Having been a fan and avid user of the Canon 5D Mark II for some time, along with several incarnations of the Canon 1D series, I was anxious for something that was a bit more of a combo between the two. The 5D had the resolution, the high ISO performance, full frame capabilities, and a very comfortable size. The 1D series had the autofocus speed and tracking capabilities, the more rugged build and weather sealing, and the fast frames per second. “If Canon can somehow merge these, I could have the perfect camera for my needs,” I thought. That camera is here and it is the 5D Mark III.
Obviously for high-end sports/PJ shooters the 1Dx might be the ultimate tool in the camera bag, and I am anxious to try one out, but for half the cost the 5D Mark III is an unbelievable camera. It jumps the 5D Mark II in so many areas by such large leaps and bounds that part of me is surprised they named it the 5D Mark III at all. My guess is this has more to do with video functions/capabilities that I’m not as familiar with than the still photo upgrades.
When I first took mine out in the field I was most curious about the claimed improved AF tracking abilities, the 61-point AF system, and the 6 frames per second speed. I was shocked. While not as consistent following a fast-moving subject as say the 1D Mark II N or Mark IV, the 5D Mark III is very impressive. Light and day ahead of the Mark II and much, much better than the 7D. With time and some tweaking in the AF menus, this camera will be a more than capable performer for many of my sports shooting needs. Six FPS isn’t quite enough to create sequences of many of the tricks I need to shoot for Alliance Wakeboard Magazine, but in a lot of cases it is actually just fine.
While the improved speed and overall performance upgrades impressed me most, the high ISO capabilities take a very close second. Actually, it could be a tie. I love my Mark II for its high-ISO performance. Shooting at 1,600 ISO without any worries is pretty nice. Much like with the AF and speed, the Mark III blows the Mark II out of the water. I recently shot an action photo of a wakeboarder riding at dusk at ISO 2000 that I would have no issues running as a full spread in Alliance. It’s that clear with that little noise.
This past weekend I photographed a wedding for a good friend of mine who is also a photographer (who loves his 5D Mark II). When he found out I’d gotten a 5D Mark III he was jealous, but quite happy that I’d be able to use it to photograph his big day. I showed him some of the pictures I’d taken at higher ISOs and he was floored. His ceremony took place in a small, log-cabin like church in a mountain town an hour outside of Montreal. The lighting was dim, but I wasn’t too worried. I shot away happily and with confidence with the Mark III and after the ceremony told the groom I’d just shot the whole thing on ISO 4000. His reply was, “Damn, you’re really going to make me go buy one of those right after I get married, aren’t you?”
Using the 5D Mark III is a blast, and I haven’t shot a single video clip on it yet. Having used 1D series bodies for so long it is actually kind of nice to run around with something a bit smaller and lighter. I will probably add a vertical grip down the road for convenience and improved battery life, but have yet to run into a situation where I’ve thought I really needed it. Overall I really can’t say enough good things about the Mark III. If you’re a shooter of the Mark II and looking for something with better performance, then this is hands down the camera for you. I can’t comment on the video side because I’ve yet to use it and don’t know much about it. I am curious to see how the files from the Mark III hold up against the 1Dx in real world situations, but for now am very happy with newest version of the 5D as it seems to be a camera that suits such a wide variety of needs so well it might not ever need to be upgraded.
Here is a sequence to show some of the AF tracking capabilities, speed, and 6 FPS. This was shot using AI-Servo AF w/ a single AF point selected toward the top middle of the frame.