Six Months with the 5D Mark III

It’s been just over six months since we upgraded our camera game, retiring our workhorse 1Ds Mark III and switching up to the 5D Mark III. I have to admit that making the jump I was a little hesitant, but now that we’ve shot over 25,000 frames through the new camera, I think we’ve absolutely made the right choice. Keep reading for our full six month review…

First and foremost, if you’re looking for a really technical review or an analysis with charts and graphs, look elsewhere. There are tons and tons and tons of excellent technical reviews and reports about this camera, but that’s not what we’re here for – hopefully this will serve a different purpose, more of a reflection on a new piece of technology and some advice on how to use it (or any camera for that matter).

(The very first frame with the new 5D mk III – A look like that and I’m surprised the sensor didn’t break)

After we got our hands on the newest 5D, the first thing we noticed was the build quality – it was heavier and had a more serious feel to it than the previous generation. Although the construction wasn’t anything revolutionary, the tiny tweaks and design changes were much appreciated. The two-month wait for the additional battery grip to be released wasn’t as appreciated, but once if was finally attached, the camera felt complete.

We also immediately appreciated the biggest functionality improvement of all: the redesigned and upgraded autofocus system. As opposed to the 5D mk II, this one actually works – and it’s impressive. It’s so impressive and quite frankly complicated that there’s an entire menu just for it, and I’ll be damned if we will ever explore the entire thing. What we know is that it works and that it’s reliable. We’ll take it.

(Chris and the 5DIII hiking through some flowers in southern California)

That being said, in only six months we’ve put this camera through a lot. Dozens of trips through airport security, stuffed into overhead compartments and tens of thousands of miles traveled only to be exposed to scorching sun, freezing cold, rain, snow, and sand. It’s been covered in BBQ smoke, blasted by ocean spray, dusted in baking flour, and almost trampled by bison. Every time though, the shutter keeps clicking like a champ. We’re not counting, but I know we’ve reset the image counter at least twice, probably three times, so we’re somewhere around 25K-30K frames. Again, not bad.

Simply stated, we are really impressed with this camera. Aside from form and function, the quality of photos that the 5D Mark III produces really blows us away.

In most of our images we end up doing a lot of pushing and pulling with the pixels. Whether it’s blending to achieve the effect of high dynamic range or merging multiple photos together to extend a frame, or working on a multi-shot composite, more often than not, the final result spends some time in Photoshop and experiences some moving and shaking in terms of pixel data.

Prior to this generation of 5D, the image quality was always superb out of camera and enhanced by raw processing, but when it really came down to the heavy lifting of Photoshop, the image quality didn’t hold up. I should be clear here and mention that this is not an issue with megapixels and image size, but more with the actual quality and flexibility of those pixels.

When the new sensor in the mark III is paired with the newest version of Adobe Camera Raw, it renders files with a serious quality upgrade to the previous generation of 5D and even noticeable improvement over our 1Ds mk III.

(The future of cameras with the future of humans, MIT scientist Hugh Herr)

To get a bit technical for a moment, we’re shooting at  22.3 megapixels and up-rezzing in camera raw to 26 mp, outputting the files 16 bit (camera shoots 14 bit natively), Adobe RGB 1998 or PrototoRGB. With that output, the very first test I ran compared the 26mp file against a 2x (52mp effectively) and 4x (108mp effectively) enlargement. The results? Ridiculously good quality – not a jump in megapixels, but a seriously expanded flexibility in terms of what you can do wit the 26mp that you’ve got.

Keep in mind that these enlargements are very realistic dimensions for us considering that we don’t always know the final output of our photos when we deliver them to clients; we might open up a magazine to find one of Chris’s shots running as a double-page spread, or pass by it on a billboard. Either way we need to have all of our bases covered and the new 5D helps to get us there.

(Chris and the 5D in Yosemite)

We’re happy – we’re really happy, but what’s the ultimate takeaway? We’ve spent the past six months with an excellent new piece of technology that has made the shooting experience easier and produced higher quality images than we expected. Beyond that well the 5D mk III is honestly no different than the 1Ds mk III, 5D mk II, 5D, Hasselblad, Nikon, Fuji, iPhone, holga, 4×5, or any other camera out there. It’s a box with a lens that takes pictures.

The bottom line is that a camera is a camera; it is a tool that you learn to use to express your vision and create images. There’s no denying that different cameras function differently and new technology allows for greater abilities and creative freedom, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. It’s about the ideas and the vision that you have and your ability to express them with whatever camera you’ve got. The excuse of not having the latest and greatest tech simply isn’t an excuse – if you have a vision, you make it work.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know @crismanphoto and @robertluessen or drop us a line in the comments!

7 replies to “Six Months with the 5D Mark III”

  1. You know I <3 your blog, right? But this entry — lots and lots of chatter, verrrrrry little information. Stephen Alvarez, a nat geo photog, had a short review on his blog yesterday as well — like 3 lines or something — that said more.
    Anyhoo 🙂 keep writing. You asked for responses, I'm responding.

    Thanks for answering my question in the prior entry, BTW.


  2. Hey James, we took a look at the 1DX, and we were impressed by the pro-features like weather sealing and the larger form factor, but ultimately the extra megapixel jump of the 5d3 was enough to sway us.

  3. Hello, I don’t comment on blog post that often but I just went through the same thing. I had the 1Ds Mark III since the day it came out in November 2007 – bought the 5D Mark II a year later and within the last 4 months I sold both of those cameras and bought two 5D Mark III’s. I always loved the pro body feel of the 1Ds compared to the prosumer feel of the 5D Mark II.
    So I was very happy with the subtle body design and battery grip changes that do indeed make the 5D3 feel like a more substancial camera. Beyond that, I am more than satisfied with the quality of the images. I dig the blog guys. Nice work. Happy Thanksgiving, Jeff.

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