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Canon 5D Mark III Examples, Focusing, Noise

Canon 5D Mark III

My first batch of Canon 5D Mark III examples is now published, along with my usual per-image commentary and a more extensive editorial followup, which I strongly advise reading for anyone considering the 5D Mark III.

I have also posted a page on noise with the Canon 5D Mark III as well as a focus accuracy with green-dot focus assist page.

See also my first impressions which now include reader comments as well.

Another big storm is moving in along with very high winds, so new shooting with the 5D Mark III looks like it will have to wait a bit longer. I also tire of the dominant greens, but this cold and wet spring is deferring flowers well past their due.

Thanks to B&H Photo for making the 5D Mark III available for testing.

Martin D writes:

Needless to say, I'm pretty disappointed by your initial findings. Ugly noise is what kept me away from the Mk2, and I was looking forward to the kind of tonality and smooth blacks you've been getting for years from Nikon. The color sucks in your initial samples, and I don't think I'm saying that because I read your conclusions: it's self-evident in the photos. You're shooting with (many of) the same Zeiss lenses I have and my expectations are higher. The consistent tinting problem you have encountered also suggests a lack of attention to detail on Canon's part.

I still have pretty good eyes, so I'm not so worried about the non-replaceable focusing screen (WTF?) but the addition of that Rate button is so nakedly idiotic that I would feel like a jackass myself for buying such a camera.

I do not want a pro-sized body. This prosumer equipment is already too heavy and bulky for me. I suppose I'll rent a Mk3 and try it out, but maybe I'll have to switch to Nikon. I love the idea of the new Fuji system and I love my X100 and I will wait for your report on the X-Pro1 before doing anything, but I'm also skeptical about completely giving up the flexibility and utility of a DSLR (my video needs have risen recently, too, which is confusing the matter).

SA writes:

Glad I cancelled my pre-order a few weeks ago (as soon as I heard 1080p video quality was slightly softer than the MK2’s.)

What IS Canon thinking?

I’ll probably end up buying a new 70-200 f/2.8L ISII now instead.

Cliff L writes:

It was interesting to read your comments regarding the focusing screen in the 5D Mark III. One of the reasons I decided to sell my Canon gear and make the complete switch over to Nikon was the rumor that the 5D3 would use the same (horrible) focusing screen setup as the 7D, and I guess your observations validate that element of my decision. On the other hand, it's nice to see that Canon finally put a white border around the histogram display on the rear LCD...

My D800 is supposed to arrive next week. I was going to hold out for the D800E, but I had heard rumblings that Nikon might try to keep the RAW processing for that model proprietary, and that would require me re-purchasing Capture NX2 - which simply isn't going to happen. From the early samples, it looks like the D800 may be adequate for landscapes even with its blur filter.

I look forward to your D800 review - especially if your camera arrives before mine does!

DIGLLOYD: Yes. Difficult to focus by eye. I am also eagerly awaiting a D800. It will have its own issues, but I expect that if it is even somewhat less good than it appears, then it will still be the camera of the year.

Neither brand has accurate green-dot focus assist; Nikon green-dot focus assist is not any more accurate than Canon, see Focus Assist Error (Electronic Rangefinder), Nikon D3x in Making Sharp Images. What remains to be seen is how the focusing screen in the Nikon D800 fares for focus-by-eye.

Benjamin W writes:

Well, needless to say I'm extremely disappointed by your findings when using the 5D Mark III recently. I had really high hopes for this camera, especially given the significant price increase over the 5D Mark II, when it comes to image quality and usability.

I've looked at your images, as well as images on many other sites, and I honestly don't see nearly enough difference between it and the Mark II to justify the cost. Sure, they've added some nice features (like better AF), but then they mucked up a bunch of other basic usability items (like zoom during preview - what it is up with that button placement/change??) that take away further. At the end of the day, image quality is what matters most and little improvement in 3 years is not acceptable.

I'm somewhat at a loss on what to do next. Nikon has, far and away, the most appealing bodies in the marketplace. I would love to have a body like the D800, but the problem is that I'm just heavily invested in Canon glass at the moment. I have several L and Zeiss lens in Canon mount that I love and are very optically sound (i.e. I know I have very good copies), and I'd prefer to not have to go through the effort of ditching them and switching systems. The Canon 1D X may have a much better sensor (although I have my doubts), but I'm also not terribly interesting in always having to haul around a tank when I shoot. Not to mention it is almost double the price of the 5D M3 or D800. Yuck.

DIGLLOYD: I’ve now programmed the 5D Mark III so that zoom works with the "Set" button (there is no choice to program the small buttons at upper right for that purpose). So that is a reasonable “fix” at least, though not quite as ergonomic as on the 5D Mark II.

I’m not prepared to assume that Nikon has not flubbed something important with the D800, especially for Live View. Nor would I assume that the D800 can use autofocus assist any better than the Canon 5D Mark II. And the quality of the focusing screen for manual focus is an open issue I need to see for myself. Even brain-dead things which I’ve contacted Nikon about years ago appear unchanged (it appears that the self timer still cannot be used with mirror lockup).

That said, image quality can compensate for other headaches to some degree. The D800 is delayed in delivery (in general I believe), so I am waiting for one to test.

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