Saturday, October 6, 2012

Updated: A Miracle Happened Today

Wheeeee! 5D Mark III + 100 Macro L @ f/4, click to see 1200px version

I took sharp, in focus, photos of my kids playing on the swings today, while they were actually swinging.

This is a shooting scenario that has frustrated me for a long time, I learned photography and bought nice DSLRs to document our life, especially my two girls growing up, and every time I see their ecstatic expressions while playing on the swings, I wish I could capture these shots, but I always failed, miserably, until today.

You know, the hard part is that you're standing in front of the swing and they are coming at you and moving away rapidly, I could never keep the focus point on their eyes no matter how I tried, and with the weak 9 point AF of the 5D Mark II, it was twice as bad. I tried wide angles and small apertures to get a large DoF, I tried standing far away, I tried pre focusing on a certain position and waiting for the swing to cross that position so that I fired a shot. All of it failed.

So what's new then? The 5D Mark III is what. I used my 100 Macro L at f/4 and tried a variety of AF tracking settings (there are like a bazillion settings, me thinks overkill), and guess what? Out of almost 70 shots, I got 50% success rate, I mean eyes-in-sharp-focus kind of success rate, that might seem low, but definitely better than 0% (not exaggerating, wasn't able to get even a single photo before). I am still learning how to use AF tracking effectively, but I am doing lots of things I never dreamed of.


That reminds me, remember all these 5D3 reviews which flamed Canon for claiming a two-stop gain in high ISO noise over the 5D2? They all said that the claimed gain was in JPEG, which didn't matter, and to be fair, they said that there were negligible noise differences in ISOs above 3,200, well I beg to differ.

I just finished my own real world testing, looking at RAW comparisons on the web is one thing, and shooting real world images and getting them into your usual processing workflow and seeing the difference yourself is entirely a different story. I myself believed that the ISO difference between the 5D2 and the 5D3 was negligible, and almost non existent, I scoffed the 5D3 to convince myself the 5D2 was as good, turns out it was macaroni.

I claim that the 5D3 has 1.5 ~ 2 stops of RAW noise gain over the 5D2!!!

I used to see noise at ISO 400 on my 550D and 60D, it was negligible, but there, ISO 1,600 was as far as I would accept on the 60D, ISO 3,200 was used very few times when all was lost, it is either the picture or not. The 5D2 was a huge step forward, I used ISO 3,200 pretty much all the time indoors, it is much cleaner than ISO1,600 on the crop sensor, ISO 6,400 was acceptable on the 5D2 for emergencies, and that was the maximum native ISO, I tried ISO 12,800 once and I hated every single image.

On my 5D3, I have been shooting ISO 6,400 pretty much all the time in dim conditions (testing & evaluating), ISO 12,800 got a fair share as well, and tonight I finished testing ISO 25,600, which is the 5D3's maximum native ISO, they all rock, and I would never hesitate at all to use ISO 12,800. ISO 25,600 is quite similar but has some chroma noise that you'd want to get rid off.

Below is the same picture taken with crappy ambient light at ISO 25,600, the first picture has zero noise reduction applied, the second one has noise reduction applied. Click on the pictures to see a 2500px version.

5D Mark III - ISO 25,600 - Zero Noise Reduction - Click to see 2500px version

5D Mark III - ISO 25,600 - Noise Reduction Applied - Click to see 2500px version

You're going to ask me for samples, and I'll be happy to oblige, but all in due time, I will put all that in my 5D3 review. I am now working my way through the shooting techniques post, I hope to have it ready by tomorrow.

UPDATE: Samples added as you might have noticed.


  1. I'm jealous of the swings success! Looks like I'll have to get a 5D3!

    1. Yeah, I have always thought you'd need a lot of focus points to track something moving erratically all over the place, turns out you do. I still have to learn how to make the camera successfully track the party of the object that I want when it moves.

      I shot jet skis last week and it was very easy, could have done it with the 5D2 easily, but a kid on a swing is much different.

    2. Samples added for your viewing pleasure. :-)


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