Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Tribute To The 5D Mark III

The only picture I have for "my" 5D Mark III
Farewell my 5D Mark III, you've served me well, actually, more than well, you had the best, snappiest, most accurate auto-focusing system I have ever seen, you shot high ISOs like a champ, you were always live and ready for action even before I touched the trigger, something that no camera I have used to date was able to match, you gave me the shallow depth of field that everyone craves with complete abundance, even the 50mm @ f/5.6 was not enough to get the whole of my subject in sharp focus.
You were, technically, the best camera that I have ever used, but I was never able to feel any love from you, there was no relationship between us, not more than one between a human and a very clever robot that can do everything perfectly, all the time. I am not sad to see you go, I know I will not dearly miss you when I use any another camera (that place is uniquely reserved for my 5D Mark II), and I am probably not going to dream about owning you again.
Yes, I've sold my 5D Mark III, and yes, I've owned it for less than 3 months, and no, I'm not abandoning photography, I've re-evaluated my recent (last year) gear purchases and realized that I have drafted from the path I should have taken a long time ago, and it's the time to rectify that. But that will be the story of my next post, for now, enjoy some of my favorite shots taken with the 5D Mark III with a few comments on each one, consider this a mini-review of the 5D Mark III that never got to be fully reviewed as it deserved.
100L, a brilliant portrait lens
Before I start showing my favorite pictures, I think the 5D3 deserves a few bullet points describing the advantages it holds over the 5D2. As usual, most reviews don't speak about the complete differences between both cameras, and the general public impression is that the 5D3 has a betterfocusing system, slightly cleaner files above 3200 ISO, and dual memory cards, that is true, but the differences are much more than that, they are a lot of small changes that completely transform the experience, and can only be known to someone who used both extensively. So here goes the bullets, these are the advantages of the 5D3 over the 5D2:
  • Much better focusing system, 61 AF points, and 41 cross-type AF points (vs one on the 5D2) which cover a large part of the frame, they are also very accurate and can focus reliably in dim conditions.
  • Along with the 61 AF points is a very clever focus tracking system, I'd say I've only exploited 5% of its capabilities, but it is very reliable and accurate, there's no way your subject can escape from all 61 AF points.
  • Better noise performance, 6400 ISO is as good or better than 3200 ISO on the 5D2.
  • Dual memory cards, CF and SD, I see the choice a brilliant one, whenever I run out of space, I can borrow an SD from any of my friends and continue shooting. I always used the dual memory cards for backup, every photo I take gets recorded to both cards at once, I always fear losing the photos to a corrupted memory card before I get home, which I saw happen to several of my friends.
  • 100% viewfinder, it makes accurate framing easy with no need for cropping in post.
  • The viewfinder has an LCD overlay, it can show or hide any of the AF points, it can show grids, and it can show horizontal and vertical levels.
  • Faster & longer continuous burst rate, 6 fps vs 3.9 fps, much faster and snappier than the 5D2, coupled with faster AF, it transforms the camera performance 180 degrees.
  • Shutter sound is more -snap- than the slow, heavy -ka thunnnnnnk- of the 5D2, silent shutter is also really silent, I hoped to record the difference, but I didn't know I'd sell it that fast.
  • Exposure compensation goes to -3 to +3 vs only 2 on the 5D2.
  • More advanced bracketing modes (up to 7 shots), HDR and Multiple Exposures, not that I cared for them.
  • Springy battery and memory card doors.
  • New menu systems similar to the newer 7D and 60D.
  • Easily configurable buttons via an easy graphical interface.
  • A new M.Fn button near the shutter button.
  • Better live-view modes (stills, movies) along with a new movie recording button a la 7D.
  • Nicely placed DoF button than can be configured to do something else.
  • Horizontal and vertical levels.
  • More video modes, especially the 720p 60 fps for slow motion.
  • Silent touch-sensitive controls during video shooting.
  • One touch 100% zoom to the focus point during playback.
  • Advanced playback modes, two side-by-side picture comparisons, and in-camera RAW processing.
  • Better battery life, the 5D2 used to give me around 800 shots per charge, the 5D3 easily gets around 1300 shots with lots of LCD usage.
  • Larger and more sharper LCD, better visibility in sun light.
  • Better grip with more rubber beneath the hand, and it doesn't have that rubbery stink that I had with the 5D2.
  • Supposedly better construction and weather sealing, nothing I noticed.
I can go on with more tiny details, but what you see above is enough to completely transform the 5D2 into a completely new camera that only shares its name. It is a brilliant camera, but I didn't feel any passion while using it, while on the contrary, the 5D2 felt more involving, and more satisfactory during the image taking process, it is slower, less accurate, but it has a soul.

UPDATE: Someone over in dpreview asked me about the soul thing, I tried my best and came up with a description that more accurately reflects my feelings:

papparazzi wrote:

What do you mean by the 5d2 has more soul (I have a 5d2)

This is something I can't describe, with the 5D2 I took every picture slowly and carefully, and I appreciated every good result, it felt like I was dealing with an old wise man, he knew how to do his job, but he did it slowly and carefully.

The 5D3 on the other hand is more eager, it was like "come on, get done with that picture and move on to another one, I won't be waiting for you all day". At least that's how I felt towards it, it's something psychological, if you don't get, just ignore it, maybe I'm getting old and sentimental.

My favorite DSLR equipment that I miss and regret selling are the 5D Mark II and the Canon EF-S 60mm Macro USM.

I will let you enjoy the pictures now, they are not technically the best images, but each one has a place in my heart for the reasons I am going to state below.
Hotel Lobby
An all-time favorite, I took a couple of days to take this picture, I had to align the table and the pot to make a symmetric picture, the shadows created by the window is what makes this picture for me, and it works much better in B&W.
Through Glass
This was taken in very dim light, a couple of 40 watts incandescent lamps lit the whole room, and my friend was sitting behind a double glass window, the 5D3 nailed the focus (Canon 50mm f/1.4 by the way) and the bounce flash gave the exact right amount of light, talk about reliability.
Beach Mail Box
I have always loved the compression a long lens creates, and this one was not taken with any long lens, it is the 200L f/2.8 wide open. This is the thing I am going to miss the most by abandoning my FF DSLR system, I will never get that 200mm f/2.8 full frame wide-open look again.
Colors make this picture, the blue on the wall, the white bed covers and the warm glow of the bedside lamp.
Peaceful Drinking
That 200 f/2.8 again, sigh.
Green Fingers
Love the composition, the compression, the sharpness and the colors. 200 f/2.8.
The Boy
Last 200 f/2.8 picture, I promise, hand held, wide open, available light, ISO 3200, don't you just love the rendering of this lens?
100L wide open, bounce flash (CTO gel), while the daylight seen in the background turned bluish. Colors, shallow DoF, sharpness and the smile make this picture.
Strawberry Man
100L wide open again, brilliant skin tones and sharpness.
Lights Out
6400 ISO, pitch black, Canon 50mm f/1.4, camera locked focus and took the shot with zero hesitation, the only light comes from a hand held flash light.
Stanley Bridge
I loved the 40mm pancake because of this picture, 3200 ISO, wide open, B&W suits the picture and the blurred car makes it more lively.
Al Montazah Palace - The Colored Version
I wish I had a wider lens here, this was shot through a tiny hole in the fence, so a different composition wasn't an option, 40mm pancake, extra sharp, extra vibrant, lovely.
I love taking shoe pictures (maybe I will make a separate post filled with shoe photos, I wonder how would I convince readers this fits the betterfamilyphotos theme), and especially kids shoes, this is a famous Arabic cartoon character called "Dora".
Wooden Lamp
I love the colors, the wood design, the OOF highlights (wish they could have been circular), Canon 50 f/1.4.
The colors, the ice, the fork, all make for a nice shot, 50 1.4.
The Beach
A beach shot, I love the colors and the clouds in the sky, taken with my least favorite lens, the 24-105, it is a versatile lens, but I never used it unless I needed wide angle, it is no where as sharp as any of my primes, and it has to be stopped down beyond f/5.6 to give me acceptable sharpness.
Wood & Sky
Taken at the beach with the 24-105, I love the composition and the colors.
That's all I have to say about the 5D Mark III, and I've wanted to review it for a long time, but never got the chance. The next post will tell my story and the reasons for switching to a completely different system (or two) despite the technical excellence of all my Canon gear that is now sold.
UPDATE II: Part 2 with the whole story is up & running now.



  1. I'm already waiting your next post when you will write about the gear you did keep. I'm bet it's D600 plus a mirrorless.

    1. Close, but not 100% spot on, you will know soon.

  2. Excellent review Mohamed, keep it up please.

    1. Tanks Mohamed, I don't plan to stop blogging anytime soon.

  3. The photos are all brilliant but the colored face, hotel lobby, Stanley bridge, Dora shoes and gateaux are just like stock photos, beautiful.

  4. Excellent post! I followed the same path as you, starting with 550D...etc..
    and intensively thinking about switching to mirrorless.
    Can't wait for you next post and your experience. Cheers!

    1. Very soon, give me a couple of days.

    2. I've started with t3i, switched for mirrorless with Gh2, and switched again to DSLR for Full frame with D600. I'm happy now with Nikon.

    3. I am happy for you, I was also happy until I started venturing the FF world, realization suddenly hit me at how much I have spent for that dream of better images and more quality.

    4. So you mean you had a deception about FF IQ and cost vs crop?

  5. I am not quite sure, but I do think that Dora is from Mexico??
    Nice review though :-)

    1. I'm pretty sure tongue was firmly planted in cheek :)

    2. Of course Dora could be from Mexico, or from any other country for that matter, maybe the show was translated to Arabic and broadcasted locally. But she's a famous character here among the kids, I have pictures for my daughter and Dora together during a party, she was very happy, my daughter, not Dora. :-)

  6. You know, your opinion why you abandoning 5D is very important to me right now because I'm very disappointed with Nikon about the oil and dust issue on the sensor and switch again for Canon is always an option available.

  7. Guys, the 2nd part is live now, tell me what you think.


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