Since far back in 2005 relatively inexpensive full-frame camera Canon EOS 5D became in America de-facto standard tool of a huge number of photographers, who either worked on commission, or consider themselves hobbyists. Tens of millions of photos have been taken with this camera in a wide variety of situations. When in following model – Canon EOS 5D Mark II – the resolution has been increased, possibility of video recording has appeared, not only photographers but also film crews of different TV channels have adopted it.
To estimate possibilities of the next modification of the legendary camera – Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and at the same time to compare it with top-level models of the same manufacturer, I carried out a field test in the wilderness. Compared to the Canon EOS 1D Mark IIII, the latest Canon EOS 1Dx reporter and the still-important Canon EOS 5D Mark II. And of course there was a lot of different optics, necessary in the trip. But first I’ll describe the most expected and unexpected differences.
CMOS, 22.3 million pixels, 24×36 mm
interchangeable, EF mount
Stabilization in some Canon and third-party lenses
Yes, body is designed to be waterproof
pentaprism, coverage of 99% of frame, additional information displayed on frosted glass
Tiltable, 1 million pixels
61 focus points, 41 of which were cross-focus. Modes: multi-point, center, user-selectable focus point, focus expansion system around selected, single, tracking, intelligent tracking, manual
Shutter speed ranges
30-1/8000 s., Long handheld, flash sync up to 1/200 s
P, A, S, M, Intelligent Auto + mode, three positions for preset flash modes
63-zone, multi-sigment evaluation, center-weighted, partial or spot, ± 5 EV correction
External system or studio flash only
ISO Auto 100-12,800 limit, ISO 100-25,600, expandable to 50, 51,200 and 102,400 ISO
RAW, RAW+JPG, JPG
CompactFlash simultaneously or separately with SD
Single, continuous up to 6 fps, continuous up to 3 fps, self-timer with delay, remote shutter, 2 silent modes, multi exposure up to 9 frames JPG and RAW
Full HD with auto focus, manual focus, manual or auto exposure control
miniUSB B , miniHDMI C , external stereo microphone, headphone output, external power, remote release button N3, optional WiFi and GPS, wireless remote control
LP-E6 battery, 7.2 V, 1800 mAh
152×117×77 mm body
Approximate price point
~115 000 Dollars. body
It seems to me that the camera has collected all the best features of its “clubmates” in its dustproof body. Additional information is projected onto the frosted viewfinder glass, like in Canon EOS 7D and Canon EOS 1Dx. Two card slots make it more versatile, especially when photographers use other devices. You can split the recording of different file types, such as RAW to CF, and JPG, which must be promptly transferred to the customer, to the more common in the non-photographic world SD.
The menu has changed a little, becoming similar to the system installed on a top reporter’s DSLR. The shutter life is a guaranteed 150,000 operations, which is understandable since the continuous shooting speed of a full-frame camera has been raised to 6 frames per second. New Digic 5+ processor promises significantly faster processing of footage.
The P, A, S and M mode selector can no longer be accidentally rotated and is held in place by a special spring-loaded button. Next to the shutter release button, there is a specially tuned button which can be used to control the function you want. Otherwise, the control system is very close to previous models.
But I was especially pleased with the sharpness focusing system. “Five has always lacked the tenacity of autofocus, especially at dusk. Only the center point was reliable, so many photographers were forced to use more expensive models. The newcomer has a focusing system that is almost identical to that of Canon’s flagship series. The autofocus sensor has 61 focus points. All of them work with different groups of lenses according to a certain algorithm, which you have to study the manual to understand.
It’s no secret that autofocus is especially needed where the subject is moving quickly and erratically. Even taking pictures of a child in a studio with good light can be a problem, not to mention wildlife scenes. A new sensor is here to solve the problem of autofocus. The 61 points it possesses are divided into 3 groups of cross-shaped sensitivity points. These points work successfully with most lenses, whose aperture ratio lies between 1/1.2-1/2.8.
In addition the 5 center points become diagonally cross-shaped, which is supposed to provide a fantastically accurate focus. Helped by 20 more horizontal sensitivity points. But in some lenses, especially wide-angle and in my favorite 24-70/2.8 L, all other things being equal, the cross diagonal sensor remains only 1 central .
When shooting with lenses with aperture ratio of 1/2.5 to 1/5.6 the diagonally sensitive sensors can no longer do their job, only the central segment remains cross-precise, while the side segments become sensitive to horizontal lines. This is illustrated simply. For example, the 100-400/4,5-5,6 lens could only focus on a cluster of vertical forest trunks in the central focusing zone. Fortunately, the viewfinder only displays the focus points that can be actuated with this lens, and that saves you from mishaps.
To operate such a complex system, especially in the tracking focus mode, one should use a special menu, using either presets or one’s own experience and relying on the manual, which finally contained some tips on tuning such an important function . I think that photographers taking pictures of children, sportsmen or wildlife will greatly appreciate this innovation.
Let’s check noise, detail, high sensitivity performance by comparing to the other pretty high end cameras I listed above. We will shoot RAW+JPG with the same optics in the same lighting conditions. Results: Between 100 and 1600 ISO with the Built-in Noise Reduction set to “Standard” the camera gave practically indistinguishable images, but with slightly reduced number of small details.
The next test shot showed that if you turn off noise reduction, you can achieve a lot more detail and sharper outlines when converting from RAW. By the way, exactly the same picture is observed with Canon EOS 1Dx, but there the amount of small details is visually even less. Further, when shooting at 3200 and 6400 ISO, the noise increases slightly in the defocus and shadow areas.
In general, 6400 ISO is probably adequate for reportage and other types of photography. I don’t see the point in using 100 or 200 ISO, a base setting of 400 or 800 ISO would be fine. And in special cases, when you need to use 8000 or 12,800 ISO, I suggest you shoot in RAW and then use specialized software to reduce the noise.
However, there is a downside. File sizes have increased tremendously, for example, a RAW at 6400 ISO takes 33 megabytes. Pumping and processing such a large amount of data requires fast memory cards and greatly limits the continuity of continuous shooting. But photo quality, compromise between its detail and noise level, in Canon EOS 5D Mark III is the best among all representatives of line of professional photo SLR cameras Canon, available on sale today.
I decided to do my test photography in the wild in the Galichya Gora Nature Reserve in Lipetsk region, and then in the world-famous Oka State Reserve, where a successful breeding and release of the rarest Yakut crane into the wild.
Another great challenge I set myself at the Galichya Gora Bird of Prey Nursery, where they raise Gyrfalcons. The Gyrfalcon is one of the fastest and rarest birds in the nature, can reach speeds of up to 100 meters per second. The flight of the gyrfalcon was what I tried to capture with the new automatic tracking focus system.
It wasn’t possible at the first attempt: during the day the Gyrfalcon makes only one flight and if it finds some food the assistants don’t dare to make it fly up again, they take care of the bird. The first day I shot in RAW. The bird was coming towards me, approaching at high speed. The tracking focus was pretty confident in keeping the bird in the frame for a couple of seconds, then the buffer was full, I managed to get only 6 frames and the bird flew right by me and into the sky.
The analysis showed that the focus point was not on the bird’s beak and eye, but further away, on the wings. So the next day, at sunset, I switched to JPG, which saved me from overflowing the camera buffer. I changed the autofocus tracking settings to faster, turned on the whole center group of points and on the first flight I got the desired result of the series of frames.
That evening, I decided to test the camera’s high ISO capability and went to visit an owl I knew when his eyes adjusted to the twilight. I shot through the branches of a spruce, where a huge bird had found its shelter. I did not use a tripod so as not to disturb the disturbed bird. I used Live View to focus on the reflection in the bird’s iris, continuous silent shooting mode and IS system.
The new high dynamic range imaging system was used by the manufacturer for the first time, although it had long been used by competitors. I tried it with two of the types of shots that travelers often take. The morning scene with the sun in the frame was shot in HDR mode without a tripod. The results were a bit worse than what I could do with just RAW processing in a camera converter. There is some blurring of detail in the shadows. The detail smearing in the highlights of the resulting JPG file was slightly worse than in RAW, but I could get even that image much faster.
I decided to use the multiple exposure mode in an unconventional for this kind of macro shooting. First I took a shot of a microscopic longhorned beetle in its natural habitat. But the right edge of the frame turned out to be very dark, and in spite of the rarity of the object, the photo caused unpleasant impression by its bad tonal composition. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III helped remedy this situation. I defocused the macro subjects, put a section of the plant on the right side of the frame where the subject lived, selected the saved RAW and took a second exposure.
I got an obvious overlight, but after several tries the frame came together, not only in JPG, but also in RAW, which casts doubt on the requirements of some photo contests to provide them with a RAW as an incontestable original. Only a photographer could estimate how useful this feature is in reportage photography, but in art, stunt, fashion and many other types of shooting it is a good tool to bring us back to the days of creative film photography.
A standard soft-light landscape was no problem at all, astonishing in the amount of detail that reveals itself when printed at large sizes or viewed on large, high-resolution LCD screens.
Ordinary macro photography amazed by the number of details, precise study of small details of insects living their usual life, the purpose of which is feeding and reproduction.
Convinced of the new possibilities of Canon EOS 5D Mark III, I accepted the offer to shoot the training of cranes in flight behind the leading hang-glider, conducted by Yuri Markin, director of the Oksky Biosphere Reserve, a well-known enthusiast in crane conservation and their return to the wild. In a way, Yuri was my teacher in understanding nature, in what, how and where a wildlife photographer has the right to do.
Doing a portrait of Jura, explaining the rules of conduct for journalists, I could see the huge contrast between the lighted background and the face of my hero standing in the deep shadows. I introduced every conceivable light correction, positive foreground correction, set the sensitivity high enough and opened the aperture fully to make the over-lit background softer through optical retouching. Everything has turned out.
The culmination of the event, the first and only attempt. A few journalists filming in the evening are hiding in the bushes, we are supervised by the Reserve inspectors who are ready to stop us from going out into the visible part of the road. In the distance the “mother” hang-glider roars, and a small flock of cranes trains before flying to remote Yakutia. I set the sensitivity higher in advance: I’m sure of it. Already proven tracking focus helps. They say he who has seen a Siberian Crane will be happy. I and a Canon EOS 5D Mark III not only saw but also took a few pictures through the branches and against the background of the setting sun.
Amazingly, a few days later I got to the Arctic Circle, to the unique Novosibirsk islands, and I was really, photographically happy there. A belief has come true!
Within Canon’s lineup of new cameras, the 5D Mark III is the professional, unique model with the best detail. It has everything except a flip down screen and a GPS module. However, all of this can be purchased separately. A person who does not go beyond the limits of the photo studio probably does not need all the innovations of this model.
But for a photographer working in field conditions the camera will provide almost all the necessary comforts, especially if he has a set of excellent, reliable, high-aperture and almost indestructible “native” optics. In my personal ranking, I’ve moved the camera from the category of studio and slow-moving to the category of reportage, designed for the actively traveling photographer whether it’s a blogger, freelance reporter, or photography professional .
In conclusion, I would like to thank the staff of two nature reserves, Vladimir and Lyusya Sarychev, Yuri Markin and the Itera Company, without whose participation the photo shoot could not have taken place.
Tests in pictures
Trapper Falcon Gyrfalcon on the attack.
Lens 500 mm, 2000 ISO, shutter speed 1/1000 sec to prevent blurring of the bird’s wings , f/7.1 aperture to increase the depth of field in such a dynamic scene, albeit slightly .
Eagle Owl hiding in the shade of spruce paws.
70-200/2.8L IS, 6400 ISO, shutter speed 1/100 sec, f/4 aperture.
Early morning in the Crow River valley. Landscape with the sun in the frame. Lens 24-105mm, 2000 ISO, shutter speed 1/400s to compensate for the lack of a tripod ,
Negative EV compensation is preset to compensate for the effect of the sun.
The tuberous weevil spends its entire life in plant buds. Double exposure, Canon 100/2,8 Macro.
Galichya mountain reserve, a relic site of ancient steppe. The Bykova Neck tract is a tiny remnant of the wild steppe among plowed fields. 24mm lens, 250 ISO, shutter speed 1/400s, f/9 aperture.
Family life of a pair of steppe blue butterflies.
Capon EF 180 mm f/3.5L Macro allows only 34 focus points, 15 of which are cross-type and only in the center, so autofocus on the edges of the image is impossible. 250 ISO, shutter speed 1/400s to even out the wind gust , aperture f/5.6 for background blur .
Yuri Markin, head of the project on saving Siberian Cranes, director of the Oksky reserve.
24-105 L lens, 800 ISO, shutter speed 1/3200 sec, f/4 aperture.
Young Siberian Cranes, guided by a hang-glider, learn to fly.
70-200L lens, 1600 ISO, shutter speed 1/8000 sec, aperture f/5.6.