Canon 5D MkIII Review and Price in Pakistan

As any modern digital SLR gives fantastic results when used as a laboratory instrument, i.e., in manual exposure mode, on a tripod, manually focused. I tested the 5D Mark III with as much automation enabled as possible: Program auto exposure, JPEG capture, Auto ISO, auto focus, etc. Note that I set the camera to record RAW in parallel, but all examples below are from in-camera JPEGs.

What it won’t do

The most serious impediment to idiot-proof photography in the 5D Mark III is the lack of face/eye recognition. Especially when using professional lenses near their maximum aperture, the challenge is to achieve sharp focus over the subject’s eye. Everything else can be a little soft. There are 61 autofocus points in the 5D Mark III but the probability that the camera chooses the one that corresponds to your subject’s eye is very small (about 1 in 61!). The $3500 camera actually has face-detection capability, just like a $100 camera or cameraphone, but it is only available in the video mode. This is presumably because the sensor doesn’t see the image until the mirror flips up, but in any case it is not really a wonderful thing to have a picture of a child with a perfectly focused elbow and an out of focus face. The image below shows my beloved cousin, out of focus, and a tack-sharp rendering of her $4.99 mobile phone case. Zoom lens set to 90 mm, ISO 1250, f/5.6 and 1/320th of a second.

Despite the massive battery pack and massive processing power, the 5D Mark III does not include a Wi-Fi transceiver and cannot trickle JPEGs up to a server or Internet photo sharing service. Folks accustomed to the convenience of sharing photos taken with smartphones may reasonably ask why not.

Canon5DMarkIII_accesories1The big open question was to what extent Canon had addressed the main image quality weakness of the 5D Mark II: limited dynamic range. Given the amazing resolution of digital cameras, when people say “I like the look of film” what they are really saying is that they like the way that film handles the range of highlight and shadow tones in real-world scenes, many of which have a larger range of tones than film or a sensor can record. The 5D Mark II was able to record a dynamic range of just 11.9 Evs (f-stops), according to DxO, which is one reason why the sensor rated a middling overall score of 79. For comparison, this is a step up from the original Canon 5D’s 11.1 Evs. The Sony NEX-7 mirrorless camera came through with 13.4 Evs. The Nikon D800 was able to record 14.4 Evs of dynamic range, i.e., 2.5 f-stops of additional range over the 5D Mark II, and that helped it earn an overall score of 95, the highest DxOMark ever at the time of the test. How did the Mark III fare in the DxO Labs test? A dynamic range of 11.7, actually a bit worse than the Mark II.

I haven’t done a full side-by-side test of dynamic range yet, but so far the anecdotal results are consistent with the DxO Labs test. I visited a friend who is a neuroscience professor specializing in the visual system and also an experienced Canon EOS system user and 5D Mark II owner. We took some pictures of his kids. He copied the JPEGs off the CF card and commented “that Mark III really sucks. Same lame dynamic range with highlights blown out and poor quality reds (look at the red flowers in a few of your shots)” (he wrote that email before DxO published its results, so he was not influenced by anything other than his own inspection of the images).

5D MKIII Photo Gallery

Autoexposure

My 5D Mark II was seemingly designed to humble the amateur photographer. In flat light or pointed at a gray card, the camera delivered perfect exposure suggestions. In contrasty scenes lit by direct overhead sun, exposure was wildly inconsistent, often off by 2-3 f-stops. Precise at those times when a family was most likely to be out taking pictures in Disneyland, the 5D Mark II would deliver autoexposure performance inferior to a film camera from the 1970s.

For me, the 5D Mark III justified its purchase price the moment that I took an outdoor photo in bright sunlight. The camera can be tricked by backlit scenes, but otherwise autoexposure performs admirably and predictably.

Canon has confirmed that there is a path via which light can reach the exposure meter via the top LCD panel. If the scene is “extremely dark”, the backlight for the top deckLCD therefore can trick the camera into underexposure. This seems like precisely the kind of situation in which one would likely be using manual exposure and evaluating the result as previews on the rear LCD, so I don’t see the problem as serious. Note that the “light leak” does not reach the image-forming sensor and does not affect the final image, only the camera’s suggested exposure

Autofocus

There are now so many possible ways to use the 61 autofocus sensors that the camera’s behavior can no longer be controlled with an “AF point selection” button and the two control wheels. Canon has added a “M-Fn” button next to the shutter release. This is supposedly a “multifunction” button, but in fact seems to have just two functions, entirely unrelated: (1) select among the six possible autofocus area selection modes, (2) lock flash exposure. Of course, this is not to be confused with the “multi-controller” joystick on the back of the camera! Nor are the six AF Area Selection modes to be confused with the six autofocus “cases”, helpfully designated Case 1, Case 2, Case 3, Case 4, Case 5, and Case 6, that serve to “easily fine-tune AI Servo AF to suit a particular subject or scene”.

Controls and Menus

The depth of field (DOF) preview is now conveniently located on the opposite side of the lens mount from the lens mount release. It is very easy to find this button during one-handed operation and overall it seems like an ideal location for the DOF preview. (For those new to single-lens reflex cameras: the lens of an SLR is normally set wide open (e.g., f/2.8) so that the maximum amount of light can reach the viewfinder. Just before the shutter is opened, the lens diaphragm is stopped down to the set aperture (e.g., f/8). This has the effect of bringing many more objects into sharp focus. The DOF preview button stops down the lens to the set aperture so that the photographer can evaluate the scene to be captured in the viewfinder.)

Storage

This is the first 5D that allows the use of an SD card in addition to the standard CF card. Photographers who capture RAW images will sorely regret the purchase of an SD card as the camera needs so much time to write data to the card that a quick review becomes impossible. Performance with an SD card is adequate when capturing

Glitches

Out of the first 1000 pictures, one image, both in its JPEG and RAW versions, was ruined by a software glitch. It came out almost entirely red. Photos of the same scene, taken immediately before and after, came out perfect. One of my best street photo opportunities was lost because the camera locked up as soon as I hit the shutter release, with the red “card active” light stuck on. After a minute I managed to restore the camera to life by turning the power switch Off and then back On. I am assuming that these problems will be fixed by a firmware upgrade.

Software

I used Adobe Lightroom 4.1 Release Candidate to process a handful of RAW images and select from among the JPEGs. Adobe Photoshop CS6 was just recently announced and presumably it will have full support for the 5D Mark III RAW format. Among the free software tools for processing Canon RAW images, I have found Google’s Picasa to be the easiest to use.

Conclusion

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers very similar image quality to the 5D Mark II, introduced in 2008. The camera has a more capable autofocus system and, at least compared to my personal 5D Mark II, a much more predictable autoexposure system. Neither the autofocus nor the autoexposure system are idiot-proof, however, and the photographer needs all of the same skills that were required with the early multipoint autofocus film bodies of the 1990s, e.g., the 1992 Canon A2/EOS 5. As a picture-taking tool, the 5D Mark III would be much more useful if it had additional dynamic range, the option for a simplified publishing workflow via automatic uploading over WiFi, and a primary autofocus system with face- and eye-recognition capability.

Price in Pakistan: 365000/-

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