This week is the “Great Render of 2012” churning out some time-lapse sequences for the television pilot I was working on last year. Since my poor iMac is maxing out with Premiere Pro rendering these sequences out to DVCPROHD format for the commercial editing suite, I figured now was as good a time as any to write a review of our latest piece of gear, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III! I’ve had the camera for about 2 solid weeks now and shot a full wedding and engagement session with them so far, and really loving the results as a huge jump from the Mark II – which is still a solid piece of gear. We only have one Mark III at the moment but will probably add a second midway through the 2012 wedding season and relegate our 2x Canon EOS 5D Mark II‘s and 3x Canon EOS 7D‘s as backup cameras and dedicated video cameras.
Autofocus and ISO Improvements
These are my two babies and the most important things to me as a wedding photographer. A lot of internet forums make fun of the 5D Mark II’s autofocus, maybe I was just used to it and understood it’s limitations but I still don’t think it’s THAT BAD. But of course, now that I directly compare it to a Mark III when using the cameras together the improvements are immediately obvious. Even the venerable EF 85mm f/1.2L II lens, the one I used to love to hate because of it’s painfully slow autofocus, is almost bearable now on the Mark III. Everything just feels more “snappy” with the Mark III and even when using a super shallow depth of field I’m getting a higher percentage of keepers.
Last weekend I tested the Autofocus on the dogs at the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge at Centennial Olympic Park, here is a quick example of using the AI Servo mode (case 5 I believe in the custom AF menu) to track these fast moving pups!
ISO 320 EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II @ f/2.8 1/3200 – AI Servo AF
Also improved is the focusing ability in low light, with the added number of crosspoint type focusing points, with new focus assist modes which tries to use neighboring AF points to focus on your main point. Last weekend’s wedding had a REALLY DARK reception hall and the Mark III preformed beautifully.
ISO 2,500 EF 50mm f/1.2L @ f/2.0 1/100 – Single Shot AF
The other improvement that last weekend’s dark wedding really shined, ISO expansion. The Mark II was “usable” and I say that in quotations up to about 4000 for receptions where a little grain and a hit of noise reduction proved pretty good. The new Mark III goes all the way up to 25,600 as a maximum ISO and that has raised the usable ISO up to 6400 in my opinion for noiseless images. Here is a shot at ISO 20,000 almost at the upper limit with no flash, and I think it looks darn good.
ISO 20,000 EF 50mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2 1/100 – Single Shot AF
A few more real world examples from last Thursday’s engagement shoot in Augusta, GA with our Indian wedding couple for December.
ISO 400 EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II @ f/2.8 1/250 – Single Shot AF
ISO 100 EF 50mm f/1.2L @ f/7.1 1/80 – Single Shot AF
And one more photo from Esther and Jonathan’s Korean wedding last weekend inside the church:
ISO 100 EF 50mm f/1.2L @ f/8.0 1/100 – Single Shot AF
Of course about the only negative I can see is the price, is it really worth an extra $1000+ over a brand new 5D Mark II? The Mark II is still a great camera and didn’t stop being a great camera just because it’s replacement came out. I’m sure plenty of working professionals will skip the Mark III or at least wait until the price drops to closer to $3000 at least. I for one am happy for the upgrades, including the lovely second memory card slot for that backup insurance in case your compact flash card fills up right at an important moment before you can swap out. If I were shooting landscapes or even product photography I probably would be hard pressed to find the extra cost worth the money when you are working in a more methodical nature using the LCD for focus and higher depth of fields.
Overall, highly recommended camera. I can see this lasting for years to come, just as the 5D Mark II has served us faithfully for years producing stunning images. I don’t have any wedding videography assignments coming up until mid-Summer but I can’t wait to really push those ISOs in the video realm for wedding receptions that would need external and obtrusive LED lights. Now you can truly be run and gun and really blend into the guests by pushing the ISO instead of turning on the bright video light. More testing coming soon, stay tuned to the blog!
Zachary Long is a wedding photographer based in Downtown Atlanta and available for destinations weddings worldwide. Check out our main wedding portfolio at http://www.FengLongPhoto.com/ and use the contact form to inquire about remaining 2012 and 2013 availability!