I’ve been amused by some of the press reports surrounding the so-called “light leak” issue with the Canon 5D Mark III. I won’t even link to it here but you can easily Google it if you feel you need the details, but suffice it to say that, while it is admittedly an “issue” it is not exactly a “problem” unless you normally take pictures in the dark with your lens cap on and rely on the LCD backlight while you are metering. Not something that concerns me, but people have made enough of a ruckus that Canon was forced to issue a press release to state that they were working on a “fix.” It amazes me that people must actually spend time trying to find these so-called flaws.
I’ve had the 5D Mark III for about 2 weeks now, and while a lot of people would have turned over 10,000 images in that amount of time, my schedule has given me barely enough time to become familiar with the camera. I have managed to come up with some initial impressions and conclusions that I thought might be interesting to share.
My first real experience with the new camera was a little time spent walking around Charlotte on a rainy day, shooting some dreary outside scenes and some dark interiors, stretching the ISO limits a bit. I was and remain quite impressed with the relatively low noise at the higher ISOs, although in reality I was shooting much higher than I would seriously consider for serious use, mostly just because I could.
My first actual job with the new camera involved shooting a small event at a local restaurant. I used ISO 3200 because, even though I was using a flash, I wanted the extra shutter speed that the higher ISO gave me. The photos from that event are very nice and I can confidently say that if I was a wedding or event shooter I wouldn’t hesitate to bump the ISO when I needed the speed.
I took the camera with me over Easter weekend when we visited Shenandoah National Park. Most of the photos I took on that trip were taken without benefit of a tripod (because I was too lazy to carry it) and those where I used the tripod were taken in very windy conditions or in harsh lighting, which makes it difficult to really evaluate the files. Add to that a major update to Lightroom, and I have been flummoxed trying to get files to come out to my liking. I’ve finally turned the corner on that, however, and am much happier now.
My first impression of the camera when getting it out of the box was that it has a nice feel. The surface has almost a “stickiness” to it that makes it comfortable to hold, and the grip areas are shaped just right for my hands. It feels well balanced with all of my lenses, most especially the 17-40 and the 24-105. Sticking a 70-200 2.8 or a 100-400 on the front of any body makes it a beast, so there’s not much to say about that. I have yet to put the 70-200 on it, which is weird since it is my favorite lens. Soon! I promise!
The controls are pretty well laid out, although it does have a couple of useless buttons, the “Rate” button and something called the “Creative Photo/Comparative Playback/Direct Print button that can’t be programmed for anything else. After a little fiddling with some of the custom controls I have managed to get things pretty much where I want it. I’ve purposely stayed away from the custom controls on the mode dial, figuring that I wanted to get a better feel for the choices before I started trying to come up with “canned” settings. As I did with some of my other cameras, I’ll probably create a setting for general nature stuff when shooting from a tripod, one for shooting hand-held, and another for shooting action.
I really like the addition of the “My Menu” (remember I’m coming from an original 5D) for commonly used functions like mirror lockup. I’m still playing around with what I put on there. It seems pretty useful though, and while navigating the main menu isn’t that hard, it’s nice to be able to recall the frequently used functions easily.
I haven’t had a chance to use the capabilities of this camera shooting action, but for what I’ve done so far the focusing ability of this camera is impressive. It took a little effort to figure out how to change modes and move the focusing point around, but once I did it’s a piece of cake. Focusing is fast and accurate, although I’ve found that I have to be very careful with depth of field. After spending a lot of time using point & shoot or crop-sensor cameras I’m gaining a new appreciation for being careful with depth of field. It’s easy to get lazy with a tiny sensor camera, and moving to a large sensor makes you pay attention. On the other hand, getting shallow depth of field when you want it couldn’t be easier. I’d love to put a fast prime on this baby!
This is the one area where I want to spend some more time, but the impression I have so far is that quality is very good. The photos I’ve taken that I’m happy with show an amazing amount of detail. The downside is that the ones that I’m not happy with tend to exaggerate my mistakes!
One area that I feel like I see the most improvement seems to be dynamic range. I seem to be able to pull a lot of detail out of the shadows and control of highlights seems pretty good. Some of that may be the improvements in Lightroom, too. But the results look like the combination will be a good one for what I do.
The thing I haven’t done yet is to make prints from these files, and I am very much looking forward to a chance to do that. Hopefully I’ll have some time this weekend to waste a little ink and paper.
So far my only complaint about the camera is that I haven’t had enough time to enjoy it! In just a few short weeks though I’ll have a nice two-week vacation to Alaska and California, giving me plenty of time and lots of subject matter to finally put this camera to the test, and I’m really looking forward to that. Hopefully between now and then I’ll be able to make some more photos, work with all of my lenses and settle on the equipment that is going to make the trip. I change my mind every day (Kathy rolls her eyes) but eventually I’m going to test-pack the bag and see just how much stuff it will hold.