t handle the low light near the waves. However, the high ISO could handle the low light on the manual focus mode.

The next set of pictures was taken in good evening light at a farmhouse holding an event for pets. With the ISO set at 640, the focus was fast so was the continuous shooting at 6 frames per second, the colours and contrast were good, but the pictures required a bit of sharpening.

The final test was at a music concert where I shot with ISO`s ranging between 2,000 to 25,600. Although the noise levels was low the images got progressively soft and a bit of out of camera sharpening was required and this resulted in a progressive build up in noise levels and vignetting at the corners was more pronounced

I tried the highlight tone priority on a bright day on white benches, and the dynamic range of the camera was sufficient to hold all highlight tones, and the highlight tone priority mode could not contribute much by way of (highlight) tonal range addition. The dynamic lighting function, which builds shadow and darker mid tones information works well as it should. Though, I prefer to turn it off to preserve the original lighting contrast.

For RAW shooters, who can afford post production, the image quality is excellent. The camera comes only with a monoaural mike input, so for sound, seperate Digital stereo sound recording gear may be necessary.

In still photo mode, low contrast images do not render too well, though the camera responds immaculately and quickly to any situation, largely because of the new Digic 5+ processor. Low contrast images tend to go a bit too soft and appear muddy. Even in the default settings, sharpening artefacts are visible and at higher ISOs, the image rendering is not optimal, with details getting obscured especially in low contrast areas. The absence of an AF illuminator makes auto focus functions difficult in low light.

Verdict

On the whole, despite some of the issues, this is a sizeable upgrade by Canon. Though, I was bit disappointed also by the lower image size. I expected Canon to bring out at least a 25 or 30 MP camera with full video capabilities. This camera is perfect for some one who already has a good stack of Canon lenses and seriously wants to upgrade and for the shooter who does both still photography in RAW mode and a bit of Video shooting.

In short : Impressive low light performance in RAW, particularly if the scene is ‘contrasty’. Images are eminently usable upto 25,600 ASA.  

At 16,000 ASA, blacks are very good and the image is smooth. From 5,000 ASA all the way up to 12,500 ASA, images are silk smooth with very little noise.  

In JPEG mode though, the de-noising feature overcompensates and tends to create unnatural rendering.

Love – low noise at very high ISO levels, good image processor

Hate – no AF assist light

Rs 2,50,095 (with EF 24-105 F4L IS USM kit)

dkrishnan@thehindu.co.in

Published on December 24, 2012

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