A New Tool in the Bag, A Practical Review

I’ve been waiting for this day for some time, and it finally arrived. It’s like any day can be a Geek Christmas when it comes to camera gear, and believe me this day felt like it.

I’ve enjoyed using my Canon 5D Mark II for 3.5 years now, and it is an amazing camera. I love it’s beautiful clear images, smooth bokeh and tremendous file quality. That said, I have been looking forward to the next general for some time now for some specific improvements. Most notably I was hoping for an improved auto focus system, quieter shutter sound, faster frames per second (FPS) and even better high ISO performance. On all these counts the Canon 5D Mark III has delivered!

Right out of the gates, as in within an hour of opening the box, I was headed to my daughter’s school choir concert. The feel of this camera is familiar, if a little heavier and sturdier feeling than my previous body. Knowing there was plenty I did not know about this camera, I decided to shoot in Aperture priority for the night and use the auto ISO setting to see how the camera performed on its own. The lighting was horrible, as is expected when shooting in a darkened school gym, which is exactly what I was looking for to put this camera to to the test. When I say dark, I mean D-A-R-K!

The camera immediately jumped to 6400 and 12800 ISO for almost every shot. You can adjust the range the camera is “allowed” to use in the camera, but the default allows it to go clear up to the 12800 setting. I was zooming on the back of camera preview, and amazed at what I was seeing. The images looked great! Most of the evening I was shooting with my 70-200L f/2.8, which of course helps being great glass, but the camera was shooting at these settings which would have been out of my comfort level with the previous body. Here is a sample.

Now I realize this image isn’t going to win any awards, but I was very happy with it, especially considering the lighting conditions. This photo has been run only through basic exposure adjustments in LightRoom 4.1 RC, including some noise reduction. Remember, this is shot at f/2.8, 142mm  at 1/160, ISO 12800 handheld. Here is an unprocessed, 100% crop from the image to show the grain in the original capture.

Now there is definitely noise in this image, but that the detail is kept despite the noise. this is a very useable image for me. This opens up many new possibilities for event coverage. Low light meet new high ISO capabilities tied with fast glass!

After the choir concert, we stopped off the side of the road for some impromptu shots for further testing. Here is my daughter having fun playing in the ditch.

Now again, nothing special, but I think it came out well exposed and improved with a few LightRoom adjustments. Light was actually quite dark with the quickly dissipating sunset to her right (left of the image). To give you an idea of the light, this photo was made a few minutes prior to the portrait.

To say I’m stoked by the new capabilities of this camera is an understatement. There is much more I want to learn about it’s features and nuances, but already I’m very happy with the upgrade.

Bonus photo from walking around the yard trying out some flower macros the next morning.

For more photos from the first weekend with this camera, see my previous post on Photowalking The Living Planet Aquarium.