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The 5dMarkIII Review and The Wildflower Fashion Show!

Wed. March 28, 2012   |   peopleshutterbugs
It arrived on my doorstep the way any package would:  A ring of my doorbell, a quick signature, a passed box.  But this was no ordinary package.  No, this was the moment I'd been waiting for for years:  The arrival of my new camera, the Canon 5dMarkIII.
I tore into the outer packaging box to reveal a pristine camera box inside.  I carefully lifted it out, dusting off a few styrofoam pieces so as not to mar the pristine packaging.  No scissors for me here--I peeled the tape back carefully and opened the lid slowly...and there it was.  Wrapped in a thin layer of gauzy wrap, my new adopted family member, just waiting for me to play with it!  I couldn't have been happier with ADORAMA for sending it overnight at my request, as waiting one more day would have just been impossible.

Unlike a real baby, this one came with instructions, which I read cover to cover before my shoot yesterday while maneuvering my hands around the both familiar yet unfamiliar dials.  You see, I never "upgraded" from the original 5d to the 5dMarkII.  You can read more about those thoughts in THIS POST.  Anyway, this post will be comparing my original 5d to the Mark3. it is not a comparison of the Mark2 to the Mark3 since I never had the Mark2 to begin with.

Also, if you are expecting a very techy review, there are much more comprehensive ones already out there than this will be.  This post is just my own personal thoughts and experiences with the camera!

I was looking for three main things in order to upgrade my camera:

1.  The camera needed to be able to focus quickly and reliably
2.  The camera needed to be full frame
3.  The camera needed to have excellent high ISO performance

In my opinion, none of these things should be that hard to build into one camera, and none are negotiable for wedding photography in order for me to do the best job possible.  But unfortunately, this camera did not exist within the Canon line. Until now.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of shooting an event held for The Women of Chapmen, coordinated flawlessly by Carolyn Chen of The Special Day.  The event was to be a fashion show where Youngsong Martin owner of Wildflower Linens (who did the linens for the TWILIGHT wedding!!!) would be taking her linens and wrapping them into gorgeous dresses on models!  Confused?  I'll explain further below.  Mille Fiori did the gorgeous florals, and Good Gracious did the catering.

Anyway, I arrived to the location which was a large warehouse type space with floor to ceiling windows along one wall giving the room lots of natural light.  I shot at higher ISO's than I really needed to in order to see how the files would look.  But that wasn't my primary concern yesterday.

The biggest, most difficult issue I've had to overcome with the original 5D is the FOCUSING SYSTEM.  I'll just say it--the darn thing is really REALLY hard to focus.  When it locks on, it's still not trustworthy, especially from any sort of distance.  Close up, it's about 50/50.  My initial reaction while shooting details and setup of the room is that the focusing system in good light is EXCELLENT.  For the first time in my photography career, I've been able to reliably use focus points other than the center one.  For years, I've been focusing and recomposing, which is part of the reason I've ended up with so many shots that are unusable because they weren't tack sharp.  I didn't have that issue yesterday with the Mark3 at all.

For the sake of this post, I will post the technical specs of the photos below the photos.  I didn't use any flash for any of them, by the way!

Left Photo:  800 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at 1.4, Shutter 1/1600   Right Photo:  800 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at 1.4, Shutter 1/1600

The second thing I was looking for in the Mark3 was the SOOC (straight out of camera to those not into abbreviations) color.  The color on the original 5d, in my opinion is the best SOOC on the market.  That is, until I saw the files from the Mark3 yesterday.  The SOOC color is soft and lovely, clean and crisp.  I have long thought that the combination of the 50 1.2 and the 5d original produced the best SOOC color available digitally.  Yesterday I shot the 50 1.2, the 35 1.4, the 24 1.4, and the 100 2.8L.  All of the photos from all of the lenses looked consistent and beautiful.  The images I'm posting here today have VERY minimal work done--auto white balance on a few of them, exposure on a few of them, and that's it.  Otherwise, these files are exactly as I shot them.

200 ISO, 35 1.4 lens shot at 1.4, Shutter 1/400

200 ISO, 35 1.4 lens shot at 1.4, Shutter 1/250

Left Photo:  2000 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at 1.8, Shutter 1/1250  Right Photo:  800 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at 1.2, Shutter 1/4000

5000 ISO, 35 1.2 lens shot at 2.8, Shutter 1/1600

Wide shots used to be extremely hit or miss for me with regards to focus with the 5d original.  I didn't see a single one from my set yesterday that wasn't usable.  That's not to say there weren't some, just that every photo I picked to blog had no such issues.

6400 ISO, 24 1.4 lens shot at F5, Shutter 1/800

Typically I prefer slightly warmer color, but the Mark3 color palette suited this table top:

6400 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at 1.2, Shutter 1/8000

4000 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at F2, Shutter 1/1600

2000 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at F3.2, Shutter 1/1250

I went backstage to photograph the models getting ready to see how it performed with MOVING subjects!  The shot below is the type of shot I've had a lot of trouble with in the past because it requires using a focus point other than the center to even have a shot at being crisp.  It was nails on the first try (and all the subsequent ones as well) using the outermost focus point:

2000 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at F3.2, Shutter 1/1250

The model on the right was in constant motion while having her dress fixed on the right.  The camera focused quickly on her face when I selected that focus point.  Crystal clear.
The rack on the left is the tablecloths that Young turned into dresses!  Seriously amazing.

Left Photo:  3200 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at F2, Shutter 1/2500  Right Photo:  3200 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at F2, Shutter 1/1600

Soft color, no actions or filters:

1600 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at F2.5, Shutter 1/1000


Left Photo:  3200 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at F3.2, Shutter 1/1000  Right Photo:  3200 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at F3.2, Shutter 1/800


3200 ISO, 35 1.4 lens shot at 2.8, Shutter 1/400

The camera did do a bit of hunting when I shot these mostly backlit photos.  Still a huge improvement from the 5d though, and extra points for the fact that even when it does hunt for focus, when it locks, it's reliable:

All 4 Photos Above:  2000 ISO, 50 1.2 lens shot at 2.8, Shutter 1/1250

Here are a few shots of the models walking down and hitting a pose at the end of the first runway (they walked in a U shape).  Sharp, no issues at all, nice color.

All 4 Photos Above:  3200 ISO, 100 2.8 lens shot at 2.8, Shutter 1/2000

These were shot with the 100mm 2.8 at fairly close range, a situation where I probably wouldn't have even snagged a shot, let alone ones in focus with the original 5d.  Plus, isn't that cute hair??

Both Photos Above:  3200 ISO, 100 2.8 lens shot at 2.8, Shutter 1/2000

Some more runway models walking:

All 4 Photos Above:  3200 ISO, 100 2.8 lens shot at 2.8, Shutter 1/2000

Young basking in the glory of an absolutely incredible show:

3200 ISO, 100 2.8 lens shot at 2.8, Shutter 1/400

Here's the thing with the Mark 3:  I don't think anyone NEEDS it.  I don't think a camera makes the difference between being a good photographer and a bad one.  I could have captured this shot with any camera:

500 ISO, 35 1.4 lens shot at 1.4, Shutter 1/160

And I could have captured this shot with any camera:

3200 ISO, 35 1.4 lens shot at F9, Shutter 1/60

Locke has loved to cuddle with a stuffed elephant while sleeping since he was about 3 months old.  I've ALWAYS wanted to photograph him sleeping like that, but I would never have dared to wake him by turning on the lights and then clicking a shutter.
The Mark3 has a SILENT function that makes the shutter noise almost imperceivable.  It has the ability to shoot at EXTREMELY high ISO's (the image below was shot at 16000 ISO at 1.4.  Because I had this particular camera, I was able to capture an image that I'll treasure for the rest of my life:

16000 ISO, 35 1.4 lens shot at 1.4, Shutter 1/60

Here's the color version--not so great at 16000 but certainly usable in BW

Because I had this camera, I have this memory.  And that's what makes it worth it for me to have--the ability to capture a memory for someone else even though the situation may be difficult, whether it be at a wedding, a baby shoot, or something else.

Thank you Canon, for giving me the camera I will be able to use to capture life as I want to remember it.

And as for my review:

Focus:  Not perfect but vastly improved from the 5d
High ISO Performance:  Excellent up to 3200, Good up to 12500, Usable in a pinch up to 16000.
Color:  Quite delicious when correctly exposed
Button Placement:  Takes some getting used to--don't like that the SET button can't be used to change the picture styles without hitting an extra button.  The zoom button has also moved from the 5d which made that take longer.  It seems like too many steps to reformat a card or view the timestamp.

I know these images look so similar to my usual images, which is the point.  But they were a ton easier to create because I didn't have to work as hard EVERY TIME just to get them in focus.  It left me free to concentrate on interacting and doing what I love:  Photography.

Overall Rating:  Go buy one!

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